Start up: Windows 10’s puzzle, Adobe’s coming obituary, our digital romances, and more


A better sound to be found inside? Photo by pumpkinmook on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Windows 10 signifies Microsoft’s shift in strategy » The New York Times

Nick Wingfield:

in recent years, Windows has become an afterthought for many software developers, who have turned to the huge and engaged audience on smartphones. That shift has left Microsoft in a precarious position with consumers in recent years.

To generate more interest from developers, Microsoft has designed Windows 10 to run on PCs, smartphones and other devices, which is meant to make it easier for developers to write apps that run across all of them. And the company has sworn there will be one billion devices running the software in the next two to three years, giving developers a huge potential market to reach with their creations.

“I think we will see really huge adoption” of Windows 10, said Kevin Sather, director of product marketing for systems at Razer, a maker of high-end gaming computers and other devices.

The benefits of fast and free adoption of Windows 10 could well outweigh the revenue Microsoft is giving up. The company does not disclose how much upgrade revenue it normally makes from a new operating system, but analysts estimate that it is small compared with the other ways the company makes money from the operating system.

What this doesn’t explain is why Windows 10, even free, should suddenly make consumers devote any more time to their PCs, or buy Windows tablets any more than they do. Obviously Microsoft is a business-oriented company. So will this actually make any difference at all to the general direction of travel, away from the desktop to mobile? I just don’t see it.
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Free sound improving techniques » PWB Electronics

Try the freezing experiment using a CD first – they are usually the easiest object to hand. If you have two identical CDs all the better as you can keep one CD as the control (no treatment) and put the other CD through the freezing/slow defrost process.

Place one CD in a plain plastic bag and place this bag in the domestic deep freezer overnight. When you remove the CD from the freezer, allow it to return to room temperature very, very slowly. You can achieve a slow defrost quite easily by wrapping it in a towel or blanket. Listen to the CD which has been through the freezing process first and then see if you can listen to the other (unfrozen) CD with the same pleasure !! Putting the previously frozen CD through the freezing/slow defrost process a second time gives you a further improvement in the sound.

Impossible to distinguish from satire. Or reality.
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Only around 15% of WP 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile? » All About Windows Phone

Steve Litchfield:

There’s something of a blanket assumption that everyone currently using Windows Phone 8.1 will upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile – after all, Microsoft has been promising that ‘majority’ of users will join the Window 10 ecosystem. But, after a few recent experiences of mine with budget devices, I thought it worth sounding a note of caution and reality – I’d put money on the actual conversion numbers to Windows 10 Mobile being significantly less than 50% and maybe as low as 15%.

He tested trying to update to Windows 10 Mobile on wiped-clean Lumias. It wasn’t great. Why? Storage: some of those low-end phones just won’t have the spare space – especially for those with any apps installed.
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Tech world prepares obituary for Adobe Flash » WSJ

Robert McMillan:

in 2007, along came the iPhone. Adobe engineers embraced it immediately. “Everyone who was in the organization was carrying an iPhone,” said Carlos Icaza, an Adobe senior engineer at the time.

But Apple’s smartphone also troubled Mr. Icaza, who was in charge of Flash development on mobile phones. Flash had become bloated over the years and required lots of computing power to run. That wasn’t a big deal on PCs, but on mobile phones, with their limited battery life, it was a major problem, and Apple had opted not to support the technology.

Flash needed a major rewrite to work on the iPhone, but Mr. Icaza couldn’t get his superiors to allocate the necessary resources.

“For me, it was, ‘What the hell is going on? We have this amazing device that is going to change the world and everybody knows it,’” he said in an interview. “Nobody at the organization was trying to make Flash work on this device.”…

…Adobe itself now considers Flash to be immaterial to its business, meaning that it accounts for less than 5% of company revenue, but it is still widely used on websites built for browsers. The software runs on under 6% of the Internet’s home pages and its use is declining, according to BuiltWith Pty Ltd, which tracks Internet technology.

You don’t hear that 6% stat thrown around much, do you?
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I tried all the apps that are supposed to mend a broken heart » Fusion

Kristen Brown:

A few months into the relationship I’d asked Siri to remember which of the many Johns* [*his name wasn’t John] in my contacts was the one I was dating. At the time, divulging this information to Siri seemed like a big step — at long last, we were “Siri Official!” Now, though, we were Siri-Separated. Having to break the news to my iPhone—my non-human, but still intimate companion—surprisingly stung.

