Start up: bigger force-touch iPad?, a deafblind user on the Apple Watch, OpenSeaMap needs you!, and more

Just going to check how many days this has been running since a reboot… Photo by peaceful-jp-scenery on Flickr.

A selection of 12 links for you. Free at the point of use. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Apple’s 12.9″ iPad will feature Bluetooth stylus, Force Touch, NFC & more, source says » Apple Insider

Neil Hughes:

Offering more details on the anticipated accessory, an AppleInsider source said that Apple’s stylus will connect via Bluetooth, and that it will feature pressure-sensitive input.

The screen itself will also reportedly sense pressure from fingertips, as Apple is said to be planning to bring its Force Touch input to the 12.9-inch iPad. AppleInsider was first to report in February that Apple’s next-generation iPhone, referred to colloquially as the “iPhone 6s,” will also feature the Force Touch input that is currently available on the Apple Watch and latest MacBooks.

The source also said that Apple’s new, larger iPad will also feature a USB-C input, though they didn’t indicate whether it would be a new, second port option, or if USB-C would replace the Lightning connector found on current iPads.

Now this sounds like a real hybrid between the new MacBook and old iPad. But when? WWDC in June?

Why Google wants to kill SD cards, and what’s holding them back » PhoneArena

We know that some of you are addicted to your SD cards, but the reality is that expandable storage is quickly becoming an unnecessary feature, because that storage is being shifted to the cloud. Google has an amazing array of products in the cloud, and most of them reduce your need for large amounts of storage on your device. Music can now be stored and streamed from the newly released Google Music, documents from Google Docs, photos from Picasa, and more and more video comes through YouTube (although before YouTube really makes this leap, Google needs to add device syncing, so you can start a movie on a PC and continue on mobile or vice-versa.) Given all of these services, the vast majority of users won’t need more than 16 GB of storage. And, before you all start crying, please remember that many of you in our readership are not the “majority of users”.

OK, and now the date: this was written in November 2011. Things change slowly in Androidland.

My Apple Watch after 5 days! » Living with Usher Syndrome by Molly Watt

I was born deaf and registered blind when I was 14. The condition I have is Usher Syndrome Type 2a. I am severely deaf and have only a very small tunnel of vision in my right eye now so I was concerned not just about the face size but how busy it would appear to me and also if there would be an uncomfortable glare.
Curiosity got the better of me so I ordered one but I wasn’t excited, so not disappointed when informed I would not receive mine until mid June!
I should explain that I wear two digital hearing aids and communicate orally – not everybody with usher syndrome communicates orally and there are not two people with the condition the same, but there are similarities.

It hadn’t crossed my mind how useful the taptic engine would be for someone who is deafblind – but of course, it’s a prime accessibility element. Watt sounds like a fantastic, inspirational person. Her viewpoint really makes one reconsider how useful so many devices are.. or are not.

Boeing 787 Dreamliners contain a potentially catastrophic software bug » Ars Technica

Dan Goodin:

A software vulnerability in Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner jet has the potential to cause pilots to lose control of the aircraft, possibly in mid-flight, Federal Aviation Administration officials warned airlines recently.

The bug — which is either a classic integer overflow or one very much resembling it — resides in one of the electrical systems responsible for generating power, according to memo the FAA issued last week…

…The memo doesn’t provide additional details about the underlying software bug. Informed speculation suggests it’s a signed 32-bit integer overflow that is triggered after 231 centiseconds (i.e. 248.55 days) of continuous operation.

Are smartphone-controlled locks worth putting on your house? » TIME

John Patrick Pullen:

I’m no handyman, and I’m certainly not a locksmith. But as a newish homeowner — and one who delights in tinkering with smart home gear of all stripes — I’ve gotten pretty adept at some things around the house. One of which is changing out locks.

In fact, the first thing I did when the previous owners handed us the keys was toss them in the trash. Then I pulled out a Phillips head screwdriver and installed some Kwikset SmartKey locks, so one key would open all my various entries.

Seems like no particular benefit, and lots more hassle than just putting a new lock.

HoloLens: still magical, but with the ugly taint of reality » Ars Technica

Peter Bright:

The picture quality and 3D effects remain stunning. The imagery (we still don’t really know if it’s true holograms, and I still assume it’s just stereoscopic imagery instead) is bright, the resolution seems sufficient, and the opacity of the image meant that it could substantially occlude things behind it.

Everything about the HoloLens experience is nailed. Except for one thing. The field of view was narrow. Very narrow. In both the horizontal and the vertical directions. You have this glorious 3D augmented reality experience… but only with your eyes looking straight ahead.

And it’s not just me; I talked to other journalists who’d been at the January preview, and they had the same experience. The January prototypes didn’t fill your entire field of view. The edges of the “screen” were visible. But they weren’t this tight. I could look around a bit and still see the holograms. This time around, I couldn’t.

