Start up: Schrödinger’s Satoshi, the trouble with VC funding, stalking with Waze, dentists get malware, and more

Would you put yourself in front of a rifle underwater?

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A selection of 10 links for you. Proceed in a westerly direction. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Craig Wright’s New Evidence That He Is Satoshi Nakamoto Is Worthless | Motherboard

Jordan PEarson and Lorenzo Francheschi-Bucchierai:

»While that [blogpost signature] looks legit, according to experts, the evidence Wright provided seems to actually be worthless. As it turns out, Wright simply reused an old signature from a bitcoin transaction performed in 2009 by Satoshi.

Dan Kaminsky, a well-known security researcher, wrote in a post debunking Wright’s alleged evidence that the whole thing is a scam. “Satoshi signed a transaction in 2009. Wright copied that specific signature and tried to pass it off as new,” he added on Twitter. “He’s lying. Full stop.”

Longtime bitcoin developers also pointed out that this signature could have been copied from a public source, and does not prove that Wright controls the associated addresses.

“It would be like if I was trying to prove that I was George Washington and to do that provided a photocopy of the constitution and said, look, I have George Washington’s signature,” Bitcoin developer Peter Todd said.

Todd added that someone contacted him by email two weeks ago, claiming to be Satoshi, and using the same signature trick as proof. He says he ignored the email.

«

In the space of a few hours this story went from “Bitcoin inventor found!” to “HOAAAAXX!”, leaving a lot of very puzzled citizens in the middle. The point about the “ignored email” could be key: if Wright, or someone, has been hawking this around, something is fishy.
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Physicist fires a gun at himself underwater to prove a point » Mashable

»

To demonstrate the difference between air and water resistance, Norweigan physicist Andreas Wahl decided to plonk himself in front of a submerged rifle and pull the trigger.

«

Fantastic. Turns out that if you search on Wahl’s name on YouTube, he’s done a ton of these sorts of experiments.

It does however show that Leonardo DiCaprio need not have been so worried when he jumped into that river while being pursued by rifle-wielding enemies in The Revenant. Bigger risk was hypothermia.

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Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes expose the perverse incentives at work in Silicon Valley » Quartz

Jay Edelson and Christopher Dore, of the law firm Edelson (which has taken class actions against a number of tech companies), argue that the VC model drives companies to ignore rules:

»Take Zynga, the gaming company responsible for Farmville, which has earned the moniker “Scamville” for its allegedly deceptive advertising. The co-founder of Zynga, Mark Pincus, famously said, “I knew I needed revenues…. Like I needed revenues now. So I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book … just to get revenues right away.” While Pincus, incredibly, made this statement in public, he expressed the private sentiment of countless entrepreneurs faced with the ticking of the VC clock. (Disclosure: our law firm, Edelson PC, has brought class-action lawsuits against Zynga and some of the other companies mentioned below, but not for the conduct discussed in this article.)

This is bad for investors, including venture investors who care just about growth. (Fraudulent companies are, at best, an unreliable source of revenue.) But the reckless pursuit of growth often comes at consumers’ expense as well. That’s because the way that companies grow rapidly is to expand their user bases by hook or by crook, in a process called “growth hacking.”

One of the most common examples of this involves “spam-viting,” or hijacking a consumer’s contact list to blast them with text messages or emails, knowingly in violation of various federal and state statutes. Companies spam-vite because it works. Sending millions of text messages or emails to consumers, dressed up as if they came from those consumers’ friends, is a viable, illegal way to grow a business quickly. LinkedIn, for example, settled a lawsuit for $13 million over its practice of repeatedly sending “add connections” emails to a new user’s entire email contact list. And TextMe, a text-based social network, generated its growth by sending a large volume of text messages to new user’s phone contacts, although it eventually won its legal battle with the Federal Communications Commission.

The pressure to growth-hack begets pressure to disregard the law, at least temporarily.

«

This is a terrific essay; you read it and think “wow, that’s so true”. The saying in Silicon Valley is “it’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission”; it’s how so many of today’s giants got started – Google, YouTube, Uber and AirBnB being particular examples. All broke, or break, the rules in many ways regularly.
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Google and Microsoft have made a pact to protect surveillance capitalism » The Guardian

Julia Powles on the surprising (to many) decision by Microsoft to withdraw from antitrust complaints and lobbying against Google:

»Microsoft today is facing a very different business ecosystem to the one it dominated in the 1990s. It needs to adapt. And it appears to want to do so by positioning itself at the heart of what Satya Nadella describes as “systems of intelligence”.

Explaining this concept at Hannover Messe 2016, Nadella defined systems of intelligence as cloud-enabled digital feedback loops. They rely on the continuous flow of data from people, places and things, connected to a web of activity. And they promise unprecedented power to reason, predict and gain insight.

This is unbridled Big Data utopianism. And it is a vision that brings Microsoft squarely into Google territory. So maybe Microsoft is pulling out of regulatory battles because it doesn’t want to shoot itself in the foot. For emeritus Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff, this gets to the core of the Google-Microsoft deal.

Zuboff is a leading critic of what she calls “surveillance capitalism”, the monetization of free behavioral data acquired through surveillance and sold on to entities with an interest in your future behaviour. As she explained to the Guardian: “Google discovered surveillance capitalism. Microsoft has been late to this game, but it has now waded in. Viewed in this way, its agreement with Google is predictable and rational.”

«

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Are maps necessary? » ROUGH TYPE

Nick Carr, musing on Jason O’Beirne’s post (linked yesterday) about the changes in Google Maps over the years:

»O’Beirne is a bit mystified by the changes Google has wrought. He suspects that they were inspired by a decision to optimize Google Maps for smartphone displays. “Unfortunately,” he writes, “these ‘optimizations’ only served to exacerbate the longstanding imbalances [between levels of detail] already in the maps. As is often the case with cartography: less isn’t more. Less is just less. And that’s certainly the case here.”

I’m sure that’s true. Adapting to “mobile” is the bane of the modern interface designer. (And, you’ll note, the “cleaner” Google Map provides a lot of open space for future ad placements.) But, when it comes to maps, there’s something more profound going on than just the need to squeeze a map onto a tiny screen. Implicit in the Google changes is the obsolescence of the map as a navigational tool. Turn-by-turn directions and automated route selection mean that fewer and fewer people ever have to figure out how to get from one place to another or even to know where they are. As a navigation aid, the map is a vestigial organ. So why not get rid of the useful details and start to think of the map as merely a picture or an image, or a canvas for advertisements?

«

Carr has such a deliciously sardonic tone, yet deployed so sparingly and precisely, it’s shocking he isn’t British.
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Drake’s Spotify gamble is paying off: Views just made $8m in a day » Music Business Worldwide

Tim Ingham:

»On Friday (April 29), Beyonce’s Lemonade became the biggest album of the year so far in the US.

Within another 24 hours, Drake’s Views had surpassed Lemonade’s entire week-one album download figure, with around 600,000 sales.

Views is now easily on course to smash through a million North American sales before the weekend.

Drake and his team will have breathed a big sigh of relief at this news – early vindication for a digital strategy which was by no means a safe bet.

Aside from its status as one of the most eagerly anticipated records of the year, Views (previously ‘Views From The 6’), is a complete Apple exclusive.

In its first week, it’s available to stream on Apple Music and buy on iTunes, but not available anywhere else – including physical stores.

Significantly, fans can’t ‘un-bundle’ Views on iTunes, as they could with Beyonce’s Lemonade last week; they only have the option to buy it as one package, with the exception of recent singles One Dance and Hotline Bling.

Drake took a sizable risk with this approach.

«

Really interested by how some artists can still hit it out of the ground by going for the download-only/one-service-only approach, while others can’t. It’s not just about age, either.
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A poem about Silicon Valley, made up of Quora questions » Fusion

Jason Gilbert:

»Why do so many startups fail?
Why are all the hosts on CouchSurfing male?
Are we going to be tweeting for the rest of our lives?
Why do Silicon Valley billionaires choose average-looking wives?

What makes a startup ecosystem thrive?
What do people plan to do once they’re over 35?
Is an income of $160K enough to survive?
What kind of car does Mark Zuckerberg drive?

«

And there’s more. This is splendid.
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Dental Assn mails malware to members » Krebs on Security

Brian Krebs:

»The American Dental Association (ADA) says it may have inadvertently mailed malware-laced USB thumb drives to thousands of dental offices nationwide.

The problem first came to light in a post on the DSL Reports Security Forum. DSLR member “Mike” from Pittsburgh got curious about the integrity of a USB drive that the ADA mailed to members to share updated “dental procedure codes” — codes that dental offices use to track procedures for billing and insurance purposes…

«

It had a launcher which would take a PC to a site which would try to download malware; and few antivirus checkers would find it.

»

In response to questions from this author, the ADA said the USB media was manufactured in China by a subcontractor of an ADA vendor, and that some 37,000 of the devices have been distributed. The not-for-profit ADA is the nation’s largest dental association, with more than 159,000 members.

“Upon investigation, the ADA concluded that only a small percentage of the manufactured USB devices were infected,” the organization wrote in an emailed statement.

«

One should now routinely assume that anything involving (a) Flash (b) USB drives is potentially a malware route. Fortunately, both are avoidable in normal life.
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Yahoo’s $8bn black hole » Bloomberg Businessweek

Max Chafkin and Brian Womack:

»In some ways, [Yahoo CEO Marissa] Mayer’s strategy has worked. Yahoo’s apps have received stellar marks from both reviewers and users, and the company has created new lines of business that accounted for $390m in revenue last quarter. “Mavens as a revenue source didn’t exist at all in 2011 and was nascent in 2012,” Mayer said proudly on the February earnings call, using an acronym that stands for “mobile, video, native advertising, social.” Yahoo has more than 600 million mobile users, up from about 150 million before she took the job.

But those improvements are nowhere near big enough to turn the company around. “Marissa likes to present Mavens as though it should be compared to some nascent startup,” says SpringOwl’s Jackson. But startups, he points out, don’t begin with a billion users. “It’s as if Yahoo took an above-ground pool, dumped it into a bucket, and said, ‘Wow, we’re really filling up this bucket fast,’ ” he says.

And that traffic isn’t necessarily users delighting in Mayer’s new products and telling their friends; much of it comes from Yahoo paying ever-larger sums to other companies to direct their users to Yahoo’s sites and apps. It paid almost $900m in traffic acquisition fees in 2015, up from $200m in 2014. Predictably, Yahoo users are spending less and less time with its sites. A report by The Information, a tech news site, showed that as of early December, the average time spent on Yahoo properties had declined 32% for Yahoo Mail, 29% for the home page, and 20% for Tumblr over the previous 12 months.

«

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If you use Waze, hackers can stalk you » Fusion

Kashmir Hill:

»Last week, I tested the Waze vulnerability myself, to see how successfully the UC-Santa Barbara team could track me over a three-day period. I told them I’d be in Las Vegas and San Francisco, and where I was staying—the kind of information a snoopy stalker might know about someone he or she wanted to track. Then, their ghost army tried to keep tabs on where I went.

The researchers caught my movements on three occasions, including when I took a taxi to downtown Las Vegas for dinner:

And they caught me commuting to work on the bus in San Francisco. (Though they lost me when I went underground to take the subway.)

The security researchers were only able to track me while I was in a vehicle with Waze running in the foreground of my smartphone. Previously, they could track someone even if Waze was just running in the background of the phone. Waze, an Israeli start-up, was purchased by Google in 2013 for $1.1 billion. Zhao informed the security team at Google about the problem and made a version of the paper about their findings public last year. An update to the app in January of this year prevents it from broadcasting your location when the app is running in the background, an update that Waze described as an energy-saving feature. (So update your Waze app if you haven’t done so recently!)

«

The only way not to be trackable is to choose to be “invisible”. Or not to use Waze, of course. Once more, it’s a theoretical risk – you’d need clever, determined hackers to use it against you – but it also shows how much data these apps leak intentionally.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Did you miss yesterday’s Start up: Overspill? Google’s health data grab, Intel’s mobile halt, satire wars, iPad Pro beats Surface Pro, and more.

Start up: infected airplanes, Samsung gets VR-y, the real counterfeiters, Youtube’s unstoppable ads, and more


Facial recognition is being used for unsavoury purposes in Russia. (This is an example from Iran, at SXSW.) Photo by TheSeafarer 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 9 links for you. Suits you. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Europe’s web privacy rules: bad for Google, bad for everyone » NYTimes.com

Daphne Keller and Bruce Brown on the “right to be forgotten” [more correctly, “delisted from search”] laws in Europe, which now applies to google.com accessed inside Europe:

»News outlets should have particular cause for alarm about geo-blocking. Journalists rely on global networks to investigate and report on international stories, like the recent Panama Papers revelations. They themselves are often the first targets when governments seek to control the flow of information to their citizens. Protection exists in European Union privacy law for journalistic activities, so the news media is not directly in the cross hairs of the “right to be forgotten.” But American news organizations have faced libel actions in hostile foreign courts — and when plaintiffs start asking for geo-blocking in those cases, journalists will be on the front lines.

