Start up: how Facebook beat Google+, Fadell’s exit interview, iPad Pro review, Appelbaum leaves Tor, and more


Is there too much of this kind of thing between Google and influential European administrative positions? Photo by axi11a on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Wal-Mart says it is 6-9 months from using drones to check warehouse inventory • Reuters

Nandita Bose:

»The remotely controlled drone captured 30 frames per second of products on aisles and alerted the user when product ran out or was incorrectly stocked. Natarajan said drones can reduce the labor intensive process of checking stocks around the warehouse to one day. It currently takes a month to finish manually.

Finding ways to more efficiently warehouse, transport and deliver goods to customers has taken on new importance for Wal-Mart as it deals with wages costs while seeking to beat back price competition and boost online sales.

Wal-Mart said the camera and technology on top of the drones have been custom-built for the retailer.

«

Becoming totally quotidien. My only thought when watching Top Gear is how many of the aerial shots have been done using a drone.
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Google: new concerns raised about political influence by senior ‘revolving door’ jobs • The Guardian

Jamie Doward:

»New concerns have been raised about the political influence of Google after research found at least 80 “revolving door” moves in the past decade – instances where the online giant took on government employees and European governments employed Google staff.

The research was carried out by the Google Transparency Project, an initiative run by the Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a US organisation that scrutinises corporations and politicians. The CfA has suggested that the moves are a result of Google seeking to boost its influence in Europe as the company seeks to head off antitrust action and moves to tighten up on online privacy.

In the UK, Google has hired people from Downing Street, the Home Office, the Treasury, the Department for Education and the Department for Transport. Overall, the company has hired at least 28 British public officials since 2005.

Those hired have included Sarah Hunter, a senior policy adviser to Tony Blair when prime minister, who became head of public policy for Google in the UK. Hunter is now head of policy for Google X, the arm that deals with new businesses such as drones and self-driving cars.

«

The response from some people? “Who funds the CfA – I bet it’s some company that doesn’t like Google.” Rather than “why is there an echelon of people who just shift from policy job to policy job?”
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How Mark Zuckerberg led Facebook’s war to crush Google Plus • Vanity Fair

Antonio García Martínez:

»As part of the budding media seduction around this new product, Google posted eye-popping usage numbers. In September 2012, it announced that the service had 400 million registered users and 100 million active ones. Facebook hadn’t even quite reached a billion users yet, and it had taken the company four years to reach the milestone—100 million users—that Google had reached in one. This caused something close to panic inside Facebook, but as we’d soon learn, the reality on the battlefield was somewhat different than what Google was letting on.

This contest had so rattled the search giant, intoxicated as they were with unfamiliar existential anxiety about the threat that Facebook posed, that they abandoned their usual sober objectivity around engineering staples like data and began faking their usage numbers to impress the outside world, and (no doubt) intimidate Facebook.

This was the classic new-product sham, the “Fake it till you make it” of the unscrupulous startupista, meant to flatter the ego and augment chances of future (real) success by projecting an image of current (imagined) success.

The numbers were originally taken seriously—after all, it wasn’t absurd to think Google could drive usage quickly—but after a while even the paranoid likes of Facebook insiders (not to mention the outside world) realized Google was juicing the numbers, the way an Enron accountant would a revenue report. Usage is always somewhat in the eye of the beholder, and Google was considering anyone who had ever so much as clicked on a Google Plus button anywhere as part of their usual Google experience a “user.” Given the overnight proliferation of Google Plus buttons all over Google, like mushrooms on a shady knoll, one could claim “usage” when a Google user so much as checked e-mail or uploaded a private photo. The reality was Google Plus users were rarely posting or engaging with posted content, and they certainly weren’t returning repeatedly like the proverbial lab rat in the drug experiment hitting the lever for another drop of cocaine water (as they did on Facebook). When self-delusion and self-flattery enter the mind-set of a product team, and the metrics they judge themselves by, like the first plague rat coming onto a ship, the end is practically preordained.

