Start up: inside Apple’s A9X, Amazon unlimited?, VTech hacked, YouTube v Palestine, and more

This could be the prelude to hypothermia. But what does that feel like? Photo by Nicolas Valentin 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.

All-in-one PC shipments to drop over 10% in 2015 » Digitimes

Aaron Lee and Joseph Tsai:

All-in-one PC shipments may drop a double-digit percentage on-year in 2015 due to weaker-than-expected demand. Shipments in 2016 are unlikely to see any major growth and may stay flat from 2015, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

The largest all-in-one PC vendor, Lenovo, is expected to see flat shipment performance and a worldwide market share of around 30% in 2016. Despite the fact that the China government has recently lifted restrictions on opening internet cafes in the country which has boosted demand for all-in-one PCs, Lenovo will not benefit much from related demand since most Internet cafe players require customization, an area that Lenovo is having difficulties to coordinate, causing the opportunities to be mainly seen by second-tier and China white-box makers, the sources noted.

As for the second-largest, Apple, its iMac shipments are expected to grow 5% on year in 2016. iMac’s main manufacturer, Quanta Computer, reportedly has increased its personnel for the product line for 2016, but the ODM declined to comment on market speculation.

link to this extract

 


Inside the Apple A9X chip » The Motley Fool

Ashraf Eassa on the chip powering the iPad Pro:

Following is a die shot of the A9X, courtesy of Chipworks:

Chipworks’ Dick James tells me that he sees a 12-cluster GPU, two CPU cores, and an absence of the level-three cache memory found inside the A9 chip (I’ll explain why I think Apple didn’t include it later in this article). I agree with his assessment. The two CPU cores can be seen in the green box, and I believe that inside of each blue box are two GPU clusters, for a total of 12 clusters…

According to Chipworks, the chip measures in at approximately 147 square millimeters, a whopping 40% larger than the size of the TSMC-built variant of the A9 chip inside of the iPhone 6s/6s Plus. This is an absolutely huge increase in area (and by extension transistor count) from the A9, which no doubt means that this monster of a chip is far more difficult to manufacture, especially on a relatively new manufacturing technology.

Two CPU cores? Bah. Surely it should be at least eight to be worth talking about?
link to this extract

 


Is Amazon’s online storage really ‘unlimited’? Read the fine print » ZDNet

Ed Bott:

It’s a trial offer, with the price for the second and subsequent years rising to $60, and renewing automatically unless you say no.

I can tell that some of you are ready to begin migrating the 10 terabytes of data you stored in Microsoft’s OneDrive before they killed that golden goose. May I suggest you first read the Amazon Cloud Drive Terms of Use?

When you do, you will discover that that word, unlimited, does not mean what you think it means.

And you might find that if you really have a lot of data to store that you won’t be able to after all, because they research reserve the right to suspend or terminate “if we determine that your use violates the Agreement, is improper, substantially exceeds or differs from normal use by other users, or otherwise involves fraud or misuse of the Service…” (Emphasis added.)
link to this extract

 


Israel to coordinate with Google and YouTube to censor Palestinian videos of conflict » Informed Comment

Saed Bannoura:

The Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Member of Knesset Tzipi Hotovely, held meetings this week with representatives of YouTube and Google, to find ways of cooperating to censor Palestinian videos from occupied Palestine, videos she dubbed as “inciting violence and terrorism.”

Israeli daily Maariv said Hotovely will be working with Google and YouTube officials in a joint mechanism that will be in charge of “monitoring and preventing” any publication of materials deemed by Tel Aviv to be “inflammatory.”

Hotovely announced in a Hebrew-only press release that she met with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and Google’s Director of Public Policy, Jennifer Oztzistzki, at Google’s Silicon Valley Offices.

Hotovely said that she received a comprehensive review mechanism for companies to monitor the films that allegedly incite violence, claiming that the supposed ‘incitement videos’ drive young children to go out and stab: “The attacks daily in Israel are the result of youths and children incited by the education system and the social networks, this is a daily war of incitement.”