I don’t know why. It’s possible that there are trade-offs being made to ensure performance is acceptable or that there’s enough peripheral vision even if the entire screen is obscured. It’s possible that my experience with the old device gave a wider field of view than it should have, due to the poor fit of the device; it was pressed close to my glasses, so probably seemed a little larger than it should have.

Apple Watch: the fashion verdict » The Guardian

Jess Carter-Morley is the Guardian’s fashion editor, and hers is actually the review I have been most looking forward to reading:

how the watch looks on your wrist is not the most important way it affects your style. The most significant change in your appearance is that you spend less time holding your iPhone in front of your face. That gauche, phone-zombie stance is fast becoming the pose that defines this decade. Appraising the functionality of the phone is not my remit – I’m all about Is It Cool; Do We Want One? – but the fact that it steers you away from looking at your phone will have an impact on how you look. Looking at your own wrist is different to looking at a standalone black box, partly because looking at a watch has a history that predates the digital era. You can’t write emails or tweets on the watch (there’s no keyboard) but you can read your inbox, send dictated or emoji responses to messages, even answer phone calls, all without getting your phone out of your bag. What’s more – and this was the most exciting part, for me – the watch distanced me from that modern comfort-blanket thing of endlessly twiddling with your phone.

Boom. And she has a view on the fashion thing too.

OpenSeaMap: FAQ » OpenSeaMap

Q: When will the chart cover the whole of the Earth’s surface?

A: A completely finished chart will probably never happen, because new things are always being discovered that can be mapped. However, over the next two months, we hope to render the entire Baltic Sea. Two months after that, we hope to have the whole of the North Sea rendered. The remaining oceans are planned to follow at similar intervals. However, it still wouldn’t be complete because we then need to add all the navigation aids. These will be collected by community members and then entered into the OpenStreetMap database. You are cordially invited to join in and help! We need every little contribution.

Love the idea. Dunno how practical it is. Then again, I thought OpenStreetMap was too ambitious, and that’s done pretty well.

Samsung admits the Galaxy S6 has a major problem » TechRadar

Matt Hanson:

With Android phones, the apps you use regularly will remain in RAM, while unused apps will be removed. It looks like the issue is that the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are having trouble clearing the RAM, causing it to fill up.

Thankfully Samsung appears to be aware of the bug and is working on a number of ‘micro-updates’ to solve the problem.

Samsung Mobile UK posted on Facebook: “Micro-updates are in the process of being rolled out to correct issues relating to device performance and stability… Keep checking for these on your device via Settings > About device > Software update > Update now”.

1) So if this is to do with the RAM management on the phones, why did none of the reviews catch it? (A question those experiencing this are asking too.)
2) I began following this story at AndroidBeat, which cites the “source” as TechRadar, which cites TalkAndroid, which cites Android Community, which cites Phone Arena, which picked it up (before the Samsung response, which is why I’ve quoted TechRadar) on XDA forums. Why not just go back to the original source and build on that? This model of “journalism” (it isn’t) leads to Chinese whispers and errors.
3) Dunno if this counts as a “major” problem. Nor whether Samsung’s Facebook comment is actually related to this problem. I couldn’t find it.

EU to probe popular US sites over data use and search »

Duncan Robinson and Alex Barker:

In a draft plan for a “digital single market” encompassing everything from online shopping to telecoms regulation, the commission said it would probe how online platforms list search results and how they use customer data. The latest draft of the plan, seen by the FT, will be approved by the commission next week.
The plan could also bring in stricter rules for video-on-demand services such as Netflix and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Skype that have become big rivals to traditional European media and telecoms companies.
Companies such as Airbnb and Uber are also likely to be roped into any investigation into platforms, which will aim to determine whether they are abusing their market power in the so-called “sharing economy”.

Seems premature to be asking whether Airbnb and Uber are “abusing their market power”. How much market, how much power?

African phone sales soar, Chinese makers have 30% of market » Anhui news

Africa has a population of one billion, accounting for 15% of the world population. Most important is that the number of cell phone users has exceed 200 million; even during the 2009 financial crisis, the growth rate hit 14.8%. 

Nigeria, with the biggest population in Africa, currently has the most cell phone users, accounting for 16% of total users on the continent, followed by Egypt and South Africa. In the next five years, the most obvious growth will focused in Central and East Africa, among which growth in Ethiopia, Congo, Eritrea and Madagascar is expected to exceed 100%. 

The African smartphone market jumped 108% in 2014, Yan said, adding that Huawei’s shipment ranked No 2, just behind Samsung. Last year, Huawei devices soared more than 300% in the Middle East and Africa, followed by Asia and Latin America, 98%, and European 68%.

No mention of volume. BlackBerry is big in South Africa, but might have a problem soon.

