Start up: TeamViewer sorry for hack, UK allows encryption, Uber’s car gamble, Google v Oracle redux, and more

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A selection of 10 links for you. Small print applies. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

TeamViewer: So sorry we blamed you after your PC was hacked • The Register

Shaun Nichols:

»Beleaguered remote support tool maker TeamViewer has apologized for blaming its customers for the recent spree of PC and Mac hijackings.

While TeamViewer maintains there was “no hack” on its end, public relations head Axel Schmidt told El Reg that the software house was sorry it used the term “careless” to describe folks who reused their TeamViewer passwords on other websites that had account logins stolen, such as LinkedIn and MySpace.

“What we intended to make clear is when you use a tool like TeamViewer you need to take extra care,” Schmidt added.

(Reg translation: Sorry we called you careless when you didn’t take care.)

Schmidt said a “significant” number of customers claimed they were compromised, judging by the number of support tickets filed. However, the affected users are an “incredibly small” portion of total customers, we’re told. He wouldn’t give an estimate on the total number of cases.

Late last week, TeamViewer pushed out new security protections designed to help stem a tide of attacks in which PCs were remotely hijacked and used to make fraudulent money transfers and purchases using their locally stored account credentials.

Schmidt said that development on the tools began weeks ago when the first reports of account thefts emerged, but the features did not make it in time to catch last week’s deluge of takeovers.

“I wish we would have released those features earlier,” the PR boss admitted, in what is possibly the understatement of the year.

«

Given that TeamViewer and its ilk are often used by the “Microsoft virus” scam calls gangs, this is even worse than it appears at first viewing.
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There’s now a robot that can check your bags at Geneva airport • Quartz

Mike Murphy:

»One of the most convenient changes in the modern era of air travel has been the ability to check in online, drop your bags at the counter, and stroll off to security, potentially without having to speak to a single human. But when everyone else started doing the same thing, the lines at check-in got shorter, but the drop-off line got longer.

SITA, a Swiss telecoms firm specializing in the air transport industry, working in parternship with robotics firm BlueBotics, has a solution: Autonomous robots that check your bags at the curb.
SITA’s robot, called Leo, is being tested at Geneva Airport, the company said in a release late last month. To use the bot, passengers with luggage tap a few buttons on Leo’s touchscreen, scan their boarding passes, drop their bags in its cargo bay, and affix the luggage tags that Leo prints out. The bot then closes up its cargo area—so that no one can tamper with your bag while it’s in transit—and drops the bags off at a loading station, where a human drops the bags on a conveyor belt to be scanned and loaded onto the correct plane.

«

I worked on a focus group of sorts considering what an (extremely large) airport for 2030 might look like. One of the questions we wrestled with was why you should have to drag your bags along to the airport. Why not check them in at your hotel back in the city, or somewhere else? If you’re trying to plant bombs, they’ll either be found or not, but that’s not affected by where the bag is checked in.
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Inside Uber’s auto-lease machine, where almost anyone can get a car • Bloomberg

Eric Newcomer and Olivia Zaleski:

»[Uber’s short-term lease offering] Xchange isn’t intended to be a moneymaker, said an Uber spokesman. But it has plenty of critics who accuse the company of looting the pockets of its drivers. The program is plagued by a lot of questions that surround other subprime lending programs aimed at risky borrowers with bad credit. Is Xchange really offering good deals? Does it ensnare drivers with commitments they can’t meet? “You can buy the car for what they’re charging you in weekly payments,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at personal-finance website Bankrate.com. But for many drivers who sign up with Xchange, it’s their only option.

The terms of an Xchange lease run 28 pages. Drivers pay a $250 upfront deposit and then make weekly payments to Uber over the course of the three-year life of the lease. As the video promoting the arrangement puts it: “The best part: Payments are automatically deducted from your Uber earnings.” At the end of three years, Uber keeps the $250 deposit to release the drivers from the lease. If they want to buy it, they’ll need to fork over the residual value of the car, which could run many thousands of dollars. Uber declined to provide an average figure.

«

Sub-prime, sub-optimal.
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Artificial intelligence will make advertising obsolete • Medium

Rob Leathern:

»The job of a human assistant is far less prevalent today than it once was, but still widespread among senior individuals in the corporate world. One reason for that, as laid out in an HBR article in 2011, is the economics of an assistant who works for a highly-paid individual:

»

Consider a senior executive whose total compensation package is $1 million annually, who works with an assistant who earns $80,000. For the organization to break even, the assistant must make the executive 8% more productive than he or she would be working solo — for instance, the assistant needs to save the executive roughly five hours in a 60-hour workweek. In reality, good assistants save their bosses much more than that.

«

The author correctly concludes that “After years of cutting back, companies can boost productivity by arming more managers with assistants.” There should and will not only be work for more human assistants, but also, a lot more software AI “bots”.

These AI bots will probably have a lower tolerance for deceptive practices, won’t be responding to those SEO emails, and will learn based on the ongoing feedback we provide to them (and will learn some fractional amount based on what other users are telling their software ‘cousins’ filling similar roles).

The future is about filters, and though ad blocking and spam filters might be where it begins, artificially intelligent software agents and AI bots are where it’s going.

«

Did I mention that Leathern used to work in advertising?
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Google’s text messaging strategy: try everything • The Verge

Dieter Bohn:

»In messaging, Google has very long race ahead of it, and in many ways it’s already been lapped by multiple competitors. But when you make the dominant mobile operating system on the planet, dropping out of the race isn’t really an option.

Instead, Google is just betting on as many horses as it can and doing its best to whip them into catching up. Google has so many messaging strategies because it doesn’t have an option that’s an easy win: there’s a next-gen SMS standard, its own messaging app, and a (somewhat plaintive and naive) hope that it could convince other companies to agree to interoperation.

So it wasn’t a surprise to see that, at the end of a wide-ranging interview with Google CEO Sundar Pichai by our own Walt Mossberg at Code 2016, messaging came up. And here’s what we learned: if you were hoping that Google was going to swoop in and keep you from having eight different messaging apps scurried away in a folder, you should probably stop.

«

That’s pretty much it. Google is going to support as many standards as it needs to until one wins out.
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Apple’s encryption looks safe as UK Commons passes spy bill • Bloomberg

Jeremy Kahn:

»The U.K. House of Commons on Tuesday passed a controversial bill giving spy agencies the power to engage in bulk surveillance and computer hacking, but ceded some ground to protests from the technology industry and civil liberty groups.

The bill, which was introduced by the Conservative Party-led government in March after modifications to address concerns from tech companies and privacy advocates, passed by a vote of 444 to 69. Most of the opposition Labour Party voted with the conservative majority to advance the bill to the House of Lords, while the opposition Scottish National Party, citing concerns about privacy and civil rights, voted against it.

Many of the surveillance techniques – such as scooping up the metadata of communications and using malware to gain access to the computers and mobile phones of terrorism suspects – have already been in use by U.K. spy agencies and the law now gives them explicit authority…

…The version of the bill passed Tuesday makes clear that companies aren’t required to build backdoors to their encryption and will only be required to remove such code in response to a government request if doing so is technically feasible and not unduly expensive.

«

Everyone else’s encryption is safe too, but whatever.
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Why plan sponsors need professional (independent) advice • The Big Picture

»I went on to share the recent story from Bloomberg BNA News (October 30, 2015) on class action lawsuit directed at the Intel 401k Investment Committee – specifically addressing changes made by that IC which were so poorly conceived, expensive, and probably inappropriate per regulatory standards as to give the members of that Investment Committee a lot of sleepless nights. And it should…the story is a cautionary tale.

In a span of less than four years the Intel Investment Committee took the plans investment options and changed them by a magnitude of 10 fold, taking $50m of “Alternative Investments” and raising that amount almost $700m in just a few years. Worse, they (the investment committee) ‘directed’ that these expensive and not exactly appropriate ‘securities’ be added to the seemingly vanilla Target Date Funds that they themselves designed.

Did Intel plan participants truly – rank & file workers – understand what was under the hood of those Target Date Funds? As the complaint states, the Investment Committee “invested a significant portion of the plans’ assets in risky and high-cost hedge funds and private-equity investments.”

«

For non-American readers, 401Ks are basically retirement/pension funds. If Intel, which has just laid a ton of people off, is shifting those into risky assets, you have to ask how assured the payouts to thousands of people recently laid off is going to be.
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Google’s new iOS app Motion Stills stabilizes your Live Photos • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»Google today announced the launch of Motion Stills, a new iOS app that takes your existing Live Photos made with an iOS device — essentially several frames automatically captured before and after you hit the camera app’s shutter button — and stabilizes them in order to make shareable GIFs and video clips.

The app is available today on the App Store. But Google may well end up adding the technology into its other applications, like the Google Photos cloud-based photo storage app, Ken Conley and Matthias Grundmann of the Google Research Machine Perception team wrote in a blog post.

The app works offline, and you don’t need to sign in to any service in order to use it — just give the app permission to access the photos on your device and you’re good to go.

«

Live Photos has never quite hit the spot for me. Possibly it’s an age demographic thing. I turned it off; now I have lots of stills.
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Silicon Valley has a “problem” problem — Life learning • Medium

Riva-Melissa Tez:

»Some 800 million people across the globe have limited access to food or water. That’s about one in nine people on the planet. Now, that’s a problem. The lack of affordable housing and support for San Francisco’s poorest communities remains a problem. It’s a socially harmful situation that needs to be dealt with and overcome. Our healthcare systems are riddled with such complex problems that even huge sums of capital cannot resolve even basic first-principle issues. Our financial systems cripple society with the psychological gamification of credit that leads to mass debt.

Not knowing if you can get sushi delivered at 10pm to your exact location is not a problem. Not knowing where the nearest dry cleaner is, exactly, is not a problem either. Recognizing these obstacles or inconveniences and being able to avoid them are privileges — a special right enjoyed as a result of one’s socioeconomic position. They are perks that enable us to further our level of highly efficient living.

«

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Why Oracle will win its Java copyright case – and why you’ll be glad when it does • The Register

Andrew Orlowski:

»why is the jury’s broad application of fair use in reality bad news for open source? How did Google win last week? And why will Oracle ultimately prevail? Let’s take these three questions in reverse order. And strap in for the ride: The Register is not responsible for any disorientation or cognitive dissonance experienced over the next two pages.

Oracle will ultimately prevail over Google for a very simple reason: Google is guilty. Google copied 11,000 lines of someone else’s copyrighted code without a license to do so. It could have chosen some other code to copy; or it could have obtained a license; or it could have not copied anything and created every single line of Android code from scratch. All three were options that Google didn’t take. It’s really as simple as that.

So on to the next question. How is this verdict bad for open software, when almost everything you’ve read insists that you reach the opposite conclusion?

«

Sure, you’re thinking “Andrew Orlowski is just being contrarian”. Except for this: Peter Bright, who isn’t particularly contrarian (in my experience; argumentative perhaps) has pretty much the same view.

Also, it does feel like the appeals court will rule for Oracle rather than Google. Though at this point there’s a sort of numbness around the whole issue, as though one had been beating one’s head against a wall repeatedly.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: Donald v Hillary. Ain’t that something.

Start up: the $200k iPhone hack, sleep robot axed, the criminal who wrote Truecrypt, If This Then No, and more

Dropcam’s founder gives you fresh insight into what happened at Nest. It’s not pretty. Photo by Ravi Shah 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 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The Dropcam Team » Medium

Former Dropcam CEO Greg Duffy proves that revenge is a dish that you can savour at any temperature, as he hits back as Tony Fadell’s claims that the Dropcam team (acquired by Google, folded into Nest) “weren’t up to much”:

»I can’t publish Dropcam’s revenue, but if you knew what percentage of all of Alphabet’s “other bets” revenue was brought in by the relatively tiny 100-person Dropcam team that Fadell derides, Nest itself would not look good in comparison. So, if Fadell wants to stick by his statement, I challenge him to release full financials (easy prediction: he won’t).

The ~50 Dropcam employees who resigned did so because they felt their ability to build great products being totally crushed. All of us have worked at big companies before, where it is harder to move fast. But this is something different, as evidenced by the continued lack of output from the currently 1200-person team and its virtually unlimited budget. According to LinkedIn, total attrition to date at Nest amounts to nearly 500 people, which suggests that we were not alone in our frustrations.

«

On Medium, this is covered in highlights by people who went “ooh! This bit! Ooh! This bit too!” It’s an amazing takedown of Fadell.
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Google is completely redesigning AdWords: Offers first peek » Search Engine Land

Ginny Marvin:

»“The reason we’re rebuilding AdWords is because the world has changed so much in the past two years. AdWords is now over 15 years old and launched when Google was just figuring out what search advertising was. We rebuilt it several years ago for a desktop world — smartphones were only [a] year old. Now we are in probably the biggest shift since AdWords was introduced (and I’d argue perhaps ever) with mobile,” said [AdWords product management director Paul] Feng, “And there is now increased demand on marketers and on AdWords as a platform — advertisers are running ads in search, display, shopping, mobile, video. Ultimately, that’s why we’re re-imagining AdWords.”

Feng said the redesign has been informed largely by talking to advertisers across the spectrum. Three common themes emerged. First, advertisers said it felt like AdWords has been built around products and features, rather than marketers’ needs and objectives. “How the navigation is laid out can be un-intuitive and comes with a high learning curve,” said Feng.  Second, the platform has grown complex, with hundreds of features launching every year that stack up on each other. And third, the basic design looks and feels kind of dated. “The goal is to create a flexible platform for the future,” added Feng.

«

Amazing that it was last redesigned in 2008, which is basically pre-mobile. Quite a challenge to get that legacy code to look and work right.
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Top talent leaves Google startup Verily under divisive CEO » STAT

Charles Piller:

»Google’s brash attempt to revolutionize medicine as it did the Internet is facing turbulence, and many leaders who launched its life sciences startup have quit, STAT has found.

Former employees pointed to one overriding reason for the exodus from Verily Life Sciences: the challenge of working with CEO Andrew Conrad.

Verily, one of Google’s “moonshots,” pursues ambitious, even radical, ideas that could take years to pay off. The emerging Silicon Valley juggernaut has attracted elite scientists, engineers, and data crunchers, and inspired buzz about its futuristic projects — as well as envy among competitors nervously eyeing this upstart with a seemingly unlimited bankroll.

The three-year-old venture has operated largely out of public view and carefully manages its image; employees said talking to a reporter without permission is a firing offense.

But people who know Conrad or have worked with him said in interviews that Google has entrusted its life sciences initiative to a divisive and impulsive leader whose practices are driving off top talent and leaving openings for competitors. They said many employees in key jobs were dispirited, and described a lack of focus and clear priorities that is unusual even in the chaotic culture of startups.

«

Trying to sell Boston Dynamics, got a fire in Nest, and now this. Alphabet is finding that being the second GE requires a second Jack Welch. Great reporting by Piller.
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It’s game over for the robot intended to replace anesthesiologists » The Washington Post

Todd Frankel:

»the Sedasys machine was being used in just four hospitals, including the one we visited in Toledo. We watched as the Sedasys device provided basic anesthesiology services to a series of patients undergoing routine endoscopies and colonoscopies.