You can’t be a video hosting service without getting caught in the politics of an area. And of course “incitement to violence” is over the boundary of free speech pretty much everywhere.
link to this extract

 


As freezing persons recollect the snow: first chill, then stupor, then the letting go » Outside Online

Peter Clark with a scary description of what happens as hypothermia sets in:

When your Jeep spins lazily off the mountain road and slams backward into a snowbank, you don’t worry immediately about the cold. Your first thought is that you’ve just dented your bumper. Your second is that you’ve failed to bring a shovel. Your third is that you’ll be late for dinner. Friends are expecting you at their cabin around eight for a moonlight ski, a late dinner, a sauna. Nothing can keep you from that.

Driving out of town, defroster roaring, you barely noted the bank thermometer on the town square: minus 27 degrees at 6:36. The radio weather report warned of a deep mass of arctic air settling over the region. The man who took your money at the Conoco station shook his head at the register and said he wouldn’t be going anywhere tonight if he were you. You smiled. A little chill never hurt anybody with enough fleece and a good four-wheel-drive.

But now you’re stuck.

(Via Eugene Wei.)
link to this extract

 


A 59-year-old woman reviews the Apple Watch in real life » Privilege

“Lisa”:

I do think it’s important that we women and we midlifers engage in the tech cycle, if only to ensure that the Brave New World isn’t designed just for 28-year old men.

I first realized I liked the watch as I pushed a cart through Whole Foods. I’d invited my family over for dinner, and was doing the grocery shopping. I’d texted both my sister-in-law and sister to find out if their kids would be OK with the menu. The replies came as I passed the tortilla section. And I did not have to stop, block the aisle, and find my phone in my bag –  just pressed the Message smile emoji. A lightweight interaction.

Besides, the Watch is very good-looking, as Mom might say.

But let us review and deconstruct. Not literally. Taking apart solid state devices is not my idea of fun.

link to this extract

 


100 million LTE phones shipped in China in Q3 2015 » Counterpoint Technology Market Research

Neil Shah:

This has been primarily driven by a meteoric rise in consumers adopting LTE technology as the always-on high speed mobile internet becomes the crux of Chinese consumers’ lives aided by competitive pricing by China Mobile. More than 200m 4G LTE subscribers have been added at the end of Q3 2015 compared to exactly a year ago. China’s LTE subscriber base also crossed 300m users during the quarter. It took just 20 months to cross 300m 4G subs, whereas for 3G subs it took more than 50 months.

Mature Chinese smartphone user base are upgrading their digital lives faster than any other mobile user on this planet. The growing traction of mobile-centric commerce, rise of O2O services, content consumption (video, audio and so forth) coupled with deeply integrated social and messaging communication is making  high quality ubiquitous mobile internet a basic need for the Chinese consumers.

Huawei was the no 1 LTE phone supplier with slightly less than one-fifth of the market, followed by Xiaomi, Apple, Oppo and Vivo.

link to this extract

 


One of the largest hacks yet exposes data on hundreds of thousands of kids » Motherboard

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

The personal information of almost 5 million parents and more than 200,000 kids was exposed earlier this month after a hacker broke into the servers of a Chinese company that sells kids toys and gadgets, Motherboard has learned.

The hacked data includes names, email addresses, passwords, and home addresses of 4,833,678 parents who have bought products sold by VTech, which has almost $2 billion in revenue. The dump also includes the first names, genders and birthdays of more than 200,000 kids.

What’s worse, it’s possible to link the children to their parents, exposing the kids’ full identities and where they live, according to an expert who reviewed the breach for Motherboard.

