Start up: Google rehires Moto chief, Esquire’s satire #fail, play the woman card!, Facebook’s video problem, and more


Heard of the Oppo N3? Millions of people in China have. But research companies disagree over how many million. Photo by TechStage on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Low in sugar and salt. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Q1 2016: top ten Chinese brands capture 33% of global smartphone market » Counterpoint Technology

»• Smartphone shipments reached 344 million units in Q1 2016 with flat growth compared to last year as the market slowed down considerably

• 3 out of 4 mobile phones shipped on the planet now is a smartphone

• The slowdown can be attributed to higher sell-in during 4Q 2015 and weaker demand in markets such as Brazil, China, Indonesia and parts of Europe.

• This is the first time ever since the launch of smartphone, the segment has seen 0% growth, signaling the key global scale players need to invigorate sales with more exciting products and pricing schemes.

«

What’s odd is that IDC has OPPO shipping 18.5m phones; Counterpoint, just 13.3m. That’s a really big difference. Strategy Analytics, another research company, says Oppo shipped 15.5m.

Clearly, something’s wrong here. Given that research companies have to rely, to some extent, on what companies tell them, is there room for Oppo to .. nudge its figures along?
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Venezuela doesn’t have enough money to pay for its money » Bloomberg

Andrew Rosati:

»In late 2015, the [Venezuela] central bank more than tripled its original order, offering tenders for some 10.2 billion bank notes, according to industry sources.

But currency companies were worried. According to company documents, De La Rue began experiencing delays in payment as early as June. Similarly, the bank was slow to pay Giesecke & Devrient and Oberthur Fiduciaire. So when the tender was offered, the government only received about 3.3 billion in bids, bank documents show.

“Initially, your eyes grow as big as dish plates,” said one person familiar with matter. “An order big enough to fill your factory for a year, but do you want to completely expose yourself to a country as risky as Venezuela?”

Further complicating matters is the sheer amount of bills needed for basic transactions. Venezuela’s largest bill, the 100-bolivar note, today barely pays for a loose cigarette at a street kiosk.

«

Did even Zimbabwe ever have this problem?
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Google hires Rick Osterloh as SVP for new unified hardware division » Re/code

Mark Bergen and Ina Fried on the hiring of Rick Osterloh, formerly president of Motorola (acquired by and then dumped by Google):

»For years, Google has struggled to get sure footing on its various hardware initiatives — moving delicately to handle partners and, at times, deliver products that consumers actually use. When one of its hardware chiefs, Regina Dugan, who ran its Advanced Technology and Project group, departed for Facebook, we reported that Google was plotting a hardware shake-up.

Here it is now. Osterloh will now oversee Google’s Nexus devices. His new hardware division also includes a suite of products called the “living room,” demonstrating Google’s priority on owning that space.

«

Lots of things here. Osterloh will be in charge of Nexus (phones), Chromecast, consumer hardware (laptops), OnHub (router), ATAP (Project Ara) and – wait for it – Google Glass, which Tony Fadell at Nest had been an adviser to. (He remains an adviser.)

So here’s the setup now. Fadell isn’t going to drive Glass any more; and Nest is consumer hardware, just outside the main Google division. Won’t it get folded into Osterloh’s division now? Which leaves Fadell usurped.

Give it 18 months and see if Fadell’s still there.
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Why Esquire removed its funny @ProfJeffJarvis post » NY Mag

Brian Feldman:

»If you’re the kind of person whose job, or, worse, interests lead you to read a lot of very similar (but actually earnest) essays on Medium about the future of technology, media, tech media, media tech, disruption, or innovation, the Esquire post was a funny bit of satire. The Esquire piece included “thinkfluencer” gibberish like:

»

The Innovation Party will be phablet-first, and communicate only via push notifications to smartphones. The only deals it cuts will be with Apple and Google, not with special interests. We will integrate natively with iOS and Android, and spread the message using emojis and GIFs, rather than the earth-killing longform print mailers of yesteryear.

