Start up: the $10 iPhone, the mobile data boom, Watch 2 in June? and more

Clickbait! (Translation optional, but it’s nothing too shocking.) Photo by pvantees on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Walmart’s $10 smartphone has better specs than the original iPhone » Motherboard

Nicholas Deleon:

Walmart is now selling a TracFone-branded LG smartphone that costs $9.82 (it also ships free if your online order total tops $50). Now, there are a few reasons why you may not want such a smartphone—for one, it’s running an outdated version of Android that may make it vulnerable to hackers—but there’s no denying that it represents something pretty special.

For less than $10 (plus the cost of data access) the user gets access to the Google Play app store, giving him or her the power to summon transportation at the push of a button, instantly connect with friends, and watch livestreams from all over the world. A bona fide smartphone, in other words.

It’s perhaps even more impressive when you consider that its modest specs — a 3.8in display, 3G and Wi-Fi networking, and a 3-megapixel camera — surpass those of the original iPhone, which was referred to in the tech press at the time as the “Jesus phone.”

It’s been eight years, so, what, three Moore’s Law cycles? Impressive nonetheless.
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Funniest new Twitter feed of the day: Clickbait Robot » Quirker

Michael Moran:

it’s easy to get sucked in – especially when a clickbait story piggybacks on a current trend and gets mixed in with genuine news.

Understandably, web users don’t much like it. And actually, most web professionals don’t like it much either.

Rob Manuel, is just such an internet professional. In the past he has devised quizzes, games and animations for B3ta and UsVsTh3m that might have been called clickbait, but generally did deliver on their promise.

And now he’s devised the ultimate clickbait machine. It scrapes Twitter’s current trending topics and boils them down into crazy-sounding headlines without any human intervention. It’s weird, and it’s very very funny…

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A team of robots may learn to grasp a million objects » MIT Technology Review

Will Knight:

[Stefanie] Tellex [of Brown University] says robotics researchers are increasingly looking for more efficient ways of training robots to perform tasks such as manipulation. “We have powerful algorithms now—such as deep learning—that can learn from large data sets, but these algorithms require data,” she says. “Robot practice is a way to acquire the data that a robot needs for learning to robustly manipulate objects.”

Tellex also notes that there are around 300 Baxter robots in various research labs around the world today. If each of those robots were to use both arms to examine new objects, she says, it would be possible for them to learn to grasp a million objects in 11 days. “By having robots share what they’ve learned, it’s possible to increase the speed of data collection by orders of magnitude,” she says.

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Ericsson Mobility Report » Ericsson

The Ericsson Mobility Report is one of the leading analyses of mobile network data traffic. It provides in-depth measurements from the world’s largest selection of live networks spread all around the globe, with analysis based on these measurements, internal forecasts and other relevant studies. The report provides insights into the current mobile network data traffic and market trends, applicable to both consumers and enterprises.

This one is for the third quarter: suggests 3.4bn smartphone subscriptions, up from 2.6bn last year, and 1.4GB of data per user on average per month, up from 1.0GB a year ago. In western Europe it’s 2.0GB per user per month. Lots of interesting data, including one about churn between iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

5G doesn’t look like a big winner though.
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Encrypted messaging apps face new scrutiny over possible role in Paris attacks » The New York Times

David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth:

American and French officials say there is still no definitive evidence to back up their presumption that the terrorists who massacred 129 people in Paris used new, difficult-to-crack encryption technologies to organize the plot.

But in interviews, Obama administration officials say the Islamic State has used a range of encryption technologies over the past year and a half, many of which defy cracking by the National Security Agency. Other encryption technologies, the officials hint, are less secure than terrorist and criminal groups may believe, and clearly they want to keep those adversaries guessing which ones the N.S.A. has pierced.

Some of the most powerful technologies are free, easily available encryption apps with names like Signal, Wickr and Telegram, which encode mobile messages from cellphones. Islamic State militants used Telegram two weeks ago to claim responsibility for the crash of the Russian jet in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 224 people, and used it again last week, in Arabic, English and French, to broadcast responsibility for the Paris carnage.

This argument isn’t going to go away; it’s going to continue between privacy advocates and governments (who are always seeking to surveil and gather). Every incident like that in Paris becomes ammunition, in a near-literal sense.
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The TalkTalk hack can’t be shrugged off » The Guardian

John Naughton:

Imagine a chemicals company that, as part of its operations, needs to process hazardous, carcinogenic materials, and therefore has to store them on site. Now imagine that some unscrupulous guy siphons off large quantities of the hazardous gunk and when this crime is revealed by the company, the boss is unable to tell reporters whether the tank containing the hazardous material was locked, or even covered.

If TalkTalk had been a chemicals producer and toxic chemicals had been stolen, the public outrage would be palpable. But because it’s a communications company, the response is just a resigned shrug. It’s just personal data, theft of which goes on every week: just think of the infidelity site Ashley Madison and the US health insurer Anthem. Stuff happens, move on.

