Start up: Theranos’s last days?, Samsung’s water-unproof S7 Active, the Pokemon Go craze, and more


Planning a crewed lunar mission? There’s some code for you on Github! Photo from Nasa Goddard Space Research Centre 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 12 links for you. Apply topically. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Theranos dealt sharp blow as Elizabeth Holmes is banned from operating labs • WSJ

John Carreyrou, Michael Siconolfi and Christopher Weaver:

»Silicon Valley startup Theranos Inc. is fighting for its life after regulators decided to revoke its license to operate a lab in California because of unsafe practices and to ban founder Elizabeth Holmes from the blood-testing business for at least two years.

The sanctions were laid out in a letter to Theranos released Friday by the agency that oversees US labs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Theranos said it is still seeking to resolve its issues with the regulator.

One sanction, a monetary fine of $10,000 a day until all deficiencies have been corrected, goes into effect July 12. The most serious sanctions, such as the ban of Ms. Holmes, won’t go into effect for 60 days.

If it fails to reach a settlement with the government, Theranos’s options are limited. Almost any course it takes will dramatically reshape the company that Ms. Holmes founded in 2003 as a Stanford University dropout and grew to a valuation of more than $9 billion in a 2014 fundraising round.

«

The first version of this that I saw at 0643 BST (0143 EST) Friday had a single byline (Siconolfi’s) and began more tamely: “US federal health regulators dealt a major blow to Theranos by banning founder Elizabeth Holmes from operating a blood-testing laboratory for at least two years and pulling regulatory approval for the company’s California lab.”

Clearly, the addition of two reporters and 18 hours sharpened up the intro (“lede” in the US; first paragraph to everyone else) quite a bit. And gave them time to put a very spooky picture of Holmes at the top.

And Theranos indeed looks cooked.
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DNA sequencing costs plotted over time • National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)

»

To illustrate the nature of the reductions in DNA sequencing costs, each graph also shows hypothetical data reflecting Moore’s Law, which describes a long-term trend in the computer hardware industry that involves the doubling of ‘compute power’ every two years (See: Moore’s Law [wikipedia.org]). Technology improvements that ‘keep up’ with Moore’s Law are widely regarded to be doing exceedingly well, making it useful for comparison.

In both graphs, note: (1) the use a logarithmic scale on the Y axis; and (2) the sudden and profound outpacing of Moore’s Law beginning in January 2008. The latter represents the time when the sequencing centers transitioned from Sanger-based (dideoxy chain termination sequencing) to ‘second generation’ (or ‘next-generation’) DNA sequencing technologies. Additional details about these graphs are provided below.

These data, however, do not capture all of the costs associated with the NHGRI Large-Scale Genome Sequencing Program. The sequencing centers perform a number of additional activities whose costs are not appropriate to include when calculating costs for production-oriented DNA sequencing. In other words, NHGRI makes a distinction between ‘production’ activities and ‘non-production’ activities. Production activities are essential to the routine generation of large amounts of quality DNA sequence data that are made available in public databases; the costs associated with production DNA sequencing are summarized here and depicted on the two graphs.

«

We’re good at sequencing, but less good at understanding what genomes tell us. That hasn’t improved as quickly.
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Samsung Galaxy S7 Active fails Consumer Reports water-resistance test • Consumer Reports

Jerry Bellinson put not one but two successive Galaxy S7 Actives into the equivalent of five feet of water for 30 minutes. They didn’t make it:

»For a couple of days following the test, the screens of both phones would light up when the phones were plugged in, though the displays could not be read. The phones never returned to functionality.

Samsung says it has received “very few complaints” about this issue, and that in all cases, the phones were covered under warranty.

“The Samsung Galaxy S7 active device is one of the most rugged phones to date and is highly resistant to scratches and IP68 certified,” the company said in a written statement. “There may be an off-chance that a defective device is not as watertight as it should be.” The company says it is investigating the issue.

The Active is one of three versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7, and it was the only one to fail our water-immersion test.

«

Could be two lemons, but that doesn’t speak well to the quality control. Waterproofing seems to be a popular feature with testers, at least, because you can.. test it.
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Teen playing new Pokémon game on phone discovers body in Wind River • County 10

»Shayla [Wiggins] tells County 10 that she woke up this morning and began playing a game on her cell phone called Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game that encourages the user to capture as many Pokémon as possible. “The Pokémon are all over Riverton,” she said. Shayla showed County 10 the game on her cellphone which displayed a map of Riverton where these Pokémon are located.

“I was trying to get a Pokémon from a natural water resource,” she explained. She said that she jumped over the fence to go towards the river in search of a Pokémon.

“I was walking towards the bridge along the shore when I saw something in the water,” Shayla said. “I had to take a second look and I realized it was a body.” She said the figure was floating about three feet from the shore and it looked like an average size male body. She reports that she thinks the man was native, but she can’t be certain. She saw a black shirt and black pants. All of the body was reportedly submerged except for part of his back and butt.

«

This game is taking people into bizarre situations. There are even reports of people setting up armed robberies (unproven) and using it while on patrol against Isis with Kurdish militias (verified). I’m amazed; Pokemon seems to me so transparently stupid – a set of Top Trump cards – that I’m amazed anyone over the age of 12 indulges in it. And yet…
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A malicious ‘Pokémon Go’ app is installing backdoors on Android devices • Motherboard

Joshua Kopstein:

»wannabe Pokémon masters should take heed: amid high demand for the game as it slowly rolls out across the globe, security researchers have discovered a malicious version of the Pokémon GO app floating around that installs a backdoor on Android phones, allowing hackers to exploit Poké-hype to completely compromise a user’s device.

The security firm Proofpoint discovered the malicious application, or APK, which was infected with DroidJack, a remote access tool (RAT) that compromises Android devices by silently opening a backdoor for hackers. The malicious app was uploaded to an online malware detection repository on July 7, less than 72 hours after Nintendo released the game in Australia and New Zealand.

To install it, a user needs to “side-load” the malicious app by disabling an Android security setting that normally prevents the installation of unverified third-party apps from “unknown sources.”

This is potentially a huge deal, since the game’s slow roll-out to different regions has led some impatient players to download the app from third-party websites instead of waiting for the official release on Android’s Play store, which requires side-loading to install. Proofpoint notes that several major news outlets have even provided instructions on how to find and install the app from a third party.

«

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Original Apollo 11 Guidance Computer (AGC) source code • Github

Lots of people are cloning it and improving it – just in case they, you know, need to pilot a lunar lander mission.
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We need to talk about AI and access to publicly funded data-sets • TechCrunch

Natasha Lomas with a hugely important analysis:

»DeepMind says it will be publishing “results” of the Moorfields research [on eye disease] in academic literature. But it does not say it will be open sourcing any AI models it is able to train off of the publicly funded data.

Which means that data might well end up fueling the future profits of one of the world’s wealthiest technology companies. Instead of that value remaining in the hands of the public, whose data it is.

And not just that — early access to large amounts of valuable taxpayer-funded data could potentially lock in massive commercial advantage for Google in healthcare. Which is perhaps the single most important sector there is, given it affects everyone on the planet. If you don’t think Google has designed on becoming the world’s medic, why do you think it’s doing things like this?

Google will argue that the potential social benefits of algorithmically improved healthcare outcomes are worth this trade off of giving it advantageous access to the locked medicine cabinet where the really powerful data is kept.

But that detracts from the wider point: if valuable public data-sets can create really powerful benefits, shouldn’t that value remain in public hands?

«

Yes. Exactly. This is a key point which is being ignored: data is the necessity for Google and the British government is not seeking sufficiently clear repayment for it.
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AI, Apple and Google • Benedict Evans

Quite a long musing on where we are with AI – which typically never quite arrives, because every time it does something smart (understands speech, identifies faces) we say “oh, that’s just computing“:

»A common thread for both Apple and Google, and the apps on their platforms, is that eventually many ‘AI’ techniques will be APIs and development tools across everything, rather like, say, location. 15 years ago geolocating a mobile phone was witchcraft and mobile operators had revenue forecasts for ‘location-based services’. GPS and wifi-lookup made LBS just another API call: ‘where are you?’ became another question that a computer never has to ask you. But though location became just an API – just a database lookup – just another IF statement – the services created with it sit on a spectrum. At one end are things like Foursquare – products that are only possible with real-time location and use it to do magic. Slightly behind are Uber or Lyft – it’s useful for Lyft to know where you are when you call a car, but not essential (it is essential for the drivers’ app, or course). But then there’s something like Instagram, where location is a free nice-to-have – it’s useful to be able to geotag a photo automatically, but not essential and you might not want to anyway. (Conversely, image recognition is going to transform Instagram, though they’ll need a careful taxonomy of different types of coffee in the training data). And finally, there is, say, an airline app, that can ask you what city you’re in when you do a flight search, but really needn’t bother.

In the same way, there will be products that are only possible because of machine learning, whether applied to images or speech or something else entirely (no-one at all looked at location and thought ‘this could change taxis”). There will be services that are enriched by it but could do without, and there will be things where it may not be that relevant at all (that anyone has realised yet). So, Apple offers photo recognition, but also a smarter keyboard and venue suggestions in the calendar app – it’s sprinkled ‘AI’ all over the place, much like location. And, like any computer science tool, there will be techniques that are commodities and techniques that aren’t, yet.

«

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Exclusive: why Microsoft is betting its future on AI • The Verge

Casey Newton got to meet lots of people at Microsoft who are working on bots and AI:

»I meet with Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of marketing for Office. He shows me a range of ways where intelligence is making Office easier to use. In September 2014 Microsoft introduced Delve, a kind of Fitbit for productivity that is included with Office 365. The app analyzes how much time you spend in email and in meetings, and highlights times on your calendar where you have extended periods of time to do more complicated, meaningful work. It tells you what percentage of people you sent an email to actually read it, and how quickly. It will suggest reaching out to colleagues that you haven’t emailed in a while. It even shows you response times for your colleagues, and for yourself.

If your organization lives in Google Apps, as do many big Silicon Valley companies, browsing Delve felt like a revelation. You don’t have to be a numbers nerd to find this kind of information useful. If you’re a manager, Delve can tell you at a glance how much time you’ve spent with each of your employees over the past week. This kind of intelligence isn’t as sexy as a general AI that anticipates your every need — but it’s here today, it works, and it makes Google Apps look like a neglected backwater by comparison.

«

1) Google Apps pretty much is a neglected backwater
2) would love to know if the statistics gathered by Delve actually have any meaning in the real world, or are just numbers collected because they can be.
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Security Flaw in OS X displays all keychain passwords in plain text • Medium

Brenton Henry:

»This afternoon, a friend learned the hard way that you don’t let an unofficial company take control of your computer to provide “support”. However, it was what I learned that shocked me the most.

There is a method in OS X that will allow any user to export your keychain, without sudo privileges or any system dialogs, to a text file, with the username and passwords displayed in plain text. As of this writing, this method works in at least 10.10 and 10.11.5, and presumably at the least all iterations in between.

«

I tried his method; I had to click an “Allow” dialog for every single item in my keychain, which wasn’t a trivial number. So this exploit isn’t one to think deeply about. More to the point: what happened to his friend? Was it keychain-related?
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How the Feds use Photoshop to track down paedophiles • Motherboard

Joseph Cox:

»The most innocent clues can crack a case. In 2012, a holiday photo of a woman and child holding freshly caught fish ended up being a key lead in a child pornography investigation.

Found within a cache of illegal, explicit material, the photo would eventually point detectives to a outdoor camping site in Richville, Minnesota, and result in the victims’ rescue, and suspect’s conviction in December 2012.

But first, detectives had to determine where the photo was taken. To do that, they cropped out the fish, sanitized the image, and sent it to Cornell University for identification, Jim Cole, the National Program Manager for Victim Identification at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), recalled to Motherboard in a phone call.

The university determined the species of fish, which was found in a particular region. Investigators then edited the suspect and victim out of the photo, Cole said, and distributed it to advertisers for camping grounds in the area, one of which recognized the location.

When detectives arrived, the same photo was on the wall of the camping office, Cole added.

“It’s all about making the haystack smaller, so we can find the needle,” he said.

«

A logo on a sweatshirt? A bottle of pills in the background? It can all contribute to cracking the case
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Exclusive: Google is building two Android Wear smartwatches with Google Assistant integration • Android Police

David Ruddock has a strong and detailed rumour:

»The inevitable question with these Google smartwatches is “why?” I’m afraid I don’t have a concrete answer for you. But I can speculate. As Android Wear has evolved, manufacturer interest in it has not skyrocketed as Google likely hoped it would. At best, it appears to be holding steady. Once considered Wear’s strongest partner, LG has announced no new mainstream Wear device since the old Urbane last spring (the LTE is unashamedly niche with limited availability, and was heavily delayed). The number of new Wear OEMs announced lately has been modest, aside from a few niche fashion products that are unlikely to have a major impact on Wear’s distribution.

By building its own smartwatches, Google can implement exactly the hardware and features it believes will best demonstrate Android Wear’s capabilities.

