Start up: how self-driving cars will change life, why *is* http on port 80?, iPad Pro reviewed, and more


Creating a more beautiful subway map for Tokyo wasn’t easy. Photo by aka.me on Flickr.

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

How Uber’s autonomous cars will destroy 10 million jobs and reshape the economy by 2025 » Zack Kanter

Industry experts think that consumers will be slow to purchase autonomous cars – while this may be true, it is a mistake to assume that this will impede the transition. Morgan Stanley’s research shows that cars are driven just 4% of the time, which is an astonishing waste considering that the average cost of car ownership is nearly $9,000 per year. Next to a house, an automobile is the second most expensive asset that most people will ever buy – it is no surprise that ride sharing services like Uber and car sharing services like Zipcar are quickly gaining popularity as an alternative to car ownership. It is now more economical to use a ride sharing service if you live in a city and drive less than 10,000 miles per year. The impact on private car ownership is enormous: a UC-Berkeley study showed that vehicle ownership among car sharing users was cut in half. The car purchasers of the future will not be you and me – cars will be purchased and operated by ride sharing and car sharing companies.

And current research confirms that we would be eager to use autonomous cars if they were available. A full 60% of US adults surveyed stated that they would ride in an autonomous car, and nearly 32% said they would not continue to drive once an autonomous car was available instead.

Today’s children are the last generation that will have to pass a driving test. Think about that briefly. Then read the rest of Kanter’s piece. (It’s actually optimistic, overall.) And one more thing: it doesn’t have to be about Uber.
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Fantastical designs from the frontier of subway maps » Washington Post

For many designers, creating a better subway map is an irresistible puzzle — “infinitely alterable, incredibly vexing, with no definitive answer,” writes Emily Badger. Badger’s new article looks at some amazing examples of metro maps from the frontier of design, including the beautiful 2010 diagram of all of the rails in the Tokyo region, designed by Kim Ji-hwan.

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Rooted, Trojan-infected Android tablets sold on Amazon » Help-Net Security

Zeljka Zorz:

If you want to buy a cheap Android-powered tablet, and you’re searching for it on Amazon, the best thing you can do is carefully read all the negative reviews you can find. If you are lucky, you’ll see some that will warn you about the device being rooted and coming pre-installed with malware.

Security researchers from Cheetah Mobile have recently discovered a slew of these devices – over 30 tablet brands in total – being sold on Amazon and other reputable online stores.

Here’s a short overview of affected devices, along with a sample of reviews warning about the malware.

The malware in question is the Cloudsota Trojan, which allows remote control of the infected devices and conducts malicious activities without user consent.

Remember, a Trojan is for life, not just for Christmas. Estimated that over 17,000 have been sold.
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The case against a Google phone » The Information

Amir Efrati on the rumours that Google is looking to design its own phone chips:

the ecosystem of partners that build and sell Android phones has matured to some extent; those companies have 1.4bn customers (there’s one third as many iPhones in customer’s hands, by contrast). While many of those customers aren’t necessarily loyal, and surprising upstarts are gaining ground, Google won’t be able to suddenly capture a significant amount of market share with a better device, at their expense. (It would also risk its chance to return to China, given that it is working with local handset brands to do so.) There is no going back.

Even if Google wanted to compete on price by offering devices cheaper than the iPhone, it would still have to engineer a marketing apparatus so impressive that it convinces smartphones buyers that the Google phone is the best in the world. That’s the only way it could convert iPhone and even some Samsung Galaxy S users — who are wealthier than typical Android users — to the Google phone. Good luck with that.

Then there’s the fact that prices for phones have come down so much as components become cheaper that it’s become exceedingly difficult for existing Android phone brands to stand out in the market.

Even if the Google phone struck a chord, it’s hard to see it selling more than tens of millions of devices in the next few years, and that’s optimistic.

I can believe that Google is interested in designing ARM architecture chips. But I think it’s more likely considering them for its server farms. People inside Google already know Efrati’s argument (which holds water). Sundar Pichai is hardly the sort to hang on to an idea for pride. He killed Google+, remember?
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Ad Replacer: turn spammy ads into breaking news

We take those terrible, misleading ads that take you to garbage websites (or worse!) and switch them out for real-time, human-curated headlines and links from ONLY the most trusted, reliable websites.

Sites that never end in best-deals-4-everyone.ru. Sites that never pop up 8 windows asking if you’re SURE you want to click away. Just sites you like and stories you want to read, all seamlessly integrated into your browsing experience before you even notice it’s changed. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Neat idea; Chrome extension only for now.
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Facebook Messenger adds facial recognition » Tech Insider

Alex Heath:

Adding facial recognition to Messenger may seem odd given that it’s primarily considered to be a messaging app, but when you consider that people send a staggering 9.5 billion photos through Messenger every month, the decision begins to make more sense.

Messenger is very proactive in prompting to share a photo with friends it thinks are in a photo — the app will send a notification asking you to send a photo to people on Facebook it thinks are tagged. (This specific behavior can be turned off in the Messenger app’s settings.)

Australia only for now, but your feeling on whether this is creepy or great will probably depend on age. Note though that it’s machine learning/AI being deployed as utterly normal; even five years ago this would have been hard to implement on such scale.
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iPad Pro review: jack of all trades, master of most » WSJ

Joanna Stern:

On paper, 12.9 inches may not seem much bigger than the standard iPad’s 9.7 inches, but the Pro screen made me more productive. I spent much of my week writing in Microsoft Word on the left hand of the screen and toggling between websites and my inbox on the right. Text looks incredibly crisp, especially in comparison with my MacBook Air’s display, which has just half the pixels.

The A9X processor and 4GB of RAM kept those apps running swiftly. But most impressive? When I exported the same 4K video in iMovie on both the Pro and my Intel Core i5-powered MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM, the iPad reached the finish line a minute and a half faster. And, unlike the Air, it didn’t sound like it was about to blast off from Cape Canaveral.

For real work, it’s all about attaching Apple’s $170 Smart Keyboard. You don’t do this via Bluetooth, but rather with the new magnetic Smart Connector. I quickly fell in love with the feel of the bouncy fabric keys, and it became second nature to hit Command+Tab to toggle between apps. Oh, and did I mention the keyboard is spill-proof? Seriously, my iced latte just wiped right off.

Still, many times I wished for something closer to Microsoft’s Surface Type Cover. Apple’s keyboard only props the screen at a 120-degree angle; attaching it and folding it take origami skill. It all almost toppled off my lap a few times, and the keys aren’t backlit. Plus, there’s no trackpad, like the Type Cover’s. I constantly had to reach out and touch the screen to scroll or select text and icons…

…Despite iOS 9’s improved multitasking, there are still shortcomings. You can’t customize the home screen’s comically large icons with files or other shortcuts. You can’t place the same app—say two Safari windows—side by side. And iOS’s lack of real file management can be maddening. Microsoft saddles its Surface Pro with full-blown desktop Windows while the iPad Pro is still too closely related to an iPhone. Apple has to keep working to find the happy middle.

Pricey. But here’s the kicker:

There’s one thing the iPad has over all other laptops and competing tablets though: incredible apps. The Pro helped me realize that I’ve been living in the past, using legacy desktop programs to accomplish things.

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Why was 80 chosen as the default HTTP port and 443 as the default HTTPS port? » How To Geek

According to superuser jcbermu:

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is a department of ICANN, a non-profit private corporation that oversees global IP address allocation, the Domain Name System (DNS), well-known ports, and other Internet Protocol-related symbols and numbers.

During March of 1990, they published a document (RFC 1060) where they listed all the well-known ports at that time. In that list there was no protocol assigned to port 80 (it jumped from 79 to 81). 79 was assigned to “finger” (find out if someone was online) and 81 to HOSTS2-NS, the HOSTS2 Name Server.

At that time, port 80 was officially free. In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee issued the first version of HTTP in a document (HTTP 0.9) where he stated “If the port number is not specified, 80 is always assumed for HTTP.”

HTTPS? Lost in time. Blamed on someone at NCSA Mosaic. So there’s your pub quiz question/answer pair.
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Apple Music » Android Apps on Google Play

It arrived as an app on Android, as version 0.9.0:

Introducing the beta of Apple Music on Android.
Notes about the beta period:
• Music videos are coming soon.
• Family membership sign-ups and upgrades require Mac or iOS.
• Sign-up process to be optimized for Android.

Notable that it hasn’t attracted the hate reviews that the “Move to iOS” app did; there are actually a lot of five-star reviews. (Average 3.1.) The key element looks like the “family membership” element; that’s a really powerful reason for Apple to want to reach Android users – because families are mixed users.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Google open-sources machine learning, Adele v streaming, Facebook’s Belgian problem, and more


Steve Reich’s Piano Phase, as a video, by Alexander Chen.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Made without nuts. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Preserving security in Belgium » Facebook

Alex Stamos works on online security for Facebook, while a Belgian court has ruled that the “datr” cookie it uses is not legal. Stamos isn’t happy:

The reason I’m bullish on the datr cookie is because for at least the last five years we have used it every day to defend people’s accounts through the following actions:
• Preventing the creation of fake and spammy accounts
• Reducing the risk of someone’s account being taken over by someone else
• Protecting people’s content from being stolen
• Stopping DDoS attacks that could make our site inaccessible to people

If the court blocks us from using the datr cookie in Belgium, we would lose one of our best signals to demonstrate that someone is coming to our site legitimately. In practice, that means we would have to treat any visit to our service from Belgium as an untrusted login and deploy a range of other verification methods for people to prove that they are the legitimate owners of their accounts. It would also make Belgian devices more attractive to spammers and others who traffic in compromised accounts on underground forums…

The datr cookie is only associated with browsers, not individual people. It doesn’t contain any information that identifies or is tied to a particular person. At a technical level, we use the datr cookie to collect statistical information on the behavior of a browser on sites with social plugins, such as the Like button, to help us distinguish patterns that look like an attacker from patterns that look like a real person.

Tricky.
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Why streaming doesn’t really matter for Adele » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:


Looking at mid-year 2015 consumer data from the US we can see that music buyers (i.e. CD buyers and download buyers) are still a largely distinct group from free streamers (excluding YouTube). While this may seem counter intuitive it is in fact evidence of the twin speed music consumer landscape that is emerging. This is why ‘Hello’ was both a streaming success (the 2nd fastest Vevo video to reach 100m views) and a sales success (the first ever song to sell a million downloads in one week in the US). These are two largely distinct groups of consumers.

As a reader of this blog you probably live much or most of your music life digitally, but for vast swathes of the population, including many music buyers, this is simply not the case. Given that the mainstream audience was so key to ‘21’s success we can make a sensible assumption that many of these will also fall into the 27% of consumers that buy music but do not stream.

This is also why it was so tricky for Apple to move into streaming: lots of iTunes users simply don’t. And also why Adele’s audience and prospects are very different from Taylor Swift’s.
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Facing pressure in China, Xiaomi also stalls in India » The Information

Amir Efrati:

the domestic Chinese market has slowed, while Xiaomi has dropped to No. 2 there after Huawei Technologies in terms of market share for the third quarter of this year, according to research firm Canalys.

