Start up: Google’s ad stop, hacking phishers, the lost phone mystery, the adblocking browser and more

A game with these will give you an insight into production processes. Photo by judy_and_ed on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Why is your team falling behind? Ask ‘The Penny Game’ » Atomicobject

Eric Shull:

The book Velocity describes an enlightening simulation, a model of a simple manufacturing line. The game uses pennies and dice to represent pieces of work flowing through stations in a factory. It may be simple, but the penny game can improve our understanding of how software teams work, how the interaction of variable processes affect the system as as whole.

In the penny game, pennies come in at one end of the line, are processed by each station, then exit at the other end. This would be rather mundane but for one complication: each station does not always process the same number of pennies.

In the simulation, rolled dice indicate how many pennies each station is allowed to move.

This is fascinating – and gives you real insight into the problems that have to be overcome in manufacturing to tight deadlines. Imagine now if you were processing millions of “pennies”, except they were phones.
link to this extract

 


Google disabled 49% more ads in 2015 » WSJ Digits blog

Alistair Barr:

More than 1,000 of Google’s 60,000 employees monitor and remove ads, an important task because the company gets about 90% of its revenue from advertising. It’s also been hit financially for not adequately monitoring ads. In 2011, the company agreed to pay $500m to settle allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice that ads for Canadian online pharmacies contributed to the illegal importation of prescription drugs. In the settlement, Google acknowledged it acted “improperly.”

Google blocked more than 12.5m ads in 2015 for drugs that were unapproved or that made misleading claims, up from 9.6m a year earlier.

Ads making misleading weight-loss claims were a big source of user complaints last year, prompting Google to suspend more than 30,000 websites from its ad systems. It declined to give a comparable number for 2014.

Rob Leathern has the growth figure for ad disabling: it’s growing by 50% annually, but still a long way short of catching them all.
link to this extract

 


How I stumbled upon thousands of Facebook passwords » Medium

“Rukshan”, a Colombo-based medical undergrad and hacker, received a Facebook phishing email and twiddled around with the phishing page:

after modifying the url I checked the folder which contained the php script that handles the post requests and I knew at that moment I hit the jackpot.

There was no index.html file to make sure no one else see the files in that directory or any .htaccess modification, well like I said phishing people are too bored to do all these tech stuff anyway, they’d rather get the passwords and go away.

So I opened the password.html file and I was greeted to the sight of hundreds of Facebook passwords, and by looking at the credentials one there was a pattern:

•Almost all of these accounts belonged to girls who are in their early 20s or teens.
• Almost all of the accounts belonged to females who are from Colombo.

Neat idea; neater still would be to wipe the files. But that would be one sizeable hack further (and probably illegal).
link to this extract

 


Why don’t you have an Android version? (Or why we develop for iOS first) » Impossible Ventures

Joel Runyon:

Android users may download more apps, but they spend less money than iTunes users.

But that’s not just fake studies either, in our experience with Paleo (io) – a top 20 app in iTunes and ranked even higher in Google Play – we make about 3x the sales on our iTunes listing as we do on Google Play (even though we have a higher ranking in Google Play than iTunes).

Which brings me to the next point: apps are not free to make.

As an app developer, you have to spend time & money on this concept that you have in your head to bring it to reality. The  MVP on an app can cost anywhere between $2k and $20k to build and launch. It might not seem like much if you spend all your time raising VC money and have a $1M+ in the bank, but it can add up if you’re bootstrapping.

In fact, with every dollar you spend, there’s a very real cost (along with another equally as real, opportunity cost).

Of course the argument is completely different in Asia, where it’s generally Android-first (except in Japan, and who knows in China?).
link to this extract

 


Finding the tennis suspects » Medium

Russell Kaplan, Jason Teplitz, and Christina Wadsworth:

The tennis world was sent reeling when BuzzFeed News and the BBC jointly published The Tennis Racket, which revealed “evidence of widespread match-fixing by players at the upper level of world tennis”. But BuzzFeed refused to publish the names of those players.

We dove into the data and found the names ourselves.

Unless you follow tennis really closely you won’t have heard of any of the names but one, and I do wonder if that one is thrown up by some weird quirk of the analysis. Seems robust, though. I think this might dissuade players – and administrators – from trying to hide this in future, knowing that there are people analysing public data for oddities. Will it put off the gamblers, though?
link to this extract

 


Why do people keep coming to this couple’s home looking for lost phones? » Fusion

Kashmir Hill:

It started the first month that Christina Lee and Michael Saba started living together. An angry family came knocking at their door demanding the return of a stolen phone. Two months later, a group of friends came with the same request. One month, it happened four times. The visitors, who show up in the morning, afternoon, and in the middle of the night, sometimes accompanied by police officers, always say the same thing: their phone-tracking apps are telling them that their smartphones are in this house in a suburb of Atlanta.

