Start up: Samsung Pay to win?, Apple on Siri/Photos privacy, mystery ministry mujahadeen hack, and more


Scanning the content is only half the battle. Photo by JonathanCohen on Flickr.

A selection of 12 links for you. Not valid in Montana. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Lockpickers 3D print TSA master luggage keys from leaked photos » WIRED

Andy Greenberg:

If you have sensitive keys—say, a set of master keys that can open locks you’ve asked millions of Americans to use—don’t post pictures of them on the Internet.

A group of lock-picking and security enthusiasts drove that lesson home Wednesday by publishing a set of CAD files to Github that anyone can use to 3-D print a precisely measured set of the TSA’s master keys for its “approved” locks—the ones the agency can open with its own keys during airport inspections. Within hours, at least one 3-D printer owner had already downloaded the files, printed one of the master keys, and published a video proving that it opened his TSA-approved luggage lock.

Those photos first began making the rounds online last month, after the Washington Post unwittingly published (and then quickly deleted) a photo of the master keys in an article about the “secret life” of baggage in the hands of the TSA. It was too late.

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Samsung Pay: the mobile wallet winner? » Mobile Payments Today

Will Hernandez:

During a panel discussion about the current state of ATMs, bitcoin, and mobile wallets, ATM Industry Association CEO Mike Lee unapologetically threw his support behind Samsung Pay as the mobile wallet that will “win.”

Lee’s Samsung Pay endorsement can be boiled down to a single feature that is supposed to separate it from other mobile wallet providers: magnetic secure transmission technology support on the device itself. 

Samsung acquired the rights to the technology when it bought LoopPay earlier this year, and has since embedded it into Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones. The devices still rely on NFC chips to enable users to conduct tap-and-pay transactions at contactless-enabled point-of-sale terminals. Should contactless be unavailable, MST can “communicate” with the magnetic stripe reader currently present on all terminals in the United States. Samsung Pay will sense which option is available and transact accordingly.

But whether MST is really that true game changer in the industry remains to be seen.

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Apple addresses privacy questions about ‘Hey Siri’ and Live Photo features » TechCrunch

Matt Panzarino:

With ‘Hey Siri’, “In no case is the device recording what the user says or sending that information to Apple before the feature is triggered,” says Apple.

Instead, audio from the microphone is continuously compared against the model, or pattern, of your personal way of saying ‘Hey Siri’ that you recorded during setup of the feature. Hey Siri requires a match to both the ‘general’ Hey Siri model (how your iPhone thinks the words sound) and the ‘personalized’ model of how you say it. This is to prevent other people’s voices from triggering your phone’s Hey Siri feature by accident.

Until that match happens, no audio is ever sent off of your iPhone. All of that listening and processing happens locally.

Live Photos:

Because Live Photos record motion before your still image, they are continuously buffered beginning the moment you open your camera app and see the Live icon (orange circle) at the top of your screen. Apple says that this 1.5 second recording only happens when the camera is on, and this information is not permanently saved until you take a picture, period.

“Although the camera is “recording” while you’re in Live Photo mode, the device will not save the 1.5 seconds before until you press the camera button,” says Apple. “The pre-captured images are not saved to the user’s device nor are they sent off the device.”

The 1.5 seconds after the still capture are also recorded because you’ve tapped the camera button in live mode.

From what we’ve gleaned, Live Photos are a single 12-megapixel image and a paired motion format file, likely a .mov. They are presented together by iOS but are actually separate entities tied to one another.

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With iOS 9, ‘Hey Siri’ gains a new setup process tailored to your voice » Apple Insider

“Appleinsider Staff”:

Setting up “Hey Siri” is a simple, five-step process where users must speak a number of commands. If the iPhone or iPad does not properly hear the user, they are instructed to speak again.

Users say the words “Hey Siri” three times, then “Hey Siri, how’s the weather today?” followed by “Hey Siri, it’s me.” Once this is completed, iOS 9 informs the user that “Hey Siri” is ready to use.

Previously, in iOS 8, “Hey Siri” was enabled without a setup process. On occasion, the voice-initiated function would not work properly and took multiple tries. Presumably Apple’s new setup process will address some of those issues from iOS 8.