Privacy is a real issue, and shouldn’t be ignored in the Internet age. But applying those national laws to the Internet needs to be handled with more nuance and concern. These developments should not be driven only by privacy regulators. State departments, trade and justice ministries and telecom regulators in France and other European countries should be demanding a place at the table. So should free-expression advocates.

One day, international agreements may sort this all out. But we shouldn’t Balkanize the Internet in the meantime. Once we’ve erected barriers online, we might not be able to tear them down.

«

There’s a wonderful unspoken cultural imperialism about this approach: whatever the prevailing thought in the US is about [topic], well, that should be the approach to [topic] everywhere. Applying US laws to the internet is just as misguided as applying any other national laws. The Panama Papers is a complete red herring in this context.

You might wonder if Keller and Brown are unaware of their imperial approach. Keller, as it happens, used to be a lawyer at Google.
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Uh-oh, Apple — Samsung has a bona fide ecosystem around virtual reality » Re/code

Ina Fried:

»For a long time, Samsung’s phones have gone head to head with the iPhone, but when it came to having an ecosystem of different devices, Apple was the hands-down winner.

Sure, Samsung had its own tablets and watches, but it was Apple that was able to build loyalty, convincing customers to make purchase after purchase.

With virtual reality, though, Samsung is off to the early lead. Alongside Sunday’s debut of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, the company is announcing the Gear 360 — a consumer camera for capturing virtual-reality content. That completes the VR circle, with its Gear VR headset, already the most accessible way to consumer virtual-reality content outside of Google’s ultra-cheap cardboard viewer, which is more for getting a taste of VR than long-term consumption.

The Gear 360 isn’t due out until the second quarter — and Samsung won’t say how much the orb will cost — but it looks small, simple and powerful, at least at first glance.

«

VR is coming.
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German nuclear plant infected with computer viruses, operator says » Reuters

Christoph Steitz and Eric Auchard:

»Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for Finland-based F-Secure, said that infections of critical infrastructure were surprisingly common, but that they were generally not dangerous unless the plant had been targeted specifically.

The most common viruses spread without much awareness of where they are, he said.

As an example, Hypponen said he had recently spoken to a European aircraft maker that said it cleans the cockpits of its planes every week of malware designed for Android phones. The malware spread to the planes only because factory employees were charging their phones with the USB port in the cockpit.

Because the plane runs a different operating system, nothing would befall it. But it would pass the virus on to other devices that plugged into the charger.

«

Absolutely gobsmacking.
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This city embedded traffic lights in the sidewalks so that smartphone users don’t have to look up » The Washington Post

Rick Noack:

»Few nations in the world take red traffic lights more seriously than Germany.

Foreign visitors frequently wonder why crowds of Germans wait for traffic lights to turn green when there are no cars in sight.

That is why officials in the city of Augsburg became concerned when they noticed a new phenomenon: Pedestrians were so busy looking at their smartphones that they were ignoring traffic lights.

The city has attempted to solve that problem by installing new traffic lights embedded in the pavement — so that pedestrians constantly looking down at their phones won’t miss them.

«

(The headline pretty much covers the whole of the story, but there you go.) Cities being redesigned for our devices.
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Fantastic fakes: busting a $70m counterfeiting ring » Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Del Quentin Wilber:

»By the time Gaab began his investigation in 2012, the Secret Service had linked at least 10 different versions to the same family of fake $50s and $100s. The margins were impressive. The agency estimated that the counterfeiter sold his initial run to his U.S. distributors for 10 percent of their face value. The distributors then dealt their haul to middlemen for 25¢ to 35¢ on the dollar. By the time they reached the person passing the bills at Walmart or Target, a bogus $100 note was being sold for as much as $65.

«

Another great read from Bloomberg’s team. Bloomberg BW is a print magazine.
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Facial recognition service becomes a weapon against Russian porn actresses » Global Voices Advocacy

Kevin Rothrock:

»From the start, FindFace has raised privacy concerns. (Even in his glowing recommendation, [software engineer Andrei] Mima addressed fears that the service further erodes people’s freedoms in the age of the Internet.) In early April, a young artist named Egor Tsvetkov highlighted how invasive the technology can be, photographing random passengers on the St. Petersburg subway and matching the pictures to the individuals’ Vkontakte pages, using FindFace. “In theory,” Tsvetkov told RuNet Echo, this service could be used by a serial killer or a collector trying to hunt down a debtor.”

Hoping to raise concerns about the potential misuses of FindFace, Tsvetkov seems to have inspired a particularly nasty effort to identify and harass Russian women who appear in pornography. On April 9, three days after the media reported on Tsvetkov’s art project, users of the Russian imageboard “Dvach” (2chan) launched a campaign to deanonymize actresses who appear in pornography. After identifying these women with FindFace, Dvach users shared archived copies of their Vkontakte pages, and spammed the women’s families and friends with messages informing them about the discovery.

«

Oh, Russia. But this is how facial recognition systems will be used; this genie just announced its out-of-bottleness.
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New ad format will bring unskippable 6-second ads to YouTube » AndroidAuthority

John Dye:

»Nobody likes ads, but they’re kind of the cost of doing business in a world where we’ve grown accustomed to getting our content for free. Although YouTube has long had ads before videos, Google is pushing out a new ad format called “Bumpers,” which are unskippable 6-second shorts placed in front of videos.

In the Adwords blogpost that announced the format, Product Manager Zach Lupei compares these Bumper ads to video haikus. Current ads placed before videos are often full-length ads that can be skipped after a few seconds. However, these ads have a hard cap of six seconds, making them more like Vine videos than traditional ads. Marketers will have to get pretty clever to squeeze meaningful, worthwhile content into that narrow window of time, so we might actually be getting some creative and hilarious little shorts out of this.

«

“Creative and hilarious”. And unskippable. (Also, I abhor the “hey, I just happened to be passing a keyboard and I kinda wrote this blogpost of no consequence except it fills our ad quota” style of writing.)
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Worldwide smartphone growth goes flat in the first quarter as Chinese vendors churn the top 5 vendor list » IDC

»Vendors shipped a total of 334.9m smartphones worldwide in the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16), up slightly from the 334.3m units in 1Q15, marking the smallest year-over-year growth on record. The minimal growth this quarter is primarily attributed to strong smartphone saturation in developed markets, as well as a year-over-year decline from both Apple and Samsung, the two market leaders.

The biggest change to the market, however, was the addition of lesser-known Chinese brands OPPO and vivo, which pushed out previous fourth and fifth place players Lenovo and Xiaomi, respectively. As the China market matures, the appetite for smartphones has slowed dramatically as the explosion of uptake has passed its peak. In 2013, China’s year-over-year shipment growth was 62.5%; by 2015, it had dropped to 2.5%. Conversely, the average selling price (ASP) for a smartphone in China rose from US$207 in 2013 to US$257 in 2015.

“Along China’s maturing smartphone adoption curve, the companies most aligned with growth are those with products serving increasingly sophisticated consumers. Lenovo benefited with ASPs below US$150 in 2013, and Xiaomi picked up the mantle with ASPs below US$200 in 2014 and 2015. Now Huawei, OPPO, and vivo, which play mainly in the sub-US$250 range, are positioned for a strong 2016,” said Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “These new vendors would be well-advised not to rest on their laurels though, as this dynamic smartphone landscape has shown to even cult brands like Xiaomi that customer loyalty is difficult to consistently maintain.”

«

Unless you’re quite into the phone business, you’ve probably never heard of OPPO or vivo before. The erosion of ASP is dramatic too. Which of course is a problem for Apple – even if it’s rising in China. Is there new growth left in the business?
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Apple Music on course to top 20m subs this year as it flies past 13m » Music Business Worldwide

Rhian Jones:

»Apple Music has gained 2 million subscribers since February, surpassing 13 million this month, according to the company.

The latest figures put the Spotify rival on course to top 20m by the end of this year if it continues on its current impressive trajectory – adding a million subscribers per month.

The news was revealed in Apple’s latest earnings report covering its Q2 2016, released yesterday.

Apple Music gained a million subscribers in both January and February this year. Since first arriving on June 30 last year, Apple Music has launched in 113 countries. It’s now available in 58 markets in which Spotify is not – including Russia, China, India and Japan.

Last we heard, from SVP Eddy Cue, the platform’s subscribers went above 11m two months ago.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an earnings call yesterday: “Apple Music continues to grow in popularity, with over 13 million paying subscribers today.

“We feel really great about the early success of Apple’s first subscription business, and our music revenue has now hit an inflection point after many quarters of decline.”

«

Many quarters of what’s that now again? I don’t recall Apple mentioning music revenue declines before.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: the ad deception, why your Wi-Fi is lousy, will Android OEMs follow the iPhone SE?, and more

Maybe this is the way that you crack an iPhone passcode. Graphic by inju on Flickr.

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

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

My take on FBI’s “alternative” method » Zdziarski’s Blog of Things

Jonathan Zdziarski:

»Many firms have outright denied that they are the one, however there are at least a few firms that are not denying it, or not talking at all. The one that is the most tight lipped is, of course, the one people are paying the most attention to. I’m not at liberty to specify who, but you can count on reporters to be banging on doors in the middle of the night for this kind of information.

Speaking of middle-of-the-night, the brief was dated for Sunday, suggesting perhaps it was put together Sunday night. No forensics companies in the US are likely up and working at that hour, which seems to at least hint that it’s possible this company may be based overseas, where it would’ve been Monday morning. This is speculation, however worth investigating as a number of such DOJ contractors are based overseas.

We also know, based on the submitted court brief today, that FBI believes two weeks will be sufficient time for them to test and verify the soundness of this alternative technique. This tells us two things: 1. Whatever technique is being used likely isn’t highly experimental (or it’d take more time), and 2. Chances are the technique has been developed over the past several weeks that this case has been going on.

So what technology could be developed and reliably tested within say, roughly a month?

«

Quite a complicated but potentially effective one, it turns out.
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How Spotify solved for the ‘paradox of choice’ » Medium

John McDermott:

»Discover Weekly creates playlists by analyzing a user’s listening behavior and comparing it to that of other like-minded users. Let’s say you’ve been listening to lots of Gary Clark, Jr. lately, for instance. Discover will find other Gary Clark, Jr. fans and identify the songs and artists they’ve recently added to their personal playlists (e.g. The Black Keys, “Them Shoes,” Heartless Bastards). Discover filters out the artists you’ve already heard, reducing the list to 30 songs (about two hours worth of music).

Perhaps the biggest key to Discover Weekly’s success has been this limited selection. “[30 songs] felt like a very digestible amount of music and that really made a difference,” Ogle says. “We also decided that it should feel special — kind of like a gift someone made for you.”

Discover is in stark contrast to Pandora’s exhaustive taxonomy process (known as the Music Genome Project): Each song is ascribed up to 450 distinct musical characteristics — such as “electric rock instrumentation,” “punk influences” and “minor key tonality” — and Pandora recommends songs that share characteristics. But Spotify’s relies on the hivemind of its users rather than a thorough dissection of each song’s elements.

«

I thought that Apple would take this approach in Apple Music; it has so much data already from the Genius system.
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PC World’s cloudy backup failed when exposed to ransomware » The Register

John Leyden:

»The shortcomings of consumer-grade backup services in protecting against the scourge of ransomware have been exposed by the experiences of a UK businesswoman.

Amy W, who runs a small business in the Newbury, Berkshire area, was convinced that the KnowHow cloud was the only backup technology she’d ever need1 when she bought a laptop from PC World.

Eight months later, however, in the aftermath of a ransomware infection, Amy discovered that the KnowHow cloud backed up all her newly encrypted files and didn’t keep any revisions, leaving her unable to restore files from a historic clean backup.

PC World told El Reg that 30 days of historic backups should have been available through KnowHow cloud but this is contradicted by the victim herself, who said only two backup points, each from the same day she was infected with the CryptoWall ransomware, were available.

«

Oops.
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This is Android N’s freeform window mode » Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo:

»We’ll get to the instructions, but first let’s talk about what’s actually here. Freeform window mode is just what we imagined. It’s a dead ringer for Remix OS—multiple Android apps floating around inside windows—and it might be the beginnings of a desktop operating system. It works on Android N phones and tablets, and once the mode is enabled, you’ll see an extra button on thumbnails in the Recent Apps screen. To the left of the “X” button that pops up after a second or two, there will be a square shape—the same ugly placeholder art Google used for the split screen mode in the Android M Developer Preview.