The results in India seem to bear out the bear thesis on Xiaomi’s expansion plans: that it will be harder to succeed outside of China because it would have to work within the bounds of Google’s version of Android, where it can’t customize the software—and run an app store—the way it does inside of China, where Google mobile apps are almost completely absent.

In India, Xiaomi is “just another low-cost phone hardware company,” says one rival executive.

One Indian e-commerce executive whose firm sells smartphones says Xiaomi has “stagnated” online and that sales of Samsung and Motorola phones were much stronger during a recent period of online promotions known as “Big Billions Days.” Xiaomi, bucking its traditional practice of selling phones only online, has been willing to sacrifice some margin and sell phones through some retail stores in India.

If you have to offer Google Mobile Services, in the end your differentiation will be whittled away.
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Tim Cook: Apple CEO on the company’s latest venture – the iPad Pro » The Independent

David Phelan bagged an interview while the Apple chief was in London:

The iPad Pro is the most expensive tablet yet, £679 and up. At a time when iPad sales are flat, was he tempted to do as some competitors have done and released, say, a £50 tablet? “No, there are no good £50 tablets. We’ve never been about making the most, we’ve been about making the best. This was a way of making a product that people can do a lot of things with. I think it will attract a lot of PC users and people who are not currently using Apple products. And I think it will be a reason for people to upgrade who love iPad and who have been waiting for something very different and now here it is.”

Along with the Pencil, there’s a keyboard cover. Cook says it’s different from rival keyboards because with none of those would you say it “came from the same parent” as the tablet itself. “Now all of a sudden you have a keyboard that has been perfectly designed for the iPad, it’s integrated and then you’ve got the software with split view and it’s inherently very productive. I’m travelling with the iPad Pro and other than the iPhone it’s the only product I’ve got.” 

You have to love Cook’s rejection of “why did you do a stylus?” “It isn’t a stylus, it’s a Pencil.” Hear the capital. And his description of his youth as a trombone player is hilarious.
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DTEK by BlackBerry » Android Apps on Google Play

Interesting move by BlackBerry: DTEK looks at how often and to what extent other apps have been accessing your location, contacts and so on:

In this world of interconnected apps and networks, controlling what is shared and who it’s shared with can be a challenge. BlackBerry® DTEK for Android™ allows you to view and improve your privacy level and monitor application access to your camera, microphone, location and personal information. Take control with DTEK by BlackBerry.
Key Features:

• Monitor – Know at a glance the overall security rating for your device, as well as for specific security features. You can identify whether or not you need to take any action to improve the security of your device.

And so on. For Android 5.0 and up; seems like it would be a useful app for anyone on Android. Certainly some of the folk at UTB blogs found Facebook taking amazing liberties – such as Facebook accessing the phone location 561 times in 60 hours. That’s roughly every 6 minutes. You were asking about your battery life? (Apparently there’s a version coming for iOS too.)
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TensorFlow: smarter machine learning, for everyone » Official Google Blog

Sundar Pichai:

It’s a highly scalable machine learning system—it can run on a single smartphone or across thousands of computers in datacenters. We use TensorFlow for everything from speech recognition in the Google app, to Smart Reply in Inbox, to search in Google Photos. It allows us to build and train neural nets up to five times faster than our first-generation system, so we can use it to improve our products much more quickly.

We’ve seen firsthand what TensorFlow can do, and we think it could make an even bigger impact outside Google. So today we’re also open-sourcing TensorFlow. We hope this will let the machine learning community—everyone from academic researchers, to engineers, to hobbyists—exchange ideas much more quickly, through working code rather than just research papers. And that, in turn, will accelerate research on machine learning, in the end making technology work better for everyone. Bonus: TensorFlow is for more than just machine learning. It may be useful wherever researchers are trying to make sense of very complex data—everything from protein folding to crunching astronomy data.

No quibbles: this is excellent news. Main site is http://www.tensorflow.org. Written in Python; binaries available for Linux and Mac. I’m sure there’s another desktop OS, isn’t there?
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RECONSIDER » Medium

David Heinermeier Hansson (he usually goes by “DHH”), who founded Basecamp which – yawn! – is just mildly and continually successful:

it’s hard to carry on a conversation with most startup people these days without getting inundated with odes to network effects and the valiance of deferring “monetization” until you find something everyone in the whole damn world wants to fixate their eyeballs on.

In this atmosphere, the term startup has been narrowed to describe the pursuit of total business domination. It’s turned into an obsession with unicorns and the properties of their “success”. A whole generation of people working with and for the internet enthralled by the prospect of being transformed into a mythical creature.

But who can blame them? This set of fairytale ideals are being reinforced at every turn.
Let’s start at the bottom: People who make lots of little bets on many potential unicorns have christened themselves angels. Angels? Really?

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Piano Phase » Alexander Chen

This site is based on the first section from Steve Reich’s 1967 piece Piano Phase. Two pianists repeat the same twelve note sequence, but one gradually speeds up. Here, the musical patterns are visualized by drawing two lines, one following each pianist.

The sound is performed live in the browser with the Web Audio API, and drawn in HTML5 Canvas.

This is really wonderful. Chen is a creative director at Google Creative Lab – he has done lots of other visualisations of music.
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The consumerization of the automobile supply chain » DIGITS to DOLLARS

Jonathan Greenberg:

Last week I saw an interesting post on Venture Beat about Acer Launching an Electric All-Terrain Vehicle [quad bike, for UK readers]. This struck a chord because Taiwan-based Acer is a manufacturer of PCs and other consumer electronics (CE) devices. Acer is one of the most prominent companies in Taiwan’s CE complex, which builds almost all of our consumer gadgets. They are closely tied to some of the industry’s most important ODMs, component vendors and contract manufacturers. It is not that surprising to see a consumer electronics giant diversify into higher priced devices as they move up the value chain. However, if you don’t look at Acer as an device maker, but instead view them as a flagship of the Taiwanese electronics industry, the announcement has broader implications.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none reported.

Start up: Google’s antitrust expansion, Morocco goes solar, Apple Music revealed?, IoT hacked again, and more


What makes a great selfie? Ask a neural network. Photo by Verónica Bautista on Flickr.

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

EU antitrust chief Vestager speaks about Google and other key cases » WSJ

Amazing to think it’s a year since Vestager took over (and the Google case[s] still aren’t resolved…). She tells Tom Fairless and Stephen Fidler in a long interview that with the cases against various bits of Google’s operations:

what they have in common is that the name Google appears in each one, but apart from that they are very different. And therefore I do not think of it as one Google case but literally as different investigations and different cases.

WSJ: So there’s not a read across from the shopping case to the others?

MV: Well, there may be a lesson learned. It’s a very fine balance. The shopping case may have similarities when we eventually look at maps and travel and a number of other related services, because the complaints sort of tell the same story. People feel or experience that they are either being demoted, or Google preferences its own services. But there is no such thing as you have done one, you’ve done them all. You can’t do that. On the other hand, if you look at the shopping case then there will be insights that will probably also be valid when it comes to other neighboring markets. But it’s a very, very fine balance, because we cannot do one case and then say the rest is the same. In a union of law and with due process, this cannot be the case.

WSJ: But equally, Google has many business lines besides shopping and could have many more in the future, and you would presumably not want to open a new case each time. So you would want to establish some sort of precedent?

MV: Yes, but still whatever precedent comes out has to be taken from the finalization of the case. And since we’re not there yet, it is very difficult to see where that will take us.

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What a deep neural network thinks about your #selfie » Andrej Karpathy

Karpathy set a neural network to examine a few million not-liked and well-liked selfies, and draw conclusions:

A few patterns stand out for me, and if you notice anything else I’d be happy to hear about in the comments. To take a good selfie, Do:

• Be female. Women are consistently ranked higher than men. In particular, notice that there is not a single guy in the top 100.
• Face should occupy about 1/3 of the image. Notice that the position and pose of the face is quite consistent among the top images. The face always occupies about 1/3 of the image, is slightly tilted, and is positioned in the center and at the top. Which also brings me to:
• Cut off your forehead. What’s up with that? It looks like a popular strategy, at least for women.
• Show your long hair. Notice the frequent prominence of long strands of hair running down the shoulders.
• Oversaturate the face. Notice the frequent occurrence of over-saturated lighting, which often makes the face look much more uniform and faded out. Related to that,
• Put a filter on it. Black and White photos seem to do quite well, and most of the top images seem to contain some kind of a filter that fades out the image and decreases the contrast.
• Add a border. You will notice a frequent appearance of horizontal/vertical white borders.

You can also tweet your selfies to @deepselfie and get a score (100% is top!).
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Morocco poised to become a solar superpower with launch of desert mega-project » The Guardian

Arthur Neslen:

When they are finished, the four plants at Ouarzazate will occupy a space as big as Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, and generate 580MW of electricity, enough to power a million homes. Noor 1 itself has a generating capacity of 160MW.

Morocco’s environment minister, Hakima el-Haite, believes that solar energy could have the same impact on the region this century that oil production had in the last. But the $9bn (£6bn) project to make her country’s deserts boom was triggered by more immediate concerns, she said.

“We are not an oil producer. We import 94% of our energy as fossil fuels from abroad and that has big consequences for our state budget,” el-Haite told the Guardian. “We also used to subsidise fossil fuels which have a heavy cost, so when we heard about the potential of solar energy, we thought; why not?”

Solar energy will make up a third of Morocco’s renewable energy supply by 2020, with wind and hydro taking the same share each.

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Lawsuit accuses Apple’s iOS 9 Wi-Fi Assist of burning through $5M+ in data » Apple Insider

Neil Hughes:

Apple was slapped with a class-action suit on Friday, claiming that the company failed to properly warn users that the new Wi-Fi Assist feature in iOS 9 will use data from their cellular plan.

In the complaint, plaintiffs William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips allege that because of costs related to Wi-Fi Assist, the “overall amount in controversy exceeds” $5m. Filed in a U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday, the suit was first discovered by AppleInsider.

Once users update to iOS 9, Wi-Fi Assist is turned on by default. Its goal is ensure a smooth internet experience, switching to cellular data in the event that the user is connected to a weak Wi-Fi signal.
The lawsuit claims that Apple “downplays the possible data overcharges a user could incur” from Wi-Fi Assist.

Some who don’t understand how Wi-Fi Assist works, or even that it exists, have alleged that the new feature has caused them to use more cellular data than anticipated. But the new class-action suit alleges it should be Apple who should reimburse customers for any overages [excess data use].

Default-enabling something that could burn through your mobile data is plain stupid. Why not offer people the chance of whether to use it the first time the chance comes up? This is poor focus – putting user experience in the narrow field of device use ahead of the wider user experience of “how big is my mobile bill?”

It puzzles me how implementations like this get through Apple’s processes. (See also: the pain of being the person working on Wi-Fi inside Apple.)
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TalkTalk boss says cybersecurity ‘head and shoulders’ above competitors » The Guardian

Josh Halliday:

TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding has insisted the company’s cybersecurity is “head and shoulders” better than its competitors in the wake of the massive hack attack affecting thousands of customers.