No longer did you need a trained anesthesiologist. And sedation with the Sedasys machine cost $150 to $200 for each procedure, compared to $2,000 for an anesthesiologist, one of healthcare’s best-paid specialties.  The machine was seen as the leading lip of an automation wave transforming hospitals.

But Johnson & Johnson recently announced it was pulling the plug on Sedasys because of poor sales.

«

Why? Humans campaigned against it.
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He always had a dark side » The Atavist

Evan Ratcliff:

»Before encryption was a mainstream idea, before Apple defied a U.S. government request to provide a method to unlock our phones, this Le Roux had written the underlying code of a program that, a decade and a half later, the National Security Agency still could not break.

The question was: Could the Le Roux who politely answered jargon-laden posts about encryption software be the same one who ordered the murder of a real estate agent over a bad deal on a beach house? At first I thought I would never know. The former Paul Le Roux seemed to have disappeared from the Internet in 2004. Encryption experts I contacted had no idea what had become of that Le Roux, and there was no evidence linking him to the man known for drugs and gun running.

One night in October, I had been at the computer for hours when I finally found the missing link. It was a website once registered to the encryption Le Roux, in the early 2000s, and later transferred to a Philippine company controlled by the crime-boss Le Roux. My immediate reaction upon discovering this connection was a sudden and irrational fear…

«

You can already see why. Le Roux seems to have written TrueCrypt, which has near-mythic status in encryption circles.
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Met police chief blaming the victims » Light Blue Touchpaper

Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge, wrote a letter to The Times:

»[Met Police commissioner] Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe argues that banks should not refund online fraud victims as this would make people careless with their passwords and anti-virus software (p1, March 24, and letters Mar 25 & 26). This is called secondary victimisation. Thirty years ago, a chief constable might have said that rape victims had themselves to blame for wearing nice clothes; if he were to say that nowadays, he’d be sacked. Hogan-Howe’s view of bank fraud is just as uninformed, and just as offensive to victims.

About 5 percent of computers running Windows are infected with malware, and common bank fraud malware such as Zeus lets the fraudster redirect transactions. You think you’re paying £150 to your electricity bill, while the malware is actually sending £9000 to Russia. The average person is helpless against this; everything seems normal, and antivirus products usually only detect it afterwards.

Much of the blame lies with the banks, who let the users of potentially infected computers make large payments instantly, rather than after a day or two, as used to be the case. They take this risk because regulators let them dump much of the cost of the resulting fraud on customers.

«

Hogan-Howell really put his foot in it, but it’s the inertia that he represents – and the attempt to shift the blame – which is the most insidious.
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Who unlocked the San Bernardino iPhone? » Perizie Informatiche Forensi

Paolo Dal Checco:

»Yesterday, Monday, March 28th, FBI purchased from Cellebrite $218.000 of “INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SUPPLIES”  [WBM].

It might be a simple coincidence, but if we issue the query  «CONTRACTING_AGENCY_NAME:”FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION” VENDOR_FULL_NAME:”CELLEBRITE USA CORP“» on the FPDS search engine, in the EZ Search section, we can see and download the full history of purchase orders issued by “FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION” to “CELLEBRITE USA CORP”. We can observe that since September 2009 Cellebrite was given 187 purchase orders, but the purchase order issued yesterday, with ID “DJF161200G0004569”, is rather unique in that:

• it’s the only one with an action obligation of more than $ 200.000 issued with “CELLEBRITE USA CORP” (the average for purchase orders is about  $11.000);
•it’s the only one with the “INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SUPPLIES” description and PSC type “7045”;
• it was issued yesterday, when the US Government published a note informing that the San Bernardino iPhone was successfully unlocked and data was successfully accessed, presumably by an “outside party” as they said in the previous note.

In conclusion, we don’t know if Cellebrite was involved in San Bernardino iPhone PIN unlocking, we know that Cellebrite is able to unlock iPhons up to iOS 7 and iOS8 with 32bit processors and on iPhone 4s/5/5c, iPad 2/3/4, iPad Mini 1 and… the coincidence of yesterday’s purchase order is rather weird.

«

So that’s wrapped up: Cellebrite is licensing the unlock technique to the FBI. (Jonathan Zdziarski reckons the $200,000 price is too low to be a complete sale, but high enough to suggest it works against lots of models.)
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Apple acknowledges iOS 9 crashing bugs when tapping links, fix coming ‘soon’ with a software update » 9to5Mac

Benjamin Mayo:

»Since posting our original story, we have heard from a lot of readers that are affected by iOS 9 crashes or app hangs when tapping links, spanning multiple iOS versions (not just 9.3) and devices. In a statement, Apple has now confirmed that they are working on a fix for the problem, coming in a software update (presumably iOS 9.3.1).

»

“We are aware of this issue, and we will release a fix in a software update soon.”

«

A temporary workaround is still unknown, although community investigations have revealed why the bug has arisen. It is based on what apps the user has installed and how those apps handle universal links.

Previously, we pinpointed Bookings.com as a cause of the bug, although noting it affects other apps as well. On Twitter, it was found that their website association file, used by the system for the universal links feature introduced with iOS 9, was many megabytes, grossly oversized. This would essentially overload the daemon that had to parse these files, causing the crashing.

«

Linked yesterday. There is a workaround, involving toggling Airplane mode, deleting the offending app, restarting and so on. Not much fun.
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David Cameron drops bombshell privatisation announcement then catches a plane to Lanzarote » The Canary

Kerry-Anne Mendoza:

»The government is selling off the Land Registry to private, profit making interests.

The government has also ordered local authorities to transfer up to 90% of brown field sites (previously developed sites that have become vacant, contaminated but could be reused) into the hands of the Homes and Communities Agency (the latest quango) where Eric Pickles (and his successors) and just two inspectors will control the planning decisions.

The Infrastructure Bill contains a clause which will allow ALL public land to be privatised. There’s no need to reference the Forestry Act 1967, the Countryside Rights of Way Act or any other protective law, because Schedule 3 of the Bill states that “the property, rights and liabilities that may be transferred by a scheme include… property, rights and liabilities that would not otherwise be capable of being transferred or assigned.”

In plain English, this means all preceding regulations, legislation and other protections for this site are null and void – fill your boots.

«

First the Land Registry, now this. It would be great if there were an effective political opposition in the UK.
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Presentation: Mobile ate the world » Benedict Evans

»Updated for spring 2016, this is a snapshot of why mobile matters, where it is and where it’s going. I’ve written quite a lot of blog posts discussing these issues, which I collated in this [other] post.

«

76-slide presentation, with lots of subtle points in it to absorb; I think that AI will play a more important role than is immediately obvious, because it can be subsumed into the device. That, though, isn’t what the platform opportunity is about.
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My heroic and lazy stand against IFTTT » Pinboard Blog

Maciej Ceglowski:

»A service like IFTTT [If This Then That] writes “shim code” that makes it possible to connect online services together like Lego. Everything slots into everything else. This is thankless, detailed work (like developing TurboTax or Dropbox) that when done right, creates a lot of value.

IFTTT has already written all this shim code. They did it when they were small and had no money, so it’s difficult to believe they have to throw it away now that they have lots of staff and $30m.

Instead, sites that want to work with IFTTT will have to implement a private API that can change without warning.

This is a perfectly reasonable business decision. It is always smart to make other people do all the work.

However, cutting out sites that you have supported for years because they refuse to work for free is not very friendly to your oldest and most loyal users. And claiming that it’s the other party’s fault that you’re discontinuing service is a bit of a dick move.

I am all for glue services, big and small. But it’s better for the web that they connect to stable, documented, public APIs, rather than custom private ones.

And if you do want me to write a custom API for you, pay me lots of money.

«

Ceglowski’s laconic humour is also razor-sharp; his tweets (on @pinboard) are worth a read, such as one from August 2014 after IFTTT got some venture funding: “Right now the IFTTT business model is to charge one user $30M, rather than lots of users $2. The challenge will be with recurring payments.” Ceglowski yesterday quoted his own tweet, and added “That man was a prophet.” (I use Pinboard to generate Start Up.)
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The new iPhone may have a China problem » CNBC

Eunice Yoon:

»Apple’s new iPhone SE launches on Thursday and preliminary numbers at Chinese retailers suggest decent demand — but the black market tells a more mixed story.

The US tech giant started taking pre-orders for the smartphone on March 24 and has not released official figures. However, as of Monday in Beijing, total pre-orders on three retailing sites exceeded 3.4 million.

Despite the brisk pre-orders, though, Chinese vendors and scalpers are uncertain if the iPhone SE will be a sure bet like previous models.

“The new iPhone SE has no revolutionary update,” one distributor in Henan Province told CNBC. “I don’t think the demand will be as strong as the iPhone 6 and 6S.” He is offering the iPhone SE at a $20 discount to the official price in China.

In the past, scalpers have been able to charge a premium of roughly $300 over the official price for a newly released iPhone, but one Hong Kong smuggler who refused to be named said he expected to charge just $30 above the listed price for the iPhone SE.

«

First time I’ve heard 3.4m pre-orders described as a problem. (Any Android OEM’s CEO would gnaw off her/his arm to get that many pre-orders for a 4in phone.) And the black market angle has become less and less relevant in China over time, now that all the main networks and lots of retailers, sell iPhones.
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The Next 40 » Asymco

Apple has hit 40 years old; Horace Dediu reflects on what successful (as in, long-lived) companies are, or do:

»we must search for other names to call a company that delivers an enabler that may lead to progress. Crude categorization like the reporting of finances leads to self-deception and a loss of opportunity to understand. Firms are often victims of this self-deception because they start believing that customers buy the things they sell. They start to believe that what is on their financial reports is a reflection of the value they create. It’s a simple mistake to make, but a mistake which leads to catastrophe. If its data is mis-categorized, by chasing numbers the company runs away from opportunity, leaving it to competitors otherwise unencumbered with knowledge of numbers.

Assuming Apple avoids mis-categorizing what it does, will it be a “solutions” or “services” or “brand” company? Is it, as I used to say, a “blockbuster manufacturing line”?

Yes, and still that’s not all it could be. Nor is it enough to understand what will come.

My simple proposal is to think of Apple (and actually any company) as a customer creator. It creates and maintains customers. The more it creates, the more it prospers. The more customers it preserves the more it’s likely to persevere. This measure of performance for a company is not easy to obtain. It’s not a line item in any financial report.

«

The point that companies believe customers buy the things they sell is a mistake you see again and again.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: evaluating ebooks, EU’s tax quiz, no more Here on Windows, two cameras on iPhone 7?, and more

Hey, what if you put them in the back? Wouldn’t that get readership up? Photo by San Antonio Food Bank 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.

Moneyball for book publishers, for a detailed look at how we read » The New York Times

Alexandra Alter and Karl Russell:

»Andrew Rhomberg wants to be the Billy Beane of the book world.

Mr. Beane used analytics to transform baseball, famously recounted in “Moneyball,” a book by Michael Lewis. Now Mr. Rhomberg wants to use data about people’s reading habits to radically reshape how publishers acquire, edit and market books.

“We still know almost nothing about readers, especially in trade publishing,” said Mr. Rhomberg, the founder of Jellybooks, a reader analytics company based in London.

While e-books retailers like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble can collect troves of data on their customers’ reading behavior, publishers and writers are still in the dark about what actually happens when readers pick up a book. Do most people devour it in a single sitting, or do half of readers give up after Chapter 2? Are women over 50 more likely to finish the book than young men? Which passages do they highlight, and which do they skip?

Mr. Rhomberg’s company is offering publishers the tantalizing prospect of peering over readers’ shoulders. Jellybooks tracks reading behavior the same way Netflix knows what shows you binge-watch and Spotify knows what songs you skip…

…On average, fewer than half of the books tested were finished by a majority of readers. Most readers typically give up on a book in the early chapters. Women tend to quit after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50. Only 5% of the books Jellybooks tested were completed by more than 75% of readers. Sixty percent of books fell into a range where 25% to 50% of test readers finished them. Business books have surprisingly low completion rates.

«

link to this extract

 


Amazon comments on “table of contents” crackdown, inadvertently confirms Kindle Unlimited page count scam » The Digital Reader

Nate Hoffelder:

»As David Gaughran explained, and as was laid out in detail over on KBoards, scammers were using tricks “such as adding unnecessary or confusing hyperlinks, misplacing the TOC, or adding distracting content” to artificially  inflate the number of pages read by Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

This statistic matters because in July of last year Amazon started paying authors and publishers with ebooks in Kindle Unlimited by the number of pages read, rather than the number of times an ebook is borrowed. This was generally viewed as a response to authors who were cheating the system by uploading really short works and getting paid each time one was borrowed, and it was supposed to level the playing field by making sure that longer works are valued the same as a short story.

That’s the way things were supposed to work, but alas, the scammers are smarter than that.

«

They always are.
link to this extract

 


Apple, McDonald’s, Google and IKEA to face EU lawmakers over tax deals » Reuters

Foo Yun Chee:

»Apple, Google, McDonald’s and IKEA will be asked about their European tax deals on Wednesday as EU lawmakers ratchet up the pressure on multinationals to pay more tax on their profits locally.

The hearing, organized by the European Parliament’s tax committee, follows a similar event in November last year when Anheuser-Busch InBev, HSBC, Google and eight other companies were quizzed on the same subject.

While the committee has no power to order changes, the hearing reflects the political concerns over multinationals avoiding local tax liabilities.

«

link to this extract

 


Schell: Nintendo probably working on VR gaming device » GamesIndustry.biz

James Brightman:

»Here’s a quick overview of [Carnegie Mellon professor and game designer Jesse Schell’s] predictions:

1. This isn’t some fad, it’s going to stay. VR headsets in the market permanently starting this year.

2. By the end of 2017, 8m gamer headsets (meaning console/PC) will be sold. Schell adds it up as follows: 4m PlayStation VR headsets, 3m Oculus Rifts, and 1m Vives.

3. Schell said that “it’s like all of us have entered into a great conspiracy to bore gamers to death” and they are ready to buy new stuff. In general, there will be four mobile headsets for each gamer headset, he said.

4. Headset sales are going to double each year until saturation is reached, so by 2022 there will be 512m gamer headsets and 2bn mobile VR headsets.

«

Note that the HTC Vive won’t be setting the world on fire. And some people think that those are ambitious forecasts.
link to this extract

 


Here Maps drops support for Windows Phone and Windows 10 » The Verge

Tom Warren:

»[Nokia-owned] Here is announcing today that it plans to pull its mapping apps for Windows 10 on March 29th, and “will limit the development of the apps for Windows Phone 8 to critical bug fixes.” If you own one of the latest Lumia 950 handsets then Here maps will stop working after June 30th. If you’re still on a Windows Phone 8.1 device then Here maps will keep working, unless you upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile once it’s available in the coming weeks.

“We made the Here apps compatible with Windows 10 by using a workaround that will no longer be effective after June 30, 2016,” explains Here spokesperson Pino Bonetti. “To continue offering the HERE apps for Windows 10 would require us to redevelop the apps from the ground up, a scenario that led to the business decision to remove our apps from the Windows 10 store.”

Here is the latest in a line of high-profile apps that have started disappearing from Microsoft’s Windows Phone store. American Airlines, Chase Bank, Bank of America, NBC, Pinterest, and Kabam have all discontinued their Windows Phone apps in the past year. These huge apps have simply disappeared or will no longer be updated.

