Start up: iPhone sales visualised, stopping VR sickness, Canon lurches downward, mobile design and more


Not so many of these being sold. Photo by lonelysandwich on Flickr.

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

iPhone sales by quarter » Bare Figures

Have a play with this excellent site, which shows financial data for all sorts of companies. Notable: iPhone sales in the just-gone quarter of 61.2m, up 39.9%. That really is a lot. And the revenues too.


How to reduce VR sickness? Just add a virtual nose » WIRED

Liz Stinson:

Eliminating simulator sickness is a major interest of the burgeoning VR industry, but so far there hasn’t been a clear answer. Home remedies include drinking alcohol, while companies like Oculus Rift are exploring better positional tracking and improved display resolution. But researchers at Purdue University believe they’ve found a way to reduce the negative physical effects of virtual reality by using something that’s right in front of your face.

“We’ve discovered putting a virtual nose in the scene seems to have a stabilizing effect,” says David Whittinghill, an assistant professor in Purdue University’s Department of Computer Graphics Technology.


Windows Phone and Prepaid in the US » Tech.pinions

Jan Dawson:

based on the combination of AdDuplex and Comscore data, it’s likely Cricket has between 1 and 1.5 million Windows Phone devices in its base, which is a fairly significant chunk of Cricket’s overall base, perhaps as much as 25%. Secondly, remember the overall Windows Phone growth numbers we looked at earlier? There was net growth of about 1 million Windows Phone handsets in the base during that same nine month period or, in other words, the difference between those that left the platform and joined it was 1 million. Given Cricket likely added around 1 million during that period, it’s possible it accounted for the vast majority of that net growth.

Cricket isn’t the only prepaid brand where Windows Phone is big, though. It’s hard to get a full postpaid/prepaid breakdown from the AdDuplex numbers because, for the major carrier brands, the two aren’t separated. But even if we just focus on MetroPCS, Cricket and a phone only available on AT&T’s GoPhone prepaid service, these three add up to around 40% of the total base in the US. Add in a few percentage points for other prepaid sales on the major carriers and we could be getting close to half the Windows Phone base on prepaid, compared with about 25% of the total US phone base on prepaid. In this sense, Windows Phone is the anti-iPhone, with the iPhone well underrepresented in the prepaid market, just as Windows Phone is well over-represented.

(The full article is via subscription – monthly or one-off.)


The hidden politics of video games » POLITICO Magazine

Michael Peck:

Sim City lets you indulge your wildest fiscal fantasies. Banish the IRS and set taxes to zero in Teapartyville, or hike them to 99 percent on the filthy rich in the People’s Republic of Sims. Either way, you will discover that the game’s economic model is based on the famous Laffer Curve, the theoretical darling of conservative politicians and supply-side economists. The Laffer Curve postulates that raising taxes will increase revenue until the tax rate reaches a certain point, above which revenue decrease as people lose incentive to work.

Finding that magic tax point is like catnip for hard-core Sim City players. One Web site has calculated that according to the economic model in Sim City, the optimum tax rate to win the game should be 12% for the poor, 11% for the middle class and 10% for the rich.

In other words, playing Sim City well requires not only embracing supply-side economics, but taxing the poor more than the rich. One can almost see a mob of progressive gamers marching on City Hall to stick Mayor McSim’s head on a pike.

The subtle reinforcing effects of such models isn’t much thought about. Philip K Dick did, for his short story War Game.


Canon first-quarter profit drops as compact camera demand collapses » Reuters

Thomas Wilson:

Japan’s Canon Inc reported first-quarter net profit that fell by almost a third on Monday, grossly undershooting expectations, citing a collapse in demand for compact digital cameras.

Profit at the world’s largest camera maker fell to 33.93bn yen (£188 million) in January-March, compared with the 53.64bn yen average estimate of 5 analysts according to Thomson Reuters data.