«

The byline on the piece was “Prof. Jeff Jarvis.” Here’s where it got tricky: “Prof. Jeff Jarvis” isn’t former Entertainment Weekly editor and well-known future-of-media pontificator Jeff Jarvis. Rather, it’s a character developed in a parody Twitter account run by Bradbury. Well-known in certain media circles, @ProfJeffJarvis initially satirized the thoughts of Jarvis himself before growing into a more general and very funny riff on the pie-in-the-sky gambits of new media.

«

I do feel sympathetic to (the real) Jarvis: this would be infuriating. Feldman (and Jarvis) makes the point that people don’t get context; most wouldn’t realise that it wasn’t the real Jarvis.

I feel Bradbury could easily tweak the name of his character, and keep tweaking it – ProfJaffJervis, ProfJoeJervis, ProfJayJorving, and so on, until it’s some distance from where it started. That would give everyone a clean way out.
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With Facebook video, the aggregators are winning » Digiday

Sahil Patel:

»[The highly popular Facebook video page run by] Vlechten met Daan insists it has the rights to all its content. But that’s not always the case. Funny Videos, Uber Humor and Funk You Entertainment have been singled out by content owners, speaking on the condition of anonymity to Digiday, as Facebook “freebooters.” (None of the channels responded to requests for comment.)

“It’s fraud and it’s hard to tell how big of a problem it is. Some of these pages are not pages you normally see on Facebook — and there are a lot of them out there,” said one publishing executive. “We’ve even seen stuff pop up on our friends and family’s news feeds without our name on it, and then they’ll share it with us and say, ‘Hey, this would be great for you.’”

With no steady ad system in place on Facebook, publishers have been willing to give the platform some slack as it tries to weed out the freebooters. But now that Facebook has loosened its grip on branded content, the issue becomes more immediate.

“The danger of the aggregations is that down the road it leads to monetization complexities,” said Katzeff. “You can’t monetize content that you don’t own unless you have some type of agreement that allows you to do that — and you certainly can’t monetize content that you put on your channel in an unauthorized fashion.”

«

Rather than “certainly can’t” in that last sentence, probably better to substitute “shouldn’t but probably will until forcibly stopped”.

Oh, and these “freebooters” are the aggregators against whom the big media companies seeking to monetise their video are going to be fighting.
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Play the ‘woman card’ and reap these ‘rewards’! » The Washington Post

Alexandra Petri:

»“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card,” Trump said Tuesday night, after winning 5 primaries.

Ah yes, the woman’s card.

I have been carrying one of these for years, proudly.

It is great. It entitles you to a sizable discount on your earnings everywhere you go (average 21%, but can be anywhere from 9% to 37%, depending on what study you’re reading and what edition of the Woman Card you have.) If you shop with the Woman Card at the grocery, you will get to pay 11% more for all the same products as men, but now they are pink.

Hook up the Woman Card to your TV and you will get a barrage of commercials telling you that you did something wrong with your face and must buy ointment immediately so as not to become a Hideous Crone. Also, you are now expected to spend your whole life removing hair from your body, except for the areas of your body where your hair must be long and luxurious. (Do not get these two areas confused!)

«

Satire so hot it burns, burns, burns.
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AdMop vs Springer — our story » Medium

Vikram Kriplaney and Sebastian Vieira built a free, then paid-for adblocker for iOS 9:

»Axel Springer says that users are not free to see editorial content without ads, and we are violating their copyright because we replace the ads with something else. Despite the fact that bild.de shows a landing page which forces the user to buy a subscription or deactivate the ad blocker.

Their real foe is Eyeo GmbH, which has already won six cases. They are not without controversy, since they sell whitelisting. By defeating us and other indie developers, Axel Springer is building a case for the final ruling against Eyeo GmbH.

Firefox, Asus, Opera… everybody is doing ad blocking now.

Axel springer went as far as going against a youtuber because he gave instructions to how to disable bild.de’s anti-ad-blocking technology

It seems that if you do something that Axel Springer does not like, you are doing something illegal.

«

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Warrants served in probe stemming from San Bernardino attack » Associated Press

Why not a headline with something like DRAMA OVER TERROR SHOOTERS? Read on:

»Three people connected to one of the San Bernardino shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook, have been arrested in a marriage fraud conspiracy, including his brother and sister-in-law, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The third person arrested is the wife of Enrique Marquez Jr., a friend of Farook’s who has been charged for his alleged role in aiding the violence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The two women arrested are Russian immigrants.