«

I remember when people were telling me here that Windows 10’s compatibility mode would solve everything in mobile, especially the app gap.
link to this extract

 


Explaining the struggles of Apple Pay and mobile payments » Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh:

»From the perspective of mainstream consumers, mobile payments are no more “mobile” than a credit card or cash. Security and privacy have never been a draw except for a vocal minority. The only benefit left is transaction processing time or “convenience”. Last year, most early adopters (and some analysts) argued that mobile payments were so much more convenient than existing payment solutions that it was only a matter of time until adoption exploded. Except, it hasn’t. And the longer you think about it, the more superficial this “convenience” argument seems.

If a “normal” iPhone user has to make a trip to the closest big box retailer, say Walmart, would Apple Pay improve his experience? Does saving ten seconds at the checkout counter matter when he has to wait ten minutes for his groceries to be scanned and bagged anyway? Even if the wait is a few minutes for other types of in-store purchases, the added convenience is minimal. At the very least, it isn’t enough of an experience boost to change the deeply-ingrained habit of pulling out a credit card. Now, if the credit card itself could save a few seconds, it would be actively utilized. And that’s a selling point for contactless payments, not for mobile payments.

«

True, but that’s only applicable in the US (where the survey comes from), where amazingly insecure but fast-to-use credit cards have been in use for decades; in Europe chip-and-PIN has been in use for much longer. Singh points out that in-app purchases are a better use, but I’d love to know how much Apple Pay is used for travel in London, where it’s accepted on the underground.
link to this extract

 


Egypt’s dirty wheat problem » Reuters

Eric Knecht, with an excellent investigation:

»President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made ending corruption – including graft in the wheat industry – one of his government’s priorities. In 2014, his government rolled out a system of smart cards designed to stop unscrupulous bakeries selling government-subsidised flour on the black market.

Cairo says the system has been a big success, saving millions of dollars in bread subsidies, reducing imports, and ending shortages that once prompted long queues outside bakeries across the country. Supplies Minister Khaled Hanafi told Egyptian reporters in late 2014 that roughly 50 percent of the country’s flour supply was stolen. In December last year he told Reuters that the new system had saved more than 6 billion Egyptian pounds ($766 million) worth of flour.

But industry officials, traders and bakers say those reforms have failed – and even made abuse of the system worse.

Eight sources in the wheat industry said the smart card system could be hacked, allowing some bakers to falsify receipts and request far more subsidised flour than they officially sold. Instead of reducing the amount of flour the state paid for, the critics said, the smart card system actually increased it. That triggered a wave of fraud higher up the supply chain that the sources say cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars last year.

«

Bread (or the lack of it) was one of the principal causes of the Arab spring, in Egypt and elsewhere. So this matters.
link to this extract

 


Google faces challenges in encrypting Android phones » WSJ

Jack Nicas:

»“There is a push and pull with what Google wants to mandate and what the [manufacturers] are going to do,” said Andrew Blaich, lead security analyst at Bluebox Security Inc., which helps secure mobile apps. In some ways, Google is “at the mercy of the larger (manufacturers) like Samsung and LG that are driving the ecosystem.”

When phones aren’t encrypted, law enforcement can more easily view their contents. Authorities use specialized software to crack passcodes on locked—but unencrypted—Android devices in about an hour, said an investigator for France’s Gendarmerie Nationale.

The Manhattan district attorney said in November that investigators can bypass passcodes on some older Android devices, while Google can remotely reset passcodes on others. His office said encryption “will make it impossible for Google to…assist with device data extraction.”

Google said it complied with 63% of 65,500 government requests for user data in the 12 months ending in June 2015.

«

link to this extract

 


Apple iPhone 7 Plus dual camera module leak suggests advanced AR and 3D scanning capabilities » Pocket-lint

Luke Edwards:

»Sources of Pocket Now based in Taiwan have leaked the dual-lens camera module that they claim will appear in the iPhone 7 Plus. There is no word on it being in the standard iPhone 7 though. The source claims that the camera will be a first for the way it works.
The dual-camera will shoot one 12-megapixel standard focal length photo while the other lens will shoot a 12-megapixel shot in telephoto with up to three times zoom. That helps to explain the varying lens sizes shown in the module.

Apple recently bought Israeli start-up LinX which specialises in gathering camera depth information. This can allow for tricks like removing the subject from the background by gauging depth. It could conceivably also allow the phone the ability to scan real world objects into a virtual representation, or help to offer better depth for augmented reality applications.

«

Set a baseline, build on it. Suggests built-in VR/AR capabilities would be about three years out.
link to this extract

 


Radio Times: 6,000 readers’ views on BBC ignored by government » The Guardian

John Plunkett:

»The government has rebuffed a request to reopen its consultation into the future of the BBC after the Radio Times claimed 6,000 of its readers’ responses had been ignored.

The magazine said the government had never asked for the password to open an encrypted memory stick on which the responses were sent.

The culture secretary, John Whittingdale, said earlier this month that “every response we received matters. Every response we received has been read”, but the Radio Times said it had “serious concerns” that the “important voice” of its readers on the future of the BBC had been ignored.

Radio Times editor Ben Preston, writing under the headline “A broken promise”, in the new issue of the Radio Times published on Tuesday, said: “Is this shameful mess the result of a conspiracy or a cock-up? Or both?”

«

A very neat way to expose lying by the government. But this sort of action by Whittingdale’s dogma-crazed team is exactly what leads to people first becoming indifferent to politicians (“it won’t make any difference”), and then angry when it’s about something that does affect them. And then you get Donald Trump. (Don’t think the anger exposed by Trump will go away if he doesn’t win. It will continue boiling underneath.)

That’s why Whittingdale should apologise, admit the error, and read the submissions. He should also have a TV tuned to any of the main American networks on in a corner of his office, so he discovers what life without the BBC, and with a million adverts per hour, is like.
link to this extract

 


The snooper’s charter is flying through parliament. Don’t think it’s irrelevant to you » The Guardian

Scarlet Kim:

»Should the British bill pass in its current form, the UK government will have the power to force Apple and other technology companies to undermine the security of their products and services. The bill permits the agencies to hack – the government calls this “equipment interference” – to obtain “communications” or “any other information”, including through surveillance techniques, such as remotely “monitoring, observing or listening to a person’s communications or other activities”.

The bill authorises agencies to compel “telecommunications providers” to assist them in effecting a hacking warrant, unless “not reasonably practicable”. Apple has pointed out that the term “telecommunications provider” is so broadly defined as to expand the government’s “reach beyond UK borders to … any service provider with a connection to UK customers”. Apple and other technology companies have spoken against many provisions of the investigatory powers bill. In particular, they have noted that the bill “seems to threaten to extend responsibility for hacking from government to the private sector” and rejected “any proposals that would require companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products”.

«

And yet it is just barrelling through Parliament, without any reflection. The result is obvious – Apple will build a phone that even it cannot hack. (Software updates are something the user has to agree to.)
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: US parties v internet, see UK power flow!, Twitter’s broken park, decrypting Samsung, and more

What if Google makes Android proprietary and closes it off? Photo by romainguy on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Count them if you dare repeat a machine’s work. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Amazon is recalling power adapters bundled with the UK version of the Fire 7 and Fire 7 Kids edition due to risk of electric shock » Android Police

Jeff Beck (not that Jeff Beck):

» If you live in the UK or Ireland and own one of Amazon’s affordable 7in tablets, then you need to request a new charger. Amazon has noted that a small quantity of the chargers bundled with these devices have had their housing detach when being removed from the wall, creating a risk of electric shock (no, they are not a fire hazard).

The recall applies to all Fire 7 and Fire 7 Kid’s Edition tablets sold in the UK and Ireland since September 2015. The faulty chargers have the model number FABK7B, which is found on the charger’s face as indicated in the image below.

Amazon is offering a free exchange to affected customers through a voluntary recall. If you own one of these devices you can visit this page to find instructions on the exchange process.

«

link to this extract

 


The voters decide » Stratechery

Ben Thompson analyses the US election not from the standpoint of politics or policies, but asking how the internet has changed – and is changing – how it works:

»step back to the world as it was: the one where newspapers (and TV stations, etc.) were gatekeepers thanks to their ownership of production and distribution. In this world any viable political campaign had to play nicely with those who ran the press in the hopes of gaining positive earned media, endorsements, etc. Just as important, though, was the need to buy advertising, as that was the only way to reach voters at scale. And advertising required lots of money, which meant donors. And then, once the actual election rolled around, a campaign needed an effective GOTV effort, which took not only money but also the sort of manpower that could only be rustled up by organizations like labor unions, churches, etc.

It is all these disparate pieces: partisan media members, advertisers, donors, large associations, plus consultants and specialists to manage them that, along with traditional politicians, made up the “party” in the The Party Decides.…

…What is critical to understand when it comes to this more broad-based definition of a “party” is that its goals are not necessarily aligned with a majority of voters.

«

It’s the same misalignment that one sees repeatedly in the technology industry. And now the Republican machinery – and to a lesser extent the Democrats – are paying the price. Definitely one to read, and consider, in full.
link to this extract

 


Adblocking is a ‘modern-day protection racket’, says culture secretary » The Guardian

Jane Martinson:

»Adblocking companies acting as a “modern-day protection racket” have been slammed by culture secretary John Whittingdale, who offered government support to those such as newspaper websites hit by the technology.

In a speech at the Oxford Media Convention, the culture secretary said the fast-growing use of software that blocked advertising presented an existential threat to the newspaper and music industries.

He vowed to set up a round table involving major publishers, social media groups and adblocking companies in the coming weeks to do something about the problem.

“Quite simply – if people don’t pay in some way for content, then that content will eventually no longer exist,” he said. “And that’s as true for the latest piece of journalism as it is for the new album from Muse.”

“Ten years ago, the music and film industries faced a threat to their very existence from online copyright infringement by illegal file-sharing or pirate sites,” he added.

He said that in the current climate, adblocking potentially posed a “similar threat”.

«

Important difference: unlike file-sharing or using pirate sites, adblocking is not illicit. And that round table has already happened: Eyeo, which controls AdBlock Plus, had one in February. Notice also that the proposed round table is missing representation from one key group: the users who are blocking ads.
link to this extract

 


What if the San Bernardino shooters had been using a Samsung Galaxy phone? » The Washington Post

Hayley Tsukayama and Andrea Peterson:

»According to a Samsung spokeswoman, the encryption option is turned on by default for the Galaxy S6 — and the forthcoming Marshmallow-powered Galaxy S7 — so it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

The government would be unlikely to go to Google for help getting into a phone, said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. Not only is the Android landscape complicated, but manufacturers, not Google, are in charge of signing the security certificates that prove their software is authentic, he said.

And Google wouldn’t be able to get past security measures on other company’s devices. According to Google, it generally can’t update the firmware — code that controls a phone’s chips, processors and other hardware — on phones it doesn’t make, meaning it can’t modify a phone to accept new software…

… because Android is set up the way it is, law enforcement may have a few more avenues of entry, said Tyler Shields, vice president for strategy at web application security firm Signal Sciences. He said that “the update chain ends up going from Android, to the hardware provider and to the service provider — everyone has their hand in the process.” And that means, in theory, the government may be able to turn to more than one actor in that chain if they wanted to deliver software changes to a device – which the government wants Apple to do in the case of the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

But with Apple, the options are limited.

«

Samsung says in a statement that it’s against backdoors.
link to this extract

 


The demise of user research? » Medium

Nalini Kotamraju:

»“In a few short years, user research will no longer exist!”

I declared boldly — if, in retrospect, a bit riskily — during my job interview for Salesforce last year. Despite my prediction (or maybe because of it?), Salesforce hired me to lead user research for Salesforce’s CoreUX team. My blunt statement was not, of course, a repudiation of user research; I believe that user research is essential for any company to create great experiences for its customers and users. User research, is however, at a transitional moment, as fellow user researchers at other companies have also noted.

«

I wonder how this prediction – which leans heavily on growing use of automated tools to measure user experience “directly”, and quantitative analysis – looks when you weigh it against the direct experience of the user in the link below.
link to this extract

 


Twitter has become a park filled with bats and perverts » NY Mag

Julieanne Smolinski, a journalist and TV writer, is taking a break from Twitter after being harassed by multiple multiple-account-creating jerks, who Twitter says are “not breaching terms of service”:

»Let me try to explain how I see it. Twitter is like a beloved public park that used to be nice, but now has a rusty jungle gym, dozens of really persistent masturbators, and a nighttime bat problem. Eventually the Parks Department might rip up the jungle gym, and make some noise about fixing the other problems, because that’s what invisible administrators like Twitter staff and municipal recreation departments tend to do. But if the perverts and the bats got to be bad enough with no recourse, you’d probably just eventually stop going.

(Additionally frustrating is that everybody is complaining about the safety issues at the park, and instead of addressing them, the city installs a crazy new slide. What? Nobody was calling for that. What about the perverts? What about the bats?)

I support public parks, and I support free speech. But getting bombarded with epithets and graphic images does not a love for humanity foster. I don’t know where these beardos got the idea that the First Amendment says, “Do whatever the fuck you want, it’s spring break, bitches.” Why do the laws of order and decency not apply to spaces where other people can’t tell you through basic social cues, or, barring that, Tasing, that you’re being a real asshole?

Technology has essentially ziplined past all the difficult social contract and legal infrastructure and face-to-face accountability that led us to negotiate limits on day-to-day expression. And instead of building any of that stuff, instead of addressing basic concerns of safety and gestalt and culture, our most popular platforms seem more concerned with “Haha”-face buttons and silly new engagement models.

I’d like to shift priorities. I want to elevate the need to address that people (particularly women) are being freely terrorized above whether or not a heart or a star is a more fun shape. And until that happens I can take walks and have picnics somewhere else.

«

link to this extract

 


Google – closed source » Radio Free Mobile

Richard Windsor:

»Android L (5.0) is currently on just 34.1% of Google’s Android devices despite having been available for around 18 months which corresponds to the penetration one would expect with virtually no updates being made.

This is a massive problem because it means that any innovations that Google makes to Android to compete against iOS, Windows or China will take 4 years to fully penetrate into its user base.
In my opinion this renders the innovation worse than useless as it will be fully visible to the competition who can copy it and get it into the market long before Google can.

This is why I think that Google has to take complete control of Android culminating in the migration of the Android Run Time (ART) from the Android Open Source Package (AOSP) into Google’s own proprietary Google Mobile Services (GMS). Its recent [court] loss in its war with Oracle has given Google the perfect excuse to close down its version of Android and blame Oracle when developers complain.

I don’t think that this is likely to happen this year, but in 2017, I see the possibility for Android to follow its little brothers Android Auto and Android Wear in becoming fully closed and proprietary. This would allow Google to roll everything up into a single release and distribute it through Google Play, thereby fixing the endemic fragmentation and distribution problems in one go.

«

Windsor’s point that the penetration of each version of Android is no more than you’d expect from simple sales is well made. And if it does become a sort of Windows, bypassing OEMs for updates, that would allow it to monetise (through the newer features of later releases) more effectively.

