Start up: the stuck smart home, McAfee’s hack trick, ICO probes Deepmind deal, Flash the zombie, and more


Yes, Runkeeper tracks your runs. But Norway’s consumer council thinks it tracks more than that. Photo by Gordon on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Ain’t that something? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The smart home is stuck • Tech.pinions

Jan Dawson:

»The challenge, then, is the addressable market for most smart home technology is pretty small, composed of innovators and early adopters in the classic technology diffusion curve. As a result, many products are attempting to squeeze every opportunity out of these small markets until they’re maxed out. Nest has been criticized for not innovating more around its original product but I suspect this is the result of a deliberate strategy to saturate many individual product markets rather than focus on ongoing significant improvements in a single market. This helps to explain Nest’s acquisition of Dropcam, its smoke and carbon monoxide detector, and the other products it’s been rumored to be working on. There’s more mileage in opening up new markets than there is in squeezing incremental value out of existing markets already nearing saturation.

I see some people referring to Amazon’s Alexa as a more mainstream smart home or home automation product, and I think that’s actually a red herring. Yes, it can be used to control smart home devices but I suspect (a) only a subset of Alexa devices are used for this purpose and (b) such a focus would limit its appeal to a niche within that smart home early adopter category. I think Alexa’s potential is much broader than that and it’s precisely because it isn’t just a smart home controller. Alexa isn’t extending the smart home market – it’s more mainstream precisely because it’s not limited to that small and limited opportunity.

«

link to this extract


Mobile traffic dominates among the web’s most popular sites • The Atlantic

Adriene Lafrance:

»More than half of Facebook’s roughly 1.7 billion monthly users visit the site exclusively from their smartphones—that’s 894 million mobile-only users each month, up from 581 million such users last year and 341 million mobile-only users in 2014, according to the company’s latest earnings report.

Google confirmed last year that more searches come from mobile devices than computers in 10 countries, including the United States. Over the holiday season, Amazon said more than 60% of shoppers used mobile. And Wikipedia, which recently revamped the way it tracks site traffic, says it’s getting more mobile than desktop visits to its English language site.

In April, Wikipedia had about 361 million unique visits from smartphones and tablets compared with some 229 million from desktops—meaning roughly 61% of traffic to the English-language version of Wikipedia came from mobile devices, according to data provided by a spokeswoman.

«

Didn’t know the Wikipedia stat, but that’s really persuasive.
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John McAfee apparently tried to trick reporters into thinking he hacked WhatsApp • Gizmodo

William Turton:

»McAfee has a history of being shifty with the press about his alleged cybersecurity exploits. In March, for instance, during a media tour that included appearances on CNN and RT, McAfee claimed he would be able to hack into the phone of San Bernadino terrorist Syed Farook. McAfee never proved his claims, and later admitted that he was lying in order to garner a “shitload of public attention.” And earlier this year, McAfee hedged on his terrorism-prevention ideals for America during an interview with CNN about his Libertarian candidacy for president, saying that his strategy for preventing homegrown terrorism was “difficult to explain.”

Now, it seems McAfee has tried to trick reporters again, by sending them phones pre-cooked with malware containing a keylogger, and convincing them he somehow cracked the encryption on WhatsApp. According to cybersecurity expert Dan Guido, who was contacted by a reporter trying to verify McAfee’s claims, McAfee planned to send this reporter two Samsung phones in sealed boxes. Then, experts working for McAfee would take the phones out of the boxes in front of the reporters and McAfee would read the messages being sent on WhatsApp over a Skype call.

«

Pointless.
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ICO probes Google DeepMind patient data-sharing deal with NHS Hospital Trust • Computer Weekly

Caroline Donnelly:

»The Information Commissioner’s Office, the data protection watchdog, confirmed an investigation into the arrangement is underway, on the back of at least one complaint from the general public.

The deal gives DeepMind access to the healthcare records of 1.6 million patients that pass through three hospitals in North London, which fall under the care of the Royal Free Hospital Trust.

The complaint, seen by Computer Weekly, questions whether DeepMind will be expected to encrypt the patient data it receives when at rest.

“Whilst the information-sharing agreement insists that personally identifiable information – such as name, address, post code, NHS number, date of birth, telephone number, and email addresses, etc – must be encrypted whilst in transit to Google, it does not explicitly prohibit that data being unencrypted at the non-NHS location,” the complaint read.

«

First there’s a deal; then it turns out it’s not directly approved. The complaint is essentially that individuals at Google/Deepmind might access personal data. This is the essential battleground of the coming years: how compatible is tight data regulation with data mining?
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Let’s talk about Amazon reviews: how we spot the fakes • The Wirecutter

Lauren Dragan:

»Amazon has a history of trying hard to deal with offenders and shut them down. In fact, in April, Amazon sued another round of companies that are accused of selling fraudulent reviews. But by the time those companies are caught, their clients have already made a bunch of sales, and the fraudulent reviewers will likely pop up again under new names to repeat the process.

(Want to know more? Wirecutter headphones editor Lauren Dragan talks to Marketplace Tech about compensated Amazon reviews and how to tell real crowdsourced opinions from astroturfing.)

You have a few ways to suss out what may be a fake review. The easiest way is to use Fakespot. This site allows you to paste the link to any Amazon product and receive a score regarding the likelihood of fake reviews.

For example, we ran an analysis on some headphones we found during a recent research sweep for our guide about cheap in-ear headphones. You can see from the results below that the headphones’ reviews didn’t score so well.

«

Hadn’t come across Fakespot before; it seems pretty useful.

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The real cost of big tech’s accounting games • FT.com

Jonathan Ford:

»How much did LinkedIn make over the past three years? Sounds a simple enough question doesn’t it? But it is also one that is capable of being answered in multiple and very diverse ways.

First, let’s look at the figure the US online networking site wants you to focus on. That’s a mouthful called adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda), and the total there between 2013 and 2015 came in at a positive $1.7bn.

Sounds pretty hunky dory? Well, now check out the operating profit line for the business — the one calculated according to the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that companies must present but often don’t emphasise. Over the same period, LinkedIn racked up a $67m loss.

What explains the yawning $1.8bn difference between those two figures? It isn’t simply the depreciation and amortisation charges the company took against the value of its assets. Those, while pretty hefty, came to just $791m. No, the biggest single reason for the negative swing was the $1bn cost of the stock LinkedIn stuffed into its employees’ pay packets over those three years.

«

Why does it matter if the company gives stock to employees? As Ford explains, it’s because by doing that

»the firm denies itself the chance to sell those shares or options for value in the market. Failing to recognise that forgone cash effectively understates the cost the company has incurred in employing those individuals.

«

So stock grants are a cost. So they come off the bottom (operating) line. I’m constantly surprised by how many companies’ non-GAAP results are reported as if they were the ones to compare.
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Google faces record-breaking fine for web search monopoly abuse • Sunday Telegraph

Christopher Williams:

»Google faces a record-breaking fine for monopoly abuse within weeks, as officials in Brussels put the finishing touches to a seven-year investigation of company’s dominant search engine.

It is understood that the European Commission is aiming to hit Google with a fine in the region of €3bn, a figure that would easily surpass its toughest anti-trust punishment to date, a €1.1bn fine levied on the microchip giant Intel.

Sources close to the situation said officials aimed to make an announcement before the summer break and could make their move as early as next month, although cautioned that Google’s bill for crushing competition online had not been finalised.

The maximum possible is around €6.6bn, or a tenth of Google’s total annual sales.

It will mark a watershed moment in Silicon Valley’s competition battle with Brussels. Google has already been formally charged with unlawfully promoting its own price comparison service in general search results while simultaneously relegating those of smaller rivals, denying them traffic.

«

I’m hearing the same about the timing and intention from my sources; the fine, meanwhile, is indeterminate.
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This fitness app tracks you too much, consumer advocates claim • Fortune

David Meyer:

»According to the Norwegian Consumer Council, which has lodged a complaint with the country’s data protection authority, Runkeeper transmits data about its users all the time, not just when the app is in use.

The Norwegian data protection commissioner, Bjørn Erik Thon, confirmed to Fortune that his office has received the complaint and will now look into it.

“Everyone understands that Runkeeper tracks users while they exercise, but to continue to do so after the training session has ended is not okay,” said Finn Myrstad, the consumer council’s technical director.

The data in question includes timestamped location information, as well as Google advertising IDs that can be used to identify the individual.

“Our users’ privacy is of the utmost importance to us, and we take our obligation to comply with data protection laws very seriously,” Runkeeper CEO Jason Jacobs told Fortune. “We are in the process of reviewing the issues raised in the complaint, and we will cooperate with the Norwegian [data protection authority] if it has any questions arising out of the complaint.”

According to the council, Runkeeper’s terms and conditions do not explain how regularly data is transmitted, and users do not give consent to being monitored in this way. The council claims this breaches Norwegian and EU data protection laws.

