Start up: China’s coming smartphone crash, Boston Globe v readers, Google Glass is back!, and more

A bucket with ice water: much cheaper, though it doesn’t have Bluetooth. Photo by mediadeo on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. They are what they are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Dark patterns by the Boston Globe » The Rationalist Conspiracy

Alyssa Vance:

»After years of falling revenue, some newspapers have resorted to deception to boost their subscription numbers. These dishonest tactics are sometimes called “dark patterns” – user interfaces designed to trick people.

For example, this is a Boston Globe story on Bernie Sanders:

Before you can read the article, there is a pop-up ad asking you to subscribe. By itself, this is annoying, but not deceptive. The real dark pattern is hidden at the top – the ‘Close’ button (circled in red) uses a very low contrast font, making it hard to see. It’s also in the left corner, not the standard right corner. This makes it likely that users won’t see it, causing them to subscribe when they didn’t have to.

One the ‘Close’ link is clicked, deception continues:

At the bottom, there’s a non-removable, high-contrast banner ad asking for a paid subscription. Again, this is annoying, but honest. However, the circled text “for only 99 cents per week” is not honest. It’s simply a lie, as later pages will show.

«

Turns out that 99c is actually $6.93 per week, and you can only unsubscribe by phone. So wicked.
link to this extract

 


The blockchain menu » net.wars

Wendy Grossman:

»The Internet of Things is such an established concept that I’m startled to note that week’s (Lego) prototype was my first. Three cars want to park…somewhere. Their owners have preset the maximum they will pay. The system locates the nearest parking space, and they bid. The winner is directed to the space, and the fee is automatically deducted from the car’s balance. A display showed the auction in real time. All very nice until I injected reality by grabbing a car and plunking it in the space before bidding ended.

“Usurped” the contested space was now tagged. “You’ll be fined,” Consult Hyperion’s demonstrator said. Who will that stop in Manhattan, where friends have missed two successive movie showings because no parking space? This may be an entertaining solution wishing for a problem.

In that, it was not alone at this week’s Tomorrow’s Transactions Forum, Dave Birch’s quirky annual event where ideas about the future of money are smashed together like particles to see what happens.

«

I love the idea of app developers thinking people would be well-behaved and wait for their app to tell them where to park, while Noo Yawkers just PARK THE DAMN CAR THERE IN THE STOOPID SPACE.

But the article is actually about blockchains, which in a similar way are mostly a solution in search of a problem.
link to this extract

 


China’s crowded smartphone market heads for an epic shakeout » Bloomberg

David Ramli:

»The startup Dakele looked pretty smart when it released a phone in China four years ago. The market was doubling annually, and the company put brand-name components inside a device that cost a fraction of the iPhone.

That $160 gadget went on sale just four months after Dakele opened its doors, and soon the company, which translates as “Big Cola,” made inroads against Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. Buzz was building for the Dakele 3 model last year, with online reviews calling it the best Apple Inc. clone.

Then the sizzle started to fizzle. Huawei spent $300 million on marketing, Xiaomi cut prices and clones of the clone appeared. Troubles with a supplier and raising money prompted Dakele to shut down last month—and it likely won’t be alone. China’s herd of 300 phone makers may be halved in 12 months by competition, a sales plateau and economic growth that’s the slowest in a quarter-century, according to executives and analysts.

“The mobile-phone industry changed more quickly and brutally than expected,” Dakele Chief Executive Officer Ding Xiuhong said on his Weibo messaging account. “As a startup, we couldn’t find more strategies and methods to break through.”

«

I can’t decide whether the smartphone market is telescoping a decade of the PC market into two years, or just going through the same as happened in 1985-9 in about the same length of time.
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Kickstarter’s biggest shitshow somehow got even messier » Motherboard

Jaason Koebler:

»A decidedly not chill development for 36,000 Kickstarter backers of the “Coolest Cooler”: Coolest is now considering asking people who haven’t yet received their coolers to pay an additional $97 for “expedited delivery” of the long-past-due all-in-one disaster, a prospect that has allegedly led some backers to threaten Coolest employees.

If you’re not familiar, at the time it launched, the Coolest Cooler was the most popular Kickstarter of all time, raising $13 million. The 55-quart cooler has a built-in blender, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, a USB charger, and a bottle opener. You can buy one on Amazon, right now, and have it by the weekend if you pay $399.99.

That $399.99 price point is important—when Coolest Cooler was launched on Kickstarter, it cost between $165 and $225, a price its creator Ryan Grepper said in an update to backers was far too low…

…Coolest Cooler doesn’t have money to produce the remaining coolers, which is why it’s selling existing stock on Amazon but not sending them to backers who haven’t yet received the product (the company has delivered about 20,000 coolers to backers, but 36,000 more people are waiting). Reviews of the cooler are mixed — most say that it is indeed cool, but that it is very heavy and isn’t worth $400.

«

I’m trying to imagine a cooler that would be worth $400, even with those add-ons. The article’s comparison with the Welsh drone screwup Zano isn’t right, though; Zano had absurdly inflated claims. This is just poor pricing.
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CDC: two of every five U.S. households have only wireless phones » Pew Research Center

»More Americans than ever have cut the (telephone) cord, but the growth rate of wireless-only households slowed last year.

About two-in-five (41%) of U.S. households had only wireless phones in the second half of 2013, according to a report released today by the National Center for Health Statistics. The center, the statistical arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated that 39.1% of adults and 47.1% of children lived in wireless-only households.

«

When I noted yesterday that “call mom” had overtaken “call home” as a Google search (hence almost certainly a voice activation), I thought it was because “mom” was likely to be at home. But as was pointed out, there might not be a “home” to call.

(Next up: can we calculate the divorce rate based on the rise of “call mom” v “call dad”?)
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Google Glass startup Augmedix raises $17m from healthcare orgs » Re/code

Mark Bergen:

»The next time you spot a Google Glass in the wild, it might not be on the face of a fervid techie. It might be on your doctor.

Augmedix, one of several startups that formed around the computerized headgear — and kept spinning after the search giant ditched its first attempt — is raising a fresh round of capital to get Google Glass into more health care facilities. The four-year-old startup is part of a wave of Silicon Valley companies trying to tap the massive medical market. It primarily builds software for wearable devices that display electronic health records so that doctors can access them hands-free.

“They’re engaging with patients in front of them,” said CEO Ian Shakil. “In the background, we’re doing all the burdensome work.”

He’s not raising cash from Sand Hill Road. Instead, the $17m strategic investment comes from a quintet of medical institutions.

«

I always thought that Glass’s best use would be inside businesses, not among consumers.
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Apple’s Watch outpaced the iPhone in first year » WSJ

Daisuke Wakabayashi:

»Apple doesn’t disclose sales, but analysts estimate about 12m Watches were sold in year one. At an estimated average price of $500, that is a $6bn business—three times the annual revenue of activity tracker Fitbit Inc.

By comparison, Apple sold roughly 6m iPhones in its first year. As a new entrant, the Watch accounted for about 61% of global smartwatch sales last year, according to researcher IDC.

And yet, there are detractors such as Fred Wilson, co-founder of venture-capital firm Union Square Ventures, in December declared the Watch a “flop.” Mr. Wilson, who owns shares of Fitbit through a fund, had earlier predicted the Watch wouldn’t be a “home run” like the iPad, iPhone and iPod, saying many people wouldn’t want to wear a computer on their wrist.

The Watch has shortcomings. It is slow, with an underpowered processor that is throttled at times to extend the device’s battery life. It lacks mobile and Global Positioning System connections, meaning it must be accompanied by an iPhone, limiting its usefulness as an independent device. The battery needs to be charged every day.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the Watch’s lack of a defining purpose. It does certain things well, such as activity tracking, mobile payments and notifications. But there is no task the Apple Watch handles that can’t be done by an iPhone or a less-expensive activity tracker.

«

The comparison with the first-year iPhone is meaningless – the Watch was released in more places, with more fanfare. Fred Wilson’s criticism, well, would the better metric be what proportion of devices are still in use? How would the Watch do against the Fitbit?

As to “defining purpose” – its purpose so far is to be an adjunct. It does that pretty well; satisfaction is high, according to survey firm Wristly.
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Exclusive: Bangladesh Bank hackers compromised SWIFT software, warning to be issued » Reuters

Jim Finkle:

»The attackers who stole $81m from the Bangladesh central bank probably hacked into software from the SWIFT financial platform that is at the heart of the global financial system, said security researchers at British defense contractor BAE Systems.

SWIFT, a cooperative owned by 3,000 financial institutions, confirmed to Reuters that it was aware of malware targeting its client software. Its spokeswoman Natasha Deteran said SWIFT would release on Monday a software update to thwart the malware, along with a special warning for financial institutions to scrutinize their security procedures.

The new developments now coming to light in the unprecedented cyber-heist suggest that an essential lynchpin of the global financial system could be more vulnerable than previously understood to hacking attacks, due to the vulnerabilities that enabled attackers to modify SWIFT’s client software.

«

Got in via a poorly secured $10 router, got away with $81m, hacked the software the world’s banks rely on. This could be worse, right?
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The secret rules of the internet » The Verge

Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly, with a (quite astoundingly) long piece about the history of content moderation on social networks – if by “history” you mean “starting in 2004”:

»When Dave Willner arrived at Facebook in 2008, the team there was working on its own “one-pager” of cursory, gut-check guidelines. “Child abuse, animal abuse, Hitler,” Willner recalls. “We were told to take down anything that makes you feel bad, that makes you feel bad in your stomach.” Willner had just moved to Silicon Valley to join his girlfriend, then Charlotte Carnevale, now Charlotte Willner, who had become head of Facebook’s International Support Team. Over the next six years, as Facebook grew from less than 100 million users to well over a billion, the two worked side by side, developing and implementing the company’s first formal moderation guidelines.

“We were called The Ninjas,” he said, “mapping the rabbit hole.” Like Mora-Blanco, Willner described how he, Charlotte, and their colleagues sometimes laughed about their work, so that they wouldn’t cry. “To outsiders, that sounds demented,” he said.

Just like at YouTube, the subjectivity of Facebook’s moderation policy was glaring. “Yes, deleting Hitler feels awesome,” Willner recalls thinking. “But, why do we delete Hitler? If Facebook is here to make the world more open,” he asked himself, “why would you delete anything?” The job, he says, was “to figure out Facebook’s central why.”

For people like Dave and Charlotte Willner, the questions are as complex now as they were a decade ago. How do we understand the context of a picture? How do we assign language meaning? Breaking the code for context — nailing down the ineffable question of why one piece of content is acceptable but a slight variation breaks policy — remains the holy grail of moderation.

«

One could pick out any part of this piece. It’s interesting all through. The trouble is it’s so long (around 2,500 words) that you may struggle to find its thread, because there isn’t an actual, progressing, story.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Facebook v Brazil, HTC Vive sells out, unsticky Cardboard, iPhone 7 rumours, and more

Everyone assumed it would be a hit, after it was a hit. Insiders like Tony Fadell remember it differently. Photo by janeko on Flickr.

Go on – sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. Unless you already did.

A selection of 10 links for you. Not legal in Kansas. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter (and now on Medium too). Observations and links welcome.

Facebook executive arrested in Brazil for refusal to provide user info » New York Post

AP:

»Police in Sao Paulo have arrested Facebook’s most senior executive in Latin America in the latest clash between Brazilian authorities and the social media company its refusal to provide private information about its users to law enforcement.

A Tuesday news release says that Facebook’s vice president for Latin America, Diego Dzodan, was arrested on an order from a judge in the northeastern state of Sergipe. Dzodan is accused of ignoring a judicial order in a secret investigation involving organized crime and drug trafficking.

The decision by Judge Marcel Montalvao follows the company’s refusal to surrender user information from the WhatsApp messaging service, an application Facebook bought in 2014.

«

link to this extract


HTC sold 15,000 Vive VR headsets in less than 10 minutes » Mashable

Raymond Wong:

»Doing the math based on the $800 U.S. price (the Vive will cost £689 in the UK and €899 in Europe), HTC made $12m off those 15,000 headsets. HTC may be struggling to sell smartphones, but it already looks like its gamble on virtual reality may have been worth it.

HTC’s early success is good news for the budding VR industry, which is projected to worth $70bn by 2020, according to TrendForce, a technology market research company.