Prosecutors say the three participated in a marriage fraud conspiracy that involved lying under oath to obtain immigration benefits.

«

Oh, screw it. The San Bernadino killers weren’t terrorists acting with Isis; they were just a couple of idiots acting alone.
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What voice commands & queries do people use Google Now for on Android Wear smartwatches ? » London SEO

“C Byrne”:

»To use Google Now on a smartwatch you say “OK Google”… and then your watch is listening. Wow! Now that is really creepy! You can use your voice with Android smartwatches to do things like search Google for information, get travel directions, and to create personal reminders. For example, you can say “Ok Google where’s the nearest grocery store?” to find grocery stores near you . There are commands and queries unique to Google Now on Android Wear smartwatches e.g. “what’s my heart rate?” (which also may be a normal search query)…

…Based on the phrases (including those below) in my research Google Keyword Planner reported that around 67% were from mobile devices with full browsers – this may be distorted by the inclusion of the phrase “OK google” for comparison.

«

The numbers seem pretty low – though there are fewer than 4m Android Wear devices in use, by my own calculations.
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Getty accuses Google of ‘promoting piracy’ » FT.com

Christian Oliver:

»In its complaint [to the European Commission’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager], Getty argues that Google abused its dominance of image searches to change “drastically” the way that it presented Getty’s photographs after January 2013, by displaying them in a high resolution and large format. Before that date, they had only been shown in image searches as low-resolution thumbnails.

Yoko Miyashita, Getty’s general counsel, argued that this new display diverted customers away from her company’s website, where customers would pay for them, and deterred customers from ever leaving Google’s platforms.

She said this “promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates”.

Getty said that it raised its concerns with Google three years ago but Google had replied that Getty should either accept its new presentation of images or opt out of image search, in effect becoming invisible on the web.

Ms Miyashita said this was not a “viable choice” given the importance of Google to navigating the internet.

Getty added that Google was threatening the livelihoods of 200,000 contributors who relied on the company’s business model to make a living. “By standing in the way of a fair market place for images, Google is threatening innovation and jeopardising artists’ ability to fund the creation of important future works,” Ms Miyashita said.

Getty said its web traffic collapsed immediately in 2013 after the changes implemented by google.com and google.co.uk. However, traffic remained robust on the French and German Google sites, which did not implement the display changes in January 2013.

«

Watermarking might work; quite how Google can avoid complaints about copyright is puzzling. And who knew that there were 200,000 contributors to Getty?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: smartphone jobs bloodbath, Apple v watch sales, Android’s messy sharing, and more


Content blockers for iOS are having their first tests: how do they do? Photo by WSDOT on Flikr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

JFK displays actual wait times using sensors that monitor mobile phones » Blip Systems : Blip Systems


Passengers moving through JFK Airport’s Terminal 4 are now presented with estimated processing times on 13 new screens. The large and prominent screens are placed at TSA Security and Customs and Border Protection checkpoints, as well as the indoor taxi queue.

“It continuously updates,” says Daryl Jameson, vice president at the company JFKIAT, which runs Terminal 4. People like to know how long they are going to wait in queues. Nobody likes to wait in lines and signage helps to manage expectations.”

The wait times are driven by sensors that monitor passenger’s mobile devices as they move through the airport. The BlipTrack solution, invented by Denmark-based BLIP Systems, and installed by Lockheed Martin, detects Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices in “discoverable” mode, found in mobile phones and tablets. When a device passes the sensors, its non-personal unique ID—called a MAC address—is recorded, encrypted and time-stamped. By re-identifying the device from multiple sensors, the travel times, dwell times and movement patterns become available.