But the phones aren’t there, Lee and Saba always protest, mystified at being fingered by these apps more than a dozen times since February 2015. “I’m sorry you came all this way. This happens a lot,” they’d explain. Most of the people believe them, but about a quarter of them remain suspicious, convinced that the technology is reliable and that Lee and Saba are lying.

“My biggest fear is that someone dangerous or violent is going to visit our house because of this,” said Saba by email. (Like this guy.) “If or when that happens, I doubt our polite explanations are gonna go very far.”

It’s billed as “a tech mystery”, and it really is.
link to this extract

 


Brave is the name, ad-blocking the game of new browser » Computerworld

Former Mozilla CEO (for 11 days) Brendan Eich is behind a new browser for desktop and mobile which blocks all ads and tracking by default:

“We are building a new browser and a connected private cloud service with anonymous ads,” Eich said.

In effect, Brave will first scrub websites of most of their ads and all tracking, then replace those ads with its own. But the latter will be aimed not at individuals but at the anonymous aggregate of the browser’s user base. If enough people gravitate to the browser, Brave will share its ad revenue with users and content publishers.

“We will target ads based on browser-side intent signals phrased in a standard vocabulary, and without a persistent user id or highly re-identifiable cookie,” Eich said. “By default Brave will insert ads only in a few standard-sized spaces. We find those spaces via a cloud robot.”

No user data will be recorded or stored by Brave, Eich promised.

Elsewhere, Eich said that 55% of Brave’s revenue would be shared with site publishers, and 15% with users, who could then turn that money over to their favorite sites or keep it.

Al Hilwa, an analyst with research firm IDC, applauded the concept of creating an alternate revenue stream from traditional advertising, but wondered whether the browser could compete, even in the niche that Eich described. “This is a laudable idea, but fighting ‘free’ is always risky,” said Hilwa in an email reply to questions.

Not sure the world has an appetite for a new browser, but one can envisage adblocking becoming built in and then enabled, just as pop-up blocking in browsers went from “pop-up what?” to “optional” to “on by default”.
link to this extract

 


Apple pushes to bolster market share in India » WSJ

Newley Purnell:

India’s smartphone market is expanding quickly and by next year it should overtake the U.S. as the world’s second-biggest behind China, according to research firm IDC.

Just 35% of mobile phones sold in India now are smartphones, meaning there is room for growth as people upgrade from basic devices. Indian consumers, however, tend to purchase inexpensive devices: The average smartphone selling price in the country is likely to fall to $102 in 2018 from $135 in 2014, IDC says.

Apple’s problem has been that the sweet spot for smartphone sales in India has been handsets that cost less than $150. In a country where the average person earns about $1,500 a year and even middle-class consumers make less than $8,000 a year, the standard iPhone — which usually costs between $500 and $1,000 without a data plan — was just too expensive for most people to consider.

“Buying an iPhone is so expensive,” said Sakshi Maurya, a 20-year-old university student in New Delhi. She said she doesn’t understand why an iPhone is five times as expensive as some locally available Android phones. “It’s a luxurious thing.”

India poses a particular marketing challenge for Apple: it’s a mixture of very tech-savvy buyers and low-income buyers. Which does it target first, and how?
link to this extract

 


iPhone 6S/6S Plus underperform year-ago sales » Consumer Intelligence Research Partners

CIRP finds that the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus accounted for 67% of total US iPhone sales, with iPhone 6s at 48% and iPhone 6s Plus at 19%. In the December 2014 quarter, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus accounted for 75% of total US iPhone sales with 30% iPhone 6 Plus.

“The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus did quite well,” said Josh Lowitz, CIRP Partner and Co- Founder. “Yet, they did not dominate the same way that iPhone 6 and 6 Plus did a year ago. The total share of the new flagship models fell below the share of the then-new phones in 2014, and the large-format iPhone 6s Plus share of sales dropped compared to the iPhone 6 Plus as well. Customers continue to choose the year-old iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and even the two-year old iPhone 5S.”

CIRP can’t say whether total sales are higher or lower (it samples 500 buyers of Apple devices in the previous quarter), just the mix. This looks like a subtle price deflation of the iPhone as people opt for 2014’s models over 2015’s – after all, they look the same to other people, even if the newer models has extra features.
link to this extract

 


Issue 3434 – android – Add APIs for low-latency audio – Android Open Source Project – Issue Tracker

On Tuesday, Apple released its “Music Memos” app, which is intended to let musicians (of any standard) record little musical thoughts that come to them on the guitar or piano directly to their iPhone or iPad, and add musical accompaniment.