Might be a tough one for the “Android is open, open wins” crowd to explain, though. (Some of them are inside Google.)
link to this extract

 


G. B. National Grid status » Templar

Ooh! It’s the UK’s national grid activity from moment to moment. With dials so you can pretend you’re actually running it. (Shout into a microphone if it will make you feel more important.) Damn renewables need to pull their weight, though. Coal, nuclear and CCGT (combined cycle gas turbines) generating pretty much everything; wind just 12%. (Via Kate Craig-Wood)
link to this extract

 


Facebook executive jailed in Brazil set to be released Wednesday » Reuters

Brad Haynes:

»A senior Facebook Inc executive arrested in Brazil is likely to be released after spending nearly 24 hours in jail due to a dispute over a court order demanding data from the company’s WhatsApp messaging service in a drug-trafficking investigation.

A press representative for the court in Sergipe state that is handling the case said Diego Dzodan, who is Facebook vice president for Latin America, would likely be released in Sao Paulo on Wednesday morning after a judge overturned a lower court decision.

Law enforcement officials withheld further information about the nature of their request to the messaging service that Facebook Inc acquired in 2014, saying that doing so could compromise an ongoing criminal investigation.

«

Just a warning, then.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: who backs the FBI?, Google gets RCS, LG goes modular, Linux Mint backdoored, and more

Does the American public back Apple or the FBI in the fight over encryption? Photo by IceNineJon on Flickr.

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After Jibe Mobile buy, Google to provide carriers with Android RCS client » TechCrunch

Natasha Lomas is very unimpressed by Google’s announcement with carriers at MWC:

»at the time of the acquisition of [RCS app maker] Jibe [in September 2015], telecoms analyst Dean Bubley suggested Mountain View’s move was actually aimed at building its own Android-to-Android iMessage competitor — a theory he’s still not ruling out, so perhaps Google still has some hopes on that front.

Albeit, Bubley couches Google’s latest RCS pronouncement as “very lukewarm”, noting it has not specified the client will be on all Android devices, for example, even if what is clearly carrier-written PR talks about reaching “all Android devices” — which would encompasses an awful lot of hardware these days, from phones to smart TVs, to smartwatches and more. (We’ve asked Google for some clarity here and will update this post with any response).

A Google spokeswoman said: “Once deployed, the Universal RCS Client will come standard for all Android devices globally, providing a more consistent experience with more advanced features.”  To be clear, that’s ‘standard’ in the sense of OEMs and carriers being able to choose to install it — so not universal, not mandated by Google and thus most certainly fragmented. (Also on fragmentation the spokeswoman confirmed that currently the client only works on phones and tablets, so not all Android devices by any means.)

There’s also no clear timeframe on when Google will be delivering the RCS client. (The spokeswoman had no concrete commitments to impart here, saying only that Google is “planning to launch later this year”.) And, as noted above, without ubiquity it’s going to mean fragmentation keeps RCS-powered messaging apps from building the sought for mass messaging momentum via the platform.

«

Expectations that Google would introduce a sort of iMessage-like app across all Android devices via Google Play seem overblown. It’s also not very private.
link to this extract

 


October 2015: Android 6.0 re-implements mandatory storage encryption for new devices » Ars Technica

Andrew Cunningham in October 2015:

»Shortly after the announcement of iOS 8 in 2014, Google made headlines by saying that it would make full-device encryption mandatory for new Android devices running version 5.0. It then made more headlines several months later when we discovered that the company backed down, “strongly recommending” that Android device makers enable encryption but stopping short of actually requiring it.

Now Google has published an updated version of the Android Compatibility Definition Document (PDF) for Android 6.0, and it looks like mandatory encryption is back with a couple of exceptions. New devices that come with Marshmallow and have AES crypto performance above 50MiB-per-second need to support encryption of the private user data partition (/data) and the public data partition (/sdcard).

«

Still unclear which devices actually implement this. Is there a table or list anywhere?
link to this extract

 


More support for Justice Department than for Apple in dispute over unlocking iPhone » Pew Research Center

»As the standoff between the Department of Justice and Apple Inc. continues over an iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, 51% say Apple should unlock the iPhone to assist the ongoing FBI investigation. Fewer Americans (38%) say Apple should not unlock the phone to ensure the security of its other users’ information; 11% do not offer an opinion on the question.

News about a federal court ordering Apple to unlock the suspect’s iPhone has registered widely with the public: 75% say they have heard either a lot (39%) or a little (36%) about the situation.

«

Survey of 1,002 adults, so statistically valid (as you’d expect from Pew). The FBI, as we knew, has chosen its fight carefully.
link to this extract

 


Hacker explains how he put “backdoor” in hundreds of Linux Mint downloads » ZDNet

Zack Whittaker:

»The surprise announcement of the hack was made Saturday by project leader Clement Lefebvre, who confirmed the news.

Lefebvre said in a blog post that only downloads from Saturday were compromised, and subsequently pulled the site offline to prevent further downloads.

The hacker responsible, who goes by the name “Peace,” told me in an encrypted chat on Sunday that a “few hundred” Linux Mint installs were under their control [for a botnet] – a significant portion of the thousand-plus downloads during the day.

But that’s only half of the story.

Peace also claimed to have stolen an entire copy of the site’s forum twice — one from January 28, and most recently February 18, two days before the hack was confirmed.

The hacker shared a portion of the forum dump, which we verified contains some personally identifiable information, such as email addresses, birthdates, profile pictures, as well as scrambled passwords.

Those passwords might not stay that way for much longer. The hacker said that some passwords have already been cracked, with more on the way. (It’s understood that the site used PHPass to hash the passwords, which can be cracked.)

«

These days I operate on the default assumption that any site into which I put personal information will get hacked eventually. On that basis I’m parsimonious with such information.

Backdoors in Linux, though – not good. (Mint is reckoned to be the third most popular distro.)
link to this extract

 


LG’s G5 is a radical reinvention of the flagship Android smartphone » The Verge

Vlad Savov on the “Friends” additions for the LG G5:

»A small key on the side of the phone pops open its lower section, which can be pulled out along with the battery, then the battery is fitted into the next module and that straps back into the phone. The whole process sounds finicky, but there’s nothing flimsy about the way LG has constructed either the phone, its battery, or the extras, so everything can be done quickly and forcefully. And yes, it really does feel like loading a fresh clip into your gun.

The first plug-in module is the LG Cam Plus, which offers an enlarged camera grip for single-handed photography and also contains extra battery power. This Friend is decorated with a physical shutter button, a dedicated video recording key, an LED indicator, and a very satisfying jog dial to control zoom on the G5. You’re still using the two cameras built into the phone itself, but this extra part essentially reshapes the device and gives it extra juice to keep going for 6 to 8 hours longer, expanding the battery from 2,800mAh to 4,000mAh.

The LG Hi-Fi Plus is an external 32-bit DAC and amplifier combo unit, tuned in collaboration with Bang & Olufsen. It supports native DSD playback and will come with a pair of H3 B&O Play earphones. Unlike the Cam Plus, this module doesn’t really affect the shape or ergonomics of the G5. It just makes it a little longer and breaks up its color synchronicity (the Hi-Fi Plus is a matte black, whereas the phones vary between silver, gold, pink, and a graphite shade that LG calls “titan”). Importantly, the Hi-Fi Plus will process and upsample content from any app producing sound on the phone, including YouTube clips.

Also making their debut today are the LG 360 Cam and LG 360 VR headset. The camera is a dual-sensor spherical camera that captures either 16-megapixel stills or up to 2K video and will have immediate support from YouTube 360 and Google Street View.

«

And there’s even a VR headset. Price? “Reasonable,” according to LG, not giving a price. I’m unsure that “Friends” will get enough traction unless they’re available on all LG’s smartphones – but in that case, why would you buy the G5? Modularity in the handset kills premium pricing even faster than OS modularity.
link to this extract

 


Smartphone ownership and internet usage continues to climb in emerging economies » Pew Research Center

»For smartphone ownership, the digital divide between less advanced economies and developed economies is 31 points in 2015. But smartphone ownership rates in emerging and developing nations are rising at an extraordinary rate, climbing from a median of 21% in 2013 to 37% in 2015. And overwhelming majorities in almost every nation surveyed report owning some form of mobile device, even if they are not considered “smartphones.”

«

link to this extract

 


Telegraph suspends comment on relaunched online content » The Guardian

Mark Sweney:

»The Telegraph has suspended online comment on stories and features “until further notice” as part of a review of the way the newspaper engages with its audience.

As part of the relaunch of Telegraph.co.uk, the company is also researching whether to reinstate the facility. The print edition of the newspaper has recently been given a new look.

The roll-out of the new-look site is being done in stages with travel, TV, lifestyle and technology sections already live, but with comments turned off. The parts of the site that have not yet been included in the redesign still allow comments.

A spokesman for the Telegraph said: “In the process of migrating its site to a new online platform, the Telegraph has suspended the comment function in some areas under transition until further notice.

“It’s also undertaking research to understand the best way to support reader engagement, but in the meantime they can continue to comment on and share articles through Telegraph Facebook pages, or via Twitter, in the usual way.”

«

“In the usual way”? Anyway; another one onto the list. I should be totting these up.
link to this extract

 


In search of a business model: the future of journalism in an age of social media and dramatic declines in print revenue » Shorenstein Center

»Nicco Mele [former deputy publisher of the Los Angeles Times] described a deepening crisis in the newspaper industry: although some outlets are seeing the largest online audiences they have ever had, revenue is still shrinking. On a local level, preprint advertising (e.g. coupons) has seen a steep decline as retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy face challenges of their own. Paradoxically, print advertising still generates the vast majority of newspaper revenue – an undesirable situation, given the cost of printing.

“If the next three years look like the last three years, I think we’re going to look at the 50 largest metropolitan papers in the country and expect somewhere between a third to a half of them to go out of business,” said Mele.

Mele noted that newer entrants such as Buzzfeed, Vox and Vice rely in large part on venture capital. “None of them are yet true public companies with a clear sense of what their revenue equation looks like,” he said.

And although philanthropic and government funding could be options, Mele stressed the importance of news outlets remaining economically independent from large institutions to better fulfill their duty of holding power accountable.

What is clear is that diversity in revenue streams will be an essential part of the future, said Mele, and part of the mix could include two effective but “underappreciated” options: subscription revenue and native content.

«

The point about Buzzfeed, Vice and Vox is pretty keen: they’re still amped up on the sugar of VC money.
link to this extract

 


A skeleton key of unknown strength » Dan Kaminsky’s Blog

Kaminsky is a security researcher of some renown; here is his take on the bug in glibc, a very widely used C library:

»Patch this bug.  You’ll have to reboot your servers.  It will be somewhat disruptive.  Patch this bug now, before the cache traversing attacks are discovered, because even the on-path attacks are concerning enough.  Patch.  And if patching is not a thing you know how to do, automatic patching needs to be something you demand from the infrastructure you deploy on your network.  If it might not be safe in six months, why are you paying for it today?

It’s important to realize that while this bug was just discovered, it’s not actually new.  CVE-2015-7547 has been around for eight years.  Literally, six weeks before I unveiled my own grand fix to DNS (July 2008), this catastrophic code was committed.

Nobody noticed.

The timing is a bit troublesome, but let’s be realistic:  there’s only so many months to go around.  The real issue is it took almost a decade to fix this new issue, right after it took a decade to fix my old one (DJB didn’t quite identify the bug, but he absolutely called the fix).  The Internet is not less important to global commerce than it was in 2008. Hacker latency continues to be a real problem.

What maybe has changed over the years is the strangely increasing amount of talk about how the Internet is perhaps too secure.  I don’t believe that, and I don’t believe anyone in business (or even with a credit card) does either.

«

Wonder whose commit it was.
link to this extract

 


Customer Letter – FAQ » Apple

Apple has added on some answers to its “Customer Letter” from last week:

»Q: The government says your objection appears to be based on concern for your business model and marketing strategy. Is that true?

A: Absolutely not. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is and always has been about our customers. We feel strongly that if we were to do what the government has asked of us — to create a backdoor to our products — not only is it unlawful, but it puts the vast majority of good and law abiding citizens, who rely on iPhone to protect their most personal and important data, at risk.

Q: Is there any other way you can help the FBI?
A: We have done everything that’s both within our power and within the law to help in this case. As we’ve said, we have no sympathy for terrorists.

We provided all the information about the phone that we possessed. We also proactively offered advice on obtaining additional information. Even since the government’s order was issued, we are providing further suggestions after learning new information from the Justice Department’s filings.

One of the strongest suggestions we offered was that they pair the phone to a previously joined network, which would allow them to back up the phone and get the data they are now asking for. Unfortunately, we learned that while the attacker’s iPhone was in FBI custody the Apple ID password associated with the phone was changed. Changing this password meant the phone could no longer access iCloud services.

«

“It’s not our fault they acted like bozos.”
link to this extract

 


Can the government compel Apple to speak? » Lawfare

Andrew Keane Woods (assistant professor of law at the University of Kentucky College of Law, formerly at Stanford as a cybersecurity fellow) on the 1st Amendment implications of the Apple/FBI case:

»code can be a form of speech. The lock-swapping mechanism required in this case would require Apple’s engineers to sit down at a computer and start writing.  And that action, as courts recognized long ago, is speech. In Bernstein v. Department of Justice, the Electronic Frontier Foundation successfully argued that Daniel J. Bernstein, then a graduate student at Berkeley, had a constitutionally protected right to publish his source code, despite the government’s efforts to block it. (Fittingly enough, the code was for encryption software, which the government tried to suppress on the theory that encryption software is a munition subject to export controls.)

If code is speech, and the government is compelling Apple to code, then it looks an awful lot like the government is compelling speech. That does not resolve the issue, of course, but it opens up a new field for debate – one that has not receive enough attention. The government will respond to this claim by noting that Apple’s code is a far cry from the pledge of allegiance, and therefore does not raise the Establishment Clause concerns that applied in [the case of] Barnette [where schoolchildren were being required, against the constitution, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance]. Maybe. Apple will reply that their word is their most important asset, and that the federal government is compelling them to say something they do not believe.

«

This point hasn’t been much mentioned, but is sure to be brought up. The ramifications of this case really are fascinating.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Google adds ads, HTC nears Vive, Watch wrinkles and worries, FBI v Apple redux, and more

It’s the Samsung Galaxy S7! Looks completely unlike previous ones, right? Photo by Janitors 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 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Four ads on top: the wait is over » Moz

Peter Meyers:

»For the past couple of months, Google has been testing SERPs with 4 ads at the top of the page (previously, the top ad block had 1-3 ads), leading to a ton of speculation in the PPC community. Across the MozCast data set, 4 ads accounted for only about 1% of SERPs with top ads (which matches testing protocol, historically). Then, as of yesterday, this happened:

Over the past 2 weeks, we’ve seen a gradual increase, but on the morning of February 18, the percentage of top ads blocks displaying 4 ads jumped to 18.9% (it’s 19.3% as of this morning). Of the 5,986 page-1 SERPs in our tracking data that displayed top ads this morning, here’s how the ad count currently breaks down:

As you can see, 4-ad blocks have overtaken 2-ad blocks and now account for almost one-fifth of all top ad blocks. Keep in mind that this situation is highly dynamic and will continue to change over time. At the 19% level, though, it’s unlikely that this is still in testing.