Siri wasn’t the only screen-based trial of my break-up. Our relationships now exist across networked webs of digital connections, webs that we build up each time we begin a new romance and then must painfully break down when one ends. When I flicked open my laptop at work, the bottom-right corner was empty where a Google chat had previously sat waiting for me. Notifications of unread Snapchat messages used to lead to goofy photos of John, but now they’re just, disappointingly, announcements from Team Snapchat. Every time I send a note to a particular group of friends, Google’s algorithm suggests I add John to the e-mail thread.

Our relationship was the digital equivalent of moving in together, and now painful memories of him were scattered all over my online home. Technology was making my heartache worse, but that’s not how these things are supposed to work: Technology is supposed make our lives easier, so I sought out tech fixes for a broken heart.

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Online cheating site AshleyMadison hacked » Krebs on Security

Brian Krebs:

In a long manifesto posted alongside the stolen ALM data, The Impact Team said it decided to publish the information in response to alleged lies ALM told its customers about a service that allows members to completely erase their profile information for a $19 fee.

According to the hackers, although the “full delete” feature that Ashley Madison advertises promises “removal of site usage history and personally identifiable information from the site,” users’ purchase details — including real name and address — aren’t actually scrubbed.

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie,” the hacking group wrote. “Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

Their demands continue: “Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”

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The Apple Watch review » Anandtech

Joshua Ho and Brandon Chester:

Although this is a review of the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch will ultimately be quickly forgotten with the launch of future iterations of the Apple Watch. After all, Apple is not trying to sell the world on the idea of a smarter watch, but the idea of a watch altogether.

For those still deciding on whether the first Apple Watch makes sense, I have no reservations in saying that it’s the best wearable I’ve ever used. However, at the same time I find it hard to recommend this first-generation Apple Watch. It’s clear that there are far too many obvious areas to improve upon, areas where Moore’s law will help to dramatically improve the experience. In the case of smartphones, Moore’s law made it possible to deliver true all-day battery life and fluid app performance. After spending a few months with the Apple Watch, all I can see is a need for more compute and battery life, like what happened with smartphones.

Finally, we get back to the question of whether Apple will be sell people on the concept of a watch. In the months since I first used the watch I’ve ended up wearing it every day. I distinctly noticed its absence when I forgot the charger on a trip. I don’t know if Apple will succeed in convincing others of the utility of a watch, but they’ve definitely convinced me.

To the despair of graph-lovers everywhere, the authors declare that they can’t figure out a standard method for testing battery life, because you can configure the Apple Watch and Android Wear to behave so differently on notifications. But I agree with their conclusion – what you begin to notice, increasingly, over time is the utility.
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Dropdowns should be the UI of last resort » LukeW

Luke Wroblewski:

No one likes filling in forms. And the longer or more complicated a form seems, the less likely we are to jump in and start filling in the blanks -especially on small screens with imprecise inputs (like our fingers).

dropdowns v tabs

While there’s two extra fields in the “painful” version above, the primary difference between these two flight booking forms is how they ask questions. One makes use of dropdown menus for nearly every question asked, the other uses the most appropriate input control for each question.

Dropdowns really are a pain, but it takes this post to point out quite why. There’s a longer writeup with links to video clips too.
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Start up: Watch experiences, Samsung gets Edgy, Nexus 7 stops, how CD leakers did it, and more


Remember? Photo by Orin Zebest on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Not golf links, no. They’re different. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

My rocky first 24hrs with the Apple ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ » Medium

Matt Haughey with a ton of really good criticism of the Watch setup for the novice user:

My phone has been downloading dozens of updates of apps made for the watch for weeks, but after getting the watch on my wrist, I realized none of those apps automatically added to the watch, but recent (meaning: as I was setting up the watch) app updates were automatically on the watch like my bank, which I don’t want on my watch. Five minutes later I learned the older apps had to be manually enabled one-by-one. Ugh. Again with the tedium. Additionally, apps asked if I wanted “Glances” enabled too, but in this first half-hour of watch ownership, I didn’t know what “Glances” were yet so I guessed and enabled it on apps I like most. I hope it doesn’t do awful things that I will have to disable one-by-one.