Facebook-owned Oculus VR will launch its highly anticipated Oculus Rift on March 28 to the first pre-orderers. At $600, the Rift costs $200 less than the Vive. The Rift, however, doesn’t come with the Vive’s wand-like VR controllers and ships instead with an Xbox One controller.

«

Could have priced them higher. Honestly. Money left on the table. However…
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Google’s VR app not hooking users » The Information

Reed Albergotti and Peter Schulz:

»7Park tracks app usage for more than two million Android smartphone users in the U.S. Its data show that 0.42% of those, or about 8,400 people, were monthly active users of Cardboard as of Jan. 16, up from 0.06% in September, or 1,200 people. The proportion who were daily active users was only 0.02% in January; it had fluctuated between zero and 0.01% in the preceding months. The spike in monthly active users likely reflects the New York Times’ mailing of Cardboard devices to its print subscribers last November, which coincided with the Times’ launch of its virtual reality app.

Byrne Hobart, an analyst for 7Park, suggested that the apparent “failure to keep users engaged” reflects a lack of good content made for the technology. The Cardboard app has only a little content, including demonstrations such as a VR version of Google Earth with cities like Marseille and Chicago and landmarks like Bryce Canyon. Another demo, called “Tour Guide,” is essentially 3D photos inside the Palace of Versaille narrated by a tour guide—not the kind of thing that best showcases the technology.

«

Google Cardboard has between 5m and 10m downloads on Google Play – respectable numbers for an early-stage tech.
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OS X blacklist accidentally disables Ethernet in OS X 10.11 » Ars Technica UK

Andrew Cunnigham:

»The culprit is an update for System Integrity Protection, the El Capitan feature that protects some system folders and keeps unsigned or incorrectly signed kernel extensions (or “kexts,” roughly analogous to drivers in a Windows or Linux machine) from loading. In this case, the kext used to enable the Ethernet port on Macs was blacklisted—if you restarted your Mac after applying this update but before your computer had a chance to download the quickly issued fix, you’ll find yourself without an Ethernet connection.

This blacklist isn’t updated through the Mac App Store like purchased apps or OS X itself. Rather, it uses a silent auto-update mechanism that executes in the background even if you haven’t enabled normal automatic updates. Apple uses a similar mechanism to update OS X’s anti-malware blacklist, a rudimentary security feature introduced in 2011 following the high-profile Mac Defender malware infection and occasionally used to push other critical software updates.

«

Apple Support Article to help those who are reading this… offline? Fixing this seems like a real chicken-and-egg problem for those who only used Ethernet. If a Mac desktop user you care for has been offline for some days, visit them with the download on a USB stick.
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Do we really even need an app drawer in Android? » AndroidAuthority

Kris Carlon on rumours that the next version of Android will remove the “app drawer”:

»By removing the app drawer, Android would not only look more like iOS, it would also add more steps to launching apps you don’t have on your main home screen. It seems reasonable that widgets, shortcuts and so on will still function as we know them to, but using them would actually add steps to the app launching experience rather than making everything simpler.

Think about it: you’d have Google Now to the left, your primary home screen next, perhaps a calendar and email widget on the next two screens and then several pages of app icons. So rather than a single tap on the home screen to access your full apps list you’d have to swipe several times to get to it. Adding a primary home screen shortcut to the start of your app list would simply reproduce what the app drawer shortcut already does.

To Android users this setup feels terribly slow and laborious. The argument for doing it this way seems to be that it is simpler and more intuitive than the app drawer because the two-layer system is confusing and people don’t know where to find the apps they install or how to remove them. Perhaps this is true for novice users or those new to the platform, but considering Android has had an app drawer for forever, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.

Anyone that has ever had any contact with an Android phone would understand it has an app drawer in exactly the same way as Android users understand that iOS doesn’t or that automatic vehicle owners are aware of manual transmissions, even if they’ve never driven one.

«

I don’t think Carlon has ever watched someone who isn’t fully familiar with Android try to navigate their phone: they struggle with the way that apps are hidden away in the drawer, and don’t follow how you change the default layout. I know, because I have watched them. (Try it on your commute.)
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Latest iPhone 7 rumor suggests thinner 6-like body, flush camera, stereo speakers, thinner Lightning port » 9to5Mac

Chance Miller:

»Corroborating a report from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo from last September, Macotakara reports this evening that the iPhone 7 is expected to be 1mm thinner than the iPhone 6s. Furthermore, the report adds that the device will visually be similar to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, retaining the same metal design with the same height and width, and will not be waterproof.

For comparison’s sake, the iPhone 6s is currently 7.1mm thin, so if this report comes to fruition, the iPhone 7 will be just 6.1mm thick. The iPod touch is also 6.1mm thick.

As has been rumored in the past, though, the report notes that the camera bump on the back will now be flush with the device’s casing and that the device will not feature a 3.5mm headphone jack in an effort to reduce the thickness of the device.

Next, the blog reports that the iPhone 7 will feature stereo speakers, making it the first iPhone to do so. In the past, all iPhone models have only featured a single mono speaker, so the addition of a second speaker should greatly improve the device’s sound quality.

«

The rumours are rolling off the production line, right on schedule, six months ahead of the actual unveil.
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Nest CEO Tony Fadell on the iPod, iPhone, and the importance of shipping products » VentureBeat

Truly fascinating, long interview with Fadell by Kevin Surace; Fadell points out that with hindsight everyone thinks the iPod was fated to succeed – at a time when “The company had $500 million in debt, $250 million in the bank, and less than 1% US market share. There was nothing left to sell”:

»Everybody in the futurephone world was trying to crank out as many phones as they could every year. Samsung had a different model of phone every day. Each carrier had its own set of rules. It wasn’t about the consumer. It was about what you could sell to the carriers. The Motorola ROKR E1 was poorly designed. There was no way we could work with another company and get the right experience.

We started out by making an iPod phone. It was an iPod with a phone module inside it. It looked like an iPod, but it had a phone, and you would select numbers through the same interface and so on. But if you wanted to dial a number it was like using a rotary dial. It sucked. We knew three months in that it wasn’t going to work. Steve said, “Keep trying!” We tried everything. We tried for seven or eight months to get that thing to work. Couldn’t do it. We added more buttons and it just became this gangly thing.

That was the iPod phone. At the same time, we were trying to build a touchscreen Mac. We were also trying to do better video on an iPod. We had a real screen, but people didn’t like to watch videos on their iPod. So how can we get a really big screen, but not have the click wheel involved? Instantly, we knew we needed a virtual interface on top of a phone. We wanted to make this touch Mac, and we knew the iPod phone wouldn’t work, but we knew we needed to make a phone.

Steve’s like, “Come over here!” I didn’t know about this at the time, but he showed me a ping-pong table that was the first multi-touch screen. It was a ping-pong-sized table. It had a projector of a Mac on top of it, and you could interact with it. He said, “We’re going to put that in an iPod!” “Steve, it’s the size of a ping-pong table!”

In the end it was clear that we needed to build a phone, and we needed to build a touch screen company on top of it.

«

This doesn’t quite gel with the alternative tales of Fadell building an “iPod phone” and Scott Forstall building a “touchscreen Mac phone”, but it’s a great read from start to finish.
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Fifth of UK adults block ads » warc.com

»Ad blocking in the UK is growing at the rate of roughly one percentage point a month, as new figures reveal 22% of UK adults are currently using ad blocking software, up from 18% in October.

The data comes from the latest wave of the Internet Advertising Bureau UK’s Ad Blocking Report, conducted online among 2,049 adults by YouGov.

The highest level of ad blocking occurred amongst 18-24 year olds (47%), while 45-54 year olds were the least likely to block ads (16%), along with women (14%).

Publishers are adopting a variety of strategies to address the problem, and it appears that, in the UK at least, a straightforward request to turn off can frequently have the desired effect.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents who had downloaded ad blocking software said they received a notice from a website asking them to turn it off. And over half (54%) said that, in certain situations, they would switch off their ad blocker if a website said it was the only way to access content. And this figure rose to nearly three-quarters (73%) of 18-24 year olds.

«

One percentage point per month. Wonder what it’s like on mobile.
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Xiaomi – All mod cons. » Radio Free Mobile

Richard Windsor, noting that the Xiaomi Mi5 has had 16.8m registrations to buy – unsurprising, given that it’s a bargain-basement price for a high-spec phone, and that there had been nothing comparable from Xiaomi for a year:

»the company has said that it has passed 170m users but there is no sign of monetising them. One of the main reasons for this is that a large proportion of its users are not using a Xiaomi device. [I] calculate that at the end of Q4 15A, that there were 103.2m users with a Xiaomi device leaving 66.8m that have used one of the 69 or more mods that are available to put MIUI on a non-Xiaomi device. I believe that the vast majority of these ‘mods’ are outside of China where Xiaomi has no ecosystem and instead pushes Google.

This means that the effective user base from which it could potentially make money is actually around 100m. Xiaomi has chosen the hardware route of monetisation but unlike Apple, the ecosystem is clearly not exclusive to the device. Consequently, should Xiaomi’s ecosystem become popular, it will be unable to put its prices up because users will be able to download a ‘mod’ and get the ecosystem for free.

This is why I think that Xiaomi will have to either shut down the ‘mods’ or start charging for them to begin the monetisation of its ecosystem. This is still a long way in the future, and the Xiaomi ecosystem still needs an awful lot of work before it gets to the point where it can begin to make money for its owner.

«

He values Xiaomi at $5.9bn (compared to the $45bn of its last funding round). You have to say his argument is tough to refute.

But if Xiaomi can satisfy those orders for the Mi5, it would rival Samsung for the best-selling premium Android phone.
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Report: Huawei, Vivo and Xiaomi to release phones using Samsung’s Dual Edge display » AndroidAuthority

Rob Triggs:

»News sources from China report that Vivo is preparing to launch its XPlay5 handset on March 1st, which will feature Samsung’s Dual Edge display. The phone is also said to be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and 6GB of RAM, so it’s clearly aimed at the very high-end of the market. A picture of the handset (below) was recently uploaded to Weibo and clearly shows off a curved display. However, the image was not uploaded by an official Vivo account or by a company representative, so we should treat it as unconfirmed.

Industry insiders are also suggesting that Huawei and Xiaomi are preparing to release handsets packing the same display technology from Samsung, although there don’t appear to be any other rumors to hint at potential specifications or release dates. We initially heard that Huawei may be purchasing curved displays from Samsung back in September last year.

«

Is this Samsung’s display division undercutting any advantage that its handset division might have had from the curved edge display? Or has it decided that volume is more important than a USP? Or has Samsung management decided that curved edges aren’t really a USP? The latter would be odd, given that demand for the “curved edge” design was reputedly higher than for the plain version last year.

Odd too, since Display’s operating margins are about 5%, against 9% for mobile. Maybe this is a way to improve the former’s margins.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: why Android should encrypt, Facebook v the intifada, 3D Touch v page parking, wary drones and more


“My GPS says we finished ages ago!” Photo by A Brand New Minneapolis 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 9 links for you. Please note: if reading the emails, you can’t link directly to the extracts. Monkeys, eh. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Is Google’s lacklustre support for encryption a human rights issue? » MIT Technology Review

Tom Simonite, reporting on a conference where American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) principal technologist Chris Soghioan argued thus:

People using phones powered by Google’s Android software are not so well protected, said Soghioan. The company said last year that it would make Android phones encrypt all stored data by default, like Apple devices do, but reversed that decision early this year. Google said this month it will require only devices meeting certain hardware performance standards to encrypt stored data, which Soghioan thinks will exclude cheaper devices. Google’s Hangouts text and video chat service bundled with Android does not use end-to-end encryption.

Soghioan said this means that someone who uses a cheap Android device is a much easier target for law enforcement or intelligence agencies — which he argues are prone to abusing their surveillance powers. He cited the way the FBI snooped on Martin Luther King’s phone calls and said he fears that US and overseas activists of today and tomorrow will be even easier targets. “The next civil rights movement will use the technology against which surveillance works best,” he said. Protest movements don’t typically start in society’s upper socioeconomic echelons, he noted.

The difference between Apple and Google’s stances on encryption for mobile devices appears to be due to corporate rather than technical reasons, said Soghioan. “Google has by far the best security team of any company in Silicon Valley, and the security people I know at Google are embarrassed by Android,” he said. “But Apple sells luxury goods and Google gives away services for free in return for access to data.”