«

Here’s Runkeeper’s privacy policy. It’s astonishingly vague (though in that respect, probably not so different from other privacy policies). What intrigues me is why the Runkeeper CEO didn’t just say “nah, we don’t collect data after your run.”
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Five things you can get in India with a missed call • WSJ

Shefali Anand:

»Want to transfer funds from your account? Give your bank a missed call. Want to hear Bollywood music? Dial a number and hang up.

Making a missed call by calling a number and letting it ring is a popular way of communicating in India because the caller doesn’t have to spend money. Marketing companies, politicians, banks and others now use this practice to reach millions who have cellphones but limited means.

«

Brilliant. Recalls how, in the days when long-distance calls were expensive, kids on their travels would call the operator and ask to set up a reverse-charge call to their parents. Parent’s phone rings: “Alley Okey is calling from Wichita, Kansas. Will you accept the charge?” Parent: “No.” Conversation ends, with parent knowing that the kid is OK and presently in Wichita.
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Chinese smartphone market has slowed, but Huawei, Oppo & Vivo have not • Counterpoint Technology

»According to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Market Monitor service, the demand for smartphones in China softened during Q1 2016 (Jan-Mar) as the smartphone shipments were down 2% annually and 13% sequentially.

Commenting on the results, Research Director, Neil Shah, said: “In spite of the Chinese holiday season quarter, the Chinese smartphone market demand reached a standstill. This has led to intense competition between the players as they struggle to take share away from each other. In a market with hundred of brands, growth is now limited to a handful of players with the greatest marketing budgets and headturning designs, and available at competitive price points.

“Only five brands registered healthy growth during the quarter. Oppo, Huawei and Vivo drove the majority of the volume, capturing a combined 40% of the total Chinese smartphone market. Demand for rest of the brands declined, especially Apple after the strong demand for iPhone 6 & 6 Plus in the quarter a year ago, and lacklustre performance from Lenovo, ZTE and Coolpad.”

The Chinese smartphone market saw a lull in the first two months of 2016, however sales for smartphones started to pick up in March, with the largest sales contribution from Huawei, Oppo and Vivo, the new leaders in Chinese domestic market.

«

Other notable points: 98% of phones sold were smartphones (hence Microsoft’s 90% year-on-year drop); the “premium” segment of RMB3000+ ($450+) makes up a fifth of the market, with Apple, Samsung and Vivo dominating.
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HTML5 by default: Google’s plan to make Chrome’s Flash click-to-play • Ars Technica UK

Peter Bright:

»In a plan outlined last week, Flash will be disabled by default [in Google Chrome] in the fourth quarter of this year. Embedded Flash content will not run, and JavaScript attempts to detect the plugin will not find it. Whenever Chrome detects that a site is trying to use the plugin, it will ask the user if they want to enable it or not. It will also trap attempts to redirect users to Adobe’s Flash download page and similarly offer to enable the plugin.

«

Great!

»

There will be a few exceptions to this policy, with Google planning to leave Flash enabled by default on the top 10 domains that depend on the plugin. This list includes YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and Amazon.

«

Crap.

»

Even this reprieve is temporary. The plan is to remove sites from the list whenever possible—Twitch, for example, is switching to HTML5 streaming, so should start to phase out its use of Flash—and after one year the whitelist will be removed entirely. This means that after the fourth quarter 2017, Flash will need to be explicitly enabled on every site that tries to use it.

«

“After the fourth quarter of 2017”, aka 2018. Flash, the desktop web’s malware zombie. (Notice that all those sites somehow muddle through on mobile, which is far bigger, without Flash.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Google’s health data grab, Intel’s mobile halt, satire wars, iPad Pro beats Surface Pro, and more


The ex-chief of Microsoft Windows has bought one, and he reckons it’s important. And IDC reckoned it outsold the Surface in the 1Q. Photo by matsuyuki on Flickr.

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A selection of 14 links for you. Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t stop. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How AI can predict heart failure before it’s diagnosed » NVIDIA Blog

»The last place you want to learn you have heart failure is where it often winds up being diagnosed: in the emergency room.

Researchers analyzing electronic health records are using  artificial intelligence and GPUs to get ahead of this curve. They’ve shown they can predict heart failure as much as nine months before doctors can now deliver the diagnosis.

A research team from Sutter Health, a Northern California not-for-profit health system, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, believe their method has the potential to reduce heart failure rates and possibly save lives.

“The earlier we can detect the disease, the more likely we can change health outcomes for people and improve their quality of life,” said Andy Schuetz, a senior data scientist at Sutter Health and an author of a paper describing one aspect of the research. “That’s what’s exciting to me – the potential to change the future.”

«

Fascinating (though what do you do with the knowledge that you’re probably going to have heart failure in the next nine months? How specific is the diagnosis? The results haven’t yet been published).

Nvidia’s interest is because it builds the graphics processing units (GPUs) which turn out to be ideally suited for machine learning.
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Revealed: Google AI has access to huge haul of NHS patient data | New Scientist

Hal Hodson:

»It’s no secret that Google has broad ambitions in healthcare. But a document obtained by New Scientist reveals that the tech giant’s collaboration with the UK’s National Health Service goes far beyond what has been publicly announced.

The document – a data-sharing agreement between Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust – gives the clearest picture yet of what the company is doing and what sensitive data it now has access to.

The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust – Barnet, Chase Farm and the Royal Free – each year. This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years…

…This is the first we’ve heard of DeepMind getting access to historical medical records, says Sam Smith, who runs health data privacy group MedConfidential. “This is not just about kidney function. They’re getting the full data.”

The agreement clearly states that Google cannot use the data in any other part of its business. The data itself will be stored in the UK by a third party contracted by Google, not in DeepMind’s offices. DeepMind is also obliged to delete its copy of the data when the agreement expires at the end of September 2017.

«

From the document: “Data to be processed other than for the direct care of the patient must be pseudonymised in line with the NHS Act 2006″. (Emphasis in original.)
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The Internet of Things has a dirty little secret » Internet of Shit

»As the market eventually saturates and sales of internet-widgets top off, you can bet that everyone from the smallest to largest vendor will look to what’s next: the treasure trove that is everything it knows about you.

Many of the newest IoT devices are the types of household appliances you won’t replace for a decade. We’re talking about a thermostat, fridge, washing machine, kettle, TV or light — long term, there’s just no other way to be sustainable for the creators of these devices.

There is an alternative path that some could take: maybe Nest needs to increase its revenue, so it decides to charge a monthly subscription model for its thermostat. Now you need to pay $5 per month or it’ll lock you out.

The question then, is if you’d pay for it? Will you pay for a subscription for everything in your home?

Maybe: if the device comes for free, with that subscription, and guarantees your data will be kept private… but I suspect that many people prefer to own outright and simply won’t care about the privacy compromise.

The future of your most intimate data being sold to the highest bidder isn’t dystopian. It’s happening now.

«

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My tablet has stickers » Learning By Shipping on Medium

Steve Sinofsky (you know, the ex-Windows chief) has moved from a Surface Pro to an iPad Pro for his work:

»Every (single) time the discussion comes up about moving from a laptop/desktop (by this I mean an x86 Windows or Mac) to a tablet (by this I mean one running a mobile OS such as Android or iOS) there are at least several visceral reactions or assertions:

• Tablets are for media consumption and lightweight social.
• Efficiency requires keyboard, mouse, multiple monitors, and customizations and utilities that don’t exist on tablets.
• Work requires software tools that don’t/can’t exist on tablet.

Having debated this for 6+ years, now isn’t the time to win anyone over but allow me to share a perspective on each of these (some of which is also discussed in the podcast and detailed in the posts referenced above)…

…The fact that change takes time should not cause those of us that know the limitations of something new to dig our heels in. Importantly, if you are a maker then by definition you have to get ahead of the change or you will soon find yourself behind.

«

He asks developers, in particular, to butt out of the “but tablets can’t..” discussion.
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The death of Intel’s Atom casts a dark shadow over the rumored Surface Phone » PCWorld

Mark Hachman:

»Intel’s plans to discontinue its Atom chips for phones and some tablets may not have killed the dream of a Microsoft Surface phone—just the piece of it that made it so enticing.

In the wake of a restructuring that relegated the PC to just another connected device, Intel confirmed Friday that it has cancelled its upcoming SoFIA and Broxton chips. That leaves Intel with just one Atom chip, Apollo Lake, which it had slated for convertible tablets.

Microsoft has never formally commented on its future phone plans, save for a leaked email that suggests that Microsoft is committed to the Windows 10 Mobile platform and phones running ARM processors. But fans of the platform have long hoped for a phone that could run native Win32 legacy apps as well as the new UWP platform that Microsoft has made a central platform of Windows 10. The assumption was that this would require a phone running on an Intel Atom processor. Intel’s decision eliminates that option.

Unless Microsoft has some other trick up its sleeve, the most compelling justification for a Win32-based Surface phone appears to have died.«

Kinda big for Intel too; giving up on its mobile ambitions into which it has sunk billions. And for Acer and Lenovo, which has relied on Intel chips (and subsidies) for its mobile effort.
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What Happened to Google Maps? » Justin O’Beirne

Engrossing look at how Google Maps represents its content, and how it has changed:

»Let’s take a closer look at a couple of areas within the Bay Area.