Hope Apple is watching stuff like this closely. As Haughey points out, the problems are also partly to do with third-party devs not having had experience when they wrote their apps and notifications. (The notes by the paragraphs are worth reading, especially those relating to your “Favourites” on the Watch itself.)


How popular will smartwatches be? » Naofumi Kagami

There are plenty of jobs where glancing at a watch is acceptable, but staring into your smartphone isn’t.

You could easily add other jobs where a smartwatch will quickly become a necessity and not just a convenience. For example, doctors working inside hospitals have to respond quickly if one of their patient’s condition suddenly deteriorates. They carry phones with them at all times, but it’s vital that they don’t miss a call. Rather then having a vibration in your pants which can sometimes be hard to notice, it’s much better to have a tap on your wrist.

Similarly, sales reps will also do much better if they quickly respond to emails or phone calls from customers, and so missing calls is not an option. For this very reason, many Japanese employees keep their phones in their shirt pocket and not in their trousers, because it’s much easier to notice a vibration on your chest. This will no longer be an issue if you are wearing a smartwatch.

Also lacking from the discussion is women who often carry their smartphones in their bags and not in their pockets. They don’t want to miss calls or important notifications either…

…This is why I am optimistic about Apple Watch sales, and sales of smartwatch sales in general. I would be very surprised if Android Wear did not start to sell briskly, although it may take a product iteration or two.


The man who broke the music business » The New Yorker

Stephen Witt, with a lovely description of what we all knew – on reflection – must be happening in the music business in the 1990s:

One Saturday in 1994, Bennie Lydell Glover, a temporary employee at the PolyGram compact-disk manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, went to a party at the house of a co-worker. He was angling for a permanent position, and the party was a chance to network with his managers. Late in the evening, the host put on music to get people dancing. Glover, a fixture at clubs in Charlotte, an hour away, had never heard any of the songs before, even though many of them were by artists whose work he enjoyed.

Later, Glover realized that the host had been d.j.’ing with music that had been smuggled out of the plant. He was surprised. Plant policy required all permanent employees to sign a “No Theft Tolerated” agreement. He knew that the plant managers were concerned about leaking, and he’d heard of employees being arrested for embezzling inventory. But at the party, even in front of the supervisors, it seemed clear that the disks had been getting out. In time, Glover became aware of a far-reaching underground trade in pre-release disks. “We’d run them in the plant in the week, and they’d have them in the flea markets on the weekend,” he said. “It was a real leaky plant.”

The motives of the leakers are, to say the least, mixed. (A side note: if you look at the page source, you discover that the New Yorker includes a word count for each paragraph.)


The Oregon Trail generation: life before and after mainstream tech » Social Media Week

Anna Garvey:

We’re an enigma, those of us born at the tail end of the 70s and the start of the 80s. Some of the “generational” experts lazily glob us on to Generation X, and others just shove us over to the Millennials they love to hate – no one really gets us or knows where we belong.

We’ve been called Generation Catalano, Xennials, and The Lucky Ones, but no name has really stuck for this strange micro-generation that has both a healthy portion of Gen X grunge cynicism, and a dash of the unbridled optimism of Millennials.

A big part of what makes us the square peg in the round hole of named generations is our strange relationship with technology and the internet.  We came of age just as the very essence of communication was experiencing a seismic shift, and it’s given us a unique perspective that’s half analog old school and half digital new school.

Resonate with you? Read it.


Say goodbye to the Nexus 7 as Google pulls listing from store page » TalkAndroid.com

Jared Peters:

After releasing the Nexus 9 and not even mentioning the possibility of a refreshed 7in tablet, though, most of us could see the writing on the wall about the Nexus 7’s fate. Today, it’s finally happened, as Google no longer offers the Nexus 7 on their online store. Finding a listing for the Nexus 7 specifically says that it’s no longer for sale.

Google’s Nexus program has changed over the past couple of years, moving away from extremely affordable devices to more high-end devices that offer a flagship caliber experience without sacrificing development options and quick updates. Unfortunately, that move comes with flagship caliber price tags, too, which is evident in the Nexus 9’s doubled price tag over the Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 is only just larger than the Nexus 6, which is a phone and is the only device you can use on Google’s Fi MVNO. Google doesn’t think tablets are worth it. (Side note: I had to follow two links to get back to this, as what seemed to be the original source. Why didn’t the first site to write it link back to the original one, rather than the first copier?)