That point about protest movements is so important. Would you want people in a repressive regime to have phones that could or couldn’t be tapped? Now you’ve decided, we move on to the next conundrum…
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The Facebook intifada » The New York Times

Micah Lakin Avni’s (Israeli) father was stabbed and shot by two Palestinian men in Jerusalem, who acted in the latest intifada (uprising) by Palestinians:

Watching the well-wishers congregating in the intensive care unit, however, I realized that the world leaders who were having the most impact on the situation in the Middle East right now weren’t Mr. Ban or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and other young entrepreneurs who shape the social media platforms most of us use every day.

It may sound strange to talk of Twitter and Facebook as relevant players in the war against terror, but as the recent wave of violence in Israel has proved, that is increasingly the case. The young men who boarded the bus that day intent on murdering my 76-year-old father did not make their decision in a vacuum. One was a regular on Facebook, where he had already posted a “will for any martyr.” Very likely, they made use of one of the thousands of posts, manuals and instructional videos circulating in Palestinian society these last few weeks, like the image, shared by thousands on Facebook, showing an anatomical chart of the human body with advice on where to stab for maximal damage…

…Just as it is universally recognized that shouting fire in a crowded theater is dangerous and should be prohibited, so, too, must we now recognize that rampant online incitement is a danger that must be reckoned with immediately, before more innocent people end up as victims.

Before Facebook or Twitter or Google, those charts would have been available in a library, or in books on sale or smuggled in. What’s different now is the scale and speed with which information can be disseminated. It sounds trite, but what Israel and Palestine need is more speech, not less – but speech of the right kind, to negotiate their differences.
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Google owner accuses EU of antitrust about-face » WSJ

Tom Fairless and Natalia Drozdiak:

Google owner Alphabet Inc. accused European Union regulators of making an unexplained about-face in their decision to file antitrust charges against the US search giant, and warned that there was “no basis” for imposing fines, according to a redacted copy of Google’s response seen by The Wall Street Journal.

The response, which runs to almost 130 pages and leans heavily on legal opinions and case law, suggests that Google is gearing up for a protracted legal battle against the European Commission, which has alleged the search giant skewed search results to favor its own comparison-shopping service.

“The theory on which the [EU’s] preliminary conclusions rest is so ambiguous that the Commission itself concluded three times that the concern had been resolved,” Google’s lawyers wrote in the document.

It’s certainly a good point that the EC antitrust team were ready to okay everything, and then decided not to. But the EC would say that new evidence became available (which it did) and that changed things. Less convincing on Google’s part is its quoting of a US academic who used to be in the US Department of Justice antitrust side. That’s not likely to hold any sway.
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Why every GPS overestimates distance travelled » IEEE Spectrum

Douglas McCormick on how an Austrian team discovered subtle but persistent errors in GPS:

Not content with mere calculation, Ranacher, Reich, and their colleagues went on to test their findings experimentally. In an empty parking lot, they staked out a square course 10 m on a side, reference-marked each side at precise 1-m intervals, and set a GPS-equipped pedestrian (a volunteer, one hopes) to walk the perimeter 25 times, taking a position reading at each reference mark.

The researchers analyzed the data for segment lengths of 1 meter and 5 meters. They found that the mean GPS measurement for the 1-m reference distance was 1.02m (σ2 = 0.3) and the mean GPS measurement for the 5-m reference distance was 5.06m (σ2 = 2.0).  They also ran a similar experiment with automobiles on a longer course, with similar results.

Now, that pedestrian-course error of 1.2% to 2% isn’t huge. But it is big enough that your GPS watch could tell you you’re crossing the finish line of a 42,195-metre [26-mile] marathon while the real terminus is more than 400 meters ahead.

Sooo.. how do they measure a marathon? Does someone go around with one of those wheel things? Asking for all my marathon-running friends.
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3D Touch on iPhone 6S: embrace the Force » Nielsen-Norman Group

Raluca Budiu:

Is this a feature worth having? Yes, as an enhancement. There is a lot of potential for improving the user experience and supporting behaviors that mobile and desktop users are engaging in already. Two of them come to mind: microsessions and avoiding pogo sticking.

Microsessions are phone sessions that are 15 seconds or shorter. Recent research by Denzil Ferreira and colleagues shows that 40% of app launches are microsessions, namely short interactions in which users are able to quickly satisfy their goals. A common microsession activity is checking for updates in an app (such as Email or Facebook); the quick actions offer an opportunity for rapid access to such frequent tasks or content. Peek-and-pop views should also make many microsessions more efficient for users.

Pogo sticking refers to alternating between inspecting a collection of items (such as a list of products) and looking at each item individually (a product in the list). It is usually an inefficient behavior because it makes users jump back and forth between pages, losing not only time for loading the page but also the time needed for recovering context. Our recent research with Millennials shows that pogo sticking is so annoying that, on desktop, users have developed a special behavior called page parking to avoid it. On mobile phones, page parking is a lot more difficult.

“Page parking” is basically “open that link in another tab/window while I get on with this”. Other points: interstitials screw up the previewing experience, and so do “can we use your location?” questions.
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Back-alley upgrades: in China, $100 can get you an 128GB iPhone boost » WSJ

Yang Jie and Josh Chin:

If you’re an Apple Inc. device user, you can also now boost your iPhone’s storage from the cramped-feeling 16GB standard to a cavernous 128GB for less than a hundred bucks.

Mobile phone repair shops in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai have sparked curiosity on sidewalks and social media by offering the service, which appears aimed at the many aspirational Chinese device users who can’t afford the roughly $200 premium attached to large-capacity iPhones.

Some are offering the service through online shops on China’s biggest e-commerce site Taobao. One such shop offers to upgrade an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus from 16GB to 128GB for 500 yuan ($79). Descriptions posted by several Taobao vendors indicate that the new storage card is hand-welded into the phone after the old card is removed. An unnamed software [program] is then used to trick the device into accepting the unapproved hardware.

Love the comment from one customer: “I’ve used it for a day. It feels so great.”
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Huawei emerges as 2nd largest Android brand in EU’s big five » Kantar Worldpanel


“In urban China, with a market share that grew 72% over the third quarter of 2014, Huawei remained the top brand followed by Xiaomi and Apple,” Tamsin Timpson, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Asia, commented. “iOS continued to grow year over year with 56% of iPhone buyers during the quarter switching from Android and with iPhone 6 and 6Plus retaining their positions as the best selling and second best-selling smartphones.

“Next month all eyes will be on Apple’s performance in the US and China, as many observers continue to doubt the size of the remaining opportunity for Apple,” Milanesi explained. “28% of consumers in China who own smartphones plan to upgrade in the next 12 months. Among them, 79% of those who own iPhones, and 25% of those who own Android devices, say they prefer Apple.”

That “56% of iPhone buyers in China were switchers” number is remarkable – perhaps it was people waiting for the 6S/Plus. Meanwhile in the UK, Samsung and LG were the only Android makers to grow their share; the implication seems to be that people were switching to iPhones.
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Self-flying drone dips, darts and dives through trees at 30 mph » MIT CSAIL

Adam Conner-Simons of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory:

“Everyone is building drones these days, but nobody knows how to get them to stop running into things,” says CSAIL PhD student Andrew Barry, who developed the system as part of his thesis with MIT professor Russ Tedrake. “Sensors like lidar are too heavy to put on small aircraft, and creating maps of the environment in advance isn’t practical. If we want drones that can fly quickly and navigate in the real world, we need better, faster algorithms.”

Running 20 times faster than existing software, Barry’s stereo-vision algorithm allows the drone to detect objects and build a full map of its surroundings in real-time. Operating at 120 frames per second, the software – which is open-source and available online – extracts depth information at a speed of 8.3 milliseconds per frame.

The drone, which weighs just over a pound and has a 34-inch wingspan, was made from off-the-shelf components costing about $1,700, including a camera on each wing and two processors no fancier than the ones you’d find on a cellphone.

If this doesn’t lead to an amazing VR “fox and hounds” sort of game soon, someone’s missing a trick. Quad-core CPUs and stereo cameras. Expect the price to halve in a year or so.

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Hilton obstructed investigation into Wi-Fi blocking at hotels, FCC says » Ars Technica

Jon Brodkin:

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday issued proposed fines against two companies in its latest actions against Wi-Fi blocking at hotels and convention centers.

The FCC said it proposed a $25,000 fine against Hilton Worldwide Holdings “for its apparent obstruction of an investigation into whether Hilton engaged in the blocking of consumers’ Wi-Fi devices.” The FCC also plans a $718,000 fine against M.C. Dean, a Wi-Fi access provider that is accused of “blocking consumers’ Wi-Fi connections at the Baltimore Convention Center” on dozens of occasions.

Each company has been accused of blocking personal Wi-Fi hotspots that let consumers share mobile data access with other devices such as laptops and tablets. Hilton and M.C. Dean must pay the fines within 30 days or file written statements seeking reduction or cancellation of the penalties.

The FCC last year received a complaint against a Hilton hotel in Anaheim, California that the company “blocked Wi-Fi access for visitors at the venue unless they paid a $500 fee.” More complaints against other Hilton properties followed, and in November 2014, the FCC issued Hilton a letter of inquiry seeking information about its Wi-Fi management practices at various Hilton-owned hotel chains.

Obstructing the FCC seems to be a parlour game for some companies. Remember Google and its Wi-Fi sniffing? That earned a $25,000 FCC fine for impeding investigation in 2012.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: gave the wrong link for the Microsoft OneDrive story in yesterday’s email – this is the right one (damn ZDNet scrolling system). And no, you won’t use up 5GB of storage with 10 Microsoft Word documents. Unless they’re very big.

Start up: flat design problems , ad tech stocks drop, life inside HP, LG’s challenge, and more


Google’s got a new motto. Photo by vizeur_photos on Flickr.

You can 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.

Flat design: its origins, its problems, and why Flat 2.0 is better for users » Nielsen-Norman Group

Kate Meyer:

Google’s Material design language is one example of flat 2.0 with the right priorities: it uses consistent metaphors and principles borrowed from physics to help users make sense of interfaces and interpret visual hierarchies in content.

The Evernote app for Android is a good example of the possible benefits of flat 2.0. Despite having a mostly flat UI, the app provides a few subtle shadows on the navigation bar and the floating plus button (‘add new’). It also makes use of the card metaphor to display content as flat, layer-able planes in a 3D space.

As with any design trend, we advise balance and moderation. Don’t make design decisions that sacrifice usability for trendiness. Don’t forget that—unless you’re designing only for other designers—you are not the user. Your preferences and ability to interpret clickability signifiers aren’t the same as your users’ because you know what each element in your own design is intended to do.

Early pseudo3D GUIs and Steve-Jobs-esque skeuomorphism often produced heavy, clunky interfaces.Scaling back from those excesses is good for usability. But removing visual distinctions to produce fully flat designs with no signifiers can be an equally bad extreme. Flat 2.0 provides an opportunity for compromise—visual simplicity without sacrificing signifiers.

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Ad tech stocks keep falling » WSJ

Jack Marshall notes they’re down by 17%-50%:

Serious questions about the future of ad tech and online advertising are also mounting. Some online publishers say they’re now actively avoiding working with third-party ad tech firms, for example, because they argue the vendors devalue their ad space.

Meanwhile the industry is struggling to come to grips with major challenges such as the growth of ad-blocking technologies, and the ongoing problem of fraudulent or “non-human” Internet traffic.

The latter problem might be the one that really does for ad tech companies.
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Autonomy ex-boss Lynch tells of poisonous life within HP in High Court showdown » The Register

Neil McAllister:

The suit asserts that many parties within HP “viewed Autonomy negatively,” including HP CFO Cathie Lesjak, who had never liked how the merger looked on paper; HP’s then-software boss Bill Veghte, who hadn’t played a role in the acquisition and reportedly felt snubbed; and the bosses of HP’s hardware division, who viewed Apotheker’s software-centric strategy as a threat.

Even where there was no direct animosity at play, other HP divisions were given perverse incentives to undermine Autonomy, Lynch claimed.

“In Autonomy’s case, other HP business units did not receive ‘quota credit’ or commissions for sales of Autonomy products,” the suit reads. “As a result, HP business units were incentivized to market and sell competing third-party products rather than Autonomy software.”

When HP did sell Autonomy to its customers, the suit alleges, it often did so at deep discounts, without Autonomy’s knowledge. In other cases, HP sales teams would jack up Autonomy’s price tag to boost their own bottom line, which had the result of making competing software look like a better bargain.