«

Good luck with that. The OEMs aren’t doing it because they aren’t selling. (Unless they’re selling in China, in which case Google will have trouble too.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: robocalling wars, form-filling frustration, Pakistan’s troll problem, Apple port death, and more


Something about this is going to change in September. But what? 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.

Disruptive robocalling • Global Guerrillas

»Three months ago, I wrote up a worst case scenario for how the US could end up in a civil war this fall.  Unfortunately, nothing has changed.  The conditions that make the scenario possible are still valid.

In fact, in one way it has gotten worse:  one of the theoretical methods of disruption that I featured in the scenario was recently used in the real world.  In my scenario, robocalling was used to shut down polling places to skew election results and plunge the US into chaos.

«

So, how’s your day going so far?
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Apple Watch is already a $10bn business • Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:

»Heading into this year’s WWDC, Apple Watch expectations were at a low. The most recent comments from Apple management about Watch sales being focused around the holidays implied Watch sales had slowed somewhat materially in recent months. Developer interest and buzz around watchOS was lackluster, and recent price drops introduced questions about customer demand.

Things changed following Apple’s WWDC keynote. It was clear Apple had no plans of slowing down with Apple Watch. More importantly, Apple was willing to make changes to Apple Watch software. As seen with the rethought user interface included in watchOS 3, Apple spent the past year studying how people were using Apple Watch. Friction points such as a clunky interface and little-used features, including Glances, were removed. Instead, Apple went back to the basics with a simpler interface and additional focus on Watch faces as the device’s most valued real estate. (Additional thoughts from WWDC concerning watchOS 3 are available here).

Some people interpreted the changes found in watchOS 3 as evidence that Apple admitted it was wrong with Apple Watch. I disagree. That type of interpretation not only ignores everything that Apple got right about Apple Watch, such as Watch bands, but also ignores reality. Apple Watch financials portray a different story. Apple Watch’s first year was not the disaster that many are now implying.

«

WatchOS 3 really is a lot quicker, and more useful, than the first versions. Cybart reckons more than 12m have been sold. By contrast, Android Wear downloads – which seem to be the correct proxy for Android Wear sales – are still below 5m.
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Input masks: violating user expectations • ignore the code

Lukas Mathis:

»When designing forms, there’s a pretty deep chasm between the needs of the developer, and the needs of the user. Developers want structured, normalized data. Users want to enter data in whatever format suits them best.

Forcing people to enter structured data causes usability problems.

What do you mean, it’s not a valid phone number? Looks valid to me – except that the backend wants just numbers, no special characters, and isn’t smart enough to strip out all of the characters that the user has entered.

Commonly, designers try to solve this by telling people what kind of format data needs to be in. This can be done using placeholders that show example data in the correct format.

The problem here is that the placeholder disappears as soon as people start typing, so exactly when they actually need this information, it’s no longer visible.

«

And with credit card numbers, things get really annoying, as Mathis points out.
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Pakistan’s troll problem • The New Yorker

Simon Parkin:

»Among many religiously conservative Pakistanis, [female lawyer Naghat] Dad said, there is a belief that women should not be using technology at all. “I could only use the Internet and my mobile phone while at work,” she told me. There are more than twenty-three million Facebook accounts registered in Pakistan, but in some cases, Dad said, “women who experience harassment on Facebook don’t want to make a formal complaint, as to do so is to admit to owning a profile.” As more women continue to join social-media platforms, the resistance to their presence has increased. Last August, a gang of men targeted a group of female doctors in Lahore, stealing photographs and private messages from their WhatsApp and Facebook accounts before demanding money. “The threat of disgrace made these professional women soft targets,” Shamsi said. “This on top of the battles they fight just for the right to work.” Dad’s organization has two staff members devoted to working on Facebook complaints, but she deals with the public herself, and she now receives more calls from women each day than she can handle.

In general, US-based social-media companies have been slow to address harassment on their platforms in different cultural contexts — and even, many would argue, in their own.

«

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“OK Google…” • OK Google

It’s a list of the voice commands you can ask after “OK Google..” on Google’s systems. Would love to see something comparable for Siri.
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The ultimate Apple I/O death chart • The Verge

Nilay Patel and Frank Bi:

»One of the most strongly-held arguments about Apple removing the headphone jack is that Apple has historically been first to drop a legacy technology, sometimes even before the rest of the industry is ready. Apple’s vertical integration, passionate userbase, and scale (both historically small and now immensely huge) allow it to push big changes in a way that few other companies can pull off. The floppy, SCSI, optical drives, VGA — all killed by Apple years before vanishing from the rest of the industry.

But how long does it really take Apple to kill legacy tech? We threw together a chart to map it out. (It would be fun to do this across the entire tech industry, but finding all that data seems virtually impossible. If you figure it out email me and we’ll run it!)

«

QWERTY still in use, though I guess that’s not a “port”. A neat corollary to this would be the adoption of wireless ports. Wi-Fi arrived in July 1999; Bluetooth, in 2003. Infrared came and went.

Also: how great to have a piece of simple, informative journalism that answers a question you didn’t realise you wanted answered until you saw it.
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Hillary Clinton’s initiative on technology and innovation • HillaryClinton.com

The would-be president who doesn’t say outrageous things (and thus gets no coverage outside the US) has a detailed set of tech proposals, which has lots of “would be nice” ideas but also this:

»Copyrights encourage creativity and incentivize innovators to invest knowledge, time, and money into the generation of myriad forms of content. However, the copyright system has languished for many decades, and is in need of administrative reform to maximize its benefits in the digital age. Hillary believes the federal government should modernize the copyright system by unlocking — and facilitating access to — orphan works that languished unutilized, benefiting neither their creators nor the public.

She will also promote open-licensing arrangements for copyrighted material and data supported by federal grant funding, including in education, science, and other fields. She will seek to develop technological infrastructure to support digitization, search, and repositories of such content, to facilitate its discoverability and use.

And she will encourage stakeholders to work together on creative solutions that remove barriers to the seamless and efficient licensing of content in the U.S. and abroad.

«

There’s also privacy, smart government, more broadband, and plenty more.
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Android fragmentation may not be as pronounced as Google’s distribution numbers would have you believe, says Apteligent • Android Police

Rita El Khoury:

»as Apteligent’s monthly data report points out, Google doesn’t take into consideration two important factors: devices that don’t have the Play Store installed (ie Chinese handsets mostly) and device usage. A phone may access the Play Store, but it may not be actively used. Once that’s taken into account, the image shifts greatly and you can see that there are far less devices in active use that are still running older versions of Android.

As the table and graph aboe show, Android usage distribution puts Lollipop at around half of the devices (vs. ~35% in Google’s June numbers) and Marshmallow at almost double what Google says (19.4% vs. 10.1%). Apteligent’s usage distribution drops KitKat from around 31% in Google’s stats to roughly 25%, Jelly Bean from ~19% to 6.8%, and shows that everything prior (ICS, Honeycomb, Gingerbread, and Froyo) is practically irrelevant.

Now sure, these are numbers taken from Apteligent’s report, which is based on devices that have apps with the Apteligent SDK installed, but they do show a new picture of Android’s version distributions.

«

Sure, they do; but still suggest that just under half of all devices with appreciable use are running a version of Android released between October 2013 and November 2014. Worth looking at the full PDF, which has lots more details of other devices and crashes too.
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iPhone 7 again rumoured to have flush, touch-sensitive home button • Mac Rumors

Juli Clover:

»Apple may be planning to introduce a Force Touch home button on the iPhone 7, according to analysts at Cowen and Company (via Business Insider). Citing supply chain “field checks,” Cowen and Company predicts the iPhone 7 will do away with a physical home button, instead adopting a home button that sits flush with the phone.

Apple’s Force Touch technology will reportedly be built into the home button to provide haptic feedback when pressed, much like the Force Touch trackpad on Apple’s most recent MacBooks. With haptic feedback, iPhone users would still feel the sensation of pressing on the home button even without a button to actually depress.

Cowen and Company has a mixed track record, but it’s worth noting that we’ve heard two other rumors about a redesigned home button on the iPhone 7. In April, DigiTimes said Apple was testing a touch-sensitive home button that fits flush with the phone, and a highly sketchy image of what was said to be an iPhone 7 with a touch-sensitive home button surfaced in mid-June.

Given the unreliability of each of the home button rumors, the information should be viewed with some skepticism until confirmed by a more reliable source, but when viewed alongside rumors of improved waterproofing and the removal of the headphone jack, a flush home button is not a rumor that seems entirely out of the question.

«

In September 2015, I wrote that Force/3D Touch was clearly part of a path to replace the physical iPhone (and iPad) home button:

»I bet that mechanical failure of Home buttons is one thing that keeps showing up in Apple’s fault reports. Broken screens are easily replaced (and people can get by with broken screens for a looong time), but broken home buttons not so. Grit can get in. Water can get in. Constant movement isn’t ideal in electronics. You might say that it’s just tough if peoples’ Home buttons break, but compared to Android phones which don’t have them, it’s an obvious point of weakness – and customer dissatisfaction.

However, the Home button is needed as the place where your fingerprint is read. But that doesn’t need a moving home button; it just needs a circle of sapphire glass through which your print is read.

«

Feeling increasingly confident about that one.
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Does Brexit herald a new era for big data-driven forecasting? • Forbes

Kalev Leetaru:

»Discussion does not imply support. In the Iowa caucuses, Sanders led Clinton in Facebook mentions by 73% to 25%, while actual voting had them nearly tied, while in 2012 Twitter showed Obama dominating the Southern states ultimately won by Romney. Most recently, Facebook showed Sanders beating Clinton by a landslide in Facebook discussion, though it did also show Trump leading on the Republican side. Of course, social media data is also becoming increasingly difficult to access as a data source.

Web searches are increasingly being used as a metric to understand society. Google Trends published a map looking at searches across the UK in the first week of June, showing that Leave dominated searches across the entire country outside of a handful of pockets. Even Scotland was overwhelmingly searching about Leave. In reality, the final voting results looked quite different. As with social media conversation, heavy search interest simply implies that people are intensely interested in the topic, not that they support or condemn it.

Interestingly, the timeline of search intensity for the two terms within the UK offers a slightly different picture. UK searchers were searching for Remain and Leave nearly neck and neck up until the morning the polls opened, at which point Remain climbed to 8% more than Leave. Yet, around 4:30PM local time, Leave suddenly surged to 15% greater and by 8:30PM local time Leave was 59% ahead and by 10:30 it was 79% ahead, before beginning to head back down.

«

Basically: this stuff doesn’t tell us anything, but in the absence of anything else we like to pretend it does, and anyway there’s no other useful data. (Scotland voted comprehensively to Remain.)
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In a Google future, drivers may exchange their data for infotainment • Car and Driver Blog

Pete Bigelow:

»In exchange for vehicle content, Google might want details that include data about the vehicle itself—mileage, condition of certain components like tires, details on serial numbers of vehicle systems, and the like. It may also demand information on the occupants, including the types of content they’ve stored in vehicle systems, preferred genres of music, video content,  and more.

With a company like Google, which has interests in the automotive realm that run from autonomous cars to its Android Auto phone-projection system, the consolidation of control worries John Simpson, director of the Privacy Project for Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit organization that has tracked Google’s automotive efforts and frequently criticizes the company’s privacy practices.

“This is an egregious invasion of a motorist’s privacy, and I do fear that people who refuse to provide personal data will be unfairly locked out of infotainment systems,” he said. Going further down the line, Simpson said, “The privacy concerns are even greater with self-driving autonomous vehicles. Google could easily offer a self-driving car that would only operate if personal data were turned over to the company.”

«

Hmm. There are lots of insurance companies which already track your car (for younger drivers) to offer reductions in insurance costs. But seeking data about what you’re listening to? Perhaps it’s just covering all the bases.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: apologies for the late arrival of the blogpost and the email yesterday. The finger usually employed to press the “schedule” button has been reassigned to other duties.

Start up: Brexit fuels uncertainty, Google faces new antitrust case, AI for the blind, and more


Expect to see lots more of these. Photo by stratageme.com 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. None invokes Article 50. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Brexit: Uncertainty around funding and skills likely to affect UK tech startups • Computer Weekly

Lis Evenstad:

»

The tech startup industry as a whole was backing the remain campaign. However, the industry is now faced with a different and uncertain future that is likely to affect investment, funding and skills.

One of the main challenges the industry now faces is access to funding. Gartner predicts that as a result of the UK leaving the EU, IT spend will drop significantly not just at home, but in the rest of Europe.

John-David Lovelock, research vice-president at Gartner, said the current forecast growth for UK IT spending is 1.7%.

“The Brexit will drop this figure between 2% and 5%. In other words, UK IT spending growth will certainly be negative in 2016,” he said.

Frost & Sullivan’s research director for digital transformation Adrian Drodz and practice director EIA Ajay Sule added that access to funding and credit will be affected by Brexit.

“Although the Bank of England has been quick to state it has plans in place to support the UK economy and the financial services sector, concerns will be raised with regards to the ability to obtain credit and funding – especially among startups,” they said.

