Start up: Trump’s casino flop, Micromax hits a bump, Samsung’s warning, the prime conspiracy and more

Google’s Deepmind systems are used to recognise handwriting in images. Photo by invisible monsters on Flickr.

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

Here’s how Donald Trump treats the little people » Mother Jones

Kevin Drum on the publicly listed Trump casino-controlling company in the 1990s:

»Trump’s fans were conned into buying up his debt-laden properties and turning them into a public company. Trump, who plainly had no interest in running a casino and had demonstrated no corporate management skills during the prior decade, paid himself millions of dollars from the company’s coffers for doing essentially nothing. He then unloaded his third casino onto the public company at an inflated price.

The public company didn’t show a profit during a single year of its existence. In 2004 the stock was delisted and the company forced into Chapter 11 reorganization. It was renamed Trump Entertainment Resorts, but with Trump still at the helm it continued to pile up losses and amassed debts of nearly $2bn. In 2008, after missing a $53m bond payment, it declared bankruptcy yet again and Trump resigned as the company’s chairman. Its investors lost all their money.

In case you’re curious, this is how Trump treats the little people.

«

Just so you can’t say you weren’t warned. Would a President Trump be as corrupt as Berlusconi? Odds seem strong.
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Google DeepMind: What is it, how it works and should you be scared? » Techworld

Sam Shead interview with Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Deepmind, who explains where the systems are used inside Google:

»We use it to identify text on shopfronts and maybe alert people to a discount that’s available in a particular shop or what the menu says in a given restaurant. We do that with an extremely high level of accuracy today. It’s being used in Local Search and elsewhere across the company.

We also use the same core system across Google for speech recognition. It trains roughly in less than 5 days. In 2012 it delivered a 30 percent reduction in error rate against the existing old school system. This was the biggest single improvement in speech recognition in 20 years, again using the same very general deep learning system across all of these.

Across Google we use what we call Tool AI or Deep Learning Networks for fraud detection, spam detection, hand writing recognition, image search, speech recognition, Street View detection, translation.

Sixty handcrafted rule-based systems have now been replaced with deep learning based networks. This gives you a sense of the kind of generality, flexibility and adaptiveness of the kind of advances that have been made across the field and why Google was interested in DeepMind.

«

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Letter to shareholders » Samsung Investor Relations

Oh-Hyun Kwon, CEO of Samsung Electronics:

»In 2016, the overall global economy may slow down, and uncertainties such as financial risks in emerging markets are expected to increase. The IT industry will change in an unprecedented speed, and competitions will intensify further.

We expect core products of our company, such as smartphone, TV, and memory, will face oversupply issues and intensified price competition. Our competitors will follow close behind our leading position in the global IT industry with aggressive investments and innovations. Moreover, innovative business models such as O2O (Online to Offline) and sharing economy are undermining the importance of hardware, which is our strength, and shifting the core competitiveness to software platform.

To cope with these changes in the business environment, we will continue to implement groundbreaking changes and innovations, and strive to secure differentiated competitiveness.

«

“Oversupply issues” probably doesn’t apply to the smartphones, but the price competition will. And there’s no explanation of how it’s going to cope exactly with that shift to software-based competition.
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Privacy absolutism » AVC

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson:

»I do not think that because we now have the technology to lock things down (strong encryption) and because the industry that develops and maintains all of this technology has a strong libertarian bent that we should just abandon the framework that has worked in our society for hundreds of years. If society thinks someone is doing something wrong, and if law enforcement can get a warrant, there should be a mechanism to get access to our devices.

I would love to see the tech sector work to figure out a smart way to address this issue. My partner Albert has suggested an approach on his blog. There are some interesting approaches that are already being used in cold storage of bitcoin that could be applied to this situation.

But my meta point here is that I am saddened by the tech sector’s absolutist approach to this issue. The more interesting and fruitful approach would be to think about the most elegant solutions and build them.

«

The linked suggestion by his partner is this:

»I would posit that each device should ship with an *individual* key that is created by the manufacturer specifically for the purpose of unlocking the device. The key should then be stored in a way where it can be requested by law enforcement (either by the manufacturer or a third party that specializes in compliance for this). The process for such a request should run via the judiciary and mirror that for a warrant.

«

It’s also known as “key escrow” and was part of the “Clipper chip” idea which was proposed by the Clinton administration in the 1990s and comprehensively shown to be a bad idea by Matt Blaze (who is still around, on Twitter and elsewhere).

Wilson is the one who was previously stunned by Apple not making iMessage cross-platform, despite the fact that it is demonstrably valuable as an iOS exclusive. I’m approaching the point where I learn what Wilson’s view is on something, and then assume the opposite is what will happen.
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Microsoft stops taking Bitcoin for Microsoft Store payments » Digital Trends

Trevor Mogg:

»Much was made of Microsoft’s move two years ago to start accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment for purchasing content from its online store.

The situation has, however, quietly changed, as the computer giant has recently added a note to its website revealing it’s no longer accepting the cryptocurrency in the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 devices.

“You can no longer redeem Bitcoin into your Microsoft account,” the message says, though adds that existing balances in user accounts “will still be available for purchases from Microsoft Store, but can’t be refunded.” So to be clear, any funds in your account now are good to use, but forget trying to make any new deposits into your account using Bitcoin.

«

Microsoft accepted Bitcoin? For Windows apps? Doubt that troubled the blockchain very much.
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India’s Micromax, once a rising star, struggles » Reuters

Himank Sharma:

»A year ago, Micromax vaulted past Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to become India’s leading smartphone brand. Today, its market share has nearly halved, several top executives have resigned, and the company is looking for growth outside India.

In Micromax’s slide to second place is a tale of the promise and peril of India’s booming but hyper-competitive smartphone industry.

India is the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market. Shipments of smartphones jumped 29% to 103m units last year.

Rapid growth has helped nurture a crop of local brands, led by Micromax, that outsourced production to Chinese manufacturers. Now, as Samsung rolls out more affordable phones, the same Chinese factories are entering the Indian market with their own brands, depressing prices and forcing Indian mobile makers to rethink their strategies.

“What the Indian brands did to the global brands two years ago, Chinese phone makers are doing the same to Indian brands now, and over the next year we see tremendous competition for Micromax and other Indian smartphone makers,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research in New Delhi…

…Last May, Alibaba walked away from a mooted $1.2bn purchase of a 20% stake, citing a lack of clarity on growth plans, according to one executive involved in the discussion. Micromax co-founder Vikas Jain said in an interview with Reuters this week that the company and Alibaba disagreed on a future roadmap.

«

The smartphone business’s evolution has been like the PC business’s evolution speeded up; India’s is like the smartphone one, speeded up again.
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Here’s what a knockoff Apple Watch looks like » Daily Dot

Mike Wehner, way back in April 2015:

»The story of how I came to own this forgery isn’t particularly remarkable: In early March, just as the hype around Apple’s new wearable was reaching a fever pitch, I found a Taiwanese seller who claimed to be selling the Apple Watch for immediate shipment. There was no size option or “collection” to choose from, just four colors, so I selected one and placed an order. It cost me the equivalent of roughly $53, and while I knew the watch that eventually arrived wouldn’t be anything impressive, I was nonetheless curious about just how bad it would be. Now I know.

«

Pretty dire. Wonder if they’re any better now?
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Music piracy hasn’t gone, it has merely changed its spots » MIDiA Research

Mark Mulligan:

»P2P piracy was tailor made for the 2000’s when:

• Home internet connections were slow
• Most content consumption was desk top based
• People still liked owning music

Now in the streaming era all three of those market dynamics have lessened massively. So little wonder then that piracy technology has evolved to meet the needs of the streaming consumer.

With YouTube the number one digital music destination, and with a catalogue that no other music service will ever be able to match, it makes complete sense that YouTube rippers have emerged as one of the key strands of music piracy tech. Many of which transform YouTube into a fully offline, on demand, ad free, high quality music service.

«

And that’s why the music labels tend to hate YouTube.
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GMG’s David Pemsel: Membership will make up a third of the Guardian’s revenue within three years » The Media Briefing

Chris Sutcliffe:

»The Guardian has not been agile enough to respond to the challenges faced by the publishing industry over the past few years, according to Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel.

Speaking at Digital Media Strategies 2016, Pemsel said that an overly narrow focus on the “big number” of its global audience masked some of the strategic issues that the Guardian was facing:

»

“I think all those big numbers are a proof point about how fast and innovative we’ve been in getting to digital [but] monetising anonymous reach is essentially over.

“To be able to parade around and say ‘we’re big’ is not good enough. We want to convert our anonymous reach into a known audience.”

«

That conversion of its unknown audience to a known one is a “massive opportunity”, based around a refinement and reinvention of The Guardian’s membership scheme, which Pemsel believes could make up one third of the Guardian’s overall revenue within three years.

«

The point about “monetising anonymous reach is essentially over” is a key one. Pemsel is saying that online advertising in itself isn’t enough to fund the Guardian – which ought to worry everyone else.
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Mathematicians discover prime conspiracy » Quanta Magazine

Erica Klarreich:

»Two mathematicians have uncovered a simple, previously unnoticed property of prime numbers — those numbers that are divisible only by 1 and themselves. Prime numbers, it seems, have decided preferences about the final digits of the primes that immediately follow them.

Among the first billion prime numbers, for instance, a prime ending in 9 is almost 65 percent more likely to be followed by a prime ending in 1 than another prime ending in 9. In a paper posted online on Sunday, Kannan Soundararajan and Robert Lemke Oliver of Stanford University present both numerical and theoretical evidence that prime numbers repel other would-be primes that end in the same digit, and have varied predilections for being followed by primes ending in the other possible final digits.

“We’ve been studying primes for a long time, and no one spotted this before,” said Andrew Granville, a number theorist at the University of Montreal and University College London. “It’s crazy.”

«

My first objection on reading those paragraphs was “they should do it in a different number base than decimal”. Then it turns out that they started in a different number base (3) and worked out from there. So yes, this is a spooky property.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Samsung’s adblocker’s back, cement – solved!, #error53 redux, the Useless Hackathon, and more

Your plumber remembers one version of a call from Yelp, but the recordings show another. Who’s right? Photo by eldeeem on Flickr.