Similarly, sales of HP hardware to Autonomy didn’t count toward the hardware division’s sales quota. Thus, Lynch’s suit alleges, the hardware group refused to certify Autonomy on its machines. Dealings with the hardware group were so fraught, the suit adds, that even obtaining HP hardware on which to demo Autonomy proved impossible, and the demo machines were ultimately sourced from competitors, such as Oracle.

Read all about it. Seems like quite standard corporate politics, especially in a sales-driven environment like HP.
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Apple’s clever tech makes the iPhone 6s nearly waterproof » WIRED

Brian Barrett:

The phones that have offered this level of water resistance, though, haven’t exactly been chart-toppers. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Active; the Sony Xperia Z3; the HTC Desire Eye; these are phones (or variants) you may have heard of, but their aquaphobia hasn’t demonstrably made them any more desirable. Besides which, the new iPhones aren’t necessarily more water-resistant than others, at least not in any way that’s easily perceivable to consumers; they’re just water-resistant in a more clever way.

Even if it’s largely invisible to its customers, that cleverness could pay off soon for Apple. “Now that you can pay a small monthly fee and get a new iPhone every year, Apple’s going to be getting a lot of iPhones back,” says Suovanen of the company’s new iPhone Upgrade Plan. “In the long run this may help them save money. Because the iPhones are less susceptible to water damage, they’re getting them back in better condition.”

That helps explain, too, Apple opting not to coat the case itself. The same features that make a waterproof case effective make it hell to take apart or repair.

“Nearly waterproof” is a nothing phrase; it’s like “nearly pregnant”. It’s water-resistant to a higher IP rating than previous models. That nothing has been bruited about this seems anomalous.
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Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ becomes Alphabet’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ » WSJ

Alistair Barr:

“Don’t be evil” is so 2004.

Alphabet Inc. posted a new code of conduct for its employees Friday, after Google completed its transformation into a holding company. There were few substantive changes in more than 20 documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Alphabet code of conduct, posted on its website, is among them.

Google’s code of conduct, of course, is best-known for its first line, which was also included in Google’s 2004 filing for its initial public offering: “Don’t be evil.”

Alphabet’s code doesn’t include that phrase. Instead, it says employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries “should do the right thing – follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect.”

“Don’t be evil” marked Google’s aspiration to be a different company. But the phrase also has been held up by critics who say Google has not always lived up to it.

Google’s code of conduct is much longer than Alphabet’s. It includes idiosyncracies about drinking alcohol at work (OK but not too much) and taking pets to the office (dogs are cool but cats are discouraged).

The Alphabet code sticks to the basics: avoid conflicts of interest, maintain integrity and obey the law.

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Apple patent for iPhone with wraparound screen » Business Insider

Lisa Eadicicco:


The patent, which was published on September 29, is a continuation of various patents Apple has filed in the past. It’s not necessarily a new idea — Apple has been filing similar patent applications since 2013. Regardless, it’s still interesting to speculate that the company may still be experimenting with these types of ideas.

In the document, Apple says that a design like this could change the way we use our iPhones. If the screen of your iPhone were extended, you wouldn’t be limited to interacting with the device’s screen only on the front of the phone.

Apple notes that other aspects of the device found along the side — such as the mute switch, power, and volume buttons — can’t be used with apps since they’re only programmed to perform one task.

Apple’s been doing this since 2013, which implies it thinks it’s a fruitful thing to follow. Notice there’s no home button. (10yo’s opinion: “they haven’t thought this through. People drop their phones and if you have a wraparound one it will break.”)
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FBI: We unmasked and collared child porn creep on Tor with spy tool » The Register


Luis Escobosa, of Staten Island, admitted to Feds he broke federal child pornography laws by viewing depraved photos on a hidden Tor service. Unknown to Escobosa, the Feds were running the hidden server, and were using it to feed him spyware.

The child porn website’s systems were seized in Lenoir, North Carolina, after agents got a court order in February. The Feds continued to keep it in operation for two weeks afterwards to catch perverts using it. The site had nearly 215,000 users.

Because users had to use Tor to access the warped website, the web server’s logs were of little use to investigators – they simply listed the nodes of the anonymizing network. Instead, the FBI deployed a NIT – a “network investigative technique,” or what in the hands of criminals would be termed spyware.

The FBI has been using NITs for over a decade. While the Escobosa indictment doesn’t give details, other court documents have stated that the software was developed by adapting a tool written by white hat hacker HD Moore called the Metasploit Decloaking Engine.

A NIT works like this: a file, typically a Flash file, is hosted by a seized child porn website, and sent to web browsers when perverts visit the hidden service via Tor. This Flash file is run in Adobe’s plugin, and establishes a direct connection to an FBI-controlled server on the public internet without going through Tor.

The Feds can then, in most cases, read off the user’s real public IP address from this connection, unmasking the scumbag.

Hmm – maybe keep Flash just for Tor sites? Wait, this is complicated.
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Apple Pay’s grim reality » PaymentsSource

Daniel Wolfe:

Drilling down to individual financial institutions, there is still little movement among consumers, even at major debit issuers like SunTrust.

“Adoption numbers are pretty small at this point,” said Shannon Johnson, SunTrust’s senior vice president of consumer deposits and payments, in a separate presentation at PayThink. “At SunTrust, about 15% of iPhone 6 owners have provisioned their card and about 25% of those have done [at least one] transaction.”

First Financial Credit Union also presented Apple Pay adoption figures at the event. Of its 65,000 members, 9,000 use mobile banking and 48% of those use an iPhone. Of the iPhone users, just 8% – 345 members – use Apple Pay.

The lack of use stems, in part, from a lack of creativity among Apple partners, Johnson said. For most issuers, Apple Pay abruptly appeared on the scene with little warning but a clear message to get on board.

“Prior to that it was conceptual, the option of mobile wallets; it then became real,” she said. “We’re so early in the stages in terms of understanding the opportunity.”

Low use isn’t surprising, because until last week in the US you could just swipe your card to make a transaction: quicker than Apple Pay. Now, people will have to insert their cards into readers (“dip”) and sign, at least; or dip-and-PIN. This has already led to longer queues, apparently. So Apple Pay might appeal as a quicker way to do things. Being ready to catch markets just as they take off is the key.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘privacy is a fundamental human right’ » NPR

The full interview is on the page; there are short transcript extracts, including this:

Let me be clear. If you buy something from the App Store, we do know what you bought from the App Store, obviously. We think customers are fine with that. Many customers want us to recommend an app.

But what they don’t want to do, they don’t want your email to be read, and then to pick up on keywords in your email and then to use that information to then market you things on a different application that you’re using. …

If you’re in our News app, and you’re reading something, we don’t think that in the News app that we should know what you did with us on the Music app — not to trade information from app to app to app to app.

That latter part is the real distance between Apple and Google. Question is, which leads to the better customer experience over time?
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Will LG’s V10 flagship be able to shake China’s and India’s smartphone market? » Strategy Analytics

Woody Oh of the analysis company takes an overview of LG’s new phone:

it’s getting clear that LG has put the utmost efforts in creating V10 in the following aspects.

1. Dual Screens : While it is estimated to be an extremely hard task to implement dual screens with one LCD panel, LG did a great job in creating the small, but “always-on” secondary display where you can make your smartphone usage better and more diversified.

2. Dual Cameras (5MP+5MP, Front-facing) : While we have to wait for LG’s updates on the applicable usages by this dual front-facing cameras, the purported function to be able to widen the angle when taking the selfie would be regarded as a differentiator, requiring no need to bring the selfie stick when you are in a hurry.

3. Separate 32bit Hi-Fi Audio DAC (Digital to Analog Convertor) supporting 384kHz and Headphone AMP : Listening to music on smartphones are becoming a common habit for almost all smartphone users, young generation in particular, so users are naturally keen to seek for better audio quality while listening. LG’s new bid for integrating the separate Hi-Fi audio chip and headphone amplifier will be a clear differentiator in this respect as more and more people are inclined to carry only one multi-media focused device these days.

4. Professional Mode of Camera and Video: Needless to say, LG is one of the best smartphone makers who can create the best still image quality with its differentiated software, enabling an even novice to take the best picture with very easy mode setting. With V10, LG is expected to make a step further, making the common users become the best movie maker with its easy, but professional setting mode.

I look at that list, and I think: if Apple put those into a new phone, which would it make a noise about? Which would reviewers and customers make a noise about? I think the audio and “camera pro mode” things are gimmicks: you’ll never, ever, ever hear the difference in sound (young users have never, ever sought “better audio quality”; ironically, that’s for oldsters, whose hearing is already deteriorating). Camera pro modes are recipes for confusion.

The dual screen? Depends how useful it really is. The dual front cameras? Might be popular.

The real question is: what’s the difference between a truly useful feature and a gimmick? I don’t think it’s self-evident. (The whole SA note is worth reading for its points about branding too.)
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Taiwan market: Toshiba no longer selling consumer notebooks » Digitimes

Aaron Lee and Adam Hwang:

Toshiba has shifted its notebook marketing focus from consumer to business-use models in Asia, Latin America and Central Europe, and has stopped selling consumer notebooks in Taiwan, according to the vendor’s Taiwan sales agent Grainew.

However, Toshiba will maintain marketing of consumer and business notebooks in West Europe and North America markets because consumer models are still profitable there, Grainew said.

In the Taiwan market, Grainew sells about 1,000 units of a Toshiba high-end business notebook model a month currently and expects monthly sales to increase 10-20% in 2016, the company indicated. While unit sales has decreased after giving up the consumer segment, overall gross margin has increased significantly, Grainew said.

Tiny numbers; smaller companies like Toshiba will increasingly withdraw completely from the consumer PC market because the margins aren’t there.
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What Apple’s 3D Touch aims to do: replace the physical iPhone home button


Buttons: who needs ’em? Photo by H is for Home on Flickr.

Apple is a very measured company. It tends not to rush into things. It lays down the foundations, and then it builds on them.

Take the example of Apple Pay. Clearly, executives could years ago see the potential of NFC-based payments; any company in the smartphone business could. But how to implement it so that people would love using it, rather than tolerate it? As things stood three years ago, putting NFC into iPhones would be easy enough. However then you’d have to have an app or interface, and then the user would have to enter a PIN, and we all know that people are terrible both at remembering PINs, and at using long-enough ones for security. Google Wallet used an app+PIN method, and you had to be pretty determined to use it much.

For Apple, that’s too much work to impose on users, because if you’re trying to replace cash or card swiping (in the US) then you don’t replace it with something that’s more difficult and fiddly. It’s also part of why, despite there being millions of NFC-capable Android phones in the US, Google Wallet made no impact. The lack of NFC-capable tills in the US also played a big part – but Google Wallet never went outside the US, even though NFC-capable tills are plentiful in Europe. Clearly, Google’s heart wasn’t in it.

Make it simpler, stupid

So what’s a simpler yet more secure way to do payments? Biometrics, obviously, get around the “remember a password or PIN and enter it” hassle. Which biometric? Retina prints? Bit fussy. Fingerprints? Sure, because you’re already holding the phone. But that means having a reliable fingerprint reader. And NFC.

You see the elements: fingerprint reading, and NFC. Apple clearly saw the potential, so in mid-2012 bought a fingerprint reader company (the best on the market, apparently). It then integrated that into the iPhone 5S for September 2013.

But not NFC. Apple clearly could have put both fingerprint reading and NFC into its new phones at once. But it didn’t.

“Touch ID” laid the foundation for getting people used to using their fingerprints to unlock the phone – and an API meant the fingerprint reader could be used in other apps (Dropbox, etc) and to pay for stuff in the App Store or iTunes Store.

The plan, obviously, was to introduce NFC+fingerprint reading in the iPhone 6, when people would be used to the idea of the fingerprint as a “means to pay”. It also helped that it would be part of an upgrade path: 5S has fingerprint but no NFC; iPhone 6 has fingerprint and NFC. Clear differentiation, but also careful laying of foundations. By looking back, the path forward is obvious.

The path forward from 3D Touch

Now on to 3D Touch. It’s available under different names but the same concept on the new iPhones, some Macs (MacBook and some Retina Pros) and the Watch.

It’s clever – though as Chris Lacy and Ben Sandofsky discussed in The Blerg podcast just after the announcement, apps that are 3D Touch-enabled don’t seem to have any way to make that evident; only by pressing them do you discover whether they have that capability.