«

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Anarchy in the UK: Britain is sailing into a storm with no one at the wheel • The Economist

“Bagehot”:

»

IT WAS a troubling exchange. On live television Faisal Islam, the political editor of SkyNews, was recounting a conversation with a pro-Brexit Conservative MP. “I said to him: ‘Where’s the plan? Can we see the Brexit plan now?’ [The MP replied:] ‘There is no plan. The Leave campaign don’t have a post-Brexit plan…Number 10 should have had a plan.’” The camera cut to Anna Botting, the anchor, horror chasing across her face. For a couple of seconds they were both silent, as the point sunk in. “Don’t know what to say to that, actually,” she replied, looking down at the desk. Then she cut to a commercial break.

Sixty hours have gone by since a puffy-eyed David Cameron appeared outside 10 Downing Street and announced his resignation. The pound has tumbled. Investment decisions have been suspended; already firms talk of moving operations overseas. Britain’s EU commissioner has resigned. Sensitive political acts—the Chilcot report’s publication, decisions on a new London airport runway and the renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent—are looming. European leaders are shuttling about the continent meeting and discussing what to do next. Those more sympathetic to Britain are looking for signs from London of how they can usefully influence discussions. At home mounting evidence suggests a spike in racist and xenophobic attacks on immigrants. Scotland is heading for another independence referendum. Northern Ireland’s peace settlement may hang by a thread.

But at the top of British politics, a vacuum yawns wide. The phones are ringing, but no one is picking up.

«

Still, mustn’t grumble, eh?
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Rohan Silva has no idea what he’s talking about • FT Alphaville

Kadhim Shubber takes issue with former No. 10 tech policy adviser Silva, who suggests cutting corporation tax to 10% to (re?-) attract businesses:

»

He goes on to say that we should “transform the efficiency of our immigration system” by using “data analytics and machine learning”, which has become something of a verbal tic in the tech community.

This sort of thinking crops up whenever society faces complicated, difficult problems. If only taxes or regulation didn’t exist, neither would recessions or financial crises. It has the impression of being proactive — we don’t have time, just cut the red tape and save the economy already! — but is more likely to exacerbate the fractures in our society than heal them.

It will take months and years before we fully understand what happened in the UK last week, but it is highly plausible that this was the backlash of a class of people left behind by globalisation. They have much to be angry about: de-industrialisation; massive tax avoidance; the pain and misery caused by the financial crisis; the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small international elite. If we want to assuage this fury, we might start by better redistributing the fruits of globalisation.

In that context, turning the UK into a global tax haven would be akin to rubbing salt in the wound. Silva seems to imagine the economically disenfranchised people who just plunged the UK into crisis will be content to give him and other business owners more money. It’s not only a stupid idea, it’s a dangerous one that risks inflaming tensions.

«

link to this extract


Godless mobile malware can root 90% of Android devices


»

The mobile malware masquerades as harmless-looking mobile apps, including this Summer Flashlight app:

Several clean apps on Google Play also share the same developer certificate with malicious versions containing the Godless code. This means there is the potential for a user to be upgraded to a malicious version of an app without their knowledge.

If and when that infection occurs, Godless won’t lock their screen and demand hundreds of dollars in ransom. Neither will it place calls to mysterious Chinese phone numbers. Instead it will have the ability to download any app it chooses, including those that spam users with ads and/or install backdoors onto an infected device.

«

More details on the Trend Micro blog post. It starts installing when the screen switches off – sneaky.
link to this extract


Artificial intelligence is helping the blind to recognize objects • Co.Exist

Ben Schiller:

»

To train the iPad app, you place things in front of the device’s camera at several angles, telling it about the items. Then you repeat the process, taking the objects away, so the app recognizes the difference. On subsequent occasions, it will be able to distinguish, say, your set of keys from another set of keys. “It’s like a new born baby—it’s learning all the time as you show it objects,” Marczak says. Probably the training would be done by a family member or friend.

The second app, called Aipoly, does something similar. It’s sophisticated enough to recognize clothing and colors, even in abstract works of art.

Marczak says ID Labs is working with visually impaired support groups to improve the EyeSense app, which is free to download (versions for Android and other phones are due soon). It also works offline if necessary.

«

link to this extract


Google Maps gets a new, 700-trillion-pixel cloudless satellite map • The Atlantic

Robinson Meyer:

»

More than 1 billion people use Google Maps every month, making it possibly the most popular atlas ever created. On Monday, it gets a makeover, and its many users will see something different when they examine the planet’s forests, fields, seas, and cities.

Google has added 700 trillion pixels of new data to its service. The new map, which activates this week for all users of Google Maps and Google Earth, consists of orbital imagery that is newer, more detailed, and of higher contrast than the previous version.

Most importantly, this new map contains fewer clouds than before—only the second time Google has unveiled a “cloudless” map. Google had not updated its low- and medium-resolution satellite map in three years.

The improvements can be seen in the new map’s depiction of Christmas Island. Almost a thousand miles from Australia, the island was largely untouched by human settlement until the past two centuries. Its remoteness gives it a unique ecology, but—given its location in the middle of the tropical Indian Ocean—it is frequently obscured by clouds. The new map clears these away.

«

link to this extract


Xbox Fitness sunset announcement • Microsoft Studios


»

Since November 2013, Xbox Fitness has allowed you to experience the world’s best workouts with famous trainers, right in the comfort of your own home. As a service, Xbox Fitness has continually evolved since it launched on Xbox One, with new content and ongoing updates. Given the service relies on providing you with new and exciting content regularly, Microsoft has given much consideration to the reality updating the service regularly in order to sustain it. Therefore, the decision has been made to scale back our support for Xbox Fitness over the next year, and we want to provide our users with a timeline of the changes you will see.

«

What chances for the Microsoft Band’s future?
link to this extract


EU set to issue fresh formal antitrust charges against Google • WSJ

Natalia Drozdiak:

»

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal shortly before the Android announcement, Ms. Vestager said the agency was “advancing” its investigations into whether Google is abusing its dominance with its advertising service, an area of concern first outlined under her predecessor, Joaquín Almunia.

The investigation in advertising hits at a lucrative area of business for Google, which accounted for 90% of the tech firm’s $75 billion in revenue last year.

At issue is whether the company prevents or obstructs website operators from placing ads on their websites that compete with Google’s advertising business.

The EU is also looking into whether Google restricts advertisers that use Google’s auction-based advertising service, where they bid for the placement of ads on search result pages, from moving to other search advertising platforms.

«

In Europe it doesn’t rain, but it pours for Google. The UK is still part of the EU, so any decision would still be implemented over the next two years at least.
link to this extract


Google’s cars need a clear road map to revenue • The Information

Amir Efrati considers partnership (vehicle makers won’t do it), licensing (vehicle makers won’t do it), and suggests what’s left:

»

One natural path for Google is to reach consumers directly with an internet-based service. That’s its DNA. We know that Google’s car designers have thought long and hard about operating a “robo taxi” service to allow people to order cars on demand. It’s likely to go down that kind of path; its leaders have talked up the benefits of reducing car ownership so that one car could be used by many people throughout the day and night. Perhaps there will be subscription-type offerings that guarantee customers a pickup within a certain period of time, rather than the Uber-type system in which pickup times and prices can vary based on customer demand or driver availability.

By not needing to pay drivers, which represent the single biggest expense in ride-hailing, Google could price such a service below those run by Uber and other firms and build up its own customer base. But first, Google would need to produce these cars and get them deployed. Making thousands of new cars per year, particularly advanced models that have never been mass-produced before, would be a tough and expensive undertaking. Just ask Tesla how hard it is to make thousands of cutting-edge electric vehicles in a year.

«

“Go-to-market” is the big important step between “have a great idea” and “make pots of money from great idea”.
link to this extract


Secretive Alphabet division aims to fix public transit in US by shifting control to Google • The Guardian

Mark Harris:

»

Sidewalk Labs, a secretive subsidiary of Alphabet, wants to radically overhaul public parking and transportation in American cities, emails and documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

Its high-tech services, which it calls “new superpowers to extend access and mobility”, could make it easier to drive and park in cities and create hybrid public/private transit options that rely heavily on ride-share services such as Uber. But they might also gut traditional bus services and require cities to invest heavily in Google’s own technologies, experts fear.

Sidewalk is initially offering its cloud software, called Flow, to Columbus, Ohio, the winner of a recent $50m Smart City Challenge organized by the US Department of Transportation.

Using public records laws, the Guardian obtained dozens of emails and documents submitted to Challenge cities by Sidewalk Labs, detailing many technologies and proposals that have not previously been made public.

«

Harris is one of the best journalists out there; he keeps finding out stuff in these areas long before anyone else.
link to this extract


We don’t know jack about the next iPhone • iMore

Michael Gartenberg:

»

Since I worked at Apple, I’m often asked what employees think behind closed doors when they see these rumors and read the debates. The answer is, not much. Maybe a smile, maybe a sigh if the conversations are particularly off base, or if they miss the point entirely about what might finally be announced.

I have no doubt there are all sorts of prototype iPhones floating around the labs, some with headphone jacks and some without. Some with LCD displays and some with AMOLED. Some with… well, I could go on and on.

And that’s the real point. We could go around and around on any rumor, but for now, all of them, and all the debate around them, are like that tale told by that idiot:

Full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.

«

link to this extract


Microsoft still believes hand tracking is the future of PC input • The Verge

Tom Warren:

»

Microsoft wants to move beyond the keyboard and mouse to power the interfaces of the future. While the software maker has been investing in voice recognition and augmented reality scenarios, Microsoft’s research division has made some significant progress with hand tracking. Researchers are working on software that will allow virtual environments to track and recognize detailed hand motion. The breakthroughs could apply to virtual reality headsets, or just the ability to more accurately control virtual objects on a screen.

Microsoft is presenting some of it work at two academic research conferences this summer, offering a closer look at what might be our virtual future. Microsoft is focused on improving the accuracy of hand tracking, while reducing the amount of power required to process complex movements. “We’re getting to the point that the accuracy is such that the user can start to feel like the avatar hand is their real hand,” says Jamie Shotton, a principal researcher in computer vision at Microsoft’s UK research lab. “This has been a research topic for many, many years, but I think now is the time where we’re going to see real, usable, deployable solutions for this,” Shotton said.

«

Unconvinced. How does it determine the difference between an intentional gesture and an unintentional one?
link to this extract


Amazon to add dozens of brands to Dash buttons, but do shoppers want them? • WSJ

Sharon Terlep and Greg Bensinger:

»

Several consumer-product executives said they have signed up for the gadget largely to ensure their brands maintain close ties to Amazon. The venture is more vital as a marketing tool than a product-delivery system, they said.

“It may not be the most intuitive feature,” said Ken McFarland, director of e-commerce for Seventh Generation Inc., which has Dash buttons for its cleaning products and diapers. “But Amazon is trying so many things and you don’t want to miss out on the ones that work. You want to be out there if it does happen to be a hit.”

Companies pay Amazon $15 for each button sold and 15% of each Dash product sale, atop the normal commission, which typically ranges from 8% to 15%, the people familiar with the matter said.

For their part, consumers pay $5 per button, though Amazon sweetens the deal by offering a $5 rebate for every button. The rebate is good toward the first purchase using that button. Only members of Amazon’s $99-per-year Prime membership are eligible to use the Dash buttons.

Helping expand Dash’s ranks: Amazon dropped a hefty buy-in fee of around $200,000 required of the first companies that signed up, according to people familiar with the terms.

«

This resembles supermarkets charging companies to get their goods visible on shelves shoppers frequent – except here, the shelves are inside the shopper’s home. “Fewer than half” who have one have used it, according to Slice Intelligence, at a rate of about once every two months. The other bugbear? You don’t know what the price of what you’re summoning with a push is.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Musk’s strange takeover, Apple’s cloud escapees, Gawker v Thiel redux, the Trump question, and more

Blade Runner: Sean Young and Harrison Ford in a Polaroid
Yes, OK, but what about the typography in the film? Photo by kaytaria on Flickr. (Where you can see a ton more Blade Runner Polaroids – all including Sean Young.)

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A selection of 14 links for you. Yes, they are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Tesla makes offer to acquire SolarCity • Tesla Motors

Elon Musk:

»in March 2015, we launched Tesla Energy, which through the Powerwall and Powerpack allow homeowners, business owners and utilities to benefit from renewable energy storage.

It’s now time to complete the picture. Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently, but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that’s available: the sun.

The SolarCity team has built its company into the clear solar industry leader in the residential, commercial and industrial markets, with significant scale and growing customer penetration. They have made it easy for customers to switch to clean energy while still providing the best customer experience. We’ve seen this all firsthand through our partnership with SolarCity on a variety of use cases, including those where SolarCity uses Tesla battery packs as part of its solar projects.

So, we’re excited to announce that Tesla today has made an offer to acquire SolarCity.