Press the square symbol for an app and you’ll be whisked away to a screen showing that app in a floating window that sits on top of your home screen wallpaper. The windows aren’t floating above the Android desktop; the background is just a blank wallpaper without any of your icons or widgets. The floating apps all have title bars like in Recent Apps. You can drag the apps around by the title bars or use the “close” and “maximize” buttons. Apps can be resized exactly how you would expect—press or hold on the edge and move your finger, and you’ll see the app change shape.

«

The picture accompanying this article perfectly fits ex-Microsoft manager (and now Microsoft analyst) Wes Miller’s description: “Every mobile operating system evolves to the point that it looks like Windows 3.1”.
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Deception funds your online news » Medium

Rob Leathern:

»The aforementioned [junk] ad I saw was distributed by a company called Revcontent, on the news website International Business Times (ibtimes.com). You’d never fall for this clearly-fake site. But someone would, and does, otherwise this tactic wouldn’t still be showing up, 9+ months later after (presumably) someone else got shut down trying it. This deception increases conversion rates on these offers, and helps companies like Revcontent pay publishers “between $3 and $40 RPMs” (Revenue per thousand impressions). Sad to say, these numbers are a good return for websites’ online advertising in today’s climate. Buying online ads is far too easy, it seems.

I wouldn’t fall for it, so why should I care?

The most vulnerable among us are falling for these offers. They’re the ones spending hours on the phone in endless phone trees or with credit card companies trying to reverse a ‘free-trial’ that became an $87-a-month recurring charge.

In essence, these people are paying for the free news and content you consume. Every time you don’t become the victim of one of these fraudulent ads, you’re benefiting from someone else who isn’t as lucky. Lucky? I mean smart — they’re just not as smart as you knowing to avoid these things, right? Hmmmm. As a society, we should care.

«

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Why your home Wi-Fi is lousy » WSJ

Christopher Mims notes that home Wi-Fi networks increasingly have to struggle with the “noise” from others, and growing demands from streaming and more devices:

»One solution would be to add more antennas, or nodes, throughout your home. Unfortunately, Eero’s units currently cost $200 a pop.

A new competitor announcing itself on Monday, called Plume, has gathered wireless-industry veterans to create what it claims is a new kind of Wi-Fi, protected by 14 patents. The company calls it “adaptive Wi-Fi.”

Fahri Diner, CEO of Plume and a veteran executive of Siemens and Qtera, says Plume’s system will consist of many cheap, “dumb” antennas, enough for every room of a house, for a total cost of about $100.

If Plume can do that, it would be enough to make a wireless-networking geek swoon. But we won’t know for a while, because the company doesn’t plan to unveil its product or partners until the third quarter of this year.

Essentially, Plume and most of its rivals aim to take the technology behind expensive, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi systems for offices and make it cheap enough to use in your home.

«

link to this extract

 


The absolute horror of WiFi light switches » Terence Eden’s Blog

Eden bought a cheap Wi-Fi light switch originating in China which runs, of course, on Android and has an Android app which, let’s see, wants to take pictures, directly call phone numbers, read your contacts, record audio, read your texts, read your USB storage..

»Those are some ridiculously scary permissions! I can understand wanting microphone access (voice control) and maybe GPS (turn lights on when I get home) – but why does this want to send SMS or place calls? Why does it need my contacts and the ability to take photos?

A quick virus scan showed nothing overtly malicious – but I decided to offer up a sacrificial tablet to run the app on. No way am I risking my main device with this software!

The software is of the usual sub-standard quality I’ve come to expect from cheap electronics. No set-up wizard, just dumped into a complicated screen.

«

Oh, did we mention that it also connects to a fixed IP in China and sends the light switch’s ID number to it, listening for.. something? Eden concludes:

»I’m guessing, with a small amount of effort, you could toggle strangers’ lights to your heart’s content.

«

This probably reminds you of those Android hotel light switches from last week.
link to this extract

 


August 1997: how UK TV covered the death of Diana, Princess of Wales » MHP Redux

VM_Phil“:

»As most of the world now knows, Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash in Paris in the early hours of Sunday, 31st August 1997. This page shows highlights of how the British television and radio services covered the immediate news that Sunday, with particular emphasis on the BBC TV news coverage.

«

What makes this worth looking at, on the day after the Brussels killings, is the way that TV and radio were effectively the only way for this news to spread. And it was for the most part really accurate.

Now imagine what it would be like today: all over social media, photos from the crash, all manner of craziness. I was working on The Independent at the time; everyone who could came in on the Sunday to work on a special. (I used the search engine AltaVista to find an expert in survivability of car crashes if you are and are not wearing a seatbelt in the back; there was no Google then. He lived in the US. I was the first to tell him the news.)

Now wonder how 9/11 would have been covered if today’s social media and connectivity were available. Different, yes, but better? Worse?
link to this extract

 


Editorial: The iPhone SE is the good small phone that could finally create good small Android phones » Android Police

David Ruddock:

»When it comes to Android smartphones, you don’t have much shopping around to do if you even want a device under 5″ at the moment. In the US, I can think of a single Android phone under 5″ that is officially distributed here that I’d want – the Moto E is a bit old at this point, and the Idol 3 is stuck on Android 5.0, probably forever. Samsung’s A-series isn’t sold here, and so Sony’s Z5 Compact ($429.99 on Amazon at the moment!) is literally the only viable option I’d have.

And along comes the iPhone SE. There had been some suspicion this would just be a slightly upgraded iPhone 5S – things would be changed where necessary to keep the device modern. Nope. It’s basically an iPhone 6s stuffed into a 5S chassis. Which is exactly what so many people on the internet seem to be absolutely screaming for Android OEMs to make: a flagship phone, downsized. Dramatically. The iPhone SE has the same processor as the 6s, the same camera (downgraded FFC, though), Touch ID, Apple Pay, the same sensors, and Apple even estimates it gets substantially better battery life than the standard 6s, likely owed to a reduced display resolution (granted, no 3D touch and reduced contrast ratio are trade-offs). For $399, that doesn’t sound like a bad deal. And the iPhone SE really has no direct analogs in current Android phones, just phones that are sold at a similar price.

«

Sony tried, but simply didn’t get the uptake for its 4″ phones. I doubt whether anyone but Apple can make it work, and even Apple is going to struggle to make this an expanding market – the number of 4″ phones sold shrank in the past year.
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Apple in “advanced talks” to acquire Imagination Technologies for PowerVR GPU » Ars Technica UK

Sebastian Anthony:

»Apple is in “advanced talks” to acquire British chip design company Imagination Technologies, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. When Ars sought comment, Imagination Technologies refused to deny any such planned takeover.

«

Apple, however, did say later in the day that it was not planning to buy Imagination “at this time”. (Imagination’s customers for its PowerVR chips include Samsung and Intel, both key suppliers to Apple.)
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: app retention rates, the real FBI-Apple court problem, Samsung closing Milk Music?, and more

Steve Jobs’s desire to push books on the iPad led to an antitrust finding against Apple. Screenshot by tuaulamac 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 9 links for you. Aren’t they? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Apple, FBI, and the burden of forensic methodology » Zdziarski’s Blog of Things

Jonathan Zdziarski is a forensics expert who has testified in court cases and designed his own computer forensics tools. He says that even if Apple is forced to write the software to crack the iPhone PIN, it will need to be examinable in court:

»Full documentation must be written that explains the methods and techniques used to disable Apple’s own security features. The tool cannot simply be some throw-together to break a PIN; it must be designed in a manner in which its function can be explained, and its methodology could be reproduced by independent third parties. Since FBI is supposedly the ones to provide the PIN codes to try, Apple must also design and develop an interface / harness to communicate PINs into the tool, which means added engineering for input validation, protocol design, more logging, error handling, and so on. FBI has asked to do this wirelessly (possibly remotely), which also means transit encryption, validation, certificate revocation, and so on.

Once the tool itself is designed, it must be tested internally on a number of devices with exactly matching versions of hardware and operating system, and peer reviewed internally to establish a pool of peer-review experts that can vouch for the technology. In my case, it was a bunch of scientists from various government agencies doing the peer-review for me. The test devices will be imaged before and after, and their disk images compared to ensure that no bits were changed; changes that do occur from the operating system unlocking, logging, etc., will need to be documented so they can be explained to the courts. Bugs must be addressed. The user interface must be simplified and robust in its error handling so that it can be used by third parties.

«

Trivial, huh?
link to this extract

 


April 2015: Meerkat & Periscope: features, not products » Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh, writing almost a year ago when the two streaming apps were just taking off:

»Both Meerkat and Periscope leverage smartphone cameras to broadcast live video. However, the apps themselves don’t play a major role in the discovery of these broadcasts. This may be because they are too specialized to generate sustained engagement, at least enough to be a discovery platform (most app users are likely to be broadcasters). Also, it is relatively easy to replicate the feature set and user experience of a Meerkat or a Periscope, but it is very difficult to enable discovery. Therefore, these apps are not products in their own right, but just features built on top of broadcast-oriented social platforms, i.e. those that facilitate one-to-many communication (e.g. Twitter).

On a standalone basis, these apps have a limited shelf life — they could either be acquired by social platforms that fit the description above or be killed by them. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that Meerkat found viral success by leveraging Twitter’s social graph. Any incumbent’s response in this situation would be to build or acquire a similar feature set. Twitter chose to acquire.

«

And this month: Meerkat announces that it’s going to pivot to being a “video social network” instead.

Not just a feature, but a very niche feature.
link to this extract

 


Driverless lorry convoys to be trialled in the UK » Ars Technica UK

Sebastian Anthony:

»Convoys of automated lorries will be trialled on UK motorways, chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce in his 2016 Budget speech later this month.

The Times reports that the trials will take place on a northerly stretch of the M6, which runs from Birmingham all the way up to the border of Scotland, near Carlisle. The Department for Transport confirms that planning for “HGV platoons” is under way, though it did not comment on whether the trials will receive funding in the Budget, nor give any kind of timeline for the fleet’s deployment.

A DfT spokesman said: “We are planning trials of HGV platoons—which enable vehicles to move in a group so they use less fuel—and will be in a position to say more in due course.” The Times reports that these platoons could consist of up to 10 driverless lorries, each just a few metres away from each other.

The DfT’s “less fuel” claim refers to “drafting,” where the first lorry in the platoon creates a slipstream, significantly reducing drag and fuel consumption for the other lorries behind it. In a semi-automated lorry demo a couple of years ago, the fuel economy for a platoon of lorries improved by about 15%. Expand that out to the thousands of trucks that are on UK roads at any one time and you’re looking at potentially huge cost reductions.

«

link to this extract

 


Supreme Court rejects Apple e-books price-fixing appeal » Reuters

Lawrence Hurley:

»The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Apple Inc’s challenge to an appellate court decision that it conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices, meaning it will have to pay $450m as part of a settlement.

The court’s decision not to hear the case leaves in place a June 2015 ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that favored the U.S. Department of Justice and found Apple liable for engaging in a conspiracy that violated federal antitrust laws.

Apple, in its petition asking the high court to hear the case, said the June decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upholding a judge’s ruling that Apple had conspired with the publishers contradicted Supreme Court precedent and would “chill innovation and risk-taking.”

«

One of those instances where Steve Jobs (who created the antitrust situation while trying to kickstart iPad sales by getting iBooks competitive with Amazon, but without the pain of competing on price) really overreached. And the irony? It turns out retail e-books aren’t a particularly strong driver of iPad sales.
link to this extract

 


Facebook pulls plug on ad software » The Information

Cory Weiberg:

»Last year, Facebook tested software that would represent a bold expansion of its display ads business beyond its own inventory, a move potentially worth billions in revenue. Using a demand-side platform, or a DSP, marketers would be able to use Facebook users’ identity data to bid on ad slots across the mobile and desktop Internet in real time.

But Facebook recently yanked the bidding software from service because the tests showed that banner ads that were served attracted too many fraudulent impressions by bots trawling the Web, the company confirmed to The Information on Friday.

While Facebook’s current advertising business centers mostly on its own mobile inventory and apps plugged into its ad network, many in the industry have been awaiting its plunge into the mobile web’s programmatic ad marketplace. Its ad server, Atlas, which on Monday added capabilities to serve video ads and track offline purchases, can measure whether users saw ads across digital devices. But because of the pulled DSP tests, the ad server doesn’t yet have a bidding platform that would expand its pool of marketing clients wanting to tap this programmatic marketplace.

«

Google dominates the banner ad space via DoubleClick, but one has to wonder whether it sees the same level of bot trawling; if it does, how does it stop it better than Facebook? Is it just about having more experience?
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“Google Posts” embeds a one-way social network directly into search results » Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo:

»There’s a weird new feature popping up in Google search results called “Google Posts.” It seems to be a place for Google to directly host content in a post-Google+ world and to embed this content directly into search results. Imagine orphaned Google+ posts with the Google+ branding stripped out, and you’re most of the way there.