First, the Pittsburg / Antioch area:

2010 – Cities, but No Roads. Pittsburg and Antioch are shown — but how to get there? No roads are shown that go to Pittsburg and Antioch.

2016 – Roads, but No Cities. Roads leading to Pittsburg and Antioch are shown — but Pittsburg and Antioch aren’t labeled. Why travel on those roads? Where do they go?

On the 2010 map, Pittsburg and Antioch are what cartographers call “Orphan Cities”. That is, they’re cities that lack connections to the rest of the road network.

A similar situation exists with Santa Cruz:

2010 – Santa Cruz, but No Roads. Santa Cruz is shown, but it’s orphaned (i.e., there are no roads going to it).

2016 – Roads, but No Santa Cruz. Four different roads leading into Santa Cruz are shown — but Santa Cruz isn’t.

On either map, it’s not immediately clear how to travel between San Francisco (or any other Bay Area city) and Santa Cruz.

See the problem?

Both maps, the one from 2010 and the one from 2016, have a similar issue: a lack of balance.

«

Would love to see a similar treatment for Apple Maps.
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Google faces first EU fine in 2016 with no deal on cards: sources » Reuters

Foo Yun Chee:

»Google is likely to face its first European Union antitrust sanction this year, with little prospect of it settling a test case with the bloc’s regulator over its shopping service, people familiar with the matter said.

There are few incentives left for either party to reach a deal in a six-year dispute that could set a precedent for Google searches for hotels, flights and other services and tests regulators’ ability to ensure diversity on the Web.

Alphabet Inc’s Google, which was hit by a second EU antitrust charge this month for using its dominant Android mobile operating system to squeeze out rivals, shows little sign of backing down after years of wrangling with European authorities.

Several people familiar with the matter said they believe that after three failed compromise attempts since 2010, Google has no plan to try to settle allegations that its Web search results favor its own shopping service, unless the EU watchdog changes its stance.

«

The fines could be very big, up to 10% of global revenues – or just a slap on the wrist. How does Margrethe Vestager determine how big to make them?
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Journalism professor will go to war for free speech, as long as it doesn’t mock him » Gawker

JK Trotter:

»the ever-present possibility that certain people might mistake a satire for reality is the very thing that makes satire funny. As Ken White, [a] First Amendment lawyer, observed, “The joke is not only at the expense of Jeff Jarvis. The joke is, in part, at the expense of people who read carelessly.”

Esquire, of all magazines, should know this. It frequently traffics in satirical articles, and was even sued a few years ago over a piece mocking the notorious birther Joseph Farah. (The magazine fought the lawsuit, and won.) So it is particularly remarkable that the magazine’s executives, in complying with Jarvis’s demands, have effectively endorsed his misunderstanding of satire. It is far more hypocritical and troubling, however, that a person of Jarvis’s position and influence would ever demand the piece’s removal in the first place.

Jarvis is a public figure who has built his reputation in part on his aggressive advocacy for journalists’ First Amendment rights, as well as his strong belief that a culture of free speech is a necessary component of any functioning political system.

«

This is a terrific essay by Trotter, and it does point up the essential contradiction of someone who (among other things) insists that Google’s search results should be sacrosanct against “a European court’s insane and dangerous ruling [to] allow people to demand that links to content they don’t like about themselves be taken down” demanding that content they don’t like not about themselves be taken down.
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Apple beats Microsoft at their own game while Amazon primes the low end of the tablet market » IDC

»Slate tablets continued their decline while still accounting for 87.6% of all shipments. More importantly, the slate tablet segment has become synonymous with the low-end of the market. While this may bode well for vendors like Amazon that rely on hardware sales to increase their ecosystem size, it has not helped vendors who rely solely on greater margins for hardware sales. Meanwhile, detachables experienced triple-digit year-over-year growth on shipments of more than 4.9m units, an all-time high in the first quarter of a calendar year.

“Microsoft arguably created the market for detachable tablets with the launch of their Surface line of products,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. “With the PC industry in decline, the detachable market stands to benefit as consumers and enterprises seek to replace their aging PCs with detachables. Apple’s recent foray into this segment has garnered them an impressive lead in the short term, although continued long-term success may prove challenging as a higher entry price point staves off consumers and iOS has yet to prove its enterprise-readiness, leaving plenty of room for Microsoft and their hardware partners to reestablish themselves.”

«

The suggestion is that Apple sold more than 2m large iPad Pros (the 9.7in iPad Pro wasn’t released until the end of the quarter) and Microsoft fewer than 2m Surface Pros. And also that there’s no profit left in the low-end “slate” tablet market, if there was any before.
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The end of a mobile wave » Benedict Evans

Evans notes that we’ve hit the end of the “which ecosystem will win?” (answer: both) challenge, and now we have a free-for all among Android/AOSP offerings:

»coming from the other end of the spectrum, mobile operators are increasing buying in a selection of low-end smartphones than they sell (generally unsubsidised on prepay) under their own brand. Sometimes these have operator apps preloaded (if they’ve not given up on that yet), sometimes not. One could argue that the value being added here is really only distribution, and so one might see other companies with distribution getting into this, such as mass-market retailers. Some of these have already experimented with Android tablets, with mixed results (as of course they did with MVNOs).

This is all rather like the PC clone market of the 1980s – hundreds of undifferentiated companies fighting it out to sell commodity computers built with commodity components running a commodity operating system (though those companies mainly made the PCs themselves, where many phone brands do not). That world in due course led to companies like Dell – people who embraced the volume, low-margin commodity model and found an angle of their own. We’re starting to see equivalent model-creation now.

«

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YouTube: ‘No other platform gives as much money back to creators’ » The Guardian

Christophe Müller of Youtube:

»Just this month, a funny video of a Ben Affleck interview helped propel Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence to the Top 10 Hot Rock Songs chart 50 years after it was released.

All of this is possible because our technology, Content ID, automates rights management. Only 0.5% of all music claims are issued manually; we handle the remaining 99.5% with 99.7% accuracy. And today, fan-uploaded content accounts for roughly 50% of the music industry’s revenue from YouTube.

The next claim we hear is that we underpay compared to subscription services such as Spotify. But that argument confuses two different services: music subscriptions that cost £10 a month versus ad-supported music videos. It’s like comparing what a black cab driver earns from fares to what they earn showing ads in their taxi.

So let’s try a fair comparison, one between YouTube and radio.

«

It’s all radio’s fault!
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How to use Workflow for iOS when you don’t know where to start » iMore

Federico Viticci:

»Workflow is the most powerful app on my iPhone and iPad. I wouldn’t be able to work without it, and, almost two years after its release, I’m still discovering its infinite potential.

Whether it’s sending a message to a group of people or organizing documents, you’ve likely come across a task on your iPhone or iPad that you’d like to speed up. Our iOS devices have evolved into powerful modern computers, but there are still some areas where we can be slowed down by app limitations, or, more simply, by the tedious process of performing the same task over and over.

Thankfully, we have a solution to this: automation. And when it comes to automating tasks on iOS, Workflow is the undisputed king. Learning to master Workflow is the first step to living an efficient, productive life on iOS, and it’s how I’ve been working on my iPad for years now.

«

Viticci isn’t just saying that; he runs macstories.net, and he really does use his iPad for absolutely everything except podcasting. I’ve had Workflow for ages, but struggled with its lack of declarative structure; Viticci’s explanation is great. (It would be great to be able to simulate Workflow tasks on OSX and then export them to iOS.)
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No time to panic as one quarter shows minor dip in smartphone sales » Communities Dominate Brands

Tomi Ahonen on why talk of “peak smartphone” after stalled growth in Q1 is wrong, wrong, wrong:

»it is a superficial view of the industry without understanding two aspects of it. The first was the pent-up demand of the 6 series of iPhone that created a one-off surge of phablet-screen-size iPhone sales – last year. Because iPhone owners had seen rival smartphones issue phablets for years, they waited and finally when Apple did the iPhone 6 and 6+ that created a one-time surge in iPhone sales pushing Apple in 2014 Q4 Christmas sales and 2015 Q1 January-March sales of the total smartphone market to an exceptionally high level. It was a surge, a peak in iPhone sales which is not normal (there is a normal level of iPhone jump in sales any other year at that time).

That means, that last year Q1, January-March 2015, was at an artificially high level – see how much higher Apple’s iPhone market share was Q1 of last year (was 16% in Q1 of 2014, surged to 18% in 2015 and returned to 15% now). That was not normal market wars where one brand gains and another loses. It was Apple loyalists buying the long-awaited phablet-screen size iPhone 6 and 6+ which created that surge. Because of Q1 of last year being so high, thus the normal [sequential from Q4] decline of Q1 meant, that it now produced that one-off dip in the Year-on-Year smartphone market size. Also note, that ‘loss’ of 2% now is exactly the rise of 2% that Apple gained for 2015 that same quarter, when their phablet surge happened.