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

Pirate group suspends new cracks to measure impact on sales » TorrentFreak

“Andy”:

One of the hottest topics in the game piracy scene in late 2015 surrounded the Avalanche Studios/Square Enix title Just Cause 3.

Released on December 1, 2015, pirates were eager to get their hands on the game for free. However, JC3 is protected by the latest iteration of Denuvo, an anti-tamper technology developed by Denuvo Software Solutions GmbH. Denuvo is not DRM per se, but acts as a secondary encryption system protecting underlying DRM products.

All eyes had been on notorious Chinese game cracking group/forum 3DM to come up with the goods but last month the group delivered a killer blow to its fans.

According to the leader of the group, the very public ‘Bird Sister’ (also known as Phoenix), the game was proving extremely difficult to crack. In fact, Bird Sister said that current anti-piracy technology is becoming so good that in two years there might not be pirated games anymore.

And now the group isn’t going to crack any single-player games. Won’t stop all the other cracking groups, of course.
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Sky Q now available in the UK » Ars Technica UK

Sebastian Anthony:

Sky Q, the next iteration of Sky’s subscription TV service, is now available to buy in the UK. Prices start at £42 per month, climbing to £88.50 per month, and there’s a £250 setup fee that you have to swallow as well.

The headline feature of Sky Q is that you’re able to record three shows simultaneously while watching a fourth channel. If you stump up £54 per month for the upgraded Sky Q Silver box, you can record four channels and watch a fifth. Of course, whether there are actually five channels worth watching is a slightly more complicated question.

Other interesting features include a new touchpad-equipped remote control, downloading content for offline viewing, watching Sky TV on a tablet, and the possibility of streaming Sky TV to other rooms in the house via Sky Q Mini boxes.

Sky Q is a really smart response by Sky to the incursion of the web into TV; it folds it in (at a price). I’ve seen a demo, and it really is very slick, and the integration into tablet apps is terrific. Plus because it uses the satellite signal it’s fast – a big advantage in rural areas where broadband is slow.

(Here’s a piece I wrote on Sky Q before its details were fully known.)
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Google restores ad blocker for Samsung browser to the Play Store » The Verge

Dan Seifert:

Following a little bit of drama last week, Google has restored an ad blocking plugin for Samsung’s Android browser to the Play Store today, according to a blog post from the developer of the app. The plugin, Adblock Fast, was removed from the Play Store last Tuesday after only being available for a day, with Google citing that the plugin violated a section of the Store’s developer agreements. The specific rule that was violated relates to plugins modifying other third-party applications, which is prohibited by Google.

Now things start to get interesting.
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How WIRED is going to handle adblocking » WIRED

“Wired Staff”:

So, in the coming weeks, we will restrict access to articles on WIRED.com if you are using an ad blocker. There will be two easy options to access that content.

You can simply add WIRED.com to your ad blocker’s whitelist, so you view ads. When you do, we will keep the ads as “polite” as we can, and you will only see standard display advertising.
You can subscribe to a brand-new Ad-Free version of WIRED.com. For $1 a week, you will get complete access to our content, with no display advertising or ad tracking.

This presumes that adblocking readers will accept that they are worth $1/week to Wired, and that Wired is worth the same amount to adblocking readers. Is that proven? Given how small the amounts earned from ads per person are, this seems to be herding people who don’t know their true value towards a funnel. Premium ad display costs $10 per CPM – that is, per thousand showings. That’s 1c per premium ad you view. Multiply by the number of ads on a page – perhaps 10, for 10c? So if adblocking readers pay up but view fewer than 10 articles per week, Wired is making a solid profit from them, minus credit card costs.

Discussion on Hacker News suggests that people would rather go for a “bid to show me ads” model – which, to be fair, is how Google Contribute works. If you set your per-page view at, say, $0.35, then you’ll only see ads where an advertiser has bidded more. But of course that means you get all the tracking malarkey that goes with it (and of course if you truly don’t like tracking, why are you using Google?)

And as is also pointed out, you can subscribe to the physical magazine for a lot less than the $50 per year this implies – in fact you can get it for about a tenth of that.

Another point, finally – the page is 3.3MB, of which only half is content. The rest is ads. Still sure you want them?
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Exclusive: Top cybercrime ring disrupted as authorities raid Moscow offices – sources » Reuters

Joseph Menn:

Russian authorities in November raided offices associated with a Moscow film distribution and production company as part of a crackdown on one of the world’s most notorious financial hacking operations, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.

Cybersecurity experts said a password-stealing software program known as Dyre — believed to be responsible for at least tens of millions of dollars in losses at financial institutions including Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co — has not been deployed since the time of the raid. Experts familiar with the situation said the case represents Russia’s biggest effort to date to crack down on cyber-crime.

A spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry’s cybercrime unit said his department was not involved in the case. The FSB, Russia’s main intelligence service, said it had no immediate comment.

Menn is a terrific journalist on this topic. I highly recommend his book Fatal System Error. (He’s written others too.)(Thanks Richard Burte for the pointer.)
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Inside the Stupid Shit No One Needs & Terrible Ideas Hackathon » Motherboard

Cecilia D’Anastasio:

Featuring hacks like 3Cheese Printer, a 3D printer using Cheez-Whiz as ink, and NonAd Block, a Chrome extension that blocks all non-ad content, the New York-based Stupid Hackathon is disrupting hackathon culture. While other hackathons churn out useless projects in earnest, the Stupid Hackathon strips pretension away from tech developers’ money-backed scramble to satisfy every human need. Satirizing the hackathon community’s naive goals for techno-utopianism, co-organizers Sam Lavigne and Amelia Winger-Bearskin solicit projects that use tech to critique tech culture.

“Is a need being filled or is the need manufactured and then constantly reinforced?” Lavigne asked. “The Stupid Hackathon is the perfect framework for satirizing the whole tech community.”

Three Stupid Hackathon teams set out to create wearables that detect boners. Categories for hacks included “edible electronics,” “commodities to end climate change” and “Ayn Rand.” Participants, in general, ignored them.

Lavigne and Winger-Bearskin, who met at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU, became disenchanted with hackathons when they noticed that many aimed to “hack” world hunger or income inequality in one weekend. As a student at ITP, Winger-Bearskin, now director of the DBRS Innovation Lab, applied to participate in a hackathon on the theme of love hosted at ITP but was rejected.

“I couldn’t even eat the food that was on the table next to me,” she said, referring to the free food often provided for hackathon participants. “And I couldn’t hack about love!” Lavigne has never attended another hackathon.

There used to be an Apple Mac hacking contest – called MacHack – in the 1990s where hacks that could actually be thought helpful were derided as “useful!”. Seems the idea is back, in a bigger way.
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Riddle of cement’s structure is finally solved » MIT News

Concrete forms through the solidification of a mixture of water, gravel, sand, and cement powder. Is the resulting glue material (known as cement hydrate, CSH) a continuous solid, like metal or stone, or is it an aggregate of small particles?

As basic as that question is, it had never been definitively answered. In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers at MIT, Georgetown University, and France’s CNRS (together with other universities in the U.S., France, and U.K.) say they have solved that riddle and identified key factors in the structure of CSH that could help researchers work out better formulations for producing more durable concrete.

What a time to be alive, eh? That solid/particle question had been bugging me for ages. Seriously, though, it’s an important topic: this stuff is everywhere.
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Apple are right and wrong » Consult Hyperion

Dave Birch:

Bricking people’s phones when they detect an “incorrect” touch ID device in the phone is the wrong response though. All Apple has done is make people like me wonder if they should really stick with Apple for their next phone because I do not want to run the risk of my phone being rendered useless because I drop it when I’m on holiday need to get it fixed right away by someone who is not some sort of official repairer.

What Apple should have done is to flag the problem to the parties who are relying on the risk analysis (including themselves). These are the people who need to know if there is a potential change in the vulnerability model. So, for example, it would seem to me to be entirely reasonable in the circumstances to flag the Simple app and tell it that the integrity of the touch ID system can no longer be guaranteed and then let the Simple app make its own choice as to whether to continue using touch ID (which I find very convenient) or make me type in my PIN, or use some other kind of strong authentication, instead. Apple’s own software could also pick up the flag and stop using touch ID. After all… so what?

Touch ID, remember, isn’t a security technology. It’s a convenience technology. If Apple software decides that it won’t use Touch ID because it may have been compromised, that’s fine. I can live with entering my PIN instead of using my thumbprint. The same is true for all other applications. I don’t see why apps can’t make their own decision.

Birch’s point that this could put people off buying Apple phones is surely one that has already occurred to its management, and will be – like the prospect of being shot in the morning – concentrating their minds.
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Reviews Rashomon: plumber remembers Yelp threat that never actually occurred » Screenwerk

Greg Sterling:

I had a plumber replace my kitchen faucet. As I do with all service professionals I engaged him in discussion about how he marketed himself and where his leads were coming from. Yelp was one of the primary sources.

He then told me that he had been solicited to advertise on the site and that he declined but was told by the telephone sales rep that his reviews could potentially be affected if he didn’t. This was the first time I’d directly heard this from a business owner.

In my mind this was the first real “evidence” that some sort of sales manipulation might be going on. I informed Yelp of my exchange with the plumber and it was immediately disputed: “That didn’t happen,” I was told.

To make a longer story short, Yelp invited me in to listen to the sales calls with this plumber, whom I identified to the company. Yelp records its end of sales calls but not the business owner’s conversation.

I sat in Yelps offices and listened to what must have been 25 – 30 calls to this plumber. Most of them were trying to set up appointments to discuss Yelp advertising. And there were at least two Yelp sales reps who were trying to close the account; a second one took over after the first one was unsuccessful.

There was nothing that sounded like a threat or any suggestion that reviews would be removed or otherwise altered by Yelp if the guy didn’t advertise. There wasn’t anything that could be construed as even implying that.