In an interview with the Guardian, Harding conceded it would be “naive” to rule out the prospect of the telecoms firm suffering a similar cyber-attack in the future, describing the threat from hackers as “the crime of our generation”.

Asked about claims by an IT researcher that he raised concerns about TalkTalk’s security with her office last September, Harding said its security had “improved dramatically” in the last year.

TalkTalk’s customer account details (excluding bank details, but including usernames and phone numbers) were stolen from an India call centre last year, and again, and now it has been hacked in a big way. The hackers are miles ahead of the companies here – which is becoming a depressingly common refrain. Also see the blogpost from last October showing how poor TalkTalk’s cybersecurity was.
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Content paywalls on the agenda for digital news sites » FT.com

Matthew Garrahan:

Business Insider, which was acquired by German media group Axel Springer last month for close to $390m already charges for its research service and is now on course to be one of the first digital only news operations to erect a paywall around some of its general content. John Ore, Business Insider’s product manager, said in a recent blog post that the company was planning a broad “subscription offering” for readers “who prefer to pay us directly”.

Sweeping changes to the online advertising market mean other free news sites may follow suit. Sir Martin Sorrell thinks all newspapers should charge for content: the chief executive of WPP, the world’s largest advertising group said this week that paywalls were “the way to go”.

The problem, he says, is the lack of growth in digital advertising — an issue which is likely to get worse as ad blocking software grows in popularity. Ad blockers pose a real threat to the revenues generated by news sites. Meanwhile, rampant online ad fraud and the fact that brands often do not know whether their campaigns are being seen by real people, has shaken confidence in an industry that could do without the additional anxiety.

Would Business Insider try to block people using adblockers, as Axel Springer has?
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New screenshots purportedly show Apple Music for Android ahead of release » 9to5Google

Mike Beasley:

In bringing its software to Android, Apple has taken a slightly different approach from Google’s own iOS apps. While Google’s apps attempt to mimic the company’s Material Design principles—even going so far as to include custom-made toggle switches and other elements—Apple relies on UI elements built into Android rather than attempting to recreate the iOS versions of them. The main navigation has even been moved from an iOS-like tab bar to a more Android-friendly slide-out sidebar.

Despite this, the company hasn’t managed to stick completely to Google’s design guidelines and has injected some of its own style into the app. For example, the For Me page almost identically mirrors its iOS counterpart.

The images appear to be legitimate and match up with the design Apple teased during the Apple Music announcement at WWDC this year. Not every feature of the app is shown off in the screenshots below, but you can get a feel for how the app will look and behave from our gallery of screenshots.

Looks quite Android-y, though not a full dive into Material.
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DoJ to Apple: your software is licensed, not sold, so we can force you to decrypt » Boing Boing

Cory Doctorow:

The Justice Department lawyers argue [in a case where a defendant’s phone has been seized but they won’t give up the passcode; Apple has however acknowledged that it can bypass the code in pre-iOS 8 devices] that because Apple licenses its software – as opposed to selling it outright – that it is appropriate for the government to demand that Apple provide assistance in its legal cases.

To my knowledge, this is an entirely novel argument, but as I say, it has far-reaching consequences. Virtually every commercial software vendor licenses its products, rather than selling them. If the DoJ establishes the precedent that a product’s continued ownership interest in a product after it is sold obliges the company to act as agents of the state, this could ripple out to cars and pacemakers, voting machines and tea-kettles, thermostats and CCTVs and door locks and every other device with embedded software.

Might work in this particular case, but devices running iOS 8 onwards it won’t. That of course doesn’t apply to the many more internet-enabled “things”. Though those bring their own associated problems…
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Compromised CCTV and NAS devices found participating in DDoS attacks » Slashdot

the security firm Incapsula [reports] that its researchers discovered compromised closed circuit cameras as well as home network attached storage (NAS) devices participating in denial of service attacks. The compromised machines included a CCTV at a local mall, just a couple minutes from the Incapsula headquarters.

According to the report, Incapsula discovered the infections as part of an investigation into a distributed denial of service attack on what it described as a “rarely-used asset” at a “large cloud service.” The attack used a network of 900 compromised cameras to create a flood of HTTP GET requests, at a rate of around 20,000 requests per second, to try to disable the cloud-based server. The cameras were running the same operating system: embedded Linux with BusyBox, which is a collection of Unix utilities designed for resource-constrained endpoints.

The Internet of Compromised Things is growing faster than our ability to cope with its effects.
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Start up: Chrome v Flash (and Google v iOS 9), HTC delays Vive, streaming’s true problem, and more


Suggested caption: “I wish I’d never mentioned the bloody sealion”. Can a computer do better? Picture from MCAD Library on Flickr.

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

Google makes it official: Chrome will freeze Flash ads on sight from Sept 1 » The Register

Shaun Nichols:

Back in June, Google warned that, in cooperation with Adobe, it would change the way Flash material is shown on websites.

Basically, “essential” Flash content (such as embedded video players) are allowed to automatically run, while non-essential Flash content, much of that being advertisements, will be automatically paused.

As we explained a couple of months ago, it’s effectively taking Chrome’s “Detect and run important plugin content” feature, and making it the default: only the “main plugin content on websites” will be run automatically. That should put a stop to irritating ads around the sides of pages.

Google’s reasoning for the move is largely performance-based, apparently. The Chocolate Factory worries that with too many pieces of Flash content running at once, Chrome’s performance is hamstrung, and, more critically, battery life is drained in notebooks and tablets running the Flash plugin.

A performance and battery hit? From Flash? I’m shocked, shocked to hear of such a thing.
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Handling App Transport Security in iOS 9 » Hacker News discussion

Remember the Google Ads blogpost from last week explaining how developers could enable non-HTTPS ads to show on iOS 9, which enforces (almost) HTTPS? The discussion on Hacker News include some who’ve been in the trenches:

At my last job, we did something similar to what iOS 9 is now doing, where we migrated a survey engine to serve all forms over https. There was high fiving and champagne all around the engineers desks, while media was freaking out that their impressions took the sharpest reverse-hockey-stick in the world. Ad networks are seriously the worst when it comes to https traffic. Given the dozens of redirects and pixel injections and iframes slapped into a media page, it’s nearly impossible to serve secure traffic since it only takes one network to downgrade the https request to http and then the page is “broken”.

Other comments provide useful insight too.
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The wait for HTC’s Vive VR headset just got longer » ReadWrite

Adriana Lee:

Other projects and software features are likely in the works [from Oculus Rift] as well. (We may know more at the Oculus Connect 2 developer conference in Los Angeles next month.) 

There’s also increasing competition from VR hardware startups and other (bigger) competitors eyeing virtual and augmented reality—including Sony, Google, Samsung and Microsoft. Apple may also be pursuing virtual and augmented reality behind closed doors.

All of which makes HTC’s decision to delay the Vive’s consumer release rather risky—especially if the company is relying on this initiative to make up for its flagging smartphone business. For end users and developers, however, the scenario points to something else: Next year is going to be absolutely huge for all realities virtual. 

Can HTC hang on long enough to ride that wave? Testers say it’s terrific quality. Most valuable asset?
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Chromebooks gaining on iPads in school sector » The New York Times

Natasha Singer:

In terms of the sheer numbers of devices sold, however, Microsoft remained in the lead. In 2014, about 4.9m Windows devices, including notebooks and desktops, shipped to schools, giving Microsoft a roughly 38% market share in unit sales, IDC said.

Apple, meanwhile, shipped about 4.2m devices for schools, including desktops, notebook computers and tablets, accounting for about 32% of the education market, according to the report.

But the Chromebook category is fast gaining traction in the United States.

Last year, about 3.9m Chromebooks were shipped in the education sector, an increase in unit sales of more than 310% compared with the previous year, IDC said. By contrast, iPad unit sales for education fell last year to 2.7m devices, compared to 2.9m in 2013, according to IDC data.

“Even if Microsoft is No. 1 in volume and Apple is No. 1 in revenue, from the growth perspective, nobody can beat Chromebook,” said Rajani Singh, a senior research analyst at IDC who tracks the personal computer market and is the author of the report.

In the first half of this year, she said, roughly 2.4m Chromebooks shipped to schools compared with about 2.2m Windows-based desktops and notebook computers.

Maybe this is where Chromebooks begin to eat away at Windows. They certainly should be a lot easier to secure and manage.
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We built a robot to help you win The New Yorker’s cartoon caption contest » The Verge

Michael Zelenko and Frank Bi:

Each week The New Yorker runs a cartoon contest on its back page, where the publication invites readers to submit captions to cartoons drawn by the magazine’s illustrators. Winning the contest is notoriously difficult — writers have to generate a quip that’s funny, but also perfectly mimics the magazine’s sensibilities. A deep knowledge of The New Yorker is a prerequisite. Or is it?

We’ve collected all the first, second, and third place winning entries going back to when the magazine introduced the competition in 2005 — all 1,425 of them. Then, we ran them through a Markov text generator program that analyzes the winning captions and generates new, randomized entries that echo the original set.

Observation: using this won’t even get you to the last three in the caption contest. Maybe when the robots have taken all the other jobs, “comedian” will still remain for humans.
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The real problem with streaming » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

Even without considering the entirely intentional complexity of details such as minimas, floors and ceilings, the underlying principle is simple: a record label secures a fixed level of revenue regardless, while a music service assumes a fixed level of cost regardless.

Labels call this covering their risk and argue that it ensures that the services that get licensed are committed to being a success. Which is a sound and reasonable position in principle, except that in practice it often results in the exact opposite by transferring all of the risk to the music service. Saddling the service with so much up front debt increases the chance it will fail by ensuring large portions (sometimes the majority) of available working capital is spent on rights, not on building great product or marketing to consumers.

None of this matters too much if you are a successful service or a big tech company (both of which have lots of working capital). Both Google and Apple are rumoured to have paid advances in the region of $1 billion. While the payments are much smaller for most music services, Apple, with its $183bn in revenues and $194bn in cash reserves can afford $1bn a lot more easily than a pre-revenue start up with $1m in investment can afford $250,000.  Similarly a pre-revenue, pre-product start up is more likely to launch late and miss its targets but will still be on the hook for the minimum revenue guarantees (MRG).

It is abundantly clear that this model skews the market towards big players and to tech companies that simply want to use music as a tool for helping sell their core products. 

 
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Heads-up, Google: fighting the EU is useless » Bloomberg View

Leonid Bershidsky:

Microsoft can tell Google exactly what happens next; indeed, Google’s lawyers realize there will be other antitrust investigations. One, concerning the Android operating system and its links to Google services, is already in the works, although no official charges have been brought. Another may soon hit Google where it really hurts, challenging its dominance in online advertising. Google will fight and probably lose, because Europe doesn’t like big U.S. companies to dominate its markets. 

Lobbying and complying with whatever demands still can’t be avoided is a less painful path. Microsoft spent 4.5 million euros last year, a million more than Google, on efforts to get EU officials to see its points on issues such as data protection and cloud computing. Among other things, the European Parliament is now considering a Microsoft proposal that would cap fines for Internet privacy violations at 2m euros a case, instead of 2% of a company’s international turnover.