«

Yup, that makes perfect sense. China stuttered, as did the US and Europe, but smartphones replacing featurephones is a train running down a hill. (Side note: I’ve replaced the words that Ahonen put IN CAPITALS with lowercase, as it makes no difference to the sense, and a lot to whether he’s YELLING in your EAR.)
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LG Electronics profit growth powered by TV business » WSJ

Min-Jeong Lee:

»LG executives are banking on a turnaround at the company’s mobile business after three straight quarters of operating losses, spurred by sales of its new G5 smartphone.

LG introduced the G5 phone, which comes with a modular body that allows users to easily swap in accessories, to a warm reception in February, fueling expectations the new smartphone will be a hit.

LG expects to ship three million units of the G5 in the second quarter. Executives say the phone is on track to outpace the G3 model, released two years ago, which has been one of the company’s best-sellers. LG has shipped 1.6 million units of the G5, compared with 900,000 units during the first month of the G3’s release.

But the new phone comes at one of the toughest times in the smartphone market, which is facing waning global demand. Total smartphone shipments fell 3% to 335 million units in the first quarter from a year ago, which was the first ever decline in shipments since the advent of smartphones, research firm Strategy Analytics said Thursday.

“There’s no promise the [strong] profits will stay where they are given the dent in overall demand and stiff competition,” Greg Roh, an analyst with HMC Investment Securities in Seoul, said in a recent note to clients.

«

LG executives have been banking on a turnaround at the company’s mobile business for ages. It keeps not happening. Shipments, of course, aren’t the same as sales. And LG’s mobile business has actually made a loss for four straight quarters, not three.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Oracle’s $9.3bn Android, FOI v Land Registry, have a robot bin!, longer smartphone life, and more

Thrill to the arrival of Oculus Rift and the brave new possibilities it enables! Photo by Mike Cogh 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 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Oracle v Google: Big Red wants $9.3bn in Java copyright damages » The Register

Chris Williams:

»Last year, Oracle successfully argued that it can copyright software interfaces – not just the software itself, the way it interfaces with other code, too. However, the trial jury deadlocked on whether or not Android’s infringement of Oracle’s copyright constituted “fair use.”

The case is heading back to trial in May to effectively work out how much money Google owes Oracle. In the meantime, the pair have been squaring up to each other in San Francisco’s federal court. In January, Oracle revealed that Google has made $31bn in sales and $22bn in profit from Android since it launched in 2008 – figures Google fought fiercely to keep secret.

Now one of Oracle’s expert witnesses, James Malackowski, has produced an analysis [PDF] that concludes that Big Red is owed $475m in damages and up to $8.89bn in recovered Android profits. Malackowski is chief exec of Ocean Tomo, which does intellectual property valuations among other things.

«

That’s a lot of money. (Surprise! Google says the analysis is wrong.)
link to this extract

 


Unable to open links in Safari, Mail or Messages on IOS 9.3 » Ben Collier

Collier was using booking.com’s app, which turned out to have screwed up in a big way:

»A lot of users (including myself and a few friends) are experiencing links in Mail and Messages not working, and some links in Safari, like Google Search results, not opening. A long press on a broken link causes the app you’re in to crash, otherwise a standard tap highlights the link but nothing happens.. It looks like there’s a bug in iOS that completely breaks the Universal Links if it gets served an app association file that’s too large.

Benjamin Mayo of 9to5mac.com reported installing the Booking.com app consistently broke their test devices – which led Steve Troughton-Smith (who else…) to take a peep at their association file, and tweet:

“Wow http://booking.com literally put every URL they had into their site association file. 2.3MB download ”

It seems that the large size of their file, due to it having every URL from their website inside it breaks the iOS database on the device. Apple allows you to have pattern based matching, so instead of having to include every hotel’s URL in the association file, Booking.com could just put /hotel/* to match all the hotels on their site.

Whilst Booking.com aren’t following the recommended approach, it’s not their fault that a third-party can break a fundamental system feature like web browsing. Apple should be handling these edges graciously.

The worst part – deleting the app doesn’t clear the Universal Link association. Because the OS process that handles the Universal Links has crashed, it appears unable to remove the corrupt database.

«

You can just about fix it via lots of subtle rebooting and deleting. Quite a screwup.
link to this extract

 


Oculus Rift review: a clunky portal to a promising virtual reality » The New York Times

Brian Chen:

»“People who try it say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post when he announced the Oculus acquisition. “But this is just the start. Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”

Over the past week, I tested the Rift and many pieces of content for the system to see how true Mr. Zuckerberg’s words might ring. I can report that while the Rift is a well-built hardware system brimming with potential, the first wave of apps and games available for it narrows the device’s likely users to hard-core gamers. It is also rougher to set up and get accustomed to than products like smartphones and tablets.

«

Long setup, big downloads which can’t be done simultaneously with device use, and games where the VR benefits are unclear. Early days yet.
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A quick look at the Private Eye FOI’d “Offshore Landowners” data from the Land Registry » OUseful.Info

Tony Hirst:

»A few days ago, Private Eye popped up a link to the (not open) data they’d FOId from the Land Registry around land registry applications made by offshore companies: Selling England (and Wales) by the pound.

I thought have have a quick look at the data to see what sorts of thing it contained. I’ve popped a quick introductory conversation with it here: Private Eye – UK Land Ownership By Offshore Companies.

One of the things I learned was that solar panel installation companies can often get a hold on you…

«

This is precisely the sort of analysis, driven partly through FOIA, that would become impossible if the Land Registry were to be privatised.
link to this extract

 


What does your reaction to a robotic trash can say about you? » Atlas Obscura

Cara Giamo:

»Imagine you’re in a cafeteria, finishing up a bag of chips and chatting with some friends. You’re beginning to think about getting up to throw away your wrapper, when—suddenly—the nearest trash barrel approaches you instead. It rolls back and forth, and wiggles briefly. It is, it seems, at your service.

How do you respond?

«

Like this:

»

The trash barrel has delivered some particularly unique insights. First of all, Sirkin and Ju say, it highlights how good people are at subtly refusing to acknowledge interactions they don’t want or need—a behavior the team has dubbed “unteracting.” If the trash barrel approaches a table of people, and they have no trash to give it, they generally won’t shoo it off. They’ll just steadfastly ignore it until it rolls away again. “They’re using their gaze as a tool for deciding when they’re engaging or not,” says Ju. (You can see this about halfway through the video, when a man on a cell phone refuses to look at the barrel until it backs off.)

On the other hand, people who did make use of the barrel felt miffed when it didn’t respond more. “People kind of expected it to thank them,” says Sirkin. “They’ll say ‘I fed the robot, and it didn’t thank me, and that was insulting.’” Some would also whistle for it, or dangle trash in front of it enticingly.

«

link to this extract

 


Alphabet: the thriving cult of greed and evaluation » Medium

Jake Hamby:

»In Google, employees are evaluated every year according to an opaque “perf” system that generates numeric scores that the employee is not allowed to see or to challenge. If an employee’s perf isn’t improving, they face “Performance Expectation Plans” and “Performance Improvement Plans” of increasing severity, which the employee is told are designed to bring them back into the fold, but which are actually designed to create a paper trail for HR in order to terminate the individual’s employment if management determines they are no longer worth the amount it costs the company to continue to employ them.

The problem with companies like Google is that they’re losing engineers at every level of the company because it’s simply no longer fun to work there, or at least that was my experience. I was punished by my manager for lower “perf” than he expected from me, due to my complete loss of interest in the real overarching goals of Android (to provide a minimal platform for Google’s closed-source, proprietary apps) as opposed to the goals presented to the public and Google’s partners (to provide an exceptional platform for Google’s partners to make great smartphones), and to my depression over the recent loss of my father after his multi-year battle with dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

«

Hamby left Google in 2014.
link to this extract

 


What you should (and shouldn’t) do to extend your phone’s battery life » The Wirecutter

Dan Frakes, Nick Guy and Kevin Purdy:

»One of the biggest complaints people have about their smartphone is that the battery doesn’t last long enough. For many people, just making it through the day can be a challenge, which is why you see so many “How to make your phone’s battery last longer!” articles in your friends’ Facebook feeds. But many of the claims in those articles are specious at best, and some of the tricks they suggest could actually shorten your battery life. So which ones should you try?

We partnered with The New York Times to find the answer by testing, on both Android and iPhone smartphones, a slew of procedures that people, publications, and — in some cases — smartphone manufacturers suggest for getting more use time out of your phone.

«

Some of these are really surprising – like not bothering to turn off Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to save battery.
link to this extract

 


“Internet Connection Records”: answering the wrong question? » Paul Bernal’s Blog

On the topic of the UK government’s proposed Investigatory Powers Bill, which wants to introduce an “internet connection record” that could be queried for any person:

»The real problem is a deep one – but it is mostly about asking the wrong question. Internet Connection Records seem to be an attempt to answer the question ‘how can we recreate that really useful thing, the itemised phone bill, for the internet age’? And, from most accounts, it seems clear that the real experts, the people who work in the internet industry, weren’t really consulted until very late in the day, and then were only asked that question. It’s the wrong question. If you ask the wrong question, even if the answer is ‘right’, it’s still wrong. That’s why we have the mess that is the Internet Connection Record system: an intrusive, expensive, technically difficult and likely to be supremely ineffective idea.