That expert being Troy Hunt, who has a long writeup on how crap VTech has been. All this harvesting of personal data ahead of inevitable hacks? No way to delete your account (hardly any companies give you that option).
link to this extract

 


Report: Apple plans to nix 3.5mm port on iPhone 7, require Lightning for wired headphones » 9to5Mac

Citing a reliable source, a report from Japanese blog Macotakara claims that Apple plans to remove the 3.5mm headphone port from the upcoming iPhone 7, helping to achieve a “more than 1mm” reduction in thickness compared to the iPhone 6s. While the screen shape and radius will remain similar, the device will once again become Apple’s thinnest iPhone ever, albeit with a new restriction: headphones will only be able to connect over Lightning or Bluetooth…

Macotakara says that the 3.5mm port “can hardly be thinner because it is the world standard,” which is accurate, though the current-generation iPod touch is 1mm thinner than the iPhone 6s despite having a 3.5mm port inside. It should be noted that Apple actively contemplated switching to the smaller but less popular 2.5mm headphone port standard many years ago, abandoning the plan after users complained about the original iPhone’s recessed 3.5mm port.

Will be good business for Bluetooth headphone companies. Such as Beats?
link to this extract

 


More China firms developing own ARM-based chips » Digitimes

Monica Chen and Jessie Shen:

China-based ZTE has received a cash injection from the government enabling the company to accelerate the development of its own application processors, while Lenovo also intends to develop ARM-based chips in-house, according to industry sources.

ZTE has received CNY2.4bn (US$73.8m) from China’s National IC Industry Investment Fund, which will help it accelerate the mobile chip development, said the sources.

Huawei has its subsidiary HiSilicon provide ARM-architecture SoCs, which are found in many of the smartphone vendor’s models including high-end ones, the sources indicated. Huawei’s increasing use of HiSilicon chips is already unfavorable to the existing suppliers including MediaTek and Qualcomm.

All essentially trying to differentiate themselves from rivals. Didn’t know about Huawei’s subsidiary, but it makes sense for a network infrastructure company to have a chip designer.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Pariser on the Facebook bubble, Android Wear’s Wi-Fi tweak, bitcoin economics, and more


Is Facebook keeping you inside this? Photo by sramses177 on Flickr.

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

Facebook published a big new study on the filter bubble. Here’s what it says. » Medium

Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble:

Here’s the upshot: Yes, using Facebook means you’ll tend to see significantly more news that’s popular among people who share your political beliefs. And there is a real and scientifically significant “filter bubble effect” — the Facebook news feed algorithm in particular will tend to amplify news that your political compadres favor.

This effect is smaller than you might think (and smaller than I’d have guessed.) On average, you’re about 6% less likely to see content that the other political side favors. Who you’re friends with matters a good deal more than the algorithm.

You’re probably friends with people who share your beliefs, though. Pariser also has fun facts from the study, which is being torn apart by the wolves of Twitter in various places.


SSD storage: ignorance of technology is no excuse » KoreBlog

Kore stores data as evidence. So it has to be correct:

Digital evidence storage for legal matters is a common practice. As the use of Solid State Drives (SSD) in consumer and enterprise computers has increased, so too has the number of SSDs in storage increased. When most, if not all, of the drives in storage were mechanical, there was little chance of silent data corruption as long as the environment in the storage enclosure maintained reasonable thresholds. The same is not true for SSDs.

A stored SSD, without power, can start to lose data in as little as a single week on the shelf.

SSDs have a shelf life. They need consistent access to a power source in order for them to not lose data over time…

…What started this look into SSDs? An imaging job of a laptop SSD left in storage for well over the 3-month minimum retention period quoted by the manufacturer of the drive before it was turned over to us. This drive had a large number of bad sectors identified during the imaging period. Not knowing the history, I did not consider the possibility of data loss due to the drive being in storage. Later, I learned that the drive was functioning well when it had been placed into storage. When returned to its owner a couple of months after the imaging, the system would not even recognize the drive as a valid boot device. Fortunately, the user data and files were preserved in the drive image that had been taken, thus there was no net loss.

