Start up: the open data economy, Samsung sued on software updates, Google v Isis, deaf developing, and more

Zano drone: hardly any were built

Zano’s much-promised drone turned out to be a flop, not a flyer. Photo: Torquing Industries.

Hell, you might as well 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.

The economic impact of open data: what do we already know? » Medium

Jeni Tennison and Jack Hardinges of the Open Data Institute:

Open data fuels economic growth. Many believe in the theory and ask for the proof. A new report by Nesta and the ODI adds to the evidence of the impact of open data. The report’s analysis, undertaken by PwC, examines the effects of the Open Data Challenge Series (ODCS) and predicts the programme will result in a potential 10x return (£10 for every £1 invested over three years), generating up to £10.8m for the UK economy.

Seems amazing that ten years ago I was having to fight government departments tooth and nail to persuade them that releasing open data could have an economic benefit.
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‘Hateful Eight’ producer on piracy: “Aspirin ain’t curing the plague” » Hollywood Reporter

Richard Gladstein, producer of Hateful Eight:

the “Fair Use” provision and debate has also proven to be an extremely useful tool for those looking to distract from or ignore the real copyright infringement issue: piracy.

Such distractions include Google’s recent announcement that they will be offering legal support to “a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns.” Fred von Lohmann, legal director of copyright at Google, noted in a recent post on Google’s Public Policy blog: “More than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.” As the third most visited site on the web, YouTube occupies an important place in the discussion of online copyright infringement.

The criteria and definition of what constitutes fair use is a long-cherished and worthy debate. In fact, I agree with Mr. von Lohmann when he says, “Some of those uploads make use of existing content, like music or TV clips, in new and transformative ways that have social value beyond the original.”

However, it should be noted that the search behemoth won’t be defending every takedown notice, but said they will select a “small number of videos” they believe “will make a positive impact.” Would you care to guess how many videos they’ve selected? Turns out, it’s four. Jonathan Bailey at Plagiarism Today points out, “That’s 0.0000005% of all users.”

As Stephen Carlisle, Copyright Officer of Nova Southeastern University, describes it:

“The new policy is really nothing more than a publicity stunt, designed to encourage more people to upload to YouTube videos of dubious legality, while at the same time acting as an intimidation tactic to discourage the filing of valid takedown notices.”

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Being a deaf developer » Cruft

Hollie Kay:

I’ve been deaf since infancy. It is not profound; my hearing loss is described as moderate to severe and is mostly problematic at higher frequency ranges, the range at which most human speech happens. I rely on lip-reading and identifying vowel patterns to understand spoken language. Particular struggles are:

• recognising consonants, especially sibilants and unvoiced consonants (all consonants are high frequency sounds, and the unvoiced and sibilant consonants don’t activate the vocal chords)
• the beginning of sentences
• the end of sentences

Some deaf people successfully become programmers. It’s mostly thought-based, often solitary work, where all your output is written down. Specifications and bugs come to you (in an ideal world, at least) on paper and in ticketing systems instead of through other people’s noiseholes. Some areas aren’t quite so fabulous (I’m looking at you, interminable conference call meetings involving 15 people sitting in a circle around a gigantic table), but adjustments are always possible.

The stereotype of a programmer as a solitary eccentric who’s allergic to human company is unfair and inaccurate. As a group, we’re a very social bunch.

The Tim Berners-Lee quote about accessibility further down in the article is worth bearing in mind.
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Vladimir Putin’s internet adviser owns a torrent site » TorrentFreak

“Andy”:

Last week Putin signed a decree that officially enlisted [Herman] Klimenko and it didn’t take long for him to address the issue of Internet piracy. However, instead of tough talk, Klimenko criticized web-blocking and suggested that copyright holders should wait for a better economic situation before “terrorizing” on the issue of piracy.

“Consumption of copyright content increases with economic growth, and when the situation is very serious, I think people do not have to unnecessarily terrorize these issues,” Putin’s adviser said.

“Pushing hard now on this topic, I think, is not worth it. When the economy improves, you should return to this issue.”

While Klimenko’s comments at least in part sound reasonable, copyright holders would’ve been disappointed by his lack of support. What they will be even more disappointed over is the allegations now surfacing about Klimenko’s links to online piracy.

