Start up: infected airplanes, Samsung gets VR-y, the real counterfeiters, Youtube’s unstoppable ads, and more

Facial recognition is being used for unsavoury purposes in Russia. (This is an example from Iran, at SXSW.) Photo by TheSeafarer on Flickr.

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

Europe’s web privacy rules: bad for Google, bad for everyone »

Daphne Keller and Bruce Brown on the “right to be forgotten” [more correctly, “delisted from search”] laws in Europe, which now applies to accessed inside Europe:

»News outlets should have particular cause for alarm about geo-blocking. Journalists rely on global networks to investigate and report on international stories, like the recent Panama Papers revelations. They themselves are often the first targets when governments seek to control the flow of information to their citizens. Protection exists in European Union privacy law for journalistic activities, so the news media is not directly in the cross hairs of the “right to be forgotten.” But American news organizations have faced libel actions in hostile foreign courts — and when plaintiffs start asking for geo-blocking in those cases, journalists will be on the front lines.

Privacy is a real issue, and shouldn’t be ignored in the Internet age. But applying those national laws to the Internet needs to be handled with more nuance and concern. These developments should not be driven only by privacy regulators. State departments, trade and justice ministries and telecom regulators in France and other European countries should be demanding a place at the table. So should free-expression advocates.

One day, international agreements may sort this all out. But we shouldn’t Balkanize the Internet in the meantime. Once we’ve erected barriers online, we might not be able to tear them down.


There’s a wonderful unspoken cultural imperialism about this approach: whatever the prevailing thought in the US is about [topic], well, that should be the approach to [topic] everywhere. Applying US laws to the internet is just as misguided as applying any other national laws. The Panama Papers is a complete red herring in this context.

You might wonder if Keller and Brown are unaware of their imperial approach. Keller, as it happens, used to be a lawyer at Google.
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Uh-oh, Apple — Samsung has a bona fide ecosystem around virtual reality » Re/code

Ina Fried:

»For a long time, Samsung’s phones have gone head to head with the iPhone, but when it came to having an ecosystem of different devices, Apple was the hands-down winner.

Sure, Samsung had its own tablets and watches, but it was Apple that was able to build loyalty, convincing customers to make purchase after purchase.

With virtual reality, though, Samsung is off to the early lead. Alongside Sunday’s debut of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, the company is announcing the Gear 360 — a consumer camera for capturing virtual-reality content. That completes the VR circle, with its Gear VR headset, already the most accessible way to consumer virtual-reality content outside of Google’s ultra-cheap cardboard viewer, which is more for getting a taste of VR than long-term consumption.

The Gear 360 isn’t due out until the second quarter — and Samsung won’t say how much the orb will cost — but it looks small, simple and powerful, at least at first glance.


VR is coming.
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German nuclear plant infected with computer viruses, operator says » Reuters

Christoph Steitz and Eric Auchard:

»Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for Finland-based F-Secure, said that infections of critical infrastructure were surprisingly common, but that they were generally not dangerous unless the plant had been targeted specifically.

The most common viruses spread without much awareness of where they are, he said.

As an example, Hypponen said he had recently spoken to a European aircraft maker that said it cleans the cockpits of its planes every week of malware designed for Android phones. The malware spread to the planes only because factory employees were charging their phones with the USB port in the cockpit.

Because the plane runs a different operating system, nothing would befall it. But it would pass the virus on to other devices that plugged into the charger.


Absolutely gobsmacking.
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This city embedded traffic lights in the sidewalks so that smartphone users don’t have to look up » The Washington Post

Rick Noack:

»Few nations in the world take red traffic lights more seriously than Germany.

Foreign visitors frequently wonder why crowds of Germans wait for traffic lights to turn green when there are no cars in sight.

That is why officials in the city of Augsburg became concerned when they noticed a new phenomenon: Pedestrians were so busy looking at their smartphones that they were ignoring traffic lights.

The city has attempted to solve that problem by installing new traffic lights embedded in the pavement — so that pedestrians constantly looking down at their phones won’t miss them.


(The headline pretty much covers the whole of the story, but there you go.) Cities being redesigned for our devices.
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Fantastic fakes: busting a $70m counterfeiting ring » Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Del Quentin Wilber:

»By the time Gaab began his investigation in 2012, the Secret Service had linked at least 10 different versions to the same family of fake $50s and $100s. The margins were impressive. The agency estimated that the counterfeiter sold his initial run to his U.S. distributors for 10 percent of their face value. The distributors then dealt their haul to middlemen for 25¢ to 35¢ on the dollar. By the time they reached the person passing the bills at Walmart or Target, a bogus $100 note was being sold for as much as $65.


Another great read from Bloomberg’s team. Bloomberg BW is a print magazine.
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Facial recognition service becomes a weapon against Russian porn actresses » Global Voices Advocacy

Kevin Rothrock:

»From the start, FindFace has raised privacy concerns. (Even in his glowing recommendation, [software engineer Andrei] Mima addressed fears that the service further erodes people’s freedoms in the age of the Internet.) In early April, a young artist named Egor Tsvetkov highlighted how invasive the technology can be, photographing random passengers on the St. Petersburg subway and matching the pictures to the individuals’ Vkontakte pages, using FindFace. “In theory,” Tsvetkov told RuNet Echo, this service could be used by a serial killer or a collector trying to hunt down a debtor.”

Hoping to raise concerns about the potential misuses of FindFace, Tsvetkov seems to have inspired a particularly nasty effort to identify and harass Russian women who appear in pornography. On April 9, three days after the media reported on Tsvetkov’s art project, users of the Russian imageboard “Dvach” (2chan) launched a campaign to deanonymize actresses who appear in pornography. After identifying these women with FindFace, Dvach users shared archived copies of their Vkontakte pages, and spammed the women’s families and friends with messages informing them about the discovery.


Oh, Russia. But this is how facial recognition systems will be used; this genie just announced its out-of-bottleness.
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New ad format will bring unskippable 6-second ads to YouTube » AndroidAuthority

John Dye:

»Nobody likes ads, but they’re kind of the cost of doing business in a world where we’ve grown accustomed to getting our content for free. Although YouTube has long had ads before videos, Google is pushing out a new ad format called “Bumpers,” which are unskippable 6-second shorts placed in front of videos.

In the Adwords blogpost that announced the format, Product Manager Zach Lupei compares these Bumper ads to video haikus. Current ads placed before videos are often full-length ads that can be skipped after a few seconds. However, these ads have a hard cap of six seconds, making them more like Vine videos than traditional ads. Marketers will have to get pretty clever to squeeze meaningful, worthwhile content into that narrow window of time, so we might actually be getting some creative and hilarious little shorts out of this.


“Creative and hilarious”. And unskippable. (Also, I abhor the “hey, I just happened to be passing a keyboard and I kinda wrote this blogpost of no consequence except it fills our ad quota” style of writing.)
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Worldwide smartphone growth goes flat in the first quarter as Chinese vendors churn the top 5 vendor list » IDC

»Vendors shipped a total of 334.9m smartphones worldwide in the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16), up slightly from the 334.3m units in 1Q15, marking the smallest year-over-year growth on record. The minimal growth this quarter is primarily attributed to strong smartphone saturation in developed markets, as well as a year-over-year decline from both Apple and Samsung, the two market leaders.

The biggest change to the market, however, was the addition of lesser-known Chinese brands OPPO and vivo, which pushed out previous fourth and fifth place players Lenovo and Xiaomi, respectively. As the China market matures, the appetite for smartphones has slowed dramatically as the explosion of uptake has passed its peak. In 2013, China’s year-over-year shipment growth was 62.5%; by 2015, it had dropped to 2.5%. Conversely, the average selling price (ASP) for a smartphone in China rose from US$207 in 2013 to US$257 in 2015.

“Along China’s maturing smartphone adoption curve, the companies most aligned with growth are those with products serving increasingly sophisticated consumers. Lenovo benefited with ASPs below US$150 in 2013, and Xiaomi picked up the mantle with ASPs below US$200 in 2014 and 2015. Now Huawei, OPPO, and vivo, which play mainly in the sub-US$250 range, are positioned for a strong 2016,” said Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “These new vendors would be well-advised not to rest on their laurels though, as this dynamic smartphone landscape has shown to even cult brands like Xiaomi that customer loyalty is difficult to consistently maintain.”