Smart to personalise it, if that is what this is. I’ve had Siri go off while plugged in and the radio’s on: stories about Syria tend to be the cause. Not sure this will help any iPhone-owning newsreaders, though.
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App Programming Guide for tvOS: On-Demand Resources » Apple Developer Documents

On-demand resources are app contents that are hosted on the App Store and are separate from the related app bundle that you download. They enable smaller app bundles, faster downloads, and richer app content. The app requests sets of on-demand resources, and the operating system manages downloading and storage. The app uses the resources, and then releases the request. After downloading, the resources may stay on the device through multiple launch cycles, making access even faster.

Each app stored on Apple TV is limited to a maximum of 200MB. In order to create an app greater than this amount, you must break up your app into downloadable bundles. In Xcode, create tags and attach them to the required resources. When your app requests the resources associated with a tag, the operating system downloads only the required assets. You must wait until the assets are downloaded before you can use them in your app.

So many people saw the headline that each app is limited to 200MB and thought that that is the upper limit for everything related to an app on AppleTV. As this clearly says, it isn’t – and note also that point about “After downloading, the resources may stay on the device through multiple launch cycles, making access even faster.”

But reading dev documents takes effort. Tweeting “200MB OMG” is much simpler.
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Whatever happened to Google Books? » The New Yorker

Tim Wu on the project that has been stalled since 2011:

There are plenty of ways to attribute blame in this situation. If Google was, in truth, motivated by the highest ideals of service to the public, then it should have declared the project a non-profit from the beginning, thereby extinguishing any fears that the company wanted to somehow make a profit from other people’s work. Unfortunately, Google made the mistake it often makes, which is to assume that people will trust it just because it’s Google. For their part, authors and publishers, even if they did eventually settle, were difficult and conspiracy-minded, particularly when it came to weighing abstract and mainly worthless rights against the public’s interest in gaining access to obscure works. Finally, the outside critics and the courts were entirely too sanguine about killing, as opposed to improving, a settlement that took so many years to put together, effectively setting the project back a decade if not longer.

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Who controls the off switch? » Light Blue Touchpaper

Ross Anderson (who leads some of the UK’s best academic security researchers:

We have a new paper on the strategic vulnerability created by the plan to replace Britain’s 47 million meters with smart meters that can be turned off remotely. The energy companies are demanding this facility so that customers who don’t pay their bills can be switched to prepayment tariffs without the hassle of getting court orders against them. If the Government buys this argument – and I’m not convinced it should – then the off switch had better be closely guarded. You don’t want the nation’s enemies to be able to turn off the lights remotely, and eliminating that risk could just conceivably be a little bit more complicated than you might at first think. (This paper follows on from our earlier paper On the security economics of electricity metering at WEIS 2010.)

Anderson doesn’t need to scare people for money. But what he points to is often worrisome.
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Cabinet ministers’ email hacked by Isil spies » Telegraph

So this is how modern media – well, I use the word “modern” in its loosest sense – works. Writing this story took four journalists, so please stand up, Claire Newell, Edward Malnick, Lyndsey Telford and Luke Heighton, for this 22-paragraph story which begins:

Jihadists in Syria have hacked into ministerial email accounts in a sophisticated espionage operation uncovered by GCHQ, the Telegraph can disclose.

I know! Blimey, you think. Hacked in to their accounts? They must have found a ton of stuff there, right?

You then plough on through tons of paragraphs about drone strikes and various bits of handwaving, but no detail. You carry on, and eventually – in the 13th paragraph – there’s this:

The recent cyber threat first emerged in a warning to Whitehall security officials in May and it is understood that the plans to attack Britain were exposed by the GCHQ investigation.

It is unclear what information the extremists were able to access, but it is understood that no security breaches occurred. However, officials were told to tighten security procedures, including changing passwords.

And that’s it. No more detail. So what do we think actually happened? Based on this very thin gruel, my guess is that the ministerial email had two-factor authentication, and someone got phished, and it set all sorts of alarm off in Cheltenham (where GCHQ is). No breach, but someone had been very stupid.