«

Google came up in a time when search engine results pages (SERPs) were stuffed with paid-for ads. Google’s clean results page was different. Now the other search engines have gone away. And SERPs are becoming stuffed with ads again.
link to this extract

 


Phone makers look to add-on gizmos to revitalize market » Reuters

Meanwhile, there’s that event called Mobile World Congress going on in Barcelona this week. Paul Sandle notes the pressures on “traditional” handset makers:

»while the competition [among handset makers] intensifies true innovation has not, with the Barcelona show expected to feature instead other products that connect to phones, like all-round cameras capable of producing immersive views, new wearable devices and electronic gadgets for the home or workplace that use smartphones as a processing hub.

As usual Apple will be absent, preferring to run its own events for new product launches.

“We will see a lot of stuff around 360-degree cameras and virtual reality headsets with a smartphone,” said Francisco Jeronimo, an analyst with research firm IDC. “Commodities rather than innovation”, said Forester analyst Thomas Huston.

“I don’t expect true innovation, it’s going to be more about the specifications, the better processing power, the battery life,” he said.

“What’s the benefit for consumers? I think it will be very limited.”

«

link to this extract

 


Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge: curvier, faster, micro SD expansion — available March 11 » Ars Technica UK

Mark Walton:

»In a surprise move, those that pre-order in the UK and US will receive a free Galaxy Gear VR headset to go along with their shiny new phone.

At first glance—besides their larger screen sizes—both phones look largely identical to their predecessors, the S7 sporting a flat glass front, and the S7 Edge sporting a curved display that gently folds in at the edges to the meet the aluminium body. Both phones will be available in Black Onyx and Gold Platinum, with the S7 Edge also available in Silver Titanium. Unfortunately for fans of 4K, both the S7 and S7 Edge are rocking 2560×1440 pixel displays. The most noticeable design change comes to the rear of the phone, where the dreaded camera bump has been removed to to make the camera module flush with the body. Surprisingly, this hasn’t affected the thickness of the phones, which remain fairly svelte at 7.9mm for the S7 and 7.7mm for the S7 Edge. The regular S7 also gains a curved back like the Galaxy Note 5.

Perhaps more exciting is that the S7 and S7 Edge both feature a microSD card slot, a much requested feature that was removed from the S6. Both phones will ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which allows users to merge the SD card with the internal flash memory to create one large seamless pool of storage, making the SD card slot a welcome addition. Also back is water and dust resistance, which was previously found in the Galaxy S5 but was skipped over for the S6. The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are both rated IP68, which equates to “totally dust tight” and prolonged submersion in water (the S5 was IP67, which is only “temporary immersion”).

There’s nothing too surprising happening on the inside, aside from the bump up to 4GB of RAM.

«

Don’t think this will make the slightest difference to the general arc of smartphone sales. I doubt these will sell better than either the S5 or S6 or S6 Edge. Water/dust resistance didn’t help the S5; and the Edge feature didn’t change anything much in sales terms.
link to this extract

 


The consumer version of HTC’s Vive VR headset will arrive in April for $799 with two free games » Android Police

Michael Crider:

»The headset is nearing completion, and the company has announced that the final consumer model will ship in early April for the disappointing price of $799. For that price you get two motion-sensing controllers, two room scale sensors, and VR games Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives and Fantastic Contraption. Pre-orders begin next week on February 29th.

Unlike Google Cardboard, Samsung’s Gear VR, and other systems that rely on a smartphone as a slide-in display, the Vive is a fully contained unit with screens, optical lenses, sensors, a camera and microphone, and other electronics built into the device itself. Like the Oculus, it needs a standard PC (and a quite powerful one) to send video and process images for gaming and other applications. Early reports of the Vive have praised it as an impressive experience, particularly with games that have been developed specifically for the platform. However, the Vive will also be able to connect to at least some smartphones via Bluetooth for answering phone calls and viewing notifications, perhaps allowing HTC some synergy with its phone lines.

«

“The headset is nearing completion”? I’m hoping that’s just a loose version of “it’s nearly public”. If it isn’t complete yet, they’ve got some problems. (As for “synergy” – dream on.)
link to this extract

 


Watch apps worth making » David Smith

Smith has shipped 11 Watch apps over the past year:

»There seem to be only three kinds of apps that make sense given the current hardware and software on the Apple Watch.

1: Notifications — Not really an “app” in the traditional sense but getting real-time alerts of things that are important to me is great. Any iOS app that sends notifications should do the basic work to make sure they look and perform well on the Apple Watch.

2: Complications — Showing timely information at the raise of the wrist. These are probably the most practically useful apps on my watch. I typically have my watch show me the current temperature, my current step count, and battery percent. All of which present me with timely information that is useful to know now.

3: Sensors — The last kind of app that has actually stuck for me on the Apple Watch are apps that make use of the sensors on the watch. These apps are essentially impossible to re-create on an iPhone. The Apple Watch includes a heart rate monitor, accelerometer and microphone. I don’t think the range and variety of uses for these has been fully explored yet. Having these sensors persistently attached to your body is very different than any use you might come up with on an iPhone.

«

Completely agree. More sensors would be really useful (even sensors relaying stuff from the phone, as the weather is).

link to this extract

 


Exclusive: common mobile software could have opened San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone » Reuters

Jim Finkle:

»The legal showdown over U.S. demands that Apple Inc AAPL.O unlock an iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Rizwan Farook might have been avoided if his employer, which owns the device, had equipped it with special mobile phone software it issues to many workers.

San Bernardino County, which employed Farook as an environmental health inspector, requires some, but not all, of its workers to install mobile-device management software made by Silicon Valley-based MobileIron Inc MOBL.O on government-issued phones, according to county spokesman David Wert.

That software is designed to secure corporate data. It also allows information technology departments to remotely unlock phones, even without assistance of the phone’s users or access to the password needed to open the phone and unscramble the data.

“If that particular iPhone was using MobileIron, the county’s IT department could unlock it,” MobileIron Vice President Ojas Rege told Reuters.

«

So there was huge confusion around this phone. Understandable: there’s a mass shooting, the fugitives escape surveillance, a phone is found. Perhaps it is bagged as evidence and its battery runs down, which means it can’t be forced to make an iCloud backup even on trusted Wi-Fi, and that you can’t ask Siri for details about phone calls. Then they reset the password (at the FBI’s request), which made things even worse.

A mess from start to finish – but given that Farook destroyed two other phones, how likely is it that this phone was used to communicate with anyone relevant? Answer: it’s extremely unlikely.
link to this extract

 


Reconciling perspectives: new report reframes encryption debate » Berkman Center

»The Berklett Cybersecurity Project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is pleased to announce the publication of a new report entitled “Don’t Panic: Making Progress on the ‘Going Dark’ Debate.” The report examines the high-profile debate around government access to encryption, and offers a new perspective gleaned from the discussion, debate, and analyses of an exceptional and diverse group of security and policy experts from academia, civil society, and the U.S. intelligence community.

“Many conversations on sensitive subjects of technology and security are productive because they’re among people who already agree,” said Prof. Jonathan Zittrain, faculty chair of the Berkman Center. “The aim of this project is to bring together people who come from very different starting points and roles, and who very rarely have a chance to speak frankly with one another. We want to come away with some common insights that could help push the discussion into some new territory.”

The report takes issue with the usual framing of the encryption debate and offers context and insights that widen the scope of the conversation to more accurately reflect the surveillance landscape both now and in the future.

«

Thanks Seth Finkelstein for the link.
link to this extract

 


Apple is selling you a phone, not civil liberties » Lawfare

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes:

»First, the Going Dark skeptics [who say that it’s OK for phones to be encrypted beyond the capability of companies or law enforcement to decrypt them] demand, show us the cases in which the absence of extraordinary law enforcement access to encrypted data is actually posing a problem. And this demand seemed quite reasonable, in our view. If the FBI wants to take the position that it has a problem, it has to do more than cry wolf. Show us the wolf.

And in the last couple of weeks, the bureau has shown some serious wolf. Consider this excerpt from Director James Comey’s testimony before Congress last week: “A woman was murdered in Louisiana last summer, eight months pregnant, killed, no clue as to who did it, except her phone is there when she’s found killed. They couldn’t open it, still can’t open it. So the case remains unsolved.” (The discussion is available here starting at 31:00.)

Then came the filing in the San Bernardino case this week. Note that this is a case that has a potentially serious ISIS link. The FBI has been sitting on one of the shooter’s phones for more than two months, unable to open it. It wants Apple’s help to determine “who [the shooters] may have communicated with to plan and carry out the IRC shootings, where Farook and Malik may have traveled to and from before and after the incident, and other pertinent information that would provide more information about their and others’ involvement in the deadline shooting.”

This is, in other words, a law enforcement and intelligence interest of the highest order…

«

That Comey testimony, in this extract, is pretty thin gruel; her phone contains the whole answer to the crime? No clues in any physical evidence at all? No clues from her telephone records (which are available from the mobile carrier)? Nothing in her personal computer, assuming she has one? Nothing on any social media profiles, perhaps linked to Tinder? That’s a pretty remarkable murder, and the implication that all the necessary clues are locked inside her phone feels even more remarkable.

But it’s important to read viewpoints like this to realise what the other side of the argument is, and how it carries the same steamroller-style momentum that you might think the privacy/security one does.
link to this extract

 


No, Apple has not unlocked 70 iPhones for law enforcement » TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino:

»I keep seeing reports that Apple has unlocked “70 iPhones” for the government. And those reports argue that Apple is now refusing to do for the FBI what it has done many times before. This meme is completely inaccurate at best, and dangerous at worst.

There are two cases involving data requests by the government which are happening at the moment. There is a case in New York — in which Apple is trying really hard not to hand over customer information even though it has the tools to do so — and there is the case in California, where it is fighting an order from the FBI to intentionally weaken the security of a device to allow its passcode to be cracked by brute force. These are separate cases with separate things at stake.

The New York case involves an iPhone running iOS 7. On devices running iOS 7 and previous, Apple actually has the capability to extract data, including (at various stages in its encryption march) contacts, photos, calls and iMessages without unlocking the phones. That last bit is key, because in the previous cases where Apple has complied with legitimate government requests for information, this is the method it has used.

It has not unlocked these iPhones — it has extracted data that was accessible while they were still locked. The process for doing this is laid out in its white paper for law enforcement…

It’s worth noting that the government has some tools to unlock phones without Apple’s help, but those are hit and miss, and have nothing to do with Apple. It’s worth noting that in its statements to the court in the New York case, the government never says Apple unlocks devices, but rather that it bypasses the lock to extract the information.

«

Just to clear that up.
link to this extract

 


The colour of surveillance » Slate

Alvaro Bedoya:

»The FBI has a lead. A prominent religious leader and community advocate is in contact with a suspected sleeper agent of foreign radicals. The attorney general is briefed and personally approves wiretaps of his home and offices. The man was born in the United States, the son of a popular cleric. Even though he’s an American citizen, he’s placed on a watchlist to be summarily detained in the event of a national emergency. Of all similar suspects, the head of FBI domestic intelligence thinks he’s “the most dangerous,” at least “from the standpoint of … national security.”

Is this a lone wolf in league with foreign sponsors of terrorism? No: This was the life of Martin Luther King Jr. That FBI assessment was dated Aug. 30, 1963—two days after King told our country that he had a dream…

…Across our history and to this day, people of color have been the disproportionate victims of unjust surveillance; Hoover was no aberration. And while racism has played its ugly part, the justification for this monitoring was the same we hear today: national security.

The FBI’s violations against King were undeniably tinged by what historian David Garrow has called “an organizational culture of like-minded white men.” But as Garrow and others have shown, the FBI’s initial wiretap requests—and then–Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s approval of them—were driven by a suspected tie between King and the Communist Party. It wasn’t just King; Cesar Chavez, the labor and civil rights leader, was tracked for years as a result of vague, confidential tips about “a communist background,” as were many others.

«

link to this extract

 


October 2010: What’s really wrong with BlackBerry (and what to do about it) » Mobile Opportunity

Michael Mace, on an old post which happens to hold some useful insights that are worth remembering:

»When I worked at Apple, I spent a lot of time studying failed computer platforms. I thought that if we understood the failures, we might be able to prevent the same thing from happening to us.

I looked at everything from videogame companies to the early PC pioneers (companies like Commodore and Atari), and I found an interesting pattern in their financial results. The early symptoms of decline in a computing platform were very subtle, and easy for a business executive to rationalize away. By the time the symptoms became obvious, it was usually too late to do anything about them.

The symptoms to watch closely are small declines in two metrics: the rate of growth of sales, and gross profit per unit sold (gross margins). Here’s why:

Every computing platform has a natural pool of customers. Some people need or want the platform, and some people don’t. Your product spreads through its pool of customers via the traditional “diffusion” process — early enthusiasts first, late adopters at the end.

It’s relatively easy to get good revenue from the early adopters. They seek out innovations like yours, and are willing to pay top dollar for it. As the market for a computer system matures, the early adopters get used up, and the company starts selling to middle adopters who are more price-sensitive. In response to this, the company cuts prices, which results in a big jump in sales. Total revenue goes up, and usually overall profits as well. Everybody in the company feels good…

«

But trouble lies ahead.
link to this extract

 


Global smartwatch shipments overtake Swiss watch shipments in Q4 2015 » Strategy Analytics

»According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartwatch shipments reached 8.1m units in Q4 2015, compared with 7.9m Swiss Watch shipments. It is the first time ever that smartwatches have outshipped Swiss watches on a global basis.

Cliff Raskind, director at Strategy Analytics, said, “We estimate global smartwatch shipments reached 8.1m units in Q4 2015, rising a healthy 316% from 1.9m in Q4 2014. Smartwatches are growing rapidly in North America, Western Europe and Asia. Apple Watch captured an impressive 63% share of the global smartwatch market in Q4 2015, followed by Samsung with 16%. Apple and Samsung together account for a commanding 8 in 10 of all smartwatches shipped worldwide.”

Steven Waltzer, Analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, “We estimate global Swiss watch shipments reached 7.9m units in Q4 2015, falling 5% from 8.3m in Q4 2014. Global demand for Swiss watches is slowing down, and major players like Swatch are struggling to find growth.”

«

The lost 0.4m units doesn’t seem like a big problem at first. But then, nothing bad seems like a big problem at first – as above.
link to this extract

 


Peeling paint, website bugs: Ringing Bell’s ₹251 phone in a storm of controversies day after launch » Huffington Post

Ivan Mehta:

»It started on an off note after Manohar Parrikar, India’s defence minister, did not show up at the event hosted to launch the phone. The details given out about the phone’s specs were nothing if not vague. A Hindustan Times report suggested that when asked the policy behind the pricing of the phone, Ashok Chadha, an official from the company, said the real cost of the device was ₹2500, which will be recovered through a raft of measures like economies of scale, innovative marketing, reduction in duties and creating an e-commerce marketplace.

Pranav Dixit, Tech editor for the Hindustan Times also said in a Reddit AMA that he has received a letter from the Indian Cellular Association (ICA), written to telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, that estimates that the phone should cost at least USD 60 (Approx. ₹4100).