Unless you’re quite into the phone business, you’ve probably never heard of OPPO or vivo before. The erosion of ASP is dramatic too. Which of course is a problem for Apple – even if it’s rising in China. Is there new growth left in the business?
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Apple Music on course to top 20m subs this year as it flies past 13m » Music Business Worldwide

Rhian Jones:

»Apple Music has gained 2 million subscribers since February, surpassing 13 million this month, according to the company.

The latest figures put the Spotify rival on course to top 20m by the end of this year if it continues on its current impressive trajectory – adding a million subscribers per month.

The news was revealed in Apple’s latest earnings report covering its Q2 2016, released yesterday.

Apple Music gained a million subscribers in both January and February this year. Since first arriving on June 30 last year, Apple Music has launched in 113 countries. It’s now available in 58 markets in which Spotify is not – including Russia, China, India and Japan.

Last we heard, from SVP Eddy Cue, the platform’s subscribers went above 11m two months ago.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an earnings call yesterday: “Apple Music continues to grow in popularity, with over 13 million paying subscribers today.

“We feel really great about the early success of Apple’s first subscription business, and our music revenue has now hit an inflection point after many quarters of decline.”


Many quarters of what’s that now again? I don’t recall Apple mentioning music revenue declines before.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: the iCloud celeb hack, a Chinese ransom?, the real terrorist phone, Trump as Berlusconi, and more

“Hey, Miss Lawrence! My name’s iCloud! What’s your password?” Photo by YourWay Magazine 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 12 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The disturbingly simple way dozens of celebrities had their nude photos stolen » Fusion

Kashmir Hill:

»According to court documents, Collins gained access to the intimate images of nude celebrities via a disturbingly simple technique: phishing.

Though many people assumed that the hacker took advantage of an iCloud vulnerability to brute-force his way into the celebrities’ accounts, the government makes no mention of that. Instead, it says that Collins hacked over 100 people by sending emails that looked like they came from Apple and Google, such as “,” “,” and “” According to the government, Collins asked for his victims’ iCloud or Gmail usernames and passwords and “because of the victims’ belief that the email had come from their [Internet Service Providers], numerous victims responded by giving [them].”

Celebrities really need better computer security advisers. If a dedicated enough attacker comes at you, it’s hard to avoid being compromised, but it helps immensely to turn on two-factor authentication for your online accounts. That way a person needs not just your password but a code sent to your phone to get into your account.

Once Collins had their credentials, says the government, he went through their email accounts looking for nude photos and videos. The government says that Collins got into approximately 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts this way, most of them belonging to celebrities. He “accessed full Apple iCloud backups belonging to numerous victims, including at least 18 celebrities” and “used a software program to download those full Apple iCloud backups.”

Ironically, that program was likely one that’s used by law enforcement to get evidence from phones.


The idea that someone had used a cutting-edge brute-force attack to break into the passwords always seemed like vapour trails to me. Social engineering is the Occam’s Razor explanation (and also the Hanlon’s Razor explanation) to stuff like this.
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Exclusive: Chinese hackers behind U.S. ransomware attacks – security firms » Reuters

Joseph Menn:

»executives of the security firms have seen a level of sophistication in at least a half dozen cases over the last three months akin to those used in state-sponsored attacks, including techniques to gain entry and move around the networks, as well as the software used to manage intrusions.

“It is obviously a group of skilled of operators that have some amount of experience conducting intrusions,” said Phil Burdette, who heads an incident response team at Dell SecureWorks.

Burdette said his team was called in on three cases in as many months where hackers spread ransomware after exploiting known vulnerabilities in application servers. From there, the hackers tricked more than 100 computers in each of the companies into installing the malicious programs.

The victims included a transportation company and a technology firm that had 30 percent of its machines captured.

Security firms Attack Research, InGuardians and G-C Partners, said they had separately investigated three other similar ransomware attacks since December.

Although they cannot be positive, the companies concluded that all were the work of a known advanced threat group from China, Attack Research Chief Executive Val Smith told Reuters.


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Reformed LulzSec hacktivist joins payments firm » The Register

John Leyden:

»A payments firm has hired reformed LulzSec hactivist Mustafa Al-Bassam (formerly known as tFlow) for a new blockchain research project.

London-based payments group Secure Trading has taken on Al-Bassam to help develop a platform that applies the verification benefits of blockchain technology in order to improve the visibility and security of online payments. Codenamed “Trustery”, the project aims to create a commercial platform.

Secure Trading approached Al-Bassam, who agreed to work for the firm part time while continuing his computer science degree at King’s College London.


Smart move: al-Bassam is a clever guy.
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Crypto-ransomware spreads via poisoned ads on major websites » Tripwire

Graham Cluley:

»Some of the world’s most popular news and entertainment websites have been spreading poisoned adverts to potentially hundreds of thousands of visitors, putting innocent readers at risk of having their computers hit by threats such as ransomware.

Famous sites which displayed the malicious ads and endangered visiting computers include MSN,, the New York Times, AOL and Newsweek.

As a result, researchers at Malwarebytes say that they saw a “huge spike in malicious activity” over the weekend.

Security analysts at TrendLabs and Malwarebytes report that the attack is one of the largest ransomware campaigns seen in years, taking advantage of a recently-updated version of the notorious Angler Exploit Kit to spread malware.

Just last month the Angler Exploit Kit was found to be targeting PCs and Macs after it was updated to take advantage of a known vulnerability in Microsoft Silverlight…

…It seems glaringly apparent to me that there is so much malicious advertising on the internet that anytime you surf even legitimate sites without an ad blocker in place, you are putting your computer’s data at risk.


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Why is the Nokia 105 cellphone a favourite among ISIS fighters? » NBC News

Alexander Smith:

»The must-have cellphone for ISIS fighters in Iraq doesn’t have apps or a camera, and ships for less than $30.

The small and simple Nokia model is frequently used as a trigger device to set off ISIS’ improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, according to a Conflict Armament Research report released last month.

As part of a study looking at civilian components in ISIS bombs, CAR documented 10 of the phones captured from members of the terror group in Iraq in December 2014.

The research showed the terror group “consistently” used the Nokia 105 above all others “in the manufacture of a specific type of remote controlled IED.”

Two phones are used in the bomb-making process: one to call the other, which then sends a signal to a circuit board and sparks the explosion.

There are plenty of other cheap, durable phones with long battery life that ISIS fighters could use — and yet this particular model, also branded as the Microsoft Mobile 105 after the tech giant bought Nokia in 2014, shows up again and again.


I’m sure there’ll be widespread condemnation of Microsoft for aiding terrorists any moment now.
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Why Sony will win first in VR » Jon Peddie Research

The aforenamed Mr Peddie:

»Now that Oculus has revealed its consumer version of the Rift HMD, consumers can start planning how they might engage with VR, and they have a choice—a DIY rig with a PC and Rift, or a turn-key system with Sony.

Sony’s HMD will be about 30% less expensive than the Oculus HDM. And Sony buyers probably already have a PS4, and possibly PS4 accessory controllers. Most importantly, Sony also has content.


So, first couple of rounds to Sony.
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The best things in Android are free — with in-app purchases » Medium

The iA team:

»A year ago, iA Writer for Android entered the Play Store. So far, we have sold a little more than 6’000 apps. At a price of 1 to 5 Dollars, this doesn’t cover much more than one month of app development. So we decided to go free and add in app purchases later.

We are not sure why apps sell in the Apple universe but not in the Android world. It just seems to be a hard cold fact:

Worldwide App Downloads by Store vs Worldwide App Revenue by Store

Looking at the sales numbers of paid Android apps it becomes apparent that plain paid offerings just do not get traction on Android. Why? We are not sure. Here is what we have learned.


There’s a point in there about price elasticity which is remarkable. But also that stuff with an upfront price tag does not sell.
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Windows 10 Store will continue to support bitcoin » Softpedia

Bogdan Popa:

»while there was a lot of speculation online regarding the removal of Bitcoin support for new deposits in the Windows Store – some people said it’s because of the limited adoption of Bitcoin – it appears that the change made to the FAQ page was just “a mistake.”