Android doesn’t have that, because as has been noted here before its audio latency is too long – over 10 milliseconds, which is the longest pro musicians can bear. So how long have developers been prodding Google to improve Android’s audio latency?

I am developer of real-time audio signal processing applications. I am interested in creating
applications for sale in the android marketplace, but found that android has no method for real-
time low latency audio.

This is the first entry in a bug/feature request which continues to the present (latest entry is June 2015). The date of the entry? July 31, 2009 – slightly over nine months after the first Android phone. Is six and a half years a long time for a feature request to lie open? (And here’s Google’s official list of device latencies. Look for any at 10ms or below.)

Apple effectively gets 100% of the professional audience through this feature.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: how late is your train?, Android v audio, Sean Penn’s odd meetup, rebutting Paul Graham, and more

Not sure if this is the one Shirley Bassey and David Bowie used. Photo by avlxyz on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How reliable is my train? » Fasteroute

How reliable is my train? It’s something I often wonder when choosing which train to take, and it’s something that’s hard to answer without months of commuting experience.

This summer, in partnership with The Open Data Institute, we built a web site to try and help you find an answer to exactly this question. So if you’re are regular train traveller, or just a bit of a stats geek, why not head over the the Fasteroute Delay Explorer and plug in the details of your journey, and see how close to timetable your train generally runs. You’ll also be able to see how it compares to other trains around the same time. You might even find an excuse to stay in bed a bit longer in the morning.

Yes indeed – the Delay Explorer is just the thing to show your boss to explain why you’re late again. (And yay that it has come from open data via the ODI.)
link to this extract

 


Windows 10 hits 200 million devices in record time » Mashable

Pete Pachal:

Windows 10 had a good holiday.

That’s the prognosis from Microsoft, which reports that the latest version of Windows is now on 200 million devices. A good chunk of those were activated over the holiday season — 40% of Windows 10 devices became active on Black Friday or later.

Windows 10’s adoption is faster than an previous version of Windows, according to Microsoft, outpacing Windows 7 by 140% and leaving Windows 8 in the dust by a massive 400%. Microsoft also reports that 76% of its enterprise customers are in “active pilots” of Windows 10, but it’s hard to know how relevant that is without knowing the scale of those pilots; some companies may be testing a relatively small portion of their PC footprint, for any number of reasons.

Still, the numbers are all pointing in the right direction for Microsoft’s goal of having more than 1 billion devices running the OS within two to three years.

link to this extract

 


Sean Penn, intelligence dangle » emptywheel

Here’s an idea: what if Sean Penn’s visit and subsequent terrible Rolling Stone interview with Mexican drug lord El Chapo was actually set up by the DEA/FBI/CIA/spies in order that they could nail said Chapo? I know, you laugh, until you read this by Marcy Wheeler, which lines all the ducks up, including this:

Perhaps the most interesting detail is that when Chapo asked Penn to come back in 8 days for a return visit that never took place, Penn responded by asking for a photo — for Rolling Stone. Except that he arranged it so that it would be usable for facial recognition.

I say I can. I ask to take a photograph together so that I could verify to my editors at Rolling Stone that the planned meeting had taken place.
[snip]
I explain that, for authentication purposes, it would be best if we are shaking hands, looking into the camera, but not smiling. He obliges. The picture is taken on Alfredo’s cellphone. It would be sent to me at a later date.

Who knows? Maybe Rolling Stone uses sophisticated facial recognition software in the wake of their University of Virginia rape story disaster?

Oh yeah, also: pretty much immediately after Penn’s visit – set up via much cloak and dagger – El Chapo came under siege from Mexican troops. Pure coincidence, I bet. Totally. Sure.
link to this extract

 


David Bowie commencement speech to Berklee College of Music » Business Insider

Of all the many, many things written about David Bowie on Monday, this one seemed like the most wonderful – because it’s his own words. Well found, Peter Jacobs:

A word about Shirley Bassey. During the very early days of Ziggy Stardust, we often used to play these fairly grotty clubs called the “workingman’s clubs.” They were sort of like nightclubs but you got a cheap meal. The whole family would come. A round of beer. A rock act. A stripper — sometimes one and the same. Well, backstage one night I was desperate to use the bathroom. I was dressed in my full, battle finery of Tokyo-spaceboy and a pair of shoes high enough that it induced nose bleeds. I went up to the promoter — actually I tottered over to the promoter — and I asked, “Could you please tell me where the lavatory is?”

And he said, “Yeah, look down that corridor. On the far end of that wall. You see that sink? There you go.”

I said, “My good man, I’m not taking a piss in the sink.”

He said, “Listen son, if it’s good enough for Shirley Bassey, it’s good enough for you.”

