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


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

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

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

Mark Mulligan:

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

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

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

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

Mulligan points to other surprises too – read on there.


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

Biz Carson:

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

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

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

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


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

Andrew Orlowski:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bitstamp Incident Report (PDF) » Bitstamp

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

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

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

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

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


The (slight) rise of _nomap » OpenSignal blog

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

Wifi networks with nomap

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

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


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

Brian Fung:

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

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

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


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

Shelly Banjo:

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

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

According to a PayPal spokesman:

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

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

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

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


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

Tim Culpan:

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

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

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

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

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


Start up: watch the commuters!, SamsungPay’s big obstacle, Apple gets mappy, and more


Mars: likely to remain inhabited only by robots for quite a long time yet. Photo by ridingwithrobots on Flickr.

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

The Samsung Galaxy S6 might be the best Android phone of 2015, but it is unusable » Android Beat

Rajesh Pandey:

The Moto X 2014, which has 2GB of RAM, has around 700MB of free RAM with a similar setup. Despite the 1GB difference in RAM, the Moto X — running Android 5.1 — feels significantly smoother to use. The RAM management issue on the Galaxy S6 is so bad that jumping between a Chrome tab and another app running will force the Chrome tab to reload. This makes the phone completely useless for any kind of serious browsing or for doing any transactions through a bank’s website. I have to restart my Galaxy S6 once every 24 hours to make sure the handset does not feel sluggish and slow. On the days that I do forget to reboot the handset, the phone gets so slow that it feels like I am using some low-end Android device and not the best Android handset in the market currently. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I have not yet thrown the phone in sheer frustration. In all probability, the poor RAM management of the Galaxy S6 stems from different memory leaks present in Android 5.0 Lollipop. The Moto X and Nexus devices had similar issues on Android 5.0, so it makes sense that the Galaxy S6 has them as well. However, the Galaxy S6 was released more than 5 months after Google had released Lollipop, which means that Samsung had more than ample time to track down and fix the memory leaks.

I’ve previously linked to the complaints about Lollipop having memory leaks. I haven’t seen this complaint before, though.


The Apple vs. Google battle has changed » Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:

Google I/O made it clear that Google needs Apple and iOS. To ignore such a vibrant base of highly-engaged users, especially when other companies like Facebook enjoy a prominent place in the platform, would be highly destructive to Google’s ambitions. On the other hand, Apple also needs Google as its services remain very popular among iOS users. However, judging from Apple’s prior actions and mission statement to personalize technology, I would expect Apple will continue to try to minimize its dependence on Google as such a situation represents a long-term threat to Apple’s mission. Similar to how the Nexus experience provides the closest thing to pure Android, I suspect Apple wants to continue down the path of being in a position to ship an iPhone and suite of apps and services that make it possible to live within the Apple ecosystem without much interference from Google. While most consumers will end up settling somewhere in the middle, using both Apple and Google products and services, it is this quest to control the entire user experience that ultimately validates the competition between Apple and Google as genuine. The probability of a world where Android excels as a direct result of iOS faltering is becoming more remote as time goes on. Instead, Google is becoming more reliant on a healthy iOS platform…


Watch the City of London pulling in commuters from across the south east like an imploding star » CityMetric

Last week we ran some fascinating maps [Alasdair Rae] created showing the population density (and, consequently, urban area) of major British cities. Now, he’s created a visualisation that shows the limits of this type of static density modelling: an animation that shows the massive population shift that takes place every day as workers commute into the City of London. The visualisation is based on 2011 census data showing daily commuter journeys into the square mile, London’s main financial distract. It shows commuters speeding into the city’s centre from as far away as Bournemouth and Margate. It’s also completely hypnotic to watch:

Now I want the commute home too…


Toyota unintended acceleration and the big bowl of “spaghetti” code » Safety Research & Strategies, Inc

[Embedded software expert Michael] Barr testified: “There are a large number of functions that are overly complex. By the standard industry metrics some of them are untestable, meaning that it is so complicated a recipe that there is no way to develop a reliable test suite or test methodology to test all the possible things that can happen in it. Some of them are even so complex that they are what is called unmaintainable, which means that if you go in to fix a bug or to make a change, you’re likely to create a new bug in the process. Just because your car has the latest version of the firmware — that is what we call embedded software — doesn’t mean it is safer necessarily than the older one….And that conclusion is that the failsafes are inadequate. The failsafes that they have contain defects or gaps. But on the whole, the safety architecture is a house of cards. It is possible for a large percentage of the failsafes to be disabled at the same time that the throttle control is lost.” Even a Toyota programmer described the engine control application as “spaghetti-like” in an October 2007 document Barr read into his testimony. Koopman was highly critical of Toyota’s computer engineering process.