Now imagine a situation in which an SSD was stored in legal hold where the data was no longer available for imaging, much less use in court.

Bet you thought SSDs “store their data forever, no power needed”. Turns out it’s mag disks that do that.


Google can’t ignore the Android update problem any longer (op-ed) » Tom’s Hardware

Lucian Armasu:

For years, Apple has made fun of Android and its fragmented update system, and it will continue for years more. Microsoft has recently started doing the same. The update system on Android is something Google can ignore no longer, and it needs to do whatever it takes to fix it. Otherwise, it risks having users (slowly but surely) switch to more secure platforms that do give them updates in a timely manner. And if users want those platforms, OEMs will have no choice but to switch to them too, leaving Google with less and less Android adoption.

Google also can’t and shouldn’t leave the responsibility to OEMs and carriers anymore, because so far they’ve proven themselves to be quite irresponsible from this point of view. At best, we see flagship smartphones being updated for a year and a half, and even that is less than the time most people keep their phones.

Even worse, the highest volume phones (lower-end handsets) usually never get an update. If they do it’s only one update, and it comes about a year after Google released that update to other phones, giving malicious attackers plenty of time to take advantage of those users.

Google’s (or its fans’) argument is that updates to Play Services do most of this task. In which case, why have OS updates at all? Even so, there doesn’t seem to be any clear suggestion for how Google can do this. And there’s no real evidence that it turns users off. Chances of change: minimal.


Android Wear on Wi-Fi: Using a smartwatch without a phone nearby » Computerworld

JR Raphael:

The two devices don’t have to be on the same network or in the same physical location; your phone could be sitting in your car and you could be miles away in a building with Wi-Fi access. As long as the phone is getting some sort of data – be it via Wi-Fi or a mobile data network – and the watch is in a place with an accessible Wi-Fi network, you’re good to go.

I tested this by turning off my phone’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and heading out to the gym. Once I was inside the building (and thus in range of its Wi-Fi network), my watch showed itself as being online in less than 30 seconds. From that point forward, without my phone nearby or in any way connected, the Watch Urbane received notifications like new text messages, Hangouts messages, and emails. I could respond to those messages from the watch via voice. And I could send new messages by using the new Contacts list in the latest Wear update, which is accessible by swiping to the left twice from the main Wear home screen.

I could even use apps like Google Keep – viewing existing notes and lists and dictating new ones (which I confirmed showed up in my account almost instantly). I could give regular “Okay, Google” voice commands, too, but those worked somewhat sporadically; some of the time, the watch would time out and give me a “Disconnected” error instead of an answer. That was the only function that didn’t work consistently for me in this context.

This seems potentially useful, and like the sort of thing Apple might add too in a future update – perhaps next year? No point hurrying…


On the clothing of emperors: a rant about 21.co and the future of bitcoin mining » Medium

Bernie Rihn digs into the economics of bitcoin, and mining, and demolishes the idea that 21.co is going to sell “devices you’ll use in your home that will mine bitcoin and pay you back”:

We’ve established from the above (rant-warm-up) that 21 can’t (sustainably, with a straight face) sell anything that mines bitcoin in our house as a network-connected device masquerading as a “heater.”

They are clearly already in the mining business (their mining pool, pool34 was recently outed and is humming along nicely at 3–4 petahashes / second). They are clearly building an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit, commonly called a “chip”). The question is, for what?


How Google keeps execs from leaving » Business Insider

The title on the page is “Google has a secret ‘bench’ program that keeps executives at the company even when they’re not leading anything”, which says it better. Alexei Oreskovic and Jillian D’Onfro explain:

The bench system is an effective but little-discussed strategic tactic in Google’s playbook as the company looks to expand into new markets and keep an edge over a growing crop of web challengers that are all desperate for seasoned internet business experts.

“It helps keep people off the market,” one former Google executive says. “It helps keep the institutional knowledge if you need them back for any reason. And it costs [Google] so little to retain these people rather than to have them leave and start the next Facebook.”