The result comes as the world’s No.1 camera maker contends with a shift in consumer preference toward increasingly capable smartphone cameras. That shift has dragged Canon’s compact sales down nearly 70% since the market’s peak in 2008 – the year after Apple released its game-changing iPhone.

“Sales volume for low-end (digital camera) models declined due to the ongoing contraction of the market in all regions from the previous year,” said Canon in its earnings release.

Revenues down 1% year-on-year; operating profit by 20%. Also cut this year’s forecasts for compact sales by 23% and for higher-end cameras by 9%.


Telecom act to stifle sales of LG G4, Galaxy S6 » Korea Times

Bahk Eun-ji:

LG Electronics will release its latest smartphone, the G4, on Wednesday and seek to steal customers from its bigger rivals Samsung Electronics and Apple. LG is betting big on the new smartphone to gain fresh momentum in its earnings.

However, it faces a bigger obstacle than Samsung and Apple in the domestic market ― the Telecom Act that caps handset subsidies.

Two weeks ago, the KCC [Korean Communications Commission] raised the maximum amount of subsidy that customers can receive when buying a new handset to 330,000 won [£203/$304], from 300,000 won [£185/$268]. However, the maximum subsidy is possible only for those who choose the highest monthly phone bill rate. For most consumers, the actual subsidies available for them are insignificant. That’s why they are not buying new handsets.

The government has drawn criticism for the enforcement of the Telecom Act from all interested parties, including consumers, telecom companies and retail shop operators.

In particular, retail handset dealerships have condemned the act as their handset sales plunged after the Mobile Distribution Act took effect in October. Under the current law, when consumers buy Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and select a highest phone bill rate, they can receive up to 330,000 won in subsidies.

Normally, retail shop owners get rebates from telecom companies when they sell new handsets, but if customers do not buy the devices at the shop, the owners will not get the rebate.

Besides, if customers cancel their contracts before six months, the shop owners have to pay a 200,000 won [£123/$184] penalty to the telecom companies.

This probably explains the low reported sales of the Galaxy S6. The purpose of the subsidy cap is to prevent carriers and handset makers colluding to lure customers from rivals in South Korea’s saturated market. In 2014, Samsung lobbied to raise the subsidy ceiling. Not hard to work out why.


Racist Camera! No, I did not blink… I’m just Asian! » Flickr

Jared Earle offered a followup to the story on Kodachrome from Monday, pointing to this photo and commentary from 2009:

We got our Mom a new Nikon S630 digital camera for Mother’s Day and I was playing with it during the Angels game we were at on Sunday.
 
As I was taking pictures of my family, it kept asking “Did someone blink?” even though our eyes were always open.

Surprising, to say the least, that Nikon would have this problem.
Time picked up the story about a year later, and pointed out more strange examples where systems seemed to have built-in prejudices.

Of course, you can blame “the algorithms”. But they don’t write themselves.


Obvious always wins » LukeW

Luke Wroblewski, on how using menu controls (especially “hamburgers” and similar) can create big problems, even though the screen looks “simpler” (and so “better”, right?):

In an effort to simplify the visual design of the Polar app, we moved from a segmented control menu to a toggle menu. While the toggle menu looked “cleaner”, engagement plummeted following the change. The root cause? People were no longer moving between the major sections of the app as they were now hidden behind the toggle menu.

A similar fate befell the Zeebox app when they transitioned from a tab row for navigating between the major sections of their application to a navigation drawer menu. Critical parts of the app were now out of sight and thereby out of mind. As a result, engagement fell drastically.

[By contrast] When critical parts of an application are made more visible, usage of them can increase. Facebook found that not only did engagement go up when they moved from a “hamburger” menu to a bottom tab bar in their iOS app, but several other important metrics went up as well.