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How Zano raised millions on Kickstarter and left most backers with nothing » Medium

Mark Harris:

bumps in the road kept popping up. In late May, Crowther posted that some of Zano’s plastic parts had been delayed due to a tooling issue. The decision not pursue a pilot build was coming back to bite Torquing. Additions that Reedman made to his initial design, and the fact that some of the plastics supplied were heavier than expected, had ballooned Zano’s weight from 55g as a prototype to 70g in pre-production. With the original propellers, the Zano could now fly for only a couple of minutes between charges — a far cry from the 15 minutes that Reedman had promised.

A bigger battery could increase flight time, and Reedman told me he was trying to boost the battery size from 750 mAh (milliampere hours, a measurement of discharge capacity over time) to 1,000 or 1,100 mAh before he left Zano. A review of comparable batteries designed for drones (from makers and third-party replacements) finds even custom-fit modules would weigh at least 30g for 1,000 mAh, seemingly impractical without further design changes.

His solution at the time was to send back the original propellers for larger ones. However, says Reedman, “As far as [the Chinese supplier] was concerned, the propellers did work so therefore are not faulty and would not accept returns.” Torquing was left having paid for tens of thousands of propellers it could not use.

Harris is a terrific journalist (he’s done sterling work on Google’s self-driving car problems) who was commissioned by Kickstarter itself to dig into what happened to the biggest-ever Kickstarter funding and flop. Earlier, he doesn’t say the promo video was faked, but if anyone could explain how it was not faked, I’m all ears. (I was a Zano backer. Win some, lose some.)

The key lesson seems to be: cap the amount you’ll allow to be raised, especially for complex devices. But there are lots of other lessons too.
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Google: ISIS must be ‘contained to the dark web’ » Wired UK

Matt Burgess, reporting on a talk called “Waging a Digital Counterinsurgency”:

[Jared] Cohen, who heads up the Google department that is building products to help against oppression, said the “echo chamber” created by hordes of fake social media accounts “shouldn’t be neglected. He said: “The reality is what Isis is doing with technology ranges from communication to spamming, to all sorts of tactics that you’re probably more familiar with fraud and spam and various scams you’ve received in your inbox.”

“To me Isis is not a tech savvy organisation.”

One possible tactic, according Yasmin Green, also of Google Ideas, is to show targeted advertising to those who have been identified as looking at the propaganda.

Green said adverts may be able to “connect, distract, disrupt, and maybe sell a different product” to those with fighting for Isis in their eyes. The approach is also one that has been endorsed by the British government with internet minister Baroness Shields saying tech companies can do more to promote anti-extremist messages on their services.

If Cohen thinks Isis isn’t tech-savvy, then how has it got so much social media going on that a “digital counterinsurgency” is needed? And a solution consisting of targeted advertising? This is truly seeing nails everywhere because your toolbox only contains a hammer. In a few years, will Cohen be suggesting self-driving tanks to fight the war?
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Samsung sued by consumer watchdog for failing to update its phones » AndroidAuthority

Bogdan Petrovan:

Consumentenbond, an influential non-profit organization looking after the interests of consumers in the Netherlands, is taking Samsung to court over its failure to provide [software] updates in a timely manner.

In a press release (PDF, English language), the group says it reached out to Samsung on December 2, but in the absence of a proper response, it “issued injunctive relief proceedings against” the Korean giant.

Consumentenbond considers Samsung is guilty of unfair trade practices, as consumers are not informed upon purchase how long they will receive software updates. The group demands “clear and unambiguous information” on updates and security patches, and wants Samsung to actually release updates for at least two years from the date of purchase.

Consumentenbond says 82% of the Samsung phones it checked were not updated within two years of their introduction. All manufacturers should be held to this high standard, according to the consumer watchdog, which noted that Samsung is the “undisputed leader” of the Dutch phone market.

This last demand seems rather hard to put in practice. Consumentenbond wants Samsung to support every device it sells for two years, regardless of how old it is. In practice, that would force Samsung to ensure updates for four years or even more.

And this would be bad because..? Definitely a lawsuit to watch, especially if other consumer organisations take up the same cause around Europe.
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HTC denies plans to spin off VR business unit » Digitimes

Wei-Yan Lin and Steve Shen:

HTC has denied a media report indicating that it plans to spin off its virtual reality (VR) business unit to form an independent company in a bid to boost its VR business. The company said it will continue to dedicate resources to the development of VR products to create maximum value for its shareholders.

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When Will We See A New Apple Watch? » TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino:

Several things that I’ve heard (from several sources) indicate to me that we won’t see a major new hardware model of the Apple Watch in March. Design partnerships, accessories, that kind of thing maybe but not a “Watch 2.0” with a bunch of new hardware features. I could be wrong, of course, but I’ve heard enough to put it out there.