«

From a forthcoming book by this ex-Facebooker.
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Bait and switch: the failure of Facebook advertising — an OSINT investigation • Medium

Hunchly (which is software that integrates to Google Chrome for online investigations) noticed, and proved, that you can create Facebook ads which seem to be pointing to reliable domains – such as CNN – but actually go to a scammy one:

»In the security world we have long been pushing to make sure that products become more “secure by default”. This means that no matter how little a user knows, they are protected as best as possible from day one. While we are all aware that there are ways to commit fraud through advertising networks, in a lot of cases it requires numerous tricks or a relatively high level of sophistication. Google AdWords is extremely vigilant when it comes to placing a new ad (go try it) to make sure that you are not doing anything suspicious. While AdWords is not a perfect system, like anything in security the idea is to raise the bar high enough that only the most sophisticated fraudsters can game the system.

Facebook is missing a simple check that is leaving users at risk. We are not talking about enhancing or tweaking a sophisticated anti-fraud algorithm.

«

It’s just three lines of code, though I think it would screw up a lot of ads which go through third-party ad-tech systems.
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A few thoughts on True Tone – the 9.7″ iPad Pro review • Anandtech

Brandon Chester:

»True Tone works exactly as intended by providing good relative accuracy. As you move to different environments the color temperature of the display shifts to match how your eye adjusts its perception of white depending on the temperature and brightness of the light around you. This obviously leads to inaccuracy relative to the sRGB standard, but that’s missing the point of True Tone entirely. My tests were simply meant to demonstrate how much shifting occurs in different environments, along with a clarification on some misunderstandings I had heard regarding the relationship between True Tone and the DCI-P3 gamut, which are really unrelated technologies.

True Tone works very well, and in a way Apple has proven me wrong here because I was initially skeptical. I’ve seen this attempted before, particularly by Samsung, and the implementations have not been good at all. When I first got the 9.7″ Pro I felt like the True Tone mode shifted too far toward the red. However, after using it for some time I began to realize that this was the product of me using other devices that all shift toward blue, which ruined my perception of the display. When using the iPad Pro on its own for reading or doing work, pulling out another device with a blue shifted display is absolutely jarring, as the iPad has adjusted to match how my eyes perceive things in different lighting, while all my other displays are forever blue. In a way, the biggest problem with True Tone is that it’s not in everything, and I think this is something Apple should be bringing to all of their portable devices.

It’s difficult to photograph True Tone, as depending on where your camera’s white balance lands the iPad Pro will look too red, or the other display will look too blue. I really recommend checking out True Tone for yourself, although if you decide to do it in an Apple Store you probably won’t see the benefits because Apple’s other products are designed to look neutral under the same sort of fluorescent lighting as those stores.

«

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Forbes has quit bugging (some) people about their adblockers • Nieman Journalism Lab

Laura Hazard Owen:

»Forbes was still preventing me from visiting the site with an adblocker on Tuesday, but several of my colleagues accessed it with adblockers on. Forbes did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Tuesday, so we can’t be sure whether or not it’s a policy shift or a backend snafu.

In recent months, sites like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have taken cues from Forbes and Wired and are getting tougher on users with adblockers enabled. Both the Times and the Journal are greeting some adblocker users with messages asking them to whitelist the sites or subscribe; even some people who already pay for subscriptions are seeing the adblocking messages. The Guardian has also said that it will consider “stricter” measures against adblocker users (for now, it just gently notes at the bottom of a page that it has detected an adblocker).

Not surprisingly, all of these policies have annoyed certain users, but Forbes’ appeared to inspire particular aggravation and mocking, perhaps in part because Forbes is not viewed as an essential news source…

«

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How LinkedIn’s password sloppiness hurts us all • Ars Technica

Jeremi Gosney:

»Let’s quickly remember why we hash passwords in the first place: password hashing is an insurance policy. It ensures that should the password database be compromised in any way or through any vector, including physical theft, the passwords will not be recovered until engineers have an opportunity to identify and contain the breach, notify the public, and give users an opportunity to change their passwords anywhere else they may have used them. The stronger and slower the password hashing is, the more time a sites buys for itself and its users in the event of a breach.

Therein lies the problem. We’ve known about the necessity of slow hashing since the 1970s, yet due to a global failure in threat modeling, adoption has been extremely low. It is only in light of a string of high-profile breaches in the last five years that slow hashing has begun to make its way into the mainstream. Thanks to services like LinkedIn, who negligently failed to employ slow hashing (the combined 184 million passwords dumped in 2012 and this year all used unsalted SHA1), hackers have had more than a few fantastic opportunities to collect and analyze massive amounts of password data.