Sterling concludes that this is a “Rashomon” – a scene where every recounting differs subtly. One possibility: the calls with the threats actually come from scammers. Or plumbers just misinterpret what they hear.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: Yesterday’s link to VTech’s horrendous security came via Chris Ratcliff. Thanks, Chris.

Start up: the open data economy, Samsung sued on software updates, Google v Isis, deaf developing, and more

Zano drone: hardly any were built

Zano’s much-promised drone turned out to be a flop, not a flyer. Photo: Torquing Industries.

Hell, you might as well sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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

The economic impact of open data: what do we already know? » Medium

Jeni Tennison and Jack Hardinges of the Open Data Institute:

Open data fuels economic growth. Many believe in the theory and ask for the proof. A new report by Nesta and the ODI adds to the evidence of the impact of open data. The report’s analysis, undertaken by PwC, examines the effects of the Open Data Challenge Series (ODCS) and predicts the programme will result in a potential 10x return (£10 for every £1 invested over three years), generating up to £10.8m for the UK economy.

Seems amazing that ten years ago I was having to fight government departments tooth and nail to persuade them that releasing open data could have an economic benefit.
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‘Hateful Eight’ producer on piracy: “Aspirin ain’t curing the plague” » Hollywood Reporter

Richard Gladstein, producer of Hateful Eight:

the “Fair Use” provision and debate has also proven to be an extremely useful tool for those looking to distract from or ignore the real copyright infringement issue: piracy.

Such distractions include Google’s recent announcement that they will be offering legal support to “a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns.” Fred von Lohmann, legal director of copyright at Google, noted in a recent post on Google’s Public Policy blog: “More than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.” As the third most visited site on the web, YouTube occupies an important place in the discussion of online copyright infringement.

The criteria and definition of what constitutes fair use is a long-cherished and worthy debate. In fact, I agree with Mr. von Lohmann when he says, “Some of those uploads make use of existing content, like music or TV clips, in new and transformative ways that have social value beyond the original.”

However, it should be noted that the search behemoth won’t be defending every takedown notice, but said they will select a “small number of videos” they believe “will make a positive impact.” Would you care to guess how many videos they’ve selected? Turns out, it’s four. Jonathan Bailey at Plagiarism Today points out, “That’s 0.0000005% of all users.”

As Stephen Carlisle, Copyright Officer of Nova Southeastern University, describes it:

“The new policy is really nothing more than a publicity stunt, designed to encourage more people to upload to YouTube videos of dubious legality, while at the same time acting as an intimidation tactic to discourage the filing of valid takedown notices.”

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Being a deaf developer » Cruft

Hollie Kay:

I’ve been deaf since infancy. It is not profound; my hearing loss is described as moderate to severe and is mostly problematic at higher frequency ranges, the range at which most human speech happens. I rely on lip-reading and identifying vowel patterns to understand spoken language. Particular struggles are:

• recognising consonants, especially sibilants and unvoiced consonants (all consonants are high frequency sounds, and the unvoiced and sibilant consonants don’t activate the vocal chords)
• the beginning of sentences
• the end of sentences

Some deaf people successfully become programmers. It’s mostly thought-based, often solitary work, where all your output is written down. Specifications and bugs come to you (in an ideal world, at least) on paper and in ticketing systems instead of through other people’s noiseholes. Some areas aren’t quite so fabulous (I’m looking at you, interminable conference call meetings involving 15 people sitting in a circle around a gigantic table), but adjustments are always possible.

The stereotype of a programmer as a solitary eccentric who’s allergic to human company is unfair and inaccurate. As a group, we’re a very social bunch.

The Tim Berners-Lee quote about accessibility further down in the article is worth bearing in mind.
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Vladimir Putin’s internet adviser owns a torrent site » TorrentFreak

“Andy”:

Last week Putin signed a decree that officially enlisted [Herman] Klimenko and it didn’t take long for him to address the issue of Internet piracy. However, instead of tough talk, Klimenko criticized web-blocking and suggested that copyright holders should wait for a better economic situation before “terrorizing” on the issue of piracy.

“Consumption of copyright content increases with economic growth, and when the situation is very serious, I think people do not have to unnecessarily terrorize these issues,” Putin’s adviser said.

“Pushing hard now on this topic, I think, is not worth it. When the economy improves, you should return to this issue.”

While Klimenko’s comments at least in part sound reasonable, copyright holders would’ve been disappointed by his lack of support. What they will be even more disappointed over is the allegations now surfacing about Klimenko’s links to online piracy.

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How Zano raised millions on Kickstarter and left most backers with nothing » Medium

Mark Harris:

bumps in the road kept popping up. In late May, Crowther posted that some of Zano’s plastic parts had been delayed due to a tooling issue. The decision not pursue a pilot build was coming back to bite Torquing. Additions that Reedman made to his initial design, and the fact that some of the plastics supplied were heavier than expected, had ballooned Zano’s weight from 55g as a prototype to 70g in pre-production. With the original propellers, the Zano could now fly for only a couple of minutes between charges — a far cry from the 15 minutes that Reedman had promised.

A bigger battery could increase flight time, and Reedman told me he was trying to boost the battery size from 750 mAh (milliampere hours, a measurement of discharge capacity over time) to 1,000 or 1,100 mAh before he left Zano. A review of comparable batteries designed for drones (from makers and third-party replacements) finds even custom-fit modules would weigh at least 30g for 1,000 mAh, seemingly impractical without further design changes.

His solution at the time was to send back the original propellers for larger ones. However, says Reedman, “As far as [the Chinese supplier] was concerned, the propellers did work so therefore are not faulty and would not accept returns.” Torquing was left having paid for tens of thousands of propellers it could not use.

Harris is a terrific journalist (he’s done sterling work on Google’s self-driving car problems) who was commissioned by Kickstarter itself to dig into what happened to the biggest-ever Kickstarter funding and flop. Earlier, he doesn’t say the promo video was faked, but if anyone could explain how it was not faked, I’m all ears. (I was a Zano backer. Win some, lose some.)

The key lesson seems to be: cap the amount you’ll allow to be raised, especially for complex devices. But there are lots of other lessons too.
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Google: ISIS must be ‘contained to the dark web’ » Wired UK

Matt Burgess, reporting on a talk called “Waging a Digital Counterinsurgency”:

[Jared] Cohen, who heads up the Google department that is building products to help against oppression, said the “echo chamber” created by hordes of fake social media accounts “shouldn’t be neglected. He said: “The reality is what Isis is doing with technology ranges from communication to spamming, to all sorts of tactics that you’re probably more familiar with fraud and spam and various scams you’ve received in your inbox.”

“To me Isis is not a tech savvy organisation.”

One possible tactic, according Yasmin Green, also of Google Ideas, is to show targeted advertising to those who have been identified as looking at the propaganda.

Green said adverts may be able to “connect, distract, disrupt, and maybe sell a different product” to those with fighting for Isis in their eyes. The approach is also one that has been endorsed by the British government with internet minister Baroness Shields saying tech companies can do more to promote anti-extremist messages on their services.

If Cohen thinks Isis isn’t tech-savvy, then how has it got so much social media going on that a “digital counterinsurgency” is needed? And a solution consisting of targeted advertising? This is truly seeing nails everywhere because your toolbox only contains a hammer. In a few years, will Cohen be suggesting self-driving tanks to fight the war?
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Samsung sued by consumer watchdog for failing to update its phones » AndroidAuthority

Bogdan Petrovan:

Consumentenbond, an influential non-profit organization looking after the interests of consumers in the Netherlands, is taking Samsung to court over its failure to provide [software] updates in a timely manner.

In a press release (PDF, English language), the group says it reached out to Samsung on December 2, but in the absence of a proper response, it “issued injunctive relief proceedings against” the Korean giant.

Consumentenbond considers Samsung is guilty of unfair trade practices, as consumers are not informed upon purchase how long they will receive software updates. The group demands “clear and unambiguous information” on updates and security patches, and wants Samsung to actually release updates for at least two years from the date of purchase.

Consumentenbond says 82% of the Samsung phones it checked were not updated within two years of their introduction. All manufacturers should be held to this high standard, according to the consumer watchdog, which noted that Samsung is the “undisputed leader” of the Dutch phone market.

This last demand seems rather hard to put in practice. Consumentenbond wants Samsung to support every device it sells for two years, regardless of how old it is. In practice, that would force Samsung to ensure updates for four years or even more.

And this would be bad because..? Definitely a lawsuit to watch, especially if other consumer organisations take up the same cause around Europe.
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HTC denies plans to spin off VR business unit » Digitimes

Wei-Yan Lin and Steve Shen:

HTC has denied a media report indicating that it plans to spin off its virtual reality (VR) business unit to form an independent company in a bid to boost its VR business. The company said it will continue to dedicate resources to the development of VR products to create maximum value for its shareholders.

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When Will We See A New Apple Watch? » TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino:

Several things that I’ve heard (from several sources) indicate to me that we won’t see a major new hardware model of the Apple Watch in March. Design partnerships, accessories, that kind of thing maybe but not a “Watch 2.0” with a bunch of new hardware features. I could be wrong, of course, but I’ve heard enough to put it out there.

I’ve now heard a bit more that suggests that Apple might ship a minor revision of the Apple Watch that includes a FaceTime camera and not much else — but still that it would not be a full “Watch 2.0” with casing changes and major improvements. Still no word on timing but that could explain the reports of a camera have been showing up. Like I said, tea leaves!

I spoke to Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin, who says that supply chain checks are showing no movement that would indicate a new Watch model in production as of yet.

Which makes it sound like June (WWDC) at the earliest, September more likely. That would give time for the technology to improve enough to make it an obvious replacement for those who want an upgrade, and a more attractive product for those who wavered.
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‘No layoffs … this week’: Marissa Mayer’s twisted joke kills morale » New York Post

James Covert and Claire Atkinson:

“She said there are going to be no layoffs ‘this week,’ and many of the employees laughed at her,” said one insider, who, fearing retribution, asked not to be named.