«

Guess who is a big shareholder in SolarCity?
link to this extract

 


April 2016: Elon Musk supports his business empire with unusual financial moves • WSJ

April 2016:

»Since October 2014, SolarCity Corp. has tried to lure individual investors to the solar-power business by pitching $214m of what it calls “solar bonds” through the company’s website.

The biggest buyer by far, though, was rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies Inc., including $90m of $105m sold last month.

The bonds were an “excellent investment,” billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk said in an interview. And he knows more about the companies than anyone. Mr. Musk is their largest shareholder, the chairman of SolarCity and chief executive of SpaceX.

«

Hmm.
link to this extract

 


Former Apple engineers escaped to create their own cloud startup • Recode

Arik Hesseldahl:

»One group of Apple network engineers led by Jason Forrester, now SnapRoute’s CEO, was detailed to a skunkworks effort to, as one source familiar with the assignment put it, “build something they couldn’t get from any existing networking vendor” — software that was powerful enough to meet Apple’s industrial-grade networking needs, but also flexible enough to allow frequent on-the-fly changes to respond to shifting demands.

As the work progressed, Forrester and his team chafed at their hidden role in the behemoth project. “Slowly, our desires to share our ideas with the world began to overshadow the thrill of working for Apple,” he wrote. They left their jobs last year and started SnapRoute.

SnapRoute makes software that helps companies manage their cloud systems, whether those systems are internal or external. Right now, if a company is overwhelmed with a sudden demand, such as a suddenly popular new app bringing in unprecedented numbers of photo uploads, it’s expensive and slow to change how the network works. SnapRoute’s software makes that switch quicker and cheaper.

The 20-person startup emerged from stealth mode last week with $4.5 million in venture capital investments led by Lightspeed Ventures.

«

link to this extract

 


Well….Google just announced at SMX that the 3-pack is going to start… • Google+

Joy Hawkins:

»Well….Google just announced at SMX that the 3-pack is going to start containing an ad soon. So instead of the 3-pack it’s going to be 1-ad + 2 organic listings. Yes, the ones right on Google search (not the expanded pack). Be prepared to try to get clients in the top 2 instead of the top 3!

«

Translation: in local search on mobile/desktop, there will be an ad (or two) above the maps, and then two organic results. Here’s a screenshot.

It’s the only way for Google to keep growing its ad revenues as mobile becomes bigger but the number of searches on it don’t grow.
link to this extract

 


Disdain for Gawker and praise for Thiel at Facebook’s stockholders meeting • BuzzFeed News

Alex Kantrowitz:

»Facebook shareholders (at least the ones not named Mark Zuckerberg) didn’t have a say in Peter Thiel’s reelection to Facebook’s board Monday, but it didn’t seem to matter. At Facebook’s annual stockholders meeting, shareholders applauded Zuckerberg’s move to reelect the controversial board member. Some even cheered Thiel on in his campaign to destroy Gawker.

Thiel is at once funding lawsuits against Gawker, a Facebook publishing partner, and serving as a delegate for Donald Trump, who after the Orlando shooting suggested the children of Muslim immigrants are a security threat to the United States. These positions, to some, may appear to conflict with Facebook’s mission “to make the world more open and connected.” Especially since Facebook is a critical source of traffic to publishers like Gawker, and publishers help fill Facebook’s News Feed with high-quality content. But to Zuckerberg, whose majority voting share means he has absolute power over these decisions, and to those in attendance, Thiel is still the right guy for the job.

«

link to this extract

 


You won’t be able to sue the next Gawker • Medium

Cody Brown:

»If [Peter] Thiel is successful in destroying Gawker, he will martyrize them. The Hollywood movie that will come from this a few years from now is amazing to imagine. Social Network — The Sequel. Staring Jesse Eisenberg, Hulk Hogan, Donald Trump, and a series of tech billionaires with egos as thin as egg shells.

I now feel hesitant to bring up a point like this in a public forum. So many of those I know in the heart of Silicon Valley are thoughtful, deeply intelligent, interesting people but this is their blind spot. They have funded or built massive new institutions of social change without much scrutiny but the scrutiny is finally coming and they don’t know how to handle it. They will cut you out or block you for even engaging. Paul Graham and a partner at Andreessen Horowitz unfollowed after I made a few tweets in support of Gawker. A single email from any of these guys could torpedo my next round of funding. I have more to lose than to gain by putting my name next to this.

And that’s the point.

If the price of dissent in Silicon Valley is too high, dissent will find a darker avenue. The next ValleyWag is likely to be more like WikiLeaks. It could be anonymous. It could be outside the jurisdiction of The United States. And it could use all the shiny tools of the web, Tor, bitcoin financing, Zeronet, the blockchain, to exist above the law.

«

link to this extract

 


Apple unlikely to make big changes for next iPhone • WSJ

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Eva Dou:

»The biggest planned change in this year’s phones is the removal of the headphone plug, which will make the phone thinner and improve its water resistance, said people familiar with that matter.

The Lightning connector will serve double-duty as a port for charging the phone and for connecting headphones, they said. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said he expects the new iPhone to be one millimeter thinner than the current iPhone.

Apple plans bigger design changes for 2017, the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. Those changes could include an edge-to-edge organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screen and eliminating the home button by building the fingerprint sensor into the display, according to people familiar with the matter.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

«

So there will have to be some Extra Thing to make it worth plugging headphones into your Lightning connector. And as has been asked, how do you charge while listening to music?
link to this extract

 


Moto X designer will soon be ex Moto designer • The Verge

Vlad Savov:

»Jim Wicks, the man responsible for the celebrated designs of the 2013 Moto X and 2014 Moto 360 smartwatch, is leaving the former Motorola after 15 years of loyal service. Having joined Motorola in 2001 after design lead roles at Sony and Sapient, Wicks was part of the leadership team that stayed on during the tumult of being taken over by Google and sold on to Lenovo. But this year has seen the Motorola name phased out from public use and Rick Osterloh, the previous chief of the company, departing to head up a new hardware unit at Google. Wicks is now following suit and moving into academia, joining Northwestern University’s Segal Design Institute as a full-time faculty member.

«

As I’ve said before, I think Motorola won’t make another Android Wear smartwatch. It’s dead, Jim. The gutting of Motorola – well, that’s corporate life.
link to this extract

 


Facebook scraps in-video links to other sites • BBC News

»Video-makers can still add a link to the text that appears at the top or bottom of native video posts. However, this does not appear if the video is being watched in full-screen mode, and will therefore be missed if a user is allowing one clip to auto-play after another.

A “click for more” link does still appear superimposed over videos viewed on PCs.
However, it now makes the clips appear larger rather than directing users to third-party websites, as had been the case before.

Many broadcasters – including the BBC – upload shortened versions of their material in order to direct audiences to the full versions on their own sites.

Others, such as al-Jazeera’s AJ+ service, are content to build awareness for their brands by making clips for the social media platform without trying to send users to their sites.

Facebook itself has an incentive to discourage audiences from leaving as this allows it to show them more ads.
“This is further evidence that having eaten the audiences for newspapers, Facebook is now keen to stifle the audiences for broadcasters,” commented Roy Greenslade, professor of journalism at City University London, and a former editor of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Times.

«

Facebook is becoming an inescapable gravity well for publishers.
link to this extract

 


Now examining: Blade Runner • Typeset In The Future

Dave Addey goes into another of his deliciously detailed examinations of the fonts, symbols and typefaces (those are different, right?) in this iconic film. Previous efforts have looked at Moon and Alien. The latter was, like this, directed by Ridley Scott, and Addey notices something odd in an early scene when Deckard gets into a VTOL “Spinner”:

»The Spinner’s landscape-orientation TV shows a display that may be familiar to regular TITF readers:

This ENVIRON CTR PURGE display is identical to the one we saw in Alien, just before the Nostromo exploded :

As if that wasn’t enough self-plagiarism, Ridley Scott also steals a second display from his earlier sci-fi masterpiece.

«

There’s your lunchtime reading sorted.
link to this extract

 


Refugee rescue app pulled from App Store after it is outed as fake • The Guardian

Alex Hern:

»An app which purported to offer aid to refugees lost in the Mediterranean has been pulled from Apple’s App Store after it was revealed as a fake.

The I Sea app, which also won a Bronze medal at the Cannes Lions conference on Monday night, presented itself as a tool to help report refugees lost at sea, using real-time satellite footage to identify boats in trouble and highlighting their location to the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas), which would provide help.

In fact, the app did nothing of the sort. Rather than presenting real-time satellite footage – a difficult and expensive task – it instead simply shows a portion of a static, unchanging image. And while it claims to show the weather in the southern Mediterranean, that too isn’t that accurate: it’s for Western Libya.

The app was developed by Grey Group, an ad agency in Singapore that’s part of global advertising giant WPP.

«

Read on for complete and absolute bull spouted by Grey’s executive creative director about “algorithms”. Shameful, and shameless.
link to this extract

 


How Is Donald Trump going to quit? • Gawker

Ashley Feinberg lays out four scenarios, of which this one – during the convention – strikes me as possible:

»Remember, absolutely everything Donald Trump does is about A) creating an appearance of having won and B) getting as much positive attention as humanly possible. To succeed in this scenario, Trump needs something huge to take everybody’s mind off the fact that he’s backing out of the presidency. Trump needs to announce Trump TV.

Or the Trump News Network or Trump Broadcasting or Der Stürmer or whatever he decides to call it. This way, Trump gets to turn the Republican National Convention, where virtually every media outlet in the nation has gathered, into a press conference for the launch of his very own television network.

As Vanity Fair pointed out, his whole campaign has basically been building to this point. His constant bashing of the media certainly must mean he thinks he can do it better. And to his credit, Trump does have a knack for commanding a national audience. Why bother being President, a job he neither wants nor is qualified for, when he can do the only part he actually enjoys (screaming things on television) for the rest of his life?

«

link to this extract

 


The weird story behind the Trump campaign’s $35,000 payment to ‘Draper Sterling’ • ThinkProgress

Judd Legum on money paid to a company that oddly has the same name as the famous fictitious ad guys:

»[Jon] Adkins co-founded the medical device company with Paul Holzer, a former Navy Seal and current medical student at Dartmouth. Holzer was involved in Charlie Baker’s run for governor in 2014 — he ran the campaign’s “voter contact strategy.” He was also part of the “management and strategy team” for Missourians For John Brunner, a candidate for governor.

Trump paid an additional $3,000 each to Holzer and Adkins in May for “field consulting.” Holzer listed Adkins’ home as his address.

This is when things get interesting.

The only other apparent public mention of Draper Sterling effectively accuses it of being a scam that helps perpetrate legally questionable activity.

It comes from an FEC complaint against an entity called “Patriots For America,” a federal super PAC seeking to influence the Missouri governor’s race. The complaint, filed on May 12 by an economics professor named Aaron Hedlund, alleges that Patriots For America listed no receipts or disbursements on its FEC filings, yet sent out direct mail.

It also highlights an unusual debt of $56,234 to “Draper Sterling LLC” for “business consulting.” Hedlund describes the debt as “mysterious,” “highly unusual” and a potential violation of the law.

«

There’s usually something a bit fishy around presidential campaigns, but this is just weird. I find the Trump campaign’s (“campaign’s”) shenanigans endlessly fascinating because it’s like a clown car being driven on a Formula 1 circuit. Bits are flying off all over the place.
link to this extract

 


Missing the boat in music • Asymco

Horace Dediu:

»how does a 15 million user base in 1 year compare with the growth rate for the incumbents Spotify and Pandora?

The following graph shows the ramps for Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music since their moments of market entry. The accumulation of users by Apple looks to be the fastest yet.

This is, of course, due to a maturing use case. Apple did not have to educate people to the notion of music as a subscription. It could just announce it and users would discover it and just sign up, especially if they were already iCloud subscribers and had a credit card attached to their iTunes account.

But that’s the whole point. Apple did not have to move first in music subscriptions. It did not even have to move second or third. When it did move it could just skim the market and add to its already healthy Services revenue (orange line in the first graph above.) Missing the boat in music in this case meant capturing all the value quickly and with minimal expense.

Fundamentally, Apple’s entry into music subscriptions was a sustaining effort. Streaming sustained Apple rather than disrupting it. The difference may seem merely one of semantics, but it is also the difference between life and death for a challenger. Meaning matters.

«

Some discussion in the comments about whether streaming is a disruptive innovation after all, rather than sustaining. My own comment there is that it depends on surrounding preconditions, which have taken years to come right.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Twitter gets AI too, Apple’s photo AI, would Brexit raise roaming prices?, Spotify’s 100m, and more


Presenting! It can be so easy, but can be so bad. Photo by Alice Bartlett on Flickr.

You might sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. Unless you already did.

A selection of 12 links for you. Now that the summer solstice has passed in the northern hemisphere. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Alicia Keys is done playing nice. Your phone is getting locked up at her shows now. • The Washington Post

Geoff Edgers:

»On a cool Manhattan night, DJ Walton, who helps manage Alicia Keys, steps outside the Highline Ballroom to tell the guy at the door who, exactly, he may allow to bring a cellphone into the singer’s sold-out gig. The list is very short.