In other words, Microsoft will continue to support Bitcoin in the Windows Store, so you can keep on using the digital currency for new deposits. A statement we received from a Microsoft spokesperson a few minutes ago provides us with some details on this:

“We continue to support Bitcoin for adding money to your Microsoft Account which can be used for purchasing content in the Windows and Xbox stores. We apologize for inaccurate information that was inadvertently posted to a Microsoft site, which is currently being corrected.”


Would love to know what volume of transactions they see.
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Top NFL official acknowledges link between football-related head trauma and CTE for first time » ESPN

Steve Fainaru:

»The NFL’s top health and safety officer acknowledged Monday there is a link between football-related head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the first time a senior league official has conceded football’s connection to the devastating brain disease.

The admission came during a roundtable discussion on concussions convened by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce. Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety, was asked by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., if the link between football and neurodegenerative diseases such as CTE has been established.

“The answer to that question is certainly yes,” Miller said.


A bit like boxing: does it mean people will be put off the potentially fabulous riches? But equally: will parents be less likely to put their children into it? The public admission is important.
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Teenager wins $250,000 in biggest drone race yet » The Verge

Rich McCormick:

»The sport has already attracted investment from the likes of NFL team owners, but it still has some way to go before it breaks into the mainstream. Particularly difficult is the question of how to actually observe the races. Drone pilots fly their racing craft in first-person, using special headsets to see as the drone sees, but for observers the footage can feel — and sound — like being strapped to the front of a particularly excitable wasp. A second camera following the action might help human brains contextualize the movements in space, but some of the nascent racing leagues set their courses inside buildings, making a chase camera’s operation difficult. Still, though, the speed of the craft and the deftness of his control make watching [15-year-old winner] Luke [Bannister]’s victory from Dubai an exhilarating — if slightly nauseating — experience.


Dubai, of course.
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Music streaming has a nearly undetectable fraud problem » Quartz

Amy X Wang:

»For an in-depth look into how click fraud works, there’s Sharky Laguana’s thorough explanation here. Laguana—a music industry veteran who now owns a rental company—tells Quartz it certainly wouldn’t be hard to run the “perfect” scheme to con Spotify. First, set up a couple hundred fake artists. Next, upload some auto-generated tunes—mediocre dance music is particularly easy to “produce” online—and just make sure your bots click on an array of songs both real and fake, so no one gets suspicious. (He uses Spotify as an example because of its size, but the scheme could theoretically work for any music subscription service.)

“If it’s done properly, it’s nearly impossible to detect,” says Laguana. “There’s no way to know why somebody chose to click on something.”


Should we just turn off the internet?
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Donald Trump, America’s own Silvio Berlusconi » The Intercept

Alexander Stille:

»Neither Trump nor Berlusconi has a real political program; what they are selling is themselves. Berlusconi used to say that what Italy needs is more Berlusconi. I recall a very telling moment in his first election campaign: During a TV debate, his opponent, the economist Luigi Spaventa, was pointing out the holes and inconsistencies in Berlusconi’s economic program, and Berlusconi stopped him mid-sentence and pointed to the victories of his soccer club, AC Milan: “Before trying to compete with me, try, at least, winning a couple of national championships!” The remark had the air of unassailable truth — however irrelevant it might be to Berlusconi’s fitness to govern. Similarly, when asked how he is going to get Mexico to pay for a giant wall between its country and ours, Trump simply responds, “Don’t worry, they’ll pay!”

Yet there is another element — a systemic one — that helps explain why Italy and the U.S. are the only major democracies in which a billionaire circus has raised its tent: the almost total deregulation of broadcast media.


The latter matters, as Stille explains. (Via @papanic.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Adele v pirates, Alphabet’s challenge, Mayer’s end? and more

The authentic feel of everything from Shaft to.. everything else. Photo of a wah-wah pedal by Kmeron 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 10 links for you. Handle with care. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Burma gives a big thumbs-up to Facebook » Foreign Policy

Christian Caryl:

As the vote count draws to a close, it’s clear that Burma’s long-suffering opposition has scored a landslide victory in Sunday’s historic national election. And the leader of that opposition knows whom to thank. As she was explaining the reasons for her party’s remarkable triumph in an interview with the BBC this week, Nobel Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said this: “And then of course there’s the communications revolution. This has made a huge difference. Everybody gets onto the net and informs everybody else of what is happening. And so it’s much more difficult for those who wish to commit irregularities to get away with it.”

She could have been a little more specific, though. When people here in Burma refer to the “Internet,” what they often have in mind is Facebook — the social media network that dominates all online activity in this country to a degree unimaginable anywhere else.

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Inside the problem with Alphabet » The Information

Amir Efrati and Jessica Lessin:

[Larry] Page unveiled Alphabet in August as a way to empower entrepreneurs and strong CEOs to build new companies “with a long term view.” Mr. Page had already been creating new companies under Google, like Calico, the secretive life-extension startup that former Genentech CEO Art Levinson is leading.

Some of those companies wanted more autonomy from Google and its bureaucracy, on issues big and small; [Arthur] Levinson [in charge of Calico], for instance, bristled when Google’s food services staff tried to apply Google’s nutritional guidelines to dining areas that served Calico employees, according to several people Mr. Page told about it.

Many details about the new structure have yet to be figured out. They include whether and how Alphabet companies can raise outside capital; who will control the IP they create, especially if they borrowed some from the old Google; and how they will use Google’s technical infrastructure.

If Google’s world-class cybersecurity software extends to the new Alphabet companies and those companies are later spun out or sell a significant chunk of themselves to another party, will those companies still get to use the Google software? Does it make sense for people at an Alphabet company to get Alphabet stock as part of their compensation, given that the performance of Alphabet will be heavily influenced by the performance of Google Search ads?

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Wireless carriers are favouring the iPhone » The Motley Fool

Sam Mattera:

The gradual decline of contract plans has sparked a wave of innovation in the U.S. wireless industry. In the past, consumers mostly signed two-year agreements in exchange for heavily subsidized handsets. Today, they have a vast array of choices, including installment options and leasing programs. Most of these plans reduce upfront costs by doing away with down payments, and give consumers the ability to upgrade their smartphones more often.

But some of these plans – the most advantageous, in fact – are only available to buyers of Apple’s iPhone.

I could have sworn that the hot take on the end of subsidies (aka contract plans) was that it meant dire trouble for Apple.
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The last days Of Marissa Mayer? » Forbes

Miguel Helft goes into detail and finds many of the same stories we’ve been hearing for the past couple of years:

Mayer hired some executives without fully vetting them with her team, and some of those decisions proved costly. One of her first big hires was Google sales executive Henrique De Castro, brought on as chief operating officer. De Castro failed to meet sales goals and Mayer fired him after 15 months, but not before he reportedly pocketed as much as $109 million in compensation and severance. Mayer also spent a year without a chief information officer after her IT operations chief David Dibble quit for personal reasons in 2013. In August 2014 Mayer finally announced to her executive staff that she had found the right person in Netflix executive Mike Kail, who came recommended by her husband, the investor Zachary Bogue. Three months later Netflix sued Kail for fraud, after he allegedly collected kickbacks from vendors. Yahoo quietly let him go in May.

Mayer’s propensity for micromanaging also exasperated many of her executives. By her own admission, Mayer spent an entire weekend working with a team of designers to revamp the Yahoo corporate logo, debating such details as the right slant for the exclamation point (9 degrees from vertical). Mayer also insisted on personally reviewing even minor deviations from a compensation policy she had instituted. When managers wanted to give top performers a bonus or raise above the parameters she had set, they had to write her an e-mail explaining the circumstances and wait for an approval or denial. Some managers dispute that this was a hard-and-fast rule. Mayer also insisted on reviewing the terms given to hundreds of contractors and vendors on a quarterly basis, whether they were engineers or writers or makeup artists. “She would go line by line and decide on what date a contract should end,” says a senior executive. Adds another: “It was a colossal waste of time.”