The phones handed over to the press all have an Adcom logo hidden behind a coat of white paint that easily peeled off. A report from Gadgets 360 suggested that phones handed out as review units were not the final products which will be shipped. That raises the question that who is building the final product? The report also says that Ringing Bells has not been registered at BIS, making their devices unsafe to use.

«

Gets worse. So, $4? Probably more like $40 in reality.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: FBI v Apple redux, Google’s Cloud Vision, fixing #error53, Iraq’s lost iridium, and more

You can always sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. Try it. Unless you’re reading the email.

A selection of 12 links for you. Remember, Friday is for life, not just for Christmas. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Statement on FBI-Apple court order » Congressman Ted Lieu

This might not be what you expect:

»Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) issued the following statement regarding the APPLE court order. Congressman Lieu is one of only four computer science majors in Congress.  Congressman Lieu is also the author of the ENCRYPT ACT of 2016.

“The terrorist attack in San Bernardino was horrific and the tragic loss of innocent lives demands a strong response.  I have several deep concerns, however, about the unprecedented court order that forces Apple to create software it does not have in order to provide a “back door” way to weaken its smartphone encryption system.

This FBI court order, by compelling a private sector company to write new software, is essentially making that company an arm of law-enforcement.   Private sector companies are not—and should not be—an arm of government or law enforcement.

This court order also begs the question: Where does this kind of coercion stop?  Can the government force Facebook to create software that provides analytic data on who is likely to be a criminal?  Can the government force Google to provide the names of all people who searched for the term ISIL?  Can the government force Amazon to write software that identifies who might be suspicious based on the books they ordered?”

«

link to this extract

 


A Linux-powered microwave oven [LWN.net]

Neil Brown:

»Adding a smartphone-like touchscreen and a network connection and encouraging a community to build innovative apps such as recipe sharing are fairly obvious ideas once you think to put “Linux” and “microwave oven” together, but Tulloh’s vision and prototype lead well beyond there. Two novel features that have been fitted are a thermal camera and a scale for measuring weight.

The thermal camera provides an eight-by-eight-pixel image of the contents of the oven with a precision of about two degrees. This is enough to detect if a glass of milk is about to boil over, or if the steak being thawed is in danger of getting cooked. In either case, the power can be reduced or removed. If appropriate, an alert can be sounded. This would not be the first microwave to be temperature sensitive — GE sold microwave ovens with temperature probes decades ago — but an always-present sensor is much more useful than a manually inserted probe, especially when there is an accessible API behind it.«

Just wait until you get onto the bit about making sure the door is shut (which is what stops you blasting the room with microwaves that would cook you).
link to this extract

 


Learning the Alphabet » The Verge

Ben Popper:

»For the most part, [Flint, Michigan schools technology director Dan] Davenport’s repository consisted of eight- to 10-year-old Dell desktops and laptops he had robbed of RAM and other components to help speed up or repair machines used by teachers. “We are left with these mismatched parts.” And yet, when he set the machines up to run Neverware’s Cloud Ready version of Chromium, they outperformed newer Windows machines the school was using. “If you are comparing what we used to run, Chrome and Neverware is a better experience for the end user.”

Davenport estimates that to get a new machine and the proper license, it would cost around $400 for each new Windows computer and $200 for each new Chromebook. “With Neverware it’s costing me 50 bucks.” The school is now adapting several computer labs to run Neverware chromebooks. “Hey, that’s an interesting model,” says Davenport with a chuckle. “Run on your oldest junk for next to no money.” The transformation at Ovid-Elsie is striking, but far from unique. It’s just one example of a much larger trend toward cloud computing, a paradigm shift that has radically reshaped the technological landscape at schools across the United States.

«

Popper says – in the first comment on the article – “I’ve been writing about Neverware since 2009. Pretty crazy how much things have changed since then.”

But the general point about Neverware, which tried to get Dell and HP interested but found none for lengthening PC life cycles, and cloud computing in schools, is well made. Certainly a threat to Microsoft in schools.
link to this extract

 


Google Cloud Vision API enters Beta, open to all to try! » Google Cloud Platform Blog

Ram Ramanathan, product manager:

»Today, we’re announcing the beta release of Google Cloud Vision API. Now anyone can submit their images to the Cloud Vision API to understand the contents of those images — from detecting everyday objects (for example, “sports car,” “sushi,” or “eagle”) to reading text within the image or identifying product logos.

With the beta release of Cloud Vision API, you can access the API with location of images stored in Google Cloud Storage, along with existing support of embedding an image as part of the API request. We’re also announcing pricing for Cloud Vision API and added additional capabilities to identify the dominant color of an image. For example, you can now apply Label Detection on an image for as little as $2 per 1,000 images or Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for $0.60 for 1,000 images. Pricing will be effective, starting March 1st.

«

I feel like this is partly the work of Pete Warden – it looks so like his work at Jetpac.
link to this extract

 


Apple fixes iPhones disabled by Error 53 caused by unofficial repairs » Techcrunch

Matthew Panzarino:

»Today, Apple is issuing an updated version of iOS 9.2.1 for users that update their iPhones via iTunes only. This update will restore phones ‘bricked’ or disabled by Error 53 and will prevent future iPhones that have had their home button (or the cable) replaced by third-party repair centers from being disabled. Note that this is a patched version of iOS 9.2.1, previously issued, not a brand-new version of iOS.

A new support document on Apple’s site has been issued that details the causes and repair methods for Error 53.

The update is not for users who update their iPhones over the air (OTA) via iCloud. If you update your phone that way, you should never have encountered Error 53 in the first place. If, however, you update via iTunes or your phone is bricked, you should be able to plug it into iTunes to get the update today, restoring your phone’s functionality.

«

That was quick. And it disables TouchID, or leaves it disabled – which is the course of action you’d hope for. (Thanks Jonathan Davey for the link.)
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Data broker defendants settle FTC charges they sold sensitive personal information to scammers » Federal Trade Commission

»“LeapLab purchased sensitive information, including Social Security and bank account numbers, from pay-day-loan websites, and then sold that information to entities it knew had no legitimate need for it,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “That allowed scammers to steal millions of dollars from people’s accounts.”

In its complaint, the FTC alleged that the defendants collected hundreds of thousands of loan applications submitted by financially strapped consumers to payday loan sites. Each application contained the consumer’s name, address, phone number, employer, Social Security number, and bank account number, including the bank routing number.

The defendants sold 95 percent of these sensitive applications for approximately $0.50 each to non-lenders that did not use the information to assist consumers in obtaining a payday loan or other extension of credit and had no legitimate need for this financial information. In fact, at least one of those marketers, Ideal Financial Solutions – a defendant in another FTC case  – used the information to withdraw millions of dollars from consumers’ accounts without their authorization.

«

Classy. It’s a $5.7m judgment, but suspended.
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The hidden homescreen » Medium

Matt Hartman:

»The move to chat-based interfaces is mainly developer driven: relative to a native iOS or Android app, development of a chat-based app is faster and marketing is less crowded (for now). It is also partly consumer driven in that it is a painful for consumers to have to switch in and out of different apps — or even to have to download an app at all. However the developer pain point is more significant at present.

For app developers, marketing is often hard. #Homescreen data shows that apps on users’ homescreens are pretty calcified. In January 2016 over 50,000 apps were submitted to the app store. However, most smartphone users download zero apps per month.

«

We’re probably going to see more chat interfaces, as Hartman points out (look at Quartz’s new news app), but as he also points out, lots of them will struggle to gather enough context to be useful compared to the interfaces we already have.
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Exclusive: Radioactive material stolen in Iraq raises security fears » Reuters

Ahmed Rasheed, Aref Mohammed and Stephen Kalin:

»Iraq is searching for “highly dangerous” radioactive material stolen last year, according to an environment ministry document and seven security, environmental and provincial officials who fear it could be used as a weapon if acquired by Islamic State.

The material, stored in a protective case the size of a laptop computer, went missing in November from a storage facility near the southern city of Basra belonging to U.S. oilfield services company Weatherford WFT.N, the document seen by Reuters showed and officials confirmed.

A spokesman for Iraq’s environment ministry said he could not discuss the issue, citing national security concerns…

…A U.S. official said separately that Iraq had reported a missing specialized camera containing highly radioactive Iridium-192 to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, in November.

“They’ve been looking for it ever since. Whether it was just misplaced, or actually stolen, isn’t clear,” said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The environment ministry document, dated Nov. 30 and addressed to the ministry’s Centre for Prevention of Radiation, describes “the theft of a highly dangerous radioactive source of Ir-192 with highly radioactive activity belonging to SGS from a depot belonging to Weatherford in the Rafidhia area of Basra province”.

«

More about Ir-192: “has accounted for the majority of cases tracked by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in which radioactive materials have gone missing in quantities large enough to make a dirty bomb.” More reading from 2007 from the New Yorker.
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The most important Apple executive you’ve never heard of » Bloomberg Businessweek

Brad Stone, Adam Satariano, and Gwen Ackerman:

»A little over a year ago, Apple had a problem: The iPad Pro was behind schedule. Elements of the hardware, software, and accompanying stylus weren’t going to be ready for a release in the spring. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and his top lieutenants had to delay the unveiling until the fall. That gave most of Apple’s engineers more time. It gave a little-known executive named Johny Srouji much less.

Srouji is the senior vice president for hardware technologies at Apple. He runs the division that makes processor chips, the silicon brains inside the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. The original plan was to introduce the iPad Pro with Apple’s tablet chip, the A8X, the same processor that powered the iPad Air 2, introduced in 2014. But delaying until fall meant that the Pro would make its debut alongside the iPhone 6s, which was going to use a newer, faster phone chip called the A9.

This is the stuff that keeps technology executives up at night. The iPad Pro was important: It was Apple’s attempt to sell tablets to business customers. And it would look feeble next to the iPhone 6s. So Srouji put his engineers on a crash program to move up the rollout of a new tablet processor, the A9X, by half a year. The engineers finished in time, and the Pro hit the market with the faster chip and a 12.9in display packed with 5.6 million pixels.

«

Useful profile (and a little scoop-ette in the intro), though of course Apple – and Srouji – won’t indicate what direction the chip design there is going. There’s also the question of quite what delta it gives it over those using chips from TSMC et al; aside from the reference to the 64-bit shift, that isn’t addressed clearly.
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Apple, the FBI, and the San Bernadino iPhone

Dan Wallach:

»Q What’s so bad about Apple doing what the FBI wants?

A Apple’s concern is the precedent set by the FBI’s demand and the judge’s order. If the FBI can compel Apple to create a backdoor like this, then so can anybody else. You’ve now opened the floodgates to every small-town police chief, never mind discovery orders in civil lawsuits. How is Apple supposed to validate and prioritize these requests? What happens when they come from foreign governments? If China demands a custom software build to attack a U.S. resident, how is Apple supposed to judge whether that user and their phone happen to be under the jurisdiction of Chinese law? What if the U.S. then passes a law prohibiting Apple from honoring Chinese requests like this? That way lies madness, and that’s where we’re going.

Even if we could somehow make this work, purely as an engineering matter, it’s not feasible to imagine a backdoor mechanism that will support the full gamut of seemingly legal requests to exercise it.

«

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If you want life insurance, think twice before getting a genetic test » Fast Company

Christina Farr:

»Jennifer Marie* should be an ideal candidate for life insurance: She’s 36, gainfully employed, and has no current medical issues.

But on September 15 last year, Jennifer Marie’s application for life insurance was denied.

“Unfortunately after carefully reviewing your application, we regret that we are unable to provide you with coverage because of your positive BRCA 1 gene,” the letter reads. In the U.S., about one in 400 women have a BRCA 1 or 2 gene, which is associated with increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Jennifer Marie provided a copy of the document to Fast Company on the condition that she and her insurance company remain anonymous, as she is still hoping to appeal the rejection.

«

You’re thinking “surely that’s illegal!” It would be for health insurance, under a 2008 law in the US – but that doesn’t apply to life insurance, long-term care or disability insurance.
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Unlock your Windows 10 phone remotely » Windows Help

»Try unlocking your Windows 10 phone remotely if you get this message: “This device has been locked for security reasons. Connect your device to a power source for at least two hours and then try again.” The key is to reset your PIN through account.microsoft.com.

Go to account.microsoft.com/devices

Sign in with the same Microsoft account you use on the phone.

Click the Find my phone link.

Press Lock.

Enter a new PIN. Now you’ll be able to unlock your phone with your new PIN.

«

You can’t do this with an iPhone – you need to enter the existing PIN first. Clearly, the answer is for the FBI to issue would-be terrorists with Windows Phones running Windows Mobile 10 (it doesn’t work on 8) to simplify subsequent investigations. (Thanks Tero Alhonen for the link.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none noted.

Start up: careful with that axe, Marissa!, PC consolidation, ultra-cheap Android, and more

Yes, we need to discuss this. Photo by Janitors 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.

Ringing Bells Freedom 251: cheapest Android smartphone for just Rs 251 ($3.65) » TechPP

Raju PP:

• 4-inch qHD screen with IPS
• 1.3 GHz quad-core processor
• 1GB RAM
• 8GB internal storage
• microSD slot for up to 32GB of external storage
• 3.2MP rear camera with auto focus
• 0.3MP (VGA) front camera
• 3G support
• 1450 mAh battery
• Android 5.1 Lollipop

The above hardware specifications look like an entry level smartphone from 2014 with no major compromises. Going by the published images, it doesn’t look bad either, at least not an eyesore that one would expect for a phone costing less than what you’d pay for a coffee at Starbucks.

Looks OK (they have actual photos). A bit like something from a cornflakes packet, but at that price it’s proof of how Android is revolutionising communication, and the world.

Only question now is whether the company can survive and make enough.
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Samsung fails to secure thousands of SmartThings homes from thieves » Forbes

Thomas Fox-Brewster:

Critically, anyone relying on SmartThings devices for home security is vulnerable. In an environment where the SmartThings hub is connected to the firm’s own motion sensors, which act like traditional security alarms but provide alerts to people’s phones when activity is detected, they allow a hacker to enter a home undetected. Even worse, when connected to a connected smart lock, Cognosec researcher Tobias Zillner says a robber can get break into a home without using any brute force whatsoever.

“At the moment I am able to hack the system … and open the door lock as well as to jam the motion sensor without any trace left back in the system,” he told Forbes.

Come on, you knew the Internet of Things was going to lead to this.
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Priorities in a time of plenty » Asymco

Horace Dediu:

The mass phenomenon of measuring the wrong thing because it’s the easiest to measure is called “financialization”. Financialization is the process by which finance and finances (rather than creation) determine company, individual and society’s priorities. It comes about from an abundance of data that leads to fixation on what is observable to the detriment of awareness of hazards or obstacles or alternatives. This phenomenon is more likely when the speed of change increases and decision cycles shorten.

Financialization is creeping into all aspects of society and the extent to which it infects companies is the extent to which they suffer from early mortality.

So is Apple avoiding financialization? How can anyone avoid the tyranny of mis-optimization?

Dediu’s writing is lyrical, despite the topic; the way that he seems to grope towards the conclusion (but actually knows where he’s going) is great to watch.
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The ax falls at Yahoo » POLITICO

Peter Sterne:

“On our recent earnings call, Yahoo outlined out a plan to simplify our business and focus our effort on our four most successful content areas  – News, Sports, Finance and Lifestyle. To that end, today we will begin phasing out the following Digital Magazines:  Yahoo Food, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo Makers, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Autos and Yahoo Real Estate,” [Yahoo global editor in chief Martha] Nelson wrote in a Tumblr post.