It’s admirable that Google now wants to fight for its principles and against the dilution of its superior offering. It makes me cringe, however, to think of the time and money that will be burned in this hopeless battle.

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The fembots of Ashley Madison » Gizmodo

Annalee Newitz:

In the data dump of Ashley Madison’s internal emails, I found ample evidence that the company was actively paying people to create fake profiles. Sometimes they outsourced to companies who build fake profiles, like the ones Caitlin Dewey wrote about this week in the Washington Post. But many appear to have been generated by people working for Ashley Madison. The company even had a shorthand for these fake profiles—“angels.” Perhaps this is a tip of the hat to Victoria’s Secret models, also known as angels.

Ashley Madison created their angels all over the world, and the dump contains dozens of emails where Avid Life Media management arranged to generate more. Here you can see a July 4, 2013 email from Avid Life Media’s director of internal operations, Nora Abtan, to CEO Noel Biderman and other managers, with the subject “summary angels status”…

…An email chain between Sandra Simpson and an employee named Eduardo Borges, dated July 30, 2012, suggests that quality control on the angel profiles was actually pretty rigorous. Borges asks whether it’s OK to reuse photos if they are in different states, and Simpson says no—she notes that many members travel and they might spot the duplicates.

Such great journalism; such a scammy business. The question becomes, did the company take this direction from the start, or was it forced towards fakery by circumstance?
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Apple is about to lay down its TV cards » TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino:

It stands to reason that Apple will be able to push the A8 much, much further than it ever has before given that the Apple TV is plugged into the wall, and not dependent on battery.

This will enable developers of games and other resource-intensive applications to produce higher quality and more demanding apps. Among the demos I’d expect to see on stage next month are content apps, games, and broadcast companies. These apps fit the venue (fixed, but large and participatory) and purpose of your television — and the apps that people will build for the Apple TV would do well to take those factors into account as well.

A native SDK that takes advantage of the hardware fully will, for the first time ever, turn the Apple TV into a platform, a self-sustaining life form that Apple likely hopes will dominate competitors who have done only slightly better about adding third-party support.

To control the new Apple TV? A new remote. One major feature of which was pretty much nailed by Brian Chen in an article earlier this year. It’s slightly bigger and thicker, with physical buttons on the bottom half, a Touchpad area at the top and a Siri microphone.

I thought the Apple TV would get its own SDK
back in 2012. Totally wrong; it just wasn’t ready.
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Start up: a huge new Android security risk, Google+ downgraded, iTunes’s giant mess, and more


It was 20 years ago (roughly) that a Rolling Stones song launched Windows 95. Photo by michfiel on Flickr.

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

Making free work (hint: cannibalize radio, not sales) » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

Neither Spotify or Deezer is in the business of free music, they are in the business of subscriptions and simply use free as a marketing tool. So they have no reason to cling doggedly to free users that show no sign of converting. Instead after a sufficient period of free music has been offered users should be pushed to subscriptions or onto a radio tier (see figure). There is no business benefit to the streaming services nor rights holders to have perpetual on demand free users.

The assumption that free music is some sort of internet right is symptomatic of the internet’s growing pains. In terms of market development we’re probably at the adolescence stage of the internet, the stage at which carefree childhood starts to be replaced by responsibility and consequences. We’re seeing this happen right across the internet economy, from privacy, data, free speech, jurisdiction etc. Because music has been free online for so long consumers have learned to accept it as fact. That assumption will not be changed any time soon, and try to force the issue too quickly and illegal services will prosper.

Of course YouTube is, and always has been the elephant in the room, buoyed by the schizophrenic attitude of record labels who simultaneously question its impact on the market while continuing to use it as their number 1 digital promotional channel. While the tide may finally be beginning to turn, don’t expect YouTube to go anywhere any time soon. But should the screws tighten do expect YouTube to stop playing ball.

Apple Music, of course, chucks you out after your three-month trial unless you subscribe. Let’s see how it does for conversion.
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Continuum on Windows 10 » Blogging Windows

Windows 10 adjusts your experience for your activity, device and display, so you can do your thing in any mode anytime you want. Onscreen features, like menus and taskbars, adapt for easy navigation. Apps are built to scale smoothly from screen to screen so they look good from the smallest app window up to the largest 8k displays*.

That’s gr– hey, what’s the asterisk?

“*App experiences may vary.”

Oh. (Via Wes Miller.)
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Start Me Up (again) » GartenBlog

Windows 10 will arrive, without fanfare, on computers tomorrow (July 29th). In August 1995, Windows 95 was launched with the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” as its theme song. Michael Gartenberg recounts Microsoft’s Brad Stone talking about the negotiations with the band:

For a good month we continued negotiations mostly on the phone. I had only so much I would and could pay and that made things easier on our end. The fact that we had to fish or cut bait to get our TV ads done in time for the August 24th launch served as a forcing function and eventually we agreed to terms. They rushed WK the “Start Me Up” recording as we were already working on the ad. The next day I got a frantic call from WK saying that the Stones had sent a later live version of “Start Me Up” that wouldn’t work. I called up Cohl and told him that I had to have the original version or there was no deal. Eventually they agreed. I found out later that the reason they gave us the live version was that it was recorded after Bill Wyman had left the band. Giving us the original meant that Wyman got his allocation of the deal which of course meant that giving us the original version of “Start Me Up” meant that Jagger, Richards and the rest of the band got less.

I also found out later that Jagger and Richards did not always see eye to eye on the deal. As Brad indicated, Jagger was less inclined to commercialize their music in this way. I was told he was especially ready to just forget the deal when we made it clear we needed the original version but that he did not want to piss off Richards over it because Richards wanted or needed the money.

One British paper (not me) suggested Microsoft paid $14m. “We paid a fraction of this”, Stone writes.
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Dmail makes your Gmail messages self-destruct » TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:

The product works by way of a Google Chrome web browser extension, which only you, as the email sender, have to install.

Once loaded, you’ll have a new option within the Gmail “compose” interface that allows you to turn the Dmail service off and on using a toggle switch. When on, you can specify ahead of sending an email if you want the email destroyed in an hour, a day, a week, or “never.” Even if you choose the “never” option, you can later go into your sent message and click a “Revoke Email” button to remove access to that email from all recipients.

What’s clever about Dmail is that, unlike some other secure messaging products, recipients don’t have to use the service themselves in order for it to work. If they don’t have the extension installed, they’ll instead receive an email that states: “This secure message was sent using Dmail. To view this message, simply click the button below.” 

Clicking the included “View Message” button will then redirect them to a web view where they can read your email.

More accurate headline: Dmail makes your Gmail messages into shareable web pages whose access you control. These attempts to reinvent email are doomed to failure.
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Canon cuts outlook as weak camera sales hit second-quarter profit » Reuters

Ritsuko Ando:

Japan’s Canon Inc cut its earnings outlook for the full year and reported a 16% fall in quarterly profit as consumers, increasingly in the habit of taking photos with their smartphones, bought fewer compact digital cameras.

The world’s largest camera maker said on Monday its second-quarter net profit fell to 68bn yen ($552m) compared with 81bn yen a year earlier. Analysts on average expected 65bn yen, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The firm said it now expects full-year profit of 245bn yen rather than the 255bn it forecast three months ago.

Wait and see what they forecast in another quarter. This is a trend that will only continue.
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The hidden opportunity of corporate smartphones » Tech.pinions

Bob O’Donnell:

Many of the IT professionals who are making or strongly influencing these purchases also have a soft spot for Windows and this preference clearly shows up in survey results. Though it’s well known the percentage of consumers actively using Windows Phones is small, what isn’t well known is a surprisingly large percentage of companies (over 40% in several different surveys) have employees who use devices running Microsoft’s mobile OS. In fact, in a TECHnalysis Research survey of US healthcare companies, 17% of work smartphones in their organizations were running Windows Phone. This goes a long way towards explaining Microsoft’s recent comments about focusing their future smartphone development towards enterprise as a key target. They actually have a solid opportunity there.

Goes to show how little influence IT professionals have in the new mobile world order, if you ask me. A reminder: about 80m Windows Phones are being used worldwide; in the US it’s in the low single-digit millions. That might be a gigantic corporate usage. Or it might be a small corporate usage and a small corporate usage.
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Major flaw in Android phones would let hackers in with just a text » All Tech Considered : NPR

Aarti Shamani:

In this attack, the target would not need to goof up — open an attachment or download a file that’s corrupt. The malicious code would take over instantly, the moment you receive a text message.

“This happens even before the sound that you’ve received a message has even occurred,” says Joshua Drake, security researcher with Zimperium and co-author of Android Hacker’s Handbook. “That’s what makes it so dangerous. [It] could be absolutely silent. You may not even see anything.”

Here’s how the attack would work: The bad guy creates a short video, hides the malware inside it and texts it to your number. As soon as it’s received by the phone, Drake says, “it does its initial processing, which triggers the vulnerability.”

The messaging app Hangouts instantly processes videos, to keep them ready in the phone’s gallery. That way the user doesn’t have to waste time looking. But, Drake says, this setup invites the malware right in.

If you’re using the phone’s default messaging app, he explains, it’s “a tiny bit less dangerous.” You would have to view the text message before it processes the attachment. But, to be clear, “it does not require in either case for the targeted user to have to play back the media at all,” Drake says.

Gives attackers system privileges. Proportion of Android devices vulnerable: 95%. Google has pushed out an update to hardware makers. But have the hardware makers pushed the update out? Google reckons that if 50% of devices get it, that will be good.

The big risk is that someone will create a Blaster-style worm that attacks a phone and then accesses its phone book to send malicious MMSs to the numbers in the phone book.
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Don’t order the fish » Marco.org

Marco Arment:

With the introduction of Apple Music, Apple confusingly introduced a confusing service backed by the iTunes Store that’s confusingly integrated into iTunes and the iOS Music app (don’t even get me started on that) and partially, maybe, mostly replaces the also very confusing and historically unreliable iTunes Match.

So iTunes is a toxic hellstew of technical cruft and a toxic hellstew of UI design, in the middle of a transition between two partly redundant cloud services, both of which are confusing and vague to most people about which songs of theirs are in the cloud, which are safe to delete, and which ones they actually have.

iTunes has Microsoft’s problem: supporting a gigantic range of legacy hardware in the form of millions of iPods and iPhones.
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Everything in its right place » Official Google Blog

Bradley Horowitz, VP of “Streams, Photos and Sharing”:

People have told us that accessing all of their Google stuff with one account makes life a whole lot easier. But we’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use.

So in the coming months, a Google Account will be all you’ll need to share content, communicate with contacts, create a YouTube channel and more, all across Google. YouTube will be one of the first products to make this change, and you can learn more on their blog. As always, your underlying Google Account won’t be searchable or followable, unlike public Google+ profiles. And for people who already created Google+ profiles but don’t plan to use Google+ itself, we’ll offer better options for managing and removing those public profiles.

You’ll see these changes roll out in stages over several months. While they won’t happen overnight, they’re right for Google’s users—both the people who are on Google+ every single day, and the people who aren’t.