How photography was optimized for white skin colour » Priceonomics


Photo of Villa Maria Academy, Bronx NY, 4th Grade, 1983. Photo by Wishitwas1984 on Flickr.
Rosie Cima:

The earliest colour film was not sensitive enough to accurately capture darker subjects, especially when the scene had brighter, whiter elements. This problem was particularly obvious in group portraiture, photographer Adam Broomberg has explained: “If you exposed film for a white kid, the black kid sitting next to him would be rendered invisible except for the whites of his eyes and teeth.” Photographer Syreeta McFadden, a black woman, describes the experience of looking at photos of herself as a young girl:

“In some pictures, I am a mud brown, in others I’m a blue black. Some of the pictures were taken within moments of one another. ‘You look like charcoal,’ someone said, and giggled. I felt insulted, but I didn’t have the words for that yet.”

“Film emulsions could have been designed initially with more sensitivity to the continuum of yellow, brown, and reddish skin tones,” Roth writes in her paper, ‘Looking at Shirley, the Ultimate Norm,’ “but the design process would have had to be motivated by a recognition of the need for an extended dynamic range.”…

…“I remember growing up and seeing Sidney Poitier sweating next to Rod Steiger in ‘In the Heat of the Night,’ and obviously [that was because] it’s very hot in the South,” Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen told the Washington Post, “But also he was sweating because he had tons of light thrown on him, because the film stock wasn’t sensitive enough for black skin.”

Nobody meant for film to be ‘racist’ (as Jean-Luc Goddard called it). It just happened that way. What are the embedded processes in society that do the equivalent now, and in what field of endeavour? Probably sexism, at a guess.


Samsung speeds up production of curved S6 with demand soaring » Bloomberg Business

Jungah Lee:

Samsung Electronics began production at a third factory for curved smartphone screens sooner than expected as demand surges for its Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
Adding the production line, known as A3, enables Samsung Display Co. to more than double monthly output to 5m screens from about 2m currently, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. The plant is now online after the company previously planned on using the new factory sometime in June, one of the people said.
Samsung Electronics predicted record sales for the Galaxy S6 lineup, which includes a model with a traditional flat display, as the company seeks to win back customers who flocked to Apple’s new large-screen iPhones and Chinese vendors selling cheaper devices. Demand for Samsung’s new smartphones has exceeded company expectations since they went on sale April 10, the people said.

Interesting. It has had slow initial sales to end users in South Korea, perhaps because of restrictions on subsidies by carriers there. Of course, the “sales” in this story are to operators – not end users. That’s the acid test, and we won’t get a clear picture there for a few months.


Nobody famous » Medium

Anil Dash on the strange experience of having been put on Twitter’s Suggested Users List early on, and getting more than half a million followers – who often don’t know quite why they’re following him, but hope he can do something for them anyway:

I sometimes respond to people with facts and figures, showing how the raw number of connections in one’s network doesn’t matter as much as who those connections are, and how engaged they are. But the truth is, our technological leaders have built these tools in a way that explicitly promotes the idea that one’s follower count is the score we keep, the metric that matters. After more than a decade of having that lesson amplified across the Internet, the billion or so people who rely on online social networks have taken the message to heart.

As he says, having a really large following on a social network is strange.


BlackBerry closing design operations in Sweden, affecting up to 150 employees » TechCrunch

Ingrid Lunden:

Earlier this week smartphone maker BlackBerry confirmed it acquired Israel’s WatchDox to build out its security software business, but it looks like it may be downsizing elsewhere. According to reports from Swedish news sites, BlackBerry is closing down its software design operations in Sweden — a business that grew out of its acquisition of UI startup The Astonishing Tribe in 2010.

One report from Swedish site 8till5 notes layoffs of 100 in Malmo; other reports from news site Rapidus and financial newspaper Svenska Dagbladet says it will be letting go just over 150 employees: 93 in Malmö and 60 in Gothenburg.

Purchased for $92m; value now negative? Astonishing Tribe did stuff such as the UI of the first Android phone. Then they were hired to work on the PlayBook. Oh..