The trouble is that personal data in the wrong hands is a very hazardous substance indeed. It’s the raw material that fuels a vast global industry, which uses it for phishing, pharming, malware distribution, hacking of corporate databases, extortion and blackmail.

Also worth it for the David Runciman quote about the difference between a scandal and a crisis.
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​How to easily defeat Linux Encoder ransomware » ZDNet

Neat, from Steven Vaughan-Nichols:

just crack open your files yourself.

You see the would-be cyber-criminals made a fundamental mistake. Their encryption method uses a faulty implementation of Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to generate the encryption key. Specifically, as the anti-virus company Bitdefender reported, the “AES key is generated locally on the victim’s computer. … rather than generating secure random keys and IVs [initialization vector], the sample would derive these two pieces of information from the libc rand() function seeded with the current system time-stamp at the moment of encryption. This information can be easily retrieved by looking at the file’s time-stamp.”

Armed with this, it’s trivial – well, for encryption experts – to find the key you need to restore your files. Since most of you don’t know your AES from your Playfair, Bitdefender is offering a free Python 2.7 script to obtain the Linux.Encoder key and IV for your containinated server.

They probably won’t make the same mistake next time, though.
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We are not getting out of PCs, says Fujitsu exec » The Register

Paul Kunert:

Fujitsu is the latest bit part PC player to state its commitment to the product line, as it prepares to spin off the computer and mobile businesses into two separate subsidiaries.

The units were part of the Ubiquitous Solutions division but at some point in the next 12 months will be distinct entities sitting under the Product division, the company told us.

“We are super committed to the PC business,” said head of product EMEA, India and Africa, Michael Keegan.

“It’s a very big part of the overall P&L [account] but we recognise that it is a massively changing business and needs more focus.”

I think you’ll find Fujitsu’s PCs are probably part of the “loss” in P&L, which swung to a loss for the half-year. But as it’s splitting the mobile phone and PC businesses, we’ll be able to see more clearly in future.
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Wearable devices becoming main growth driver for ODMs » Digitimes

Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai:

Quanta and Compal together have already acquired over 50% of the overall notebook orders for 2016, but both are still pessimistic about overall shipments in 2016. In 2016, the market watchers expect the market will gradually lean toward both the entry-level and high-end segments. More inexpensive Windows-based notebooks and Chromebooks are expected to be introduced, while vendors will also focus more on high-end products such as gaming notebooks.

Meanwhile, wearable device shipments are also expected to grow dramatically. Quanta, the maker of the Apple Watch, is expected to see related orders surging in 2016 and the ODM reportedly has also received orders for Apple’s second-generation Apple Watch for the second quarter of 2016.

Jeez, talk about burying the intro. “APPLE WATCH 2 TO SHIP IN APRIL?” is the way to write this. Although that rumour is already doing the rounds.
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Google to contest Russia’s antitrust ruling on Android » Reuters

Maria Kiselyova:

Google will contest in court a ruling by Russia’s antitrust agency that it broke competition law by abusing its dominant position with its Android mobile platform, the U.S. technology company said on Tuesday.

Russia’s competition watchdog ruled in September that Google had broken the law by requiring pre-installation of certain applications on mobile devices running on Android.

“We intend to contest this decision and explain in court why we consider it unfounded,” Google said in its official Russian blog.

Google has until Dec. 18 to amend its contracts with smartphone manufacturers in order to comply with the ruling in the case that was launched by local rival Yandex.

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Google removes another app from the Play Store for dodgy reasons, this time it’s the notorious Tasker » Android Police

Rita El Khoury:

the app isn’t just useful for gimmicks and even if many of us feel overwhelmed by it or don’t need it, it’s still part of the foundation of Android and the poster child for all the possibilities you have with the platform.

Taking Tasker out without a notice isn’t just reckless, it’s being stupidly blind to the entire history of Android, especially when the grounds for removal are dodgy at best. We’ve contacted Pent, Tasker’s developer to see what’s going on, and so far the story is as weird as it gets.

Pent didn’t get a warning regarding the removal and in the Developer Console, he sees this explanation:

“This app has been removed from Google Play for a violation of the Google Play Developer Programme Policy regarding Dangerous Products. Please review the Optimising for Doze and App Standby article, modify your app’s manifest and resubmit. More details have been emailed to the account owner.”

It seems that the removal was based on the existence of a dangerous permission that disables Doze in the app’s manifest: android.permission.REQUEST_IGNORE_BATTERY_OPTIMIZATIONS. The same reason was given to Stefan Pledl for the removal of his app LocalCast from the Play Store.

However, and here’s the weird part, that permission isn’t in the Play Store version of Tasker. As a matter of fact, Pent tells us the app wasn’t published in any form to the Play Store with that permission.

People will be up in arms about this, right? Update: as of Wednesday morning, it’s back.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.