There’s detail, and then there’s detail that doesn’t merit a chief executive’s very expensive time.
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EE proposes restrictions on mobile adverts » Telegraph

Christopher Williams:

EE, Britain’s biggest mobile operator, is considering introducing technology that will hand smartphone users the power to control the advertising they see online, in a clampdown that would cause major upheaval in the £2bn mobile advertising market.

Olaf Swantee, EE’s chief executive, has launched a strategic review that will decide whether the operator should help its 27 million customers to restrict the quantity and type of advertising that reaches their devices, amid concern over increasingly intrusive practices.

The review will look at options for creating new tools for subscribers that would allow them to block some forms of advertising on the mobile web and potentially within apps, such as banners that pop up on top of pages or videos that play automatically. EE customers could also get the ability to control the overall volume of advertising.

Mr Swantee told The Sunday Telegraph: “We think it’s important that, over time, customers start to be offered more choice and control over the level and intensity of ads on mobile.

“For EE, this is not about adblocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive.”

It’s about adblocking. And potentially creating a whitelist.. in paid-for manner?
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Syria’s climate-fuelled conflict, in one stunning comic strip » Mother Jones

I would hotlink to the strip directly, to embed it, but that would probably take more scrolling room than you want to bother with here. However, it makes a crucial point: the Arab Spring wasn’t caused by some abrupt realisation among the peoples of the Middle East that democracy would be nice; instead, it was driven by the rising cost of staple foods and rural displacement to cities, which created huge tensions – which authoritarian regimes couldn’t handle without causing more unrest.

Thus when people snigger at Prince Charles saying that the refugee crisis is a result of climate change, he’s not the one who’s wrong; they are.
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Adele is NOT No.1 on this chart (and it’s a really important one) » Music Business Worldwide

Tim Ingham:

The Pirate Bay’s regularly-updated Music chart shows the 100 most popular torrents on the service in the past 48 hours.

The shock news: [Adele’s new album] 25 is nowhere. Literally nowhere.

Below, you can see the 25 most popular music files on TPB as of yesterday morning (November 22) UK time – two days after the astonishingly successful release of Adele’s new LP.

Not only does 25 not feature in the tracks we’ve featured above – it didn’t feature in the entire top 100.

It was the same story on Saturday (November 21) – a day after release – and it’s the same story this morning.

Adele did briefly claim a position on the TPB chart yesterday, MBW noticed – at No.63, with her previous release 21 – but she’s since disappeared.

Speaks again to the different generations interested in Adele. If it had been, say, a new Nine Inch Nails album, it would have been all over the pirate sites.
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I worked in a video store for 25 years. Here’s what I learned as my industry died » Vox

Dennis Perkins makes the point that a lot of it is about choice and curation:

It was a point of pride that we had everything and could turn people on to some obscurity we knew would appeal. A video store had sneaky cultural punching power — movies championed by our staff got watched. They stayed alive. You know, as long as we did.

By contrast: Netflix routinely adds and removes films at a whim based almost exclusively on licensing agreements. These agreements just don’t mean that movies any respectable video store would have remain “unavailable for streaming,” but that a substantial portion of Netflix’s (rather small) 10,000 film inventory is garbage: direct-to-DVD movies (or movies that bypass DVD for streaming entirely) accepted as part of package deals to get the rights to titles somebody might actually want to see. Although not everything you might want to see. As of this writing, you can’t watch Annie Hall, Argo, The Exorcist, This Is Spinal Tap, Taxi Driver, Schindler’s List, The Muppet Movie, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Fight Club, or Frozen on Netflix. You can, however, stream Transmorphers or Atlantic Rim, two suspiciously titled low-budget knockoffs of the movie you meant to watch.

His other key point: you had to choose to go to a video store. Netflix and its kin generally offer “let’s settle for this” content.
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How LSD microdosing became the hot new business trip » Rolling Stone

Andrew Leonard:

“Ken” is 25, has a master’s degree from Stanford and works for a tech startup in San Francisco, doing a little bit of everything: hardware and software design, sales and business development. Recently, he has discovered a new way to enhance his productivity and creativity, and it’s not Five Hour Energy or meditation.

Ken is one of a growing number of professionals who enjoy taking “microdoses” of psychedelics – in his free time and, occasionally, at the office. “I had an epic time,” he says at the end of one such day. “I was making a lot of sales, talking to a lot of people, finding solutions to their technical problems.”

A microdose is about a tenth of the normal dose – around 10 micrograms of LSD, or 0.2-0.5 grams of mushrooms. The dose is subperceptual – enough, says Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, “to feel a little bit of energy lift, a little bit of insight, but not so much that you are tripping.”

This will become the new go-to explanation for crazy startup ideas.
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The invention of the wah-wah pedal » Priceonomics

In 1965, in a small back room of a Los Angeles facility, Thomas Organ’s engineers began to build Vox amplifiers. Among these engineers was a bright-eyed 20-year-old by the name of Brad Plunkett.

Plunkett was given a challenging task by Thomas Organ’s CEO: he was to take apart a Vox AC-100 guitar amp and find a way to make it cheaper to produce while still maintaining the sound quality.

“The first thing I noticed,” he recalls in the documentary Cry Baby, “was this little switch [on the amp] entitled ‘MRB.’”

This switch, invented by British engineer Dick Denney and installed on all Vox AC-100 amps at the time, stood for “middle range boost.” When flicked on, it would highlight the middle sound frequencies of the guitar (notes between 300 and 5,000 hertz); in doing so, it would tame the extremes (very high and very low pitches), and produce a flattened, smoother sound. Plunkett realized that he could replace this pricey switch with a potentiometer – essentially an adjustable knob that divided voltages and acts as a variable resistor – and achieve the same effect.

“The switches were very expensive, about $4 each,” Plunkett continues. “The potentiometer would only cost about 30 cents.”

After a few days of fiddling around with spare parts, Plunkett succeeded in designing a circuit that could change the frequency of notes by simply rotating a potentiometer. Then, something unexpected happened.

(This makes an hour-long video.)

Patented as “foot controlled continuously variable preference circuit for musical instruments”. The patent came too late. Everyone could figure it out. Still, should the wah-wah pedal be added to the list of serendipitous discoveries, along with vulcanized rubber and Post-It notes?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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

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

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. Made without nuts. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Preserving security in Belgium » Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Mulligan:

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

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

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

Amir Efrati:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sundar Pichai:

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

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

No quibbles: this is excellent news. Main site is Written in Python; binaries available for Linux and Mac. I’m sure there’s another desktop OS, isn’t there?
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David Heinermeier Hansson (he usually goes by “DHH”), who founded Basecamp which – yawn! – is just mildly and continually successful:

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

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

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

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Piano Phase » Alexander Chen

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

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

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

Jonathan Greenberg:

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

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

Start up: Apple Music for Android enters beta, how many Ubuntu phones?, Samsung’s dead Milk, and more

If only it were as simple as this for phones. Photo by Bradford Timeline 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 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Google brings you closer to your customers in the moments that matter » Inside AdWords blog

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Senior Vice President, Ads and Commerce:

Customer Match allows you to upload a list of email addresses, which can be matched to signed-in users on Google in a secure and privacy-safe way. From there, you can build campaigns and ads specifically designed to reach your audience.

Let’s say you’re a travel brand. You can now reach people who have joined your rewards program as they plan their next trip. For example, when these rewards members search for “non-stop flights to new york” on, you can show relevant ads at the top of their search results on any device right when they’re looking to fly to New York. And when those members are watching their favorite videos on YouTube or catching up on Gmail, you can show ads that inspire them to plan their next trip.

Using Customer Match, you can also generate Similar Audiences to reach new customers on YouTube and Gmail who are likely to be interested in your products and services. For example, you can drive awareness on YouTube for new non-stop flights by showing TrueView ads to prospective customers who have similar interests and characteristics to your rewards members.

The quest for “relevant ads” must be pursued continuously. (Facebook already has a similar system.)
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Bringing the Internet to more Indians—starting with 10 million rail passengers a day » Official Google Blog

Sundar Pichai, Google CEO:

on the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to our U.S. headquarters, and in line with his Digital India initiative, we announced a new project to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 train stations across India.
Working with Indian Railways, which operates one of the world’s largest railway networks, and RailTel, which provides Internet services as RailWire via its extensive fiber network along many of these railway lines, our Access & Energy team plans to bring the first stations online in the coming months. The network will expand quickly to cover 100 of the busiest stations in India before the end of 2016, with the remaining stations following in quick succession.