On that YouTube blogpost:

The comments you make on YouTube will now appear only on YouTube, not also on Google+. And vice-versa. This starts rolling out today.

Google+ is no longer obligatory. Slightly too soon to call it dead. But it will never grow big. And we’ll never hear those faintly bogus stats about “user sharing” or inflated claims of users.
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Start up: Amazon’s profitable cloud, Apple Music woes, early days of search, and more

Kepler 452b
“Hello! Have you heard of ‘Greece’? Do you have spare money?” Artist impression by Nasa.

A selection of 9 links for you. Lather them all over yourself. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How Lycos almost won the search engine wars » Gizmodo

Jim Gilliam with a tale from the pit:

A few months later, our team made a huge discovery. In our ongoing efforts to make search results better, Dennis set up an eye-tracking lab and began scientific testing of how people used search. We watched where people looked on the pages and noticed something shocking: people didn’t look at the ads. Not only that, but the more we tried to make the ads stand out, the less people looked at them. Our entire advertising philosophy was based on making ads flashy so people would notice them. But we saw, quite counterintuitively, that people instinctively knew that the good stuff was on the boring part of the page, and that they ignored the parts of the page that we—and the advertisers—wanted them to click on.

This discovery would give us an edge over everyone in the industry. All we had to do was make the ads look less like ads and more like text. But that was not what the ad people wanted, and the ad people ran Lycos. The advertiser was seen as our true customer, since advertising was where our revenue came from. Our team argued that our customers were also the people searching, and without them, we’d lose the advertisers. The eye-tracking revelation wasn’t enough to convince them, so we tried another tack.

In the ultracompetitive world of search engines, the biggest factor aside from the quality of the results was how fast they loaded. We were constantly trying to take things out of the pages to make them load faster. So I created a program that took queries coming into our site and ran them on all the major search engines, ranking them in order of speed.

And guess which speed-obsessed, blinky-ad-ignoring company came along next? It’s an extract from Gilliam’s new book, The Internet Is My Religion. Have a free download of the book.
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Amazon Web Services is now a $6 billion-a-year cloud-computing monster » Quartz

Dan Frommer:

AWS generated almost $400m in operating income during the quarter, and almost $1bn over the past four quarters. It represented almost 40% of Amazon’s consolidated-segment operating income for the second quarter in a row—despite only generating about 8% of the company’s sales.

In short: AWS is one of Amazon’s most valuable assets.

That 40%-8% ratio is something to ponder. Prices are going to fall as Microsoft and Google keep trying to win share. Will profits remain as strong?
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Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it » Loop Insight

Jim Dalrymple had a terrible experience:

I went through about 15 albums one night and manually added all of the missing songs. It was frustrating, to say the least, but I did it. I nearly lost my mind the next morning when I checked my iPhone and Apple Music and taken out all of the songs I added the night before. I was right back where I started.

In some cases, like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, a few of the songs show up twice on one album. When you tap to play the song, they both show the animated icon in iTunes, as if they are both playing. Note in the screenshot that the songs are different in terms of their length of playing time. Either Apple Music shaved a few seconds off one of the tracks, or they’re from different albums.

I’ve had some problems a little like this – duplicate tracks on iOS devices, ie not the originating device, which is the desktop. But nothing like Dalrymple’s awful loss of thousands of tracks. I’ve lost nothing. (People, don’t suffer the same way; make backups.) I’m just waiting for it to sort itself out. And I have a backup.

I suspect that Apple’s servers are suddenly under a colossal load, and that this is related in some way. Apple Music is very, very complicated. Not that that excuses track deletion. But it’s Spotify plus the iTunes Music Store plus iTunes Match. A gigantic beast.
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An identity thief explains the art of emptying your bank account » Bloomberg Business

Dune Lawrence:

On this particular winter night [in Minsk] in 2009, [Dmitry] Naskovets checks the online orders that have come in and sees a routine assignment. A client has tried to buy a MacBook Pro online with a stolen credit card, but American Express blocked the purchase. Now it’s Naskovets’s job to work it out with Amex.

He calls the toll-free number, using software that makes it look as if he’s dialing from the U.S. Any information the customer rep might ask for, Naskovets’s client sends him instantly by chat. The questions don’t usually get beyond the cardholder’s date of birth, Social Security number, or mother’s maiden name, but the woman fielding this call is unusually thorough. She notices that the phone number on the account has changed recently, triggering extra security. She puts Naskovets on hold while a colleague dials the old number and gets the actual cardholder on the line.

Thus begins an absurd contest: Naskovets against the man he’s impersonating. The agents throw out questions to distinguish the fake. When did you buy your home? What color was the car you bought in 2004? Each time Amex puts him on hold, he knows the legitimate cardholder is being asked the same question. At last, the rep thanks him, apologizes, and approves the purchase. Naskovets was even better than the real thing.

Scary.
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Apple Watch: a work in progress but packed with potential » CCS Insight

Ben Wood says his initial expectations were too high, and that he has been left underwhelmed. But, he adds:

this is version 1.0 and Apple has a proven track record of making a nice first device and then slowly but surely making it better and better. I’m not going to lie — I was among those who misjudged the original iPhone. It was easy to pick holes in the first model when it launched: poor battery life, no concessions to operators or subsidy, and missing features like 3G and MMS made it easy to jump to the wrong conclusions. But over time it’s become one of the most transformative electronic devices of our generation. That’s because the product that appeared in 2007 is not the product that hundreds of millions of people are using today. It was a full year before Apple opened the App Store, a major catalyst to the iPhone’s success. I predict we’ll take a similar journey with its watch.

When you go beyond the basic features and think about the sheer potential of the device you start to realise how significant it is. To me, it comes down to offering capabilities that are so compelling it’s not even worth the milliseconds it takes to whip your smartphone out of your pocket.

A perfect example of this is payment. Apple Pay landed in the UK this month. Although I’ve only used it a few times, my initial impression is that having a secure, predictable payment mechanism easily accessible on your wrist is hugely useful, whether you’re buying a coffee or hopping on a bus.

Another inspiring application is an electronic hotel room key – something Apple is already supporting at some Starwood hotels. No more arriving at your room struggling to get an unreliable plastic keycard out of your pocket or wallet, with a coffee in one hand and a suitcase in the other. A tap of the wrist and you’re in.

Things get even better when you add another layer of intelligence. At some point in the future, you’ll arrive at the hotel or approach the counter to pay for your coffee; a nearby beacon will tell your Apple Watch what information you’re likely to need. As if by magic the relevant loyalty card appears on the watch face ready to help you check in or pay for the coffee. These types of rich application are limited only by developers’ imagination and the software needed to create them.

Judging devices that obey Moore’s Law on their first incarnation really is a mug’s game.
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NASA just discovered ‘Earth 2.0’ » Business Insider

Jessica Orwig:

Kepler 452b will forever be remembered as the first, second Earth or what NASA refers to as “Earth 2.0” ever discovered:

Here’s what we know so far about this Earth 2.0:

It’s 60% larger than Earth.
• It’s most likely rocky, meaning it has a solid surface as opposed to a gaseous one, like Jupiter.
• It’s about 1,400 light years from Earth.
• It orbits its star every 385 days, very similar to Earth’s orbital length.
• The planet and star it’s orbiting are about 6 billion years old — 1.5 billion years older than our sun.

Any chance they could bail out Greece? Just asking.
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Google+: a case study on app download interstitials » Official Google Webmaster Central Blog

David Morell, software engineer at Google+ on why “hey, get our app!” things that take over the page might bug users:

Despite our intuition that we should remove the interstitial, we prefer to let data guide our decisions, so we set out to learn how the interstitial affected our users. Our analysis found that:
• 9% of the visits to our interstitial page resulted in the ‘Get App’ button being pressed. (Note that some percentage of these users already have the app installed or may never follow through with the app store download.)
• 69% of the visits abandoned our page. These users neither went to the app store nor continued to our mobile website.

While 9% sounds like a great CTR for any campaign, we were much more focused on the number of users who had abandoned our product due to the friction in their experience. With this data in hand, in July 2014, we decided to run an experiment and see how removing the interstitial would affect actual product usage. We added a Smart App Banner to continue promoting the native app in a less intrusive way, as recommended in the Avoid common mistakes section of our Mobile SEO Guide. The results were surprising:
• 1-day active users on our mobile website increased by 17%.
• G+ iOS native app installs were mostly unaffected (-2%). (We’re not reporting install numbers from Android devices since most come with Google+ installed.)

So much is weird about this. Why were they ever showing the interstitial to Android users, since “most” already had it? The news that not blocking a screen leads to people not giving up (especially for an app they’re likely to already have) isn’t that astonishing. Also: only 17% more read the page? That doesn’t seem so great, given that there were 69% abandoning before. Note too how the measurements aren’t congruent: in the first set, you’re told how many follows to the app there were, and how many abandoned. In the second, you’re told how “1-day active users” increased and how nothing happened to iOS installs – not how many clicked through.

When you aren’t given congruent statistics (in experiment A, X happened; in experiment B, X changed by Y), be distrustful.

And the other missing stat: the balance between iOS users and Android users who came to the page. It all just seems like a study in “what were you even thinking by trying to force people to click past an interstitial?”
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Worldwide smartphone market posts 11.6% year-over-year growth in Q2 2015, the second-highest shipment total for a single quarter » IDC

According to the latest preliminary release from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 337.2 million smartphones worldwide in the second quarter of 2015 (2Q15), up 11.6% from the 302.1 million units in 2Q14. The 2Q15 shipment volume represents the second highest quarterly total on record. Following an above average first quarter (1Q15), smartphone shipments were still able to remain slightly above the previous quarter thanks to robust growth in many emerging markets. In the worldwide mobile phone market (inclusive of smartphones), vendors shipped 464.6 million units, down -0.4% from the 466.3 million units shipped 2Q14.

Quite a contrast with the gloomier number from Trendforce on Tues/Weds. That gives smartphones 73% of sales; the 90% point, when featurephones are just edge cases, is fast approaching. Minor details: Samsung was the only top vendor to see a fall in shipments (and that by about 1m, so within margins of error). Apple, Huawei and Xiaomi all seeing growth faster than the market.

A notable quote from Melissa Chau on the phone team: “IDC now tracks over 200 different smartphone brands globally, many of them focused on entry level and mid-range models, and most with a regional or even single-country focus.”
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Lottery IT security boss guilty of hacking lotto systems to win $14.3m » The Register

Iain Thomson:

Iowa state lottery’s IT security boss hacked his employer’s computer system, and rigged the lottery so he could buy a winning ticket in a subsequent draw.

On Tuesday, at the Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines, Iowa, the disgraced director of information security was found guilty of fraud.

Eddie Tipton, 52, installed a hidden rootkit on a computer system run by the Multi-State Lottery Association so he could secretly alter the lottery’s random number generator, the court heard. This allowed him to calculate the numbers that would be drawn in the state’s Hot Lotto games, and therefore buy a winning ticket beforehand.

The prosecution said he also tampered with security cameras covering the lottery computer to stop them recording access to the machine.