Over at Google.com/posts, Google has a landing page for this feature, calling it “an experimental new podium on Google” that allows you to “hear directly from the US presidential candidates in real time on Google.” It’s a believable explanation until you see this Google Posts profile from “Andrew Jewelers” in Buffalo, New York, (spotted by Mike Blumenthal), which is definitely not a presidential candidate.

The landing page says the “experimental” feature is “only available to the 2016 US presidential candidates” (Andrew Jewelers for president!), but those of us not running for office can join a waitlist as Google plans to “make it available to other prominent figures and organizations.”

It really seems like this is a Google+ reboot just for brands. The design definitely seems like Google+ with the Google+ branding stripped out, but this “social network” explicitly dodges being “social” AND any kind of “networking.”

«

Sort-of sponsored content in search results?
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Expect lots more publishers to start asking people to turn off their ad blockers » Business Insider

Lara O’Reilly:

»The US digital advertising trade body, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB,) has released advice to publishers on how they should deal with the growing number of ad blocker users visiting their sites.

The IAB wants publishers to “DEAL” with it, by taking these four steps:

• D: detect ad blocking, in order to initiate a conversation (The IAB also released an ad blocking detection script for its members to add to their websites on Monday.)

• E: explain the value exchange that advertising enables.

• A: ask for changed behavior in order to maintain an equitable exchange.

• L: lift restrictions or Limit access in response to consumer choice.

In other words, it looks like far more websites are going to start asking users to turn off their ad blocker or pay some sort of subscription or make a micropayment in order to access their content.

«

M-i-c k-e-y m-o-u-s-e acronyms are nice, but it’s a big risk to take that people actually do love your content so very much that they’ll take all those ads once more, having stopped. Or will publishers and advertisers just dial back on the ads only for adblocking users? Or for everyone? The inconsistencies multiply.
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Milk Music may shut down as Samsung eyes Tidal [update: doesn’t eye Tidal] » Variety

Janko Roettgers:

»Samsung is likely going to shutter its Milk Music streaming service in the near future as part of a bigger revamp of its music strategy, Variety has learned from multiple sources. However, Samsung denied rumors that it was going to buy Jay Z’s Tidal service in a statement sent to Variety Friday hours after the original publication of this story.

The shut-down would come two years after Samsung unveiled Milk Music with big fanfare as a competitor to Pandora. The service, which offers consumers personalized radio stations, had initially been exclusive to owners of select mobile devices made by the company. Samsung later opened up Milk Music on the Web, and brought it to its smart TVs as well, but never released apps for phones from other manufacturers.

Milk Music was initially meant to be part of a bigger move toward a new generation of media services that would add value to Samsung devices while also adding incremental advertising and subscription revenue to Samsung’s bottom line. As part of that strategy, Samsung launched Milk Video as a platform for short-form video content in late 2014. There had been plans to branch out with the Milk brand into sports and other forms of entertainment as well.

But late last year, Samsung shuttered Milk Video after it failed to gain traction with consumers. Now, it looks like Milk Music may be heading for a similar shut-down.

«

Roettgers was first with the story about Milk Video shutting down. Samsung Milk Music has over 10m downloads on Google Play and a high rating (4.3).

But again, Samsung just can’t seem to make up its mind what it wants to do beyond hardware. Chat service? It closed Chaton. Video service? Closed Milk Video. Music service? … Oh well.
link to this extract

 


New data shows losing 80% of mobile users is normal, and why the best apps do better » andrewchen

Andrew Chen and Ankit Jain:

»The first graph shows a retention curve: The number of days that have passed since the initial install, and what % of those users are active on that particular day. As my readers know, this is often used in a sentence like “the D7 retention is 40%” meaning that seven days after the initial install, 40% of those users was active on that specific day.

The graph is pretty amazing to see:

Based on Quettra’s data, we can see that the average app loses 77% of its DAUs [daily active users] within the first 3 days after the install. Within 30 days, it’s lost 90% of DAUs. Within 90 days, it’s over 95%. Stunning. The other way to say this is that the average app mostly loses its entire userbase within a few months, which is why of the >1.5 million apps in the Google Play store, only a few thousand sustain meaningful traffic. (*Tabular data in the footnotes if you’re interested)

Ankit Jain, who collaborated with me on this essay, commented on this trend: “Users try out a lot of apps but decide which ones they want to ‘stop using’ within the first 3-7 days. For ‘decent’ apps, the majority of users retained for 7 days stick around much longer. The key to success is to get the users hooked during that critical first 3-7 day period.”

«

The graph for top 10 apps, by contrast, shows them at over 50% retention even after 90 days. Data via 125m Android devices worldwide, and excluding Google’s own apps.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Apple has a *lot* more people using its Music app since June


Beats1: listen for free. Photo by Janitors on Flickr.

Here’s a thing: substantially more people in the US are using Apple’s Music app since the launch of Apple Music at the end of June.

I’d already noticed this last week, but coincidentally on Sunday Apple let it be known that Apple Music now has passed 10 million (paying) subscribers. That’s up from 6.5m in October.

(As an effort to provide a counterpoint, Tech Insider said that Apple had claimed 11m trial subscribers back in August, so nyaaah. Except on reflection, that’s not surprising: many more will have signed up and dropped out.)

Spotify, not impressed, responded that it had had its “fastest subscriber growth ever” in the second half of 2015. Tech Insider ran the numbers, which would mean 5m new paying subscribers, and perhaps put it at 25m-30m paying subscribers.

But anyway, let me put in my chunk of insight. Which of course goes against the general punditry that Apple Music is rubbish, worse than Spotify, etc. This is the trouble with punditry: it tends to be myopic and ignore what lots of people actually do. (Sure, Apple Music’s interface and general paradigm can be confusing: what’s “my” music and what’s “Apple’s” music? Why are they different? That’s a result of the challenge of migrating people used to “download and own” to “stream and never own”.)

Wo-o-oah, listen to the Music

The data comes out clearly from the latest ComScore data surveying phone use, which takes us up to November 2015. ComScore monitors which apps people use on their phones during each month; the top ones, as you might expect, are Facebook, YouTube and Facebook Messenger. ComScore lists the top 15 (for iOS and Android – neither of the other two platforms has large enough user bases to be relevant) and you can work out the absolute numbers using a service, as well as the percentage, quite easily.

I’ve been collating the ComScore data for a long time, and the jump in Apple Music users since the service’s launch on 30 June is very noticeable. To make sure it’s not some weird artefact of its collection, I’ve compared it with another iPhone-only service, Apple Maps.

Here’s the percentage figure:

Screenshot 2016-01-08 14.28.18

And the absolute numbers:

Apple's Music app got a lot of new users

Apple’s Music app total users in the US (green line) v Maps (blue line). There’s a big jump.

There’s a general trend upwards in both services, but that’s also the same for Google Maps – in the same period from July 2013 to November 2015 its user numbers have gone from 61m to 91.1m, though with seasonal dips.

The absolute numbers for Apple Music are pretty impressive: they rose immediately from 46.8m users in June 2015 to 57.5m in July. In November, which is past the three-month trial period (if you’re trying the paid-for streaming service) it was 59.7m.

On that basis, it looks like Apple Music has got around 10m extra people using the Music app more regularly. That doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily paying for it; you can listen to Beats1 Radio for free, for example.

And there may be lots of people who are rolling into and out of the three-month unpaid trial. (I’m definitely not suggesting they’re all paying subscribers – that doesn’t make any sense.)

But the ComScore data looks like substantially more than a statistical blip. (I can’t tell whether iTunes Radio, launched in the US in September 2013 and later in Australia, made any difference; ComScore didn’t collect the Music app data back then.)

Apple’s going to keep adding subscribers, too; it has passed 1m downloads on Google Play, and some of those are sure to stick.

What about the others?

What about other music services? Pandora is the most used service on ComScore’s data, with between 77m and 80m users across both iOS and Android in the same period; it doesn’t vary much.

Spotify doesn’t figure in the top 15 apps via ComScore, and never has; that means it must have fewer paying (and so mobile) users in the US than Snapchat, which has made a couple of appearances in the top 15 with about 22m monthly active users. But since we’ve already seen that Spotify’s worldwide paying user base (who are the only ones who can get it on mobile) has only just hit that figure, that’s not surprising.

This isn’t a fair comparison for Spotify, though: both Pandora and Apple’s Music app have free elements (you can just be using the Music app to listen to your own music, while Pandora offers free streaming in the US). It’s quite possible that it has a few million users in the US; its repeated appearance in the top-grossing charts for the US suggests it is getting some useful subscription moolah.

At the same time, that jump in Apple Music users does point to something else which the numbers above already point to: the streaming business can be additive – it’s not limited to the small numbers who are using it now. Apple has added 10m paying subscribers to the pool in six months, and Spotify has added perhaps another 5m. For music, that has to be good.

The YouTube problem

If the labels could be persuaded to lower their prices, it might expand the paying audience for streaming services even further. Though the enemy to that is always YouTube, the giant elephant in the streaming room, used by millions to get their music fix for free. (Read Mark Mulligan on this; it’s truly quite scary for those used to the old world of the music labels.)

Until the music business figures out what it wants to do about YouTube, persuading people to pay for streaming in substantial numbers will continue to be a struggle. But it can be done.

Start up: Gravity’s mystery CEO, Android audio latency, Engadget v Wikipedia v AI, and more


The Pill – so well-known and powerful it only needs the noun to describe it. Photo by Beppie K on Flickr.

Haven’t you heard? You can receive each day’s Start Up post by email. None of this “web” nonsense. (You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.)

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

The CEO paying everyone $70,000 salaries has something to hide » Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Karen Weise does a wonderful job of just checking the damn facts about Dan Price, the guy who cut his own salary and raised his staff’s to $70,000 on 13 April:

In a follow-up interview in mid-November, I pressed Price about the inconsistency. How could what he told me about being served two weeks after announcing the raise be true when the court records indicated otherwise?

“Umm, I’m not, I have to look,” he said. The court document, I said, definitely says March 16. “I am only aware of the suit being initiated after the raise,” he replied.

“The court record shows you being served on March 16 … at 1:25 p.m.,” I said. “And actually, your answer to it was dated April 3,” also before the pay hike.

“I am only aware of the suit being initiated after the raise,” he repeated. I asked again how that could be, saying the declaration of service shows Price was served with the complaint, the summons, and other documents, “that you are a male, who is white, age 30, 5-feet-8-inches, medium height, dark hair.”

He paused for 20 seconds. “Are you there?” he asked, then twice repeated his statement that he was only aware of the suit being initiated in late April. “I’d be happy to answer any other questions you may have,” he added.

That’s not the end of it either. There’s deeper stuff to come.
link to this extract


Android audio latency in depth: it’s getting better, especially with the Nexus 5X and 6P » Android Police

Martim Lobao:

In a study published by the Audio Engineering Society, researchers attempted to determine the lowest latency detectable by different kinds of musicians…

What they found was a set of values below which absolutely no kind of delay or artifact was detected at all. With an 80% confidence level, this value was at least 28 ms for keyboards, whereas for drums, guitars, and bass, it was 9 ms, 5 ms, and 5 ms, respectively. Predictably, the lowest value found was for vocals, where singers only began to notice some slight artifacts at around 2 ms.

Using this data, we drew up another chart to compare these values with several Nexus devices running different versions of Android, as well as the iPhone 6, the iPad Air 2, and human reaction times to various kinds of stimuli. The red and green dashed lines represent the typical thresholds for detecting audio lags and for perceiving audio artifacts, respectively.

While it’s clear that OS updates play a large role (perhaps even the most important one), not everything can be attributed to software alone. Devices with older hardware like the 2013 Nexus 7 still have a latency of 55 ms, compared to the 15 ms on the Nexus 9 — and yet both are running Android 6.0. On the other hand, the Note 5 is roughly on par with the Nexus 5, even though the former runs Lollipop and the latter runs Marshmallow.

Audio latency is a perennial “it’ll get better next time, honest” challenge for Android. What the graph clearly shows is that every iOS device runs under the “detectable lag” threshold, and that every tested Android device runs above that same threshold. (Lobao calls this “unfortunate” and “an unfair advantage”, as though iOS were somehow cheating.)

Lobao pulls out some excellent examples of what the real-world effect of different delays sound like, such as this from SoundCloud.
link to this extract


Doing real design work on an iPad » Subtraction.com

Khoi Vinh (who works at Adobe):

Some folks may have little tolerance for hoop jumping at all when OS X is so powerful and precise, and many people I talk to find my desire to go all iPad all the time to be somewhat pointless. But it’s more than an academic exercise to me; I genuinely enjoy using my iPad more than my MacBook. It’s lightness and portability is a joy, and its nimbleness—I can use it in portrait or landscape, with or without a Bluetooth keyboard, seated, standing or even walking—makes it right for almost every usage scenario. I also like its ability to run iOS apps because that’s what I’m thinking about in my day-to-day work more than anything; it’s invaluable to me to be embedded in the native environment and mostly free from accessing desktop apps.