Start up: Apple gets prismatic, the tricorder cometh, smart home dilemmas, oceans in trouble, and more


Coming to a future iPhone camera? Photo by refeia on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The HTC One M9 review: part 1 » AnandTech

Why part 1? Because, Joshua Ho explains, there was a big ol’ software update last Friday which changed lots of stuff. Which is a good thing:

Friday’s software update introduced significant changes to the phone’s power and temperature management capabilities, which in turn has introduced a significant changes in the phone’s performance. HTC’s notes on the matter are very brief – updates to the camera, the UI, and thermal throttling – in practice it appears that HTC has greatly altered how the phone behaves under sustained loads. Our best guess at this point is that HTC appears to have reduced the maximum skin temperature allowed on the phone, which means that for short, bursty workloads that don’t approach the maximum skin temperature the changes are minimal, but for sustained loads performance has gone down due to the reduction in the amount of heat allowed to be generated.

Case in point, our GFXBench 3.0 battery life results were significantly altered by the update. With the initial version of the phone’s software we hit 1.73 hours – the phone ran fast but almost unbearably hot – and after the software update the One M9 is over 3 hours on the same test with a maximum temperature of 45C, a still-warm but certainly much cooler temperature, as seen in the photo above. And none of this takes into account the camera changes, which so far we are finding to be similarly significant. It has made the One M9 a very different phone from when we started.

Part 2 will look at the camera.


Apple invents 3-sensor iPhone camera with light splitting cube for accurate colors, low-light performance » Apple Insider

Mikey Campbell on a Apple patent filed in 2011 that has just been published:

Older three-CCD cameras relied on the tech to more accurately capture light and negate the “wobble” effect seen with a single energy-efficient CMOS chip. Modern equipment employs global shutter CMOS modules that offer better low-light performance and comparable color accuracy, opening the door to entirely new shooting possibilities.

Apple’s design uses light splitting techniques similar to those applied in current optics packages marketed by Canon, Panasonic, Philips and other big-name players in the camera space. For its splitter assembly, Apple uses a cube arrangement constructed using four identical polyhedrons that meet at dichroic interfaces.

By coating each interface with an optical coating, particular wavelengths of incident light can be reflected or allowed to transmit through to an adjoining tetrahedron. Adjusting dichroic filters allows Apple to parse out red, green and blue wavelengths and send them off to three sensors positioned around the cube. Aside from RGB, the patent also allows for other color sets like cyan, yellow, green and magenta (CYGM) and red, green, blue and emerald (RGBE), among others.

Light splitters also enable other desirable effects like sum and difference polarization, which achieves the same results as polarization imaging without filtering out incident light. The process can be taken a step further to enhance image data for feature extraction, useful in computer vision applications.

Basically, it’s about Apple wanting to have the smartphone with the best and fastest camera on the planet. Nothing more or less.


MAGZET: the audio jack reinvented with the power of magnets » Kickstarter

Basically, it’s Apple’s MagSafe idea applied to headphone jacks. A neat idea, though with a gigantic target of over a quarter of a million dollars. But I like it, so I backed it. (Then again, think how often your headphone lead has saved your phone from plunging to the floor. On the other hand, it may have yanked your phone out of your pocket.. oh anyway.)


The tricorder, an all-in-one diagnostic device, draws nigh » ReadWrite

After pushing back deadlines by a few months, the 10 remaining teams in the Tricorder X Prize are nearing the day they will deliver a device that can diagnose 15 diseases and other basic health information through at-home tests. The teams are scheduled to deliver working prototypes in June to a UC-San Diego study that will test the devices on patients with known medical disorders to measure their accuracy.

“We’re pretty confident that the majority of the 10 finalist teams will actually be able to deliver,” senior director Grant Company said. “Some may merge, and some may fall out, just because they can’t pull it together. And that just reinforces how big of a challenge this really is. It’s because the goals are very high.”

Another thing posited in Star Trek (the original series) being made reality.