You can say that 3D Touch is just Android’s “long press”. It sort of is, and isn’t. The key difference is that long press didn’t have haptic feedback. It just happened: you pressed for longer than usual, and you got a laundry list of options. Google has deprecated “long press” in favour of “hamburger menus”, which are visible all the time on screen. This speaks to the point Lacy and Sandofsky make: user interface affordances that aren’t visibly signposted on a screen can be really hard to find. Apple should add some sort of edging or 3D effect to the icons to make this clear; perhaps app designers will find some common method of doing so.

With 3D Touch, you learn how much harder to press because you get a little pushback when you succeed; if you try pressing on something that doesn’t offer it (I tried the Settings app, hoping for a giant menu of settings – ha) then you get three quick low-intensity taps back, a sort of “nothing here” signal.

3D Touch can also invoke the app switcher: press on the left-hand side of the screen and you get the fan of available apps. (I found this tricky; press-and-roll the thumb inwards seemed to work best for me. Again, practice would improve it; the fingerprint reader used to be “hard” to use at first but is now second nature.)

So fast forward a bit, and in the near future you’ll have all sorts of apps offering 3D Touch capability right from the home screen. It has an API, so developers will surely be spending the next few weeks feverishly aiming for app releases on or around September 25 that use it.

What happens a year from now? Apple introduces new phones, and they of course incorporate 3D Touch. The iPhone 6 becomes the “low-end” model, and thus the only one without it.

But what this new interaction really enables is movement between apps, and quick jumps into apps, that don’t rely on your pressing the home button at all.

Note also how iOS 9 includes a “Back” button of sorts (in the top left corner, if you’ve come from one app to another, you can go straight back – rather than using the home button to invoke the app switcher).

(Screenshot from Jeff Brynes’s thoughts on iOS 9 beta 5)

What’s all that – the “back” button, the 3D Touch capability – about? It’s about not using the Home button.

You should never go Home

To date, the iPhone has been built around the Home button, yet it is increasingly an encumbrance: if you want to go to the icon screen, you have to press it. To get the app switcher, you have to press it. To switch between apps (unless you’re invoking something like “Create event” in Calendar from Mail) you have to press it.

That’s a lot of pressing, and I bet that mechanical failure of Home buttons is one thing that keeps showing up in Apple’s fault reports. Broken screens are easily replaced (and people can get by with broken screens for a looong time), but broken home buttons not so. Grit can get in. Water can get in. Constant movement isn’t ideal in electronics. You might say that it’s just tough if peoples’ Home buttons break, but compared to Android phones which don’t have them, it’s an obvious point of weakness – and customer dissatisfaction.

However, the Home button is needed as the place where your fingerprint is read. But that doesn’t need a moving home button; it just needs a circle of sapphire glass through which your print is read.

Are the foundations that have been laid becoming clear yet? In the new Macbooks and the Force Touch-enabled Retina Pros, the keypad seems to click when you press it. Seems to. Yet in fact it doesn’t move, as Matt Panzarino noted back in March:

The new trackpad does not move, at all.

When you ‘click’ it, it ‘clicks’, but it doesn’t actually click. There is an audible ‘click’ sound (that’s what the silly picture below is, me listening) and it does in fact feel like it clicks, but that is merely an illusion.

There is a set of vibrating motors underneath that provides ‘force feedback’, also known as haptics in some applications. This feedback fools your finger into believing that you’ve pressed down on a hinged button, the way your current trackpad works. This feedback relies on phenomenon called lateral force fields (LFFs), which can cause humans to experience vibrations as haptic ‘textures’. This can give you the feel of a ‘clickable’ surface or even depth. The Force Touch feature of the new trackpad allows you to press ‘deeper’, giving you additional levels of tapping feedback. The effect is done so well that you actually feel like you’re pressing down deeper into a trackpad that still isn’t moving at all. It’s so good it’s eerie.

What if – and it’s just speculation, you know, but what if – you were to put that “seems to move but doesn’t” technology into a phone? Yes, you’d have 3D Touch. That’s happened. But what if you put it into an iPhone home button? You could have something that seemed to move, and felt like it moved, but didn’t. You can double-click the Macbook trackpad; you could double-click a 3D Touch home button. But nothing moves. There’s just a piece of glass, and a sapphire circle for reading, and that’s it.

Think: when do you press the home button? When the phone is off and you’re enabling it, or to switch apps, or to get back to the home screen (so you can switch between app screens).

Most of the time – that is, time when you’re in apps – the Home button serves no purpose at all, except to be a grit-attracting water-allowing problem. Replacing it with a not-moving solid piece of glass would be a design and fault-resistance win.

Here’s how 3D Touch works. In the pictures below, I’ve force-pressed on the relevant icons that you see highlighted from the main screen:

3D Touch brings up contacts

No need to enter the app – 3D Touch brings up recent or favourite contacts in Phone and Messages


Force.. er, 3D-touch on the phone or messages icon and you get your three most recent interactions (or possibly three top favourites for the phone – this may change)

Music and News are 3D Touch-enabled

3D Touch lets you jump straight into elements of apps such as Music and News


Want some Apple Music without opening the app? Or to go straight to News? It’s just a forceful touch away

3D Touch on Dropbox and Instagram

3D Touch on Dropbox and Instagram


Third-party apps can incorporate it too

And as I said, you can also use 3D Touch to invoke the app switcher (I had a picture, but it just looks like the app switcher). So you could, if you were determined, spend entire sessions and never touch the home button – except if you needed Siri (except that would be available via “Hey Siri”) or to make a payment. Only one of those needs a moving home button, and is replaceable too. (You can get to the main icon screen by invoking the app switcher then choosing the icon screen, so no home button needed there either.)

Is this reasonable? Quite separately, Neil Cybart has had the same idea:

Apple’s new 3D Touch feature not only brings an additional user interface to iPhone, but should be thought of as the missing piece for allowing iPhone screens to become even larger without increasing the iPhone’s form factor. 3D Touch begins to reduce the need for the home button, which has turned into a type of reset button used to switch between apps. By removing the iPhone home button and filling the additional space with screen real estate, the iPhone will only gain more power and capabilities when compared to devices like the iPad mini and Air.

His piece appeared after I’d drafted this. Cybart is smart, so I’m glad to find we’re thinking the same way.

Which means that…

Getting 3D/Force Touch into the Home button requires the technology to improve somewhat, and become dependable, and people have to get used to the idea. But after that, what becomes possible?

• The Home button stops being a separate physical element, and just becomes an area on the screen

• You can have a larger screen in the same form factor: you don’t need the black band at the bottom of the device where the home button lives (notice how Android OEMs have been able to enlarge the screen because they don’t have to have a physical button). Weird to think, but Apple could offer a smaller device with the same size screen, thus answering people who don’t like the physical size of the iPhone 6 but do like a bigger screen

• You don’t have the mechanical problems of a moving button

• You can provide clearer haptic feedback when people press the button – the difference between a long press (for Siri) and a double-press becomes evident to the user.

It all makes sense (as these things so often do). So, when will it happen? Only two choices really: next year, with the “iPhone 7”, or after that. Or, OK, third choice, never. I mean, perhaps Jony Ive is really wedded to having a moving home button. But I bet he isn’t. Getting rid of moving trackpads in the MacBook seems to me just the start; the first brick of the building. The Watch was the second part, and iPhones the next. Now wait for next year.

Start up: Firefox attacked, iPhone’s “3D Touch Display”?, ad folks fret on blockers, Note 5/Edge+ reviewed, and more


A drinks machine in the Soviet arcade museum. OK, back to work! Photo (and many more) by jasoneppink on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Do not feed. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Mozilla: data stolen from hacked bug database was used to attack Firefox » Ars Technica

Megan Geuss:

An attacker stole security-sensitive vulnerability information from the Mozilla’s Bugzilla bug tracking system and probably used it to attack Firefox users, the maker of the open-source Firefox browser warned Friday.

In an FAQ published (PDF) alongside Mozilla’s blog post about the attack, the company added that the loss of information appeared to stem from a privileged user’s compromised account. The user appeared to have re-used their Bugzilla account password on another website, which suffered a data breach. The attacker then allegedly gained access to the sensitive Bugzilla account and was able to “download security-sensitive information about flaws in Firefox and other Mozilla products.”

Mozilla added that the attacker accessed 185 non-public Firefox bugs, of which 53 involved “severe vulnerabilities.” Ten of the vulnerabilities were unpatched at the time, while the remainder had been fixed in the most recent version of Firefox at the time.

Publishing the FAQ as a PDF is a bit crummy – makes it harder to process. Reuse of passwords is a big problem but you wouldn’t expect someone with high-level access to Bugzilla to do it.
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iPhone 6s to have ‘3D Touch’ three-level, next-gen Force Touch interface » 9to5Mac

Mark Gurman, so we should trust it, right?

One of the cornerstone features of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, to be announced next Wednesday, is a screen based on the Force Touch technology from the latest MacBook trackpads and the Apple Watch. However, as we noted in previous articles such as our event expectations roundup from yesterday, the Force Touch feature in the new iPhones will actually be a next-generation version of the technology. According to sources familiar with the new iPhones, the new pressure-sensitive screen will likely be called the “3D Touch Display”…

Sounds like a bit of a clunky name?
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The alternate universe of Soviet arcade games » Atlas Obscura

Kristin Winet:

When you walk into the Museum of Soviet Arcade Games in St. Petersburg, the first thing you’ll see is a series of gray, hard-edged soda machines from the early 1980s. If you choose the one in the middle, it will dispense a tarragon-flavored and slightly fermented soda whose recipe relies on a syrup that has not been mass produced since the fall of the Soviet Union. It tastes not unlike a mix of molasses and breath mints.

All around us are beeps, pings, and shot blasts coming from rickety old machines that seem like they’ve time-traveled from the golden era of American arcade games. And yet, everything’s in Russian, we’re using kopecks as currency, and there is no Donkey Kong here.

This is not your typical museum. For one thing, everything is not only touchable, but playable. Designed to look like a 1980s USSR video game arcade, the museum is filled with restored games carefully modeled after those in Japan and the West and manufactured to the approval of the Cold War-era Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev…

…“The fact that some of these products are in danger of disappearing is why they are beloved,” says Dr. Steven Norris, a Professor of History at Miami University in Ohio who specializes in Russian and post-Soviet studies. “Nostalgia for the video games of the 1970s and 1980s is part of a larger nostalgia for Soviet consumer products of late socialism.”

Fabulous journalism bringing us a view of the world we’d not otherwise get. And of course in Soviet Russia, arcade games play you.
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DirectLinks » Canisbos


This [Safari] extension circumvents certain techniques used by Google and Facebook to track link clicks.

When you click a link in Google search results, Google uses JavaScript to replace the actual link with an indirect one, which they use for click tracking. Google then redirects the browser to the actual destination after logging the click. DirectLinks disables the JavaScript that replaces real links with indirect ones, so that when you click a search result link, Safari goes straight to the destination.

The extension does something similar for links in Facebook posts: it removes JavaScript that Facebook uses to track clicks on these links.

Probably won’t be long before this is incorporated into content blockers for iOS 9. It’s super-annoying to try to copy a link off Google and get a bunch of obfuscated Javascript.
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IAB surveys options to fight ad blockers, including lawsuits » Advertising Age

Tim Peterson:

To catch up with the growing issue, the IAB [Interactive Advertising Bureau] hosted a member leadership summit on July 9 at the IAB Ad Lab in New York City that convened the IAB and IAB Tech Lab boards as well as a number of sales and technology executives to discuss ad blocking. “It was more of an educational [meeting] to get the options on the table,” [Scott] Cunningham [senior VP at IAB and general manager of its Technology Lab] said.

Some of the options put on the table were a lot stronger than some of the more Pollyanna-ish calls for better ads or publisher appeals asking people to turn off their ad blockers as ways to fight ad blockers.

“I advocated for the top 100 websites to, beginning on the same day, not let anybody with ad blockers turned on [to view their content],” said Mr. Moore. He said that the other IAB members in attendance considered it “a good idea but the possibility of pulling it off slim.”

That might not even be the most drastic option the IAB and its members are considering. The possibility of suing the ad-blocking companies is being explored.

The ad blockers “are interfering with websites’ ability to display all the pixels that are part of that website, arguably there’s some sort of law that prohibits that,” Mr. Moore said. “I’m not by any means a lawyer, but there is work being done to explore whether in fact that may be the case.”