What this means is even if the next big breach does employ slow hashing, it likely will not be anywhere near as effective as it would have been even five years ago. Post-LinkedIn, it will now take hackers many fewer attempts to guess the correct password than it otherwise would have.

«

Two-factor authentication for everything?
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Jacob Appelbaum, digital rights activist, leaves Tor amid sexual misconduct allegations • Mic.com

Jack Smith:

»On Thursday, the Tor Project quietly announced the departure of leading digital rights activist Jacob Appelbaum from its board. At first, they didn’t say why — now, we know.

On Friday afternoon, members of the cryptography community accused Appelbaum publicly of multiple instances of sexual assault against people in the Tor community, and attributed these accusations to Appelbaum’s departure from the Tor Project.

On Saturday, the Tor Project confirmed in a blog post that complaints of this nature are, in fact, the reason for Appelbaum’s departure. Appelbaum is a notorious hacker and activist for digital rights who has worked with both WikiLeaks and the Edward Snowden documents. He is prominent in the cryptography and online activism community, and influential among civil liberties projects and foundations.

“We do not know exactly what happened here,” Tor Project executive director Shari Steele wrote. “We don’t have all the facts, and we are undertaking several actions to determine them as best as possible. We’re also not an investigatory body, and we are uncomfortable making judgments about people’s private behaviors.”

“That said, after we talked with some of the complainants, and after extensive internal deliberation and discussion,” the statement continued, “Jacob stepped down from his position as an employee of the Tor Project.”

«

The accusations made in the article and on Twitter against Appelbaum are very serious; remains to be seen if and where any charges will be laid.
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Software now to blame for 15% of car recalls • Popular Science

Apps freezing or crashing, unexpected sluggishness, and sudden reboots are all, unfortunately, within the normal range of behavior of the software in our smartphones and laptops.

While losing that text message you were composing might be a crisis for the moment, it’s nothing compared to the catastrophe that could result from software in our cars not playing nice.

Yes, we’re talking about nightmares like doors flying open without warning, or a sudden complete shutdown on the highway.

The number of software-related issues, according to several sources tracking vehicle recalls, has been on the rise. According to financial advisors Stout Risius Ross (SSR), in their Automotive Warranty & Recall Report 2016, software-related recalls have gone from less than 5% of recalls in 2011 to 15% by the end of 2015.

SSR points to the sheer volume of software code that interfaces vehicle components, many of them developed to different protocols. While there are about 9 million lines of code in an F-35 fighter jet, today’s cars can contain up to 100 million lines, the firm says.
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Tony Fadell defends his record and methods • Bloomberg

Ashlee Vance got the exit interview:

»Bloomberg: The internet says you might be a tyrant. Are you a tyrant?

Fadell: You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. That style may not be for everyone. But, you know, there are people that worked with me years ago at General Magic, and they have their kids working for me now. If it was true, it would get around like crazy. The Valley’s a small place. I’ve been here 25 years, right?
To me, it’s truly, what’s your mindset? Are you coming to work? Are you truly respecting the mission we’re on? Yes, things are going to go up and down. But because we have a true respect for the people, because they respect what we’re trying to do, we’ll get through anything together. And that’s what counts, right?

Bloomberg: What do you wish you had done differently at Nest?

Fadell: I don’t know of any regrets that I have. You can take something as a challenge or take it as a learning experience. And so for me, it’s always growth. We all make mistakes. We have to make mistakes when we learn to speak or we learn to walk or crawl. So to do what we do at the level we do it, no one’s done it before. So you’re bound to make mistakes.

Bloomberg: What was your relationship like with (Google co-Founder and Alphabet Chief Executive Officer) Larry Page over the years? What did you learn from him?

Fadell: I respect what he’s built. I respect what Larry and Sergey (Brin) have built. I’ve learned a lot from Larry, and a lot of the people that they’ve hired are just top-notch.

For me, it’s really contrasting this with Steve (Jobs), because I learned a lot from Steve about experience and marketing and product design.

«

That’s not quite a strong boost he’s giving Page and Brin, to my mind. Also: Google’s multi-billion hardware acquisitions – Motorola, Nest, Boston Dynamics – haven’t worked out too well, have they?
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Reuters finds readers want quality news, but aren’t willing to pay for it • Digiday

Jessica Davies:

»Reuters in April polled 1,230 of its readers as part of an attempt to figure out its future strategy. The good news: People value quality news. The bad: They still don’t want to pay for it.