And of course “hacked” in the headline is overplayed. “Targeted” might work. Classic Sunday journalism: no paper will be able to follow this up for a Monday story, because there aren’t any facts to it. The story falls apart in your hands.
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Ten years later, this is how Techmeme has avoided clickbait, autoplay ads, and more » LinkedIn

Gabe Rivera, the site’s chief executive and frequent editor:

In 2015, supporting an online news operation with advertising when your page view and unique visitor numbers aren’t massive is always an uphill battle. Media sites in this predicament are often tempted to run ads units that pay more but repel and infuriate readers.

Fortunately what Techmeme does have is the attention of the people who lead the tech industry. (Ask your CEO “where do you get your tech news?”) When a news destination is a hub for industry decision-makers, companies will want to reach its readers, making it possible to sell the far more welcome form of “ads” that Techmeme does include. These include posts from sponsors’ blogs, catchy taglines from companies that want you to check out their job openings, and events that companies want you to consider attending. While not all companies are used to making these sorts of marketing buys, many are learning how, and Techmeme is here to serve them.

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FBI says ‘Australian IS jihadist’ is actually a Jewish American troll named Joshua Ryne Goldberg » Brisbane Times

Elise Potaka and Luke McMahon:

The Australi Witness persona fooled members of the international intelligence community as well as journalists, with well-known analyst Rita Katz of SITE Intelligence Group saying the “IS supporter” held a “prestige” position in online jihadi circles and was “part of the hard core of a group of individuals who constantly look for targets for other people to attack”.

Ms Katz has previously acted as a consultant for US and foreign governments and testified before Congress on online terrorist activities.

The Australian Federal Police were unaware of Australi Witness’s real identity as Goldberg until contacted by journalists working on behalf of Fairfax Media.

On the internet, nobody knows you’re a troll.
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Why Xbox Kinect didn’t take off » Business Insider

Matt Weinberger:

The Kinect also introduced voice commands and a gesture interface to the Xbox 360 itself. You could pause a movie with your voice, or log in to your account on the console by standing in front of the camera.

But as cool as that all sounded, the Kinect was still a new technology, and there were some glitches with those cool new interface tricks.

“It does do magic, but only 85% correctly. When you encounter the 15%, it’s frustrating,” the former Xbox insider said.

Serious gamers care about precise movements, like landing a perfect Super Combo in “Street Fighter IV” or nailing a headshot in “Call of Duty.” Similarly, if you have voice controls for a movie, it had better work the first time, or else you’re just shouting “pause” at your TV over and over.

In both cases, it wasn’t quite the totally accurate experience that people wanted.

“It’s essentially a less precise replacement for a lot of things which, once the novelty wears off, is not valued by the market. So it’s real value is for new experiences impossible before without it. There isn’t enough interest or investment in those,” the ex-insider says.

Worse, the longer people used Kinect, the more they found places and situations where it just fell short and didn’t work as well as it should have.

In my apartment, playing a Kinect game requires moving furniture around to give the sensor the field of view that it needs to work well. It’s a big problem for lots of gamers, since you need 6 to 10 feet between you and the sensor.

Try playing that in a dorm room or small apartment.

Yes, precisely.
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iPad Pro won’t replace the PC any time soon » Teschspective

Tony Bradley:

Perhaps the biggest change that has occurred over the past few years that makes the iPad Pro viable as a potential PC replacement is Microsoft. The shift in strategy by Microsoft to embrace the cross-platform ecosystem and make Microsoft Office and other key Microsoft products available across rival devices removes one of the biggest obstacles for the iPad as a laptop replacement. Microsoft was at the Apple event this week and stood on stage to reveal that it has improved apps developed specifically for iOS 9 and the iPad Pro that will make Microsoft Office arguably better on the iPad Pro than it is on a standard Windows PC or even on the Surface Pro 3 itself.

The flip side of that, though, is that the iPad Pro still runs iOS. It is still primarily a mobile device trying to be a PC—whereas the Surface Pro tablet is a PC trying to be a mobile device. Not much has changed since my experience using the iPad as a laptop replacement for 30 days. It is still a suitable device for a limited range of tasks and applications. It still won’t work as well as a traditional PC for a number of specific functions.