I’ve already written a column about the “real work” conundrum for next Sunday’s Tech Monthly in The Guardian. Notable how articles like this are cropping up more and more.
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Samsung pulls out of cameras in the UK, cites decline in interest » Pocket-lint

Rik Henderson:

Samsung has confirmed to Pocket-lint that it will phase out the sale and marketing of digital cameras, camcorders and related accessories in the UK.

The company had been rumoured to be considering such a move on a global scale, with some suggesting that it would make a formal announcement during the CES trade show in Las Vegas in January. However, in response to such speculation in September, Samsung replied that it would be continuing with production of cameras and lenses.

It just won’t be selling them in the UK anymore, it seems.

First PCs, now this. Hard to think anyone is buying digital cameras or camcorders in appreciable numbers any more.
link to this extract


I taught a computer to write like Engadget » Engadget

Aaron Souppouris:

Building on this, you can seed Engadgetbot with an idea by adding some “primetext” that it’ll build a sentence or paragraph from. A few examples, with the primetext in italics:

A display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, for all it’s worth, is an excellent companion at $200.

The problem with Android is one that affects the search to find a standard chipset for Android.

The problem with iPhone is products of the same section and everything is closer than one of the plungentications.

Some of those sentences are more prescient than others, and I don’t know where it learned “plungentications” from, but structurally all of these sentences are perfect. An RNN certainly can’t replace an Engadget writer, but an RNN can definitely form sentences like an Engadget writer.

Definitely. I can see it getting its own blog pretty soon.
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Despite privacy scare, Adele smashes secondary ticketing » MusicAlly

Stuart Dredge:

Coldplay’s six UK dates had 17,631 tickets available across the three secondary sites; Rihanna’s six UK gigs had 9,290 tickets available; and Adele’s 12-concert run had 649 tickets for secondary sale.

Or to put it another way, the average number of secondary tickets per Coldplay gig was 2,939, compared to 1,548 for Rihanna and just 54 for Adele:


Sources: Seatwave, GetMeIn, StubHub – evening of 1 December 2015

Even with caveats – Adele is playing arenas while Coldplay and Rihanna are playing stadiums, and StubHub had no Adele tickets available at all – those figures are startling.

The promise by Adele’s management that “the resale of tickets will not be tolerated” appears to have been followed through with action that hugely restricted the secondary market for the most-anticipated tour in years – Songkick said more than 500,000 people registered on Adele’s website for the pre-sale.

What action? “Songkick provided the opportunity to allow fans to register, and to use its proprietary technology to identify touts, reduce their ability to purchase tickets when advance sales commenced on December 1 and to cancel as many tickets appearing on secondary ticketing sites as possible,” claimed that company’s statement.

No further details have been given, but we suspect there’s a bigger story in that “proprietary technology to identify touts”.

Adele’s manager later said that 18,000 “known or likely touts” had been deregistered before presales, and more than 100 tickets cancelled after appearing on secondary sites. Chalk another one up to Adele and her management.

Wonder if they’ll share the “known or likely” list with other sites and/or artists?
link to this extract


The Pill versus the Bomb: what digital technologists need to know about power » Medium

Tom Steinberg:

The oral contraceptive pill doesn’t, at first glance, appear to have the same visceral connection to power as a bomb or an engine. And yet as a technology that shifts power around it is perhaps unmatched.

This is because the Pill allowed women from the late 1960s onwards to control their own fertility, which allowed them to postpone marriage, postpone the birth of their first child, and turn these advantages into more education and greater involvement in the employment markets. Put together this gave women with access to the pill relatively greater power than they had before, both through greater earnings and through greater ability to choose how to live their own lives.

But what is most interesting to me about the nature of this technological power shift is that it did not dissipate as the technology became ubiquitous.

…Like a diode, the power of the Pill only flows one way.

(Emphasis in original.) Steinberg, who set up MySociety, and was a technology adviser to the 2010-2015 coalition in the UK, is now looking for people who’ve got comparable power-spreading technologies.
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Nokia’s Ozo VR camera marks a rebirth for the phone giant » WIRED

Maurizio Pesce:

The Ozo is set to be unveiled on November 30 in Los Angeles, and expected to cost around $50,000. That’s about three times the price tag of the GoPro Odyssey. However, while the GoPro’s footage must still be assembled in laborious post-production processes, the Ozo can generate a full 360-degree stereoscopic video in real time. Thanks to HD-SDI connections on the body, the camera can stream 1.5 Gbps of compressed RAW footage to store data from the streams from the eight lens, broadcast full 360-degree panoramic video, and also stream a low-res feed for monitoring. The camera is Wi-Fi enabled, too, allowing filmmakers to control the system remotely in real time while shooting.

Nokia’s bold move into virtual reality is a clear statement that the Finns are still alive, and that they’re more interested in the projected $150bn dollar VR industry than they are in the mobile handset industry.

It’s less a “rebirth” – Nokia’s network business has been doing OK – than a new direction, but the point about the VR industry compared to the handset business is a good one. And this is clearly aimed at content producers, a smart move.

So… when does Apple update Final Cut Pro to handle VR? Or will it introduce something entirely new?
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Wikipedia deploys AI to expand its ranks of human editors » WIRED

Cade Metz:

With his new AI project — dubbed the Objective Revision Evaluation Service, or ORES — [senior research scientist at the Wikimedia Foundation, Aaron] Halfaker aims to boost participation by making Wikipedia more friendly to newbie editors. Using a set of open source machine learning algorithms known as SciKit Learn—code freely available to the world at large—the service seeks to automatically identify blatant vandalism and separate it from well-intentioned changes. With a more nuanced view of new edits, the thinking goes, these algorithms can continue cracking down on vandals without chasing away legitimate participants. It’s not that Wikipedia needs to do away with automated tools to attract more human editors. It’s that Wikipedia needs better automated tools.

“We don’t have to flag good-faith edits the same way we flag bad-faith damaging edits,” says Halfaker, who used Wikipedia as basis for his PhD work in the computer science department at the University of Minnesota.

In the grand scheme of things, the new AI algorithms are rather simple examples of machine learning. But they can be effective. They work by identifying certain words, variants of certain words, or particular keyboard patterns. For instance, they can spot unusually large blocks of characters. “Vandals tend to mash the keyboard and not put spaces in between their characters,” Halfaker says.

I CAN TYPING confirmed as fact. Next step: get the AI to write the Wikipedia articles. (Step after that: humans stop bothering to read Wikipedia?)
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The Surface Phone you’ve always wanted is happening » Windows Central

Daniel Rubino:

Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans have revealed that the rumored Intel-powered Windows 10 phone slated for May 2016 has been cancelled. Instead, an all-new flagship phone lead by Panos Panay and the team of engineers that built the Microsoft Surface and Surface Book has been given the green light. Slated for a release in the second half of 2016 this may be the long-wished-for Surface phone. Here is what we know and what we don’t.

What we know:
1) it’s about five years too late.
2) that’s all, really. It doesn’t matter if it’s a super-amazing premium flagship able to cure cancer while landing on the moon. Nobody (to a sufficiently good approximation) will buy it.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: truths about music, neural nets for you, PC v iPad, Apple Watch abandonment, and more


Saturn’s rings. What if they were around Earth instead? We have pictures. Photo by alpoma on Flickr.

Lots of other people have already signed up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. Unless that’s where you’re reading it. Remember how you clicked a confirmation link to avoid spam?

A selection of 10 links for you. Ooh look, December already (where I am, anyway). I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The running list of things that I hate hearing about the music business » Medium

Ethan Kaplan has a fine (and growing) list, of which this is an example:

There are two forms of intelligence that will help you find music: machine and human. Music discovery companies target the type of music listener who’s heuristics will always yield better results from the machine. They bring enough probabilism to bear to ensure good outcomes from collaborative filtering.

This is not most people. Most people won’t have inputs such as “post punk from Boston between 1980 and 1984 who toured along side but not with R.E.M.”

Most people have inputs like “something inoffensive that won’t bother me and that my kids won’t fight about.” For most people the music discovery engine that matters still has an actual name. It always did. It may be Keith McPhee [music supervisor on the Tonight Show] or Kevin Weatherly [SVP of programming at CBS] or Bob Pittman [CEO of iHeartMedia, formerly ClearChannel].

It isn’t and never will be the name of that latest startup.

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Apple Music comes to Sonos on December 15 » BuzzFeed News

John Paczkowski:

Sonos will let people access Apple Music’s For You, My Music, New, and Radio — basically everything but “Connect,” a social feature intended to link artists with their fans. The focus is curated streaming, which Sonos co-founder and CEO John MacFarlane says drives most of the music listening that occurs on Sonos speakers these days.

“Well over 90% of the music people listen to on Sonos speakers is from streaming services,” MacFarlane told BuzzFeed News. “We think Apple Music is going to be a catalyst that will raise that percentage even higher. What we’ve found is that as Sonos owners discover streaming services like Apple Music they use the local collections they have on their home computers and cell phones less and less.”

For Sonos, which has long offered a robust menu of streaming music services that includes everything from Spotify to Tidal, the addition of Apple Music seems a no-brainer, particularly since its Beats Music predecessor had been available on Sonos since January of 2014 until it was shut down on November 30. So why wait? Why did Apple not offer Apple Music right out of the gate? “It’s important to get the integration right the first time out,” [Apple software and services veep Eddy] Cue told BuzzFeed News. “Apple has a high bar for this stuff; So does Sonos. Apple Music isn’t even six months old yet, so this really did not take much time at all.”

Here’s the signup for the beta. Personally, this is the Christmas present I really want.
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Application-ready deep neural net models » Deep Detect

Below are a range of deep neural network models that are free, even for commercial use in your applications. These models have been trained over images for a range of domains. Thus they should accomodate a range of applications, from fashion item recognition to sports and gender classification.

This page lists a growing list of available models, along with information on how to use them and how they were built.

If you have a business of any appreciable size which works on data, I’d suggest you should be investigating what a neural network could do. Even the simple result on the page is remarkable.
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Apple Watch and dissatisfaction » Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin on the results from a Wrist.ly survey of people who gave up using their Watch:

Here are the top five reasons this group gave for giving up on the Apple Watch.

The most insightful part of this particular question was the follow on, fill in the blank area where 300 people who took the survey wrote a comment about the product. I read through them all and a number of things stood out. The biggest theme in the critiques was about performance. Many thought the Apple Watch was too slow, particularly around data retrieval and third party apps. The other was about battery. Many commented on their desire to have the watch face be visible at all times and not have to charge daily. Another interesting thread in the comments was the high number of people who said they would have liked it more if it was more independent from the iPhone. This is a similar thread to comments from our larger Wristly panel of satisfied owners. Another common thread I saw from this group was the price. Many who commented suggested the price was too high and we know from this panel 65% of those who responded bought a Sport. This indicates that even $349 felt too expensive for the value for this group.

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What would Earth’s skies look like with Saturn’s rings? » The Planetary Society

Illustrator and author Ron Miller specializes in, among other things, incredible visualizations of other worlds. He has rendered the surface of Titan, peered into black holes for Discover magazine, and designed a Pluto stamp that is currently hurtling toward the far reaches of our solar system aboard the New Horizons spacecraft.

Now, Miller brings his visualizations back to Earth for a series exploring what our skies would look like with Saturn’s majestic rings. Miller strived to make the images scientifically accurate, adding nice touches like orange-pink shadows resulting from sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. He also shows the rings from a variety of latitudes and landscapes, from the U.S. Capitol building to Mayan ruins in Guatemala.

We’ll start with Washington, D.C. and work our way southward.

These are very beautiful, and thought-provoking, images. Wish that a film like Interstellar had used something like them. (Is there a film of Ringworld in production? If not, why not?)
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Six Features That Allow Your PC To Do More Than Your Phone » About.com

Hilarious advertorial from Intel. See what you make of the six things, which are

• it offers a much larger screen
• It has uncompromised performance
• You don’t have to worry about paying for data
• It doesn’t skimp on software
• It’s upgradable and expandable
• There’s no middleman

Any of these alone could raise a laugh, but my favourite may be “you don’t have to worry about paying for data”. Intel magically makes data appear? Love it. Now let’s move on to our next entry…
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Can the MacBook Pro replace your iPad? » Fraser Speirs

Yes, you did read that headline correctly:

Despite their far greater size, and consequently weight, there is no MacBook Pro model that gets better battery life than the iPad Pro. You have to wonder about the efficiency of the Intel platform. The MacBook Pro line also requires device-specific chargers. Although most recent models use the MagSafe 2 connector, each model comes with its own rating of charger. Compared to the iPad Pro’s use of the widely-available Lightning connector and its ability to charge from small battery packs, this significantly reduces your chances of being able to just borrow a charger for a quick top-up when out and about. Not to mention the fact that none of those increasingly-common public charging lockers support MagSafe 2.