In addition, a source familiar with the matter said that Yahoo was ending its tech vertical and moving some of its staff — including former New York Times columnist David Pogue — to Yahoo’s news vertical. Eater first reported that the food vertical was being shut down and Skift first reported that the travel vertical was being shut down.

As part of the changes, the editors of all of the eliminated verticals are being laid off. Dan Tynan, who joined Yahoo Tech as a columnist in December 2013 and became editor in chief of the vertical in July 2015, announced his departure in a farewell memo to staff.

“Well, that was not entirely unexpected. Eight Hundred and Four days after taking the purple, my career as a Yahoo is over,” he wrote.

Doubt the chopping is over yet. Tynan wrote in his memo that he worked with “the best (and smallest) staff of any tech publication on the internet”. You can argue about the quality, but smallest? Lots of news orgs would disagree.
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Vaio near deal with Toshiba, Fujitsu to form Japan PC giant » Bloomberg Business

Pavel Alpeyev and Takashi Amano:

Vaio Corp., the personal computer maker spun off from Sony Corp. in 2014, is closing in on a three-way merger with rivals to create a producer that can dominate Japan and weather a shrinking global PC market.

Vaio expects to strike an agreement to combine with Toshiba Corp.’s and Fujitsu Ltd.’s PC divisions by the end of March, said Hidemi Moue, chief executive officer of Japan Industrial Partners Inc., the buyout fund that now controls the former arm of Sony. Vaio expects to own the biggest stake in the merged company, which can help the trio save on research and development and scale production, he said…

…The tie-up “makes sense if you want to build a niche consumer base in Japan,” said Damian Thong, an analyst at Macquarie Group Ltd. in Tokyo. “This approach of merging three Japanese PC makers will probably have little chance of success outside of the country”…

…“In the PC business, all options are on the table for restructuring and partnerships, but nothing has been decided at this moment,” Toshiba’s spokesman Hirokazu Tsukimoto said. A spokeswoman at Fujitsu declined to comment.

In contrast to the gloom, Vaio is set to report its first monthly profit in March and Moue expects the company to be profitable in the year ending May 2017. Japan Industrial Partners has slashed the workforce to 240 from about 1,000, slimmed its product line-up and focused on premium business users, he said.

Consolidation was inevitable.
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In the matter of the search of an Apple iPhone seized during the execution of a search warrant » DocumentCloud

This is a scan of the order compelling Apple to help the FBI break into an iPhone 5C used by one of the San Bernadino killers (more details on this below, or in the docket). Note that it says that Apple must “[provide] the FBI with a signed iPhone software file, recovery bundle or other Software Image File that can be loaded onto the Subject Device… The SIF will be coded by Apple with a unique identifier of the phone so that the SIF would only load and execute on the Subject Device.”

Apple has five days to appeal. Below is its response.
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Customer Letter » Apple

Tim Cook (and perhaps a few others at Apple) on why they’re refusing to create a version of iOS to be installed on an iPhone 5C seized from one of the killers in the terrorist attack at San Bernadino that would let the US government brute-force its password/code:

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.

Apple has framed this well: that it’s about security (not privacy). You’ll recall that last week the FBI’s director declared that investigators couldn’t unlock the phone.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation and WhatsApp have all backed Apple’s stance; the ACLU says “code is speech, and this would be forced speech, which is against the First Amendment, and perhaps the Fourth and Fifth too”.
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Apple versus the FBI, understanding iPhone encryption, the risks for Apple and encryption » Stratechery

Ben Thompson dug into the detail of the encryption that the 5C held by the FBI does and doesn’t have; if it had been a 5S, he explains, things would have been different:

thanks the secure enclave an iPhone 5S or later, running iOS 8 or later, is basically impossible to break into, for Apple or anyone else. The only possible solution from the government’s perspective comes back to the more narrow definition of “backdoor” that I articulated above: a unique key baked into the disk encryption algorithm itself.

This solution is, frankly, unacceptable, and it’s not simply an issue of privacy: it’s one of security. A master key, contrary to conventional wisdom, is not guessable, but it can be stolen; worse, if it is stolen, no one would ever know. It would be a silent failure allowing whoever captured it to break into any device secured by the algorithm in question without those relying on it knowing anything was amiss. I can’t stress enough what a problem this is: World War II, especially in the Pacific, turned on this sort of silent cryptographic failure. And, given the sheer number of law enforcement officials that would want their hands on this key, it landing in the wrong hands would be a matter of when, not if.

This is why I’m just a tiny bit worried about Tim Cook drawing such a stark line in the sand with this case: the PR optics could not possibly be worse for Apple. It’s a case of domestic terrorism with a clear cut bad guy and a warrant that no one could object to, and Apple is capable of fulfilling the request. Would it perhaps be better to cooperate in this case secure in the knowledge that the loophole the FBI is exploiting (the software-based security measures) has already been closed, and then save the rhetorical gun powder for the inevitable request to insert the sort of narrow backdoor into the disk encryption itself I just described?

Then again, I can see the other side: a backdoor is a backdoor, and it is absolutely the case that the FBI is demanding Apple deliberately weaken security.

A couple of other points: the phone actually belongs to the California government; it was issued to a person who turned out to be a killer in the San Bernadino incident. That means it’s probably the government which implemented the Mobile Device Management (MDM) which wipes the phone after 10 failed passcode attempts. But they also can’t get into it. Also of note: the docket mentions that the killer destroyed two other phones ahead of the incident – they seem to have been “burner” phones, intended to destruction. So it’s likely that there’s nothing of interest at all on *this* phone.

The FBI has the iCloud backups up to October 19 (see p17 of the scan, above); the killings were on December 4.
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Why the FBI’s request to Apple will affect civil rights for a generation » Macworld

Rich Mogull (a security expert):

Apple has a long history of complying with court orders and assisting law enforcement. Previous to iOS 8, they could extract data off devices. Even today, data in most of their online services (iCloud, excluding iMessage and FaceTime) can be provided upon legal request.

This case is different for multiple reasons:

• Apple is being asked to specifically create new software to circumvent their security controls. They aren’t being asked to use existing capabilities, since those no longer work. The FBI wants a new version of the operating system designed to allow the FBI to brute force attack the phone.

• The FBI is using a highly emotional, nationally infamous terrorism case as justification for the request.

• The request refers to the All Writs Act, which is itself under scrutiny in a case in New York involving Apple. Federal Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the Eastern District of New York is currently evaluating if the Act applies in these cases.

That’s why this is about far more than a single phone. Apple does not have the existing capability to assist the FBI. The FBI engineered a case where the perpetrators are already dead, but emotions are charged. And the law cited is under active legal debate within the federal courts.

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CRN Exclusive: Google terminating Play For Education in a small-scale retreat from Android’s educational market » CRN

Google is retreating from a small segment of its booming education business by ending the life of a product that was developed to encourage adoption of Android tablets in schools, Google partners told CRN on Friday.

Google Play for Education, an extension of the Play software distribution platform, was rolled out around two years ago with the intent of putting more tablets into the hands of students. The app store, curated in close collaboration with educators, enabled solution providers to manage both devices and their specialized content…

…One [reseller] executive who asked not to be named told CRN he learned of the product’s termination after attempting to procure tablets for a customer.

“We noticed something funny a couple weeks ago” when a client requested a quote for a number of Play for Work tablets, the Google partner told CRN. “Basically all manufacturers told us all those devices were end-of-lifed.”

Asus, then Samsung, said they didn’t have replacement devices that were Play-integrated, the reseller said. They told him to look at Chromebook laptops as an alternative.

Google later informed the partner that Play for Education was on its way out, and the company should focus on its Chromebooks practice for serving the educational market.

That partner exec said he believes some capability issues, like a limited number of student profiles that could be loaded onto a single device, coupled with competition from Apple’s iPads, kept the Android tablets from deeply penetrating the education market, and convinced Google to step back from the program.

Google made a big marketing push last year for the educational tablets, the partner exec said, but “I’m not sure it ever clicked.”

This makes it seem as though both Play For Education *and* Play For Work are dead, if those devices were EOL’d. Tablets and Android have never been a good fit.
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News discovery » Sqoop

It’s a new Seattle-based startup, which mines US SEC documents and others for current information:

Sqoop saves you time and makes sure you don’t miss the story by giving you one place to search for company information, rather than spending hours each week conducting the same repetitive searches across a variety of public data sites. You can set alerts so that when new documents are filed, we’ll alert you how and when you want.

One to kick the tyres on. (I previously used SECAlerts.com but found it impossible to change settings.) Thanks to David Senior for the pointer.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: UK encryption doubletalk, Netflix VPN crackdown, Apple’s iAd retreat, and more


A Nest thermostat: malfunctioning, but what about privacy? Photo by Elvert Barnes 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.

No backdoors but UK government still wants encryption decrypted on request… » TechCrunch

Natasha Lomas:

During the committee session [in the UK Parliament] [home secretary Theresa] May was asked to clarify the implications of the draft bill’s wording for encryption. Various concerns have been raised about this — not least because it includes a clause that communications providers might be required to “remove electronic protection of data”.

Does this mean the government wants backdoors inserted into services or the handing over of encryption keys, May was asked by the committee. No, she replied: “We are not saying to them that government wants keys to their encryption — no, absolutely not.”

However the clarity the committee was seeking on the encryption point failed to materialize, as May reiterated the government’s position that the expectation will be that a lawfully served warrant will result in unencrypted data being handed over by the company served with the warrant.

“Where we are lawfully serving a warrant on a provider so that they are required to provide certain information to the authorities, and that warrant has been gone through the proper authorization process — so it’s entirely lawful — the company should take reasonable steps to ensure that they are able to comply with the warrant that has been served on them. That is the position today and it will be the position tomorrow under the legislation,” said May.

Completely contradictory.
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Evolving proxy detection as a global service » Netflix

If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or “unblockers” to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in. We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.

Over time, we anticipate being able to do so. For now, given the historic practice of licensing content by geographic territories, the TV shows and movies we offer differ, to varying degrees, by territory. In the meantime, we will continue to respect and enforce content licensing by geographic location.

Shorter version: we’re going to block your VPN.
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Five years later, Thunderbolt is finally gaining some traction in PCs » Ars Technica UK

Andrew Cunningham:

For many years, it looked like Thunderbolt was destined to be a modern version of FireWire: faster and smarter than contemporary USB interfaces, but so rare outside of Macs that there isn’t a very wide range of accessories beyond adapters and external hard drives. Thunderbolt versions 1 and 2 are available in most Macs sold between 2011 and now, but it has been included in just a handful of PC laptops and high-end motherboards.
Thunderbolt 3 is turning that around. The port is suddenly beginning to show up in high-end offerings from just about every major PC OEM, starting with some Lenovo workstation laptops and Dell’s new XPS lineup and continuing in laptops and convertibles from HP, Acer, Intel, and others.

We’ve been talking to the PC companies at CES about this sudden turnaround, and their answers have all been in more or less the same vein. The increased speed of Thunderbolt 3 combined with all the benefits of USB Type-C (including driving displays via Alternate Mode and charging laptops via Power Delivery) has finally made Thunderbolt convenient enough to be worth the trouble.

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David Maisel’s geometric geographies » The New Yorker

Marcia Bjornerud:

David Maisel’s aerial photographs of Toledo, Spain, and the surrounding La Mancha region, some of which will be on view at Haines Gallery, in San Francisco, through March 12th, can make Earth’s surface look more alien than terrestrial. Parts of the area that Maisel focussed on are underlain by light-colored alkaline rocks, which formed through the evaporation of an ancient body of water. The silvery soil of plowed fields almost shimmers, like a ghostly memory of that long-vanished sea.

Things like this, and more, in the gallery of images.


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Germany launches smartphone app to help refugees integrate » The Verge

Amar Toor:

The German government has launched a new smartphone app to help asylum seekers integrate in their new country. Known as Ankommen (“Arrive”), the Android app is available for free on the Google Play Store, and will launch on iOS soon, according to its website. Ankommen was jointly developed by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the Federal Employment Agency, the Goethe Institute, and Bayerischer Rundfunk, a public radio and TV broadcaster.

The app is available in Arabic, English, Farsi, French, and German, and does not require an internet connection. It includes a basic German language course, as well as information on the asylum application process and how to find jobs or vocational training. The app also provides information on German values and social customs, with tips from other non-Germans who live in the country.

Note the underlying assumption: refugees will have a smartphone. So far the app has fewer than 1,000 downloads.
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Apple to disband iAd sales team » BuzzFeed News

John Paczkowski:

six years after launching iAd, Apple is stepping back from it. Multiple sources familiar with the company’s plans tell BuzzFeed News that Apple is getting out of the advertising-sales business and shifting to a more automated platform.

While iAd itself isn’t going anywhere, Apple’s direct involvement in the selling and creation of iAd units is ending. “It’s just not something we’re good at,” one source told BuzzFeed News. And so Apple is leaving the creation, selling, and management of iAds to the folks who do it best: the publishers.

Apple is phasing out its iAd sales force entirely and updating the iAds platform so that publishers can sell through it directly. And publishers who do so will keep 100% of the revenue they generate. It’s not clear what this means for Rubicon Project, MediaMath, and the other ad tech companies that had been overseeing programmatic, or automated, demand-side ad buying on the platform, but it doesn’t look good. Since everything can be done directly through the updated iAd platform, it’s likely that most of it will. “The big publishing groups will just fold programmatic buys into the stuff they’re selling across all their properties,” one source explained. iAd sales team members will be offered buyouts and released into the wild. The move is coming soon, perhaps as early as this week.

Advertising industry sources familiar with Apple’s new self-serve plan for iAds seem intrigued by it. “I think this is going to be great for publishers,” said one. “It gives them direct dialogue with their customers as opposed to forcing them to go through an Apple middleman. Access will be more plentiful and easier to manage — theoretically.”

How long will it be until the first malvertising via iAd? And what happens after that? I still feel iAd is a bad fit for Apple’s business model.
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Developing for wearables: from shrunken smartphone to wearable-first and beyond » VisionMobile

Stijn Schuermans:

In a previous post, we called the Internet of Things the peace dividend of the smartphone wars, and IoT developers the baby boomers of that period. In other words, smartphone innovation made hardware technology abundant. It’s no longer the bottleneck. IoT breakthroughs will happen not by making more powerful processors or larger memories, but by identifying new applications for the sensors, devices and connectivity. This certainly seems to be the case for wearables, which arguably started with the first Fitbit in 2008 and boomed after the launch of the Pebble and Android Wear in 2013 and 2014. Those were the days of the wearables hype.

That hype has now died down. Developers in particular are getting more cautious about wearables. Between Q4 2014 and Q2 2015, the percentage of IoT developers targeting wearables dropped from 28% to 21%. Developers have not turned their back on wearables entirely – many still plan to develop for wearables in the future – but the initial enthusiasm is making way for realism, and a search for truly valuable uses for these new devices.

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New study highlights privacy gap between consumers and tech vendors » WSJ Digits blog

Elizabeth Dwoskin:

The Pew Research Center has found in recent years that users of mobile and desktop computers are anxious about online privacy. The nonprofit’s latest study, published on Thursday, aimed to learn whether consumer anxiety waxed or waned in specific scenarios.