The question that should have been asked is really the one that the Minister asked right at the start: how can we find all these terrorists and paedophiles when they’re using all this high tech stuff? It’s a question that should have been asked of the industry, of computer scientists, of academics, of civil society, of hackers and more. It should have been asked openly, consulted upon widely, and given the time and energy that it deserved. It is a very difficult question – I certainly don’t have an answer – but rather than try to shoe-horn an old idea into a new situation, it needs to be asked.

«

link to this extract

 


AI’s biggest mystery is the ethics board Google set up after buying DeepMind » Business Insider

Sam Shead:

»DeepMind CEO and cofounder Demis Hassabis has confirmed at a number of conferences that Google’s AI ethics board exists. But neither Hassabis nor Google have ever disclosed the individuals on the board or gone into any great detail on what the board does.

Azeem Azhar, a tech entrepreneur, startup advisor, and author of the Exponential View newsletter, told Business Insider: “It’s super important [to talk about ethics in AI]. ”

Media and academics have called on DeepMind and Google to reveal who sits on Google’s AI ethics board so the debate about where the technology they’re developing can be carried out in the open, but so far Google and DeepMind’s cofounders have refused.

It’s generally accepted that Google’s AI ethics board can only be a good thing but ethicists like Evan Selinger, a professor of philosophy at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, have questioned whether Google should be more transparent about who is on the board and what they’re doing.

«

link to this extract

 


Ransomware’s aftermath can be more costly than ransom » TechNewsWorld

John Mello:

»Downtime caused by a ransomware attack can cost a company more than paying a ransom to recover data encrypted by the malware, according to a report released last week by Intermedia.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of companies infected with ransomware could not access their data for at least two days because of the incident, and 32% couldn’t access their data for five days or more, according to the report, which was based on a survey of some 300 IT consultants.

“If you’ve got a large number of users and downtime runs into multiple days, then the cost of that downtime adds up pretty quickly to the kind of ransom amounts that cybercriminals are demanding potentially,” said Richard Walters, senior vice president of security products at Intermedia.

Those losses occur even if a company has taken precautions to back up its data. “You have to contain the infected systems, then wipe them completely and then restore them,” he told TechNewsWorld. “That process in more than half these cases took longer than two days.”

Companies faced with the decision between paying a ransom or restoring their systems from backups could find that it would cost them less to pay the ransom.

«

You can see how a pricing mechanism would take hold if the ransom was too high or too low. In which case, there must be an optimum ransom at which income is maximised, even though it’s too high for some companies. A case study for an academic somewhere, surely.
link to this extract

 


Certified Ethical Hacker website caught spreading crypto ransomware » Ars Technica

Dan Goodin:

»EC-Council, the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based professional organization that administers the Certified Ethical Hacker program, started spreading the scourge on Monday. Shortly afterward, researchers from security firm Fox IT notified EC-Council officials that one of their subdomains—which just happens to provide online training for computer security students—had come under the spell of Angler, a toolkit sold online that provides powerful Web drive-by exploits. On Thursday, after receiving no reply and still detecting that the site was infected, Fox IT published this blog post, apparently under the reasonable belief that when attempts to privately inform the company fail, it’s reasonable to go public.

Like so many drive-by attack campaigns, the one hitting the EC-Council is designed to be vexingly hard for researchers to replicate. It targets only visitors using Internet Explorer and then only when they come to the site from Google, Bing, or another search engine. Even when these conditions are met, people from certain IP addresses—say those in certain geographic locales—are also spared. The EC-Council pages of those who aren’t spared then receive embedded code that redirects the browser to a chain of malicious domains that host the Angler exploits.

«

link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Trump’s casino flop, Micromax hits a bump, Samsung’s warning, the prime conspiracy and more

Google’s Deepmind systems are used to recognise handwriting in images. Photo by invisible monsters 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.

Here’s how Donald Trump treats the little people » Mother Jones

Kevin Drum on the publicly listed Trump casino-controlling company in the 1990s:

»Trump’s fans were conned into buying up his debt-laden properties and turning them into a public company. Trump, who plainly had no interest in running a casino and had demonstrated no corporate management skills during the prior decade, paid himself millions of dollars from the company’s coffers for doing essentially nothing. He then unloaded his third casino onto the public company at an inflated price.

The public company didn’t show a profit during a single year of its existence. In 2004 the stock was delisted and the company forced into Chapter 11 reorganization. It was renamed Trump Entertainment Resorts, but with Trump still at the helm it continued to pile up losses and amassed debts of nearly $2bn. In 2008, after missing a $53m bond payment, it declared bankruptcy yet again and Trump resigned as the company’s chairman. Its investors lost all their money.

In case you’re curious, this is how Trump treats the little people.

«

Just so you can’t say you weren’t warned. Would a President Trump be as corrupt as Berlusconi? Odds seem strong.
link to this extract

 


Google DeepMind: What is it, how it works and should you be scared? » Techworld

Sam Shead interview with Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Deepmind, who explains where the systems are used inside Google:

»We use it to identify text on shopfronts and maybe alert people to a discount that’s available in a particular shop or what the menu says in a given restaurant. We do that with an extremely high level of accuracy today. It’s being used in Local Search and elsewhere across the company.

We also use the same core system across Google for speech recognition. It trains roughly in less than 5 days. In 2012 it delivered a 30 percent reduction in error rate against the existing old school system. This was the biggest single improvement in speech recognition in 20 years, again using the same very general deep learning system across all of these.

Across Google we use what we call Tool AI or Deep Learning Networks for fraud detection, spam detection, hand writing recognition, image search, speech recognition, Street View detection, translation.

Sixty handcrafted rule-based systems have now been replaced with deep learning based networks. This gives you a sense of the kind of generality, flexibility and adaptiveness of the kind of advances that have been made across the field and why Google was interested in DeepMind.

«

link to this extract

 


Letter to shareholders » Samsung Investor Relations

Oh-Hyun Kwon, CEO of Samsung Electronics:

»In 2016, the overall global economy may slow down, and uncertainties such as financial risks in emerging markets are expected to increase. The IT industry will change in an unprecedented speed, and competitions will intensify further.

We expect core products of our company, such as smartphone, TV, and memory, will face oversupply issues and intensified price competition. Our competitors will follow close behind our leading position in the global IT industry with aggressive investments and innovations. Moreover, innovative business models such as O2O (Online to Offline) and sharing economy are undermining the importance of hardware, which is our strength, and shifting the core competitiveness to software platform.

To cope with these changes in the business environment, we will continue to implement groundbreaking changes and innovations, and strive to secure differentiated competitiveness.

«

“Oversupply issues” probably doesn’t apply to the smartphones, but the price competition will. And there’s no explanation of how it’s going to cope exactly with that shift to software-based competition.
link to this extract

 


Privacy absolutism » AVC

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson:

»I do not think that because we now have the technology to lock things down (strong encryption) and because the industry that develops and maintains all of this technology has a strong libertarian bent that we should just abandon the framework that has worked in our society for hundreds of years. If society thinks someone is doing something wrong, and if law enforcement can get a warrant, there should be a mechanism to get access to our devices.

I would love to see the tech sector work to figure out a smart way to address this issue. My partner Albert has suggested an approach on his blog. There are some interesting approaches that are already being used in cold storage of bitcoin that could be applied to this situation.

But my meta point here is that I am saddened by the tech sector’s absolutist approach to this issue. The more interesting and fruitful approach would be to think about the most elegant solutions and build them.

«

The linked suggestion by his partner is this:

»I would posit that each device should ship with an *individual* key that is created by the manufacturer specifically for the purpose of unlocking the device. The key should then be stored in a way where it can be requested by law enforcement (either by the manufacturer or a third party that specializes in compliance for this). The process for such a request should run via the judiciary and mirror that for a warrant.

«

It’s also known as “key escrow” and was part of the “Clipper chip” idea which was proposed by the Clinton administration in the 1990s and comprehensively shown to be a bad idea by Matt Blaze (who is still around, on Twitter and elsewhere).

Wilson is the one who was previously stunned by Apple not making iMessage cross-platform, despite the fact that it is demonstrably valuable as an iOS exclusive. I’m approaching the point where I learn what Wilson’s view is on something, and then assume the opposite is what will happen.
link to this extract

 


Microsoft stops taking Bitcoin for Microsoft Store payments » Digital Trends

Trevor Mogg:

»Much was made of Microsoft’s move two years ago to start accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for purchasing content from its online store.

The situation has, however, quietly changed, as the computer giant has recently added a note to its website revealing it’s no longer accepting the cryptocurrency in the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 devices.

“You can no longer redeem Bitcoin into your Microsoft account,” the message says, though adds that existing balances in user accounts “will still be available for purchases from Microsoft Store, but can’t be refunded.” So to be clear, any funds in your account now are good to use, but forget trying to make any new deposits into your account using Bitcoin.