Improbable: enabling the development of large-scale simulated worlds » cdixon blog

Chris Dixon of a16z, which is putting $20m into London-based Improbable, a spin-out from the University of Cambridge:

The Improbable team had to solve multiple hard problems to make this work. Think of their tech as a “spatial operating system”: for every object in the world — a person, a car, a microbe —the system assigns “ownership” of different parts of that entity to various worker programs. As entities move around (according to whatever controls them  — code, humans, real-world sensors) they interact with other entities. Often these interactions happen across machines, so Improbable needs to handle inter-machine messaging. Sometimes entities need to be reassigned to new hardware to load balance. When hardware fails or network conditions degrade, Improbable automatically reassigns the workload and adjusts the network flow. Getting the system to work at scale under real-world conditions is a very hard problem that took the Improbable team years of R&D.

Wow! What will it be used for? Mars missions? Lunar missions? Climate calculations?

One initial application for the Improbable technology is in gaming.

Gnnnh..

Beyond gaming, Improbable is useful in any field that models complex systems — biology, economics, defense, urban planning, transportation, disease prevention, etc. Think of simulations as the flip side to “big data.” Data science is useful when you already have large data sets. Simulations are useful when you know how parts of the system work and want to generate data about the system as a whole. Simulations are especially well suited for asking hypothetical questions: what would happen to the world if we changed X and Y? How could we change X and Y to get the outcome we want?

Better.


Connected car lawsuits begin » LinkedIn

Peggy Smedley:

It was only a matter a time before this was going to happen. And now it has. A lawsuit has been filed against three leading automakers seeking damages in the millions. But as I talked about on my radio show http://www.peggysmedleyshow.com a little more than a week ago, this lawsuit just might surprise you.

From court documents filed in Dallas, Texas, it appears this class action has been issued against Toyota, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors, for selling connected vehicles for allegedly knowing these in-vehicle systems could be hacked.

But, more importantly, the court documents go on to assert the automakers attempted to mislead consumers by not revealing the dangers associated with connected cars and not addressing the safety concerns.


The smart home decade dilemma » Tech.pinions

Bob O’Donnell thought he might be in line for some new (and smart?) appliances:

The new GE connected refrigerator won’t be available until later this spring but we needed to replace our fridge now. Plus, frankly, all the smart fridge seems to offer is a warning the water filter needs to be replaced and an optional alarm when someone leaves the door open. Nice to have, sure, but really essential? Hardly. Same thing with the new smart dishwasher. Getting an alert the dishes are done isn’t my idea of something I need to have.

In the case of the smart oven, the ability to remotely start preheating your oven, get a timer notice when something has finished cooking, or change the temperature or turn off the oven from the comfort of your sofa, did actually sound modestly interesting. But then the paranoid side of me kicked in and I realized that, though highly unlikely, a device sitting on my home WiFi network could theoretically get hacked (despite both mine and GE’s best efforts.) Now, if there was one appliance in my home I really didn’t want to be taken over and remotely controlled by someone other than my family, it would be the oven because, in theory, it could actually end up burning your house down. So, my previous disappointment with not getting at least one smart appliance in the overhaul actually morphed into a modest sense of relief.

The “decade” reference in the title is to the fact that appliances have typical lifespans of at least 10 years, and often 20. That’s longer than some tech companies.


Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences » The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/embed/c1f126ae-d192-11e4-8b1e-274d670aa9c9

Chris Mooney:

Welcome to this week’s installment of “Don’t Mess with Geophysics.”

Last week, we learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.

And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation. According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.

Somehow just linking to this feels insufficient. Equally, we’re talking about the world’s oceans here, and it’s hard to know quite what to do.


Gartner recommends Samsung, LG partner with watchmakers » Korea Times

Yoon Sung-won:

Gartner said Tuesday that Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics may need to adjust strategies in the wearable device business to strengthen their brand’s position.

The global market research agency said in a briefing session in Seoul that many fashion brands are launching smartwatches as jewellery or luxury items in the second phase of the wearable devices market. Gartner stressed that electronics makers are recommended to partner with traditional watch brands on quality features.

“Customers believe that fashion brands can set a new trend in the smartwatch industry tapping into their strong brand power and consumer channels, which many electronics makers do not have,” Gartner’s research director Angela McIntyre said.

Yeah, might help.