Hmm – worth a one-hour drama. Not really a miniseries or a film.
link to this extract


Start up: Windows 10’s puzzle, Adobe’s coming obituary, our digital romances, and more


A better sound to be found inside? Photo by pumpkinmook on Flickr.

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

Windows 10 signifies Microsoft’s shift in strategy » The New York Times

Nick Wingfield:

in recent years, Windows has become an afterthought for many software developers, who have turned to the huge and engaged audience on smartphones. That shift has left Microsoft in a precarious position with consumers in recent years.

To generate more interest from developers, Microsoft has designed Windows 10 to run on PCs, smartphones and other devices, which is meant to make it easier for developers to write apps that run across all of them. And the company has sworn there will be one billion devices running the software in the next two to three years, giving developers a huge potential market to reach with their creations.

“I think we will see really huge adoption” of Windows 10, said Kevin Sather, director of product marketing for systems at Razer, a maker of high-end gaming computers and other devices.

The benefits of fast and free adoption of Windows 10 could well outweigh the revenue Microsoft is giving up. The company does not disclose how much upgrade revenue it normally makes from a new operating system, but analysts estimate that it is small compared with the other ways the company makes money from the operating system.

What this doesn’t explain is why Windows 10, even free, should suddenly make consumers devote any more time to their PCs, or buy Windows tablets any more than they do. Obviously Microsoft is a business-oriented company. So will this actually make any difference at all to the general direction of travel, away from the desktop to mobile? I just don’t see it.
link to this extract


Free sound improving techniques » PWB Electronics

Try the freezing experiment using a CD first – they are usually the easiest object to hand. If you have two identical CDs all the better as you can keep one CD as the control (no treatment) and put the other CD through the freezing/slow defrost process.

Place one CD in a plain plastic bag and place this bag in the domestic deep freezer overnight. When you remove the CD from the freezer, allow it to return to room temperature very, very slowly. You can achieve a slow defrost quite easily by wrapping it in a towel or blanket. Listen to the CD which has been through the freezing process first and then see if you can listen to the other (unfrozen) CD with the same pleasure !! Putting the previously frozen CD through the freezing/slow defrost process a second time gives you a further improvement in the sound.

Impossible to distinguish from satire. Or reality.
link to this extract


Only around 15% of WP 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile? » All About Windows Phone

Steve Litchfield:

There’s something of a blanket assumption that everyone currently using Windows Phone 8.1 will upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile – after all, Microsoft has been promising that ‘majority’ of users will join the Window 10 ecosystem. But, after a few recent experiences of mine with budget devices, I thought it worth sounding a note of caution and reality – I’d put money on the actual conversion numbers to Windows 10 Mobile being significantly less than 50% and maybe as low as 15%.

He tested trying to update to Windows 10 Mobile on wiped-clean Lumias. It wasn’t great. Why? Storage: some of those low-end phones just won’t have the spare space – especially for those with any apps installed.
link to this extract


Tech world prepares obituary for Adobe Flash » WSJ

Robert McMillan:

in 2007, along came the iPhone. Adobe engineers embraced it immediately. “Everyone who was in the organization was carrying an iPhone,” said Carlos Icaza, an Adobe senior engineer at the time.

But Apple’s smartphone also troubled Mr. Icaza, who was in charge of Flash development on mobile phones. Flash had become bloated over the years and required lots of computing power to run. That wasn’t a big deal on PCs, but on mobile phones, with their limited battery life, it was a major problem, and Apple had opted not to support the technology.

Flash needed a major rewrite to work on the iPhone, but Mr. Icaza couldn’t get his superiors to allocate the necessary resources.

“For me, it was, ‘What the hell is going on? We have this amazing device that is going to change the world and everybody knows it,’” he said in an interview. “Nobody at the organization was trying to make Flash work on this device.”…

…Adobe itself now considers Flash to be immaterial to its business, meaning that it accounts for less than 5% of company revenue, but it is still widely used on websites built for browsers. The software runs on under 6% of the Internet’s home pages and its use is declining, according to BuiltWith Pty Ltd, which tracks Internet technology.

You don’t hear that 6% stat thrown around much, do you?
link to this extract


I tried all the apps that are supposed to mend a broken heart » Fusion

Kristen Brown:

A few months into the relationship I’d asked Siri to remember which of the many Johns* [*his name wasn’t John] in my contacts was the one I was dating. At the time, divulging this information to Siri seemed like a big step — at long last, we were “Siri Official!” Now, though, we were Siri-Separated. Having to break the news to my iPhone—my non-human, but still intimate companion—surprisingly stung.

Siri wasn’t the only screen-based trial of my break-up. Our relationships now exist across networked webs of digital connections, webs that we build up each time we begin a new romance and then must painfully break down when one ends. When I flicked open my laptop at work, the bottom-right corner was empty where a Google chat had previously sat waiting for me. Notifications of unread Snapchat messages used to lead to goofy photos of John, but now they’re just, disappointingly, announcements from Team Snapchat. Every time I send a note to a particular group of friends, Google’s algorithm suggests I add John to the e-mail thread.

Our relationship was the digital equivalent of moving in together, and now painful memories of him were scattered all over my online home. Technology was making my heartache worse, but that’s not how these things are supposed to work: Technology is supposed make our lives easier, so I sought out tech fixes for a broken heart.

link to this extract


Online cheating site AshleyMadison hacked » Krebs on Security

Brian Krebs:

In a long manifesto posted alongside the stolen ALM data, The Impact Team said it decided to publish the information in response to alleged lies ALM told its customers about a service that allows members to completely erase their profile information for a $19 fee.

According to the hackers, although the “full delete” feature that Ashley Madison advertises promises “removal of site usage history and personally identifiable information from the site,” users’ purchase details — including real name and address — aren’t actually scrubbed.

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie,” the hacking group wrote. “Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

Their demands continue: “Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”

link to this extract


The Apple Watch review » Anandtech

Joshua Ho and Brandon Chester:

Although this is a review of the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch will ultimately be quickly forgotten with the launch of future iterations of the Apple Watch. After all, Apple is not trying to sell the world on the idea of a smarter watch, but the idea of a watch altogether.

For those still deciding on whether the first Apple Watch makes sense, I have no reservations in saying that it’s the best wearable I’ve ever used. However, at the same time I find it hard to recommend this first-generation Apple Watch. It’s clear that there are far too many obvious areas to improve upon, areas where Moore’s law will help to dramatically improve the experience. In the case of smartphones, Moore’s law made it possible to deliver true all-day battery life and fluid app performance. After spending a few months with the Apple Watch, all I can see is a need for more compute and battery life, like what happened with smartphones.

Finally, we get back to the question of whether Apple will be sell people on the concept of a watch. In the months since I first used the watch I’ve ended up wearing it every day. I distinctly noticed its absence when I forgot the charger on a trip. I don’t know if Apple will succeed in convincing others of the utility of a watch, but they’ve definitely convinced me.

To the despair of graph-lovers everywhere, the authors declare that they can’t figure out a standard method for testing battery life, because you can configure the Apple Watch and Android Wear to behave so differently on notifications. But I agree with their conclusion – what you begin to notice, increasingly, over time is the utility.
link to this extract


Dropdowns should be the UI of last resort » LukeW

Luke Wroblewski:

No one likes filling in forms. And the longer or more complicated a form seems, the less likely we are to jump in and start filling in the blanks -especially on small screens with imprecise inputs (like our fingers).

dropdowns v tabs

While there’s two extra fields in the “painful” version above, the primary difference between these two flight booking forms is how they ask questions. One makes use of dropdown menus for nearly every question asked, the other uses the most appropriate input control for each question.

Dropdowns really are a pain, but it takes this post to point out quite why. There’s a longer writeup with links to video clips too.
link to this extract


Start up: Windows Phone hits the buffers, more Flash woes, do Google ads discriminate?, and more


If there’s a stream and nobody listens… hang on. Photo by jjjj56cp on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. They flip, they bend, they twirl away. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Zero-day Flash player exploit disclosed in ‘Hacking Team’ data dump » The Hacker News

Swati Khandelwal:

While analyzing the leaked data dump, researchers discovered at least three software exploits – two for Adobe Flash Player and one for Microsoft’s Windows kernel.
Out of two, one of the Flash Player vulnerabilities, known as Use-after-free vulnerability with CVE-2015-0349, has already been patched.

However, the Hacking Team described the other Flash Player exploit, which is a zero-day exploit with no CVE number yet, as “the most beautiful Flash bug for the last four years.”
Symantec has also confirmed the existence of the zero-day flaw in Adobe Flash that could allow hackers to remotely execute code on a targeted computer, actually allowing them to take full control of it.

Researchers found a Flash zero-day proof-of-concept (POC) exploit code that, after testing, successfully worked on the most latest, fully patched version of Adobe Flash (version 18.0.0.194) with Internet Explorer.

Successful exploitation of the zero-day Flash vulnerability could cause a system crash, potentially allowing a hacker to take complete control of the affected computer.

Flash depresses me. I removed it from my machine some time ago; it’s basically a malware vector whose functions can almost always be replaced with HTML5 by normal users. See below.


How to enable click-to-play plugins in every web browser » Hot-To Geek

Chris Hoffman:

Most web browsers load Flash and other plug-in content as soon as you open a web page. Enable “click-to-play” plug-ins and your browser will load a placeholder image instead — click it to actually download and view the content.

Click-to-play allows you to conserve download bandwidth, improve page load times, reduce CPU usage, and extend laptop battery life. This feature gained popularity with Flashblock for Firefox and is now built into modern browsers.

Do this, for the safety of your system.


Satya Nadella email to employees on sharpening business focus » Microsoft News Center

Phones. Today, we announced a fundamental restructuring of our phone business. As a result, the company will take an impairment charge of approximately $7.6bn related to assets associated with the acquisition of the Nokia Devices and Services business in addition to a restructuring charge of approximately $750m to $850m.

This isn’t actual lost money, but lost value of the business – a “goodwill” writedown. The phones aren’t any more or less profitable as a result.

I am committed to our first-party devices including phones. However, we need to focus our phone efforts in the near term while driving reinvention. We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem that includes our first-party device family.

Translation: phones that don’t run Windows are not needed. Say goodbye to those Nokia featurephones (24.7m in Q1, likely fewer in Q2, probably zero by Q4).

In the near term, we will run a more effective phone portfolio, with better products and speed to market given the recently formed Windows and Devices Group. We plan to narrow our focus to three customer segments where we can make unique contributions and where we can differentiate through the combination of our hardware and software. We’ll bring business customers the best management, security and productivity experiences they need; value phone buyers the communications services they want; and Windows fans the flagship devices they’ll love.

Translation: cheap Lumias continue; will do a flagship. Business customers will get support on whichever platform.

In the longer term, Microsoft devices will spark innovation, create new categories and generate opportunity for the Windows ecosystem more broadly. Our reinvention will be centered on creating mobility of experiences across the entire device family including phones.

Translation: phones aren’t so important, are they?


September 2013: The deal that makes no sense » Stratechery

Ben Thompson, back in September 2013:

Early this morning Microsoft acquired Nokia for €3.79 billion (plus €1.65 billion for patents). It is a deal that makes no sense.