Although 81% of respondents said that a news brand is synonymous with trusted content, with nine out of 10 of them turning to a particular news brand to verify breaking news, two-thirds of them said they wouldn’t be willing to pay for any online content, regardless of quality.

“We have an incredible history as a news organization, going back 165 years. But we must answer some of the questions around what audiences want from news going forward, or we won’t have the same relevance in the next 165 years,” said Reuters commercial director, EMEA, Jeff Perkins in an interview.

«

Anyone who hasn’t bought a newspaper (which is a growing number now in the US especially) isn’t aware of having paid for news; the idea that advertising monetises their consumption will have passed them by. Thus of course they don’t show any inclination to pay for it.

The latest great savious: news on VR. Bet you people won’t pay for the news itself there.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: DMCA v Volkswagen, cruel opt-outs, self-parking cars win, HP’s irrelevance, and more


The tsunami that hit the Fukushima reactor nearly led to a meltdown – but how many people died from radiation release? Photo by NRCgov 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.

Researchers could have uncovered Volkswagen’s emissions cheat if not hindered by the DMCA » Electronic Frontier Foundation

Kit Walsh:

Automakers argue that it’s unlawful for independent researchers to look at the code that controls vehicles without the manufacturer’s permission. We’ve explained before how this allows manufacturers to prevent competition in the markets for add-on technologies and repair tools. It also makes it harder for watchdogs to find safety or security issues, such as faulty code that can lead to unintended acceleration or vulnerabilities that let an attacker take over your car.

The legal uncertainly created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act also makes it easier for manufacturers to conceal intentional wrongdoing. We’ve asked the Librarian of Congress to grant an exemption to the DMCA to make it crystal clear that independent research on vehicle software doesn’t violate copyright law. In opposing this request, manufacturers asserted that individuals would violate emissions laws if they had access to the code. But we’ve now learned that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Volkswagen had already programmed an entire fleet of vehicles to conceal how much pollution they generated, resulting in a real, quantifiable impact on the environment and human health.

This code was shielded from watchdogs’ investigation by the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA. Surprisingly, the EPA wrote in [PDF] to the Copyright Office to oppose the exemptions we’re seeking.

With a headline like that, it sounds like an episode of Scooby-Doo. The EPA’s argument in the linked letter is actually reasonable: you know that people will hack the ECM, especially if they get the source code.
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The Cruelest Opt-Out Forms » Tumblr

A project in which @lydialaurenson collects all those forms where, when you decline, you’re meant to feel guilty for doing so. Such as this:

Of course you don’t have to read it. You could just miss the best chance of your life.
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Self-parking cars are better than humans at parking » Fusion

A new study from the AAA put human drivers who considered themselves adept at parallel parking in a “park-off” against five models of self-parking cars. The result? Human drivers got absolutely destroyed by the automated cars in a test of basic parking skills.

Nearly 80% of survey respondents contacted by the AAA said they were “confident in their parallel parking abilities.” But self-parking cars hit the curb 81% less often than human drivers in the road test, and parked themselves with 47% fewer maneuvers. Self-parking cars were also able to park 37% closer to the curb than human drivers, and—to add insult to injury—they did it 10% faster than the humans.

“Self-parking cars” somehow doesn’t sound as sexy, you know? But the clincher is: only one in four of the people in a survey said they’d trust a car to do the parking. This is the knowledge gap that’s so crucial: we don’t know how good robots are at things.
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One million Android users infected with malware through an IQ testing application » Softpedia

Catalin Cimpanu:

The app is called Brain Test and is a simple IQ testing utility, which comes packed with a combination of complex malware strands.

According to Check Point’s research staff, the application was detected via the company’s Mobile Threat Prevention system, first on a Nexus 5 device.

Because its owner, after receiving the malware alert, did not manage to uninstall the malicious app, this prompted Check Point’s team to have a closer look at the source of the infection.

By reverse-engineering the Brain Test app, researchers found a very well-designed piece of malware, which allowed attackers to install third-party applications on the user’s phone, after previously rooting the device and even managing to become boot-persistent.

Brain Test came with a complex detection avoidance system

Looking even further into the issue, researchers found a complex system that allowed the malware to avoid detection by Google’s Bouncer, an automated app testing system that checks for known security issues.

The malware contained code that prevented it from executing if it detected it was being run from certain IP ranges, or domains containing “google”, ”android”, ”1e100.”