«

Microsoft accepted Bitcoin? For Windows apps? Doubt that troubled the blockchain very much.
link to this extract

 


India’s Micromax, once a rising star, struggles » Reuters

Himank Sharma:

»A year ago, Micromax vaulted past Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to become India’s leading smartphone brand. Today, its market share has nearly halved, several top executives have resigned, and the company is looking for growth outside India.

In Micromax’s slide to second place is a tale of the promise and peril of India’s booming but hyper-competitive smartphone industry.

India is the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market. Shipments of smartphones jumped 29% to 103m units last year.

Rapid growth has helped nurture a crop of local brands, led by Micromax, that outsourced production to Chinese manufacturers. Now, as Samsung rolls out more affordable phones, the same Chinese factories are entering the Indian market with their own brands, depressing prices and forcing Indian mobile makers to rethink their strategies.

“What the Indian brands did to the global brands two years ago, Chinese phone makers are doing the same to Indian brands now, and over the next year we see tremendous competition for Micromax and other Indian smartphone makers,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research in New Delhi…

…Last May, Alibaba walked away from a mooted $1.2bn purchase of a 20% stake, citing a lack of clarity on growth plans, according to one executive involved in the discussion. Micromax co-founder Vikas Jain said in an interview with Reuters this week that the company and Alibaba disagreed on a future roadmap.

«

The smartphone business’s evolution has been like the PC business’s evolution speeded up; India’s is like the smartphone one, speeded up again.
link to this extract

 


Here’s what a knockoff Apple Watch looks like » Daily Dot

Mike Wehner, way back in April 2015:

»The story of how I came to own this forgery isn’t particularly remarkable: In early March, just as the hype around Apple’s new wearable was reaching a fever pitch, I found a Taiwanese seller who claimed to be selling the Apple Watch for immediate shipment. There was no size option or “collection” to choose from, just four colors, so I selected one and placed an order. It cost me the equivalent of roughly $53, and while I knew the watch that eventually arrived wouldn’t be anything impressive, I was nonetheless curious about just how bad it would be. Now I know.

«

Pretty dire. Wonder if they’re any better now?
link to this extract

 


Music piracy hasn’t gone, it has merely changed its spots » MIDiA Research

Mark Mulligan:

»P2P piracy was tailor made for the 2000’s when:

• Home internet connections were slow
• Most content consumption was desk top based
• People still liked owning music

Now in the streaming era all three of those market dynamics have lessened massively. So little wonder then that piracy technology has evolved to meet the needs of the streaming consumer.

With YouTube the number one digital music destination, and with a catalogue that no other music service will ever be able to match, it makes complete sense that YouTube rippers have emerged as one of the key strands of music piracy tech. Many of which transform YouTube into a fully offline, on demand, ad free, high quality music service.

«

And that’s why the music labels tend to hate YouTube.
link to this extract

 


GMG’s David Pemsel: Membership will make up a third of the Guardian’s revenue within three years » The Media Briefing

Chris Sutcliffe:

»The Guardian has not been agile enough to respond to the challenges faced by the publishing industry over the past few years, according to Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel.

Speaking at Digital Media Strategies 2016, Pemsel said that an overly narrow focus on the “big number” of its global audience masked some of the strategic issues that the Guardian was facing:

»

“I think all those big numbers are a proof point about how fast and innovative we’ve been in getting to digital [but] monetising anonymous reach is essentially over.

“To be able to parade around and say ‘we’re big’ is not good enough. We want to convert our anonymous reach into a known audience.”

«

That conversion of its unknown audience to a known one is a “massive opportunity”, based around a refinement and reinvention of The Guardian’s membership scheme, which Pemsel believes could make up one third of the Guardian’s overall revenue within three years.

«

The point about “monetising anonymous reach is essentially over” is a key one. Pemsel is saying that online advertising in itself isn’t enough to fund the Guardian – which ought to worry everyone else.
link to this extract

 


Mathematicians discover prime conspiracy » Quanta Magazine

Erica Klarreich:

»Two mathematicians have uncovered a simple, previously unnoticed property of prime numbers — those numbers that are divisible only by 1 and themselves. Prime numbers, it seems, have decided preferences about the final digits of the primes that immediately follow them.

Among the first billion prime numbers, for instance, a prime ending in 9 is almost 65 percent more likely to be followed by a prime ending in 1 than another prime ending in 9. In a paper posted online on Sunday, Kannan Soundararajan and Robert Lemke Oliver of Stanford University present both numerical and theoretical evidence that prime numbers repel other would-be primes that end in the same digit, and have varied predilections for being followed by primes ending in the other possible final digits.

“We’ve been studying primes for a long time, and no one spotted this before,” said Andrew Granville, a number theorist at the University of Montreal and University College London. “It’s crazy.”

«

My first objection on reading those paragraphs was “they should do it in a different number base than decimal”. Then it turns out that they started in a different number base (3) and worked out from there. So yes, this is a spooky property.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Samsung’s US chance, Google’s RTBF extension, hacking Isil, bionic feels!, and more

The world of professional bridge is struggling with accusations of cheating. But how do you prevent people communicating in code, if they can communicate? Photo by jaxx2kde on Flickr.

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Sizing the US opportunity for Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 edge » Kantar Worldpanel

Carolina Milanesi:

»By the end of January [2016], the Galaxy S6 represented only 9% of Samsung’s installed base in the US, and the Galaxy S6 edge a mere 2%. The Galaxy S5 remained the most popular device in the installed base, representing 21.5% followed by the Galaxy S4 – now a three-year-old phone – at 14.2%.

Between February 2015 and January 2016, only 26% of Samsung smartphones in use were upgraded. This creates a huge opportunity for Samsung to persuade consumers it is time to upgrade to the new devices.

Of the 26% of Samsung devices that were upgraded, the greatest percentage (27.5%) chose the Galaxy S5, 26.2% the Galaxy S6: 9.4% the Galaxy Note 4: 7.9% the Galaxy Note 5: and 5% the Galaxy S6 edge. The rest of the upgrades were divided among 33 different models, demonstrating how wide the Samsung offering remains in the US market, despite all the attention being given to its flagship products.

Only 3.6% of current Galaxy S6 owners said they are planning to upgrade their smartphone in the next 12 months. This should not worry Samsung, however, as we have shown that a significant opportunity remains among owners of older phones, making them a much easier target for the Korean brand.

«

Suggests that the S6 and S6 Edge really weren’t a big hit, as the S4 has a higher share than both together.
link to this extract

 


Dirty hands » The New Yorker

David Owen, with a fantastic piece about cheating in the world of professional bridge:

»When Brogeland made his first announcement, his evidence against Fisher and Schwartz consisted solely of what he believed to be a collection of suspicious hands; he still didn’t know how they might be exchanging information. A few days later, he created a new Web site, called Bridgecheaters.com, and posted three YouTube videos from the 2014 European Team Championships, which Fisher and Schwartz’s team had won. Each video had been shot from a camera mounted near the table. It showed all four players, as well as the table paraphernalia of modern tournament bridge: four bidding boxes (containing each player’s pre-printed bidding cards); a felt-covered bidding tray (on which the players place bidding cards before sliding it back under the screen); and a plastic duplicate board (a flat, rectangular box in which four pre-dealt hands have been delivered to the table). Brogeland asked for help from other players, and the search for evidence immediately became a collaborative international project.

«

As you read it, you realise that every human element in bridge – speaking, coughing, card movement, any physical movement – makes it feasible to create a code to cheat; the only way to prevent it would be to have people playing via screen, without words or gestures. Which would take away everything that might make it fun.
link to this extract

 


Google finally extends right-to-be-forgotten rules to all search sites, including dot-com » Ars Technica UK

Kelly Fiveash:

»Google has responded to European Union data watchdogs by expanding its right-to-be-forgotten rules to apply to its search websites across the globe.

In 2014, search engines were ordered by Europe’s top court to scrub certain listings on their indexes. Google—which commands roughly 90 percent of the search market in the EU—claimed at the time that such measures amounted to censorship of the Internet.

However, the landmark European Court of Justice ruling in fact stated that search engines were required to remove links that are old, out of date or irrelevant, and—most significantly of all—not found to be in the public interest.

Indeed, the right-to-be-forgotten may seem evocative to privacy campaigners, but as the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has previously stated, “there is no absolute right [under the ruling] to have information removed.”

«

Google’s blogpost on the topic says “We’re changing our approach as a result of specific discussions that we’ve had with EU data protection regulators in recent months”. No mention of the swingeing fines the regulators threatened.
link to this extract

 


Bionic fingertip gives sense of touch to amputee » Reuters

Matthew Stock:

»A bionic fingertip has given an amputee the sensation of rough or smooth textures via electrodes implanted into nerves in his upper arm.

Scientists from EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) and SSSA (Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Italy) successfully allowed amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen to receive this sophisticated tactile information in real-time.

The research, published in science journal eLife, says Sørensen is the first person in the world to recognize texture using a bionic fingertip connected to electrodes surgically implanted above his stump.