“interfering with websites’ ability to display all the pixels that are part of that website”. I’m not going to laug…HAHAHAHAHA.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I think we’re on No.2. Progress still to be made.

Still, there is good news: the IAB officially adopted HTML5 as the new standard for display ads, replacing Flash.
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How to write a great error message » Medium

Thomas Fuchs:

Imagine being in an office. In your cubicle. You’ve worked long hours this week for an upcoming product introduction. You’re tired and cranky, and you just want the weekend to finally arrive.

But first you have to try if the homepage for the new product works fine on Windows 10. No problem, you think, your trusty Mac laptop has software installed that allows you to run Windows.

You fire up the software, and when Windows politely asks you to update with several intrusive notifications, you say, sure, go ahead.

And then you see this.

That would be almost amusing, if it wasn’t for the deadline for the product.

Terrific article. (Via Dave Verwer’s iOS Dev Weekly. You should try it.)
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Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S6 edge+ review: pretty much exactly what you’d expect » Android Police

David Ruddock, who has been doing some terrific work at Android Police, has a great review with this conclusion:

So, should you buy these phones? I mean, that really comes down to the criteria they don’t meet for you, not what they do. Because these devices really are the technical pinnacle of the smartphones currently out there, a given person’s lack of interest in them is going to almost certainly come down to price, philosophy, or a particular missing feature or other perceived weakness (such as the absent microSD slot or a lack of stock Android). Make no mistake: these are excellent phones. But is excellence worth this much money, especially when the pitfalls (subpar battery life, slow updates, and performance hiccups) mirror or sometimes even exceed those of devices costing potentially much less? That’s for you, the consumer, to decide. If you’re asking me, the flash isn’t worth the cash – Samsung’s premium phones today are much more about brand image and fashion than they are user empowerment or choice.

The comments also show that Samsung users are… animated about the absence of SD cards/removable batteries, battery life, price, the “why upgrade?” question and app performance.
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HTC: from riches to rags » Counterpoint Technology Market Research

Neil Shah analyses HTC’s position, where its August revenues were the lowest for 10 years – and there’s no sign of improvement:

Being a pure hardware only vendor won’t take HTC far enough. HTC should learn from another Taiwanese company Asus how it is making a comeback and scaling up with cutting edge specs at highly affordable price-points.

Similarly, Motorola as well following Xiaomi’s footsteps selling online in many markets its highly attractive offering in form of Moto X/G/E at affordable price-points and charting phenomenal comeback.

If this doesn’t work, a potential merger or getting acquired is the only way the company can return value to its shareholders and think about growing with other company.

However, for that HTC at least for short- to mid-term will need to raise its game, make itself attractive to others.

HTC should focus on building an IP portfolio over the next couple of years and eventually maximize its valuation. Merging with other Taiwanese companies such as Acer or Asus to justify scale could also be a possible strategy.

HTC’s Cher Wang seems unwilling to countenance a takeover, but she might have to consider it seriously pretty soon.
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BlackBerry to acquire Good Technology: executive point of view » Inside BlackBerry

BlackBerry is spending $425m of its not-growing cash pile to buy Good, which has been a bitter rival for more than a decade. Inside BlackBerry lobbed some soft questions at BlackBerry COO Marty Beard and Good CEO Christy Wyatt, but not all the answers were quite that gentle:

IBB: Speaking of customers, how does this impact each of your existing customers and what new areas will come of it?

MB: Our acquisition of Good will mean the end of compromise for customers. We will be able to provide even stronger cross-platform capabilities – ensuring customers won’t have to make any sacrifices in operating systems, deployment models, or any level of privacy and security in their mobile environments. I truly believe that combined, BlackBerry and Good will raise the bar in the enterprise mobility market, enabling our customers to be more productive and protecting their sensitive data across all of their mobile end points.

CW: Historically, when a customer chooses their enterprise mobility platform, they have been asked to make tough choices: do they want deep management, deep security, a great user experience or enterprise scalability? The truth is that customers should not have to choose. They will need different tools to solve different mobility challenges. With this combination, customers can have the best in security, management, ecosystem and experiences all on a common platform.

I love how they’re both needling about each others’ products, but now saying that ach, it’s all good. This is a smart acquisition by BlackBerry; now it needs to make it work.
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Start up: smartphone jobs bloodbath, Apple v watch sales, Android’s messy sharing, and more


Content blockers for iOS are having their first tests: how do they do? Photo by WSDOT on Flikr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

JFK displays actual wait times using sensors that monitor mobile phones » Blip Systems : Blip Systems


Passengers moving through JFK Airport’s Terminal 4 are now presented with estimated processing times on 13 new screens. The large and prominent screens are placed at TSA Security and Customs and Border Protection checkpoints, as well as the indoor taxi queue.

“It continuously updates,” says Daryl Jameson, vice president at the company JFKIAT, which runs Terminal 4. People like to know how long they are going to wait in queues. Nobody likes to wait in lines and signage helps to manage expectations.”

The wait times are driven by sensors that monitor passenger’s mobile devices as they move through the airport. The BlipTrack solution, invented by Denmark-based BLIP Systems, and installed by Lockheed Martin, detects Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices in “discoverable” mode, found in mobile phones and tablets. When a device passes the sensors, its non-personal unique ID—called a MAC address—is recorded, encrypted and time-stamped. By re-identifying the device from multiple sensors, the travel times, dwell times and movement patterns become available.

Neat idea, though when you’re waiting in an inescapable queue, you don’t actually want to know your wait time; you want a distraction. This is why lift designers put mirrors and TVs showing news in lobbies where people wait for lifts: so you can do something else while you wait. Doesn’t speed up the lift; does reduce the subjective queuing time.
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Ashley Madison search sites like Trustify are harvesting email addresses and spamming searched victims » Troy Hunt


I had this forwarded to me earlier today and frankly, I couldn’t believe it. I mean I knew Trustify were making email addresses publicly searchable and somehow not falling foul of DMCA takedowns whilst others doing the same thing were (possibly because Trustify has more lawyers than employees), but I had no idea they’d actually harvest addresses and then send unsolicited emails, so I Googled a bit and found a very unsympathetic Reddit thread on it. There’s a series of responses from thejournalizer (reportedly the content marketing director at Trustify) which provide such enlightening insights as:

The email OP received was actually established to help you and warn you that someone is seeking out details about you.

Ah, it’s there to help you! So after you search on the site and it says “You’ve been compromised” and provides a handy form to sign up to their commercial services, an email is also sent to you because, well, it might not be you.

Isn’t capitalism great, especially where data breaches are concerned.
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Smartphone giants have lost 15,000 jobs to cheap Android phones this year » Quartz

Josh Horwitz:

The world’s smartphone manufacturing giants are losing their luster, leading to a steady stream of job cuts inside previously prestigious mobile units.

The most recent high-profile cuts occurred last week, when HTC and Lenovo each reported less than stellar earnings reports. HTC, after reporting a loss that exceeded analyst estimates five-fold (and caused its market valuation to fall below its cash assets), told investors it would cut fifteen percent of its workforce, amounting to over 2,000 jobs.

Lenovo, meanwhile, announced that it would reduce its workforce by 3,200 people, and cut its non-manufacturing headcount by 10%. The company didn’t specify which specific jobs were at risk, but it pointed to flagging global PC sales, along with the need to streamline its mobile phone unit, as its key goals for the coming year. The company’s net profits were down 51% year-on-year, and its Motorola handset division saw shipments plummet 31% to 5.9 million units.

You can argue about whether Microsoft, the source of half those 15,000 job losses, counts as a “smartphone giant” – shifted more units than Motorola, Sony or HTC – but when Lenovo (now owning Motorola) is cutting, that’s something.
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Apple helps push US watch sales to biggest drop in seven years » Bloomberg Business

Thomas Mulier:

US watch sales fell the most in seven years in June, one of the first signs Apple’s watch is eroding demand for traditional timepieces.

Retailers sold $375m of watches during the month, 11 percent less than in June 2014, according to data from NPD Group. The 14% decline in unit sales was the largest since 2008, according to Fred Levin, head of the market researcher’s luxury division.

“The Apple Watch is going to gain a significant amount of penetration,” he said Thursday in a phone interview. “The first couple of years will be difficult for watches in fashion categories.”
The market for watches that cost less than $1,000 is most at risk, as consumers in that price range have indicated they’re the most likely to buy an Apple Watch, Levin said.

Well, it’s a data point.
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Crystal benchmarks » Murphy Apps

Dean Murphy is developing a Safari content blocker called Crystal for iOS 9:

For this experiment, I have picked 10 pages from different news websites – Some I use regularly, some I don’t. The metrics I’m monitoring is page size (in MB) and load time (in Seconds). 10 pages is far from a good sample size for the web, I know, but the web is a big place, and my time to benchmark is limited. 

Websites tested: New York Times, Business Insider, Macworld, Wired, The Verge, PC Gamer, iMore, Kotaku, Huffington Post, Vice.

Method: All sites tested on an iPhone 6+, connected to wifi (154Mb Fiber). All metrics are taken from Safari Web Inspector after doing an Ignored Cache Reload (CMD+Shift+R).

Results

On average, pages loaded 74% faster with Crystal and used 53% less bandwidth. Just by having Crystal installed, I saved a total of 70 seconds and 35MB of data on these 10 pages.

These are dramatic differences. (Click through for the graphs.) I’m beta testing Crystal myself; it makes the mobile web very attractive, all of a sudden. Though perhaps sites don’t feel the same way.
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Staff exodus plus pressure from Microsoft and Apple hits Google Now » Re/code

Mark Bergen:

[Sundar] Pichai [who now heads Google] is known as an executive who seeks consensus rather than conflict. A former Googler who worked on Now recalled Pichai’s response to their protests [when Google Now was shifted from the Android division to the search division – seen as the “boring” area, and not the right fit for a mobile OS framework]: “‘Look, I’ve got a lot on my plate. Chrome and Android are my top priorities. Google Now is not on that. I can’t fight that battle for you.’”

Now has its own battles in store. It has a solid user base, more than a hundred million monthly ones, according to multiple sources. (Google declined to comment on these numbers.) Yet it’s unclear how active those users are, and only a slim slice of them are on the iOS app.

Apple, for its part, looks prepared to launch a competitor to Now on Tap. With its proactive assistant and spotlight search, the Apple entry could elbow Google out. Several people said it was unusual for Google to pre-announce a feature like Now on Tap before it is ready. That hurriedness may have been to pre-empt Apple’s announcement the following month.

And now Bing, which powers search on Apple devices, has its own Now on Tap foil.

iOS 9, with Proactive, will make Google Now largely pointless for the vast majority of iOS users; Google Now will be fine for Android users. Microsoft might pick up a few diehards, but it’s hard to see it really making an impact.

Google, meanwhile, is discovering internal politics in a big way. And that’s before Alphabet.
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Sharing on Android is Broken » Terence Eden’s Blog


I’ve been using Android – Google’s mobile OS – it since before it was launched. I now love and loathe it in equal measure.

Consider the simple act of sharing a piece of content. A fairly common activity which the OS should be able to handle in a standard manner. Yet Google’s own apps each have a radically different way of completing this basic task.

Let’s take a look at the latest versions of Play, Maps, YouTube, Chrome, Google+, and Docs – all running on Lollipop.

• Google Play, has the normal Share Icon.
• Google Maps hides the option in a menu.
• YouTube has two share buttons, neither of which look like the one in Play.
• Chrome hides the option in a dropdown (weird how it floats over the menu button, unlike Maps).
• Google+ takes us back to the regular share icon (with no text label).
• Google Docs uses a floating bottom menu (what?!) with a yet another icon and a “Send file” text label.

Things get even worse once you open the Share menu, though. Eden makes a good point: there’s clearly no single person in charge of this UX element for Android, even for Google’s own apps, despite the fact that they’re on every single Android phone sold outside China.
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Samsung smart fridge leaves Gmail logins open to attack » The Register

John Leyden:

Pen Test Partners discovered the MiTM (man-in-the-middle) vulnerability that facilitated the exploit during an IoT hacking challenge run by Samsung at the recent DEF CON hacking conference.

The hack was pulled off against the RF28HMELBSR smart fridge, part of Samsung’s line-up of Smart Home appliances which can be controlled via their Smart Home app. While the fridge implements SSL, it fails to validate SSL certificates, thereby enabling man-in-the-middle attacks against most connections.