From which I learned that mixing elements of bad taste with good would often produce the most interesting results.

As you read, imagine it in that sarf London accent. (You can also find the full speech on Berklee’s site.)
link to this extract

 


Paul Graham is still asking to be eaten » Medium

Holly Wood has a scalding, insightful take on Paul Graham’s increasingly famous essay about how inequality is good for you:

I will throw Paul Graham a bone for recognizing that in terms of scale and impact on the American economy, Wall Street is definitely the bigger concern.

But my guess is that what probably infuriates you about Paul Graham’s essay is his tacit contention that startups create wealth.

This is not true.

First of all, over 95% of startups fail. Every venture capitalist knows this. Those pesky things, for the most part, just eat money and more often than not actually destroy wealth.

But the second reason why you should not allow yourself to think that startups create wealth is because of how they are funded.

What actually happens is wealthy people like Paul Graham fund startups because they think these things are valuable. Through venture funding, rich people legitimate startups. Thus, they confer value upon the startup. They then use their ridiculous money and connections to “advise” and “mentor” those they deemed worthy of capital so that they can use this capital to build a future people like Paul Graham expect to see.

What Paul Graham never dissects in his essay is that people like Paul Graham simply take it for granted that they’ll be the ones to decide where capital goes.

I’d like to examine those numbers in Graham’s essay about big and small companies back in the 1950s/60s too. But this is a great – worthwhile – read once you allow yourself to consider it with an open mind.
link to this extract

 


Rebooting Android’s 10 millisecond problem: audio latency improvements in Android 6.0 Marshmallow » Superpowered

Gabor Szanto:

Since we published “Android’s 10 Millisecond Problem: The Android Audio Path Latency Explainer” in early 2015, Google has made tremendous strides in improving round-trip audio latency on Android OS. With the deployment of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the Huawei Nexus 6P clocks in at a much improved 18ms round-trip audio latency and the HTC Nexus 9 at 15 ms.

As readers may recall, 10ms round-trip audio latency is the threshold that must be met by Android to be considered truly ‘pro audio’.

One second of round-trip audio latency sounds like an eternity. 250 ms is still terrible. 100 ms is 10% of one second, and still sounds unacceptable. At 25ms, things begin to approach acceptable ranges. Unless you are Terence Fletcher, the nightmare-ish jazz instructor from the movie Whiplash, 10 ms should be perceived as instantaneous…

…In our previous article, we discussed that the the Android Audio Hardware Abstraction Layer (“HAL”) implementations, the component between the audio driver and the media server, are often poorly implemented across the the Android device landscape. Google has also ensured that the HAL has been implemented properly for the most recent Nexus devices.

However, the Android media server itself does not look like it has been significantly improved from Android Lollipop to Android Marshmallow. While it was already good in Lollipop, it appears as if Google is now hitting the hard limits of the media server’s “push” mechanism.

Seems like pro audio latency is, once more, something that Android will have next year. Meanwhile, the listing of device latencies still shows all iOS devices at below or only just above 10ms.
link to this extract

 


Inside Deep Dreams: how Google made its computers go crazy » Medium

Steven Levy tells the story, but the key part is the implication of what Deep Dreams does:

it’s hard to tell what’s going on inside an effective neural net, and even harder to understand in what ways they work like real brains and in what ways they do not. But now that we know they do work, we need to know how, so as to improve the next generation.

That’s the utility of the Deep Dreams process. For instance, in one kind of experiment the researchers would choose which layer of the net would be active to enhance patterns it detected in a random photograph. If they chose one of the lower layers — those making the system’s initial assumptions about what an image contains — they would get intricate patterns, because at that point the network is analyzing the edges of objects and not yet classifying them. Another type of experiment tapped the higher layers, encouraging the system to riff on what it had begun to recognize. That’s when the weird animals will appear. While the output is fascinating, we’ve learned more about the way neural networks operate.

But [Alexander] Mordvintsev’s experiment is important in another way: as a pointer to the vast potential of neural nets. As these nets develop, they are destined to not only match human ability in some areas, but exceed it.

One of the notable quotes comes from a Swedish Swiss artist who argues that in five years we’ll be using this sort of thing inside – or instead of? – Photoshop.
link to this extract

 


How rooftop solar is causing big falls in peak demand » Renew Economy

Giles Parkinson:

The big push by utilities across Australia to hit solar households with higher network charges is underpinned by the claim that rooftop solar does little to reduce peak demand.

There is increasing evidence that that is not the case. Peak demand has been pushed in some states to the evening, after the sun comes down, but what is often not displayed is what the peak would have looked like without rooftop solar.