While we are on the subject, let’s talk about ports. The designers of the MacBook Pro seem to have gone port-crazy. The MacBook Pro takes up a lot of space on the sides of the device for ports that most people will likely not use very often: SD Card readers, HDMI connectors and even dual thunderbolt ports. Having multiple ports that do the same thing is probably confusing for many users, which is likely why you see newer designs like the 2015 MacBook moving closer to the iPad approach to connectivity with a single port for power and peripherals.

There’s a point at which trolling (and satire) are indistinguishable from real life. This is one of those times.
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BlackBerry exits Pakistan to avoid state’s email monitoring » Bloomberg Business

Faseeh Mangi:

BlackBerry Ltd. said it’s shutting its Pakistan operations to avoid allowing authorities in the nation to monitor its main business enterprise server and e-mail messages.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority notified the country’s mobile phone operators in July that BlackBerry’s BES servers would no longer be allowed to operate for security reasons, Marty Beard, chief operating officer at BlackBerry, said in a blog post on Monday. “The truth is that the Pakistani government wanted the ability to monitor all BES traffic.”

The regulator is still in talks with BlackBerry and “hopefully it’ll be sorted out,” Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Chairman S. Ismail Shah said by phone. The discussions will go on for a month and could be extended, he said.

Going to leave 5,000 BES customers there high and dry. What do Apple and Google do there, though?
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US Retail Black Friday report 2015 » IBM Commerce

Lots of data, such as:

• Consumers balance mobile and desktop shopping: consumers continued to shop via their mobile devices — mobile traffic exceeded desktop, accounting for 57.2% of all online traffic, an increase of 15.2% over 2014. Mobile sales were also strong, with 36.2% of all online sales coming from mobile devices, an increase of nearly 30% over last year.

• Tablets outspend desktops: for the first time, tablets’ average order value of $136.42 exceeded that of desktops, which ended the day at $134.06. Smartphone shoppers spent $121.06 per order, an increase of 4.3% over 2014.

• Smartphone shoppers dominate: smartphones remained the Black Friday shopper’s device of choice. Smartphones accounted for 44.7% of all online traffic, 3.5x that of tablets at 12.5%. Smartphones surpassed tablets in sales, driving 20.6% of online sales (up nearly 75% over 2014) versus tablets at 15.5%.

Of course tablets aren’t used for “real work”. Also some data about iOS/Android split in spending terms – which goes as you might expect.
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Lost in music: the world of obsessive audiophilia » The Guardian

Jonathan Margolis:

although I have been immersed in this world for 25 years, I still don’t quite know who buys the stuff. Hi-fi stores are often in modest, ordinary towns and suburbs. Who is it in Crewe that is spending the price of a very nice new car on speaker wires?

Some of the enthusiasts, of course, are the rich and famous. Douglas Adams had a system in his Islington home that reputedly cost £25,000. The crime writer Ian Rankin is an aficionado, having been a hi-fi reviewer in the 1980s. Celebrity physicist Brian Cox reportedly loves “high end” hi-fi. And the internet says Frank Zappa was big on it, along with Clint Eastwood and Hugh Laurie – and that Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has a system by Naim, a Salisbury manufacturer.

In a proper hi-fi dealer, Richer Sounds included, you can buy a good system of parts from various manufacturers for as little as £1,000. The bits won’t match, though – heaven forbid they should look nice. None of it will have what hi-fi men call WAF – Wife Acceptance Factor.

Yep this is a thing. Non-ironic. I believe.

Women broadly have too much sense to be audiophiles…

…my wife believes hi-fi is the male version of wrinkle cream – dubious claims, expensive prices, results only apparent to the buyer.

I think his wife is right on the money.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Adele v pirates, Alphabet’s challenge, Mayer’s end? and more


The authentic feel of everything from Shaft to.. everything else. Photo of a wah-wah pedal by Kmeron 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. Handle with care. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Burma gives a big thumbs-up to Facebook » Foreign Policy

Christian Caryl:

As the vote count draws to a close, it’s clear that Burma’s long-suffering opposition has scored a landslide victory in Sunday’s historic national election. And the leader of that opposition knows whom to thank. As she was explaining the reasons for her party’s remarkable triumph in an interview with the BBC this week, Nobel Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said this: “And then of course there’s the communications revolution. This has made a huge difference. Everybody gets onto the net and informs everybody else of what is happening. And so it’s much more difficult for those who wish to commit irregularities to get away with it.”

She could have been a little more specific, though. When people here in Burma refer to the “Internet,” what they often have in mind is Facebook — the social media network that dominates all online activity in this country to a degree unimaginable anywhere else.

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Inside the problem with Alphabet » The Information

Amir Efrati and Jessica Lessin:

[Larry] Page unveiled Alphabet in August as a way to empower entrepreneurs and strong CEOs to build new companies “with a long term view.” Mr. Page had already been creating new companies under Google, like Calico, the secretive life-extension startup that former Genentech CEO Art Levinson is leading.

Some of those companies wanted more autonomy from Google and its bureaucracy, on issues big and small; [Arthur] Levinson [in charge of Calico], for instance, bristled when Google’s food services staff tried to apply Google’s nutritional guidelines to dining areas that served Calico employees, according to several people Mr. Page told about it.

Many details about the new structure have yet to be figured out. They include whether and how Alphabet companies can raise outside capital; who will control the IP they create, especially if they borrowed some from the old Google; and how they will use Google’s technical infrastructure.

If Google’s world-class cybersecurity software extends to the new Alphabet companies and those companies are later spun out or sell a significant chunk of themselves to another party, will those companies still get to use the Google software? Does it make sense for people at an Alphabet company to get Alphabet stock as part of their compensation, given that the performance of Alphabet will be heavily influenced by the performance of Google Search ads?

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Wireless carriers are favouring the iPhone » The Motley Fool

Sam Mattera:

The gradual decline of contract plans has sparked a wave of innovation in the U.S. wireless industry. In the past, consumers mostly signed two-year agreements in exchange for heavily subsidized handsets. Today, they have a vast array of choices, including installment options and leasing programs. Most of these plans reduce upfront costs by doing away with down payments, and give consumers the ability to upgrade their smartphones more often.

But some of these plans – the most advantageous, in fact – are only available to buyers of Apple’s iPhone.

I could have sworn that the hot take on the end of subsidies (aka contract plans) was that it meant dire trouble for Apple.
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The last days Of Marissa Mayer? » Forbes

Miguel Helft goes into detail and finds many of the same stories we’ve been hearing for the past couple of years:

Mayer hired some executives without fully vetting them with her team, and some of those decisions proved costly. One of her first big hires was Google sales executive Henrique De Castro, brought on as chief operating officer. De Castro failed to meet sales goals and Mayer fired him after 15 months, but not before he reportedly pocketed as much as $109 million in compensation and severance. Mayer also spent a year without a chief information officer after her IT operations chief David Dibble quit for personal reasons in 2013. In August 2014 Mayer finally announced to her executive staff that she had found the right person in Netflix executive Mike Kail, who came recommended by her husband, the investor Zachary Bogue. Three months later Netflix sued Kail for fraud, after he allegedly collected kickbacks from vendors. Yahoo quietly let him go in May.

Mayer’s propensity for micromanaging also exasperated many of her executives. By her own admission, Mayer spent an entire weekend working with a team of designers to revamp the Yahoo corporate logo, debating such details as the right slant for the exclamation point (9 degrees from vertical). Mayer also insisted on personally reviewing even minor deviations from a compensation policy she had instituted. When managers wanted to give top performers a bonus or raise above the parameters she had set, they had to write her an e-mail explaining the circumstances and wait for an approval or denial. Some managers dispute that this was a hard-and-fast rule. Mayer also insisted on reviewing the terms given to hundreds of contractors and vendors on a quarterly basis, whether they were engineers or writers or makeup artists. “She would go line by line and decide on what date a contract should end,” says a senior executive. Adds another: “It was a colossal waste of time.”

There’s detail, and then there’s detail that doesn’t merit a chief executive’s very expensive time.
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EE proposes restrictions on mobile adverts » Telegraph

Christopher Williams:

EE, Britain’s biggest mobile operator, is considering introducing technology that will hand smartphone users the power to control the advertising they see online, in a clampdown that would cause major upheaval in the £2bn mobile advertising market.

Olaf Swantee, EE’s chief executive, has launched a strategic review that will decide whether the operator should help its 27 million customers to restrict the quantity and type of advertising that reaches their devices, amid concern over increasingly intrusive practices.

The review will look at options for creating new tools for subscribers that would allow them to block some forms of advertising on the mobile web and potentially within apps, such as banners that pop up on top of pages or videos that play automatically. EE customers could also get the ability to control the overall volume of advertising.

Mr Swantee told The Sunday Telegraph: “We think it’s important that, over time, customers start to be offered more choice and control over the level and intensity of ads on mobile.

“For EE, this is not about adblocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive.”

It’s about adblocking. And potentially creating a whitelist.. in paid-for manner?
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Syria’s climate-fuelled conflict, in one stunning comic strip » Mother Jones

I would hotlink to the strip directly, to embed it, but that would probably take more scrolling room than you want to bother with here. However, it makes a crucial point: the Arab Spring wasn’t caused by some abrupt realisation among the peoples of the Middle East that democracy would be nice; instead, it was driven by the rising cost of staple foods and rural displacement to cities, which created huge tensions – which authoritarian regimes couldn’t handle without causing more unrest.

Thus when people snigger at Prince Charles saying that the refugee crisis is a result of climate change, he’s not the one who’s wrong; they are.
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Adele is NOT No.1 on this chart (and it’s a really important one) » Music Business Worldwide

Tim Ingham:

The Pirate Bay’s regularly-updated Music chart shows the 100 most popular torrents on the service in the past 48 hours.

The shock news: [Adele’s new album] 25 is nowhere. Literally nowhere.

Below, you can see the 25 most popular music files on TPB as of yesterday morning (November 22) UK time – two days after the astonishingly successful release of Adele’s new LP.

Not only does 25 not feature in the tracks we’ve featured above – it didn’t feature in the entire top 100.

It was the same story on Saturday (November 21) – a day after release – and it’s the same story this morning.

Adele did briefly claim a position on the TPB chart yesterday, MBW noticed – at No.63, with her previous release 21 – but she’s since disappeared.

Speaks again to the different generations interested in Adele. If it had been, say, a new Nine Inch Nails album, it would have been all over the pirate sites.
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I worked in a video store for 25 years. Here’s what I learned as my industry died » Vox

Dennis Perkins makes the point that a lot of it is about choice and curation:

It was a point of pride that we had everything and could turn people on to some obscurity we knew would appeal. A video store had sneaky cultural punching power — movies championed by our staff got watched. They stayed alive. You know, as long as we did.

By contrast: Netflix routinely adds and removes films at a whim based almost exclusively on licensing agreements. These agreements just don’t mean that movies any respectable video store would have remain “unavailable for streaming,” but that a substantial portion of Netflix’s (rather small) 10,000 film inventory is garbage: direct-to-DVD movies (or movies that bypass DVD for streaming entirely) accepted as part of package deals to get the rights to titles somebody might actually want to see. Although not everything you might want to see. As of this writing, you can’t watch Annie Hall, Argo, The Exorcist, This Is Spinal Tap, Taxi Driver, Schindler’s List, The Muppet Movie, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Fight Club, or Frozen on Netflix. You can, however, stream Transmorphers or Atlantic Rim, two suspiciously titled low-budget knockoffs of the movie you meant to watch.

His other key point: you had to choose to go to a video store. Netflix and its kin generally offer “let’s settle for this” content.
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How LSD microdosing became the hot new business trip » Rolling Stone

Andrew Leonard:

“Ken” is 25, has a master’s degree from Stanford and works for a tech startup in San Francisco, doing a little bit of everything: hardware and software design, sales and business development. Recently, he has discovered a new way to enhance his productivity and creativity, and it’s not Five Hour Energy or meditation.

Ken is one of a growing number of professionals who enjoy taking “microdoses” of psychedelics – in his free time and, occasionally, at the office. “I had an epic time,” he says at the end of one such day. “I was making a lot of sales, talking to a lot of people, finding solutions to their technical problems.”

A microdose is about a tenth of the normal dose – around 10 micrograms of LSD, or 0.2-0.5 grams of mushrooms. The dose is subperceptual – enough, says Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, “to feel a little bit of energy lift, a little bit of insight, but not so much that you are tripping.”

This will become the new go-to explanation for crazy startup ideas.
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The invention of the wah-wah pedal » Priceonomics

In 1965, in a small back room of a Los Angeles facility, Thomas Organ’s engineers began to build Vox amplifiers. Among these engineers was a bright-eyed 20-year-old by the name of Brad Plunkett.

Plunkett was given a challenging task by Thomas Organ’s CEO: he was to take apart a Vox AC-100 guitar amp and find a way to make it cheaper to produce while still maintaining the sound quality.