More importantly—at least as it relates to the ability of the iPad Pro to compete with Windows PCs in a business environment—it can’t run the software that organizations have already invested in and rely on to get things done.

Thus you have the bear (pessimist) case on the iPad Pro. But it’s that last sentence which betrays the flaw in the argument. Lots of organisations can’t get the new things done they want to on older systems. An iPad begins as a mobile device; the Surface yearns to be a laptop (just look at its screen ratio).
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Start up: spotting comment trolls, stopping piracy Of Thrones, where’s Android One?, and more


Try putting those on Bittorrent, suckahs. Photo by Jemimus on Flickr.

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

Scientists develop algorithm that can auto-ban internet trolls » The Stack

Martin Anderson:

The study found that on CNN the studied trolls were more likely to initiate new posts or sub-threads, whilst at Breitbart and IGN they were more likely to weigh into existing threads.

The report does not exonerate host communities of all blame for troll behaviour, finding that immediately intolerant communities are more likely to foster trolls:

“[communities] may play a part in incubating antisocial behavior. In fact, users who are excessively censored early in their lives are more likely to exhibit antisocial behavior later on. Furthermore, while communities appear initially forgiving (and are relatively slow to ban these antisocial users), they become less tolerant of such users the longer they remain in a community. This results in an increased rate at which their posts are deleted, even after controlling for post quality.”

Seems mostly accurate, apart from calling breitbart.com a “political hub”. I’d go for “troll-employing troll magnet”, personally.


Game Of Thrones leak and watermark: a stupid tracking system » bru’s blog

The first four episodes of game of thrones leaked nearly 36 hours ago. They have been extensively downloaded, and the only tracking set up HBO seemed to be a watermark in the bottom left corner of the screen. Once blurred, it is useless. This impresses me. It’s 2015 and all you’re using is a “confirm you’re deleted” + “your copy is watermarked” for protection? There are simple schemes that would have allowed HBO to track the leak.

The idea is very simple: make each copy unique in a non-visible way.

Seems like the editing to create unique copies would be a hassle. Not sending them out (by getting people to come in to previews?) might be simpler. But there would be geographic reasons against that. No matter what, though, it only delays the piracy by 36 hours or so. That’s the bigger problem.


BOMBSHELL: MUSL employee might have rigged Hot Lotto computerized drawing » Lottery Post

Prosecutors countered this motion by claiming they have a “prima facie,” or at first glance, case that Tipton tampered with lottery equipment.

In their reply to the defense’s motion, prosecutors argued that Tipton’s co-workers said he “was ‘obsessed’ with root kits, a type of computer program that can be installed quickly, set to do just about anything, and then self-destruct without a trace.” The prosecution claimed a witness will testify that Tipton told him before December 2010 that he had a self-destructing root kit.

Prosecutors also argued in their reply that Tipton was in the draw room on Nov. 20, 2010, “ostensibly to change the time on the computers.” The prosecution alleged the cameras in the room on that date recorded about one second per minute instead of how they normally operate, recording every second a person is in the room.

“Four of the five individuals who have access to control the camera’s settings will testify they did not change the cameras’ recording instructions; the fifth person is Defendant,” the prosecution wrote.

Someone’s writing the screenplay already, yes? The accused bought a ticket that won $14.3m.


What’s Become of Android One? » CCS Insight

Peter Bryer is an analyst:

our checks indicate that Android One has had a limited direct effect on the market, despite initial enthusiasm for the programme. Sales of Android One-based smartphones began more than half a year ago in India, but volumes don’t stand out.

The first Android One products came from Karbonn, Micromax and Spice, with more familiar brands expected to begin adopting the platform. Acer, Asus, HTC, Lenovo and Panasonic were among the smartphone manufacturers listed by Google as partners in the project, but this interest appears to have stalled.

The fading momentum of Android One is an indication of the expanding selection of equally well-specified, low-cost smartphones and tablets in emerging markets. Hundreds of models are available at $100 or below — a once impossible price band has become very ordinary.

The standard having been set, others have matched it. All works for Google. But see later…


Flipkart’s move to dump mobile site could hit Google » WSJ

Rolfe Winkler:

Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart has decided it doesn’t need to rely on the Web to lure shoppers, dumping its mobile site and pushing visitors to its app. That move may spell trouble for the future of Google ‘s cash-cow search engine, which relies heavily on links to shopping sites.