In short, it would have occurred earlier in the day, and at a much higher peak. This is critical, because networks super-sized their grid in anticipation of big rises in peak demand. The combination of energy efficiency and rooftop solar and declining industrial demand has junked those forecasts. But we’re still paying for the investment.

This graph released last week by the Australian Energy Market Operator, in a presentation on the WA market that it now manages, illustrates the point in Western Australia.
The peak – without solar PV – would have appeared at 3pm in Perth, and be considerably higher than the peak level with solar PV, which now occurs at 4.30p. Yet still, the network wants solar households to be hit with higher network fees, another example of where the benefits of rooftop solar are not factored in.

Gotta love big business blaming people for doing the right thing, and finding a way to make it seem like it was the wrong thing.
link to this extract

 


Apple News app is off to a rocky start » WSJ

Jack Marshall and Steven Perlberg note that it has been undercounting the number of users (oopsie!), though nobody knows by how much:

In response to requests from publishers, Apple said it now allows the integration of features from measurement specialist comScore into the app. Apple initially provided updates about the app’s usage by emailing spreadsheets that give a high-level overview of usage, but publishers want a more robust self-service dashboard to access that information.

Media outlets say they have questions about advertising, too.

If they sell their own ads, Apple requires that publishers use its iAd advertising technology to insert, or “serve,” them. Many publishers would prefer to use ad-serving tools provided by other companies such as Google. Requiring publishers to devote resources to a tool they only would use for Apple News could make them question whether it is worth it.

Mr. Cue said he was surprised by the extent to which publishers call on Apple to handle ad sales. He said Apple has accelerated the development of its iAd network and expects to launch a self-service ad-buying platform in the next two months to help increase ad spending.

Thin end of a wedge which Apple might want to consider. As surely as night follows day, advertisers will want to retarget ads across different publishers within Apple News, which means personalisation and user identification. Is news really that important?
link to this extract

 


Snapchat’s valuation is based on a single flawed assumption » LinkedIn

Dare Obasanjo:

Instagram has about 300 million active users and is projected to make about $700m this year. One might then assert that $2 a user is a reasonable target for a social media app that is light on ads. Heck, I honestly haven’t seen an ad on Instagram outside of screenshots in news stories about ads on Instagram. Reddit is a popular social media site that has about half the users of Instagram with about 160 million active users. How much do you then think they made last year? $350m? $175m? $100m? $80m?

Nope. The answer is $8m. That’s 5 cents a user.

What Reddit has found out the hard way is that their advertising doesn’t fit natively into their platform.Their ads often don’t match the form of the content and when it does, it doesn’t match user intent for what they want out of Reddit. On the other hand, people go to Instagram to see beautiful photos. Beautiful photos from brands they’ve expressed an affinity with via Facebook or Instagram’s social graph are the epitome of a native advertising slam dunk. The results advertisers have seen speak for themselves.

Is Snapchat like Reddit or like Facebook? Snapchat’s original product is actually quite bad from an advertising perspective. When you launch it to send messages you start directly in the camera so no place for ads. Secondly, ads into the user’s inbox of received messages or as part of message viewing would be extremely disliked by users and isn’t aligned with user intent.

He has a point. Instagram’s ads (“sponsored posts”) are pretty dire, too.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: the people who buy flops, remotely hacking Jeeps, sharing Google’s salaries, and more


Inside the Greenwich foot tunnel: great for (walking) London cyclists. Photo by nick.garrod on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Harbingers of failure » Penn State University

Eric Anderson, Song Lin, Duncan Simester and Catherine Tucker:

We show that some customers, whom we call ‘Harbingers’ of failure, systematically purchase new products that flop. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail – the more they buy, the less likely the product will succeed. Firms can identify these customers either through past purchases of new products that failed, or through past purchases of existing products that few other customers purchase. We discuss how these insights can be readily incorporated into the new product development process. Our findings challenge the conventional wisdom that positive customer feedback is always a signal of future success.

The authors aren’t specific, but might another word for such people be “Kickstarter participants”?
link to this extract


You disabled Flash in your browsers, but is that enough? » Fortinet Blog

Bing Liu:

Flash files can not only be embeded in a web page but also in various document formats such as Microsoft Office documents and PDF files. Even if you have disabled Flash in your browsers, Flash exploits can still leverage Flash player vulnerabilities through software like Microsoft Office and Adobe Reader. Let’s do some tests. I will use the PoC of CVE-2015-5122 from the Hacking Team in my test. It will pop up the caculator program when loaded in browsers and other applications that have a vulnerable Flash plugin enabled.