The internet-connected device is designed to download Gmail Calendar information to an on-screen display. Security shortcomings mean that hackers who manage to jump on to the same network can potentially steal Google login credentials from their neighbours.

Yeah, it’s that “jump on the same network” thing which is the sticking point. I’d wager that most home networks are secured nowadays.
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EU deepens antitrust investigation into Google’s practices » WSJ

Natalia Drozdiak:

In one of the questionnaires [sent out to website operators] inquiring about “exclusivity obligations”—whether Google prevents or obstructs website operators from placing ads on their websites that compete with Google’s advertising business—the commission asks companies to update responses they made about the issue in 2010 and to provide a copy of all their advertising agreements with Google over the last four years.

A separate questionnaire, investigating the allegations that Google copies or “scrapes” content from rival sites, asks companies to provide more information about whether Google takes content, such as images, from the companies and uses it in its own online services.

The images question – raised by Getty – is about Google Images effectively bypassing visits to sites, and making copies of images. The latter is potentially a bigger problem than most other topics; “fair dealing” (the UK version of the US’s “fair use”) is hard to argue when you’re copying and storing entire image libraries.
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BT may have to hive off Openreach to improve the UK’s broadband services » Telegraph

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who lives in a rural constituency:

The government’s roll-out of broadband has been far too slow.

The Government has cannibalised the BBC licence fee to fund otherwise not commercially viable superfast connections to the tune of more than £1bn. Yet they have already missed their initial deadline of May 2015 and shifted it back by two and a half years to December 2017.

Even the 2017 deadline is only a hope, as senior BT executives and almost half of councils have warned it could end up being 2018 before the roll-out to 95% of the country is finished. But there is also another problem. The Government designed the tender process for the superfast roll-out in such a way that it was virtually impossible for anyone other than BT to win. The end result was that BT Openreach won 44 out of 44 contracts and its monopoly was reinforced.

Although BT Openreach, which owns the existing copper network and delivers the rollout, is nominally at arm’s length from BT, it is right that Ofcom is now considering whether this provides an unfair advantage to BT and whether it should be split off in the interests of transparency and fair competition.

No question; it should. BT Openreach had an operating profit margin of around 50% in the most recent quarter – while the rest of BT languished. BT OR is being milked, and we’re the cows.
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Start up: Windows 10’s puzzle, Adobe’s coming obituary, our digital romances, and more


A better sound to be found inside? Photo by pumpkinmook on Flickr.

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

Windows 10 signifies Microsoft’s shift in strategy » The New York Times

Nick Wingfield:

in recent years, Windows has become an afterthought for many software developers, who have turned to the huge and engaged audience on smartphones. That shift has left Microsoft in a precarious position with consumers in recent years.

To generate more interest from developers, Microsoft has designed Windows 10 to run on PCs, smartphones and other devices, which is meant to make it easier for developers to write apps that run across all of them. And the company has sworn there will be one billion devices running the software in the next two to three years, giving developers a huge potential market to reach with their creations.

“I think we will see really huge adoption” of Windows 10, said Kevin Sather, director of product marketing for systems at Razer, a maker of high-end gaming computers and other devices.

The benefits of fast and free adoption of Windows 10 could well outweigh the revenue Microsoft is giving up. The company does not disclose how much upgrade revenue it normally makes from a new operating system, but analysts estimate that it is small compared with the other ways the company makes money from the operating system.

What this doesn’t explain is why Windows 10, even free, should suddenly make consumers devote any more time to their PCs, or buy Windows tablets any more than they do. Obviously Microsoft is a business-oriented company. So will this actually make any difference at all to the general direction of travel, away from the desktop to mobile? I just don’t see it.
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Free sound improving techniques » PWB Electronics


Try the freezing experiment using a CD first – they are usually the easiest object to hand. If you have two identical CDs all the better as you can keep one CD as the control (no treatment) and put the other CD through the freezing/slow defrost process.

Place one CD in a plain plastic bag and place this bag in the domestic deep freezer overnight. When you remove the CD from the freezer, allow it to return to room temperature very, very slowly. You can achieve a slow defrost quite easily by wrapping it in a towel or blanket. Listen to the CD which has been through the freezing process first and then see if you can listen to the other (unfrozen) CD with the same pleasure !! Putting the previously frozen CD through the freezing/slow defrost process a second time gives you a further improvement in the sound.

Impossible to distinguish from satire. Or reality.
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Only around 15% of WP 8.1 users to upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile? » All About Windows Phone

Steve Litchfield:

There’s something of a blanket assumption that everyone currently using Windows Phone 8.1 will upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile – after all, Microsoft has been promising that ‘majority’ of users will join the Window 10 ecosystem. But, after a few recent experiences of mine with budget devices, I thought it worth sounding a note of caution and reality – I’d put money on the actual conversion numbers to Windows 10 Mobile being significantly less than 50% and maybe as low as 15%.

He tested trying to update to Windows 10 Mobile on wiped-clean Lumias. It wasn’t great. Why? Storage: some of those low-end phones just won’t have the spare space – especially for those with any apps installed.
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Tech world prepares obituary for Adobe Flash » WSJ

Robert McMillan:

in 2007, along came the iPhone. Adobe engineers embraced it immediately. “Everyone who was in the organization was carrying an iPhone,” said Carlos Icaza, an Adobe senior engineer at the time.

But Apple’s smartphone also troubled Mr. Icaza, who was in charge of Flash development on mobile phones. Flash had become bloated over the years and required lots of computing power to run. That wasn’t a big deal on PCs, but on mobile phones, with their limited battery life, it was a major problem, and Apple had opted not to support the technology.

Flash needed a major rewrite to work on the iPhone, but Mr. Icaza couldn’t get his superiors to allocate the necessary resources.

“For me, it was, ‘What the hell is going on? We have this amazing device that is going to change the world and everybody knows it,’” he said in an interview. “Nobody at the organization was trying to make Flash work on this device.”…

…Adobe itself now considers Flash to be immaterial to its business, meaning that it accounts for less than 5% of company revenue, but it is still widely used on websites built for browsers. The software runs on under 6% of the Internet’s home pages and its use is declining, according to BuiltWith Pty Ltd, which tracks Internet technology.

You don’t hear that 6% stat thrown around much, do you?
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I tried all the apps that are supposed to mend a broken heart » Fusion

Kristen Brown:

A few months into the relationship I’d asked Siri to remember which of the many Johns* [*his name wasn’t John] in my contacts was the one I was dating. At the time, divulging this information to Siri seemed like a big step — at long last, we were “Siri Official!” Now, though, we were Siri-Separated. Having to break the news to my iPhone—my non-human, but still intimate companion—surprisingly stung.

Siri wasn’t the only screen-based trial of my break-up. Our relationships now exist across networked webs of digital connections, webs that we build up each time we begin a new romance and then must painfully break down when one ends. When I flicked open my laptop at work, the bottom-right corner was empty where a Google chat had previously sat waiting for me. Notifications of unread Snapchat messages used to lead to goofy photos of John, but now they’re just, disappointingly, announcements from Team Snapchat. Every time I send a note to a particular group of friends, Google’s algorithm suggests I add John to the e-mail thread.

Our relationship was the digital equivalent of moving in together, and now painful memories of him were scattered all over my online home. Technology was making my heartache worse, but that’s not how these things are supposed to work: Technology is supposed make our lives easier, so I sought out tech fixes for a broken heart.

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Online cheating site AshleyMadison hacked » Krebs on Security

Brian Krebs:

In a long manifesto posted alongside the stolen ALM data, The Impact Team said it decided to publish the information in response to alleged lies ALM told its customers about a service that allows members to completely erase their profile information for a $19 fee.

According to the hackers, although the “full delete” feature that Ashley Madison advertises promises “removal of site usage history and personally identifiable information from the site,” users’ purchase details — including real name and address — aren’t actually scrubbed.

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie,” the hacking group wrote. “Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

Their demands continue: “Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”

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The Apple Watch review » Anandtech

Joshua Ho and Brandon Chester:

Although this is a review of the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch will ultimately be quickly forgotten with the launch of future iterations of the Apple Watch. After all, Apple is not trying to sell the world on the idea of a smarter watch, but the idea of a watch altogether.

For those still deciding on whether the first Apple Watch makes sense, I have no reservations in saying that it’s the best wearable I’ve ever used. However, at the same time I find it hard to recommend this first-generation Apple Watch. It’s clear that there are far too many obvious areas to improve upon, areas where Moore’s law will help to dramatically improve the experience. In the case of smartphones, Moore’s law made it possible to deliver true all-day battery life and fluid app performance. After spending a few months with the Apple Watch, all I can see is a need for more compute and battery life, like what happened with smartphones.

Finally, we get back to the question of whether Apple will be sell people on the concept of a watch. In the months since I first used the watch I’ve ended up wearing it every day. I distinctly noticed its absence when I forgot the charger on a trip. I don’t know if Apple will succeed in convincing others of the utility of a watch, but they’ve definitely convinced me.

To the despair of graph-lovers everywhere, the authors declare that they can’t figure out a standard method for testing battery life, because you can configure the Apple Watch and Android Wear to behave so differently on notifications. But I agree with their conclusion – what you begin to notice, increasingly, over time is the utility.
link to this extract


Dropdowns should be the UI of last resort » LukeW

Luke Wroblewski:

No one likes filling in forms. And the longer or more complicated a form seems, the less likely we are to jump in and start filling in the blanks -especially on small screens with imprecise inputs (like our fingers).

dropdowns v tabs

While there’s two extra fields in the “painful” version above, the primary difference between these two flight booking forms is how they ask questions. One makes use of dropdown menus for nearly every question asked, the other uses the most appropriate input control for each question.

Dropdowns really are a pain, but it takes this post to point out quite why. There’s a longer writeup with links to video clips too.
link to this extract


Start up (May 21): Cisco in Russia, more Google Maps malarkey, a Watch forecast cut, and more

Somehow this didn’t publish on May 21 as it should have. Bah.


Android Wear lets you do all sorts of watchfaces. Photo by leolambertini on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

After sanctions, Cisco altered sales records in Russia » BuzzFeed News

Aram Roston and Max Seddon, with a blockbuster piece:

After Western sanctions began shutting down sales of high-tech internet equipment to Russia’s military and security forces, employees at technology giant Cisco Systems Inc. altered sales records and booked deals under a false customer name, according to internal company documents. The intent, according to a confidential source with deep knowledge of Cisco’s Moscow operations, was to dodge the sanctions by masking the true customers behind more innocuous-sounding straw buyers.

Nonononononotatall we were just correcting some errors, says Cisco.
Remind me again about how Buzzfeed is just cat pictures and listicles?


Sex, monsters and outrage » Public Address

Joshua Drummond on the outrage (overhyped) about students in a sex education class being handed literature that, um, outraged some people:

By analogy, it’s a lot like students studying World War Two. Some knowledge of the Nazis’ peculiar, perverted ideology and the conditions in which it flourished is necessary to understand how the war got going. But no-one’s being taught that Nazis are rad, any more than they’re being taught that unmarried women are sluts in this particular case. The lesson was – and why not have some fun with paraphrasing – intended to point out the unfortunate truth that there are a lot of dicks in the world and some of them try to force their dickery on others. I’d have thought this was a pretty important lesson, especially when it comes to sexual health, and where better to experience it than in the (relatively) safe space of a health education class?

No! said Labour education spokesperson Chris Hipkins, who thundered mildly: “It’s fine for schools to be using stuff to provoke kids into thinking but there’s a fine line between provoking critical thought and something that’s offensive. That, I think, crosses the line.”

Well, I suppose that’s up for debate. Should students be privy to the extremist views of nutcases?

What’s most worrying is that, as always happens, the initial distortion gets far more broadly distributed than the correction.

Think about that: the wrong stuff always gets the broader distribution.


Facebook’s Internet.org comes under fire for being a walled garden » Fortune

Mathew Ingram:

In effect, says the EFF, the structure of Internet.org means that Facebook has set itself up as a gatekeeper when it comes to accessing the Internet, and this means that it has “issued an open invitation for governments and special interest groups to lobby, cajole or threaten them to withhold particular content from their service.” Until the social network truly opens up the project to anyone and everyone, Internet.org will “not be living up to its promise or its name,” the foundation says.


Today’s solar panels are fine for tomorrow » Solar Love

Steve Hanley:

An interdisciplinary MIT study led by the MIT Energy Initiative has led to a 332-page report entitled The Future of Solar Energy. Among its key findings are that today’s solar panels are all that is needed to supply the world with many terawatts of clean solar power by 2050 (a terawatt is equivalent to 1,000,000 megawatts). The other main point the study makes is that it will take political will to finally wean the world off of fossil fuels.