Start up: Coolpad’s built-in malware backdoor, LG v Samsung, Rockstar’s patent fizzle, Google’s PR spin game, and more


A Coolpad smartphone. Back door not shown.

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This is the last collection of Overspill links until next week (at least). Have a great Christmas – and thanks to the hundreds of people who are coming to read every day. You’re always welcome.
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A selection of 11 links for you. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

SuperBeam Pro: easy & fast WiFi direct file sharing >> iTunes App Store

Works by Wi-Fi Direct (aka p2p sharing). Seems to be superfast, but one also wonders if Apple is going to be entirely happy about this. (Found via Producthunt.)


Rockstar consortium to sell 4,000 patents to RPX Corp. for $900m >> WSJ

Starting late last year, Rockstar sued several companies for allegedly infringing their patents, including Google and Cisco. Last month, Rockstar settled its suits against Google and Cisco. Financial details weren’t disclosed, but Cisco told investors in early November that it had recorded a pretax charge of $188 million to settle the Rockstar litigation.

As part of the deal with RPX, Rockstar will drop the remainder of its suits, which include claims against Samsung Electronics, LG, HTC and Huawei.

The settlements follow others in the long-running smartphone patent wars.

For instance, in May, Apple and Google agreed to drop all lawsuits between the two companies, and in August, Apple and Samsung agreed to end all litigation between the two companies outside the U.S. Apple and Samsung are still battling in federal court in California, where Apple has won two jury verdicts finding that Samsung infringed its designs for the iPhone.

Whether the Rockstar companies recouped its $4.5bn investment is an open question. In the minds of some experts, the $4.5bn figure reflected the high point of a frothy market that developed for patents in the earlier days of the smartphone industry.

The Rockstar companies squeezed more than three years of use out of the 4,000 patents, and will keep licenses going forward. The 2,000 patents they held back from Rockstar—and aren’t part of the sale to RPX—were among some of the most valuable in the Nortel portfolio.

Turns out that smartphone patents were just a sideline which led both Google and its rivals to drop huge amounts. (Google rather more than the others, through Motorola’s continued losses until it could sell it off. But nobody won.)


CoolReaper revealed: a backdoor in Coolpad Android devices >> Palo Alto Networks Blog

Claud Xiao and Ryan Olson:

Coolpad is the sixth largest manufacturer of smartphones in the world, and the third largest in China. We recently discovered that the software installed on many of Coolpad’s high-end Android phones includes a backdoor which was installed and operated by Coolpad itself. Today we released a new report detailing the backdoor, which we’ve named “CoolReaper.”
After reviewing Coolpad complaints on message boards about suspicious activities on Coolpad devices, we downloaded multiple copies of the stock ROMs used by Coolpad phones sold in China. We found the majority of the ROMs contained the CoolReaper backdoor.

CoolReaper can perform the following tasks:
• Download, install, or activate any Android application without user consent or notification
• Clear user data, uninstall existing applications, or disable system applications
• Notify users of a fake over-the-air (OTA) update that doesn’t update the device, but installs unwanted applications
• Send or insert arbitrary SMS or MMS messages into the phone.
• Dial arbitrary phone numbers
• Upload information about device, its location, application usage, calling and SMS history to a Coolpad server.

Fabulous! All that extra software for no charge! (Coolpad is on sale in the west, by the way.)

They say it’s specifically tailored to hide what it does, and that Coolpad has ignored customer complaints about unwanted app installs. Their conclusion:

CoolReaper is the first malware we have seen that was built and operated by an Android manufacturer. The changes Coolpad made to the Android OS to hide the backdoor from users and antivirus programs are unique and should make people think twice about the integrity of their mobile devices.


Google adds song lyrics to search results but it feels like a cheap cash grab >> PCWorld

Ian Paul:

Google has figured out a way to deliver more instant answers in search results and boost music sales on Google Play simultaneously: song lyrics. Following Bing’s lead from October, Google is now surfacing lyrics for a limited number of songs when you search for “[song title] lyrics.”