Even with just the first 100 stations online, this project will make Wi-Fi available for the more than 10 million people who pass through every day.

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Microsoft announces changes to financial reporting structure » Yahoo Finance

Beginning in fiscal year 2016, the company will report revenue and operating income based on three operating segments: Productivity and Business Processes, Intelligent Cloud, and More Personal Computing.   

The Productivity and Business Processes segment includes results from Office and Office 365 for commercial and consumer customers, as well as Dynamics and Dynamics CRM Online. 

The Intelligent Cloud segment includes results from public, private and hybrid server products and services such as Windows Server, SQL Server, System Center, Azure, and Enterprise Services. 

The More Personal Computing segment includes results from licensing of the Windows operating system, devices such as Surface and phones, gaming including Xbox consoles, and search.

This is surely going to obfuscate things more than ever; the latest scheme, which had seven reporting segments, had only been in place for three years – replacing one with six segments. The fewer reporting buckets, the less help it is trying to understand what is and isn’t working at the company.
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Apple Music for Android beta invites spotted in the wild » Techaeris

Justin Jelinek:

The e-mail comes from a service called Betabound, a site that allows users to request access to different varieties of beta programs. In this instance though, it’s a doozy. The notice — in its entirety below — simply states:

We’re excited to invite you to come test Apple Music for Android. If you’re a current Android user that would like to join the beta for the new music streaming service, you won’t want to miss this opportunity. To learn more and apply, click the link below. Best of luck! The Betabound team.

Once you follow the link, you’ll be hit with a series of music related questions, some of which are real head-scratchers.  For example:

If you could only listen to 5 albums for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

How do you even answer that? I’d be hard pressed to come up with an answer, though if the successful completion would get me into the Apple Music for Android beta I’m sure I could come up with something.

If you want to try your luck and see if you can get into the beta, you can sign up on Betabound’s website.

Yup, it’s really there. Big questions:
• will it follow Android’s Material design, or look like an iOS app?
• Will it try to integrate iTunes content, or just offer streaming/DRM downloads?
• How will it avoid the relentless one-star trolling of Android fans that greeted the “Move to iOS” app?

And now…
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Apple Music’s functionality failure » Lefsetz Letter

Bob Lefsetz is an acerbic viewer of what’s happening in the music business, and he doesn’t like how Apple is handling its own shift:

this is death in tech. If you’re not willing to destroy the old business model on the way to the new, you’re gonna lose in the long run.

Yes, Apple has zillions of credit card numbers. Yes, Apple is the world’s most valuable company, a juggernaut. But IBM is a shadow of what it once was, as is Microsoft. Nothing is forever. When the great disruption comes you’ve got to sacrifice what once was, however profitable it might be, or you will die in the future.

The problem with streaming in the United States is that most people just don’t see the need to subscribe. Furthermore, they don’t see the need to experiment. Getting someone to try something is the hardest part. And when they do try something and they get less functionality than before, they’re out.

This is what’s happening with Apple Music, and this hurts not only Apple, but the music business at large.

It’d be like having a CD player that spins vinyl. Actually, they tried this. Needless to say, it failed.

As for streaming sound quality, Clayton Christensen went on to say that the new solution may not equal the quality of the old, but it’s good enough and it’s cheap. If you’re an iTunes customer you’re going to go to streaming, you just don’t know it yet. Because streaming is cheaper if you’re a heavy buyer, and owning nothing you can gain improvement along the way.

His argument that you want different apps for music you “own” and for “streams” feels right. Apple’s problem though would be how do you make people start to use the “streams” one? There must have been big fights over this internally. The present system feels like a compromise that hasn’t quite worked.
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Samsung’s Milk Video to be shut down November 20 » Variety

Janko Roettgers:

Samsung is shuttering its Milk Video service in November. The company announced the shut-down on Google Play Monday, writing: “While we remain committed to providing premium entertainment services, we have decided to end support for the Samsung Milk Video app as of November 20, 2015.”

A Samsung spokesperson declined to comment on how the closure will affect Milk Video staff.

The closure comes almost to the day a year after Samsung launched Milk Video as a mobile-focused service focusing on short-form video content. Samsung at one point envisioned Milk Video as part of a larger suite of content-focused apps for mobile devices, which also includes the company’s Pandora-like Milk Music service.

Samsung struck some deals with Vice, Funny or Die and others for exclusive short-form content, and complemented these clips with aggregated videos from YouTube, Vevo and other sources.

Roettgers wrote about layoffs in those units back in May. Is this the end of Samsung’s content strategy?
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The Apple Watch is perfect. On paper. »

Wes Miller (who generally likes his Apple stuff) is taking his Apple Watch back, after a week, because he can’t find anything really relevant that it does for him:

The former product manager (and former development manager) in me sees how we arrived at this point. The Apple Watch team was established long ago, and started on their project. At one point, pressure from above, from outside, from investors, who knows… forced Apple to push up a launch date. The hardware was reasonably ready. But the software was a hot mess.

Traditionally, Apple excelled when they discarded features that weren’t ready, even if competitors already did them in a half-assed way – winning over consumers by delivering those features later when they’re actually ready. Unfortunately, you often get a product manager in the mix that pushes for a feature, even if it can’t really be implemented well or reliably. The Apple Watch feels like this. It offers a mix of checkbox features that, yes, you can argue, kind of work. But they don’t have the finish that they should. The software doesn’t respect the hardware. In fact, it’s giving a middle finger to the hardware. Even WatchOS 2 fails to deliver adequate finish. The list of features that the Watch promises sound nifty. But actually living with the Watch is disappointing.

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Apple iPhone 6s vs iPhone 6s Plus Water Test! Is it secretly waterproof? A waterproof review » YouTube

If you don’t want to watch – he dunks the new phones in some bowls of water for an hour. They keep working. Apple has said nothing about the waterproofiness of the new iPhones.

Moving on…
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Sony changes stance on waterproof phones: do not use underwater » Xperia Blog

Sony Mobile has made a hugely controversial change to its advice around Xperia waterproof devices. Despite most recent Sony Xperia waterproof devices achieving an Ingress Protection rating of IP68 for water resistance, the highest possible, Sony now says that they should not be used underwater.

If you head over to Sony Mobile’s support page on water and dust protection, you will find several statements on Sony’s new policy including: “Remember not to use the device underwater” and “The IP rating of your device was achieved in laboratory conditions in standby mode, so you should not use the device underwater, such as taking pictures.”

Specifically: don’t put it in seawater or chlorinated water such as swimming pools. Or in juice. Distilled water might be OK. It’s not quite the selling point it used to be, is it? Especially as it had promotional campaigns showing the phones being used to take photos underwater. And people *do* use them to take photos underwater – and like them for that.

Kudos to the Xperia blog, which has pulled together a slew of ads where Sony has shown the phones in water to push that “waterproof” idea. Over to you, Sony.
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How many Ubuntu Phones are there? » RPadovani

Padovani, an Ubuntu contributor, does some maths:

As app developer, and mainly as big supporter of the project, it’s a question I ask myself often.

I don’t have the answer, but I can try to make a guess using a useful statistic I have: the number of times the Calculator App has been updated.

The statistic I have access is the number of unique users that have updated the calculator app at least once. The last update of calculator is from 8 Jun ‘15. So phones that have been sold later probably already included the update. Let’s say then the number of users I guess is updated to end of July ‘15.

This means the only market we consider is Europe. Russia, India, China and the rest of the world have started to have available the phones later this year.

His conclusion: probably about 25,000 by the end of September. Yes, twenty-five thousand. Remember when Ubuntu/Linux/Firefox OS was going to be the future third/fourth mobile ecosystem?
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CEO John Chen shows off the BlackBerry Priv, gets lost » SlashGear

JC Torres:

Just because BlackBerry has finally admitted that it does have an Android smartphone doesn’t mean everyone might be on board with the plan. And “not everyone” might even include CEO John Chen. The chief executive gave the Business News Network an exclusive glimpse at a working BlackBerry Priv, the company’s first “true” Android smartphone. But in trying to demo the smartphone that “runs Google”, Chen is visibly seen struggling to figure out how to actually use the device, as well as probably some hints of unresponsiveness with the touch screen.