I’ve now heard a bit more that suggests that Apple might ship a minor revision of the Apple Watch that includes a FaceTime camera and not much else — but still that it would not be a full “Watch 2.0” with casing changes and major improvements. Still no word on timing but that could explain the reports of a camera have been showing up. Like I said, tea leaves!

I spoke to Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin, who says that supply chain checks are showing no movement that would indicate a new Watch model in production as of yet.

Which makes it sound like June (WWDC) at the earliest, September more likely. That would give time for the technology to improve enough to make it an obvious replacement for those who want an upgrade, and a more attractive product for those who wavered.
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‘No layoffs … this week’: Marissa Mayer’s twisted joke kills morale » New York Post

James Covert and Claire Atkinson:

“She said there are going to be no layoffs ‘this week,’ and many of the employees laughed at her,” said one insider, who, fearing retribution, asked not to be named.

“This is the reason employee morale is so low,” the insider added, noting that most workers took the scary remark as twisted confirmation that Yahoo!’s embattled chief executive is sharpening the ax.

Mayer, who returned to her duties at the struggling Internet pioneer just a few weeks after giving birth to twins on Dec. 10, made the less-than-reassuring comment in response to a question at an internal “Friday FYI” meeting on Jan. 8, sources said.

Word of the gaffe has been “spreading like wildfire” through Silicon Valley, another insider said, calling it the latest example of a chronically tone-deaf CEO in a crisis.

Nothing is going right for Mayer with Yahoo. Nothing at all, anywhere. But then, when did it last go right for Yahoo in anything? 2005?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Kickstarter disappointment, the Apple leaks source?, Google is listening, and more


Wikipedia: missing pieces on mobile. Photo by @bastique on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. They join things together. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

After raising $1 million, the super-thin CST-01 watch won’t make it to Kickstarter backers » The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:

The project has run into quite a few issues, but the broadest one is that the watches just aren’t easy to make. Little more than half of them are fully working after assembly, according to the two engineers behind CST-01, which means that the costs to make them are effectively doubled unless they can resolve the underlying issues. At this point, they can’t. As they explained in an earlier update, their project is basically out of money. One of their engineers supposedly went as far as sleeping in a van outside of the production factory so that he didn’t have to pay for a hotel.

Hardware is difficult.


Thoughts on Mark Gurman’s 9to5Mac article about Apple Watch rumors » Mobile Forward

Hristo Daniel Ushev, who worked at Motorola for eight years, on Gurman’s likely source, who he reckons is probably not an Apple employee:

It’s probably someone helping Apple with consumer research. I’m saying that because the leaked information concerns:

• “Considerations” (as far from a shipping product as a PowerPoint slide)
• Visible features, but no granular attributes (spec-level knowledge or software features)
• Price point variants
• Granular information from consumer research

Let’s combine these: a likely-external person, discussing feature “considerations”, without spec or software detail, about price point variants, and quoting granular information from consumer research. Based on that, I think it’s probably a low level employee (or attention-seeker) from a research firm that Apple trusted. The “considerations” may be features that appeared in a research aid.

Rings true. Takes nothing away from Gurman’s work in developing sources, of course.


Can Wikipedia survive? » The New York Times

Andrew Lih:

One of the biggest threats it faces is the rise of smartphones as the dominant personal computing device. A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years.

This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code. Even before smartphones were widespread, studies consistently showed that these are daunting tasks for newcomers. “Not even our youngest and most computer-savvy participants accomplished these tasks with ease,” a 2009 user test concluded. The difficulty of bringing on new volunteers has resulted in seven straight years of declining editor participation.

In 2005, during Wikipedia’s peak years, there were months when more than 60 editors were made administrator — a position with special privileges in editing the English-language edition. For the past year, it has sometimes struggled to promote even one per month.


Google Chrome listening in to your room shows the importance of privacy defence in depth » Privacy Online News

Pirate Party chief Rick Falkvinge:

it should be noted that this was Chromium, the open-source version of Chrome. If somebody downloads the Google product Google Chrome, as in the prepackaged binary, you don’t even get a theoretical choice. You’re already downloading a black box from a vendor. In Google Chrome, this is all included from the start.

This episode highlights the need for hard, not soft, switches to all devices – webcams, microphones – that can be used for surveillance. A software on/off switch for a webcam is no longer enough, a hard shield in front of the lens is required. A software on/off switch for a microphone is no longer enough, a physical switch that breaks its electrical connection is required. That’s how you defend against this in depth.