After managing to get around Bouncer’s checks and getting installed on a user’s phone, Brain Test would execute a time bomb function whenever the user would run it for the first time.

Even after Google zapped it, the app was re-uploaded five days later. Software that detects when it’s being tested really is the flavour of the month, isn’t it?
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London Collision Map Beta

Discover where road traffic collisions have happened in London since 2005; then filter by year, road user, collision severity and age group.

Figures for 2014 show that the number of people Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) on London’s roads fell to the lowest level since records began. Safe Streets for London, London’s road safety plan, set out the ambition to work towards roads free from death and serious injury and the Mayor’s new target is to halve the number of KSIs by 2020 compared to the Government baseline.

Nice idea, but it’s pretty hellish to use. Heatmaps might have worked better.

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Why HP is irrelevant » Om Malik

A few years ago, in a conversation with my friend Pip Coburn (who spent a long time as a tech-stocks strategist for UBS before starting his own firm, Coburn Ventures), I mentioned that a certain company was dead, though not many realized it. And by “dead,” I didn’t mean that it was bankrupt, out of money or out of business. I meant it was dead in its ability to find growth, excitement and new ideas. Any positive energy had flattened and turned negative. “With that lens on, HP has been ‘dead’ for 15+ years,” Pip emailed me this morning.

Pip says that “companies have a space and time and purpose and when those fade the company would be wise to steadily shut itself down.” Like some other large tech companies, HP fits that bill. In a note to some of his clients, Pip pointed out, “The company [HP] doesn’t even do a good job of pretending to have a strategy.” And he is right.

It’s true: HP hasn’t made a market since, what the inkjet printer? Bubblejet printer? Laser printer? Whichever, it’s been a long time.
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When radiation isn’t the real risk » The New York Times

George Johnson:

This spring, four years after the nuclear accident at Fukushima, a small group of scientists met in Tokyo to evaluate the deadly aftermath.

No one has been killed or sickened by the radiation — a point confirmed last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even among Fukushima workers, the number of additional cancer cases in coming years is expected to be so low as to be undetectable, a blip impossible to discern against the statistical background noise.

But about 1,600 people died from the stress of the evacuation — one that some scientists believe was not justified by the relatively moderate radiation levels at the Japanese nuclear plant.

None of the workers who went into the stricken plant has died of radiation poisoning. The biggest problem for those workers is heatstroke caused by the extra protective equipment they wear.

Truly, the media reaction to Fukushima was enormously overblown; we are all bad at evaluating risk, but the media perhaps worst of all because “if it bleeds, it leads”.
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BT pledges better broadband for UK » BBC News

BT has hit back at rivals calling for its break-up, with a strategy to make the UK the fastest broadband nation.

It revealed plans to connect 10 million homes to ultrafast broadband [300-500Mbps] by the end of 2020 and raise the minimum broadband speed for homes that cannot get fibre to 5-10Mbps (megabits per second).

It comes in a week when rivals have denounced the quality of UK broadband.

In a letter to the Financial Times on Monday, they said BT should be split.

Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk were among signatories to the letter which claimed that millions of customers currently have a “substandard” broadband service.

Homes currently passed by fibre, according to Ofcom: 23.6m (with 30% takeup, ie 7.1m users).
Households in UK: 26.4m.

However, the gap between that pledge of ultrafast and minimum is just absurd. And it’ll be those who need the faster speeds – in rural areas – who won’t get it.
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Soft underbelly » Asymco

Horace Dediu suggests that existing carmakers are underestimating the threat they face from computer-industry entrants:

Traditional car making is capital intensive due to the processes and materials used. There are however alternatives on the shelf. iStream from Gordon Murray Design proposed switching to tubular frames and low cost composites.  BMW has an approach using carbon fiber other composites. 3D printing is waiting in the wings. All offer a departure from sheet metal stamping.

With new materials, costs for new plants can be reduced by as much as 80% and since amortizing the tooling is as much as 40% of the cost of new car, the margins on new production methods could result in significant boosts in margin.

There is a downside however. What is usually compromised when using these new methods is volume and scale of production. So that becomes the real question: how many cars can Apple target? 10k, 50k, 100k per year? Could they target 500k? That would be 10 times Tesla’s current volumes but only a bit more than the output of the Mini brand.