“This is the reason employee morale is so low,” the insider added, noting that most workers took the scary remark as twisted confirmation that Yahoo!’s embattled chief executive is sharpening the ax.

Mayer, who returned to her duties at the struggling Internet pioneer just a few weeks after giving birth to twins on Dec. 10, made the less-than-reassuring comment in response to a question at an internal “Friday FYI” meeting on Jan. 8, sources said.

Word of the gaffe has been “spreading like wildfire” through Silicon Valley, another insider said, calling it the latest example of a chronically tone-deaf CEO in a crisis.

Nothing is going right for Mayer with Yahoo. Nothing at all, anywhere. But then, when did it last go right for Yahoo in anything? 2005?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: the Foodpanda takeaway scam, watch iOS 9 grow!, 2 billion lines of Google, and more


“Hi! You look like you want an (artificially) intelligent conversation!” Photo by RomitaGirl67 on Flickr.

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

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

Mixpanel Trends » Mixpanel Mobile Analytics

The link is to the iOS 9 adoption curve from Mixpanel; it’s live, so when you click through it’ll be the latest figures. At the time of writing, three hours after iOS 9 went live, its adoption was at 3.2%, against 7.2% for “older than iOS 8” and 89.6% for iOS 8. (Apple’s own stats on September 14 were 87% iOS 8, 11% iOS 7, 2% earlier.)
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The trouble with Foodpanda » Livemint

Ashish Mishra with a terrific tale of a much-funded startup which didn’t quite figure out that not everyone is honest:

Let’s say you are a restaurant. Now, place 10 orders using 10 names or even the same name, each for Rs.300. Every order is a takeaway. Pay online using the BOGO voucher, a campaign (Buy One Get One) run by Foodpanda. So for Rs.300, get Rs.300 free. So for a Rs.600 order, you paid only Rs.300. How much does Foodpanda have to return to you, the restaurant? Rs.600. After deducting 12% as its cut, Rs.528. How much did you make in the process? Rs.228 . Did you have to deliver that order? Nope. So, a straight profit of Rs.228.

Now, let’s say you processed 100 such orders a day. For a month. Total investment: Rs.9 lakh. Reimbursed by Foodpanda: Rs.15.84 lakh. Your total gain, by just processing fake orders: Rs.6.84 lakh.

Now imagine you are not the only restaurant on the platform doing this.

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Issue 178139 – android – Android full lockscreen bypass – 5.1.1 PoC » Android Open Source Project

John Gordon at the University of Texas at Austin:

Android 5.1.1 Lockscreen Bypass
—–
Summary: Unlock a locked device to access the homescreen, run arbitrary applications, and enable full adb access to the device. This includes access to encrypted user data on encrypted devices.
Prerequisites: Must have a password lockscreen enabled. (PIN / swipe untested)
Hardware: Nexus 4
Software: Google factory image – occam 5.1.1 (LMY47V)

Attack details:
Pasting a sufficiently large string into an input field will cause portions of the lockscreen to become unresponsive and allow the user to terminate those processes. An attacker can construct a large string by typing characters into the Emergency Dialer, then select all + copy + paste repeatedly to increase the string size exponentially. Once the string has been pasted, either into the Emergency Dialer or the lockscreen password prompt, attempting to type more characters or performing other intaractions quickly and repeatedly causes the process to become overloaded and crash, or produce a dialog allowing the user to kill the process. If done in a password prompt in the foreground of the camera application, this crash results in the homescreen or Settings applcation being exposed.

PIN/swipe is untested, rather than safe (as far as we can see). This seems to be pretty hard to do – the video is 18 minutes long, involving lots of copy/pasting. It’s not really a giant flaw like Stagefright; and Apple has had some egregious lockscreen bypasses in the past. (Though none in iOS 8 that I’ve seen.) The problem though is that this doesn’t help Android’s reputation among businesses considering whether to buy it. It’s not the exploit; it’s the suggestion of vulnerability.
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Popping the publishing bubble » Stratechery

Ben Thompson, in his weekly “free to view” article, says that iOS 9’s adblockers are just going to finish what was already happening:

It is easy to feel sorry for publishers: before the Internet most were swimming in money, and for the first few years online it looked like online publications with lower costs of production would be profitable as well. The problem, though, was the assumption that advertising money would always be there, resulting in a “build it and they will come” mentality that focused almost exclusively on content product and far too little on sustainable business models.

In fact, publishers going forward need to have the exact opposite attitude of publishers in the past: instead of focusing on journalism and getting the business model for free, publishers need to start with a sustainable business model and focus on journalism that works hand-in-hand with the business model they have chosen. First and foremost that means publishers need to answer the most fundamental question required of any enterprise: are they a niche or scale business?

• Niche businesses make money by maximizing revenue per user on a (relatively) small user base
• Scale businesses make money by maximizing the number of users they reach
The truth is most publications are trying to do a little bit of everything: gain more revenue per user here, reach more users over there.

Worth it for the illustrations. You should subscribe so he can afford an iPad Pro and a stylus.
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Google is 2 billion lines of code — and it’s all in one place » WIRED

Cade Metz:

Google has built its own “version control system” for juggling all this code. The system is called Piper, and it runs across the vast online infrastructure Google has built to run all its online services. According to [Google’s head of… big stuff? Rachel] Potvin, the system spans 10 different Google data centers.

It’s not just that all 2 billion lines of code sit inside a single system available to just about every engineer inside the company. It’s that this system gives Google engineers an unusual freedom to use and combine code from across myriad projects. “When you start a new project,” Potvin tells WIRED, “you have a wealth of libraries already available to you. Almost everything has already been done.” What’s more, engineers can make a single code change and instantly deploy it across all Google services. In updating one thing, they can update everything.

There are limitations this system. Potvin says certain highly sensitive code—stuff akin to the Google’s PageRank search algorithm—resides in separate repositories only available to specific employees. And because they don’t run on the ‘net and are very different things, Google stores code for its two device operating systems — Android and Chrome — on separate version control systems. But for the most part, Google code is a monolith that allows for the free flow of software building blocks, ideas, and solutions.

The point about Android and Chrome being on separate version control systems is one to note. Can’t merge the code until those two come together.
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IPv6 will get a big boost from iOS 9, Facebook says » Computerworld

Stephen Lawson:

Even when all the pieces are in place for IPv6, iOS 8 makes an IPv6 connection only about half the time or less because of the way it treats the new protocol. With iOS 9, and IPv6 connection will happen 99% of the time, Saab predicts. 

IPv4 is running out of unused Internet addresses, while IPv6 is expected to have more than enough for all uses long into the future. Adoption has been slow since its completion in 1998 but is starting to accelerate. The release of iOS 9 may give a big boost to that trend. 

“Immediately, starting on the 16th, I’m expecting to see a lot more v6 traffic show up,” said Samir Vaidya, director of device technology at Verizon Wireless. About 50% of Verizon Wireless traffic uses IPv6, and Vaidya thinks it may be 70% by this time next year as subscribers flock to the iPhone 6s. 

Apple’s change should help drive more IPv6 use on Comcast’s network, too. About 25% of its traffic uses the new protocol now, and that figure could rise above 50% by early next year, said John Brzozowski, Comcast Cable’s chief IPv6 architect. 

This is the point, again and again. Android has the installed base; but iOS adoption is so rapid that it can drive change almost immediately.
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Barbie wants to get to know your child » The New York Times

James Vlahos:

Hello Barbie is by far the most advanced to date in a new generation of A.I. toys whose makers share the aspiration of Geppetto: to persuade children that their toys are alive — or, at any rate, are something more than inanimate. At Ariana’s product-testing session, which took place in May at Mattel’s Imagination Center in El Segundo, Calif., near Los Angeles, Barbie asked her whether she would like to do randomly selected jobs, like being a scuba instructor or a hot-air-balloon pilot. Then they played a goofy chef game, in which Ariana told a mixed-up Barbie which ingredients went with which recipes — pepperoni with the pizza, marshmallows with the s’mores. ‘‘It’s really fun to cook with you,’’ Ariana said.

At one point, Barbie’s voice got serious. ‘‘I was wondering if I could get your advice on something,’’ Barbie asked. The doll explained that she and her friend Teresa had argued and weren’t speaking. ‘‘I really miss her, but I don’t know what to say to her now,’’ Barbie said. ‘‘What should I do?’’

‘‘Say ‘I’m sorry,’ ’’ Ariana replied.

‘‘You’re right. I should apologize,’’ Barbie said. ‘‘I’m not mad anymore. I just want to be friends again.’’

We now return you to our regular scheduled programming of “Philip K Dick short stories brought to life.” Take your pick: War Game, Second Variety or The Days of Perky Pat?
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One great reason to update to iOS 9 – a nasty silent AirDrop attack is in town » Forbes

Australian researcher Mark Dowd, who heads up Azimuth Security, told FORBES ahead of Apple’s iOS 9 release on Wednesday that the flaw allowed anyone within range of an AirDrop user to install malware on a target device and tweak iOS settings so the exploit would still work if the victim rejected an incoming AirDrop file, as seen in the video below.

Users should update to iOS 9 and Mac OS X El Capitan, version 10.11, as soon as possible to avoid losing control of their phones and PCs to malware. Any iOS versions that support AirDrop, from iOS 7 onwards, are affected, as are Mac OS X versions from Yosemite onwards. There are few protections outside of upgrading, other than turning AirDrop off altogether. The service is off by default, though it’s possible to start it running from the lockscreen.

By carrying out what’s known as a “directory traversal attack”, where a hacker enters sections of the operating system they should not be able to access, Dowd found it was possible to exploit AirDrop and then alter configuration files to ensure iOS would accept any software signed with an Apple enterprise certificate. Those certificates are typically used by businesses to install software not hosted in the App Store and are supposed to guarantee trust in the provenance of the application. But, as FORBES found in a recent investigation into the Chinese iPhone jailbreaking industry, they’re often used to bypass Apple security protections.