Neat idea, though when you’re waiting in an inescapable queue, you don’t actually want to know your wait time; you want a distraction. This is why lift designers put mirrors and TVs showing news in lobbies where people wait for lifts: so you can do something else while you wait. Doesn’t speed up the lift; does reduce the subjective queuing time.
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Ashley Madison search sites like Trustify are harvesting email addresses and spamming searched victims » Troy Hunt


I had this forwarded to me earlier today and frankly, I couldn’t believe it. I mean I knew Trustify were making email addresses publicly searchable and somehow not falling foul of DMCA takedowns whilst others doing the same thing were (possibly because Trustify has more lawyers than employees), but I had no idea they’d actually harvest addresses and then send unsolicited emails, so I Googled a bit and found a very unsympathetic Reddit thread on it. There’s a series of responses from thejournalizer (reportedly the content marketing director at Trustify) which provide such enlightening insights as:

The email OP received was actually established to help you and warn you that someone is seeking out details about you.

Ah, it’s there to help you! So after you search on the site and it says “You’ve been compromised” and provides a handy form to sign up to their commercial services, an email is also sent to you because, well, it might not be you.

Isn’t capitalism great, especially where data breaches are concerned.
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Smartphone giants have lost 15,000 jobs to cheap Android phones this year » Quartz

Josh Horwitz:

The world’s smartphone manufacturing giants are losing their luster, leading to a steady stream of job cuts inside previously prestigious mobile units.

The most recent high-profile cuts occurred last week, when HTC and Lenovo each reported less than stellar earnings reports. HTC, after reporting a loss that exceeded analyst estimates five-fold (and caused its market valuation to fall below its cash assets), told investors it would cut fifteen percent of its workforce, amounting to over 2,000 jobs.

Lenovo, meanwhile, announced that it would reduce its workforce by 3,200 people, and cut its non-manufacturing headcount by 10%. The company didn’t specify which specific jobs were at risk, but it pointed to flagging global PC sales, along with the need to streamline its mobile phone unit, as its key goals for the coming year. The company’s net profits were down 51% year-on-year, and its Motorola handset division saw shipments plummet 31% to 5.9 million units.

You can argue about whether Microsoft, the source of half those 15,000 job losses, counts as a “smartphone giant” – shifted more units than Motorola, Sony or HTC – but when Lenovo (now owning Motorola) is cutting, that’s something.
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Apple helps push US watch sales to biggest drop in seven years » Bloomberg Business

Thomas Mulier:

US watch sales fell the most in seven years in June, one of the first signs Apple’s watch is eroding demand for traditional timepieces.

Retailers sold $375m of watches during the month, 11 percent less than in June 2014, according to data from NPD Group. The 14% decline in unit sales was the largest since 2008, according to Fred Levin, head of the market researcher’s luxury division.

“The Apple Watch is going to gain a significant amount of penetration,” he said Thursday in a phone interview. “The first couple of years will be difficult for watches in fashion categories.”
The market for watches that cost less than $1,000 is most at risk, as consumers in that price range have indicated they’re the most likely to buy an Apple Watch, Levin said.

Well, it’s a data point.
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Crystal benchmarks » Murphy Apps

Dean Murphy is developing a Safari content blocker called Crystal for iOS 9:

For this experiment, I have picked 10 pages from different news websites – Some I use regularly, some I don’t. The metrics I’m monitoring is page size (in MB) and load time (in Seconds). 10 pages is far from a good sample size for the web, I know, but the web is a big place, and my time to benchmark is limited. 

Websites tested: New York Times, Business Insider, Macworld, Wired, The Verge, PC Gamer, iMore, Kotaku, Huffington Post, Vice.

Method: All sites tested on an iPhone 6+, connected to wifi (154Mb Fiber). All metrics are taken from Safari Web Inspector after doing an Ignored Cache Reload (CMD+Shift+R).

Results

On average, pages loaded 74% faster with Crystal and used 53% less bandwidth. Just by having Crystal installed, I saved a total of 70 seconds and 35MB of data on these 10 pages.

These are dramatic differences. (Click through for the graphs.) I’m beta testing Crystal myself; it makes the mobile web very attractive, all of a sudden. Though perhaps sites don’t feel the same way.
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Staff exodus plus pressure from Microsoft and Apple hits Google Now » Re/code

Mark Bergen:

[Sundar] Pichai [who now heads Google] is known as an executive who seeks consensus rather than conflict. A former Googler who worked on Now recalled Pichai’s response to their protests [when Google Now was shifted from the Android division to the search division – seen as the “boring” area, and not the right fit for a mobile OS framework]: “‘Look, I’ve got a lot on my plate. Chrome and Android are my top priorities. Google Now is not on that. I can’t fight that battle for you.’”