The nerves in Sørensen’s arm were wired to a machine with the fingertip attached to it. The machine then controlled the movement of the fingertip over pieces of plastic engraved with different textures, either rough or smooth. When the fingertip moved across the plastic, its sensors generated an electrical signal which was translated into a series of electrical spikes that mimic the language of the nervous system. This was then delivered to Sørensen’s nerves.

«

Odd – and a little sad – how little of the billions washing around Silicon Valley are being used to set up companies to do things like this.
link to this extract

 


AlphaGo defeats Lee Sedol in first game of historic man vs machine match » Go Game Guru

You probably heard the news that Google’s DeepMind system AlphaGo beat the best player in the world. Here are the reactions of the pros (“9p” means “9-dan professional”, ie the highest level):

»Lee Changho 9p said,  “I’m so shocked by AlphaGo’s play!”

Meanwhile Cho Hanseung 9p remarked, “AlphaGo is much stronger than before, when it played against Fan Hui 2p! When Google said the odds were fifty-fifty, it seems they weren’t joking. I still can’t believe its performance even though I just saw it with my own eyes.”

In a post-game interview, Lee Sedol was visibly startled by AlphaGo’s strength. “I was so surprised. Actually, I never imagined that I would lose. It’s so shocking. Regarding the game, I got off to a bad start and AlphaGo played well right until the end. Even when I was behind, I still didn’t imagine that I’d lose. I didn’t think that it would be able to play such an excellent game. I heard that the DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis said that he respects me as a Go player, but I have great respect for both of them [referring to Demis Hassabis and Eric Schmidt] for making this amazing program. I also respect all the programmers who helped to make AlphaGo.”

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The second game should finish around 0800 GMT on Thursday.
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Exclusive: 1736 documents reveal ISIS jihadists personal data » Zaman Al Wasl

»Zaman Al Wasl has exclusively obtained the personal data of 1736 ISIS fighters from over 40 countries, including their backgrounds, nationalities and hometown addresses.

The document that branded by ISIS as confidential is shedding the light on the inner circle of the de facto a state which has its own institutions and official documents as well data bank.

Two thirds of ISIS manpower are from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. 25% of ISIS fighters are Saudis, the data disclosed.

While Turkish fighters are taking the lead among ISIS foreign fighters, French fighters come next.

Syrians are just 1.7 % of the total number of fighters. The Iraqis make 1.2.

Expert told Zaman al-Wasl that Iraqis and Jordanians can make the backbone of ISIS but most of them are based in Mosul and ISIS-controlled areas in Ramadi.

The most notably that ISIS fighters do not know the real names of their fellow fighters since they used to have code names, or names de guerre, and for security issues they have been obliged to follow high ranks of secrecy.

The documents have been written and organized by the General Administration of Borders, and ISIS commission that tracks all Jihadists data.

The data document is including 23 fields, starting with the Jihadist’s first name, last name, code name, date of birth and nationality. The jihadist who cross the the Islamic State’s borders for the first time is ought to acknowledge the Borders Administration everything about himself, even what he wants to be in ISIS, a fighter or a suicide bomber.

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Hacking is damned annoying thing.
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Maybe we could tone down the JavaScript » fuzzy notepad

Alex Munroe is kinda annoyed about pages which insist on a ton of Javascript:

»These aren’t cutting-edge interactive applications; they’re pages with text on them. We used to print those on paper, but as soon as we made the leap to computers, it became impossible to put words on a screen without executing several megabytes of custom junk?

I can almost hear the Hacker News comments now, about what a luddite I am for not thinking five paragraphs of static text need to be infested with a thousand lines of script. Well, let me say proactively: fuck all y’all. I think the Web is great, I think interactive dynamic stuff is great, and I think the progress we’ve made in the last decade is great. I also think it’s great that the Web is and always has been inherently customizable by users, and that I can use an extension that lets me decide ahead of time what an arbitrary site can run on my computer.

What’s less great is a team of highly-paid and highly-skilled people all using Chrome on a recent Mac Pro, developing in an office half a mile from almost every server they hit, then turning around and scoffing at people who don’t have exactly the same setup. Consider that any of the following might cause your JavaScript to not work:

• Someone is on a slow computer.
• Someone is on a slow connection.
• Someone is on a phone, i.e. a slow computer with a slow connection.
• Someone is stuck with an old browser on a computer they don’t control — at work, at school, in a library, etc.
• Someone is trying to write a small program that interacts with your site, which doesn’t have an API.

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And he’s only just getting started.
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How the smartphone shapes millennials’ online activities » Global Web Index

Chase Buckle:

»From a marketing perspective, the term Millennial is increasingly becoming synonymous with mobile. And for good reason – almost 90% own a smartphone and these internet users clock up on average over 3 hours per day online via mobiles (rising to over 4 hours in Latin America and the Middle East). That means they’re spending up to 5x longer per day online on mobile than older age groups.

Understandably, this enthusiasm for smartphones is having a huge impact on their online activities. Our latest research shows that Millennials overwhelmingly cite smartphones as their most important device for getting online, and we’re seeing more-and-more staple internet activities take place on mobile.

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What I notice about the above graphic is that in the past month, about 76% used a search engine on mobile – and (slightly) more used a social network. By contrast on desktop, it would probably be 100% and 100%. Plus these are the millennials; for those who are older, both uses will be less. That search engine use is Google’s problem on mobile: lots of people don’t do search on a daily basis on mobile.
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We need to save online journalism from ad blocking – and here’s how » Alphr

James O’Malley:

»Historically, journalism has had two major sources of income: Advertisers and readers. But now publishing is being squeezed from both ends. Thanks to the internet, and the explosion in ‘content’ (that’s what we call it now), people are very reticent to pay to read news, like they would have done for a print newspaper. And now thanks to ad-blockers, fewer people are looking at the adverts.

So what to do? How can a business model be found that will make journalism pay? Is there anything that can save this noble trade?

Bizarrely, the solution to this problem has already been invented. Six years ago. By one of the last people you’d expect to have an interest in paying people for their work.

Flattr was co-founded in 2010 by Peter Sunde, who is better known as one of the co-founders and former spokesperson for The Pirate Bay. Given that his website is responsible for distributing huge swathes of pirated content, you can’t help but wonder if Flattr was his attempt at atonement.

Flattr is a “microdonation” platform. The idea is that you sign up and allocate a fixed amount of cash to pay in every month – say £10 for the sake of argument – and then if you’re reading an article online that you like, you can click the “Flattr” button nestled amongst the existing social media sharing links. At the end of the month, your £10 is then divided up between the publishers of the articles that you’ve chosen to flattr. So if you flattr two articles, they earn £5 each. If you flattr ten, then each gets a pound. And so on.

The genius is that it solves the biggest problem with any micropayment system: Friction.

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Neat idea. The problem now is just adoption by publishers and readers (and getting users of adblockers to see it in the first place).
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: sexism in funding, Powa struggles, China’s smartphone rat race, Apple software, and more

Good password on paper

A bit dated? Doesn’t matter, password crackers are after you. Photo by Simon Lieschke on Flickr.

It’s a secret, but you can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. Tell no one.

A selection of 9 links for you. Plaited in plaid. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

VCs- don’t compare me to your wife, just don’t » Medium

Sarah Nadav:

Investors, you should know that the only thing that I have in common with your wife is a vagina. You need to know that because the women who are sitting in front of you to pitch are Entrepreneurs – and we are a totally different breed of human being than just about anyone else.

Your wife may or may not be an entrepreneur. But the extent to which she is founding a company is the extent to which I have something in common with her.

When you ask me about having it all, or how am I going to manage my kids, I seriously think that you are insane. Because in my head, I can’t imagine a scenario where you trust someone with millions of dollars to run a business but think that they don’t know how to deal with childcare.

Oh, but you have to read the message exchange with one venture capitalist about A Woman’s Place. According to him it definitely isn’t in the boardroom.
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China smartphone market sees its highest shipment ever of 117.3m in 2015Q4 » IDC

Shipments grew 8% year-on-year in the quarter:

“Xiaomi, Huawei and Apple are the top smartphone players in 2015. This is a stark contrast to the top players in 2013, which was Samsung, Lenovo and Coolpad – with Samsung clearly dominating other players. With operators reducing smartphone subsidy and given the volatility of consumers’ brand preference in the market, the smartphone scene has changed significantly since then,” says Tay Xiaohan, Senior Market Analyst with IDC Asia/Pacific’s Client Devices team.

“Xiaomi entered the market at a time when the China smartphone market was still growing, and was able to capture a significant market share with its disruptive sales model. Huawei, with its investments in R&D, strong products, branding and channel connections, saw it having significant growth in 2015. Apple, on the other hand, continues to be a strong and desirable brand in the eyes of the Chinese consumers. With the Chinese market now slowing down, it is unlikely that we will see any new players making a big impact on the smartphone market compared to the way Xiaomi did in the previous years,” adds Ms. Tay.