I dunno, getting AirDrop to work is usually the biggest challenge I face. (The mitigation is pretty easy on any version – turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or turn Airdrop to accept files from Contacts Only or off; this leaves Wi-Fi and Bluetooth untouched.)
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Google taken to court to uncloak ebook pirates » TorrentFreak

Early June, GAU [the Dutch trade organisation representing dozens of book publishers in the Netherlands] reported that Google appeared to be taking steps to prevent rogue sellers from offering illegal content via its Play store. The group also noted that BREIN was attempting to obtain the personal details of the ‘pirate’ seller from Google.

Unsurprisingly that wasn’t a straightforward exercise, with Google refusing to hand over the personal details of its user on a voluntary basis. If BREIN really wanted the seller’s identity it would have to obtain it via a court order. Yesterday the anti-piracy group began the process to do just that.

Appearing before the Court of The Hague, BREIN presented its case, arguing that the rogue seller was not merely a user of Google, but actually a commercial partner of Google Play, a partnership that earned revenue for both parties.

“The case is clear,” BREIN said in a statement.

“There was infringement carried out by an anonymous seller that was actually a commercial ‘partner’ of Google via Google Play. This is how Google refers to sellers in its own terms of use.”

BREIN says that ultimately Google is responsible for the unauthorized distribution and sales carried out via its service.

“There is no right to anonymously sell illegal stuff, not even on Google Play while Google earns money,” the anti-piracy group concludes.

In the UK I think this would be a fairly straightforward “Norwich Pharmacal” case. Wonder if Holland has anything comparable.
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Start up: Apple’s AI hires, Spotify’s smart music, why refugees have smartphones, and more


What’s the motive for downloading the top 40 every week from a torrent site? Completism? Photo by DigitalTribes on Flickr.

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

Exclusive: Apple ups hiring, but faces obstacles to making phones smarter » Reuters

Apple has ramped up its hiring of artificial intelligence experts, recruiting from PhD programs, posting dozens of job listings and greatly increasing the size of its AI staff, a review of hiring sites suggests and numerous sources confirm.

The goal is to challenge Google in an area the Internet search giant has long dominated: smartphone features that give users what they want before they ask.

As part of its push, the company is currently trying to hire at least 86 more employees with expertise in the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, according to a recent analysis of Apple job postings. The company has also stepped up its courtship of machine-learning PhDs, joining Google, Amazon, Facebook and others in a fierce contest, leading academics say.

But some experts say the iPhone maker’s strict stance on privacy is likely to undermine its ability to compete in the rapidly progressing field.

It’s certainly the case that Apple’s privacy stance is, as Sameer Singh says, its “strategy tax” (a strategy tax is an approach to a business area that prevents you exploiting it to the maximum: “Windows everywhere” was Microsoft’s strategy tax that prevented it doing mobile really well, Google’s is the need to collect data). The question is how much you do need that pooled personal information (as opposed to anonymous information) to do this well.
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Field Notice: FN – 63697 – Protective Boot on Certain Network Cables Might Push the Mode Button and Cause an Unexpected Reset on the 48-Port Models of Cisco Catalyst 3650 and 3850 Series Switches » Cisco

“Certain” network cables being “pretty much every Ethernet cable you buy”. Like this:

Design screwups like this deserve their own Tumblr. Of note: the Cisco 3650 was released on October 10 2013; this note is dated October 30 2013. Of course it wasn’t caught in testing, but one suspects that customers discovered this pretty much on day one.
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Inside Spotify and the future of music » Tech Insider

Alex Heath:

Spotify’s progress in sorting its library of 35 million songs can be traced back to The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company that was created within the MIT Media Lab a decade ago. Spotify bought The Echo Nest last March in what was reported to be a $100m deal.

Jim Lucchese, CEO of The Echo Nest, tells Tech Insider that his team of about 70 people are focused on delivering “the right listening experience at the right time” within Spotify.

They do this by analyzing the makeup of every song, how people are talking about music online, and how people are listening to it. While the company continues to work with clients like Rdio, Microsoft, Sirius, and Vevo, as it did before it was sold, its most cutting-edge work is developed and honed for Spotify.

One of The Echo Nest’s first projects for Spotify, reported last September on FiveThirtyEight, was developing dossiers of every user’s listening habits, which are now called “taste profiles.”

Ajay Kalia, who oversees the project, tells us they realized early on that there’s an important distinction between the music you listen to and music you actually like.

For example, just because I play a lot of instrumental, ambient music while I’m at work doesn’t mean that I have a particular affinity for those kinds of artists. And just because your significant other plays a lot of country music while you’re both in the car doesn’t mean you want a bunch of country playlists shoved at you.

This “listen to but not like” has often been the problem about music. This makes it sound as though Echo Nest is human-curated, which it really isn’t.
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Google nears re-entry to mainland China » The Information

Amir Efrati:

As part of its broader China push, Google is expected to offer new incentives to phone makers to upgrade Android phones to the latest versions of the operating system, says one person briefed on its plans. The company wants more phones to run the advanced version of Android so that the software platform and experience can be more consistent for app developers and consumers.

As more Chinese app developers look to extend their apps beyond China’s borders and more non-Chinese app makers try to tap the Chinese market, Google wants to ensure all the apps work well across Android devices globally. Thus, hardware partners that will distribute Android Wear or Google Play in China will need to adhere to certain global compatibility standards, says the person familiar with the plan.

For its app store, Google has promised authorities that it will follow local laws and block apps that the government deems objectionable, say the people familiar with Google’s plans. In some parts of the world and among Internet policy wonks, this move will be viewed as a back-tracking from Google’s posture following its departure from China in 2010. At that time Google ended its engineering operations in China and moved its Chinese-language Web-search engine to a Hong Kong-based Web domain, out of reach of mainland China officials, after being breached from a cyber attack that it linked to the Chinese government.

Authorities denied involvement in the attack, which successfully breached many American companies and is known as Operation Aurora. At the time, though, Google co-founder Sergey Brin publicly compared China to the totalitarian Soviet Union in which he grew up. (Mr. Brin is now part of Alphabet, Google’s soon-to-be parent company, and isn’t involved in Google’s day-to-day affairs.)

Some forces within Google always believed that the company’s and Mr. Brin’s response was rash. It should have viewed the China-based hacking, which occurred in late 2009, as a natural consequence of being a major tech company in an age of increasing cyber attacks by all governments.

A long extract (but it’s a long article). That last paragraph is telling; Eric Schmidt was the pro-China voice, Brin the no-to-China voice, and Larry Page effectively had the casting vote back in 2010. Sundar Pichai clearly leans towards Eric Schmidt’s stance: better to deal than to stand on principle.
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Police raid fails to dent UK Top 40 music piracy » TorrentFreak

Police arrested a Liverpudlian who was a determined uploader of the top 40 releases to torrent sites:

Yet again it appears that the arrest last week was a case of rightsholders and police targeting low-hanging fruit. Using widely available research tools we were able to quickly uncover important names plus associated addresses, both email and physical. It seems likely that he made close to no effort to conceal his identity.

Due to being in the police spotlight it will come as little surprise that there was no weekly upload of the UK’s Top 40 most-popular tracks from OldSkoolScouse last Friday, something which probably disappointed the releaser’s fans. However, any upset would have been very temporary indeed.

As shown below, at least four other releases of exactly the same content were widely available on public torrent sites within hours of the UK chart results being announced last Friday, meaning the impact on availability was almost non-existent.

But who, seriously, actually wants to listen to all the top 40 tracks week after week? It would be pretty numbing even if you worked in the business. I bet this guy barely listened to the music. He, and the downloaders who waited avidly for the songs, strike me as more like stamp collectors: uninterested in what is conveyed, obsessed with completing sets.
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iPhone supply chain makers set to see strong sales in September, say sources » Digitimes

Monica Chen and Steve Shen:

Incoming parts and components orders for the new iPhones are even stronger than orders for the iPhone 6 devices in the corresponding period of a year earlier, indicated the sources, adding that shipments of updated iPhones will once again squeeze sales of other vendors including Samsung Electronics, Sony Mobile Communications and LG Electronics, commented the sources.

Thus, sales of the new iPhones are expected to dominate smartphone sales globally in the fourth quarter of 2015 as current sales of LG Electronics’ G4, HTC’s One M9/M9+ series products and Sony Mobile’s Xperia Z3+ have been lower than expected, indicated the sources.

To lessen the impact of the release of the new iPhones, Samsung has been implementing a “Ultimate Test Drive” program that encourages current iPhone users to pay US$1 to test its Galaxy Note 5 or Galaxy S6 Edge+ for one month.

Good luck with that, Samsung.
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Academic study reveals urban and rural broadband speed gaps » ISPreview UK

Mark Jackson:

The study (‘Two-Speed Britain: Rural Internet Use‘) claims that more than 1 million people in Britain are “excluded or face challenges in engaging in normal online activities because they live in remote rural areas“, where slow or non-existent Internet connectivity is still a serious problem.

The report separated areas into several groups and examined each separately: Deep Rural (remote), Shallow Rural (less remote) and Urban internet users. It reveals that just 5% of those in Urban areas had an average broadband speed below 6.3Mbps, but in Deep Rural areas only 53% could achieve this “modest speed“.

Furthermore the gap is unsurprisingly found to be most pronounced in upland areas of Scotland, Wales and England, but also in many areas in lowland rural Britain. It affects 1.3 million people in deep rural Britain, and 9.2 million people in less remote areas with poor internet connection (or ‘shallow’ rural areas).

The report itself isn’t available for download (yet?) because neither Oxford University nor dot.rural has actually put a usable link up.
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Surprised that Syrian refugees have smartphones? Sorry to break this to you, but you’re an idiot » The Independent

James O’Malley, in somewhat straightforward mood:

So we know that Syria isn’t dirt poor and we know that there’s a lot of mobile phones: but why smartphones? Well, why not? In the West many people own desktop computers, laptops and tablets as well as smartphones. But if you had to give up many of your possessions and live on $1850/year, after clothes and food, what would you buy next? It is hard to think of a more useful thing to own than a smartphone, especially if you’re fleeing your home.