Now has its own battles in store. It has a solid user base, more than a hundred million monthly ones, according to multiple sources. (Google declined to comment on these numbers.) Yet it’s unclear how active those users are, and only a slim slice of them are on the iOS app.

Apple, for its part, looks prepared to launch a competitor to Now on Tap. With its proactive assistant and spotlight search, the Apple entry could elbow Google out. Several people said it was unusual for Google to pre-announce a feature like Now on Tap before it is ready. That hurriedness may have been to pre-empt Apple’s announcement the following month.

And now Bing, which powers search on Apple devices, has its own Now on Tap foil.

iOS 9, with Proactive, will make Google Now largely pointless for the vast majority of iOS users; Google Now will be fine for Android users. Microsoft might pick up a few diehards, but it’s hard to see it really making an impact.

Google, meanwhile, is discovering internal politics in a big way. And that’s before Alphabet.
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Sharing on Android is Broken » Terence Eden’s Blog


I’ve been using Android – Google’s mobile OS – it since before it was launched. I now love and loathe it in equal measure.

Consider the simple act of sharing a piece of content. A fairly common activity which the OS should be able to handle in a standard manner. Yet Google’s own apps each have a radically different way of completing this basic task.

Let’s take a look at the latest versions of Play, Maps, YouTube, Chrome, Google+, and Docs – all running on Lollipop.

• Google Play, has the normal Share Icon.
• Google Maps hides the option in a menu.
• YouTube has two share buttons, neither of which look like the one in Play.
• Chrome hides the option in a dropdown (weird how it floats over the menu button, unlike Maps).
• Google+ takes us back to the regular share icon (with no text label).
• Google Docs uses a floating bottom menu (what?!) with a yet another icon and a “Send file” text label.

Things get even worse once you open the Share menu, though. Eden makes a good point: there’s clearly no single person in charge of this UX element for Android, even for Google’s own apps, despite the fact that they’re on every single Android phone sold outside China.
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Samsung smart fridge leaves Gmail logins open to attack » The Register

John Leyden:

Pen Test Partners discovered the MiTM (man-in-the-middle) vulnerability that facilitated the exploit during an IoT hacking challenge run by Samsung at the recent DEF CON hacking conference.

The hack was pulled off against the RF28HMELBSR smart fridge, part of Samsung’s line-up of Smart Home appliances which can be controlled via their Smart Home app. While the fridge implements SSL, it fails to validate SSL certificates, thereby enabling man-in-the-middle attacks against most connections.

The internet-connected device is designed to download Gmail Calendar information to an on-screen display. Security shortcomings mean that hackers who manage to jump on to the same network can potentially steal Google login credentials from their neighbours.

Yeah, it’s that “jump on the same network” thing which is the sticking point. I’d wager that most home networks are secured nowadays.
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EU deepens antitrust investigation into Google’s practices » WSJ

Natalia Drozdiak:

In one of the questionnaires [sent out to website operators] inquiring about “exclusivity obligations”—whether Google prevents or obstructs website operators from placing ads on their websites that compete with Google’s advertising business—the commission asks companies to update responses they made about the issue in 2010 and to provide a copy of all their advertising agreements with Google over the last four years.

A separate questionnaire, investigating the allegations that Google copies or “scrapes” content from rival sites, asks companies to provide more information about whether Google takes content, such as images, from the companies and uses it in its own online services.

The images question – raised by Getty – is about Google Images effectively bypassing visits to sites, and making copies of images. The latter is potentially a bigger problem than most other topics; “fair dealing” (the UK version of the US’s “fair use”) is hard to argue when you’re copying and storing entire image libraries.
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BT may have to hive off Openreach to improve the UK’s broadband services » Telegraph

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who lives in a rural constituency:

The government’s roll-out of broadband has been far too slow.

The Government has cannibalised the BBC licence fee to fund otherwise not commercially viable superfast connections to the tune of more than £1bn. Yet they have already missed their initial deadline of May 2015 and shifted it back by two and a half years to December 2017.