“Like, Queen Latifah,” says Walton.

Benji Spanier nods and spreads the news to everybody else. This is a “phone-free event,” he tells fans waiting in line. And that doesn’t mean airplane mode. Spanier holds a gray, rubbery pouch in his hand. Your phone goes in here, he says, and then we lock it.

“What?” one fan grumbles.

Quickly, Spanier adds an important addendum.

You keep that locked pouch with you. Spanier also explains that if you need to use your phone, you can just come outside and he can quickly unlock it by tapping it on a metal disk slightly larger than a bagel. The tension breaks.

“If you had told me you were going to put it in a locker, I’d have been pissed off,” Kevin Schmidt, 37, tells him. “This is okay.”

«

Special pouch, called Yondr. Good business for them.
link to this extract

 


Did Jeep’s recalled gear shifter contribute to the death of Star Trek Actor Anton Yelchin? (Updating) • Jalopnik

David Tracy:

»Earlier today, we learned about the tragic death of Anton Yelchin after the Star Trek actor was found pinned between his car and a mailbox. Now news from TMZ indicates that Yelchin’s car was a Jeep Grand Cherokee, leading us to wonder whether it was among the 1.1 million cars recalled in April due to a confusing shifter that owners often inadvertently left in neutral instead of park. [Update: it was.]

In mid April, Jeep recalled 1.1 million vehicles equipped with ZF’s eight-speed automatic transmission because, according to the automaker’s recall notice, “Some drivers… exited their vehicles without first selecting ‘PARK,’” ultimately causing the cars to roll away uncontrollably.

«

Lots of maybes, but this looks like a case where poor design led to death.
link to this extract

 


Twitter buys machine learning start-up Magic Pony • FT.com

Hannah Kuchler:

»Twitter has acquired Magic Pony, a London-based machine learning start-up, as the messaging platform tries to bolster its video and live streaming capabilities.

Magic Pony specialises in creating algorithms that can understand pictures, which could be helpful to Twitter as it pushes further into live streaming and moves away from a chronological timeline to a more curated Facebook-style news feed.

The startup was set up in 2014 and has 14 engineers, including 11 with PhDs and expertise across computer vision, the ability to understand pictures, machine learning and computational neurosciences…

Twitter acquired Magic Pony for an undisclosed sum. Its investors include Octopus Ventures, a UK-based venture capital firm that has invested in other artificial intelligence companies. These include Evi, which was acquired by Amazon, and SwiftKey, which was bought by Microsoft.

«

Airplanes to San Francisco await the chief executive Rob Bishop. Congratulations to that team.
link to this extract

 


Speaker style bingo: 10 presentation anti-patterns • Troy Hunt

Hunt nails the ten awful habits of speakers you wish hadn’t got the slot you’re attending, and offers this advice:

»seriously, you’ve got to rehearse these things like crazy and also recognise that your pace changes between private rehearsals and public presentations. On that point, I always have a timing sheet in large letters next to my iPad with a timer in an easily glanceable location:

This is invaluable. I refine the timing on subsequent rehearsal and ensure it’s accurate to the minute with two or three minutes to spare at the end just in case I start late or have an issue. I glance at it very few minutes and either slow down the pace (usually by embellishing on a topic) or speed it up to get back on track. But here’s the key – this has to be something you can check with a glance.

«

Then again, I think all of us who have spoken in public could do a similar one about the audience – the ones checking their phones, checking their laptops, etc.
link to this extract

 


Behind Apple’s advanced computer vision for Photos app • Medium

Kay Yin:

»[iOS 10’s] Photos app recognises and distinguishes the following 7 facial expressions. Expressions are distinguished after forming a “faceprint”. These distinction are used for searching. They are also rated and indexed for generation Memories and montages.
•Greedy, Disgust, Neutral, Scream, Smiling, Surprise, Suspicious

Photos app will generate Moments that falls within the following 33 categories. Default name of the moment will be automatically generated using metadata from the photos and tags from analysis of photos.

• Memories from areas of interest, Best of past memories, Memories that break out of routine, Celebration in history, Contextual memories, Crowd, Day in history, Holiday in history, Location of interest, Nearby, New contextual memories, New memories, Person’s Birthdays, Person’s memories, Recent events (calendar, crowd, holiday, people, person, social, trip, weekend), Region of interest, Social group memories, Sometime memories, Special memories, Favourited, Trips, Week in history, Weekend, Year summary, Last week, Last Weekend

Photos app supports detecting 4,432 different scenes and objects. These scenes or objects can be searched for in all languages.

Additionally, you can search for various landmarks.

«

He doesn’t specify how he knows this – possibly from using the macOS beta and digging into the accompanying files. It seems like a limited number compared to what Google must have; Google’s scenes/objects list is probably growing by 4,432 every day.
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Could Brexit result in higher roaming charges? • CCS Insigh

Kester Mann:

»Should the UK vote for Brexit, mobile operators would no longer be accountable to Brussels’ regulation on roaming. Under pressure from declining revenue in traditional areas such as voice and messaging, they would be foolish not to at least consider seizing an opportunity to reapply charges.

In reality however, this would be much easier said than done in a hugely competitive market that includes a number of strong virtual providers. Indeed, some operators have already gone a long way toward abolishing roaming ahead of the ruling next June. Backtracking would be extremely unpopular and probably only work if operators moved in unison. Even then, Ofcom may still be within its rights to clamp down if it deemed the move unnecessary.

Already more than 3 million customers of Three have taken advantage of inclusive roaming since the operator launched its Feel at Home offer in 2013. Significantly, it includes popular tourist and business destinations beyond Brussels’ jurisdiction, such as Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the US. In my view, this demonstrates a long-term strategy to offer low-cost roaming charges, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

Other UK providers have followed suit. Carphone Warehouse currently offers inclusive roaming in 29 countries, including Australia and the US, through its virtual service, iD. Meanwhile, Vodafone last month moved to largely abolish roaming across Europe. Tesco Mobile has a similar offer, although it is only available during the summer, a possible indication that it will review its options after the UK goes to the polls.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this debate is Swisscom’s recent decision to virtually abolish roaming within the EU for its Natel Infinity Plus subscribers. Given that Switzerland is not a member state and has a hugely dominant market position, this was a surprising move that suggests the value of roaming may be overestimated by some commentators.

«

(My family loves Three’s “Feel At Home” international roaming for no extra cost.)
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One million machines, including routers, used to attack banks • Boing Boing

Cory Doctorow:

»Akamai’s Ryan Barnett reports on two attacks against the service’s financial customers last year: attackers used nearly 1m compromised systems to attempt to log in to users’ accounts using logins and passwords from earlier breaches.

Many of the attacks originated from proxies, but the response team found a high number of Xyxel and Arris home routers – provided by ISPs in an insecure state and not patched after deployment.

While distributed attacks are common, this story is a kind of trifecta of infosec badness: hacked, headless IoT devices rented to customers who aren’t allowed to reconfigure them; email/password breaches leaked from insecure services being leveraged on the assumption of password re-use; and attacks originating from a million IPs – all directed to financial accounts in a way that could clean out its victims of their life’s savings.

«

There must come a point where the sheer firepower is going to overwhelm any protection, surely? And what happens after that? Here’s the full Akamai report.
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Get more out of your battery with Microsoft Edge • Windows Experience Blog

Jason Weber, director of Web platform team, Microsoft Edge:

»We connected a Surface Book to specialized power monitoring equipment and measured the actual power usage during typical browsing activities in Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. We then automated each browser to perform the same series of activities: opening websites, scrolling through articles, and watching videos, opening new tabs for each task. We used the same websites you spend your time on – Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, Wikipedia and more.

Average power consumption in milliwatts for identical workloads in Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera (with battery saver mode enabled). Unless specified, all browser settings were left at their defaults.

For these browsing activities, our tests show Microsoft Edge is a more energy efficient browser on Windows 10, with up to 36%-53% more battery life to get what you need done —whether you’re studying at the library, researching dream vacation destinations, or checking in with your friends on social networks.

«

Bet Apple would get the same for Safari on an Apple machine. Chrome is a battery hog – no two ways about it.
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Google vs. Apple: contrasting approaches to app store evolution • Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh:

»Instant Apps and Google Now On Tap are mildly interesting products when looked at individually. But when combined, they have the potential to reshape the app interaction model as we know it. That said, this is a risk because a change on this scale will take quite a bit of time to diffuse through to developers and consumers at scale. But if executed correctly, app downloads could be a thing of the past within five years.

Now let’s take a look at Apple’s approach to the app store. Apple appears to be doubling down on the existing app distribution / discovery paradigm. The only change on this front was the introduction of app store search ads (which have been available on Google Play for a year, with no major impact). Instead, Apple’s major announcements focused on subscription-based revenue models to help developers better monetize digital content. Of course, it also helps that app revenue is the lone bright spot for the company as iPhone sales continue to decline.

Apple’s moves will certainly improve monetization in certain app store categories, notably Productivity, but it could hardly be called a drastic change to the app store model. This serves some developer needs, but it does not solve the app discovery challenge faced by consumers and the conversion rate issue that plagues developers. Time will tell if this was the right approach.

«

Is app monetisation more important for developers, or being able to get their apps onto peoples’ devices? The latter is comparatively easy, though neither is a cakewalk. Apple seems to be focussing first on the former, and fixing that quickly. Though Google could follow it quickly too.
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Spotify monthly active user base reaches 100 million • Reuters

Mia Shanley:

»Swedish music streaming service Spotify said on Monday its user base had grown to 100 million, up from 75 million previously, as it pushed into new markets and despite competition from the likes of Apple Music.

Spotify has the music streaming industry’s biggest paid subscriber base, with 30 million users paying to listen, but the vast majority still tune in for free with commercial breaks.

Competition is fierce with Apple Music launched just last year and already claiming 13 million paid users while Alphabet’s Google competes with Google Music and Youtube.

«

Apple claimed last week to have 15 million subscribers – time to update the database, Reuters. Quite how it counts them (is each member of a family membership a “subscriber”, or only the main paying member?) isn’t yet clear.

What is clear is that Spotify can’t let a single Apple Music statistic go past without upping the ante. Notably, that 30m paid subscriber number hasn’t shifted since it released it in March. Possibly it is being conservative with its numbers, and only releasing bigger subscriber numbers when it needs to.

A related problem: those 70m non-paying listeners have to be monetised through advertising, and that growing inventory (= ad spots to fill) inevitably means falling ad prices, which means worse losses.
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#THEDAO: Failing fast vs Failing unnecessarily • Preston J. Byrne

Byrne is extremely unimpressed with the setup which allowed millions of dollars worth of Ethereum cryptocurrency to be drained away, unlike some VCs who are saying “ooh, it’ll get fixed next release!”:

»Having lawyers – or legal-coders- involved in this is absolutely critical. The future doesn’t belong to the guy who just slings code or the guy who does the front-office function, but someone who can bridge the gap and do both – bringing the best of Silicon Valley’s approach to life to the professional services which run the rest of the world, and doing so in a way which gybes with local rule-frameworks. (Note, I run into this all the time when speaking with the banks – architects and front-office guys aren’t accustomed to talking to each other, or even considering themselves as part of the same team. I suspect this is a large contributor to most banks’ heaps of technical debt.)

Bridging the gap becomes especially important if you want to take your idea and turn it into an investable business, as many Solidity programmers do.

With respect to the DAO, there was a similar breakdown in communication – only this time between the wider community and the developers doing the codeslinging. Serious professional objections, from persons extremely well-versed on every layer of this conceptual stack, were made known very early. And not “this is a silly idea which will never work” kinds of objections, but “this is technically bankrupt and flies in the face of all best practice for what you are attempting to do” kinds of objections.

«

I still find the story around this impenetrable, but Byrne’s angry headshaking sounds like what ought to be the reaction.
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Top ten reasons to doubt Trump is even a billionaire • Talking Points Memo

Josh Marshall, with the aforesaid ten, of which this is striking:

»During the research for his book Timothy o’Brien received estimates of Trump’s wealth ranging from $250m to $788m. Trump himself originally told O’Brien he was worth between $4b and $5b before dramatically revising down his estimate to $1.7 billion the same day. If we take $250m, $788m and $1.7b together and rough average them out we can get around $1 billion circa 2004/05. Today Trump claims he is worth $10 billion. This would require a tenfold run up in Trump’s wealth over roughly a decade. Even if we take Trump’s own estimate of $1.7 billion it would require a five fold run up over a decade. The problem is that Trump hasn’t done anything over that period that would account for that kind of wealth accumulation. Trump does very few major building projects these days and the few he does he does mainly with other people’s money. After the bankruptcy crises of 25 years ago, Trump shifted his business model from high profile real estate development to licensing and television. He licenses his name for hotels, buildings and golf courses on the high end and steaks, water, ties and more on the low end. This probably generates a massive amount of income for us mortals. But not many billions of dollars over a decade.