I was pointed to this on Twitter by Leonardo DiCaprio. Yup, him. Not personally, you understand.


KGI lowers Apple Watch forecast to 15 million » WatchAware

Abdel Ibrahim, commenting on 9to5Mac reporting on KGI research lowering its estimat for the lead from 20-30m to “just” 15m:

As with any new product, it takes time for things to get going. New features, functions, and even new versions are what will be the most important test for Apple Watch in the coming years. Most V1 products are usually adopted by the comparatively small minority of Apple fans who are interested in the company’s latest gadgets.

15m feels astonishing. For a v1 product? And as Ibrahim points out, that’s a lot more than Android Wear seems to be doing (downloads passed 1m in late February, now around 1.2m).


Proper Google Maps app appears on Android Wear via latest phone app update » Android Central

Andrew Martonik:

The app can be launched from the app launcher or by voice with an “open Maps” command, and when opened you get a full screen top-down map experience. You can scroll around, pinch-to-zoom (barely) and even switch between true North and device direction views. Zoom in/out buttons appear on the top of the screen when you tap it, which is much better than pinching, and you also get a small pin button that lets you quickly scroll through nearby places and navigate to them — though when you fire up navigation from the Maps app on the watch it still corresponds with launching Maps on your phone.

There’s even a neat feature that gives you a simple black and white outline map when the watch doesn’t receive interaction for while, just like the ambient watch faces do.

Aside from the handful of reboots of our phone and watch that were necessary just to get it to run, the app still seems rather unstable. Several times in just a few minutes of playing with the app it has failed to respond or open up navigation properly — we have a feeling that this isn’t quite ready without a new version of Google Play Services or potentially a new version of Android Wear on the watch.

Options for resizing: pinch-to-zoom or prodding a plus/minus onscreen tab. Neither seems ideal. The black/white outline map is horrible. The “list of pins” looks smart.


How do I get rid of the “Try the New Drive” banner? » Google Product Forums

Q: It is super annoying and it won’t go away. I’ve tried going to the new drive and then coming back, but it’s still there. I like the old drive a lot better than the new one and I want to stay on it. This banner is basically trying to force me to use the new drive which I *don’t want to do*. Anyone know if there’s a way to get rid of it??

And wouldn’t you know, there’s a Googler ready with an answer. However…


Apple Watch and Continuous Computing » Stratechery

Ben Thompson has a fantastic examination of the Watch’s potentials, and limits, as well as Apple’s advantages and strategic disadvantage:

it’s clear that what the mouse was to the Mac and multi-touch was to the iPhone, Siri is to the Watch. The concern for Apple is that, unlike the others, the success or failure of Siri doesn’t come down to hardware or low-level software optimizations, which Apple excels at, and which ensures that Apple products have the best user interfaces. Rather, it depends on the cloud, and as much as Apple has improved, an examination of their core competencies and incentives argues that the company will never be as good as Google. That was acceptable on the phone, but is a much more problematic issue when the cloud is so central to the most important means of interacting with the Watch.

A key advantage: lots of people who will buy it and use it, creating a virtuous circle for developers who write for it. (Yes, a calculator for the Watch.)


Breaking News: Howard University shows up as ‘N***er University’ on Google Maps » Seely Security

Bryan Seely:

A few hours ago, Bomani X @AceBoonCoon  updated his twitter feed with yet another one of his shocking discoveries on Google Maps.  Yesterday the world took notice when he posted an image of his Google Maps results where he found that when he searched for the keyword ‘nigga’ or ‘nigger’ , the White House would come up. Unfortunately, President Obama and his family are not the only targets of this deplorable prank. When you run a Google Maps search for ‘nigger university’ you get search results for ‘Howard University,’ a private university in Washington, D.C.

Beginning to look like we’re discovering the limits of useful crowdsourcing. (Though of course the Google search for “miserable failure” of a few years ago was already showing the dangers.)


Driverless cars may cut US auto sales by 40%, Barclays says » Bloomberg Business

Keith Naughton:

US auto sales may drop about 40% in the next 25 years because of shared driverless cars, forcing mass-market producers such as General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. to slash output, a Barclays Plc analyst said.

Vehicle ownership rates may fall by almost half as families move to having just one car, according to a report published Tuesday by the analyst, Brian Johnson. Driverless cars will travel twice as many miles as current autos because they will transport each family member during the day, he wrote.

Large-volume automakers “would need to shrink dramatically to survive,” Johnson wrote. “GM and Ford would need to reduce North American production by up to 68% and 58%, respectively.”…

…When most vehicles are driverless, annual U.S. auto sales will fall about 40% to 9.5%, while the number of cars on American roads declines by 60% to fewer than 100m, he estimated.

“While extreme, a historical precedent exists,” Johnson wrote. “Horses once filled the many roles that cars fill today, but as the automobile came along, the population of horses dropped sharply.”

Hard to argue against that one.


Start up: iPhone sales visualised, stopping VR sickness, Canon lurches downward, mobile design and more


Not so many of these being sold. Photo by lonelysandwich on Flickr.

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

iPhone sales by quarter » Bare Figures

Have a play with this excellent site, which shows financial data for all sorts of companies. Notable: iPhone sales in the just-gone quarter of 61.2m, up 39.9%. That really is a lot. And the revenues too.


How to reduce VR sickness? Just add a virtual nose » WIRED

Liz Stinson:

Eliminating simulator sickness is a major interest of the burgeoning VR industry, but so far there hasn’t been a clear answer. Home remedies include drinking alcohol, while companies like Oculus Rift are exploring better positional tracking and improved display resolution. But researchers at Purdue University believe they’ve found a way to reduce the negative physical effects of virtual reality by using something that’s right in front of your face.

“We’ve discovered putting a virtual nose in the scene seems to have a stabilizing effect,” says David Whittinghill, an assistant professor in Purdue University’s Department of Computer Graphics Technology.


Windows Phone and Prepaid in the US » Tech.pinions

Jan Dawson:

based on the combination of AdDuplex and Comscore data, it’s likely Cricket has between 1 and 1.5 million Windows Phone devices in its base, which is a fairly significant chunk of Cricket’s overall base, perhaps as much as 25%. Secondly, remember the overall Windows Phone growth numbers we looked at earlier? There was net growth of about 1 million Windows Phone handsets in the base during that same nine month period or, in other words, the difference between those that left the platform and joined it was 1 million. Given Cricket likely added around 1 million during that period, it’s possible it accounted for the vast majority of that net growth.

Cricket isn’t the only prepaid brand where Windows Phone is big, though. It’s hard to get a full postpaid/prepaid breakdown from the AdDuplex numbers because, for the major carrier brands, the two aren’t separated. But even if we just focus on MetroPCS, Cricket and a phone only available on AT&T’s GoPhone prepaid service, these three add up to around 40% of the total base in the US. Add in a few percentage points for other prepaid sales on the major carriers and we could be getting close to half the Windows Phone base on prepaid, compared with about 25% of the total US phone base on prepaid. In this sense, Windows Phone is the anti-iPhone, with the iPhone well underrepresented in the prepaid market, just as Windows Phone is well over-represented.

(The full article is via subscription – monthly or one-off.)


The hidden politics of video games » POLITICO Magazine

Michael Peck:

Sim City lets you indulge your wildest fiscal fantasies. Banish the IRS and set taxes to zero in Teapartyville, or hike them to 99 percent on the filthy rich in the People’s Republic of Sims. Either way, you will discover that the game’s economic model is based on the famous Laffer Curve, the theoretical darling of conservative politicians and supply-side economists. The Laffer Curve postulates that raising taxes will increase revenue until the tax rate reaches a certain point, above which revenue decrease as people lose incentive to work.

Finding that magic tax point is like catnip for hard-core Sim City players. One Web site has calculated that according to the economic model in Sim City, the optimum tax rate to win the game should be 12% for the poor, 11% for the middle class and 10% for the rich.

In other words, playing Sim City well requires not only embracing supply-side economics, but taxing the poor more than the rich. One can almost see a mob of progressive gamers marching on City Hall to stick Mayor McSim’s head on a pike.

The subtle reinforcing effects of such models isn’t much thought about. Philip K Dick did, for his short story War Game.


Canon first-quarter profit drops as compact camera demand collapses » Reuters

Thomas Wilson:

Japan’s Canon Inc reported first-quarter net profit that fell by almost a third on Monday, grossly undershooting expectations, citing a collapse in demand for compact digital cameras.

Profit at the world’s largest camera maker fell to 33.93bn yen (£188 million) in January-March, compared with the 53.64bn yen average estimate of 5 analysts according to Thomson Reuters data.

The result comes as the world’s No.1 camera maker contends with a shift in consumer preference toward increasingly capable smartphone cameras. That shift has dragged Canon’s compact sales down nearly 70% since the market’s peak in 2008 – the year after Apple released its game-changing iPhone.

“Sales volume for low-end (digital camera) models declined due to the ongoing contraction of the market in all regions from the previous year,” said Canon in its earnings release.

Revenues down 1% year-on-year; operating profit by 20%. Also cut this year’s forecasts for compact sales by 23% and for higher-end cameras by 9%.


Telecom act to stifle sales of LG G4, Galaxy S6 » Korea Times

Bahk Eun-ji:

LG Electronics will release its latest smartphone, the G4, on Wednesday and seek to steal customers from its bigger rivals Samsung Electronics and Apple. LG is betting big on the new smartphone to gain fresh momentum in its earnings.

However, it faces a bigger obstacle than Samsung and Apple in the domestic market ― the Telecom Act that caps handset subsidies.

Two weeks ago, the KCC [Korean Communications Commission] raised the maximum amount of subsidy that customers can receive when buying a new handset to 330,000 won [£203/$304], from 300,000 won [£185/$268]. However, the maximum subsidy is possible only for those who choose the highest monthly phone bill rate. For most consumers, the actual subsidies available for them are insignificant. That’s why they are not buying new handsets.

The government has drawn criticism for the enforcement of the Telecom Act from all interested parties, including consumers, telecom companies and retail shop operators.

In particular, retail handset dealerships have condemned the act as their handset sales plunged after the Mobile Distribution Act took effect in October. Under the current law, when consumers buy Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and select a highest phone bill rate, they can receive up to 330,000 won in subsidies.

Normally, retail shop owners get rebates from telecom companies when they sell new handsets, but if customers do not buy the devices at the shop, the owners will not get the rebate.

Besides, if customers cancel their contracts before six months, the shop owners have to pay a 200,000 won [£123/$184] penalty to the telecom companies.

This probably explains the low reported sales of the Galaxy S6. The purpose of the subsidy cap is to prevent carriers and handset makers colluding to lure customers from rivals in South Korea’s saturated market. In 2014, Samsung lobbied to raise the subsidy ceiling. Not hard to work out why.


Racist Camera! No, I did not blink… I’m just Asian! » Flickr

Jared Earle offered a followup to the story on Kodachrome from Monday, pointing to this photo and commentary from 2009:

We got our Mom a new Nikon S630 digital camera for Mother’s Day and I was playing with it during the Angels game we were at on Sunday.
 
As I was taking pictures of my family, it kept asking “Did someone blink?” even though our eyes were always open.

Surprising, to say the least, that Nikon would have this problem.
Time picked up the story about a year later, and pointed out more strange examples where systems seemed to have built-in prejudices.

Of course, you can blame “the algorithms”. But they don’t write themselves.


Obvious always wins » LukeW

Luke Wroblewski, on how using menu controls (especially “hamburgers” and similar) can create big problems, even though the screen looks “simpler” (and so “better”, right?):

In an effort to simplify the visual design of the Polar app, we moved from a segmented control menu to a toggle menu. While the toggle menu looked “cleaner”, engagement plummeted following the change. The root cause? People were no longer moving between the major sections of the app as they were now hidden behind the toggle menu.

A similar fate befell the Zeebox app when they transitioned from a tab row for navigating between the major sections of their application to a navigation drawer menu. Critical parts of the app were now out of sight and thereby out of mind. As a result, engagement fell drastically.

[By contrast] When critical parts of an application are made more visible, usage of them can increase. Facebook found that not only did engagement go up when they moved from a “hamburger” menu to a bottom tab bar in their iOS app, but several other important metrics went up as well.