Google’s paid ad-blocking service doesn’t block most ads » Advertising Age

Tim Peterson:

Originally Google had said people would pay $1 to $3 a month to check out participating sites without ads. At that point The Onion, Mashable, WikiHow, Urban Dictionary, ScienceDaily and photo-sharing site Imgur were among the initial publishers on board. Now Google claims that “millions of sites – everything from small blogs to large news sites” have signed on to not serve ads to Contributor subscribers.
However, as the pricing tiers describe, people who pay Contributor’s monthly fee will still see ads on participating publishers’ sites. A Google spokeswoman didn’t respond to an emailed question asking why not all ads would be blocked.
“We’re continuing to test Contributor and recently added some new testers from the waitlist. We’re happy with the trial so far but don’t have details to share,” the Google spokeswoman said in an emailed response.

I don’t like the thinking behind ad blocking – which runs “I’m not going to pay for this content because the way you monetise it annoys me, but I want the content so I’m going to use technical means to circumvent your monetisation strategy”. (Its corollary is “because people aren’t paying for your content you’re having to use ever more desperate methods to monetise it, and that annoys me, so I’m circumventing it”. Rinse and repeat.) But shouldn’t a paid ad-blocking service really.. block ads? The problem, of course, is that Google can’t in good conscience block ads served by others. Or if it does, it has to remunerate them, which reduces the value to it of a paid ad-blocking service

Start up: hacking nannycams, S6 SD/battery poll, Watch wait, and more

Could Samsung need these more than it thinks? Photo by seeweb on Flickr.

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

Rochester family finds their “Nanny Cam” hacked for the world to see » KTTC Rochester, Austin

Mike Sullivan:

Many people across the country use “nanny cams” to monitor their children.  Some are closed circuit, but others allow parents to access their cameras through the Internet.  One Rochester family began to notice odd things happening with their “nanny cam”, but what they found out may shock you.

“We were sleeping in bed, and basically heard some music coming from the nursery, but then when we went into the room the music turned off,” said the Rochester mother who chose to remain anonymous.

Where were these tunes coming from? Would you have guessed another country?

“We were able to track down the IP address through the Foscam software, and found out that it was coming from Amsterdam,” said the concerned mother of one. “That IP had a web link attached to it.”


The $1,000 CPM » Medium

Hank Green:

Imagine that you would like to consume a piece of content, but in between you and that content is a paywall. They’re asking $15 for one person to view the content one time. While a YouTube video might net you $2 per thousand viewers, this fantasy world I’ve just described will net you $15,000 per thousand impressions…A $15,000 CPM!

With a $15,000 CPM, every two thousand views is a full-time, living-wage human per year!

Of course, this model would never work…except that it works every day at every movie theater in America.

Oh yeah. Then again, making a movie is incredibly expensive: the paywall around that process is unbelievable, running to millions of dollars. The barrier to entry for YouTube is effectively zero.

Samsung may have just lost half of its fans with the Galaxy S6 » AndroidPIT

Following a suggestion I made, Android Pit asked its readers whether they wanted a removable battery and/or SD card slot on the Galaxy S6. No data on how many people responded (and of course it’s a self-selecting survey – see later), so take with a pinch of salt what Kris Carlon finds:

The survey results also showed that only about two-fifths of Samsung owners currently carry a spare battery, and that the other three-fifths either don’t have one or rarely use the spare battery they do own.

Only 18% of respondents stated a removable battery was critical and would turn them off buying Samsung in future. Another 28% claimed it was important and that they would consider other manufacturers with removable battery options.

That’s 46% of current Samsung customers not happy with the decision to remove the removable battery. However, 54% said it either didn’t matter so much or that they preferred fast charging to a removable battery.

Pretty much in line with what I expected. Different story with SD cards:

An incredible 82% of respondents currently use a microSD card with a further 6% happy to at least have the option available to them. Only just over one-tenth of current Samsung owners don’t use a microSD card at all.

Almost two-thirds of participants either stated that they would no longer buy Samsung without a SD card slot or would consider buying other manufacturers that do include this feature on their smartphones. That’s 65% of current customers unhappy with Samsung’s decision to remove microSD expansion.

Let’s see if they don’t buy an S6, though. (Note: Samsung’s preliminary quarterly results for the first three months – not including the S6 launch – should now be available via its investor site.)

What to look for in the Apple Watch reviews » Beyond Devices

Jan Dawson:

The hardest thing for reviewers to gauge will likely be one of the most important factors in its ultimate success or failure – whether the Watch is compelling enough as an addition to the iPhone that its appeal lasts beyond the initial period when the novelty wears off. I don’t know how long reviewers will have had the Watch by the time they do their reviews, but it may well not be long enough to draw a conclusion on this. The Watch, like the iPad, lacks a single compelling selling point. Rather, I think each user will have to discover their own reasons why wearing one makes sense.