About one-third of Google’s first 100 hires still work at the company, according to “Work Rules!” a recent book by HR boss Laszlo Bock.

It’s more of an informal system than an established program, sources say. But the underlying intention and goals are clear and purposeful. “It’s very rational,” the former Google executive says. (Google declined to comment on this story.)

With its deep pockets and sundry internal projects, Google can offer its elites attractive incentives to hang around, even after they have moved on from, or been replaced in, their previous role. The company will often tell someone to take 18 months or 24 months to figure out what he or she wants to do next at the company, the former Googler says.

Keeping those smart people out of other companies, and keeping their institutional knowledge inside Google, is a really clever move.


RCS is still a zombie technology, “28 quarters later” » Disruptive Wireless

Dean Bubley:

In February 2008, a number of major telcos and technology vendors announced the “Rich Communications Suite Initiative” (see here).  I first saw the details a couple of months later, at the April 2008 IMS World Forum conference in Paris.

It is now 7 years, 2 billion smartphones, and 800m WhatsApp users later.

Or to put it another way, 28 Quarters Later*. [Actually 29 but 28 since he discovered the details. Hence the asterisk.]

However, unlike Danny Boyle’s scary, fast-moving monsters in the 28 Days and 28 Weeks Later movies, RCS is not infected with the “Rage Virus”, but is more of a traditional zombie: dead, but still shambling slowly about and trying to eat your brains. It’s infected with bureaucracy, complexity and irrelevance.

To remind you: April 2008 was also a few months after the launch of the first iPhone, and a few months before the launch of the AppStore. It was also when Facebook Chat, now Messenger, was switched on in my browser for the first time – while I was waiting on the podium, to start chairing the IMS event. The world of mobile devices, apps and – above all – communications has moved on incredibly far since then.

But not for RCS.

Mobile operators never like to admit something’s dead.


Are social sharing buttons on mobile sites a waste of space? » Moovweb

Short answer: yes. Longer answer: still yes.

Just because sharing buttons have been popular on the desktop web does not mean they can be ported over with the same experience on the mobile web. And while .02% of mobile users clicking on a social sharing button is a minuscule figure, it does reflect the way social media usage on mobile has evolved: away from the web and toward apps.
Most mobile users access social networks via an app, so they are often not logged in to the corresponding social networks on the mobile web. Pinterest, for example, gets 75% of its traffic from apps.
The heart of the sharing problem is that users must be logged in in order to share. If you’re not logged in, sharing can be kind of a nightmare.


HIV and syphilis biomarkers: smartphone, finger prick, 15-minute diagnosis » ScienceDaily

A team of researchers, led by Samuel K. Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has developed a low-cost smartphone accessory that can perform a point-of-care test that simultaneously detects three infectious disease markers from a finger prick of blood in just 15 minutes. The device replicates, for the first time, all mechanical, optical, and electronic functions of a lab-based blood test. Specifically, it performs an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) without requiring any stored energy: all necessary power is drawn from the smartphone.

ELISA kit typically costs over $18,000; the dongle for this test about $34.


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 » FT.com

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: Google eases Project Zero, Xiaomi’s patent woe, Microsoft’s big Office vision, driving helium, and more


“Flash, I love you – but we only have 90 days excluding public holidays and weekends to issue a fix for CVE-2013-6629!” Photo via Tom Simpson on Flickr

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

Google amends bug disclosure policy following Apple and Microsoft scuffle » V3

Project Zero courted controversy when it publicly disclosed flaws in Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 and Apple’s Mac OS X operating systems.

Google moved to address these concerns, arguing that it may have applied the policy too rigorously but that public disclosure is effective.

“For example, the Adobe Flash team probably has the largest install base and number of build combinations of any of the products we’ve researched so far,” read the [Google] blog post.