Smartphone users that go to the mobile websites of either Flipkart or its sister site Myntra no longer see the same virtual store shelves as when they visit those sites from a personal computer. Instead they see a message to download the sites’ mobile apps.

The problem for Google is that a large percentage of its ad business is driven by paid links that direct users to e-commerce sites. But mobile apps are walled gardens unto themselves, unconnected by links to the broader Web.

A general problem, but if it starts happening early in countries like India, that is a problem for Google.


Brazil’s iPhone investment falls short on promises of jobs, lower prices » Reuters

Brad Haynes:

The Brazilian iPhone was meant to mark a new era.

When Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group agreed in April 2011 to make Apple products here, President Dilma Rousseff and her advisers promised that up to $12 billion in investments over six years would transform the Brazilian technology sector, putting it on the cutting edge of touch screen development. A new supply chain would be created, generating high-quality jobs and bringing down prices of the coveted gadgets.

Four years later, none of that has come true.

Foxconn has created only a small fraction of the 100,000 jobs that the government projected, and most of the work is in low-skill assembly. There is little sign that it has catalyzed Brazil’s technology sector or created much of a local supply chain.

Not quite clear where the blame lies – high expectation by Foxconn, local taxes or local culture.


Formal charges may be next in Europe’s Google antitrust inquiry » NYTimes.com

James Kanter and Conor Dougherty:

Some experts say that Mr. Almunia’s unsuccessful strategy makes further attempts to settle the case without formal charges unlikely.

“Given the history of failed attempts to reach a commitment decision, I just don’t see what she would gain from going down this route again, unless Google has promised more concessions that we don’t know about,” said Liza Lovdahl-Gormsen, the director of the Competition Law Forum at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

Without formal charges, Ms. Lovdahl-Gormsen said, “Google might try to buy themselves time by offering commitments that are unlikely to be accepted by the commission, and that it knows won’t be accepted by the market, simply because it does not want to be faced with the instrument of torture — the statement of objections.”

Expect news on Wednesday.


My voice is my passport: Android gets a “Trusted Voice” smart lock » Ars Technica

How secure is this system? We’re wondering the same thing. The popup when you enable “Trusted Voice” warns that the feature is not as secure as a traditional lock screen and that “Someone with a similar voice or a recording of your voice could unlock your device.” We’d love to test it out, but it hasn’t rolled out to any of our devices yet—we only know about it thanks to a report from Android Police.

Android Police hasn’t given it any scrutiny (none of its devices – even Nexuses – seem to have got it.) The commenters on AP don’t seem enamoured, though, pointing out how easy it would be to spoof (as Google itself admits). So there’s now pattern, PIN, face and voice unlock, and also “trusted device” (Android Wear). Flexibility is good, but they aren’t all equally robust, which feels like a problem.


Start up: more on AMOLED deterioration, Panic in the stores, tracking the trolls, questions for 2015 and more


AMOLED screens. What will they look like in a few years’ time? Photo by RafeB on Flickr.

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

Are AMOLED displays at risk of burn-in? >> PC Pro

Paul Ockenden:

The blacks are better on an AMOLED screen, since its pixels are turned off and emit no light; IPS black pixels merely attempt to block the backlight, with only partial success. AMOLED screens aren’t as sharp as IPS panels, however, and can be more difficult to read in bright sunlight. To my mind, however, the biggest problem with AMOLED displays is that they suffer from screen burn.

The problem is the “O” in the AMOLED acronym, which stands for “organic”. The organic compounds used in AMOLED displays are polymers or copolymers, such as polyfluorene (PFO) and polyphenylene vinylene (PPV), both of which degrade with use.

This is partly due to the fact that the chemistry involved in creating the electroluminescence is irreversible, so the luminous pixels degrade as they’re used up, like a battery. These organic materials tend to crystallise, too – an effect that is exacerbated at higher temperatures. That’s something to bear in mind the next time your phone becomes warm while you’re playing a game or watching a video.