It’s time for the Watch » Above Avalon

Neil Cybart, in a thorough recap of how the Apple Watch got to where it is, makes a salient point about how we try to rationalise, or find a story thread, in stuff that’s more accidental:

Looking back at the iPad and iPhone, many have developed elaborate stories around those products in order to address the mystery. In reality, they were simply great products that relied on a revolutionary multi-touch user interface. After launching at a too-high price (and different business model based on mobile revenue sharing) and without an app store, it took Apple and the iPhone three years and additional features and changes before hitting mass-market awareness. However, the legend was that Apple foresaw the coming mobile app revolution. Stories are told to provide answers to the unknown. The problem occurs when those answers are fabricated. Apple is launching the watch as a fun, personalized iPhone accessory with different use cases dependent on the user. If one doesn’t leave the complicated stories and theories at the door, it will be difficult to see the Apple Watch for what is and, more importantly, isn’t. 

A new wave of Chinese smartphones set to emerge in 2015 » TechNode

Tracey Xiang:

China’s smartphone market is already crowded. But we’re expecting to see another half a dozen Chinese Android phone brands emerge in 2015. Many of them are already big tech companies in their home sectors.

LeTV, Qihoo, Gree, Smartisan – expect to hear more about them.

Bad data PR: how the NSPCC sunk to a new low in data churnalism » Online Journalism Blog

Paul Bradshaw:

Only Vice magazine decided to ask questions of the stats. And this is what they found:

“It turns out the study was conducted by a “creative market research” group calledOnePoll. “Generate content and news angles with a OnePoll PR survey, and secure exposure for your brand,” reads the company’s blurb. “Our PR survey team can help draft questions, find news angles, design infographics, write and distribute your story.

“… The OnePoll survey included just 11 multiple-choice questions, which could be filled in online. Children were recruited via their parents, who were already signed up to OnePoll.”

There are so many methodological issues here I can’t list them all, but let’s try. Firstly, there’s the issue of how representative OnePoll users are as a whole and how accurately they complete the survey (the site pays 20p per survey completed, and you have to reach £40 before you can withdraw). There’s the issue of self-selection (PDF) and of whether children are in an environment to give honest answers. And there’s the issue of leading questions: “I am addicted to pornography”?

As Vice’s article points out, research into this area is normally carried out very carefully to avoid these problems.

I’m always extremely wary of “surveys” like this; good to know Vice is too. Google News shows 129 hits for “NSPCC pornography”. Will any of them retract their pieces as a result of this untrustworthy data?

November 2014: Is the Rolling Stone story true? » Shots in the Dark

Richard Bradley is a former editor at George magazine, where he dealt with stories written by Stephen Glass which were shot through with untruths – which gave him an eye for it:

Written by a woman named Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the article is called “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA.”

The article alleges a truly horrifying gang rape at a UVA fraternity, and it has understandably shocked the campus and everyone who’s read it. The consequences have been pretty much instantaneous: The fraternity involved has voluntarily suspended its operations (without admitting that the incident happened); UVA’s president is promising an investigation and has since suspended all fraternity charters on campus; the alumni are in an uproar; the governor of Virginia has spoken out; students, particularly female students, are furious, and the concept of “rape culture” is further established. Federal intervention is sure to follow.

The only thing is…I’m not sure that I believe it. I’m not convinced that this gang rape actually happened. Something about this story doesn’t feel right.

Note that he wrote this when everyone was insisting that the story was true, must be true. Erdely isn’t the first journalist to be spoofed (it’s happened to me, though for much, much lower stakes). The failure was at Rolling Stone, where there wasn’t enough scepticism. And that failing continues throughout a lot of journalism; I notice it a lot (at a lesser scale) in tech journalism.

ActiveX actively going: South Korean gov’t to repeal ActiveX security requirement » BusinessKorea

Mary PArk:

The South Korean government plans to remove ActiveX from the county’s websites to boost foreign online shopping. The Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning said on Wednesday that it will let the private sector drop the troublesome technical requirement, which has been cited as a major obstacle in Internet transactions.  

ActiveX is an Internet Explorer exclusive plug-in that allows Internet Explorer to run executable files on a user’s computer. Most of Korea’s financial websites and online shopping malls have relied on ActiveX to run their proprietary payment systems and online identity protection programs. But the outdated ActiveX dependency has prevented users of other web browsers or mobile devices from using those local websites…

…According to the Ministry, at least 90 percent of the country’s top 100 websites will replace ActiveX with alternative systems and technologies by 2017. This ActiveX-free plan provides subsidies of up to 50% of the financial costs to stop using ActiveX-based systems and to create HTML5-related alternative technologies to replace it, up to 100m won (US$91,734) per web site or 20m won (US$18,345) per solution.

So, so very overdue. South Korea has seen so many hacks due to its reliance on ActiveX, which has also held back mobile commerce.