«

There must be a moment of truth, rather than truthiness, coming. Also: Trump fired his campaign manager on Monday. Things aren’t looking too clever.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Apple v Trump, Ev Williams v text, Google’s learning bet, Snapchat’s magazine plan, and more


iOS 10’s notifications are different – but there are plenty of other changes forthcoming in September (or so). Photo by tualamac 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 14 links for you. Save some for later – don’t bloat. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Ev Williams is the Forrest Gump of the internet • The Atlantic

Robinson Meyer:

»“The worst world, the scary version, is if the tricks to get attention are a skill developed and owned primarily by profit-driven companies,” [Ev Williams] told me. “I’d go back to the food analogy. What are people going to be consuming most of the time? They’re optimizing for clicks and dollars. Can a person who has a unique perspective play that game? Are they just going to get trounced?”

This is Medium’s reason for existing: to protect individual writers in the fierce and nasty content jungles. Resistance to the centralization generally is futile, he believes, citing Wu. “That’s the way the Internet works, and that’s the way humans work,” he says. “Efficiency and ROI and economies of scale and user experience—they’re all going to drive more things to consolidate. I kind of look at that as a force of nature. But if things consolidate, does that mean that everything is shit?”

That is the Medium appeal, in a nutshell. Keeping everything from being shit. It wants to do so by adopting many of the tics and habits of the original blogosphere—the intertextuality, the back-and-forth, the sense of amateurism—without being the open web. It will use its own custom metrics, like time-spent-reading, to decide who sees what stories; and it will tend to show your friends something if you “recommend” it. Medium, yes, will just be another platform, but it will run the open web in an emulator.

«

link to this extract

 


Google’s bold move to reinvent every device on the planet • Forbes

Miguel Helft:

»the techniques used to recognize images in Google Photos are able to power StreetView’s ability to “read” signs and Project Sunroof’s ability to identify rooftops that are suitable for solar panels based on aerial images. It’s also enabling a small experimental team at Google to effectively detect diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that can lead to blindness, by looking at iris scans. “It’s a pretty significant shift,” Dean says. “Word is spreading throughout the company that there is this new capability to solve problems in this way,” he says, in reference to the new AI techniques.

What started as a research project with a handful of people has grown to perhaps hundreds–Dean refuses to say how many–who have developed algorithms, computer systems and, more recently, Google’s own chips, all customized for these AI approaches. (Google Brain’s software tools are known as TensorFlow and the chips as Tensor Processing Units.) As a result there are now more than 2,000 projects inside the company applying Google Brain’s capabilities to scores of products. Dean’s group has held machine-learning office hours, and thousands of Google engineers have gone through internal courses that can last weeks. “It went from being a research project to a mainstream engineering activity,” says John Giannandrea, an AI expert appointed by Pichai to lead the company’s search efforts.

«

You have to wade through a certain amount if you’re familiar with Google, but there are useful insights here too.
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Facebook is wrong, text is deathless • Kottke

Tim Carmody on the suggestion from Facebook that “video is going to take over from text”:

»Maybe this is coming from deep within the literacy bubble, but:

Text is surprisingly resilient. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there’s nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a matter of preference or necessity. And it’s endlessly computable – you can search it, code it. You can use text to make it do other things.

In short, all of the same technological advances that enable more and more video, audio, and immersive VR entertainment also enable more and more text. We will see more of all of them as the technological bottlenecks open up.

And text itself will get weirder, its properties less distinct, as it reflects new assumptions and possibilities borrowed from other tech and media. It already has! Text can be real-time, text can be ephemeral – text has taken on almost all of the attributes we always used to distinguish speech, but it’s still remained text. It’s still visual characters registered by the eye standing in for (and shaping its own) language.

«

link to this extract

 


And another thing about Theranos… • LinkedIn

Sten Westgard lists the ten stories about Theranos you may have missed last week, which range from negative to more negative to neutral:

»There’s so much that’s happened that it’s hard to know where to start. Indeed, most of the stories have been covered by other news outlets already, and by real journalists. About the only additional insight we can add here is a closer reading of the lightly redacted inspection report. Because buried in that are some performance details that no one else seems to have noticed.

Let’s start with the QC [quality control] failure rates. The inspection report details that there were significant out-of-control results for many tests, sometimes up to 87% of QC results were out more than 2 standard deviations!!

«

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No Signal (and other cellular drama) • YouTube

After last week’s wonderment about whether people in Star Wars are post- (or pre-) literate, here’s how screenplay writers deal with those damn mobile phones which could scupper plots in which people are meant to be out of contact and able to call help. Texas Chainsaw Massacre never had to deal with this (though probably would have in a scene like this).
link to this extract

 


‘Could he actually win?’ Dave Eggers at a Donald Trump rally • The Guardian

Dave Eggers went to a Trump rally in Sacramento, California, incognito, and found it more mixed (racially, sexually) than you’d expect, and more relaxed, but found this:

»He has reversed himself on nearly every major issue, often in the same week, and has offered scant specifics on anything in particular – though in Sacramento, about infrastructure, he did say, “We’re gonna have new roads, bridges, all that stuff”.

His supporters do not care. Nothing in Trump’s platform matters. There is no policy that matters. There is no promise that matters. There is no villain, no scapegoat, that matters. If, tomorrow, he said that Canadians, not Mexicans, were rapists and drug dealers, and the wall should be built on that border, no one would blink. His poll numbers would not waver. Because there are no positions and no statements that matter to them. There is only the man, the name, the brand, the personality they have seen on television.

Believing that Trump’s supporters are all fascists or racists is a grave mistake. This day in Sacramento presented a different picture, of a thousand or so regular people who thought it was pretty cool how Trump showed up in a plane with his name on it. How naughty it was when he called the president “stupid”. How funny it was when he said the word “huge” the peculiar way he does, without the “h” (the audience yelled back “uuuuge!”, laughing half with him, half at him). In the same way we rooted for Clay a few years ago when he showed up as an actual actor in a Woody Allen movie, the audience at a Trump rally is thinking, How funny would it be if this guy were across the table from Angela Merkel? That would be classic.

«

It’s long, but eminently worth reading. My next question is: will Eggers go to a Hillary Clinton rally, and what would he think of what he found there? I’d like to know.
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Apple won’t aid GOP convention over Trump • POLITICO

Tony Romm:

»Apple has told Republican leaders it will not provide funding or other support for the party’s 2016 presidential convention, as it’s done in the past, citing Donald Trump’s controversial comments about women, immigrants and minorities.

Unlike Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have all said they will provide some support to the GOP event in Cleveland next month, Apple decided against donating technology or cash to the effort, according to two sources familiar with the iPhone maker’s plans.

Apple’s political stand against Trump, communicated privately to Republicans, is a sign of the widening schism between Silicon Valley and the GOP’s bombastic presumptive nominee. Trump has trained his rhetorical fire on the entire tech industry, but he’s singled out Apple for particular criticism – calling for a boycott of the company’s products, and slamming CEO Tim Cook, over Apple’s stance on encryption.

«

link to this extract

 


Understanding the DAO hack for journalists • Medium

David Siegel, with a long long long explanation of how someone hacked a cryptocurrency (another event that’s becoming everyday) and siphoned off a ton:

»I will call the attacker a lone male, even though I have no idea if he is one. What happened next was interesting. In an open letter to The DAO and Ethereum Community, the attacker supposedly claimed that his “reward” was legal and threatened to take legal action against anyone who tried to invalidate his work. Several people pointed out that the cryptographic signature in this message wasn’t valid — it could be fake. But it’s well written and, from a certain point of view, well reasoned: the premise of smart contracts is that they are their own arbiters and that nothing outside the code can “change the rules” of the transaction.

Later, through an intermediary, the attacker claimed that he would put a stop to the organized “theft” of his property by rewarding miners (nodes) who don’t go along with the proposed soft fork, saying:

»

[S]oon we will have a smart contract to reward miners who oppose the soft fork and mines the transaction. 1 million ether + 100 btc will be shared with miners.

«

This is clearly a complex dynamic system. These messages from “The Attacker” cannot be verified, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Next, I will try to categorize the responses from the community.

«

I’m really glad I’m not the person writing the story about this if this is the “understanding” bit. First explain to a newsdesk what DAO is; then what Ethereum is; then smart contracts; then…
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Ericsson Mobility Report Q1 2016 • Ericsson

Lots and lots of things in this, such as this:

»although teens reported the lowest cellular data consumption for video streaming apps among all age groups in both July 2014 and October 2015, the higher reliance on smartphones for video viewing at any time of the day means that teen video data consumption over cellular networks is growing rapidly.

Only 30–35 year olds have a higher growth rate than teens for cellular video streaming data usage. However, the overall mobile video data consumption (including both cellular and Wi-Fi) among this group is around 2.5 GB/month. That is only a fth of the teens’ data consumption and the potential for further growth is limited due to the fact that 30–35 year olds are still rooted in traditional TV viewing behavior.

Overall, teens are the heaviest users of data for smartphone video streaming apps and have the second highest rate of cellular video data consumption growth. Since we are witnessing a generational change, current teens are likely to increase their appetite for cellular data as they grow older – making them the most important group to watch for cellular operators.

«

But plenty more, such as the internet of things outnumbering smartphone subscriptions by 2018.
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Snapchat is starting Real Life, an online magazine about technology • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»In a blog post today describing the new initiative, Snapchat employee and social media critic Nathan Jurgenson writes that “Snapchat is now funding Real Life.” In an email to VentureBeat, he declined to elaborate on the nature of the funding, but he did confirm that Real Life is “owned” by Snapchat.

“Real Life will publish essays, arguments, and narratives about living with technology,” Jurgenson writes. “It won’t be a news site with gadget reviews or industry gossip. It will be about how we live today and how our lives are mediated by devices.” (This sounds a little like the turf of New York Magazine‘s recently launched Select All.) The publication will cover beauty, power, privacy, and relationships, among other things, and “we aim to address the political uses of technology, including some of the worst practices both inside and outside the tech industry itself,” writes Jurgenson.

So now Snapchat will technically have web content that is visible on desktop computers. No longer will Snapchat be constrained to mobile devices. And, at least initially, the medium will be primarily text, unlike the video stories and snaps the Southern California company has become known for.

«

Unfathomable. How does this do anything for Snapchat?
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The Talk Show ✪: Live From WWDC 2016, With Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi • Daring Fireball

»Recorded in front of a live audience in San Francisco, John Gruber is joined by Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi to discuss the news from WWDC: WatchOS 3, MacOS 10.12 Sierra, iOS 10, and more.

«

There’s also a transcript. Last year it was just Schiller. (“Just” Schiller.) I guess they can pick from Schiller, Federighi and Eddy Cue for a few years before it has to aim for the top with Cook. After whom, what?
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All the hidden, awesome stuff in iOS 10 Apple didn’t announce • Lifehacker

Thorin Klosowski:

»iOS updates aren’t as exciting as they used to be, so the best stuff is often the little features that slip through the keynote cracks but make your iPhone or iPad work much better. Case in point, some of the hidden stuff in early iOS 10 betas is way more exciting than what Apple actually announced this week.

«

It isn’t all but it’s a few of the more fun things – alarm redesign, Maps remembering where you parked if you used it to navigate in a car, no more “slide to unlock”, a few more. I think the death of “slide to unlock” (and its companion, where Music controls in Control Centre are now to the right) is going to be the one that causes the most perplexity.
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The elements of stickers • Andreessen Horowitz

Connie Chan, a partner at venture capital company Andreessen Horowitz:

»What is surprising — especially when compared to the more mature messaging ecosystem in Asia — is that many people still tend to treat stickers (i.e., the ability to easily incorporate pre-set images into texts) as just-for-fun frivolity, when they’re an important visual digital language fully capable of communicating a nuanced range of thoughts. For example, a single sticker could convey very different messages: “I’m so hungry I could collapse” or “I miss you” or “I’m sound asleep snoring”. Complex feelings, actions, punch lines, and memes are all possible with stickers.

They are an acceptable response to “end” a real-time back and forth conversation (great for punchlines). They are a low-risk way of saying hi and initiating a chat with an acquaintance. And they reduce the social friction of saying something emotional in text form; this is especially helpful in a culture that is known to be less outwardly expressive even to one’s own family members and friends (where it is far less awkward to send a virtual-fistbump sticker than it is to tell someone directly that they’re a wonderful friend).

And sometimes stickers can convey what words cannot! This form of visual communication has become so popular in Asia — especially in China’s WeChat and Japan’s LINE — that it is not uncommon to see a deep thread of multiple messages without a single word. They’re not just for those crazy young kids. More notably, stickers are commonly used in professional, not just personal, chats as well. Not so frivolous after all. In fact, stickers are so core to the success of Line, that its CEO actually credited them as the “turning point” for that app. He shared that it took Line Messenger almost four months to find its first two million users … but after stickers were launched, it took only two days to find the next million. The company now makes over $270m a year just from selling stickers.

«

This is essential to understanding why Apple has gone so big on stickers for iOS 10’s iMessage. Chan is highly worth reading on all these topics.
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How hired hackers got “complete control” of Palantir • BuzzFeed News

William Alden on how Veris Systems was hired to hack into Palantir:

»Even Palantir’s defense efforts were visible to the red team. The intruders found an “InfoSec Onboarding” page on the wiki that detailed Palantir’s security infrastructure. They monitored security devices and “ensured that their actions were not being logged.”