Unlike Bing, however, you won’t see the full list of song lyrics in your search results. To see the complete lyrics you have to click a link to Google Play. There you’ll also have options to buy the track or subscribe to Google Play’s All Access subscription service.

If Bing’s song lyrics roll out convinced you to switch to Microsoft’s search engine, however, don’t bother switching back. Google’s song lyric catalog is extremely limited compared to its competitor. In fact, the new feature seems like more of a ploy to push people to Google Play than a truly helpful search function.

I hadn’t noted that Bing was already doing song lyrics. Google says it has licensed the lyrics it displays. But – as this article notes, and Techcrunch points out – it’s another annexation by Google of a content business.


LG boss may miss CES due to washing machine fiasco >> CNET

Cho Mu-Hyun:

South Korean prosecutors have imposed a travel ban on Jo Seong-jin, head of LG’s Home Appliance and Air Solution Company, who had been slated to represent LG at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show 2015 in Las Vegas.

Samsung earlier this year filed a lawsuit for property damages and defamation against Jo and four other LG Electronics executives after the IFA tradeshow in Berlin, Germany, claiming that the LG execs intentionally sabotaged the door hinges of one of its washing machines at an electronics store there. Samsung provided as evidence the damaged washing machine and CCTV footage allegedly showing Jo “willfully” damaging the appliance.

Who knew bathos could be so hilarious.


Xiaomi may adopt sapphire for covers of 5.7in smartphone >> Digitimes

China-based smartphone vendor Xiaomi Technology is likely to adopt sapphire for protective covers of Xiaomi 5, its 5.7-inch flagship model that will be showcased at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Taiwan-based supply chain makers cited industry sources in China as indicating.

Japan-based Kyocera in early 2014 launched smartphones with protective covers made from internally-produced sapphire in the US market through cooperation with Verizon Wireless, while China-based Vivo and Huawei Device also launched smartphones with sapphire covers, the sources said.

If Xiaomi decides to adopt sapphire, existing sapphire production capacity is not sufficient to meet the demand, according to sources with Taiwan-based sapphire wafer makers.

Even with Xiaomi’s smartphone volumes, this probably isn’t possible. Maybe a high-end model?


Why Sony’s breach matters >> Learning by Shipping

Steve Sinofsky, who (of course) used to be at Microsoft:

in late 1996, seemingly all at once everyone started opening Word documents to a mysterious alert like the one below.

This annoying but benign development was actually a virus. The Word Concept virus (technically a worm, which at the time was a big debate) was spreading wildly. It attached itself to an incredibly useful feature of Word called the AutoOpen macro. Basically Word had a snazzy macro language that could do anything automatically that you could do in Word just sitting in front typing (more on this later). AutoOpen allowed these macros to run as soon as you opened a document. You’d receive a document with Concept code in AutoOpen and upon opening the document it would infect the default (and incredibly useful) template Normal.dot and then from then on every document you opened or created was subsequently infected. When you mailed a document or placed it on a file server, everyone opening that document would become infected the same way. This mechanism would become very useful for future viruses.

Looking at this on the team we were rather consternated. Here was a core business use case. For example, AutoOpen would trigger all sorts of business processes such as creating a standard document with the right formats and metadata or checking for certain conditions in a document management system. These capabilities were key to Word winning in the marketplace. Yet clearly something had to be done.

And that was just the start of a long run of malware. But he thinks we’re better off now.


Google just had to spin the Sony hack >> The Illusion of More

David Newhoff on Google’s PR spin around the “Goliath” emails uncovered by the Sony hack, which he calls a Pavlovian bell-ringing for its meme of “internet freedom”:

It’s no secret that motion picture producers and Google have an ongoing dispute with regard to piracy of filmed entertainment, and I think it’s a safe bet both parties regularly consult with counsel regarding their own interests. As such, I personally think one of the more serious results of this leak is the rather dramatic breach of attorney/client privilege. I don’t think we want a society in which hackers can arbitrarily violate this fundamental right in our legal system. Apparently, though, Google’s Sr VP and General Counsel, Kent Walker, was unfazed by this implication — perhaps Google is hacker proof — when he was quoted in Variety saying, “We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means.”  And as of this week, Google has launched a campaign it calls Zombie SOPA. Ding-a-ling!