Oh god, please can Flash DIAF?
link to this extract


iPhone, iPad study shows trade stats dramatically overstate the value of US imports from China » American Enterprise Institute

Mark Perry:

This study [from 2011] also confirms our earlier finding that trade statistics can mislead as much as inform. Earlier we found that for every $299 iPod sold in the U.S., the U.S. trade deficit with China increased by about $150. For the iPhone and the iPad, the increase is about $229 and $275 respectively. Yet the value captured from these products through assembly in China is around $10. Statistical agencies are developing tools to gain a more accurate breakdown of the origins of traded goods by value added, which will be attributed based on the location of processing, not on the location of ownership. This will eventually provide a clearer picture of who our trading partners really are, but, while this lengthy process unfolds, countries will still be arguing based on misleading data.

Makes sense: the assembly in China doesn’t really create significant value. Moving those jobs back to the US (which is impossible: the infrastructure isn’t there) wouldn’t make a lot of difference either. (Via Eugene Wei.)
link to this extract


Nanotec Systems NESPA #1 » 6moons audio reviews

The procedure is simple. Place a CD or DVD inside the black box, secure the disc with the magnetic puck and rock the switch. The disc will start spinning and the light will flash 120 times in a 2-minute period. After that, the disc will stop spinning and voila, the disc is finalized.

The flash applied is rated at 1000mW/sec, has a temperature of 5500K and light intensity of one million Lux. So in fact the disc is exposed to sunlight without destroying it.

So marvellous. (Via Peter Bright.)
link to this extract


Apple iPhone 6, the bestselling smartphone for 10 months straight » Counterpoint Technology Market Research

Every year we’ve seen the pattern of the iPhone topping the list in the fourth and first quarter of the year, while the Galaxy S tops the second and third quarter. This pattern now seems to have been broken as the iPhone 6 continues to top the list since September 2014.

The highly anticipated Galaxy S6 Edge was plagued with supply issues in the first month and now suffers from its high price tag – quickly losing its flare as a consequence. We see its sales figures declining since its launch in April. This is a heavy blow to Samsung as it has no other new model launched in 2015 in the top 10 best sellers list.

The list goes: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung GS6, Samsung GS6 Edge, iPhone 5S, Xiaomi Mi Note, Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Xiaomi Redmi 2, LG G4. (Relative sizes not given.) This is the first time LG has been in there this year; Xiaomi’s presence is a clear and present danger to Samsung.

Note that the data is for sales to users, not shipments to carriers.
link to this extract


Downward trend: Korean smartphone makers struggle in Latin American market » BusinessKorea

Cho Jin-young:

Korean smartphone makers are expected to face a crisis after showing good performance in Latin America. Samsung Electronics accounted for 29.5% of the smartphone market in Latin America during Q1 2015, down 10% or more compared to the same period last year, according to Hong Kong-based market research firm Counterpoint Research. LG Electronics, which was the second-most-popular smartphone vendor in the region, also experienced a decline in market share within a year, from 14% to 10.9%. The combined share of the two Korean companies amounted to 52.4% in Q1 2014, but the figure for Q1 2015 was 40.4%. Therefore, it is urgent for two Android phone makers to come up with measures to address the problem.

In contrast, a shift in the center of gravity for the global smartphone market is predicted to become a golden opportunity for Chinese firms that mainly produce entry-level and mid-range smartphones. Xiaomi recently entered the Brazilian mobile phone market by showcasing the Redmi2, a mid-range model, in line with the current market environment. The Chinese company decided to produce Android phones in Brazil for local consumption by asking Foxconn to assemble their products in the country.

More concerning for them is that sales of smartphones in Latin America are slowing down – so that’s a falling share in a falling or static market.
link to this extract


Hackers remotely kill a Jeep on the highway—with me in it » WIRED

Andy Greenberg:

The attack tools [Charlie] Miller and [Chris] Valasek developed can remotely trigger more than the dashboard and transmission tricks they used against me on the highway. They demonstrated as much on the same day as my traumatic experience on I-40; After narrowly averting death by semi-trailer, I managed to roll the lame Jeep down an exit ramp, re-engaged the transmission by turning the ignition off and on, and found an empty lot where I could safely continue the experiment.

Miller and Valasek’s full arsenal includes functions that at lower speeds fully kill the engine, abruptly engage the brakes, or disable them altogether. The most disturbing maneuver came when they cut the Jeep’s brakes, leaving me frantically pumping the pedal as the 2-ton SUV slid uncontrollably into a ditch. The researchers say they’re working on perfecting their steering control – for now they can only hijack the wheel when the Jeep is in reverse.