So the door is shut to new entrants. Remember that scene in Skyfall where Javier Bardem is describing rat removal to James Bond? (Here’s the link if you’d forgotten.) The smartphone business in China now turns into that scenario.
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The superhero of artificial intelligence: can this genius keep it in check? » The Guardian

Clemency Burton-Hill on DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis. The interview with him is OK – though mostly dead-bat responses from him – but I thought this was more indicative of the challenge, and potential for the company:

Upstairs, wrapping the original building, is a modern open-plan structure featuring a deck with undeniably magnificent views of London’s rooftops.

It’s up here, on Friday nights, that the DeepMinders gather for drinks. One employee describes the ritual to me enthusiastically as a way “to end the week on a high”. Socialising is an intrinsic way of life: I’m told of the DeepMind running club, football team, board games club. (“That one gets pretty competitive.”) A wall chart with moveable photographs indicates where everyone is hot-desking on any given day. It’s aggressively open-plan. The engineers – mostly male – that I pass in the corridors shatter the stereotype of people working in the nerdier corners of human endeavour: these guys look fit, happy, cool. A certain air of intellectual glamour, it has to be said, vibrates in the atmosphere. And no wonder. The smartest people on the planet are queuing up to work here, and the retention rate is, so far, a remarkable 100%, despite the accelerating focus on AI among many of Google’s biggest competitors, not to mention leading universities all over the globe.

“We’re really lucky,” says Hassabis, who compares his company to the Apollo programme and Manhattan Project for both the breathtaking scale of its ambition and the quality of the minds he is assembling at an ever increasing rate. “We are able to literally get the best scientists from each country each year. So we’ll have, say, the person that won the Physics Olympiad in Poland, the person who got the top maths PhD of the year in France. We’ve got more ideas than we’ve got researchers, but at the same time, there are more great people coming to our door than we can take on. So we’re in a very fortunate position. The only limitation is how many people we can absorb without damaging the culture.”

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Powa Technologies missed staff and contractor payments » FT.com

Kadhim Shubber and Murad Ahmed:

Powa has raised about $175m, mainly from Boston-based investment fund Wellington Management, which the company says values it at $2.7bn.

Its headquarters are spread over two floors in what Mr Wagner called in one of the videos “the opulent surroundings” of Heron Tower, a skyscraper in the heart of City of London. A person with knowledge of the matter said that Powa could be paying as much as £2.5m a year.

When Powa was founded in 2007, it planned to develop a mobile payments system. More recently it has focused on its PowaTag product, a mobile platform that allows people to buy and order a product by photographing an image of it with their mobile phones.

Mr Wagner has predicted that the business will be bigger than Google or Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce group. “What we’re building here is the biggest tech company in living memory,” he told the Financial Times in April last year.

But in the video to staff, Mr Wagner said that the company was “basically pre-revenue”, a term that refers to a lack of sales. “As we go forward from here that revenue will start to flow in meaningful ways but right now it isn’t,” he said.

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Dan Lyons’ HubSpot book ‘Disrupted’: a few predictions » BostInno

Kyle Alspach on the forthcoming book from “Fake Steve Jobs”, aka Lyons, who worked for a while at Hubspot:

• The book is going to accuse HubSpot’s management of being hypocritical—touting how the company is making a positive difference in the world when in reality, according to Lyons at least, they’re not much better than spammers. We already knew this from the shorter description that was posted previously, but the superlatives from other authors suggest just how central the theme will be to the book:

– “Dan Lyons goes deep inside a company that uses terms like ‘world class marketing thought leaders’ to show us how ridiculous, wasteful, and infantile tech start-ups like this can be.”―Nick Bilton (author of “Hatching Twitter”)

– Disrupted “just might tell us something important about the hypocrisy and cult-like fervor inside today’s technology giants.”―Brad Stone (author of “The Everything Store”)

– “Disrupted explores the ways in which many technology companies have come to fool the public and themselves.”—Ashlee Vance (author of “Elon Musk”)

• Some HubSpot executives will definitely be singled out. Such as: “Dan’s absentee boss sent cryptic emails about employees who had ‘graduated’ (read: been fired).”

Waiter! Popcorn!
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Password cracking attacks on Bitcoin wallets net $103,000 » Ars Technica

Dan Goodin:

Hackers have siphoned about $103,000 out of Bitcoin accounts that were protected with an alternative security measure, according to research that tracked six years’ worth of transactions. Account-holders used easy-to-remember passwords to protect their accounts instead of the long cryptographic keys normally required.

The heists were carried out against almost 900 accounts where the owners used passwords to generate the private encryption keys required to withdraw funds. In many cases, the vulnerable accounts were drained within minutes or seconds of going live. The electronic wallets were popularly known as “brain wallets” because, the thinking went, Bitcoin funds were stored in users’ minds through memorization of a password rather than a 64-character private key that had to be written on paper or stored digitally. For years, brain wallets were promoted as a safer and more user-friendly way to secure Bitcoins and other digital currencies, although Gregory Maxwell, Gavin Andresen, and many other Bitcoin experts had long warned that they were a bad idea.

Here’s a paper about what happened; to crack the wallets, tables with as many as billions of potential passwords may have been deployed against them. Yes, billions.
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New finding may explain heat loss in fusion reactors » MIT News

The expectation by physicists for more than a decade had been that turbulence associated with ions (atoms with an electric charge) was so much larger than turbulence caused by electrons — nearly two orders of magnitude smaller — that the latter would be completely smeared out by the much larger eddies. And even if the smaller eddies survived the larger-scale disruptions, the conventional thinking went, these electron-scale whirls would be so much smaller that their effects would be negligible.

The new findings show that this conventional wisdom was wrong on both counts. The two scales of turbulence do indeed coexist, the researchers found, and they interact with each other so strongly that it’s impossible to understand their effects without including both kinds in any simulations.

However, it requires prodigious amounts of computer time to run simulations that encompass such widely disparate scales, explains Howard, who is the lead author on the paper detailing these simulations.

Accomplishing each simulation required 15 million hours of computation, carried out by 17,000 processors over a period of 37 days at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center — making this team the biggest user of that facility for the year. Using an ordinary MacBook Pro to run the full set of six simulations that the team carried out, Howard estimates, would have taken 3,000 years.

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Apple’s elephant in the room » Medium

Alexandra Mintsopoulos on the meme about Apple’s “declining” software quality:

If the biggest example that can be pointed to is iTunes or its back-end (which seem to generate the most criticism) then there isn’t any validity to the idea that Apple’s software quality is declining. iTunes has been the target of complaints for as long as anyone can remember and it seems clear that it will be reworked much like Photos, iWork, or Final Cut have been (and likely receive the same backlash for missing functionality). The reason it hasn’t been done sooner is obvious: it has hundreds of millions of users and transacts billions of dollars in sales, revamping it from the ground up is akin to fixing an airplane while it’s in flight and won’t be done lightly.

There is a massive disconnect between enthusiasts and Apple’s broader customer base on the perception of Apple’s software quality. That is a PR problem for Apple to solve, not a software one.

I thought it was pretty clear in Eddy Cue’s appearance on John Gruber’s podcast (linked here yesterday) that Cue said iTunes is being redesigned, but you don’t do that sort of thing in an afternoon. The vast majority of iTunes-on-desktop users are not using Apple Music. The problem that then needs to be solved is to what extent iTunes could, or should, be broken into multiple apps.
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My Telltale heart: From Monkey Island to the Walking Dead – games matter » The Malcontent

Mic Wright, arguing (on yesterday’s point) that yes, video games are a cultural product:

Most of the brain trust from LucasArts ended up in a berth at TellTale games, where the rabbit and pooch P.I team of Sam & Max and Guybrush Threepwood, the protagonist of the Monkey Island games, also ended up.

Preempting a question I have just imagined Charles – who commissioned my first ever piece for The Guardian – asking, Telltale/LucasArts has also delivered more serious and dramatic gaming experiences. The Game of Thrones and Walking Dead games developed by the studio drop the player into storylines where moral and tactical decisions are at the heart of the gameplay.

In the branching narratives, you’re forced to decide which friends or allies to sacrifice among other pretty gut-wrenching choices. Both sets of titles fundamentally dive into the nature of what it is to be a human in society and, through your choices, end up making you think about your real life character and behaviour.

Of course lots of games are just games, but then what does the average Adam Sandler movie or Dan Brown novel tell us about the human experience?

Touché on that last one. I remain sceptical; I’m not saying that video games cannot be cultural, emotional experiences. However, I don’t think they’ve generally achieved that yet. The question is whether they will continue to remain at the Sandler/Brown end of the spectrum, where I think they are.

After all, very few “games” (chess, squash, football) achieve “cultural event” status. The only ones I can think off immediately are the 1972 Fischer-Spassky chess match (west v east, a cold war fought with chess pieces) and 1997’s chess match of Kasparov v Deep Blue (humans v machines – disappointing outcome). Wimbledon finals, World Cup finals, some Olympic events do manage a “where were you when..?” status, but that’s not quite the same as having cultural impact – i.e. showing us something about where we really are. Any other suggestions?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.