Remember how shonky the interfaces for VCRs and DVDs were? What if the people who did those were writing your car code? What if they already are?


Jobs at Apple » Apple

Job Summary The Maps team is looking for a web technology expert to help make maps work seamlessly on the web. The ideal candidate will be a JavaScript expert, have in- depth knowledge of various core web technologies, and be proficient with web developer tools for debugging and performance analysis.

If you have an iOS device and use iCloud.com, you can use Apple Maps online to do Find My iPhone. Either Apple is looking to expand its desktop Maps so that it’s not just an OSX experience, or this is just strengthening the FMI team.


Mars One reveals true number of applicants » Matter on Medium

Elmo Keep:

On a new page on its site, The Science of Screening Astronauts, Mars One writes, “The total number of completed and submitted applications was 4,227.” Citing a report by NBC, Matter reported the figure of publicly available video applications at 2,782. We don’t know that 4,227 is any more real than 200,000. It’s just what they’re self-reporting. (Mars One did not provide us any clarification despite repeat queries.) Regardless, that falls far short of the 200,000 widely reported initially by countless media outlets, and shorter yet of the one million applicants CEO Bas Lansdorp anticipated at the launch of the project.

This is starting to feel like Capricorn One.


Why SamsungPay is toast » Starpoint Blog

Tom Noyes (who – reminder – called it correctly that the iPhone 6 would have NFC and payments back in May of 2014):

Let’s assume that Samsung solves ALL of the technical issues above and now SamsungPay works on all Android devices. Everyone knows that MNOs decide what gets pre-installed on the phones they subsidize (even Apple). Six weeks before Mobile World Congress [in March], Google made a strategic deal with the US MNOs to buy ISIS in exchange for Android Pay (the new Google wallet) becoming part of Google Mandatory Services (GMS.. just like search and gmail). Part of this is also a new android registration flow that addresses THE KEY weakness of Android profitability.. it gets consumers to add a card and play account (Apple brilliantly required an iTunes account… with accompanying credit card.. in launch of iPhone). Samsung’s wallet could still work.. however IT IS NOT PRE LOADED.. so this is what the consumer would have to do (AFTER REGISTERING FOR ANDROID PAY): 1) Find out about Samsung pay
2) Install Samsung Pay
3) Register for Samsung Pay
4) Understand where they can use Samsung Pay
5) Wave it near the Mag Head reader
6) Then use Android pay for in-app and play purchases..
Forget about the technical issues.

But it can attempt it in other countries.


Sizing up the opportunity for Apple Pay » Kantar

Carolina Milanesi:

Among iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners in the US, 13% have used Apple Pay, and 11% are planning to do so. Lack of trust and knowledge do not play a major role as reasons not to use it. Only 2.6% said they did not use Apple Pay because they do not trust it, and only 4.1% said they did not use it because they do not understand how it works. Eleven percent said they did not use it because their credit cards work just fine, and 58% just answered “no” without adding any more detail. Among Apple Pay users, men were more numerous than women, with 59% versus 41% of users, and 55% versus 45% of intenders. This is not surprising since early adopters tend to skew male, but what is interesting is that adoption of the new iPhone models has been slightly stronger among women at 52% versus 48% for men… …In March 2015, as a measure of comparison, only 7% of Android users we surveyed in the US said they used NFC/mobile payment. Google Wallet has been around since 2010, and any Android device with NFC capability can access it for payments.

I’d say that’s actually a pretty good showing for Google Wallet.


Three Google directors survive challenge over pay » Reuters

Devika Krishna Kumar and Ross Kerber:

Three Google compensation committee members were re-elected on Wednesday, the technology company said at its annual meeting, despite a challenge from a high-profile proxy adviser that raised concerns over executive pay. Google did not immediately detail by how much of a margin the directors won re-election at the meeting, which was webcast. Proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) had recommended that Google shareholders withhold votes for the three directors, saying “mega grants” provided to executive chairman Eric Schmidt and chief business officer Omid Kordestani were “problematic.” ISS recommended that votes be withheld for Google compensation committee members John Doerr, Paul Otellini and Ram Shriram. ISS also recommended investors withhold votes from Google director John Hennessy, president of Stanford University, citing what it said is his role as a non-independent member of the board’s nominating committee.