This was when, according to the report, the red team intruders had “complete control” of the Palantir domain. Their final task was to break into the Mac laptops of information security employees — the fortress guards. This they did, using a system that typically sent out software updates, and soon were able to get passwords and screenshots, review saved files, and “observe all user activity,” the report says.

They were finally caught while attempting to upload a screenshot to one of their own servers, according to the report. A piece of security software called Little Snitch — which regulates data sent out from a computer to the internet — was installed on one of the information security employees’ laptops, and it flagged the suspicious upload attempt, the report says. Little Snitch, while popular in the cybersecurity world, was not standard software for these employees, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Soon, Palantir security employees identified the red team’s attack tools and set up firewalls to block communications to the red team servers. These defenders “successfully demonstrated the ability to trace malicious activity across the domain and take the appropriate steps to neutralize an insider threat,” the report says.

But the red team still had an edge.

«

Veris was let through the firewall on purpose, to see what would happen if someone was spearphished. Turns out: a lot.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notifed.

Start up: the world in 2045, Apple’s App Store revamp, Magic Leap’s hat show, app downloads pause, and more

0

What would you put in a time capsule to remind the future of what it got from us? Photo by marcmoss on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Subscription-free (unless you’ve subscribed). I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The world in 2045, according to DARPA • Tech Insider

Paul Szoldra:

»So what’s going to happen in 2045?

It’s pretty likely that robots and artificial technology are going to transform a bunch of industries, drone aircraft will continue their leap from the military to the civilian market, and self-driving cars will make your commute a lot more bearable.

But DARPA scientists have even bigger ideas. In a video series from October called “Forward to the Future,” three researchers predict what they imagine will be a reality 30 years from now.

Dr. Justin Sanchez, a neuroscientist and program manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, believes we’ll be at a point where we can control things simply by using our mind.

“Imagine a world where you could just use your thoughts to control your environment,” Sanchez said. “Think about controlling different aspects of your home just using your brain signals, or maybe communicating with your friends and your family just using neural activity from your brain.”

«

I’d really prefer not to do that. Would that be OK?
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Apple to launch major overhaul of App Store with paid search ads and subscription changes • The Telegraph

Hey, it’s by me:

»The iPhone maker Apple is revamping its App Store, with a surprise move to introduce paid search ads for apps, as well as a new subscription model and faster reviews before approval.

The move to introduce a single paid ad at the top of search results in the App Store, initially in the US, could prove controversial both with developers and users, who told The Telegraph that they would prefer to see better “organic” search results rather than paid ads.

«

Every one of the developers (and users) I contacted ahead of the announcement – without saying Apple had anything planned – told me they wanted “better search”. None said they wanted paid search ads. Is this Apple getting the disquiet out of the way early? (I think that the principal effect will be to pull revenue from other media – though probably not Facebook, because its targeting is better.)
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Google will offer app developers the same revenue sharing terms Apple just announced — with one big advantage • Recode

Mark Bergen:

»On Wednesday, Apple detailed major shake-ups coming to its powerful app store. Those include a new revenue sharing model that would give developers more money when users subscribe to a service via their apps — instead of keeping 70% of all revenue generated from subscriptions, publishers will be able to keep 85% of revenue, once a subscriber has been paying for a year.

Now Google plans to up the ante at its app store: It will also move from a 70/30 split to 85/15 for subscriptions — but instead of requiring developers to hook a subscriber for 12 months before offering the better split, it will make it available right away.

«

Except it’s not saying when it will bring this in. (Probably soon.) Will this make a big difference to app revenue for developers from Google in real terms? I’d love to know how many subscriptions there are through Google Play. The obvious one would be music services; I doubt there are that many business services.
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We’ve seen Magic Leap’s device of the future, and it looks like Merlin’s skull cap • The Guardian

Danny Yadron:

»The much-hyped startup Magic Leap – backed by Google, Warner Brothers, JPMorgan Chase and others – recently won a patent for the design of an augmented reality headset. The device, according to a report in Wired, would let users superimpose calendars, kids pictures or jellyfish over day-to-day life. So-called mixed reality or augmented reality is seen by many as consumer technology’s next big wave.

Magic Leap’s design patent, which was granted on Tuesday, could offer the first look at what some say may be the most revolutionary tech gadget in years. It could also illustrate a stubborn problem that’s been holding augmented reality back.

It’s hard to imagine looking cool while wearing the devices.
«

Point of order, Madam Speaker, the author has seen a sketch of the device, not the device itself. But those drawings are usually pretty close – it was for the Segway, for instance. And this does look super-dorky. (The Guardian prevents image embeds.)
link to this extract

 


Hacking the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV hybrid • Pen Test Partners

»What’s really unusual is the method of connecting the mobile app to the car. Most remote control apps for locating the car, flashing the headlights, locking it remotely etc. work using a web service. The web service is hosted by the car manufacturer or their service provider. This then connects to the vehicle using GSM to a module on the car. As a result, one can communicate with the vehicle over mobile data from virtually anywhere.

«

Much fun has ensued, with Mitsubishi po-facedly saying it “takes it very seriously”. Given that people can randomly disable your car alarm, that is good.

This recalls the hacking of the Nissan LEAF back in February, of course. That was more internet-based, but still poor security at its heart.
link to this extract

 


Are you bored with apps? Some of the biggest apps around are seeing downloads plummet • PhoneArena

Stephen S:

»for some reason, there seems to be a widespread trend where growth is seriously slowing down – and in many cases, declining – for all but the very most popular apps.

For big players like Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Spotify, and Twitter, app downloads are way down from last year’s figures. Some of those dips are are pushing upwards of 20% declines, representing millions of fewer downloads downloads each month.

Internationally the situation’s not particularly dire, and a good number of these apps are close to holding level, or even showing small growth. But there are definitely signs of a slowdown, especially among the big three of Facebook, Whatsapp, and Messenger – all three are seeing download figures tank.

In the US, however, things are quickly going from bad to worse, with nearly all the biggest apps seeing major growth fallout.

“Nearly,” we say, because there are two big exceptions to this trend: Snapchat and Uber.

Both relatively new and with their stars still on the rise, they’re the only two big apps capturing major growth, both in the US and aboard.

«

There’s a slideshow too, which shows big slowdowns in many apps. But there’s a simple explanation: the number of people new to smartphones is diminishing very rapidly, and those who are joining are the ones who aren’t that interested in downloading apps. (Thanks @elvengrail for the link.)
link to this extract

 


On reading issues of Wired from 1993 to 1995 • The New Yorker

Anna Wiener:

»Today’s future-booster events, like the annual Consumer Electronics Show, tend to prize stories of novelty and innovation—and yet, reading early Wired, it becomes clear that many of the inventions that claim to be new today are simply extensions of what came before. A sidebar on Wacom’s ArtPad, from 1995—“If you’ve ever sketched with a pencil, you’ll be able to use ArtPad”—made me wonder why it took Apple so long to roll out its Pencil stylus for the iPad. A 1994 article on continuous voice recognition—a core component of responsive products, like Amazon Echo and Apple’s Siri—effused, “IBM has some mondo hot technology on its hands here.” (Google, Microsoft, and Nuance Communications seem to have caught on since.) Early versions of 3-D printers, endless varieties of virtual-reality headsets, and remote-controlled, camera-laden helicopters abound. Perhaps the heart wants what it wants, and the heart has always wanted V.R., A.I., drones, and entertainment straight to the face.

In “Scenarios,” a special edition from 1995, the guest editor Douglas Coupland took it upon himself to compile a “reverse time capsule,” which he deemed “not a capsule directed to the future, but rather to the citizens of 1975.” What artifacts, he asked, “might surprise them most about the direction taken by the next 20 years?” Included in the capsule—alongside non-tech items such as a chunk of the Berlin Wall, Prozac, and a Japanese luxury sedan—were a laptop (“more power in your lap than MIT’s biggest mainframe”), an Apple MessagePad (“hand-held devices are replacing secretaries”), and a cellular phone. Scanning my apartment, I can spot progeny of all three.

«

link to this extract

 


The web’s creator looks to reinvent it • The New York Times

Quentin Hardy:

»“It’s been great, but spying, blocking sites, repurposing people’s content, taking you to the wrong websites — that completely undermines the spirit of helping people create.”

So on Tuesday, Mr. Berners-Lee gathered in San Francisco with other top computer scientists — including Brewster Kahle, head of the nonprofit Internet Archive and an internet activist — to discuss a new phase for the web.

Today, the World Wide Web has become a system that is often subject to control by governments and corporations. Countries like China can block certain web pages from their citizens, and cloud services like Amazon Web Services hold powerful sway. So what might happen, the computer scientists posited, if they could harness newer technologies — like the software used for digital currencies, or the technology of peer-to-peer music sharing — to create a more decentralized web with more privacy, less government and corporate control, and a level of permanence and reliability?

«

I feel like I’ve heard this song before; file under “nice idea”. Berners-Lee is a big name, but getting a new technology to proliferate is much easier when there are barely any users of the rivals than when it has been established for decades.
link to this extract

 


Yahoo lines up bids for about 3,000 patents • WSJ

Douglas Macmillan and Dana Mattioli:

»Yahoo Inc. has kicked off an auction for a portfolio of about 3,000 patents expected to fetch more than $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

In recent weeks, the internet company sent letters to a range of potential buyers for the patents, which date back to Yahoo’s initial public offering in 1996 and include its original search technology, one of the people said.

Yahoo has set a mid-June deadline for preliminary bids, this person said, and hired Black Stone IP, a boutique investment bank that specializes in patent sales, to run the auction.

«

Meanwhile the auction for the core of Yahoo looks like it will go to Verizon for $3bn. Will the last person to leave Yahoo sell the light bulb?
link to this extract

 


Fire Phone, two years later: Yes, a few people are still using Amazon’s ill-fated smartphone • GeekWire

Monica Nickelsburg:

»In the summer of 2015, Don Driscoll, an associate professor of physics at Kent State University, was ready to renew his Amazon Prime membership. He noticed Amazon’s Fire Phone was on sale for $130 and included a year of Prime. He decided to purchase the phone — which only cost $30 more than an annual Prime subscription — as a backup.

Later, when his LG Leon screen cracked, he switched to the Fire Phone and has been using it ever since.

“Why am I still using the Fire Phone? I guess I am just a cheapskate,” he said. “My family has stayed with T-Mobile for so long despite numerous coverage issues because it is cheap…The only thing stopping me from getting a new phone is cost.”

«

Neat idea to search out these users. Doesn’t stop it being a brick that gradually heated up, though.
link to this extract

 


The Fiksu acquisition in four words: ‘it’s tough out there’ • AdExchanger

Allison Schiff and Sarah Sluis:

»In early 2015, Fiksu claimed a $100 million run rate for 2014, was reportedly planning to go public and said it was gearing up to nearly double its headcount to 500. But by March 2015 those plans had fizzled. The company scrapped its IPO dreams and announced that it would be laying off 10% of its existing 260-person workforce. (Headcount today stands at 119.)

The borrowed cash seems to have created a problem. As business slowed, the money went toward keeping the company afloat rather than sustaining growth.

In the end, Bridge Bank essentially owned Fiksu’s assets at the time of the sale to Noosphere, which bought Fiksu directly from Bridge Bank. Essentially, the bank had called in its loan and the result was what one source called an “ugly bank takeover.”

Fiksu declined to comment on specifics other than to say that it disputes this version of events.

Fiksu’s acquisition is “a symptom of companies in the space that have raised a lot of money and there is an investor community pressuring them for an exit or next steps,” said Kochava’s Manning.

«

Essentially it seems to be an “incentivised installs” company which ran aground; the app install market is facing a crunch.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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.
link to this extract

 


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.
link to this extract

 


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?
link to this extract

 


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.
link to this extract

 


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.
link to this extract

 


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.

«

link to this extract

 


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.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: Donald v Hillary. Ain’t that something.

Start up: Gov.uk vetoes apps, Buzzfeed nixes Trump ads, Twitter’s growth trouble, and more

We’ve got some bad news about the BlackBerry Priv. Photo by liewcf 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.

Why Britain banned mobile apps • GovInsider

Joshua Chambers spoke to Ben Terrett, former design chief at the UK’s Government Digital Service, which often acted as a sort of “tiger team” to fix big or little projects that had got bogged down in spec-land:

»Key to the GDS’ approach is designing for user needs, not organizational requirements, Terrett says. “That is how good digital services designed and built these days. That is how everyone does it, whether that’s google or facebook or British Airways or whoever.”

The problem is that public sector agencies tend not to design with citizens in mind. “Things are just designed to suit the very silos that the project sits in, and the user gets lost in there,” Terrett adds.

For example, opening a restaurant might require multiple permits from different agencies. A good digital service should combine them all in one place.