Now consider that the total market is 85 million vehicles per year. For Apple to get 10% share would imply 8.5 million cars a year, a feat that is hard to contemplate right now with any of the production systems. On the other hand selling 80 million iPhones and iPads in a single quarter has become routine for Apple and that was considered orders of magnitude beyond what they could deliver. Amazing what 8 years of production ramping can offer.

Given that cars are increasingly computers with fancy cases on wheels, you really don’t want to rule out low-end or even high-end disruption.
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Ad tech always wins: Ad blocker users are the new hot ad-targeting segment » Digiday

Lucia Moses:

“We want to find ways to reach these consumers in ways that suit how they want to be communicated to and with,” Laura Mete Frizzell, gm of search/analytics/media at 360i. “They are part of an audience for which the brand is relevant and can offer utility.”

The potential to target ad blockers is “on the radar,” said Jon Anselmo, senior vp, managing director of digital innovation at MediaVest. “People’s behaviors, including ad blocking, do provide us insights about who they are and what they care about. A tech-savvy nature could absolutely be one such insight.”

On the seller side, too, the idea of targeting blockers is starting to pop up in conversations with publishers like Complex, said its CEO and founder Rich Antoniello. “Those are the hardest to reach people,” he said. One response by Complex has been to use the space normally given over to ads to present ad blocker users with a message asking for their emails to target them regardless.

Mark that last one, because it must surely be the dumbest thing you’ll see today. (Via Rowland Manthorpe.)
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Start up: Yahoo buying 4sq?, keyless car breakins, smartphones in Africa, and more


Power amplifier widgets mean criminals don’t need to do this to your keyless car. But the alarm won’t go off either… Photo by Bekathwia on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. And only you. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Sources: Yahoo in talks to buy Foursquare » TechCrunch

Yahoo has been busy rebuilding its business around mobile under CEO Marissa Mayer, and soon it could make one of its biggest bets yet on the platform. We have heard perennially that the company has been looking to buy Foursquare, the New York startup behind the eponymous local search app and location-based social “check-in” app Swarm. The latest rumour we are hearing is giving the deal a price tag of around $900m.

It must be hell going shopping with Marissa Mayer. “Let’s buy THAT!” “Marissa, it’s way overpriced.” “WANT IT!”

So, is this hideously overpriced? Let’s see…


An analysis of Foursquare’s popularity after removing checkins » Junkyard Sam

Matthew Cox:

In May 2014 Foursquare removed check-ins and transformed the app into a lesser imitation of Yelp (using the accumulated reviews from Foursquare’s loyal audience.)

Foursquare’s users felt betrayed that their reviews were used but what they once loved about the app was removed.  Here’s how that worked out:

So, not well. Lesson: don’t change a winning formula.


Europe is targeting Google under antitrust laws but missing the bigger picture » The Guardian

Julia Powles:

As Maryland law professor Frank Pasquale writes in his acclaimed new book, The Black Box Society: “Google is not really a competitor in numerous markets, but instead serves as a hub and kingmaker setting the terms of competition for others.” For Pasquale, the solution lies in greater transparency. “Google’s secrecy keeps rivals from building upon its methods or even learning from them,” he writes. “Missing results are an ‘unknown unknown’: users for whom certain information is suppressed do not even know that they do not know the information.” The irony of the situation is that Google knows so much about us, and we know so little about it.

Let that thought roll around your head a little.


Feb 2009: Google joins Europe case against Microsoft » NYTimes.com

Miguel Helft, in February 2009, as Google applied to become a complainant in the EC’s case against Microsoft over illegal tying of Internet Explorer to Windows:

“Google believes that the browser market is still largely uncompetitive, which holds back innovation for users,” Sundar Pichai, a vice president for product management, wrote in a Google blog. “This is because Internet Explorer is tied to Microsoft’s dominant computer operating system, giving it an unfair advantage over other browsers.”

Google declined to make anyone available to discuss its announcement. By becoming a party to the case, it would participate in the proceedings and gain access to the confidential “statement of objections” that European regulators sent to Microsoft last month. Google could also argue for remedies it prefers.

This seems like a bad move, in retrospect. Google had just launched Chrome, and Android was just beginning to make its first moves. You’d have to be smart to see how mobile was going to grow (but aren’t the people at Google meant to be smart?), but angering Microsoft – as this surely did – meant that Microsoft was always going to seek revenge. Which it is now getting.