“The first thing I noticed,” he recalls in the documentary Cry Baby, “was this little switch [on the amp] entitled ‘MRB.’”

This switch, invented by British engineer Dick Denney and installed on all Vox AC-100 amps at the time, stood for “middle range boost.” When flicked on, it would highlight the middle sound frequencies of the guitar (notes between 300 and 5,000 hertz); in doing so, it would tame the extremes (very high and very low pitches), and produce a flattened, smoother sound. Plunkett realized that he could replace this pricey switch with a potentiometer – essentially an adjustable knob that divided voltages and acts as a variable resistor – and achieve the same effect.

“The switches were very expensive, about $4 each,” Plunkett continues. “The potentiometer would only cost about 30 cents.”

After a few days of fiddling around with spare parts, Plunkett succeeded in designing a circuit that could change the frequency of notes by simply rotating a potentiometer. Then, something unexpected happened.

(This makes an hour-long video.)

Patented as “foot controlled continuously variable preference circuit for musical instruments”. The patent came too late. Everyone could figure it out. Still, should the wah-wah pedal be added to the list of serendipitous discoveries, along with vulcanized rubber and Post-It notes?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Apple Music on Android, Zuckerberg profiled, the dark tower and more


Soon to stream internationally? Photo by djuggler on Flickr.

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Apple Music review: I was ready to hate it, but Apple got me singing a different tune » Android Police

Rita El Khoury:

for a few billion people from China to India to Nigeria to lil’ Lebanon where I live, Apple Music is one of just a couple of services that we can use, and for many of us, it’s the best option when all pros and cons are diligently weighed against its competitors.

And if, like me, you happen to live on the bleeding edge between Apple and Google’s ecosystems, owning Macs and/or iOS devices along with your Android phones and tablets, and you have used iTunes over many years to carefully organize your music collection, Apple Music might make more sense to you, regardless of where you live and whether or not you have access to Google Play Music and other streaming options.

That’s what you have to keep in mind while reading this review. I’m aware other options exist. I’m aware iTunes and Apple are far from universally liked. I’m aware that you couldn’t care less about Apple Music. But that doesn’t stop the app and service from being good, and even great.

The “cloud upload” element still seems to be a mess. I don’t understand why: doesn’t it just match the track data, like identifying tracks on a CD? In which case what’s hard about adding it to a cloud library, which is just a set of indexes?
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Rdio is shutting down and Pandora is buying up the scraps » The Verge

Ben Popper:

Pandora is the grandaddy of streaming music, with more than 15 years in business and more monthly listeners using it to hear tunes than anyone save for YouTube. But Pandora, a public company, has struggled to turn a profit, and has seen its user growth slow in recent years. Today it announced that it is acquiring “several key assets” from Rdio, which is filing for bankruptcy. The purchase price is $75 million, and the acquisition includes technology and intellectual property. The announcement says “many employees” from Rdio will be offered the chance to work at Pandora, implying that at least some will be out of work. Rdio’s CEO, however, will not be making a move to join Pandora’s ranks.

The pairing would make a lot of sense. Pandora struggles in part because its royalty rates are set by the government, something that allowed it to avoid the high costs that have battered Spotify, but soured relationships with the music labels. That in turn kept it from expanding internationally or adding more complex on-demand features.

Pandora adding international streaming could make things interesting.
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The most popular curl download – by malware » haxx.se

Daniel Steinberg noticed that a particular curl library was in demand:

In October it alone was downloaded more than 300,000 times, accounting for over 70% of the site’s bandwidth. Why?

The downloads came from what appears to be different locations. They don’t use any HTTP referer headers and they used different User-agent headers. I couldn’t really see a search bot gone haywire or a malicious robot stuck in a crazy mode.

After I shared some of this data over in our IRC channel (#curl on freenode), Björn Stenberg stumbled over this AVG slide set, describing how a particular malware works when it infects a computer. Downloading that particular file is thus a step in its procedures to create a trojan that will run on the host system – see slide 11 for the curl details.

So he renamed the file. Now we await developments.
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Why states of emergency and extreme security measures won’t stop ISIS » Counterpunch

Patrick Cockburn (formerly at The Independent):

the apocalyptic tone of press coverage is exaggerated: the violence experienced hitherto in Paris is not comparable with Belfast and Beirut in the 1970s or Damascus and Baghdad today. Contrary to the hyperbole of wall-to-wall television coverage, the shock of living in a city being bombed soon wears off.

A further disadvantage flows from excessive rhetoric about the massacre: instead of the atrocities acting as an incentive for effective action, the angry words become a substitute for a real policy. After the Charlie Hebdo murders in January, 40 world leaders marched with linked arms through the streets of Paris proclaiming, among other things, that they would give priority to the defeat of ISIS and its al-Qaeda equivalents.

But, in practice, they did nothing of the sort. When ISIS forces attacked Palmyra in eastern Syria in May, the US did not launch air strikes against it because the city was defended by the Syrian army and Washington was frightened of being accused of keeping President Bashar al-Assad in power.

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Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s bold plan for the Future of Facebook » Fast Company

Harry McCracken with a super-long profile of Zuckerberg and what he’s up to, including this:

If you’ve ever felt like your Facebook News Feed is filled with people you don’t care about sharing thoughts you didn’t particularly want to hear, you’ll appreciate why Facebook is pushing to further the art of artificial intelligence. In its current form, the social network is still far better at collecting vast amounts of data than understanding what that data means. Advanced AI could help emphasize the stuff that’s truly relevant to you, keeping you on the service longer and boosting your attractiveness as a subject for targeted advertising. “Facebook is working to be at the center of the world of AI because it will affect Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger,” says Systrom. “It’s broadly applicable to all social products.”

Facebook has dabbled in AI for years. In 2010, for example, it introduced facial-recognition technology to identify people in photos. In late 2013, though, Zuckerberg came to believe that AI—which he calls “one of the hardest engineering challenges of our time”—was central to the company’s future and decided to establish a lab devoted to it. He began courting Yann LeCun, a New York University faculty member and world-class expert in deep learning, to run it. Unlike the archetypal young turk Facebook employee, the 55-year-old, Paris-born LeCun is an éminence grise of his craft, with decades of experience studying machine vision, pattern recognition, and other technologies with the potential to make the social network smarter.

LeCun, however, was disinclined to leave academia or New York. When Zuckerberg thinks Facebook needs something, though, he refuses to treat obstacles as obstacles. He offered to let LeCun set up Facebook AI Research’s headquarters in Manhattan and retain his professorship on the side. LeCun came aboard. Problem solved.

Lots about Zuckerberg’s effective CEO methods too.
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Microsoft fails to deliver tool to bring Android apps to Windows » Re/code

Ina Fried:

The Android tool [called Project Astoria] was seen as the riskiest of the four bridges as it amounted to essentially porting over apps written for Android without really taking advantage of Windows itself. BlackBerry employed a similar strategy, allowing Android apps to run on BlackBerry 10 devices via Amazon’s app store. In the end, that proved largely unsatisfying and the company opted to build the Priv, a true Android-based smartphone.

Microsoft’s options for iOS and Web developers require more work on the part of app creators, but they also end up with something that was more of a true Windows app versus just an Android hand-me-down.

With the demise or delay of Astoria, the stakes are even higher for Microsoft to convince mobile developers to put some effort into making a Windows version of their apps. While Microsoft has struggled to lure mobile developers because of Windows’ low share of the phone market, it has a bit more compelling story with Windows 10, where developers can write a universal application that can run on Windows-based phones, tablets, PCs and even on the Xbox game console.

Still don’t see why you’d make a Windows desktop version of any mobile-intended app.
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TEDx Hilversum: “How to spot the next big thing” – slides and commentary from my talk » The Overspill

Shameless self-promotion corner:

I was invited to talk at the inaugural TEDx Hilversum – the Dutch city which is the country’s medialand, and whence the TV format ideas both for “Big Brother” and “The Voice” came.

The topic: “How to spot the next big thing”, building on a column I wrote for The Guardian’s Tech Monthly supplement back in October, about how the selfie was pretty much accidental.

What I wanted to explore and expand on in the talk was how these “next big things” in social interaction happen, and where you’d look to find the next one. (This isn’t a transcript – it’s the ideas I spoke on. The talk is about 15 minutes. I’ll put up the link when it’s available.)

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One man’s hard lesson after the Eiffel Tower’s darkness was mistaken for a moving tribute » The Washington Post

Rurik Bradbury, who runs the satirical-parodical Twitter account @ProfJeffJarvis, saw one of those tweets go viral after the Paris attacks, and reflected on how social media reacts to such horrifying events:

the part that feels the most useless to me is people’s vicarious participation in the event, which on the ground is a horrible tragedy, but in cyberspace is flattened to a meme like any other. Millions of people with no connection to Paris or the victims mindlessly throw in their two cents: performative signaling purely for their own selfish benefit, spreading information that is often false and which they have not vetted at all, simply for the sake of making noise. If people wanted to be helpful, they would either be silent, or they would put in some — even minimal — effort to be thoughtful. First, they could spread useful and vetted information. And second, they could throw support behind a viewpoint they believe in, such as speaking out against politicians using the attacks to demonize Muslims or migrants, which is exactly what the murderers responsible for the Paris attacks want to provoke.

“Flattened to a meme like any other” is the internet’s epitaph. And the “hard lesson” is actually for everyone else, not Bradbury.
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The advertising bubble » (Idle Words)

Maciej Ceglowski points out that more money is being made from advertising than consumers are putting in. (How? Venture capital.) But at some point, those investors will want their money out, with interest:

The only way to make the [money flows in and out] balance at this point will be to divert more of each consumer dollar into advertising (raise the ad tax), or persuade people to buy more stuff.

I doubt whether either option is viable. Compare the number of ads you see in a given day to the number of purchases you make. And consider the indirect maziness of modern advertising, with its brand awareness campaigns and social media influencers. There’s not a lot of milk left in this cow.

Investors are herd animals. When they bolt, the adtech swamp will drain, and who knows what hideous monstrosities will be left flopping on its muddy bottom.

The problem is not that these companies will fail (may they all die in agony), but that the survivors will take desperate measures to stay alive as the failure spiral tightens.

These companies have been collecting and trafficking in our most personal data for many years. It’s going to get ugly.

The only way I see to avert disaster is to reduce the number of entities in the swamp and find a way back to the status quo ante, preferably through onerous regulation. But nobody will consider this.

The prognosis for publishers is grim. Repent! Find a way out of the adtech racket before it collapses around you. Ditch your tracking, show dumb ads that you sell directly (not through a thicket of intermediaries), and beg your readers for mercy. Respect their privacy, bandwidth, and intelligence, flatter their vanity, and maybe they’ll subscribe to something.

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iOS App Store revenue now 80% higher than Google Play, thanks to China » TechCrunch

Sarah Perez on the new App Annie data:

In the third quarter, worldwide downloads were 90% higher on Google Play versus the iOS App Store, up from its earlier 85% lead in the prior quarter. This growth is being contributed to emerging markets like India, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where sub-$50 smartphones are bringing more of the population online.

However, these newly mobile users will not necessarily help the Google Play store’s revenue grow, given their economic status. App Annie instead advises developers to target new users at the lower-end of the market, catering to their differing needs, in order to stand out from the competition here.

Currently, India, in particular, is having a huge impact on download growth for Google Play. For example, in Q3, it was one of the three largest markets by downloads for both Facebook and WhatsApp. The country is also Google Play’s third-largest by downloads, as well as the world’s third-largest smartphone market. And there’s room for substantial growth yet – smartphone penetration in India is only in the 10-15% range, notes App Annie.

The iOS App Store, on the other hand, may not have the downloads but its revenue was 80% higher than Google Play in Q3, up from 70% in Q2. This is largely due to China, of course. China already surpassed the U.S. by iOS downloads earlier this year, and now those download numbers have translated into revenues.

By my calculations, that means each iOS user generates 3.4 (1.9 x 1.8) times as much revenue as a Google Play user.
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Lessons from the PC video game industry » Medium

Chris Dixon:

The PC gaming world has taken the freemium model to the extreme. In contrast to smartphone games like Candy Crush that are “free-to-play,” PC games like Dota 2 are “free-to-win.” You can’t spend money to get better at the game  —  that would be seen as corrupting the spirit of fair competition. (PC gamers, like South Park, generally view the smartphone gaming business model as cynical and manipulative). The things you can buy are mostly cosmetic, like new outfits for your characters or new background soundtracks. League of Legends (the most popular PC game not on Steam) is estimated to have made over $1bn last year selling these kinds of cosmetic items.

PC games are so popular they can also make money from live events. Live gaming competitions have become huge: over 32m people watched the League of Legends championship this year, almost double the number of people who watched the NBA finals.