While industry observers love to pontificate about mergers and acquisitions, the reality is that most ideas are value-destroying. It is far better to form an alliance or partnership; most of the benefits, none of the costs.

A partnership similar, in fact, to the one formed just two years ago between Microsoft and Nokia.

From Microsoft’s perspective, that was a brilliant deal; Matt Drance characterized it as “Microsoft Buys Nokia for $0B,” and he wasn’t far off. The premier pre-iPhone phone maker, with what was even then one of the best supply chains, distribution networks, and brands in the world would be exclusively devoted to Windows Phone.

There is nothing further to be gained by an acquisition.

Actually, turned out to have negative value, financially speaking. (The whole post is very well worth re-reading in hindsight.)


Two-Factor authentication » Apple Developer

Is going to be built in to iOS 9 and OSX 10.11 (aka “El Capitan”):

Whenever you sign in with your Apple ID on a new device or browser, you will verify your identity by entering your password plus a six-digit verification code. The verification code will be displayed automatically on any Apple devices you are already signed in to that are running iOS 9 or OS X El Capitan. Just enter the code to complete sign in. If you don’t have an Apple device handy, you can receive the code on your phone via a text message or phone call instead.

Once signed in, you won’t be prompted for a verification code again on that device unless you erase your device, remove it from your device list, or need to change your password for security reasons. When signing in on the web, you can choose to trust your browser so you won’t be prompted for a verification code the next time you sign in from that computer.

The problem with 2FA is always “what if I lose my phone?” Google gets around this by letting you have printed codes that act as verification numbers; it’s a good idea that Apple might do well to take up.

But this looks a lot better than the version used at present in iCloud.


Study suggests Google’s ad-targeting system may discriminate » MIT Technology Review

Tom Simonite:

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the International Computer Science Institute built a tool called AdFisher to probe the targeting of ads served up by Google on third-party websites. They found that fake Web users believed by Google to be male job seekers were much more likely than equivalent female job seekers to be shown a pair of ads for high-paying executive jobs when they later visited a news website.

AdFisher also showed that a Google transparency tool called “ads settings,” which lets you view and edit the “interests” the company has inferred for you, does not always reflect potentially sensitive information being used to target you. Browsing sites aimed at people with substance abuse problems, for example, triggered a rash of ads for rehab programs, but there was no change to Google’s transparency page.

What exactly caused those specific patterns is unclear, because Google’s ad-serving system is very complex. Google uses its data to target ads, but ad buyers can make some decisions about demographics of interest and can also use their own data sources on people’s online activity to do additional targeting for certain kinds of ads. Nor do the examples breach any specific privacy rules—although Google policy forbids targeting on the basis of “health conditions.” Still, says Anupam Datta, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who helped develop AdFisher, they show the need for tools that uncover how online ad companies differentiate between people.

Google didn’t respond to the researchers’ requests. But, oddly, it changed the language on that transparency page. This is the AdFisher study


Apple Music and the listener-to-buyer ratio » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan on the maths of streaming v buying:

What quickly becomes apparent is that the most viable route to ensuring Apple Music streaming revenue offsets the impact of lost iTunes sales revenue is as big an installed base of streaming users as possible. The more Apple Music users there are, the more likely more of them will find and listen to your music. This is why the scale argument so is so important for streaming and also why small labels feel the effect less quickly. If you have a vast catalogue you don’t need to worry too much about the listener-to-buyer ratio because you have so many tracks that you are a much bigger target to hit. The laws of probability mean that most users are going to listen to some of your catalogue.

Let’s say you are a big major with 1 million tracks out of the 5 million tracks that get played to any meaningful degree in streaming services. That gives you a 20% market share. But if you are an independent with 50,000 tracks that gives you 1%, 20 times less than the major. Which means that you are 20 times less likely to have your music listened to. And that is without even considering the biases that work in favour of the majors such as dominating charts and playlists, and other key discovery points.


YouTube gaming star PewDiePie ‘earned $7m in 2014’ » BBC News

YouTube continues to be a profitable enterprise for its top tier stars, who earn money from advertisements placed around their videos.

The site’s terms and conditions forbid creators from disclosing how much they earn, but on Monday gamer Olajide Olatunji, known as KSI, told the newspaper Metro he had earned enough money to buy his parents a house.

Although some stars supplement their income with product placement deals, [Felix] Kjellberg [aka PewdiePie] says he does not do very many.

“I make more than I need from YouTube,” he wrote on Reddit. “With that freedom, but also to respect my fans for making that possible, I don’t end up doing many endorsements.”

[Ian] Maude [of Enders Analysis] has a word of caution for anybody eyeing up YouTube with dreams of becoming a millionaire.

“As with many things, a few people at the top do exceptionally well but there’s a long tail of people who don’t make any money at all,” he said.

Why can’t they disclose how much they earn?


Apple Watch sales plunge 90% » MarketWatch

Brett Arends:

two-thirds of the watches sold so far have been the lower-profit “Sport” version, whose price starts at $349, according to Slice, rather than the costlier and more advanced models that start at $549.

In an ambitious bid for the luxury market, Apple also unveiled a gold “Edition” model priced at $10,000 or more. So far, fewer than 2,000 of them have been sold in the U.S., Slice contends.

Slice bases its research on electronic receipts sent to millions of email addresses following purchases. The company conducts market research on behalf of consumer-goods companies, among others, many of them in the Fortune 500.

Wall Street has been desperately trying to work out how well the new watch has been selling, but Apple has been refusing to say. The company, which in the past has updated Wall Street on the sales of new products soon after the launch, has yet to release any numbers about the watch.

Those Edition watches will have made a ton of profit. But apparently the fall in sales is “ominous”. Seems like about 3m sold in the US in the quarter. That’s about four times the number of Android Wear devices sold in seven months or so from multiple manufacturers at lower prices worldwide last year. Ominous.


Start up: Samsung’s missing numbers, Lizard Squad hacker convicted (but..), transparent aluminium!, and more


The internet of things, old style. Photo by Leo Reynolds on Flickr.

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

Optically clear aluminium provides bulletproof protection » Total Security Solutions

While the U.S. Navy is busy with the development of a new bulletproof material called Spinel, Surmet Corporation is already commercially producing its own version called ALON®. Technically known as aluminium oxynitride, Star Trek fans may be more familiar with the term “transparent aluminium” first proposed by Scotty in the 1986 movie, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. While ALON isn’t quite what Scotty had in mind (it’s not truly a transparent metallic aluminium, but rather a transparent aluminium-based ceramic), it’s pretty darn close.

transparent aluminium Bloody hell, it is too. If this isn’t a con, it’s amazing. (And it’s aluminIum, dammit.)


Lizard Squad hacker convicted on 50,000 hacking charges » Daily Dot

William Turton:

Julius “zeekill” Kivimaki, 17, was sentenced to a two-year suspended prison sentence and was “ordered to fight against cybercrime” according to Finnish media. The charges against Kivimaki include data breaches, felony payment fraud, telecommunication harassments, and other counts relate to fraud and violations of company secrets. Neither the Ministry of the Interior, Police Department of Finland, nor the District Court of Espoo, the court presiding over Kivimaki’s case, were available for comment in time for publication due to time differences.

Kivimaki helped lead massive distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s Playstation Network over last year’s winter holidays, making international headlines. Kivimaki appeared on camera during an interview with U.K. television station Sky News. Blair Strater, a victim of Kivimaki’s repeated harassment, was “absolutely disgusted” by the ruling, he told the Daily Dot in a phone interview, because he felt the sentence was too light. Kivimaki has, according to Strater, repeatedly called in fake threats to American law enforcement, resulting SWAT teams arriving at the Strater residence, a practice commonly known as “swatting.” For three years, Kivimaki has harassed the Strater family by stealing their identities and wreaking havoc on their finances and personal lives, Strater said.

Doubt he would have got that little in the US, despite his age.


Television is no longer the screen of choice for kids » Advertising Age

Anthony Crupi:

Mobile devices are so popular with kids that nearly half of the 800 parents quizzed by Miner & Co. reported that they confiscate their kids’ tablets when they act up and make them watch TV instead, thereby fostering a sort of Pavlovian response that equates TV with punishment. (That these parents simply don’t restrict their kids’ access to video altogether when they misbehave suggests that they’re raising a generation of spoiled content junkies, but that’s another story.).

“Go to your room and watch TV!”


The anxious ease of Apple Music » The New Yorker

Alex Ross:

So, contrary to plan, Apple has not necessarily succeeded in making music better. Then again, it might not be doing long-term damage; indeed, it might not be having much effect at all. The musicologist Deirdre Loughridge recently published a blog post about the history of music-subscription services, which date back to sheet-music lending libraries in the 18th century.

By the 1830s, pundits were fretting that such libraries were undercutting the economics of the music business and altering the nature of listening. “One enjoys superficially, one always wants something new,” a critic groused in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. A few decades later, a piano teacher wrote, “Music lending libraries could very well be called ‘music snacking libraries.’” Almost identical complaints are being levelled at Spotify, YouTube, and the rest. These anxieties are now forgotten because, as Loughridge notes, the very existence of music-lending libraries has been forgotten. If they hurt music sales, the damage was soon repaired. Loughridge suggests that this obscure history should promote a “healthier skepticism toward claims that any model represents ‘the’ answer for the music industry.”

All I’d ask for from Apple Music is what Deezer offers, called “Flow”: one press and it generates a neverending playlist based on what you’ve listened to and liked, but adding new “alike” tracks.


How the tech press forces a narrative on companies it covers » Medium

Aaron Zamost:

I don’t remember who told me company narratives were like a clock. I was at Google, where I’d taken a job on the communications team despite zero experience in communications. During my early days there, I tried to navigate my new profession by listening to the many comms experts already at the company from whom I would learn so much. One theory about narratives stuck with me: A company’s narrative moves like a clock: it starts at midnight, ticking off the hours. The tone and sentiment about how a business is doing move from positive (sunrise, midday) to negative (dusk, darkness). And often the story returns to midnight, rebirth and a new day. It was a passing remark, and hardly revolutionary — it closely followed the hero’s journey and other theories of storytelling. But it made a ton of sense.

Oh wow, does it ever. (Though: not just tech, is it?)


Smartphone trends in the US » Tech.pinions

Jan Dawson:

One of the key things I’m hearing – and which was somewhat evident already in the Q1 2015 results the carriers announced – is that the huge upgrade cycle which happened in 2014, and especially in Q4, is somewhat sucking the wind out of sales in 2015 so far. Though that upgrade cycle was partly driven by massive iPhone sales, and is therefore good news for Apple, it seems to be somewhat depressing Android device sales in the first half of 2015, despite the new device launches from major vendors including Samsung, LG, and HTC.

In general, I suspect we’ll see somewhat lower rates of upgrading this year than we did last year, as there were a number of factors that drove higher than usual rates in 2014 and many of those customers will now not be upgrade-eligible until late 2015 or even 2016.

Convenient for Apple that it doesn’t really focus its efforts until late in the year.