Even when utility isn’t considered, the reason Syrians are using smartphones and not old Nokia 3210s is the same reason that benefits claimants have (gasp!) “flatscreen” TVs… have you tried buying any other kind lately? Budget Android smartphones can be picked up for well under £100, and come with cameras, large screens and everything you would expect from a modern phone. As we’re now in the habit of replacing our phones with a new model every year or two the price of slightly older phones also drops significantly.

The headline certainly falls into the “no mimsy hedging here” bucket.
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Start up: Watch experiences, Samsung gets Edgy, Nexus 7 stops, how CD leakers did it, and more


Remember? Photo by Orin Zebest on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Not golf links, no. They’re different. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

My rocky first 24hrs with the Apple ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ » Medium

Matt Haughey with a ton of really good criticism of the Watch setup for the novice user:

My phone has been downloading dozens of updates of apps made for the watch for weeks, but after getting the watch on my wrist, I realized none of those apps automatically added to the watch, but recent (meaning: as I was setting up the watch) app updates were automatically on the watch like my bank, which I don’t want on my watch. Five minutes later I learned the older apps had to be manually enabled one-by-one. Ugh. Again with the tedium. Additionally, apps asked if I wanted “Glances” enabled too, but in this first half-hour of watch ownership, I didn’t know what “Glances” were yet so I guessed and enabled it on apps I like most. I hope it doesn’t do awful things that I will have to disable one-by-one.

Hope Apple is watching stuff like this closely. As Haughey points out, the problems are also partly to do with third-party devs not having had experience when they wrote their apps and notifications. (The notes by the paragraphs are worth reading, especially those relating to your “Favourites” on the Watch itself.)


How popular will smartwatches be? » Naofumi Kagami

There are plenty of jobs where glancing at a watch is acceptable, but staring into your smartphone isn’t.

You could easily add other jobs where a smartwatch will quickly become a necessity and not just a convenience. For example, doctors working inside hospitals have to respond quickly if one of their patient’s condition suddenly deteriorates. They carry phones with them at all times, but it’s vital that they don’t miss a call. Rather then having a vibration in your pants which can sometimes be hard to notice, it’s much better to have a tap on your wrist.

Similarly, sales reps will also do much better if they quickly respond to emails or phone calls from customers, and so missing calls is not an option. For this very reason, many Japanese employees keep their phones in their shirt pocket and not in their trousers, because it’s much easier to notice a vibration on your chest. This will no longer be an issue if you are wearing a smartwatch.

Also lacking from the discussion is women who often carry their smartphones in their bags and not in their pockets. They don’t want to miss calls or important notifications either…

…This is why I am optimistic about Apple Watch sales, and sales of smartwatch sales in general. I would be very surprised if Android Wear did not start to sell briskly, although it may take a product iteration or two.


The man who broke the music business » The New Yorker

Stephen Witt, with a lovely description of what we all knew – on reflection – must be happening in the music business in the 1990s:

One Saturday in 1994, Bennie Lydell Glover, a temporary employee at the PolyGram compact-disk manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, went to a party at the house of a co-worker. He was angling for a permanent position, and the party was a chance to network with his managers. Late in the evening, the host put on music to get people dancing. Glover, a fixture at clubs in Charlotte, an hour away, had never heard any of the songs before, even though many of them were by artists whose work he enjoyed.

Later, Glover realized that the host had been d.j.’ing with music that had been smuggled out of the plant. He was surprised. Plant policy required all permanent employees to sign a “No Theft Tolerated” agreement. He knew that the plant managers were concerned about leaking, and he’d heard of employees being arrested for embezzling inventory. But at the party, even in front of the supervisors, it seemed clear that the disks had been getting out. In time, Glover became aware of a far-reaching underground trade in pre-release disks. “We’d run them in the plant in the week, and they’d have them in the flea markets on the weekend,” he said. “It was a real leaky plant.”

The motives of the leakers are, to say the least, mixed. (A side note: if you look at the page source, you discover that the New Yorker includes a word count for each paragraph.)


The Oregon Trail generation: life before and after mainstream tech » Social Media Week

Anna Garvey:

We’re an enigma, those of us born at the tail end of the 70s and the start of the 80s. Some of the “generational” experts lazily glob us on to Generation X, and others just shove us over to the Millennials they love to hate – no one really gets us or knows where we belong.

We’ve been called Generation Catalano, Xennials, and The Lucky Ones, but no name has really stuck for this strange micro-generation that has both a healthy portion of Gen X grunge cynicism, and a dash of the unbridled optimism of Millennials.

A big part of what makes us the square peg in the round hole of named generations is our strange relationship with technology and the internet.  We came of age just as the very essence of communication was experiencing a seismic shift, and it’s given us a unique perspective that’s half analog old school and half digital new school.

Resonate with you? Read it.


Say goodbye to the Nexus 7 as Google pulls listing from store page » TalkAndroid.com

Jared Peters:

After releasing the Nexus 9 and not even mentioning the possibility of a refreshed 7in tablet, though, most of us could see the writing on the wall about the Nexus 7’s fate. Today, it’s finally happened, as Google no longer offers the Nexus 7 on their online store. Finding a listing for the Nexus 7 specifically says that it’s no longer for sale.

Google’s Nexus program has changed over the past couple of years, moving away from extremely affordable devices to more high-end devices that offer a flagship caliber experience without sacrificing development options and quick updates. Unfortunately, that move comes with flagship caliber price tags, too, which is evident in the Nexus 9’s doubled price tag over the Nexus 7.

The Nexus 7 is only just larger than the Nexus 6, which is a phone and is the only device you can use on Google’s Fi MVNO. Google doesn’t think tablets are worth it. (Side note: I had to follow two links to get back to this, as what seemed to be the original source. Why didn’t the first site to write it link back to the original one, rather than the first copier?)


How photography was optimized for white skin colour » Priceonomics


Photo of Villa Maria Academy, Bronx NY, 4th Grade, 1983. Photo by Wishitwas1984 on Flickr.
Rosie Cima:

The earliest colour film was not sensitive enough to accurately capture darker subjects, especially when the scene had brighter, whiter elements. This problem was particularly obvious in group portraiture, photographer Adam Broomberg has explained: “If you exposed film for a white kid, the black kid sitting next to him would be rendered invisible except for the whites of his eyes and teeth.” Photographer Syreeta McFadden, a black woman, describes the experience of looking at photos of herself as a young girl:

“In some pictures, I am a mud brown, in others I’m a blue black. Some of the pictures were taken within moments of one another. ‘You look like charcoal,’ someone said, and giggled. I felt insulted, but I didn’t have the words for that yet.”

“Film emulsions could have been designed initially with more sensitivity to the continuum of yellow, brown, and reddish skin tones,” Roth writes in her paper, ‘Looking at Shirley, the Ultimate Norm,’ “but the design process would have had to be motivated by a recognition of the need for an extended dynamic range.”…

…“I remember growing up and seeing Sidney Poitier sweating next to Rod Steiger in ‘In the Heat of the Night,’ and obviously [that was because] it’s very hot in the South,” Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen told the Washington Post, “But also he was sweating because he had tons of light thrown on him, because the film stock wasn’t sensitive enough for black skin.”

Nobody meant for film to be ‘racist’ (as Jean-Luc Goddard called it). It just happened that way. What are the embedded processes in society that do the equivalent now, and in what field of endeavour? Probably sexism, at a guess.


Samsung speeds up production of curved S6 with demand soaring » Bloomberg Business

Jungah Lee:

Samsung Electronics began production at a third factory for curved smartphone screens sooner than expected as demand surges for its Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
Adding the production line, known as A3, enables Samsung Display Co. to more than double monthly output to 5m screens from about 2m currently, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. The plant is now online after the company previously planned on using the new factory sometime in June, one of the people said.
Samsung Electronics predicted record sales for the Galaxy S6 lineup, which includes a model with a traditional flat display, as the company seeks to win back customers who flocked to Apple’s new large-screen iPhones and Chinese vendors selling cheaper devices. Demand for Samsung’s new smartphones has exceeded company expectations since they went on sale April 10, the people said.

Interesting. It has had slow initial sales to end users in South Korea, perhaps because of restrictions on subsidies by carriers there. Of course, the “sales” in this story are to operators – not end users. That’s the acid test, and we won’t get a clear picture there for a few months.


Nobody famous » Medium

Anil Dash on the strange experience of having been put on Twitter’s Suggested Users List early on, and getting more than half a million followers – who often don’t know quite why they’re following him, but hope he can do something for them anyway:

I sometimes respond to people with facts and figures, showing how the raw number of connections in one’s network doesn’t matter as much as who those connections are, and how engaged they are. But the truth is, our technological leaders have built these tools in a way that explicitly promotes the idea that one’s follower count is the score we keep, the metric that matters. After more than a decade of having that lesson amplified across the Internet, the billion or so people who rely on online social networks have taken the message to heart.

As he says, having a really large following on a social network is strange.


BlackBerry closing design operations in Sweden, affecting up to 150 employees » TechCrunch

Ingrid Lunden:

Earlier this week smartphone maker BlackBerry confirmed it acquired Israel’s WatchDox to build out its security software business, but it looks like it may be downsizing elsewhere. According to reports from Swedish news sites, BlackBerry is closing down its software design operations in Sweden — a business that grew out of its acquisition of UI startup The Astonishing Tribe in 2010.

One report from Swedish site 8till5 notes layoffs of 100 in Malmo; other reports from news site Rapidus and financial newspaper Svenska Dagbladet says it will be letting go just over 150 employees: 93 in Malmö and 60 in Gothenburg.

Purchased for $92m; value now negative? Astonishing Tribe did stuff such as the UI of the first Android phone. Then they were hired to work on the PlayBook. Oh..


Start up: Monumental confusion, obligatory (useless) 4K, drone cost surprise, Yahoo’s search inroad, ereaders stall, and more


However, it’s rather difficult to define quite what constitutes “piracy” in some situations. Photo from robotson on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Not valid in Ohio. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Mobile game piracy isn’t all bad, says Monument Valley producer (Q&A) » Re/code

Remember the remarkable “95% unpaid installs on Android, 60% on iOS” stat from Us Two Games? Here’s a followup:

Re/code: First off, how was that 95 percent statistic determined?