Walker is not speaking as an attorney, but rather as a PR guy, when he plays the word secret like that in order to imply a conspiracy, knowing full well that communications between clients and attorneys are almost always secret. But near the end of the article, he is also quoted plaintively wondering why champions of the First Amendment like the MPAA would “want to censor the Internet.”  Hear them ring! Of course any discussion about legal remedies to mitigate piracy are tantamount to censorship, right?


Why Samsung is losing out to low cost rivals >> Jana Mobile

Samsung’s flagship Galaxy series is extremely popular among the emerging market smartphone users that make up mCent’s user base (eight of the top ten devices used to access the mCent app in November 2014 came from the Samsung Galaxy series). However, the Galaxy is likely to become less popular as lower-priced competitors enter the market. This is partly due to the total price of components and assembly for Galaxy devices, which have steadily risen in the face of prevailing market trends. If the current trend is sustained, manufacturing and component costs for a Samsung Galaxy [from 2010] will be higher than the global average selling price for a smartphone in 2015…

…In November 2014, Samsung accounted for 40% of sessions on the mCent app for Android. It has been the most popular smartphone brand among users in our markets since the launch of the mCent app in June 2014, yet its popularity has been waning. In the key markets of Brazil, Indonesia, and India, Motorola, Smartfren, and Micromax have become noticeably more popular. We expect this trend to continue into 2015.

With the caveat, however, that they’re talking about the flagship Galaxy phones, not the cheapo phones that it sells at rock-bottom prices.

Though this is becoming a story that everyone is telling: Samsung losing out to the low-cost rivals. Its earnings guidance for the fourth quarter will come out in early January.


Mathematicians have finally figured out how to tell correlation from causation >> Quartz

Zach Wener-Fligner:

determining causal relationships is really hard. But techniques outlined in a new paper promise to do just that. The basic intuition behind the method demonstrated by Prof. Joris Mooij of the University of Amsterdam and his co-authors is surprisingly simple: if one event influences another, then the random noise in the causing event will be reflected in the affected event.

For example, suppose we are trying to determine the relationship between the the amount of highway traffic, and the time it takes John to drive to work. Both John’s commute time and traffic on the highway will fluctuate somewhat randomly: sometimes John will hit the red light just around the corner, and lose five extra minutes; sometimes icy weather will slow down the roads.

But the key insight is that random fluctuation in traffic will affect John’s commute time, whereas random fluctuation in John’s commute time won’t affect the traffic.

Smart – watch for this to filter through into all sorts of everyday algorithms in the next few years.


Did North Korea really attack Sony? >> The Atlantic

Bruce Schneier:

Allan Friedman, a research scientist at George Washington University’s Cyber Security Policy Research Institute, told me that from a diplomatic perspective, it’s a smart strategy for the U.S. to be overconfident in assigning blame for the cyberattacks. Beyond the politics of this particular attack, the long-term U.S. interest is to discourage other nations from engaging in similar behavior. If the North Korean government continues denying its involvement no matter what the truth is, and the real attackers have gone underground, then the U.S. decision to claim omnipotent powers of attribution serves as a warning to others that they will get caught if they try something like this.

Sony also has a vested interest in the hack being the work of North Korea. The company is going to be on the receiving end of a dozen or more lawsuits—from employees, ex-employees, investors, partners, and so on. Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain opined that having this attack characterized as an act of terrorism or war, or the work of a foreign power, might earn the company some degree of immunity from these lawsuits.

I worry that this case echoes the “we have evidence — trust us” story that the Bush administration told in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

Schneier is very sceptical of the US explanation. It’s noticeable how few security experts are on board with the US’s claims over this.