Samsung sees seventh straight profit decline » WSJ

Jonathan Cheng and Min-Jeong Lee:

When the Galaxy S6 and its curved-screen variant, the Galaxy S6 Edge, were launched in April, the phones were praised by reviewers and greeted with strong advance orders from consumers. But Samsung appears to have badly miscalculated in its expectations for what kinds of smartphones these consumers were after. According to a person familiar with the matter, the company initially expected to sell four Galaxy S6 smartphones for each Galaxy S6 Edge that it sold, and set up its production facilities accordingly. Instead, demand was much likely closer to even for the two devices, the person said. That led to a glut of unsold Galaxy S6 devices—particularly white-coloured devices—and not enough Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones, the person said.

Analysts quoted in the story are estimating between 71m and 76m smartphones shipped in the quarter, of which the S6 and Edge would be “slightly more than 20%” (that’s 14.2m-15.2m – so take it as 15m). Being left with a colour variant is bad, bad news.


The reddit rebellion, how should reddit make money?, the disappearance of high-end Android » Stratechery

From Ben Thompson’s paid daily briefing:

This is a pretty clear screw-up by Samsung that suggests they don’t understand just how starkly the smartphone market has bifurcated: the only people buying a high-end Android phone want the top-of-the-line, and that means the Edge. Anyone who is concerned about price isn’t going to save $100 by buying a normal S6; they’re going to save $500 and get a perfectly serviceable phone that runs the exact same software. That said, I suspect that even had Samsung properly forecast Edge demand sales would have still been disappointing…

…it does seem likely that the S6 stole whatever HTC One customers existed: the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer just reported a loss of $261 million on revenues of just over $1 billion; the company originally forecast revenues of $1.57 billion but the One M9 has been a complete flop. It seems likely (pending LG’s numbers) that there is only room for one high-end Android model, for now anyways; small solace for Samsung, but solace nonetheless.

I don’t usually excerpt from subscriber products like Thompson’s (because it’s effectively breaking the paywall, which is his livelihood) but this was too apposite to miss. Subscribe. It’s low-priced and insightful. (His suggestion for how reddit should make money is smart.)


Billion dollar turnaround: Sony Mobile CEO » ArabianBusiness.com

Neil King:

As an inevitable by-product of the unit’s recent performance, [Sony Mobile chief Hiroki] Totoki has had to fend off rumours that Sony is, or was, planning to sell off its mobile division as a result of the dire financial results. A defence, he says, is easy to make when you look at the reasons behind the poor figures. “The speculations arose because in 2014 we made a huge loss as a mobile business,” he says. “It mainly came from the write-off of the goodwill of our impairment asset. When we bought back Ericsson’s share [in 2012], we bought back 100 percent of it. And obviously that price was high. We had to write it down and it made a substantial loss for the company.

“But this was an accounting loss and did not impact our cash flow. Our cash flow is very healthy. But the accounting loss was so huge — that’s why people have speculated like this. “Before that rumour, we exited the VAIO business, which was the PC business. That led people to think that Sony would exit the smartphone business, as well. But the smartphone business is very different from PCs. “Smartphones are completely connected to other devices, also connected to people’s lives — deeply. And the opportunity for diversification is huge. We’re heading to the IoT (Internet of Things) era and have to produce a number of new categories of products in this world, otherwise we could lose out on a very important business domain.”

Two things: the writeoff of value wasn’t the entirety; Sony still made an operating loss, even ignoring goodwill writeoffs. Secondly, the IoT argument is why I think Microsoft will stick with the smartphone business despite its horrendous losses. Interesting to see Sony Mobile using it too.


Start up: Apple Music’s likely effects, no Paypal in Greece, how Bitstamp was hacked, and more


Of 58 aboard, only 15 survived. But was the crash due to machine or human error?

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

Why the next few months of Apple Music will throw up a few surprises » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

As we revealed on our MIDiA Research report on Apple Music back in March 28% of iOS users stated they were likely to pay for the service. Among downloaders the rate is 39% and for existing subscribers that rate rises to 62%. Consumer surveys of course always over-report so we shouldn’t expect those rates of paid adoption but the relative values are interesting nonetheless.

Given that 50% of existing subscribers are iOS users the implications are that a big chunk of Spotify et al’s subscribers will at the very least try out Apple’s 3 month trial, which is plenty enough time to get build a comprehensive library of playlists and to get hooked. But there is also going to be a big wave of downloaders that do not currently subscribe that will try it out.

As the iOS 8.4 update virtually pushes iTunes Music users into starting the trial on updating, expect pretty widespread uptake of the trial. Apple reached 11 million users for iTunes radio within 5 days of launch, 21 million within 3 months. Apple Music has had a far bigger build up and is much more deeply integrated into iOS so a fairly safe bet is that those numbers will at the very least be matched.

It’s getting people to pony up that’s hard. Adding Android users (with Apple Music for Android in autumn) might just be the icing on the cake; iOS is where the numbers and easy money will be.

Mulligan points to other surprises too – read on there.


Reddit’s AMA subreddit down after Victoria Taylor departure » Business Insider

Biz Carson:

The iAMA and Science subreddits both were set to private today after Reddit’s director of Communications, Victoria Taylor was allegedly dismissed. In a Reddit thread about her departure, she replied that she was “dazed” and “hopefully” plans to stay in the PR field.

Reddit and Taylor have not yet responded to request for comment.

One of Taylor’s job duties was coordinating the site’s popular AMAs.  Two of the site’s most popular posts ever are AMAs: the one with Barack Obama and a conversation with a man with two penises. The AMA subreddit became such a popular section of the site that Reddit eventually spun it out into its own app.

Something’s up at Reddit; it’s either going to come through this much stronger, or run into the sand.


40 states line up with Mississippi in Google Adwords pharma scrap » The Register

Andrew Orlowski:

Attorneys General representing 40 US states have filed an amicus brief backing Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood’s investigation into Google.

In December, the giant multinational sued the state of Mississippi after it had opened an investigation into Google’s business practices (claiming Hood’s complaints did not come under state law jurisdiction), and earlier this year a District Court froze this investigation.

The attorneys say if the freeze is upheld, it will have a chilling effect on investigative subpoenas across the US.

Hood’s 79-page subpoena inquires mainly into Google’s advertising practices, focussing on the sale of illegal and controlled substances.

Four pages consist of inquiries into how Google deals with IP enforcement. It follows from a 2011 non-prosecution agreement (NPA) between Google and the FBI, the FDA and Rhode Island into rogue drug traffickers, who used Google Adwords to move their wares. Google agreed to a $500m fine, $230m of which was funnelled to Rhode Island.

The NPA lapsed in 2013, three months early, with no indication from Federal authorities that Google had actually complied. That’s when the states got serious.

This is an odd case. Hood comes across as a little obsessed (but is that bad in a lawman?), but Google comes across as vindictive – and not a little defensive.


Bitstamp Incident Report (PDF) » Bitstamp

The bitcoin exchange had 18,000 BTC, worth (then) about $5m, stolen:

On 9 December 2014, Bitstamp’s Systems Administrator, Luka Kodric, received a phishing email to his Gmail account. Unlike some of the others targets, Kordic did have access to Bitstamp’s hot wallet. The email header had been spoofed to appear as if it had been sent from konidas@acm[.]org, although it was actually received from a Tor exit node [the email chain and header details can be seen in full at Appendix A].

ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery, which describes itself as the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. The sender was offering Mr. Kodric the opportunity to join Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE), the International Honour Society for the Computing and Information Disciplines.

The UPE site is hosted within the acm.org domain. On 11 December, as part of this offer, the attacker sent a number of attachments. One of these, UPE_application_form.doc, contained obfuscated malicious VBA script. When opened, this script ran automatically and pulled down a malicious file from IP address 185.31.209.145, thereby compromising the machine.

As the security researcher The Grugq observed, “Computer security is such an unsolved problem that Bitstamp lost $5m because someone had macros enabled in Microsoft Word.”


The (slight) rise of _nomap » OpenSignal blog

Samuel Johnson, on OpenSignal’s checking of how many Wi-Fi networks added the suffix “_nomap” to stop Google mapping their location:

Wifi networks with nomap

This graph also shows a rise beginning at the end of 2013 and continuing into 2014. Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s privacy incursions occurred during the summer of 2013 – and so it is possible that the heightened awareness about privacy issues could have led to more people taking care that Google was not recording their Wi-Fi hotspot. However, compared to the number of global Wi-Fi networks detected by OpenSignal, it is clear that the number that adopted Google’s solution is very small.

So why is this? Obviously it was deeply concerning that Google were tracking payload data – but it is not in itself concerning that they are collecting Wi-Fi SSIDs (after all, this is what we at OpenSignal do). Those technologically savvy enough to have followed the story (and continued to do so months after the initial outburst of outrage) will know that Google had publicly pledged to stop tracking Wi-Fi payload data, and so any appending _nomap to their Wi-Fi hotspots would not make any difference to that.


We’ve finally hit the breaking point for the original Internet » The Washington Post

Brian Fung:

It’s finally happened. The North American organization responsible for handing out new IP addresses says its banks have run dry.

That’s right: ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, has had to turn down a request for the unique numbers that we assign to each and every smartphone, tablet and PC so they can talk to the Internet. For the first time, ARIN didn’t have enough IP addresses left in its stock to satisfy an entire order — and now, it’s activated the end-times protocol that will see the few remaining addresses out into the night.

The end of IPv4 has been forecast for a few years now. Looks like it’s actually going to happen, and we’ll move to IPv6.


PayPal no longer works in Greece—and why that matters » Quartz

Shelly Banjo:

Adding to their list of woes, Greeks can no longer use their PayPal accounts.

Limits on how much money Greeks can take out of banks put in place by their debt-stricken government as it negotiates with lenders have effectively crippled the online payment service, which relies on traditional banks and credit cards to transfer money.

According to a PayPal spokesman:

Due to the recent decisions of the Greek authorities on capital controls, funding of PayPal wallet from Greek bank accounts, as well as cross-border transactions, funded by any cards or bank accounts are currently not available. We aim to continue serving our valued customers in Greece in full, as we have for over a decade.

Except that they can’t serve their valued customers. So, why does it matter?

PayPal’s shutdown in Greece reminds us how difficult it is to disintermediate banks from the flow of money.

Well duh. Did you think it was all going to bitcoin? As the Bitstamp link above shows, good luck with that.


Faulty credit card-sized connector led to crash of 20-tonne plane » Bloomberg Business

Tim Culpan:

A faulty connector about the size of a credit card helped trigger a series of mechanical and human failures that led to the crash of a 20-ton aircraft in February, killing 43 people, investigators in Taiwan found.

Microscopic tests of a soldered connector joint on the TransAsia Airways Corp. plane engine showed potential cracking, and the connector failed post-crash tests, the Aviation Safety Council said in a report today.

That failure is at the heart of why the ATR72 twin-propeller plane incorrectly sounded a cockpit warning and an engine adjustment known as autofeather. That set in motion a series of pilot errors that eventually crashed the aircraft into a downtown Taipei river Feb. 4.

The autofeather made the engine ineffective. Pilot error then played a big part: they shut down the other engine, wrongly thinking it was the affected one.

How do you design faults like those out of a system? First the machines screw up, then the humans.