“To date, they have fixed 37 Project Zero vulnerabilities (or 100 percent) within the 90-day deadline. More generally, of 154 Project Zero bugs fixed so far, 85% were fixed within 90 days.

“Furthermore, recent well-discussed deadline misses were typically fixed very quickly after 90 days. Looking ahead, we’re not going to have any deadline misses for at least the rest of February.

I fixed all of my Adobe Flash vulnerabilities in five minutes by removing Flash from my computer. However, Google’s position of playing private security guard to the internet remains discomforting, and I can’t help feeling that it’s going to prove embarrassing in some horrible way – a sort of schadenfreude-in-waiting.


Qualcomm deal sparks China smartphone patent skirmishes » Reuters

From last Friday (I didn’t link to it then), but as Ben Thompson points out, this element of the deal could have big implications – given that Xiaomi became China’s biggest smartphone vendor in 2014:

The settlement has allowed wireless patent holders like ZTE and Huawei Technologies to seek royalties, while introducing a new risk of litigation to China’s younger handset industry at a time when domestic patent law is gaining traction.

“For the first time, the settlement is forcing domestic manufacturers to recognize the value of IP (intellectual property) and consider how to use it strategically, which companies do in the West,” said Wang Yanhui, secretary general of the Mobile China Alliance, an industry consortium. “That’s the real significance of the (Qualcomm) settlement.”

The competitive dynamics are particularly complex in China, the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer and consumer, as large Chinese telecom equipment makers that hold many essential patents for wireless technology also compete in the phone market against younger, nimbler manufacturers.

The settlement could prove tricky for companies like Xiaomi Inc, a four-year-old Beijing-based smartphone maker whose weak patent position has proved a major vulnerability. In December, a court in India temporarily halted its shipments there after Swedish telecom firm Ericsson complained Xiaomi had not been paying its royalties.

Although Xiaomi has been reported by Chinese media to be one of the handset makers now targeted by ZTE’s lawyers, both companies declined to discuss the issue.

But in response to questions from Reuters, Bin Lin, Xiaomi’s president, said he expects Xiaomi to only attract more patent threats and litigation from rivals in the future, as does any young firm that enjoys explosive growth.


Rembrandt Technologies wins $15.7m jury verdict in patent infringement case against Samsung » PRNewswire

A Texas federal jury has awarded $15.7 million to Rembrandt Wireless Technologies LP after finding that Korean electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. infringed on two Rembrandt patents covering Bluetooth technology.

Jurors deliberated only one hour before issuing the Feb. 13 verdict. The five-day trial focused on two Rembrandt patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 8,023,580 and 8,457,228. In addition to the $15.7 million award, Rembrandt also will receive royalty payments on all Samsung Bluetooth sales for the life of the patents.

Rembrandt, a Pennsylvania-based business technology company, sued Samsung and Blackberry Ltd. in 2013. Blackberry settled before the trial. Rembrandt argued that its patents for Bluetooth “enhanced data rate” inventions were infringed by Samsung in its Galaxy S phones.

That’s a brief deliberation, and a brief trial.


New cloud storage integration for Office » Microsoft Office Blogs

Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate VP of Office:

We want Office to be the preferred way to work with documents no matter where they’re stored.  In November we announced a special partnership with Dropbox to make it easy to access, edit and share Dropbox files from the Office apps.  And today, in addition to the existing Dropbox integrations, we’re pleased to announce two new integration features for an even broader set of cloud services: First, file picker integration for the iPad and iPhone; and second, Office Online integration for viewing and editing.  While these may seem like small enhancements, these new features represent a big step forward for Office integration into the apps and services that are important to our customers.

This is huge. It’s actually all in that first sentence, which is all you need: “We want Office to be the preferred way to work with documents no matter where they’re stored.” Microsoft wants Office – its most lucrative monopoly – to endure. This is part of how it does that.