In his defense, Chen is, after all, the CEO of BlackBerry, not of Samsung, of LG, or Motorola, or any other Android device maker.

That’s not a defence. Can you imagine any tech CEO struggling so badly as this with the device they hope to make money on? They haven’t even sorted out the naming: Chen pronounces it “Priv”, with a short “i” (as in “privet hedge”), and then talks about it offering “pryvacy” (with a long “i” as in “prying”). Can’t operate the phone, isn’t on top of the marketing. That’s bad. BBN took the original video down and offered it in a non-embeddable view on its site, hence this link to a YouTube re-upload.

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Start up: ad traffic fraud, adblocking goes paid and free, US v Google?, BlackBerry to Android, and more

Perhaps this one isn’t better as a Live Photo, but parents will like capturing “moments”. Photo by Meigs O’Toole 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 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The fake traffic schemes that are rotting the internet » Bloomberg Business

Ben Elgin, Michael Riley, David Kocieniewski, and Joshua Brustein:

[Ron] Amram is at Heineken USA now, where the annual ad budget is in the $150m range. In 2013 the company replaced its old stubby bottles with a fashionably long-necked version that supposedly keeps the beer cold longer. “We had a healthy investment in TV, local media, and digital,” he says. “We thought digital would come close and compete with television in terms of effectiveness.”

Late that year he and a half-dozen or so colleagues gathered in a New York conference room for a presentation on the performance of the online ads. They were stunned. Digital’s return on investment was around 2 to 1, a $2 increase in revenue for every $1 of ad spending, compared with at least 6 to 1 for TV. The most startling finding: Only 20% of the campaign’s “ad impressions”—ads that appear on a computer or smartphone screen—were even seen by actual people.

“The room basically stopped,” Amram recalls. The team was concerned about their jobs; someone asked, “Can they do that? Is it legal?” But mostly it was disbelief and outrage. “It was like we’d been throwing our money to the mob,” Amram says. “As an advertiser we were paying for eyeballs and thought that we were buying views. But in the digital world, you’re just paying for the ad to be served, and there’s no guarantee who will see it, or whether a human will see it at all.”

Stunning journalism, and a must-read (allow some time). The team finds people who have set up junk sites which attract huge amounts of machine “traffic” which is monetised through ads set up by more-or-less honest ad networks. It’s a house of cards.
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On Acceptable Ads » Murphy Apps

Dean Murphy, author of the Crystal content blocker:

There has been a lot of confusion and mis-reporting going on today regarding Crystal allowing advertising. I’m hoping this post will clarify the information.

-What will be changing? 

In my first update (6-10 weeks time?) there will be two new features. A user managed whitelist, where you the user can specify a list of domains that you would like to support and an option to enable/disable Acceptable Ads on the websites you visit.

You are totally free to use all/any/none of these features as you see fit.

-What are acceptable ads? 

Acceptable Ads is an initiative, supported by 3 of my favourite websites  (Reddit, DuckDuckGo, Stack Exchange), that encourages and promotes the use of better advertising on the web. They have 5 rules for publishers and advertisers to stick to: 

• Acceptable Ads are not annoying.
• Acceptable Ads do not disrupt or distort the page content we’re trying to read.
• Acceptable Ads are transparent with us about being an ad.
• Acceptable Ads are effective without shouting at us.
• Acceptable Ads are appropriate to the site that we are on.

His reasoning: as a lone developer, he can’t keep up; Eyeo, maker of Adblock Plus, can. Eyeo will pay him an ongoing fee.
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Live Photos are a gimmick — says nobody who has young kids, ever » Medium

Jeremy Olson:

Sometimes hiding behind a bad photo is a beautiful moment. These moments are elusive. They happen too fast to catch on video. You can’t catch them intentionally. The only possible way to catch them is … accidentally.

Sure, I might have been able to record a video of my daughter playing peek-a-boo with me but that is not the point. I’ve only had Live Photos for a day and they are already surfacing the hidden treasures behind both good and bad photos. If I keep Live Photos turned on, I am inevitably going to capture precious moments of my daughter growing up that I would have never captured intentionally.

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Wait, what? Mobile browser traffic is 2x bigger than app traffic, and growing faster » VentureBeat | Mobile | by John Koetsier

John Koetsier unpicks a not-quite-apples-with-apples comparison from Morgan Stanley:

Mobile users spend massive numbers of hours in Subway Surfer or Game of War, blowing 80% of their time in just five favorite apps, while they might also visit 10 or 15 mobile web sites of companies that they’re checking out, and spend just a few moments on each. Mobile “traffic” — read unique visitors — are up on mobile web, but mobile time is also up on apps.

The questions proliferate: Why is this happening, what’s best, and what matters most? And, what should brands, companies, and media properties do?

The answer is pretty simple: Deepest engagement for the longest period of time happens in apps, so apps matter, and they matter desperately for brands who want to connect to customers. But since, as we’ve seen in our research, apps-per-smartphone users is maxxing out at an average of 50-60, and no-one besides Robert Scoble is going to install an app for each company, service, or site he or she interacts with, your mobile web experience has to be good, and it has to be strong.

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FBI wants better automated image analysis for tattoos » IEEE Spectrum

Tam Harbert:

In June, the six groups [chosen by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology] reported on how well their algorithms performed in five different types of searches. The algorithms did well in three of these searches, achieving success rates of 90% and above in detecting whether a given image contained a tattoo; identifying the same tattoo on the same person, over a span of time; and identifying a small segment of a larger tattoo.

The algorithms performed poorly — with hit rates as low as 15% — at two tasks: identifying visually similar tattoos on different people, and searching for similar tattoos across a variety of media, including sketches, scanned prints, and computer graphics.

Tattoos are hard – much harder than faces.
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Native advertising is a bad solution » The Brooks Review

Ben Brooks:

here’s another scenario I see playing out all over the web: a small app is reviewed with great gusto and praise by a site, and a few weeks (or months) later that app is paying for a sponsorship on the site. Now, those are likely two unrelated events — perhaps the app didn’t know about the site before the review, but now they know about the site and the exposure was great, so why not get more by paying for advertisement?

But now the site publisher is in a hairy situation. They know the review was genuine because they wrote it long before they were ever contacted by that developer, but will people still believe it was genuine if they accept this sponsorship? Or will everyone just yell “conspiracy” and find another review site? Will the people who read the review long before the sponsorship rethink that review? Will new readers finding that review disregard the objectivity of the entire site because of this one ad?

There’s no easy solution, unless you don’t ever want to write about products or companies.

Brooks evidently hasn’t ever written for a major online publication: writing about anything and offering a positive or negative view will instantly bring accusations of bias. It happens all the time to every writer. Native advertising, in that sense, is like Churchill’s view of democracy as a form of government: the worst – apart from every other one.
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Avi Cieplinski: “This morning I received…” » Twitter

This morning I received the end product of 5 years of work at Apple. Can’t believe I’m really 3D Touching it. 🙂

Cieplinski’s Twitter bio says he’s “co-inventor of Apple’s Force Touch and Taptic Engine”. He’s now at Twitter. The “co-” would have been with lots of others. But it’s the timescale that makes you think: that means this started in 2010, when everyone was excited about the iPhone 4.

What other interaction is five years away now?
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Adblock Fast » App Store

Adblock Fast is a free, open-source ad blocker!

Just as webpages grew bloated with ads, so too have ad blockers grown bloated with little-used filtering rules and features that sap their speed and hog your device’s disk space, CPU cycles, and memory. Adblock Fast runs an optimized ruleset to accelerate pages more but consume less system resources than other ad blockers do.

Well that was pretty rapid price deflation.
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Google said to be under US antitrust scrutiny over Android » Bloomberg Business

The Federal Trade Commission reached an agreement with the Justice Department to spearhead an investigation of Google’s Android business, the people said. FTC officials have met with technology company representatives who say Google gives priority to its own services on the Android platform, while restricting others, added the people, who asked for anonymity because the matter is confidential.