Even the 2017 deadline is only a hope, as senior BT executives and almost half of councils have warned it could end up being 2018 before the roll-out to 95% of the country is finished. But there is also another problem. The Government designed the tender process for the superfast roll-out in such a way that it was virtually impossible for anyone other than BT to win. The end result was that BT Openreach won 44 out of 44 contracts and its monopoly was reinforced.

Although BT Openreach, which owns the existing copper network and delivers the rollout, is nominally at arm’s length from BT, it is right that Ofcom is now considering whether this provides an unfair advantage to BT and whether it should be split off in the interests of transparency and fair competition.

No question; it should. BT Openreach had an operating profit margin of around 50% in the most recent quarter – while the rest of BT languished. BT OR is being milked, and we’re the cows.
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Start up: Lightning at Twitter, academic publishers strangle libraries, that iOS/OSX hack explained, and more


Do you recognise this person? Photo by Tim Dorr on Flickr.

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

New smart home gadget called ELLA Assistant wants you to put down your phone » Tech In Asia

Steven Millward:

The startup team, which is based in Shanghai, sees it being used for things like telling you that you should take an umbrella, reminding you that you’re running late to an appointment, or for turning off all your smart lights at once. With a single press, it could alert your significant other that you’re leaving the house.

All that will depend on it working nicely with the brand of smart lights that you have, or syncing with the online calendar service that you use. The fact that the ELLA Assistant is subservient to your phone and other smart gadgets means it has to work with them all with ease, or it won’t gain favor with consumers. War tells Tech in Asia that the team will add support for various things as demand arises, but there are no specific supported devices or services listed yet – which is because the little gizmo hasn’t even launched. Once it’s out, it’ll have its own app store.

The ELLA Assistant will hit Kickstarter some time in August.

Hmm. Don’t think so, somehow.


This is Twitter’s top secret Project Lightning » BuzzFeed News

Mat Honan:

Project Lightning will bring event-based curated content to the Twitter platform, complete with immersive and instant-load photos and videos and the ability to embed those experiences across the Web — and even in other apps.

“It’s a brand-new way to look at tweets,” says Kevin Weil, who runs product for the company. “This is a bold change, not evolutionary.”

It is also still a few months out, and things could change. But here’s how it will work.

On Twitter’s mobile app, there will be a new button in the center of the home row. Press it and you’ll be taken to a screen that will show various events taking place that people are tweeting about. These could be based on prescheduled events like Coachella, the Grammys, or the NBA Finals. But they might also focus on breaking news and ongoing events, like the Nepalese earthquake or Ferguson, Missouri. Essentially, if it’s an event that a lot of people are tweeting about, Twitter could create an experience around it.

This likely comes out of the machine-intelligence-curated tweet streams from a company that Twitter just bought – under Costolo’s leadership, don’t forget. He just took too long to do it. (By the way, in future could “top secret” – used in the headline – please be reserved for things that actually are top secret, such as the content of the Snowden documents, and not PR-led product demos by the CEO?)


Academic publishers reap huge profits as libraries go broke » CBC News

Researchers rely on journals to keep up with the developments in their field. Most of the time, they access the journals online through subscriptions purchased by university libraries. But universities are having a hard time affording the soaring subscriptions, which are bundled so that universities effectively must pay for hundreds of journals they don’t want in order to get the ones they do.

Larivière says the cost of the University of Montreal’s journal subscriptions is now more than $7m a year  – ultimately paid for by the taxpayers and students who fund most of the university’s budget. Unable to afford the annual increases, the university has started cutting subscriptions, angering researchers.

“The big problem is that libraries or institutions that produce knowledge don’t have the budget anymore to pay for [access to] what they produce,” Larivière said.

“They could have closed one library a year to continue to pay for the journals, but then in twenty-something years, we would have had no libraries anymore, and we would still be stuck with having to pay the annual increase in subscriptions.”

The kicker: the five largest academic publishers produce 53% of scientific papers in natural and medical sciences – up from 20% in 1973. Consolidation and monopoly.