Focusing on user needs also needs officials to cut bad ideas out. Most Ministers might want there to be sharing options on websites so that citizens can easily promote government on Facebook and Twitter. But the GDS tested this, and found that only 0.1% of citizens ever clicked on them. These stats allowed officials to remove them from the design, making the site simpler, cleaner and quicker to load.

«

The mobile apps stuff? Because then you have to update them for each version of each platform. Responsive websites are better.
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BlackBerry Priv is faring worse than expected • CNET

Roger Cheng:

»”The BlackBerry Priv is really struggling,” the high-level executive [at AT&T], who asked not to be named, said last week. “We’ve seen more returns than we would like.”

Wireless carriers are seldom publicly critical of their handset partners, and the sobering comments offer a rare glimpse into the troubles BlackBerry faces with the Priv, which is the first of its phones to run on Google’s Android software. BlackBerry, once a global leader in smartphones, hoped the Priv, which features a slide-out physical keyboard, would at least get the company back on its feet in the mobile devices business…

…BlackBerry and the carrier expected to see demand for an Android phone with a physical keyboard. Instead, most of the buyers were BlackBerry loyalists, the executive said. Those faithful, however, struggled with the transition from the BlackBerry operating system to the Android operating system, leading to a higher-than-expected rate of return.

BlackBerry’s decision to market the phone as a high-end device also hurt its prospects, the executive said. The Priv initially sold unlocked for $699, above the starting price of the iPhone 6S, which sells for $650. Few premium phones have fared well beyond devices from Apple and Samsung.

“There isn’t much volume growth in the premium segment, where Apple and Samsung dominate,” the executive said.

«

The Priv camera app on the Google Play store still has fewer than 500,000 downloads globally, having launched in November. That’s seven months on sale. BlackBerry’s hardware division is a money pit. (BlackBerry’s fiscal first quarter ran to the end of May. Results later this month.)
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Why the economic payoff from technology is so elusive • The New York Times

Steve Lohr:

»for several years, economists have asked why all that technical wizardry seems to be having so little impact on the economy. The issue surfaced again recently, when the government reported disappointingly slow growth and continuing stagnation in productivity. The rate of productivity growth from 2011 to 2015 was the slowest since the five-year period ending in 1982.

One place to look at this disconnect is in the doctor’s office. Dr. Peter Sutherland, a family physician in Tennessee, made the shift to computerized patient records from paper in the last few years. There are benefits to using electronic health records, Dr. Sutherland says, but grappling with the software and new reporting requirements has slowed him down. He sees fewer patients, and his income has slipped.

“I’m working harder and getting a little less,” he said.

The productivity puzzle has given rise to a number of explanations in recent years — and divided economists into technology pessimists and optimists…

…Some economists insist the problem is largely a measurement gap, because many digital goods and services are not accurately captured in official statistics. But a recent study by two economists from the Federal Reserve and one from the International Monetary Fund casts doubt on that theory.

«

So much doubt, so little clarity. The most likely explanation? Technology actually hasn’t gotten that far into the economy.

link to this extract

 


BuzzFeed pulls out of $1.3M advertising deal with RNC over Donald Trump • POLITICO

Hadas Gold, Mike Allen and Alex Spence:

»In an email to staff on Monday, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti explained that in April, the RNC and BuzzFeed signed an agreement to “spend a significant amount on political advertisements slated to run during the Fall election cycle.” But since Trump became the nominee his campaign has proven themselves to be “directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States,” because of proposed bans on Muslim immigration and comments about descendants of immigrants, among other policies.

“We don’t need to and do not expect to agree with the positions or values of all our advertisers. And as you know, there is a wall between our business and editorial operations. This decision to cancel this ad buy will have no influence on our continuing coverage of the campaign,” Peretti said in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.

“We certainly don’t like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company,” Peretti wrote. “However, in some cases we must make business exceptions: we don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.”

«

Peretti knows Buzzfeed’s audience, though, and knows accepting the ads would be bad for the site’s long-term health.
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How to vote in the EU referendum • Martin Lewis’ Blog…

Lewis is an ex-Financial Times journalist who set up the Moneysavingexpert.com website, which has brought him great respect from the wider public as someone who understands money, understands the economy, and isn’t in anyone’s pockets. So his post on this was greatly anticipated:

»My mailbag’s been drowning with questions and concerns. The biggest being: “Please just tell us the facts, what’ll happen if we leave?” I’m sorry, but the most important thing to understand is: there are no facts about what happens next.

Anyone who tells you they KNOW what’ll happen if we leave the EU is a liar. Predicting exact numbers for economic, immigration or house price change is nonsense. What’s proposed is unprecedented. All the studies, models and hypotheses are based on assumptions – that’s guesstimate and hope.

So accept the need to wrestle with uncertainty. The EU referendum is far from a black and white issue; there are more shades of grey than E L James’s bookshelf.

Frustratingly though, most politicians try to come across as doubt-free. Those pro-EU pout that all elements are good, while those against frown at them. Yet like life, it’s a mix, and the debate would be better if both sides admitted that.

«

link to this extract

 


A statement on my position • Jacob Appelbaum

Writing in Berlin, Appelbaum, who left the Tor project last week, says:

»Vague rumors and smear campaigns against me are nothing new. As a longtime public advocate for free speech and a secure internet, there have been plenty of attempts to undermine my work over the years.

Now, however, these unsubstantiated and unfounded attacks have become so aggressive that I feel it’s necessary to set the record straight. Not only have I been the target of a fake website in my name that has falsely accused me of serious crimes, but I have also received death threats (including a Twitter handle entitled ‘TimeToDieJake’).

I think it’s extremely damaging to the community that these character-assassination tactics are being deployed, especially given their ugly history of being used against fellow members of the LGBT community. It pains me to watch the community to which I’ve dedicated so much of my life engage in such self-destructive behavior. Nonetheless, I am prepared to use legal channels, if necessary, to defend my reputation from these libelous accusations.

I want to be clear: the accusations of criminal sexual misconduct against me are entirely false.

«

link to this extract

 


New York Times ‘exploring’ ad-free digital subscription • AdAge

Jeremy Barr:

»The New York Times is “exploring the possibility” of selling an ad-free digital subscription package, chief executive Mark Thompson said at the IAB Ad Blocking & User Experience Summit Monday.

“We do want to offer all of our users as much choice as we can, and we recognize that there are some users — both subscribers and non-subscribers — who would prefer to have an ad-free experience,” he said, according to a copy of his remarks provided in advance to Ad Age. (The all-day summit, which is intended for publishers, is not open to the press.)

«

Love the irony in that last sentence. The article’s conclusion:

»Generally speaking, Mr. Thompson said marketers “need to think like programmers rather than as traditional advertisers,” by “offering consumers content which actually has value to them.”

Advertising will always be a vital revenue source for the Times, he said, pointing out that some 107 million of the 110 million people who access the Times are not paid subscribers.

«

Hm.
link to this extract

 


Twitter’s anti-Semitism problem is exactly why Twitter has a growth problem — Quartz

Paul Smalera:

»[New York Times reporter Jonathan] Weisman, in his story about being attacked [by anti-Semites], writes that, “An official at Twitter encouraged me to block the anti-Semites and report them to Twitter.” In other words, Twitter’s advice to users is that they police the hate themselves. It’s not an awful idea to ask users to report abuse, but the problem is that Twitter trolls can open up new accounts just as fast as Twitter closes down old ones. And with the power of search, newly opened accounts can quickly regain the followers and reach that shuttered ones had.

I haven’t signed up for Twitter or Facebook accounts for years, so I quickly opened up a browser in anonymous mode and went through the signup processes for each. Facebook stopped me several times, prompting me to use my real name. I had put in “Bad Guy” as my name, and eventually had to change it to “Badrick Guyowski” to get the service to let me in. Even when I was able to create an account, Facebook access was limited until I confirmed my email address–which was impossible for me to do, since I had entered a fake one. In essence, Mark Zuckerberg’s social network is inaccessible to someone who is not willing to part with at least some pieces of information that can be tied back to a real world identity.

Meanwhile, Twitter accepted these credentials to allow me to create an account, without protest, and without a phone number.

«

Because Twitter has a growth problem, though, it can’t tackle its anti-Semitism problem. Wall Street is worried about its growth, so anything it does that might slow that “growth” looks bad, even if it improves the quality of the network, and so its attractiveness to the users who are already there, or aren’t there.
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A May 2016 look at Big Five ebook pricing Author Earnings

“Data Guy”:

»One of the key points we made in our recent DBW presentation was that higher ebook prices end up hurting newer debut authors far more than they hurt long-established authors, who already have existing fanbases and sustainable writing careers — especially those perennial bestsellers who have managed to become household names. We could see in our data clear indications that, between 2014 and 2016, higher prices had progressively damaged the earnings of new Big Five debuts, and even more crucially, crippled their *discoverability* — that all-important key to establishing the brand-new readership and fanbase necessary to establishing a long-term writing career. The triptych of slides below make that case with glaring starkness: in them, we can see Big Five debut authors dropping from 22% of ebook sales by debut authors in early 2014, down to barely 9% of those vital, career-launching initial sales in early 2016.

«

I wonder if ebooks have some lessons for app stores – as ebooks have been around for slightly longer, though with less volume, and so might have worked out the trends that app stores are revealing. Discoverability matter, but people won’t spend on things they’re not familiar with already.
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Google misfires as it aims to turn Star Trek fiction into reality • Stat

Charles Piller:

»Google employees, squeezed onto metal risers and standing in the back of a meeting room, erupted in cheers as newly arrived executive Andrew Conrad announced they would try to turn science fiction into reality: The tech giant had formed a biotech venture to create a futuristic device like Star Trek’s iconic “Tricorder” diagnostic wizard — and use it to cure cancer.

Conrad, recalled an employee who was present, displayed images on the room’s big screens showing nanoparticles tracking down cancer cells in the bloodstream and flashing signals to a Fitbit-style wristband. He promised a working prototype of the cancer early-detection device within six months.

That was three years ago. Recently departed employees said the prototype didn’t work as hoped, and the Tricorder project is floundering.

Tricorder is not the only misfire for Google’s ambitious and extravagantly funded biotech venture, now named Verily Life Sciences. It has announced three signature projects meant to transform medicine, and a STAT examination found that all of them are plagued by serious, if not fatal, scientific shortcomings, even as Verily has vigorously promoted their promise.

The Tricorder, as Conrad and others at Verily call the device, is “in the realm of not only science fiction, but beyond that — science fantasy,” said David Walt, a Tufts University chemistry professor and nanoscience expert who met with Verily scientists and engineers last year to share his concerns. “And I’m not sure it will ever be science reality.”

The company has also touted a glucose-sensing contact lens as a substitute for frequent blood tests on diabetics, but independent experts said it is scientifically dubious at best.

It claims a billion-dollar “Baseline” study of human health will define what it means to be healthy and help identify early signs of disease. But researchers said design weaknesses make these lofty goals far-fetched.

Largely through Verily, Google has positioned itself to be a giant in life sciences by marrying technology and big data with science to cure diseases that have, so far, defied the best minds. But its setbacks and prominent scientists’ skepticism call into question this vision of the future of medicine.

«

Piller has gone into this thoroughly. Verily starts to look like a clunker. (They’ve featured here before, also through Piller, who noted that Conrad was “divisive”. Sounds familiar somehow.)
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Nest’s time at Alphabet: A “virtually unlimited budget” with no results • Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo peers over the smoking ruins:

»It’s hard to argue with the decision to “transition” [founder and chief executive Tony] Fadell away from Nest. When Google bought Nest in January 2014, the expectation was that a big infusion of Google’s resources and money would supercharge Nest. Nest grew from 280 employees around the time of the Google acquisition to 1200 employees today. In Nest’s first year as “a Google company,” it used Google’s resources to acquire webcam maker Dropcam for $555m, and it paid an unknown amount for the smart home hub company Revolv. Duffy said Nest was given a “virtually unlimited budget” inside Alphabet. Nest eventually transitioned to an Alphabet company, just like Google.

In return for all this investment, Nest delivered very little. The Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect smoke detector both existed before the Google acquisition, and both received minor upgrades under Google’s (and later Alphabet’s) wing. A year after buying Dropcam, Nest released the Nest Cam, which was basically a rebranded Dropcam. Two-and-a-half years under Google/Alphabet, a quadrupling of the employee headcount, and half-a-billion dollars in acquisitions yielded minor yearly updates and a rebranded device. That’s all.

«

Didn’t make an “audio device”, didn’t come up with a home hub language or door sensor or window sensor. Too much money can be bad for a startup.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

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


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

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.

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

Nandita Bose:

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

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

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

«

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

Jamie Doward:

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

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

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

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

«

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

Antonio García Martínez:

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

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

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

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

«

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

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

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

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

«

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

Brandon Chester:

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

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

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

«

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

Laura Hazard Owen:

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

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

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

«

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

Jeremi Gosney:

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

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

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

«

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

Jack Smith:

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

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

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

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

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

«

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashlee Vance got the exit interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

«

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

Jessica Davies:

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

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

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

«

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

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