Keeping your car safe from electronic thieves » NYTimes.com

Nick Bilton is keeping the (electronic) key to his Toyota Prius in the freezer to stop people getting into his car. Here’s why:

Mr. Danev specializes in wireless devices, including key fobs, and has written several research papers on the security flaws of keyless car systems.

When I told him my story, he knew immediately what had happened. The teenagers, he said, likely got into the car using a relatively simple and inexpensive device called a “power amplifier.”

He explained it like this: In a normal scenario, when you walk up to a car with a keyless entry and try the door handle, the car wirelessly calls out for your key so you don’t have to press any buttons to get inside. If the key calls back, the door unlocks. But the keyless system is capable of searching for a key only within a couple of feet.

Mr. Danev said that when the teenage girl turned on her device, it amplified the distance that the car can search, which then allowed my car to talk to my key, which happened to be sitting about 50 feet away, on the kitchen counter. And just like that, open sesame.

BRB. Move aside, ice cubes.


Cellphones in Africa: communication lifeline » Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project

Cell phones are pervasive in the region. In 2002, roughly one-in-ten owned a mobile phone in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana. Since then, cell phone ownership has grown exponentially. Today, cell phones are as common in South Africa and Nigeria as they are in the United States. Smartphones (those that can access the internet and applications) are less widely used, though significant minorities own these devices in several nations…

…Roughly a third of South Africans (34%) and about a quarter of Nigerians (27%) say that their device is a smartphone, i.e. one that can access the internet and apps, such as an iPhone, Blackberry or Android device. Smartphone ownership is less common in the other nations surveyed, and in Tanzania and Uganda it is still in the single digits. By comparison, 64% in the United States owned a smartphone as of December 2014.

But those who are more likely to own them are young, educated and English-speaking. I’d love to see some data on whether it has an economic effect to own one – though splitting that from the “educated” benefits would be tough.


The self-driving car revolution’s unintended consequence: lots of puking passengers » Co.Exist

According to a report from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, 6% to 10% of American adults will get motion sickness—with nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and so on—in fully self-driving cars either most or all of the time. Another 6% to 12% of American adults will get moderate to severe motion sickness in a self-driving vehicle at least some of the time. That’s a fairly high percentage of potentially ill riders.

If you’ve ever been a passenger in a car driving down a windy road, feeling like you’re going to puke while the driver is perfectly fine, this shouldn’t be too surprising. As the study’s authors, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, explain, motion sickness is usually caused by two factors: a “conflict between visual and vestibular inputs” (like facing the side of the car instead of looking straight ahead) and a lack of ability to anticipate movements or a loss of control of movement. Since drivers have more control over where the vehicle is moving, they get motion sick less often than passengers.

And what makes it worse? Reading, texting or watching movies. Might as well just drive.


Samsung, LG Electronics have 99.2% of global TV monitor market » BusinessKorea

Cho Jin-young:

TV monitors, which are monitors for PC that can also receive TV signals via an onboard TV tuner, are very popular among single households who have trouble having a separate TV and monitor.

Recently, this convenience in daily life is growing with the coming-out of new monitors equipped with an enlarged screen mainly for watching TV and those that allow users to watch TV on one half and work on their PC on the other half simultaneously. With this, the portion of TV monitors is continuously growing and is expected to make up to 6.5% of all monitors sold this year, growing from 5.8% last year.

Just a guess, but are most of those sales in Asia?


Taiwan supply chain makers hope for increased adoption of force touch solutions » Digitimes

Ninelu Tu:

With Apple’s adoption of force touch technology onto the trackpad of its new MacBook, related component makers hope the trend will prompt other notebook vendors to adopt the solutions for their products, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

Since technologies adopted by Apple’s products have been usually able to set new trends for its competitors to follow suit, related component suppliers are hoping the force touch technology will be the same. Many Taiwan suppliers are already able to supply related solutions, the sources noted.

The sources also pointed out that brand vendors including Hewlett-Packard (HP), Dell and Lenovo and ODMs such as Quanta Computer, Compal Electronics and Wistron are all able to incorporate the solutions into their notebooks, but they had been reluctant to feature the technology in their products.

Why does it need Apple to make a song and dance about it for this to happen? There’s a similar story about USB-C – Dell and Asus are going to offer products with it. None of the PC ODMs likes to jump first, it seems. But that means Apple scoops the publicity.