All this is remote and wireless – they aren’t directly plugged in to the car: the car’s phone connection makes it vulnerable if you know its IP address. Let’s just hope these cars aren’t running Flash.
link to this extract


@EricaJoy’s salary transparency experiment at Google (with tweets) » Storify

Joy started a spreadsheet inside Google on which she shared her salary and details about bonuses (she wasn’t receiving any). The sheet went viral inside the organisation. Some choice extracts:

“I was invited to talk to my manager on Mon or Tues. Higher up people weren’t happy. She wasn’t happy. “Why did I do it? Don’t you know what could happen?”

“Nothing. It’s illegal to retaliate against employees for sharing salaries.”

“Wellll….

And another observation of Joy’s:

“Fighting for justice & fairness INSIDE Google doesn’t go over well. Salary sharing is only 1 example. Blogger porn. Real names. Many others.”

One can see how any company would be uncomfortable at having employees all virally sharing details of their remuneration. The irony of Google, which so insists that All Must Be Known And None Shall Be Hidden, getting a taste of it, is quite a thing to behold. (Joy left Google and is now at Slack.)
link to this extract


CityCyclist 1.0 » scraplab

Tom Taylor:

For a few months, in slivers of spare time, I’ve been working on a little app for city bike navigation, called CityCyclist.

I’ve tried to build something clean and accessible, that gets a good bike route on the screen as quickly as possible. That’s glanceable while on a bike, and more useful when off.

Key innovations: there’s a little scrubber on the elevation profile at the bottom to fly quickly along a route without zooming and panning around. My hypothesis was that might make it easier to consign a route to memory. I suspect that’s not true, but I still like it.

The search results use a combination of Foursquare and Apple’s address geocoder, and seem fairly good.

The routing is powered by CycleStreets (backed by OpenStreetMap) with a selection of three options: fast, balanced, quiet. (UK only for now.)

The height detail is really nifty. And yes, cyclists have very different routing needs from drivers or walkers.
link to this extract


Start up: Wikipedia’s oldest hoaxes, Android’s audio problem, EC seeks transparent search, and more


No, adding these chips won’t make you smart. Less hungry, maybe. Photo by malias on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Spread them like butter from the fridge. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Android’s 10 millisecond problem: the Android audio path latency explainer » Superpowered

Gabor and Patrick, who founded the audio-based software company:

Even though music apps make up only 3% of all downloads in the iOS App Store, the Music app category is the 3rd highest revenue generating app category after Games and Social Networking. Which suggests that music apps monetize disproportionately well on platforms that offer low latency performance such as the App Store/iOS devices.
On Android, it is a different story. In the Google Play store, the Music category is not even a top five revenue producing app category.

The overwhelming majority of Android devices suffer from too high audio latency, preventing developers from building apps that would satisfy consumer demand on Android.

As such, Google and Android app developers are leaving billions of dollars on the table for Apple and iOS developers because of Android’s 10 Millisecond Problem.

For the purposes of this explainer, roundtrip audio latency is simply the difference in time between when an audio input is introduced into a mobile device, undergo some sort of needed processing, and exits the same device. As any musician will tell you, we as humans are most comfortable with latencies of ~10 milliseconds. Anything significantly higher tends to disturb us.

Most Android apps have more than 100 ms of audio output latency, and more than 200 ms of round-trip (audio input to audio output) latency. To give you a quick example from the Oscar winning film Whiplash, it’s like the drummer is dragging by a half beat behind the band!

This has been a problem on Android for years; the analysis suggests it may be insoluble. (List of latencies here; some are really long.) The discussion on Hacker News is worth browsing too. (Via Benedict Evans.)


The story behind Jar’Edo Wens, the longest-running hoax in Wikipedia history » The Washington Post

Caitlin Dewey:

On Monday night, [Gregory] Kohs [a former Wikipedia editor who is now a prominent critic] wrapped up an experiment in which he inserted outlandish errors into 31 articles and tracked whether editors ever found them. After more than two months, half of his hoaxes still had not been found — and those included errors on high-profile pages, like “Mediterranean climate” and “inflammation.” (By his estimate, more than 100,000 people have now seen the claim that volcanic rock produced by the human body causes inflammation pain.)
And there are more unchecked hoaxes where those came from. Editors only recently caught a six-year-old article about the “Pax Romana,” an entirely fictitious Nazi program. Likewise “Elaine de Francias,” the invented illegitimate daughter of Henry II of France. And the obvious, eight-year-old hoax of “Don Meme,” a Mexican guru who materializes at parties and mentors hipster bands…

…“I think this has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it’s not fair to say Wikipedia is ‘self-correcting,’” Kohs said.


We put a chip in it! » Tumblr

It was just a dumb thing. Then we put a chip in it. Now it’s a smart thing.