May 2012: once deemed evil, Google now embraces “paid inclusion”

Danny Sullivan, in May 2012, noting changes in how Google represented and collated its Flight Search, Hotel Search and Shopping categories so that they became pay-to-play for companies to appear – a reversal of Google’s previous stance:

paid inclusion isn’t necessarily bad, especially if it’s used to solve an otherwise difficult challenge in search, rather than being an excuse to generate revenue. However, it it still feels odd watching Google, having previously attacked the objectivity of its competitors over the practice, quietly adopt paid inclusion now that it’s the search market leader. That doesn’t sit right. At the very least, I kind of want someone at Google to acknowledge that it was wrong those years ago.

Postscript (7:30pm ET): Google, after seeing this article, sent along this statement about paid inclusion:

Paid inclusion has historically been used to describe results that the website owner paid to place, but which were not labelled differently from organic search results.  We are making it very clear to users that there is a difference between these results for which Google may be compensated by the providers, and our organic search results.

I have to disagree.

The reason I’m linking to this now is that it’s pertinent to all the antitrust discussion that’s reopening in Europe over Google and particularly vertical search. Google presents its results as untouched by human hand, but there’s a whole lotta touching really going on. (One point on the headline: Sullivan means that paid inclusion used to be deemed evil, not Google.)


November 2013: Western Digital adds helium to enterprise hard drives » AllThingsD

Arik Hesseldahl:

It turns out that the insides of hard drives are pretty violent places. There’s a lot of high-speed motion, what with the disk platters spinning at several thousand rotations per minute, and the head moving back and forth across its surface. If you’ve ever held your arm out the window of a fast-moving car, you get some sense of the problem…

…The secret sauce to all this is that the drives are built to be hermetically sealed, which means they’re both perfectly airtight and leakproof. While the science behind doing all this has been well understood for a while, Cordan says that Western Digital is the first to figure how to do it in a repeatable manufacturing process. It adds an extra step or two to the manufacturing process, and thus some cost.

It gets more interesting: Hermetically sealed drives don’t let the helium out, but they also don’t let anything else in, including liquid. That makes them good for use in immersion-cooled data centers. These are small, dense collections of IT gear packed into a box the size of a shipping container and filled to the top with nonconductive liquid that keeps everything running at a constant temperature. (If you didn’t know that this was a thing, you’re not alone, because I didn’t, either.)

This came (via @jearle) after I happened across a Digitimes report about helium-filled drives. Presumably vacuum is next, since if a drive can survive being immersed then it must have tough joints.


Intel reportedly to delay launch of 14nm Skylake desktop CPUs » Digitimes

Monica Chen:

Intel reportedly has informed its motherboard partners that it will delay the release of its 14nm Skylake desktop CPUs and corresponding 100-series chipsets to the end of August, compared to its original schedule set for the second quarter of 2015, according to sources in Taiwan’s motherboard industry.

The delay will affect PC makers’ production and shipment plans for Haswell Refresh and Broadwell-U series products and may also delay the development of Broadwell models with a TDP of 65W, the sources noted.

PC makers will also not be able to unveil Skylake-based models during the upcoming Computex 2015 to be held in June in Taipei, thereby affecting PC sales in the second haft of 2015, said motherboard makers.

Intel is saying that it always planned to release Skylake in the second half of the year. For reference, the Pentium 4, introduced in 2000, had transistor sizes of 0.18 micron – or 180nm.


$1.75m in bitcoin stolen from Chinese exchange Bter » The Next Web

Abhimanyu Ghoshal:

Even as Bitcoin is starting to shake things up in the US, all is not well in the cryptocurrency world. China-based Bitcoin exchange Bter was hacked on Valentine’s Day and $1.75m worth of Bitcoin was stolen.

The company hasn’t revealed much about the breach, except that 7,170 BTC was taken from its cold (offline) wallet on February 14 via a single transaction (link) and that the platform is suspending operations until further notice.

I feel like we’re getting so used to this that $1.75m is like “yeah, sure”.