Conclusion: It does.

Although users often accept the implicit bargain of the online world — receiving free services in exchange for personal data — service providers can’t take users’ comfort with the arrangement for granted. Privacy concerns are more “case-by-case than driven by broad principles,” said Lee Rainie, Pew’s director of Internet, Science, and Technology Research.

The report revealed a gulf between the public and the tech industry, Mr. Rainie said, judging by the plethora of data-gathering gadgets on display at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. For instance, Nest seeks to connect items in the home–smart thermostats, light bulbs, garage doors and so on — into a system that would collect data to coordinate their operations; switching on lights, for instance, when the garage door indicates that an occupant has returned home in the evening.

The January 2016  report suggests that public attitudes could limit such plans.

Sure that Paul Graham will get right onto this and set the tech industry straight.
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Nest thermostat glitch leaves users in the cold » The New York Times

Nick Bilton:

“Woke up to a dead nest and a very cold house,” a commenter wrote on the company’s forum. “Not good when you have a baby sleeping!”

“Mine is offline,” another customer tweeted. “Not enough battery (?) I’m traveling. Called nest. Known problem. No resolution. #nest #fail.”

Admittedly, this may strike some as a quintessential first-world problem: a thermostat that can’t connect to the web. But for some users, it posed genuine issues.

For those who are elderly or ill, or who have babies, a freezing house can have dire health consequences. Moreover, homeowners who installed a Nest in a weekend home, or who were on vacation, were also concerned that their pipes could freeze and burst, causing major damage.

Matt Rogers, the co-founder and vice president for engineering at Nest, blamed a software update from December. “We had a bug that was introduced in the software update that didn’t show up for about two weeks,” Mr. Rogers said apologetically. In January, devices went offline, and “that’s when things started to heat up.”

The question is, will we look back on events like this as just teething problems – a bit like some of the cloud outages of, say, 2007 – or will they just multiply as more systems interact with slightly jury-rigged ones?

And as Bilton also points out, the contracts these gizmos/services are provided under use “arbitration” clauses which hugely favour the company, not the consumer; one lawyer tells him that Nest’s terms of service “are inherently unfair to consumers”. Not biased; inherently unfair.
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Google scamming consumers and screwing publishers with “Contributor” » LinkedIn

Mike Nolet is former CTO of AppNexus:

When I first heard of Google Contributor in early November I thought… this is exactly what the ad-industry should be doing, go Google! For those not familiar with the service, Contributor allows users to contribute a certain sum of money and opt-out of bandwidth hogging ads. The service “bids” on the users behalf, and if successful the user can choose to either collapse the unused space or upload their own messages – ingenious!

I immediately signed up, dialed my contribution up to$15/mo and started browsing. I configured my contributor account to show me messages from the new wellbeing starutp I’m working on and instead of ads I started seeing all sorts of positive messages. Cool!

A few months have since past and I figured it was time to review where my money was going. Boy, did my opinion change.

Looking at reports, it turns out I contributed $4.77 to remove 977 ads on websites since I signed up and Google charged me $29.67. The ~$5-CPM paid out seems generous, but I’ll accept that.  

The  $30 CPM and whopping 83% margin is downright theft. Google is keeping 83% of the money.

Who knows, maybe something is broken, but as it stands this is a service is a scam.

But he could dial down his contribution, surely? In a world though where adblockers are free, it seems somewhat worthy. Also, I calculated how much news sites (well, The Guardian) probably gets per browser per year from ads: $1.14.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: SATs (Standard Aptitude Tests) are very useful, apparently.

Start up: journalism v Sean Rad, the Lumia 950 zombie?, Pepsi phones, and more


Too few of these getting sold. Photo by Yuxuan.fishy.Wang on Flickr.

Alternatively, you can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. There’s a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Aren’t they fluffy? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

An Open Letter to Tinder’s Sean Rad from Vanity Fair’s Nancy Jo Sales | Vanity Fair

Nancy Jo Sales, who wrote a fabulous piece about how dating has changed (including Tinder), which some seemed to think meant she should “seek a quote from Tinder” before publishing. Rad, in the Evening Standard, suggested he had “information” about Sales:

Sean, you and I both know that when you spoke of me as “an individual,” you were talking about me personally. And you seemed to speak from a place of emotion, admitting that you were “upset” about my piece in Vanity Fair—which wasn’t actually just about Tinder per se, but changes in the world of dating, with the introduction of dating apps overall. This was something I tried to point out in my response to an avalanche of tweets directed at me, one night in August, when someone at Tinder decided that he or she would try to besmirch my reputation as a journalist as well. Your Twitter account admonished me: “Next time reach out to us first . . . that’s what journalists typically do.”

I don’t know what you and your colleagues at Tinder think journalism is, but I don’t believe it’s the same as what most journalists think it is. Our job is to report on what real people say and do, and how this impacts our world. It’s not our job to parrot what companies would like us to know about their products. Our job is an important one, and when the heads of companies decide to go after journalists personally, then I think we’re in very dangerous territory—not only for journalists, but for the whole practice of journalism, without which we can’t have a democracy.

This last paragraph. Oh yes, oh yes. I grow so weary of publications which think that a company announcing the new model of a phone or some new tweak to their software merits a breathless single-sourced story.
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Match Group Inc – Free Writing Prospectus » US Securities and Exchange Commission

On November 18, 2015, the Evening Standard (the “Standard”), an online and print news service, published an article based on an interview with Sean Rad, the Chief Executive Officer of Tinder, a subsidiary of the Company. The article is described in relevant part in the following paragraph and the full article is attached hereto.

The article was not approved or condoned by, and the content of the article was not reviewed by, the Company or any of its affiliates. Mr. Rad is not a director or executive officer of the Company and was not authorized to make statements on behalf of the Company for purposes of the article. The article noted that “Analysts believe the [Tinder] app, which launched in 2012, has around 80 million users worldwide and records 1.8 billion “swipes” a day.”  While these statements were not made by Mr. Rad, the Company notes that they are inaccurate and directs readers to the Preliminary Prospectus, which states that for the month of September 2015, Tinder had approximately 9.6 million daily active users, with Tinder users “swiping” through an average of more than 1.4 billion user profiles each day.

Evening Standard routinely publishes articles and is unaffiliated with the Company and all other offering participants, and, as of the date of this free writing prospectus, none of the Company, any other offering participant and any of their respective affiliates have made any payment or given any consideration to Evening Standard in connection with the article described in this free writing prospectus.

The statements by Mr. Rad were not intended to qualify any of the information, including the risk factors, set forth in the Registration Statement or the Preliminary Prospectus and are not endorsed or adopted by the Company.

I can’t actually find that 9.6 million daily active user figure in the Preliminary Prospectus in the link. Still, nice to know.
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Edward Snowden and the Paris attacks » Business Insider

Natasha Bertrand:

some experts are skeptical that revelations regarding the NSA’s ability to access encrypted data and the encryption methods adopted by companies in the wake of the Snowden disclosures had any effect on the ways terrorists have chosen to communicate.

“There is no evidence at all that the Snowden leaks contributed or altered the kind of terrorist activity that ISIS and Al Qaeda do,” Dave Aitel, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Immunity, Inc., told Business Insider.

“Al Qaeda was using high-grade operational technology long before the leaks — and they knew the NSA was their prime enemy long before Snowden,” he added. “For Morell to say the intel gaps that facilitated the Paris attacks fall into Snowden’s lap is a fantastic work of intellectual fiction.”

Indeed, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have been using their own encryption software since at least 2007, beginning with a program known as “Asrar al-Mujihideen” (Secrets of the Mujahideen). They extended that program to other devices, such as cellphones and text messaging, as the technology became available.

“Nothing has changed about the encryption methodologies that they use,” Evan Kohlmann, a partner at the private security firm Flashpoint Global Partners, told NBC in 2014. “It’s difficult to reconcile that with the claim that they have dramatically improved their encryption technology since Snowden.”

Paris seems to have been organised by plain old text message.
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Pepsi Phone P1 is official: 5.5in 1080p display, 4G LTE and fingerprint sensor for $110 » Fone Arena

Srivatsan Sridhar:

After the leaks, Pepsi Phone P1s has gone official in China. It features a 5.5-inch (1080 x 1920 pixels) 2.5D curved glass display, is powered by an Octa-Core MediaTek MT6592 processor and runs on dido OS based on Android 5.1 (Lollipop). It has a aluminum unibody design and even has a finger print sensor on the back. It has a 13-megapixel rear camera on the back and 5-megapixel front-facing camera.

It has 4G LTE connectivity and dual SIM support that lets you use the second nano SIM slot as a microSD slot when required. Pepsi is just licensing its branding, and Shenzhen Scooby Communication Equipment Co., Ltd will manufacture the phone. The standard version of the phone is called P1 and the China Unicom version with FDD-LTE support is called P1s.

Phones are now just branding exercises; those specs would have been flagship two years ago. Interesting question: why hasn’t Coca-Cola done this? Probably because it doesn’t need to – Pepsi is playing catch-up in the branding stakes.
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Pepsi phone: can it “change the game”? » Counterpoint Technology Market Research

Neil Shah:

The smartphone space is already looking like a FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods, akin to supermarkets] space where the goods are moving faster than ever and has become highly commoditized with value shifting beyond hardware to brand, content, software, commerce and services.

This offers a perfect opportunity for Pepsi to find some synergies in leveraging its strong brand to this consumer electronics FMCG segment which is smartphone (a highly personal good) and drive its brand further.

This could turn out to be a great and disruptive move if Pepsi plays its cards right and strike key partnerships across different markets to promote Pepsi brand via phones.

As we said, smartphone is “highly personal device” and this could give unique insights about consumers and we believe its the marketing dollars well spent more than Super Bowl commercials to consistently and continuously learn about consumers’ habits on phone as most users now have almost most of their lives use-cases linked to their phones.

We see “Pepsi Phone” as a great marketing & marketing research tool for Pepsi.

Remember when pretty much every FMCG company had its own music download store? I think this will pan out like that. (Count how many FMCG companies still operate their own music download store.)
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Chrome Extensions – aka total absence of privacy » Detectify Labs

We signed up for one of the services which provides this information gathered by the Chrome extensions. We were able to see the following:

• Common URLs used by employees on targeted companies.
• Internal network URLs, exposing internal network structure as well as completely separated websites for internal use only.
• Internal PDFs being placed on AWS S3 referencing competitors.
• Pages which only one person had visited. We tested this out. One of the guys in the office using one of the plugins created a local website, page X, which didn’t link anywhere, but while being on the site he changed the address bar to page Y. He was the only visitor of page X. Two weeks later page X ended up in the “Similar sites” of page Y with “Affinity: 0.01%”.

Technical Details – how they are doing it

• They are running the tracking scripts in a separate background instance of the extension, but can still get access to all information about your tabs. By doing this, your network traffic of a web page will not disclose that requests are being done to a third party. This bypasses all Content Security Policy-rules and Chrome extensions – such as Ghostery – that tries to prevent tracking, since the requests are being done inside the extension itself.

Plus obfuscation, subdomains for extensions and more. Isn’t the web fun?
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China’s chip acquisitions send ripples across industry – News & Trends – EETA

Junko Yoshiba:

The technologies and IP targeted by China include disk drives, CMOS image sensors, servers, memory chips and advanced semiconductor packaging and test services.

For the moment, the biggest prize sought by a private fund such as Tsinghua Unigroup appears to be NAND memory chips. In August, the firm made an informal $23bn takeover offer for US giant Micron Technology. The Idaho-based chipmaker rejected the deal outright, conceded that it might endanger US national security.

In an interview with Reuters this week, the Tsinghua Unigroup chair, Zhao Weiguo, said his firm plans to about $47bn “over the next five years in a bid to become the world’s third-biggest chipmaker.” To put the matter into perspective, this five-year investment target roughly equals a year’s revenue at Intel. (Intel’s 2014 revenue was $55.9bn.)

Over the past two years, Tsinghua has spent more than $9.4bn on acquisitions and investments at home and abroad. These include the purchase of stakes in US data storage company Western Digital Corp. and Taiwan’s Powertech Technology Inc. Without disclosing specifics, the chair revealed that the company is about to close another investment deal, a minority stake in a US chip company, as early as the end of this month, Reuters reported.

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Who turned my blue state red? » The New York Times

Subtitle of this article by Alec MacGillis of ProPublic is “Why poor areas vote for politicians who want to slash the safety net”; for non-US readers, “blue” states vote Democrat, and “red” ones Republican:

The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

These are voters like Pamela Dougherty, a 43-year-old nurse I encountered at a restaurant across from a Walmart in Marshalltown, Iowa, where she’d come to hear Rick Santorum, the conservative former Pennsylvania senator with a working-class pitch, just before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. In a lengthy conversation, Ms. Dougherty talked candidly about how she had benefited from government support.

Pulling the ladder up.
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Jawbone lays off 60, 15% of staff globally, closes NY office » TechCrunch

Ingrid Lunden:

TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that the company yesterday [Thursday] laid off around 60 employees, or 15% of staff. It’s a global round of layoffs affecting all areas of the business; and as part of it Jawbone is also closing down its New York office (which was concentrated on marketing) and downsizing satellite operations in Sunnyvale and Pittsburgh.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said the layoffs are part of a wider “streamlining.”

“Jawbone’s success over the past 15 years has been rooted in its ability to evolve and grow dynamically in a rapidly scaling marketplace. As part of our strategy to create a more streamlined and successful company, we have made the difficult decision to reorganize the company which has had an impact on our global workforce,” he said. “We are sad to see colleagues go, but we know that these changes, while difficult for those impacted, will set us up for greater success.”

Seventh among wearable device vendors, with a market share of 2.8%; Fitbit by comparison is No.1 (ahead of Apple) with 24.3%, selling 4.4m. Can’t see a market for that many non-smartwatch vendors except the really specialist, eg athletics.
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Microsoft Lumia 950 review: can a smartphone be your PC? » WSJ

Joanna Stern loves the hardware, though notes the mobile apps are limited or out of date (Instagram hasn’t been updated for two years), then tries the “Continuum” system, plugging it into (just) a monitor:

this made for a decent basic desktop computing experience—decent enough for me to write this entire review and not spend every minute pining for my laptop. Word, Excel, PowerPoint all look and feel like they do on a laptop, and the Edge Web browser loads desktop sites instead of mobile ones.

The problem is, despite the hexa-core processor and 3GB of RAM, the system feels out of power. Having just five or six open tabs reminded me of the dial-up modem days. Not only were sites slow to load over Wi-Fi, but the entire system and browser got bogged down. Besides, Google’s Chrome is just a far better desktop browser, feature-wise.

But that’s not the worst of it. Remember those app problems? Because this is Windows 10 Mobile and there is no Intel chip inside, Windows desktop apps don’t work. That means no downloading the desktop version of Spotify or Slack or iTunes. You can’t run mobile apps on the big screen, either. For example, I couldn’t open the Windows Phone Spotify app in the desktop PC mode, but I could run it on the phone while I did work on the computer monitor.

Ah, Windows RT is back. Or risen from its zombie grave. (Via Mike Hole.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.