EFF and eight other privacy organizations back out of NTIA face recognition multi-stakeholder process » Electronic Frontier Foundation

Jennifer Lynch:

Despite the sensitivity of face recognition data, however, the federal government and state and local law enforcement agencies continue to build ever-larger face recognition databases. Last year the FBI rolled out its NGI biometric database with 14-million face images, and we learned through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that it plans to increase that number to 52-million images by this year. Communities such as San Diego, California are using mobile biometric readers to take pictures of people on the street or in their homes and immediately identify them and enroll them in face recognition databases. These databases are shared widely, and there are few, if any, meaningful limits on access. 

EFF has been especially concerned about commercial use of face recognition because of the possibility that the data collected will be shared with law enforcement and the federal government. Several years ago, in response to a FOIA request, we learned the FBI’s standard warrant to social media companies like Facebook seeks copies of all images you upload, along with all images you’re tagged in. In the future, we may see the FBI seeking access to the underlying face recognition data instead.

Huh. The FBI does that, does it?


Apple criticised over ‘presumptuous’ news app email » BBC News

Kevin Rawlinson:

According to Graham Hann, the head of technology, media and communications at the law firm Taylor Wessing, the terms of the deal are broadly in line with industry standards – except the requirement to opt out.

“The content of the notice is not unusual, although it has deliberately been dumbed down, possibly for clarity,” he told the BBC.

“However, the optout approach is very unusual and I don’t see how the notice could form a binding contract without a positive reply.

“Apple clearly wants to launch with as much content as possible and has taken this risk-based approach. Some publishers may object and even threaten to sue.

“However, I think it would be hard to claim damage beyond a reasonable royalty fee.”

Soooo… it’s not actually a big deal?


Internet TV boxes: Nvidia pips Google for Android » FT.com

Tim Bradshaw:

while [Android TV] mostly got the dictation right, it often failed to produce the results I was looking for. Asking for Breaking Bad brought up detailed information about the show and its actors, but no way to watch it. This query also produced a link to Pomodoro Wear, a countdown timer app shaped like a tomato and designed for Google’s Android Wear smartwatch platform.

Even Google itself does not seem to know quite how to use Android TV. Its marketing materials suggest asking for “romantic comedies set in New York”. But when I tried that on the Android TV itself, it produced only a list of YouTube videos, the first of which was about Lego sets from a New York toy fair. With no When Harry Met Sally or Manhattan to be found, I can only wonder whether anyone else — including Google’s own staff — has ever searched for something to watch this way.

Bear in mind that Apple experimented with the same voice dictation system for TV and, by the account in the WSJ, abandoned it.


XARA exploits on Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and what you need to know » iMore

Rene Ritchie with a series of Q+As on the vulnerability disclosed yesterday:

Q: So were the App Stores or app review tricked into letting these malicious apps in?

A: The iOS App Store was not. Any app can register a URL scheme. There’s nothing unusual about that, and hence nothing to be “caught” by the App Store review.

For the App Stores in general, much of the review process relies on identifying known bad behavior. If any part of, or all of, the XARA exploits can be reliably detected through static analysis or manual inspection, it’s likely those checks will be added to the review processes to prevent the same exploits from getting through in the future

Apparently apps now have to state the URL schemes they will use in plaintext in a .plist file; that’s easy to review, and Apple can easily spot duplicates by static testing. Security researchers suggest Apple probably began adding such tests when it was told about the weakness – so this is perhaps already “fixed” in the simplest way it can be. (Checking plist files can be done retrospectively too.)


How useful will Google Now be? » Naofumi Kagami

With Google announcing Google Now on Tap at Google I/O 2015 and Apple announcing Proactive at WWDC 2015, there is now a lot of discussion on how useful these predictive personal assistants will be. In particular, there is a lot of discussion on how much data these personal assistants will need to collect about you, and whether these assistants need to send this data to be analysed in the cloud.

The problem I have with these arguments is that they do not go into specifics. Instead of say “everything is going to be cool”, we should be having a detailed discussion of how each predictive recommendation is actually made, and whether each recommendation could be performed easily on your local device, or whether it needs to be done in the cloud.

I think Kagami’s question is really “What things need to be in the cloud for predictive analysis to work?” You could argue that traffic or transit news needs to be analysed in the cloud (a la Google) so it can warn you about delays; but on the other hand, an Apple device could pull that data from the cloud, and look at what’s in your device, and warn you too.

So the quest goes on.