Dan Gray: Five percent are paid downloads, so the ratio is 9.5 to 1, but a portion of those are people who have both a phone and a tablet, people who have more than one Android device with them. So a small portion of that 95 percent is going to be taken up by those installs.

Q: Do you know how big that portion is?

A: It’s impossible for us to track that data. The only thing we can do is, two bits of data: One, how many purchases we have and, two, how many installs we’ve got. And we just leave people to draw conclusions from that as they wish, because we can’t clarify any further than that…

…When you compare the most affluent regions, obviously that kind of slants it toward developing markets and Android devices, where people are less inclined to spend $4 on a game. Let’s say you take U.S. only: those paid rates for Android and iOS are actually considerably closer. They’re closer than five and 40%.


The TidBITS Wishlist for Apple in 2015 » TidBITS

Though Apple fulfilled many user wishes in 2014, there is still more to be done. Here are some of what the TidBITS crew would like to see from Apple in 2015. We’ll circle back to this article at the end of the year to see what changed.

Tidbits is a longstanding online Mac weekly newsletter/site, and all the points made here – too many to enumerate briefly – are spot-on. This ought to be circulated within Apple.


4K TVs are coming for you, even if you don’t want them » Yahoo Tech

Rob Pegoraro, pointing out that manufacturers are pushing 4K resolution as hard as they can, despite the lack of bandwidth to transmit it or content to show. And there’s another thing:

Will you see that added resolution from your couch? You will on the CES show floor, where the crowds force you to within a few feet of sets that span from 50 to more than 100in across. From that perspective, 4K TVs almost always look spectacular.

Things change when you’re gazing at a 4K screen smaller than 55 inches (Samsung’s start at 48 inches and Sharp’s at 43 inches) from across the living room. In many cases, your existing set already shows all the resolution you can discern with 20/20 vision.

How close will you need to sit to see all those extra pixels? A Panasonic rep said the company recommends a viewing distance of 3.5 feet for a 50in 4K set, the smallest it will sell this year. That’s cozy even by Manhattan-apartment standards.

The average screen size has crept up — the NPD Group says 50 to 64in now represents the mainstream of the market — but the math of visual acuity suggests that to get sufficient benefit from 4K, you’re best off buying at the upper end of that scale.

I’ve seen the point made repeatedly that you won’t get any benefit from 4K across the average living room. This isn’t going to prevent a spec-based marketing push though.


The privacy tool that wasn’t: SocialPath malware pretends to protect your data, then steals it » Lookout Blog

Lookout recently discovered SocialPath, a piece of malware that advertises itself as an online reputation management tool. It claims that it will alert its users any time their photo is uploaded somewhere on the Internet. Instead, it steals the victim’s data.

We found one variant associated with this family in Google Play. We alerted Google to the malware and it has since been removed. This app offers a slightly different service — it promises to act as a backup service saving your contacts. It says it will also soon add features for saving your photos, videos, and other data “so if you lose your phone, you will not lose its contents.”

SocialPath targets Sudan predominantly — a region that has been rife with political unrest since the country split when an oil-rich South Sudan seceded.

Unclear whether it’s a nefarious government scheme – seems unlikely, but just possible. However then we come to Lookout’s advice:

You should always:
• Download apps from trusted developers — read reviews, research the developers, make sure you’re choosing a trustworthy product, especially if this tool is promising to help you protect sensitive information
• Don’t download apps from third party marketplaces

But this was on Google Play, at least in one variant. How do you decide in that situation?


Can drones deliver? (PDF) » IEEE Xplore

A guest editorial on the economic viability (or otherwise) of Amazon’s drone delivery, by Rafaeillo D’Andrea, formerly of Kiva:

A high-end lithium-ion battery costs roughly $300/kW h, and can be cycled about 500 times, resulting in a cost of roughly 0.8 cents per km for a 2 kg payload. The total cost of batteries and power is thus 1 cent per km for a 2 kg payload.

So, is package delivery using flying machines feasible? From a cost perspective, the numbers do not look unreasonable: the operating costs directly associated with the vehicle are on the order of 10 cents for a 2 kg payload and a 10 km range. I compare this to the 60 cents per item that we used over a decade ago in our Kiva business plan for the total cost of delivery, and it does not seem outlandish.

This seems surprising, and it would be helpful to know what proportion of Amazon deliveries are 2kg or less. There’s a non-PDF version with more discussion at Robohub.


Xiaomi’s Ambition » stratechery

Ben Thompson, explaining how demographics and non-renting in China works in Xiaomi’s favour as it expands its portfolio with super-keen fan buyers:

This, then, is the key to understanding Xiaomi: they’re not so much selling smartphones as they are selling a lifestyle, and the key to that lifestyle is MiUI, Xiaomi’s software layer that ties all of these things together.

In fact, you could argue that Xiaomi is actually the first “Internet of Things” company: unlike Google (Nest), Apple (HomeKit), or even Samsung (SmartThings), all of whom are offering some sort of open SDK to tie everything together (a necessity given that most of their customers already have appliances that won’t be replaced anytime soon) Xiaomi is integrating everything itself and selling everything one needs on Mi.com to a fan base primed to outfit their homes for the very first time. It’s absolutely a vertical strategy – the company is like Apple after all – it’s just that the product offering is far broader than anything even Gene Munster [proponent for years of a TV set from Apple] could imagine. The services Lei Jun talks about sell the products and tie them all together, but they are all Xiaomi products in the end.

Just bear in mind that there are about a billion people in China, and the one-child rule is being relaxed, and you begin to glimpse how big Xiaomi could be. “A computer on every desk”? Pah. A Xiaomi device in every room in all of China and beyond, more like.


“Best” Apple Mac mini (Late 2014) 2.8GHz review » Macworld UK

Andrew Harrison:

one thing we don’t ordinarily expect is for a newly revised computer to appear which computes more slower than the model that it replaces. Particularly when there’s been not one but two long years between the now-obsolete and shiny new editions.

That’s exactly what’s happened with Apple’s 2014 model of the Mac mini though. Today’s 2014 Mac mini range is in many respects slower than the 2012 range it replaces. Read: 2014 Mac mini v 2012 Mac mini comparison review.

Utterly amazing. It doesn’t offer a quad-core option, the RAM is soldered in place, and changing the disk drive is nigh on impossible. It’s like the worst sort of con job that Apple used to pull when Steve Jobs was in charge. I’d love to hear the reasons for these changes-that-aren’t-improvements.


Yahoo achieves highest US search share since 2009 » StatCounter Global Stats

In December Yahoo achieved its highest US search share for over five years according to the latest data from StatCounter, the independent website analytics provider. Google fell to the lowest monthly share yet recorded by the company*. These December stats coincide with Mozilla making Yahoo the default search engine for Firefox 34 users in the US.

StatCounter Global Stats reports that in December Google took 75.2% of US search referrals followed by Bing on 12.5% and Yahoo on 10.4%.

If you allow that StatCounter’s numbers are correct, Yahoo moved from 8.2% of US search in November 2014 to 10.4% in December. How many Firefox users does that represent? How many have yet to move to version 34? How many have/will switch their default from Yahoo back to Google? One to watch.


Kindle sales have ‘disappeared’, says UK’s largest book retailer » Telegraph

Waterstones, which expects to break even this year. plans to open at least a dozen more shops this year as the ebook revolution appears to go in reverse.

Amazon launched the Kindle, which is now in its seventh generation, in 2007. Sales peaked in 2011 at around 13.44m, according to Forbes. That figure fell to 9.7m in 2012, with sales flat the following year. It is estimated that Amazon has sold around 30m Kindles in total.
At the same time, British consumers spent £2.2bn on print in 2013, compared with just £300m on ebooks, according to Nielsen.

London bookstore Foyles has reported a surge in sales of physical books over Christmas.
US book giant Barnes & Noble is looking to spin off its Nook ereader business, which is estimated to be losing $70m a year. Meanwhile, core sales, excluding Nook, rose 5pc in the most recent quarter.

It seems that e-readers had a natural ceiling on adoption, which was far short of 100% (or even 90%). That in turn means that ebooks aren’t going to take over the world. Physical books, meanwhile, are pretty much guaranteed a readership somewhere. Now the challenge for publishers is working out the correct balance of effort and investment to put into ebooks and physical ones.


A&E in crisis: a special report » Daily Telegraph

Robert Colville:

here’s where I’m going to start: in a small green-painted room off one of the main corridors of that same hospital, where 10 women and two men are studying the spreadsheet projected on the walls and firing jargon back and forth.

“Four in urology with a decision to admit.” “306 is gone, 728 still waiting.” “With all that agreed, does that give you any ITU capacity?” “They’re desperate to bring the liver over from Worcester.” “Time to be seen is at 1hr 54.”

This is the “Ops Centre” of one of the country’s biggest hospitals, where I am spending the week as a fly on the wall. At this and other daily bed meetings, the senior nurses and managers get together to work out who is in the hospital, and where they need to go next.
They go through, ward by ward, listing spare beds and allocating them to the people in A&E. They can see who’s been waiting longest, where the pressure points are, and what needs to be done to resolve them.

This, then, is the story about the NHS that I want to tell. It’s the story of the NHS as a system – a system that takes millions of patients through from the GP surgery and A&E department to treatment, recovery and discharge.

This is a tour de force from Colville, in a piece so long and deep it could have come from the New Yorker (of the 1980s). If you want to understand the pressures on the UK’s NHS emergency services – which are clearly shown here not to be just about “money” – this is the single article to read.


Reporting on cyberattacks: the media’s urgent problem » Medium

Dave Lee is a (terrific) BBC technology writer, here writing in a personal capacity about the impossibility of knowing what’s really going on in some stories:

Let’s take an active story. The hack on Sony Pictures raises many issues about the reporting of hack attacks, and the coverage so far carries worrying implications.