The inquiry is in its early stages, and it could end without a case against the company. Regardless, it shows the FTC is again turning its attention to one of America’s biggest companies, two years after it closed a separate investigation into Google’s Internet search business. The FTC’s handling of the earlier probe left some technology companies skeptical of the agency’s willingness to bring a case, according to the people.

Spokesmen for the FTC and Google declined to comment.

I thought that a similar case (or class action) had already been tried and failed in the US. I have trouble seeing how the FTC would make the US’s required triumvirate of antitrust proof – dominant position, annexing of adjacent market, harm to consumers – stick. The first two might be true, but the third feels like a hell of a stretch.
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Ad-supported is 56% of US streaming revenue » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

According to the IFPI ad supported streaming accounted for just 19% of all US streaming revenues in 2014, down from a high of 30% in 2011.  Which points to the success of subscriptions.  Except that those numbers ignore a major part of the equation: Pandora (and other semi-interactive radio services).  The IFPI has Pandora hidden away with cloud locker services, SiriusXM and a mixture of other revenues in ‘Other Digital’.  Extracting the semi-interactive radio revenues that count as label trade revenues wasn’t the most straight forward of tasks but it was worth the effort.  Once Pandora is added into the mix it emerges that 56% of US streaming revenues are from free, ad supported services.  While that share is down from a high of 66% in 2012 it remained flat in 2013 and 2014.  Which means that however fast subscriptions grew Pandora, Slacker, Rhapsody UnRadio and co grew even faster in order to offset the decline in on demand ad supported income.

Sneaky of the IFPI. Pandora is a listed company in the US – can hardly call it core. And this is before you include YouTube, which many teens use to stream entire albums while not actually watching the screen.
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BlackBerry’s Android move may be too late » Jackdaw Research

Jan Dawson:

being an Android OEM is a pretty uncomfortable place to be right now. Competition is intensifying, the biggest players are struggling, and small lower-priced vendors are taking increasing share. The big question is whether BlackBerry can really turn handsets around at this point, or whether it’s simply too late for the brand, which has been tarnished by all that has happened over the last few years. My sense is that many users have moved on at this point, and that even if enterprises like the BlackBerry platform, employees won’t. The reality is that there are still some industries where BlackBerry devices are the only option, and therefore I think it’s likely that BlackBerry will continue to make devices for some time to come, but the question is whether that can ever be a profitable business for them again.

Ooh, I know this one! It’s “no”: by my calculations BlackBerry’s handset business has lost money (quite a lot in some cases) for 15 quarters in a row. Android won’t solve that.
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Start up: Chrome v Flash (and Google v iOS 9), HTC delays Vive, streaming’s true problem, and more

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

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

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

Shaun Nichols:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adriana Lee:

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

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

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

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

Natasha Singer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Zelenko and Frank Bi:

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

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

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

Mark Mulligan:

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

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

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

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

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

Leonid Bershidsky:

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

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

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

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The fembots of Ashley Madison » Gizmodo

Annalee Newitz:

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

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

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

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

Matthew Panzarino:

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

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

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

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

I thought the Apple TV would get its own SDK
back in 2012. Totally wrong; it just wasn’t ready.
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Start up: Reddit implodes, catching criminals via Spotify, Cameron’s mad encryption plan, and more

A better way to think of Reddit? Photo by avisualstudy on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. With added anchors, so you can link direct to observations Kontra. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Cops nab fugitives in Cabo San Lucas by tracking Spotify IP address » Ars Technica

David Kravets:

Husband Peter Barr and wife Brittany Nunn of Wellington, Colorado, were brought to Denver days ago and face felony charges in connection to the children’s disappearance. Nunn had lost custody of her children to their fathers, but she did not appear when the exchange was supposed to happen in December. The duo had been on the lam ever since, and they are accused of unlawfully taking the woman’s two biological children, 4 and 6, to Mexico, according to The Coloradoan.

The case was broken by Larimer County Sheriff’s investigator Drew Weber. According to the paper:

Drawing on new investigative tactics, Weber executed a search warrant and pulled records from Nunn’s Spotify account. He found it was being used from an IP address in Mexico. He later pulled search records from Netflix and Nunn’s other accounts and eventually tracked a package that Nunn had ordered to be shipped to Cabo San Lucas.

A private investigator soon joined Weber and helped monitor the family for months while agents with FBI, customs officials and the US State Department worked with the consulate in Mexico on a plan to bring the children and alleged abductors home.

This is how it’s going to be from now on: go on the lam, stay offline. Or get caught. And staying offline will be increasingly difficult.
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Student’s Dilemma, a riff of the Prisoner version with extra credit » Flowing Data

By way of Chris Volinsky, a quiz dilemma for students who want extra credit. It’s a variation on the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a popular game theory example that uses two criminals instead of students and lesser jail time instead of extra credit.

What’s your answer? I take the two.

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FTC exploring Apple rules for streaming music rivals in App Store » Reuters

Diane Bartz and Julia Love:

U.S. government antitrust regulators are looking into claims about whether Apple’s treatment of rival streaming music apps is illegal under antitrust law, according to three industry sources.

Apple recently launched a new music streaming service, Apple Music. It also provides the App Store platform for competing streaming services including Jango, Spotify, Rhapsody and others.

Apple takes a 30% cut of all in-app purchases for digital goods, such as music streaming subscriptions and games, sold on its platform.

While $9.99 has emerged as the going monthly rate for music subscriptions, including Apple’s, some streaming companies complain that Apple’s cut forces them to either charge more in the App Store than they do on other platforms or erode their profit margins.

That’s OK – all Apple needs to do is put its Beats sub on the App Store and take a 30% cut. Oh, wait!

But the 30% tithe has been in place since before Apple had a streaming service. Hard to see the antitrust case here, unlike the ebooks “let’s agree to alter prices upwards” case. Google also has the same 30% cut in place, and a larger market share.
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Bruce Schneier: David Cameron’s encryption ban would ‘destroy the internet’ » Business Insider

Rob Price:

amid heightened terror fears, Cameron says “we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.”

The prime minister first indicated that he would try to clamp down on secure communications that could not be decrypted by law enforcement in January, after the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris. His comments sparked an immediate flurry of condemnation from privacy and security activists, but his recent statements show he’s not backing down. (Number 10 has not responded to requests for clarification about Cameron’s comments.)

Business Insider reached out to Bruce Schneier to discuss the feasibility of Cameron’s proposed ban on “safe spaces” online. Schneier, a widely respected cryptography and security expert, is a fellow at the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, serves on the board of the digital-liberties pressure group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and writes frequently on encryption and security. He didn’t hold back.

The Cameron suggestions are clearly nonsense, which as Schneier points out, raises the question of why nobody around him has said “er, we can’t implement that, because it’s totalitarian, and also unworkable.”

So how does Cameron extricate himself from this?
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Why Android and Windows should embrace RAW photography before Apple catches up » The Next Web

Napier Lopez:

Sticking with JPEG is like watching The Lion King on VCR when it’s available on Blu-Ray.

Not everyone cares about taking better photos, but it’s clear many do. Just take a look at apple’s “Shot with iPhone” campaign; advertising for flagship phones centers around cameras, flaunting things like resolution and aperture when a more substantial improvement lies with a feature right under our noses.

For Android and Windows Phone, investing resources into making their RAW files more accessible can help give them a big head start over Apple. RAW support on its own is awesome, but software developers and manufacturers need to make it easy to use before the masses adopt it. I should be able to upload a RAW file straight onto Instagram, not be forced to buy a Lightroom Mobile subscription or load it onto my computer.

In any case, it’s likely RAW will come to iOS too.

Might do, although probably only as an option; it sucks up a lot of storage, and some people are already pushing it on their photo libraries.
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Reddit is not the front page of the internet » The Daily Beast

Samantha Allen with an excoriating (but also pinpoint accurate) take:

Reddit became a web destination and a traffic powerhouse by virtue of the clicking, viewing, and typing habits of a relatively narrow subsection of Internet users. 74% of Reddit users are men, the highest of any social networking website. Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube all come much closer to gender parity. Describing Reddit without making reference to its gender asymmetry is akin to reporting on Pinterest, which is 72% female, without noting that the site caters to women.