The answer to the headline’s question is “yes”. This seems like the sort of thing that would be easily overlooked by reviewers who use a device for a few days and praise its “gorgeous AMOLED screen“. But come back in a couple of years, and is it still?


The 2014 Panic report >> Panic Blog

Cabel Sasser:

This is the biggest problem we’ve been grappling with all year: we simply don’t make enough money from our iOS apps. We’re building apps that are, if I may say so, world-class and desktop-quality. They are packed with features, they look stunning, we offer excellent support for them, and development is constant. I’m deeply proud of our iOS apps. But… they’re hard to justify working on.
Here’s a way to visualize the situation. First up is a sample look at Units Sold for the month of November 2014: Wow! 51% of our unit sales came from iOS apps! That’s great!

But now look at this revenue chart for the same month… Despite selling more than half of our total units, iOS represents just 17% of our total revenue.
There are a few things at work here:
1. We’re not charging enough for our iOS apps. Or Mac users are simply willing to pay more for apps. Or both.
2. We’re not getting the word out well enough about our iOS apps.
3. The type of software we make just isn’t as compelling to iOS users as it is to Mac users. Our professional tools are geared for a type of user that simply might not exist on the iPad — admins and coders. We might have misjudged that market.

It’s really hard to say for sure. One thing is for certain: we are more likely to increase the price of our iOS software over time in an effort to make it make sense. And we’re less likely to tackle any huge new iOS projects until we get this figured out.

The problem with getting enough revenues from the iOS store, quite apart from the hassle Panic had when one of its apps was yanked from the store by Apple, is one that will be echoed by many companies. The question is whether it’s inherent to mobile – that niche apps (high value-added, small user numbers) – or to Apple’s store structures, which don’t allow trials (for example).


Global smartphone market to record de-growth [in value] for the first time in 2015, semiconductor to advance as high return industry >> ETNews Korea

It has been forecast that 2015 will be a year in which the global smartphone market will record the first negative growth in history based on the amount. Although a growth is expected based on the forwarding volume, the rate at which average selling price (ASP) decreases has accelerated. The global smartphone market scale in 2014 is estimated at $298.1bn, which increased by 10% from the year before. However, it is forecast that the scale will decrease by 4.3% to $285.2bn next year.

Stock market analyst Kim Hye-yong from Woori Investment and Securities forecast, “The global smartphone ASP this year [2014] is $234.50, which decreased by 13.9% from last year. Next year [2014], it will drop by 16.3% to $196.”

According to Kim, common carrier subsidy policy is not working in the emerging market that centers on the open market and, as a result, high-end smartphones are not selling well across the world. He estimated that Chinese companies, despite their growth on the outside, will record a deficit or just about meeting the breakeven point as their profitability is insufficient.


The Death Of Expertise >> The Federalist

Tom Nichols:

I am (or at least think I am) an expert. Not on everything, but in a particular area of human knowledge, specifically social science and public policy. When I say something on those subjects, I expect that my opinion holds more weight than that of most other people.

I never thought those were particularly controversial statements. As it turns out, they’re plenty controversial. Today, any assertion of expertise produces an explosion of anger from certain quarters of the American public, who immediately complain that such claims are nothing more than fallacious “appeals to authority,” sure signs of dreadful “elitism,” and an obvious effort to use credentials to stifle the dialogue required by a “real” democracy…

…I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all…

…None of this ignorance stops people from arguing as though they are research scientists. Tackle a complex policy issue with a layman today, and you will get snippy and sophistic demands to show ever increasing amounts of “proof” or “evidence” for your case, even though the ordinary interlocutor in such debates isn’t really equipped to decide what constitutes “evidence” or to know it when it’s presented. The use of evidence is a specialized form of knowledge that takes a long time to learn, which is why articles and books are subjected to “peer review” and not to “everyone review,” but don’t tell that to someone hectoring you about the how things really work in Moscow or Beijing or Washington.

This is a storming essay about the ways in which the value of real domain expertise is being degraded and devalued. Read it and gape.