Experts are queueing up to dispute the FBI’s confident claim that it was North Korea — mainly because the evidence pointing the finger at Kim Jong-un is either a) flakey at best or b) top secret, and therefore not open to scrutiny, journalistic or otherwise.

The result of this political back-and-forth is far-reaching, and one that from here on in is being reported on without anyone having any real clue whether the basis of the story — that it was North Korea — is in any way accurate.

We simply don’t know who did it — and yet the atmosphere created by the coverage means the US is considering reclassifying North Korea as a terrorist state. That move would open the door significantly when it comes to what the US considers a “proportional response” to the attack on Sony.


Start up: inside the Fire Phone debacle, a selfie stick successor, CES beats the bedroom, CNN’s last-ever video, and more


The Mayday button on the Amazon Fire Phone. Perhaps should have been used before it went on sale. Photo by TechStage on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Do not use as a flotation device. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The real story behind Jeff Bezos’s Fire Phone debacle and what it means for Amazon’s future » Fast Company

Austin Carr, in a terrific long read, explaining how the Fire Phone project began in 2010, and had Bezos as a micro-manager:

Some designers bristled at Bezos’s presence and privately questioned his taste, while others who were wowed by his wide-ranging insights loved his approach. Regardless, Bezos’s heavy hand certainly took getting used to, even for Chris Green, Lab126’s VP of industrial design. “In the beginning, Chris would take Jeff’s feedback a bit literally,” says Randall, the former Lab126 VP, “and there was many an evening spent over beers and sushi counseling him, saying, ‘Calm down, it’s going to get better.’”

Bezos drove the team hard on one particular feature: Dynamic Perspective, the 3-D effects engine that is perhaps most representative of what went wrong with the Fire Phone. Dynamic Perspective presented the team with a challenge: Create a 3-D display that requires no glasses and is visible from multiple angles. The key would be facial recognition, which would allow the phone’s cameras to track a user’s gaze and adjust the 3-D effect accordingly. After a first set of leaders assigned to the project failed to deliver, their replacements went on a hiring spree. One team even set up a room that they essentially turned into a costume store, filling it with wigs, sunglasses, fake moustaches, and earrings that they donned for the cameras in order to improve facial recognition. “I want this feature,” Bezos said, telling the team he didn’t care how long it took or how much it cost.

Turns out Bezos isn’t as good a micro-manager for building a phone as Steve Jobs. Result:

According to three sources familiar with the company’s numbers, the Fire Phone sold just tens of thousands of units in the weeks that preceded the company’s radical price cuts.

Was it perhaps somewhere around the 35,000 that I estimated in August? My range was between 26,000 and, generously, 35,000. I’d love to hear the actual figure.

The whole piece, though, gives terrific insight into how Bezos can get it wrong. He thought a single phone – one piece of hardware – could reshape Amazon’s brand, and turn it from a “get stuff cheap online” one, into a “we customers love you, take our money” brand. The two aren’t the same.


February 2014: What the world really needs: A telescopic SELFIE STICK » The Register

Simon Rockman in February 2014:

Mobile World Congress is often as interesting for the silly gadgets as it is for the mainstream announcements.

This (right) is the Selfie Stick, an extendable pole with a Bluetooth control for your phone.

The Selfie comes in two versions: a general one and one for Samsung phones where you have focus control.

Hahahahahawhatdo you mean they’re sold out everywhere?


The first wearable camera that can fly » Nixie

Wearable and flyable

The first wrist-band camera quadcopter.
Nixie flies, takes your photo, and comes back to you.

This feels like it could easily be one of those Great Ideas that is too easily bungled in the execution, but if it works well it could put selfie sticks out of business. Until selfie stick owners swat them out of the sky.


CES, the World’s Largest Trade Show, Is Too Big for Vegas » Bloomberg

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has a problem that many events would love to have: It’s become too big. And it doesn’t want to get any bigger.

With as many as 160,000 visitors to CES—the world’s largest annual trade show—the Nevada city’s sprawling hotels are stretched to the limit. Last January’s gathering of gadget-loving geeks somehow packed in a full 10,000 more people than Las Vegas has rooms for them to sleep in.

The Consumer Electronics Association, the folks who put on the conference and expo, says CES 2015 will have the equivalent of 35 football fields, or about 2 miles of floor space, filled with phones, televisions, smartwatches, washing machines and throngs of people trying to see it all. “In order to enhance the experience for our attendees, we aim to keep attendance between 150,000 and 160,000 so that everyone can get where they need to go,” says CEA Vice President Karen Chupka.

That’s OK – they can sleep in the lines for press conferences showing off LG’s new dishwasher. Actually, the graph with the story suggests that attendees has exceeded the number of available hotel rooms since 2012. I’m pretty sure I slept there in 2012. Could it be that, shock, some people share rooms? Also, how’s AirBnB coming along there? And might some attendees, um, live in Vegas?


The weirdly-synched life of the Google Nest household » The Register

Richard Chirgwin:

At first glance it looks like the typical Utopian vision of Silicon Valley, but Vulture South took a second look and asked ourselves: “what kinds of life does Google think we live?”

The short answer: wealthy, lazy, and either lonely or in a strange 1950’s-sitcom family synchronisation. Everybody rises and sleeps at the same time, everybody leaves and arrives together, and we’re rich enough to have ‘leccy cars but too poor to charge them.

The most obvious believer in the synchronised family is appliance giant Whirlpool. Its Nest integration can “let your washer and dryer know when you’re home and they will automatically switch to quiet mode”. Unless only one occupant is recognised, that means the only time the appliances are allowed to let their hair down and party is when everyone’s away.

The August Smart Lock will tell Nest to change your thermostat settings when you arrive (warm the house up) or leave (switch off the heating) – which begs the question “what if I lock the front door while other people are still at home?” At least the Kwikset Kevo smart lock understands that more than one person might be in a household.

The Withings Sleep System: when you go to sleep it will “let your Nest Thermostat to a comfortable nighttime temperature. Wake up and it will tell Nest you’re ready to start the day.” Once again, the idea that a household might have sleep and wake times staggered by hours seems alien to the developer.

This is my general objection to “internet of things” and “homes of the future” visions: they don’t account for how we actually live. Them: Look, you’ll be able to get your coffee maker to make coffee before you get out of bed! Me: so I’ll have had to put the coffee in the night before. As I have to go downstairs to get the coffee, why not just make it fresh while I’m there?

And so on. Most IOT/HOTF concepts seem to come from 20-somethings who have no concept of running a household. Hence, I think, their limited success.


This is the video CNN will play when the world ends » Jalopnik

Michael Ballaban, who unearthed this Holy Grail-style rumoured-but-until-now-never-confirmed video, which has the notice:

“HFR till end of the world confirmed.”

Hold for release. CNN, once ever so thorough in its factchecking, knew that the last employee alive couldn’t be trusted to make a call as consequential as one from the Book of Revelation. The end of the world must be confirmed.

That leaves open a whole host of unanswered questions. If this is the last CNN employee alive, in the last CNN bureau on Earth, who do they confirm it with? What does confirmation look like? Who can be the one to make that determination, to pronounce the universe itself dead? Is it Wolf Blitzer himself, ever a fan of the Washington Wizards, and thus a man who would know death when he saw it? Would it be Rick Davis, CNN’s head of standards of practices, who has been with the company since its birth and who thus would know CNN’s journalistic practices better than anyone?

Or would it be some sort of living embodiment of CNN itself, ready to proclaim its own demise, as Judgment Day is truly the only thing able to bring about the long-anticipated death of cable news?

And who would be around to watch it?

Um.. that CNN employee? The machines grinding us into nanoparticles to feed into their hoppers? Take your pick.


Breach puts Morgan Stanley client data up for sale » NYTimes.com

Nathaniel Popper:

the bank traced the breach to a financial adviser working out of its New York offices, a 30-year-old named Galen Marsh, according to a person involved in the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Marsh, who had been with Morgan Stanley since 2008, was quickly fired and is currently the subject of a criminal investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a person briefed on the investigation said. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is also examining the matter.

Morgan Stanley said on Monday that it had determined that Mr. Marsh took data on about 10% of its 3.5 million wealth management customers, including transactional information from customer statements.

The bank said that Mr. Marsh did not take any sensitive passwords or Social Security numbers, and that it had not found any evidence that the breach resulted in any losses to customers. A lawyer for Mr. Marsh, Robert C. Gottlieb, acknowledged on Monday that his client did take the information in question but said that he did not post it online, share it or try to sell it.

Afghanistan war logs: insider breach. NSA/GCHQ documents: insider breach. Morgan Stanley: insider breach. Sony Pictures..?


Hit mobile game Monument Valley and piracy: ‘Only 5%’ of Android players paid for it » VenureBeat

Jeff Grubb:

Piracy is still a big problem on Android.

Developer Ustwo had one of the break out mobile hits in 2014 with its isometric puzzler Monument Valley, but a successful game is not impervious to piracy. The studio confirmed on Twitter today that Monument Valley has had an especially tough time with “unpaid installs” on Android. The company said that 95% of the people playing the game on Google’s mobile operating system did not buy it — although, Ustwo did explain that a small number of those installs are legitimate and were not illegally downloaded. This makes a big dent in Ustwo’s earnings since Monument Valley is a premium-priced game that does not have in-app purchases like Candy Crush Saga or other lucrative mobile releases. Gaming on smart devices surpassed $21bn last year, but it potentially could have more if it weren’t for piracy.

The paid rate was much better on iOS, but it’s still alarming. Ustwo said that 40% of the people who have the game on an Apple mobile device paid for it. Again, that means the majority did not give the developer money.

Depressing numbers, for a game that costs just $4. There’s certainly piracy on iOS – but the astronomical amount on Android really isn’t good news. Does this get factored into the quotes about “revenues from app stores” we see?

There is some confusion over the iOS figure though: it’s not clear whether someone who buys on the iPhone and then downloads to their iPad counts as an “unpaid install”. We also don’t know if that’s how it works on Android – though do 95% of Android owners have multiple devices?