And, indeed, when The New York Times reviewed Pinterest in 2012, they rightly referred to it as “female-oriented,” but when the CEO of a 74% male social network resigns after facing intense criticism from its users—much of it laced with misogyny—they somehow forget to label Reddit, in turn, as “male-oriented.” Reddit too often passes in the media as unmarked and neutral territory while sites like Pinterest get pigeonholed as girly.

Reddit is also one of the most youthful social networks, with nearly 60% of its visitors coming in under age 34. For comparison, over 60% of Facebook users are above age 34. Increasingly, younger Internet users seem to perceive Facebook as a network for grandmas but, in 2015, grandmas are as vital a part of the internet as anyone else—even if they’d never be caught dead on its supposed “front page.” Only 2% of people over 50 use Reddit.

She also captures it in one phrase elsewhere: “Reddit is not so much the generic front page of the Internet as it is its spacious, tricked-out man cave: a lot of people can fit inside, but only some people feel comfortable hanging out there.”
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The death of Reddit » Chuq Von Rospach

Von Rospach has been in charge of online community efforts at Apple and Palm, among others:

I see poor management with a naive attitude about the use of the site, weak tools and IP, a mis-aligned power structure where there’s no need for the people with the real power to care what the company wants, no real communication between company and its moderators or users, and a lot of really toxic users and groups that have caused the site major PR and reputation disasters but which the company is both reluctant and in many cases unable to control or remove.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

How do you fix this?

You don’t. You can’t. Reddit has failed, and we are now witnessing its immolation.
So what should Reddit do? Let me say up front this basic fact: if the Reddit board were to call me up and offer me a blank check to come in and fix Reddit for them, I would laugh and hang up. I wouldn’t touch this disaster under any circumstances. But if they were to ask me what advice I have for the idiot stupid enough to take this gig, here’s what I’d tell them:

Don’t try to fix it. It’s broken. It can’t be fixed. Instead, it’s time to decide what the service you want is, and build that service out of the ashes of the failure of this Reddit. A great starting point is the AMA and the most popular reddits. Figure out the revenue model and make sure it’s baked in to this new model. Anything that isn’t part of this new model that exists on the old site will end up being shut down. you can expect that won’t go well when you announce it.

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The dark side of Google 10x » Business Insider

Jillian D’Onfro on how Google’s “10X” projects, which are meant to be the “moonshots” that are ten times better than anything else, can go awry:

One former exec told Business Insider that the gospel of 10x, which is promoted by top execs including CEO Larry Page, has two sides. “It’s enormously energizing on one side, but on the other it can be totally paralyzing,” he says. 

“Larry’s job is to point out things you haven’t thought of, so he has to suspend reality a little bit,” he said.

When it comes to building out-there ideas like smart contact lenses, that contrarian instinct makes a lot of sense. But this former employee believes it’s dangerous when that logic gets applied to products that don’t need it. 

For example, when Google was designing the remote control for its early iteration of Google TV, Page didn’t think any of the prototypes were ambitious enough.

Why doesn’t it have a screen in case you needed to go to the bathroom and keep watching? Page asked. Why not a mouse pad, a keyboard?

When the team tried to argue that a remote didn’t need those things, Page kept pushing for more ambitious features that no other controllers out there came with. 

There are more.
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Google Photos may be uploading your pics, even if you don’t want it to » Nashville Business Journal

David Arnott:

All I had to do to turn my phone into a stealth Google Photos uploader was to turn on the backup sync, then uninstall the app. Whereas one might reasonably believe uninstalling the app from the phone would stop photos from uploading automatically to Google Photos, the device still does it even in the app’s absence. Since making this discovery, I have re-created the issue multiple times in multiple settings on my Galaxy S5.

I reached out to Google, and after reaching someone on the phone and describing the issue, was told to wait for a comment. Several hours later, I received a terse email that said, “The backup was as intended.” If I want to stop it from happening, I was told I’d have to change settings in Google Play Services.

It goes almost without saying that this makes no sense, and makes me not trust Google. Plus, it seems to me to possibly represent a security issue. If I understand how Google Photos works, none of my photos were made public to the wider world. But that’s beside the point — I didn’t want Google to have them, either.

Here’s his tweet when he first discovered it. This might make sense for people who don’t really care, but you delete the app and it lives on? That’s counterintuitive.
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Consumers are ‘dirtying’ databases with false details » Call Week

It only takes a relatively small percentage of database entries to be ‘dirty’ before its value disproportionately declines, according to the report. Companies therefore need to up their efforts to encourage people to give the right information.

The research shows that 60% of consumers intentionally provide incorrect information when submitting their personal details online. Broken down by the types of data provided, birth dates are the most commonly falsified, as almost a quarter of consumers (23%) give the wrong date of birth to companies ‘some of the time’, 9% do this ‘most of the time’ and 5% ‘always’ give the wrong date.

The research also shows that nearly one-third of people give a fake email address and a made-up name at least some of the time. It is a similar story for incorrect information given about home addresses, phone numbers, job titles and company names.

“The upside of providing information has not been articulated,” says managing director at Verve Colin Strong. “The case is not always made by companies about what consumers
are going to get in return for providing information, but people see the immediate effects of being put on more marketing lists and being pursued by online advertising and email spam.”

The original article is actually on Marketing Week, but you have to register, and — you get the picture. The upside is far smaller than the downside (“happy birthday!” emails from sites you logged in to once, say).
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Microsoft mission statement: so many words, most of them empty »

The wonderful Lucy KEllaway eviscerates Satya Nadella’s memo in which he axed thousands of jobs in Windows Phone:

With some clearing of the throat about how proud he is in announcing it, the CEO unveils the new mission of Microsoft: “to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”.

The first sign of trouble is the word “planet”. There is a rule that says whenever this word is used as a substitute for “world”, the sentence in which it appears is utter tosh. If the cosmic resonance is gratuitous, the author is writing through his hat.

In the early days of Microsoft, Bill Gates came up with a vastly better mission: a computer on every desk and in every home. There was no windy nonsense about planets, nor any tiresome talk of empowering. Best of all, it was precise. The main problem with the new mission is not its grandiosity but its emptiness. Achieve more what? On this vital question, Mr Nadella is silent.

Indeed, the best way to empower people on the planet to achieve more would be to persuade them to love their mobile devices a little less and turn them off occasionally and get on with something real instead.

Not content with announcing his new mission, Mr Nadella empowers himself to achieve still more: “Today I want to share more on the overall context and connective tissue between our mission, worldview, strategy and culture.”

To have a mission and a vision and worldview is greedy. But to have so many abstract things with lots of connective tissue between them leaves one feeling slightly sick.

One good thing, though: parsing this sort of stuff will remain beyond AI for many years to come. Human: “Oh, he’s firing a ton of people in Devices.” Machine: “VOID.”
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Start up: Windows Phone hits the buffers, more Flash woes, do Google ads discriminate?, and more

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

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

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

Swati Khandelwal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Hoffman:

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

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

Do this, for the safety of your system.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 2013: The deal that makes no sense » Stratechery

Ben Thompson, back in September 2013:

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

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

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

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

There is nothing further to be gained by an acquisition.

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

Two-Factor authentication » Apple Developer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Simonite:

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Mulligan on the maths of streaming v buying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why can’t they disclose how much they earn?

Apple Watch sales plunge 90% » MarketWatch

Brett Arends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optically clear aluminium provides bulletproof protection » Total Security Solutions

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

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

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

William Turton:

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

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

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

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

Anthony Crupi:

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

“Go to your room and watch TV!”

The anxious ease of Apple Music » The New Yorker

Alex Ross:

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

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

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

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

Aaron Zamost:

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

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

Smartphone trends in the US » Tech.pinions

Jan Dawson:

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

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

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

Samsung sees seventh straight profit decline » WSJ

Jonathan Cheng and Min-Jeong Lee:

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

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

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

From Ben Thompson’s paid daily briefing:

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

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

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

Billion dollar turnaround: Sony Mobile CEO »

Neil King:

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

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

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