20 questions for 2015 >> Benedict Evans

I wrote a detailed post a few weeks ago looking at some of the key structural questions in mobile – with the platform wars over (their first phase, at least), what’s happening to Android, what will happen to interaction models and so on. But it’s also worth looking at just how much could change just in 2015 – or even in January. Everything is wide open. So, here, in no special order, are 20 questions for 2015, any one of which would change things a lot. I’ve written about most of these topics already in 2014 – in 2015 they’re even more interesting.


Apple questions for 2015 >> Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:

In recognition of the beginning of a new year, I want to share my running list of questions that I have been keeping for Apple in 2015. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but rather things that I know to be on the lookout for.

It’s a pretty long list, if not exhaustive. Some key questions in there, with designer Marc Newson, SVP operations Jeff Williams and ex-iOS chief Scott Forstall all in there. Plus would you believe in an Apple Pen?


Meet the dogged researchers who try to unmask haters online >> MIT Technology Review

Adrian Chen:

Internet hatred [näthat] is a problem anywhere a significant part of life is lived online. But the problem is sharpened by Sweden’s cultural and legal commitment to free expression, according to Mårten Schultz, a law professor at Stockholm University and a regular guest on Troll Hunter, where he discusses the legal issues surrounding each case. Swedes tend to approach näthat as the unpleasant but unavoidable side effect of having the liberty to say what you wish. Proposed legislation to combat online harassment is met with strong resistance from free speech and Internet rights activists.

What’s more, Sweden’s liberal freedom-of-information laws offer easy access to personal information about nearly anyone, including people’s personal identity numbers, their addresses, even their taxable income. That can make online harassment uniquely invasive. “The government publicly disseminates a lot of information you wouldn’t be able to get outside of Scandinavia,” Schultz says. “We have quite weak protection of privacy in Sweden.”

Imagine what the childish (and sometimes dangerous) doxxing wars being played out over various hashtags would look like if every country made available the amount of information that Sweden does. Stieg Larsson, author of the “Dragon Tattoo” books and an investigator into far-right hate groups, didn’t get married because doing so would have required him to state his place of residence.


What it would really take to reverse climate change >> IEEE Spectrum

Ross Koningstein and David Fork were in charge of Google’s “moonshot” announced in 2007 to come up with renewable energy sources that cost less than coal. It was shut down in 2011:

Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require both radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.

Those calculations cast our work at Google’s RE<C program in a sobering new light. Suppose for a moment that it had achieved the most extraordinary success possible, and that we had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world’s coal plants—a situation roughly equivalent to the energy innovation study’s best-case scenario. Even if that dream had come to pass, it still wouldn’t have solved climate change. This realisation was frankly shocking: Not only had RE<C failed to reach its goal of creating energy cheaper than coal, but that goal had not been ambitious enough to reverse climate change.

We’re a long way down the climate change road; what would really be needed would be an all-in effort on something like fusion and solar power.


No credit >> All this

Dr Drang:

Thursday night I got a fraud notice via text and email. When I called the bank, I found several charges from an online video game company that my older son uses. He’d made a single purchase, which went through, and then fifteen minutes later four or five charges from that same vendor were attempted and blocked. Was this a programming error at the game company? fraud by the company? fraud by some third party masquerading as the game company? Don’t know. I do know it wasn’t because my son was buying things by mistake—he’s eighteen and has enough experience online to know better. The bank cancelled the credit card and we canceled his game account. Happy New Year.

As I said, this will be our fifth card in the past twelve months. We started 2014 with a card we’d had for a couple of years, but it was replaced in early February after the Target breach. Sometime in spring, the bank caught a fraudulent charge at a Kmart in Chicago, so our 3–4 month old card was cancelled and a new one issued. That one lasted all the way to October, when it was cancelled because of the Home Depot breach. And now this.

When the new card arrives on Monday, I’ll go through the list of accounts and change them all to the new number. My list is on paper, but this time I’m going to switch to a system like Jamie Phelps’s, that’ll allow me to just click a single link instead of dig my way through a series of pages for each account.

It’s puzzling how European banks and retailers were able to coordinate the introduction of Chip+PIN – which would kill this sort of fraud almost dead – and yet the US has completely failed at it. The UK introduced Chip+PIN in 2004. The problem hasn’t gone away – it’s forced it to different places, principally online, where phishing is still a big problem that await Apple Pay-style methods to reduce them.