Of course, people were quick to downplay the alarm. “It only listens when you say ‘Ok, Google’.” (Ok, so how does it know to start listening just before I’m about to say ‘Ok, Google?’) “It’s no big deal.” (A company stealth installs an audio listener that listens to every room in the world it can, and transmits audio data to the mothership when it encounters an unknown, possibly individually tailored, list of keywords – and it’s no big deal!?) “You can opt out. It’s in the Terms of Service.” (No. Just no. This is not something that is the slightest amount of permissible just because it’s hidden in legalese.) “It’s opt-in. It won’t really listen unless you check that box.” (Perhaps. We don’t know, Google just downloaded a black box onto my computer. And it may not be the same black box as was downloaded onto yours. )

Early last decade, privacy activists practically yelled and screamed that the NSA’s taps of various points of the Internet and telecom networks had the technical potential for enormous abuse against privacy. Everybody else dismissed those points as basically tinfoilhattery – until the Snowden files came out, and it was revealed that precisely everybody involved had abused their technical capability for invasion of privacy as far as was possible.

When Google is making Falkvinge look reasonable, it’s made a bad mistake.


April 2010: Nokia exec: phones to make system cameras obsolete » Reuters

Tarmo Virki:

(From April 2010:) Fast developing cameraphone technology will shortly make SLR system cameras and even professional cameras obsolete, the sales chief of the world’s top cellphone maker Nokia said on Tuesday. “They will in the very near future revolutionise the market for system cameras,” Anssi Vanjoki said in a speech in Helsinki.

“There will be no need to carry around those heavy lenses,” Vanjoki said, pointing to a professional photographer taking pictures of him.

The proliferation of smartphones with picture quality comparable to most pocket cameras has boosted photography around the world, but they have so far not challenged real system cameras due to phones’ smaller size and weaker technology.

Vanjoki said high-definition (HD) quality video recording was also coming to cellphones within the next 12 months.

Wasn’t wrong. Yet the other elements of the smartphone business were more important.


The Asia report: leading the shift from… » Flurry Insights Blog

Flurry’s Chris Klotzbach:

Although we continue to see growth and user engagement in traditional app categories like Messaging & Social and Gaming, users in Asia demonstrated that in 2015, they are utilizing their smartphones and apps for more functional and practical purposes. This is indicated in the growth in the Shopping & Lifestyle and Utilities & Productivity app categories. Asia is the home of the phablet, and we see users have embraced this form factor- not only in terms of installed base but actual app usage. Just as the rest of the world is beginning to catch on to the phablet, only time will tell if we’ll catch up to Asia’s propensity to be productive and shop!


Impact of iOS 9’s space requirement » David Smith

Smith is an iOS developer:

using the dataset I have from my Audiobooks app I took at look at how many of my customers have enough space for the upgrade.

The result was pretty promising.

66% of my customers on eligible devices have at least 1.3GB of free space. This compares to just 37% of users who would have immediately had sufficient space at the old iOS 8 requirement.

The distribution of eligible devices breaks out roughly as you’d expect for the various capacities Apple sells:

Apple iphone upgrade potential

The rate for the 16GB devices (54%) is higher than I would have initially feared. The 16GB capacity accounts for 58% of devices, so it is vitally important that its users have the ability to upgrade.

This reduction in the space requirement (and other things Apple is doing on this front) make me think iOS 9 adoption to be even faster than iOS 8’s.


Google launches free streaming service ahead of Apple Music debut » Reuters

Yasmeen Abutaleb:

Google Inc launched a free version of its music streaming service on Tuesday, as it sought to upstage the debut of Apple Inc’s rival service next week.

Google Play Music has offered a $9.99 per month subscription service for two years but Tuesday’s launch is the first free version of the streaming service. It is available online and will be available on Android and iOS by the end of the week, Elias Roman, Google product manager, said.

Apple said earlier this month it would launch a music streaming service on June 30 for $9.99 per month along with a $14.99 per month family plan, with a free three-month trial.

As with other streaming services, such as Spotify and Rhapsody, Google Play Music curates playlists. Users can tailor playlists based on genre, artist or even activity, such as hosting a pool party or “having fun at work.”

“We believe this is a play that will expose a lot of people to the service,” Roman said in an interview.

Unlike Google’s subscription music service, the free service will carry ads, be unavailable offline and exclude certain songs.

Here’s the official announcement. What I find really weird is that Google, the high priests of “let machines do it”, is highlighting the human-curated nature of these playlists.