Watching these events online is free, but offline tickets cost $50–$100 each. This is similar to the trend in the music business where concerts have become an increasingly important source of income for musicians. Concert ticket prices have increased dramatically while digital music prices have dropped.

What the PC game industry figured out is that in a world of abundant media, users have endless choices; instead of fighting for scarcity, fight for attention. Maximize user engagement and money will  —  with enough experiments  —  inevitably follow.

This is what other organisations, such as publishing, are struggling for, but the monetisation part is proving harder.
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Facebook Instant Articles and the fight over how many ads per words you should see » Finer Things in Tech

David Chartier:

The first 20 publishers taking part in Facebook’s Instant Articles program are struggling to make as much revenue from each article. Facebook imposes a number of App-Store-like rules on these articles, but among them:

“That’s because of the strict guidelines Facebook has laid down on the type and volume of ads publishers are allowed to sell. For example, the guidelines state that just one “large banner” ad sized 320 x 250 pixels may be included for every 500 words of content. On their own mobile properties, publishers such as the washington post would typically include three or perhaps four of those ads alongside a 500-word article.”

Think about that: large publishers want to show up to three to four ads per 500 words. And they wonder why ad blockers are a thing. 

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App bubble update: hit mobile game publishers are running out of steam » MIDiA Research

Karol Severin:


King serves a mainstream user base of casual gamers, whose primary objective is often to ‘kill time’ instead of ‘proceed to the next level’, let alone ‘be psyched for the next years release’. This is one of the major differences between freemium mobile game franchises like Angry Birds or Candy Crush and those of traditional game publishers like EA or Activision who are growing in the mobile space. Both, EA and Activision built their most successful franchises catering to well defined niches first, through desktop and consoles. Only then did they expand into the wider, more mainstream, mobile space. With a solid payer base and a clearly proven business model, they are not as dependent on mobile revenue, compared to their ‘mobile only’ competitors. Having a secure and profitable business model in place now gives them more freedom to be creative and experiment with wider audiences on mobile. In contrast, purely mobile freemium franchises were built up catering to mainstream masses first.

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none noted.

Start up: Google adds mobile ads, the sensing wearable, paying for snoops, and more


“Wait – that’s no moon!” Photo of the iPad Pro by portalgda on Flickr.

Something something receive each day’s Start Up post by email mutter mutter. Rhubarb rhubarb confirmation link mutter mutter.

A selection of 11 links for you. Curl up with them for the weekend. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Google’s efforts to monetize mobile pay off, but sites see a hit to organic visits » Search Engine Land

Andy Taylor notes that since August, there are now three ads rather than two before “organic” results on mobile phones in Google searches – and paid-for click-through rates (CTR) on ads have leapt accordingly:

One explanation is that some of the ads now getting impressions in the third spot above the organic results were already getting impressions below the organic results prior to the change. Thus, when the ads got the bump to the top of the page, the likelihood of a click went up substantially.

However, we see average position moving farther down the page, and Google is still showing ads at the bottom of the page, indicating that any ads that were moved up to the top were probably “replaced” at the bottom by additional ads. Thus, this probably isn’t causing the substantial improvement in mobile CTR we’re observing.

Rather, it’s possible that by adding a third text ad and pushing organic links even farther down the page, Google has broken the will of users who would have clicked on an organic link if they could find one at the top of the page but are instead just clicking ads because they don’t want to scroll down.

This would mean the addition of the third text ad may have pretty seriously impacted searcher behavior on phones, resulting in more ad clicks and spend headed Google’s way.

Just in case you were wondering how Google boosted its mobile revenue in the latest quarter, despite fewer than half of people doing one search per day on mobile. Taylor points to other methods too – very big “product listing ads” twice the size of earlier this month.
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The iPad Pro: the start of something new » Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin:

the most interesting observation I made was not how I used the tablet but how my oldest daughter, who is twelve, used the iPad Pro. She goes to a private school where each kid uses an iPad all day, every day. They use the iPad in every aspect of their education, from textbooks and learning materials, to real-time collaboration, notes, making movies during class, presenting, and much more. When we were checking out this school, we spent time watching kids use their iPads to do a range of things in the classroom. I was stunned by their fluency and efficiency. How fast they type, how quickly they multi-task between taking notes or a picture of the teacher’s notes on the board and then mark up their own notes on top of that. These kids were more literate with the iPad than many people I know who are highly technical, including myself. This ingrained literacy is the result of using a touch-based computer and the apps built on top of the mobile ecosystem, every day. After watching them for a day, I’m honestly not sure I could have accomplished as much as they did in as short of a time using a traditional laptop.

So I should not have been surprised when my daughter started playing with the iPad Pro for a few hours and came back and showed me all the things she had done: movies she made, photos she took outside (which she edited/mashed up using the different apps she also uses in creative projects at school) and taking advantage of the unique benefits of the Apple Pencil. With nearly everything she showed me, I had to ask her how she did it.

Do you really think she’s a future Surface user?
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EM-Sense wearable knows what objects you’re touching » Digital Trends

Chloe Olewitz:

The human body is naturally conductive, so the electromagnetic noise that most electrical and electromechanical objects emit is propagated throughout the person touching it. Using a small, affordable radio-powered wearable, researchers at Disney and Carnegie Mellon University were able to develop a custom smart watch that detects the electromagnetic noise traveling through the body. Paired with their software definition system, the EM-Sense smart watch can identify what specific objects the wearer is touching at any given moment.

Examples of the EM-Sense’s detection capabilities are what really bring the technology to life. The main function allows the EM-Sense smart watch to simply identify objects, like a doorknob, a toothbrush, or a kitchen appliance. But that’s just the beginning. With a bit more development, EM-Sense’s creators think the technology could be used to automate frequent actions and augment important aspects of our daily routines.

Neat – definitely like the idea of your smartwatch or band being able to identify what you’re dealing with. (Beware the web page’s autoplay video, though.)
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DynamicPricer PUP disables browser updates » Malwarebytes Unpacked

Pieter Arntz:

Although this one has been around for a while, DynamicPricer deserves some attention because of the different approach it uses compared to other Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs).

What’s different?

Where other adware applications look for sneaky ways to invade your up-to-date browsers or even install their own browser on your system, this one just installs an old version of Chrome and then disables the automatic updates for Chrome and Firefox.

As far as I could retrieve the version of Chrome it installs dates back to February of 2014. My guess is because that was the first build that included an API to take actions depending on the content of a page, without requiring permission to read the page’s content.

So sneaky to prevent the upgrading.
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Fossil Group to buy Misfit for $260m » WSJ

Yuliya Chernova:

Watchmaker Fossil Group Inc. has agreed to acquire startup Misfit Inc., a maker of wearable fitness trackers, for $260m.

Richardson, Texas-based Fossil Group has its Fossil and Skagen brands, and it licenses a host of others, including Michael Kors, Diesel and DKNY.

“If you don’t have a brand it is hard to be legit in this space,” said Sonny Vu, chief executive and co-founder of Misfit. He will become president and chief technology officer of connected devices for Fossil Group after the transaction closes, which Fossil expects before the end of the year.

Consolidation in the wearables space already?
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Cloud computing promises fall short » WSJ

Angus Loten and Rachael King on the shift to on-demand off-premise cloud computing not quite being the nice elasticated experience companies expected:

Frank Sirianni, CIO of Fordham University, said the university recently shifted from using an on-premises version of Ellucian Inc. business software to the cloud version. Although he agreed to a three-year-deal, Ellucian sought to lock him in for a longer term with variable pricing from month to month and a minimum monthly charge. Mr. Sirianni said he opted for a fixed monthly price, in order to avoid paying more if the university used more computing cycles, but not less if usage declined. Fordham wanted more predictable software spending over the course of the year, he said.

Ellucian said it doesn’t comment on the specific pricing that any client may pay for its products or services. “Our focus is to deliver significant value in these arrangements and enable our customers to leverage their entire investment in technology and services by going to the cloud,” said a company spokeswoman.

Translation: “we don’t want to lose revenue when customers make this shift.”
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YouTube and the attention economy » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan points out that YouTube is the one to deal with because “Free music streamers – of which YouTube is the largest single component – comprise 92.5% of all music streaming users and just 32% of all streaming revenue.” So how to balance those numbers?

YouTube is not suddenly going to start delivering dramatically better music stream rates, largely because labels and publishers haven’t had the courage to demand the requisite fair share it should pay. Rights owners’ fears are understandable: one senior label executive recounted a YouTube negotiator saying ‘Don’t push us. Right now you don’t like us much and we’re your friend. Imagine what we’d be like if we weren’t your friend.’ Sooner or later bullying tactics need standing up to. But that will not be a quick process, regardless of the steps currently being taken behind the scenes.

So in the meantime artists and labels need to figure out how to get more out of YouTube in a way that complements the other ways they make money digitally. Put simply that means making more non-music video content to generate more viewing hours and thus more ad revenue from YouTube. Heck, they might even generate some YouTube subscription revenue some time. But do it they must, else they’ll forever be leaving chunks of YouTube money on the table.

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Broadband bills will have to increase to pay for snooper’s charter, MPs are warned » Technology | The Guardian

Alex Hern:

For [Matthew] Hare [chief executive of ISP Gigaclear], the other major problem is that separating “metadata” from “content”, as the law mandates for the purposes of mass surveillance, is a very difficult technical challenge.

For a simple connection like a phone call, the difference is easy: information like the number dialled and length of the call is clearly metadata, while the audio transmitted over the line is clearly content. But for a typical internet user, a number of different services are being used at any one time, and they all blur the lines between the two categories.

“The web isn’t a single application, that’s the fundamental problem I’ve got,” Hare said. He outlined a common scenario: “A teenager is currently playing a game using Steam, that’s not a web application … and then they’re broadcasting the game they’re playing using something called Twitch. They may well also be doing a voice call where they’re shouting at their friends, and those are all running simultaneously. At any one time any of those services could drop in, drop out, be replaced.”

MPs discover it isn’t just a series of pipes.
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TomTom to provide data for Uber driver app »TomTom

TomTom has signed a global, multi-year agreement to provide maps and traffic data for the Uber driver app.   

TomTom’s advanced map-making technology, combined with its world class traffic information, will ensure Uber has a seamless navigation experience, accurate arrival times and efficient journeys in more than 300 cities around the world.

“We are excited to provide Uber with our best-in-class location data.” said Charles Cautley, Managing Director Maps & Licensing at TomTom. “TomTom is a truly independent map provider with the platform for the future. With this platform, TomTom is the trusted partner for innovative and future proof location technology for the global automotive and consumer technology industry.”

Edging just that little bit further away from Google; surprised some that it didn’t go with Nokia’s HERE. TomTom is also a traffic and maps data supplier to Apple. Will Uber buy TomTom? Does Apple have a break clause if someone buys TomTom?
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Experts still think uBeam’s through-the-air charging tech is unlikely » IEEE Spectrum

Lee Gomes:

In some regards, uBeam is already walking back some of the more extravagant claims it has made in the dozens of stories that have been written about it. A September piece in TechCrunch, said uBeam “could power up your phone while it’s in your pocket when you’re at a café.” While that sort of ubiquitous charging would be appealing for its simplicity and convenience, experts consider it to be impossible on account of the line-of-sight nature of ultrasound waves.

A TechCrunch interview from Saturday concedes the point, saying, The system “requires a line of sight and can’t charge through walls or clothes.” The latest story, though, didn’t address the obvious discrepancy with the earlier account. The most recent story says uBeam could transmit up to 4 meters, far less than the 30 feet (9 meters) claimed in an earlier piece.

While the company has made several technical advances involving ultrasound, “the idea that uBeam is going to eliminate the need for wires is ridiculous,” said one person with knowledge of the situation.

Leaning towards IEEE Spectrum’s sources knowing more about this topic than Techcrunch’s.
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I’m going to make Facebook’s AI predict what happens in videos » New Scientist

Yann Lecun is Facebook’s head of AI:

Q: Are there problems that you think deep learning or the image-sensing convolutional neural nets you use can’t solve?
JL: There are things that we cannot do today, but who knows? For example, if you had asked me like 10 years ago, “Should we use convolutional nets or deep learning for face recognition?”, I would have said there’s no way it’s going to work. And it actually works really well.

Q: Why did you think that neural nets weren’t capable of this?
JL: At that time, neural nets were really good at recognising general categories. So here’s a car, it doesn’t matter what car it is or what position it is. Or there’s a chair, there are lots of different possible chairs and those networks are good at extracting the “chair-ness” or the “car-ness”, independently of the particular instance and the pose.

But for things like recognising species of birds or breeds of dogs or plants or faces, you need fine-grained recognition, where you might have thousands or millions of categories, and the differences between the different categories is very minute. I would have thought deep learning was not the best approach for this – that something else would work better. I was wrong. I underestimated the power of my own technique. There’s a lot of things that now I might think are difficult, but, once we scale up, are going to work.

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: Satya Nadella uses a Lumia 950 XL.