Such as for example these socks:


Elon Musk had a deal to sell Tesla to Google in 2013 » Bloomberg Business

Ashlee Vance, with an extract from a forthcoming book:

“The word of mouth on the [Model S] car sucked,” Musk says. By Valentine’s Day 2013, Tesla was heading toward a death spiral of missed sales targets and falling shares. The company’s executives had also hidden the severity of the problem from the intensely demanding Musk. When he found out, he pulled staff from every department — engineering, design, finance, HR — into a meeting and ordered them to call people who’d reserved Teslas and close those sales. “If we don’t deliver these cars, we are f—ed,” Musk told the employees, according to a person at the meeting. “So I don’t care what job you were doing. Your new job is delivering cars.”
Musk fired senior executives, promoted hungry junior employees, and assigned former Daimler executive Jerome Guillen to fix Tesla’s repair service and get its glitchy cars back on the road. He also proposed what eventually became his public guarantee of the resale price of the Model S: Unsatisfied buyers would get their money back from Musk personally if they couldn’t sell their car at a price comparable to that of another luxury model.

When in charge at Microsoft, Bill Gates used to insist that executives bring him at least one piece of bad news along with any good news. This is what happens when they don’t. Good on Musk getting the turnaround to happen through such a resourceful approach, though. Ah, but what might have been for Google.


EU to investigate transparency of Internet search results: document » Reuters

Julia Fioretti:

In a draft of the Commission’s strategy for creating a digital single market, seen by Reuters, it says it will “carry out a comprehensive investigation and consultation on the role of platforms, including the growth of the sharing economy.”
The investigation, expected to be carried out next year, will look into the transparency of search results – involving paid for links and advertisements – and how platforms use the information they acquire.

European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip is expected to formally announce the new strategy on May 6.

The transparency of search results came under particular scrutiny this week when the European competition chief accused Google of cheating competitors by distorting web search results to consistently favor its own shopping service.

There are concerns in Europe over how Internet companies such as Facebook and Amazon use the huge amounts of personal data they acquire.

The inquiry will also look at how platforms compensate rights-holders for showing copyrighted material and limits on the ability of individuals and businesses to move from one platform to another.

Don’t hold your breath for when this will report, though, or whether any of it will be implemented.


China smartphone shipments shed 30% sequentially in 1Q15 » Digitimes Research

Kristina Shih:

Shipments of smartphones by China-based vendors declined by nearly 30% sequentially to 91.8m units in the first quarter of 2015 due to sluggish demand both at home and overseas, as well as reduced production affected by the traditional Lunar New Year holidays, according to Digitimes Research.
Vendors which have a high ratio of export sales saw their shipments decline by over 40% sequentially in the first quarter, and those which focus more on the domestic market suffered declines ranging from 20-25%, Digitimes Research has found.

Huawei’s shipments were less affected by market factors, reaching 13.5m units in the first quarter and making the company the number vendor in the quarter. Xiaomi came in second with shipments totaling 10m units as it lowered the prices of some old models to boost sales.

Of course sequential changes don’t matter when you’re trying to analyse larger trends, but they hurt Digitimes’s intended audience of supply chain companies. That’s quite a drop; usually total worldwide mobile phone sales drop by about 10% from Q4 to Q1.


Instagram develops app for Apple Watch » FT.com

Tim Bradshaw and Hannah Kuchler:

Instagram, which built a billion-dollar business on smartphones, is making its first foray into wearable technology with a new app for the Apple Watch.
The popular photo-sharing app, which is owned by Facebook, will use the smartwatch to help users keep up with their closest friends through alerts as soon as they post a picture…
…“I think the Watch is really about quick information and notifications,” [Instagram designer Ian] Silber told the Financial Times. “It’s a huge use case that’s going to be a little bit different.”

So there’s going to be a version for a device that has only just launched, while the Windows Phone version hasn’t been updated for over a year. The power (or lack of it) of an ecosystem.


The great mobile divergence: how the app universe went beyond universal apps » John Kneeland

Kneeland nails the point that I also made: that just because app developers can write once for any Windows version (phone, PC, Xbox) doesn’t mean they will:

The value of a universal app is that you could write an app and have it easily working on all Windows platforms. If I had a bank app, an airline booking app, a casual game, or another app I was already planning on making for PCs, then sure, the idea of universal apps makes sense…
But what good is a Lyft app on a desktop? What good does the Luxe parking app do on my Xbox? What would Instagram even do on my ThinkPad? How could I use a barcode scanning price comparison app on a PC tethered to my desk? Is a PC going to count my steps or monitor my heart-rate in real-time? Can it help me navigate traffic with Waze? What good is a Starbucks card app (or any store app, or any mobile payments solution for that matter) going to do on a device that isn’t mobile? Heck, what would Grindr do if limited to a desktop—find romantic leads within my specified IP address blocks?

(Thanks Tero Alhonen.)