Start up: how late is your train?, Android v audio, Sean Penn’s odd meetup, rebutting Paul Graham, and more

Not sure if this is the one Shirley Bassey and David Bowie used. Photo by avlxyz on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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

How reliable is my train? » Fasteroute

How reliable is my train? It’s something I often wonder when choosing which train to take, and it’s something that’s hard to answer without months of commuting experience.

This summer, in partnership with The Open Data Institute, we built a web site to try and help you find an answer to exactly this question. So if you’re are regular train traveller, or just a bit of a stats geek, why not head over the the Fasteroute Delay Explorer and plug in the details of your journey, and see how close to timetable your train generally runs. You’ll also be able to see how it compares to other trains around the same time. You might even find an excuse to stay in bed a bit longer in the morning.

Yes indeed – the Delay Explorer is just the thing to show your boss to explain why you’re late again. (And yay that it has come from open data via the ODI.)
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Windows 10 hits 200 million devices in record time » Mashable

Pete Pachal:

Windows 10 had a good holiday.

That’s the prognosis from Microsoft, which reports that the latest version of Windows is now on 200 million devices. A good chunk of those were activated over the holiday season — 40% of Windows 10 devices became active on Black Friday or later.

Windows 10’s adoption is faster than an previous version of Windows, according to Microsoft, outpacing Windows 7 by 140% and leaving Windows 8 in the dust by a massive 400%. Microsoft also reports that 76% of its enterprise customers are in “active pilots” of Windows 10, but it’s hard to know how relevant that is without knowing the scale of those pilots; some companies may be testing a relatively small portion of their PC footprint, for any number of reasons.

Still, the numbers are all pointing in the right direction for Microsoft’s goal of having more than 1 billion devices running the OS within two to three years.

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Sean Penn, intelligence dangle » emptywheel

Here’s an idea: what if Sean Penn’s visit and subsequent terrible Rolling Stone interview with Mexican drug lord El Chapo was actually set up by the DEA/FBI/CIA/spies in order that they could nail said Chapo? I know, you laugh, until you read this by Marcy Wheeler, which lines all the ducks up, including this:

Perhaps the most interesting detail is that when Chapo asked Penn to come back in 8 days for a return visit that never took place, Penn responded by asking for a photo — for Rolling Stone. Except that he arranged it so that it would be usable for facial recognition.

I say I can. I ask to take a photograph together so that I could verify to my editors at Rolling Stone that the planned meeting had taken place.
[snip]
I explain that, for authentication purposes, it would be best if we are shaking hands, looking into the camera, but not smiling. He obliges. The picture is taken on Alfredo’s cellphone. It would be sent to me at a later date.

Who knows? Maybe Rolling Stone uses sophisticated facial recognition software in the wake of their University of Virginia rape story disaster?

Oh yeah, also: pretty much immediately after Penn’s visit – set up via much cloak and dagger – El Chapo came under siege from Mexican troops. Pure coincidence, I bet. Totally. Sure.
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David Bowie commencement speech to Berklee College of Music » Business Insider

Of all the many, many things written about David Bowie on Monday, this one seemed like the most wonderful – because it’s his own words. Well found, Peter Jacobs:

A word about Shirley Bassey. During the very early days of Ziggy Stardust, we often used to play these fairly grotty clubs called the “workingman’s clubs.” They were sort of like nightclubs but you got a cheap meal. The whole family would come. A round of beer. A rock act. A stripper — sometimes one and the same. Well, backstage one night I was desperate to use the bathroom. I was dressed in my full, battle finery of Tokyo-spaceboy and a pair of shoes high enough that it induced nose bleeds. I went up to the promoter — actually I tottered over to the promoter — and I asked, “Could you please tell me where the lavatory is?”

And he said, “Yeah, look down that corridor. On the far end of that wall. You see that sink? There you go.”

I said, “My good man, I’m not taking a piss in the sink.”

He said, “Listen son, if it’s good enough for Shirley Bassey, it’s good enough for you.”

From which I learned that mixing elements of bad taste with good would often produce the most interesting results.

As you read, imagine it in that sarf London accent. (You can also find the full speech on Berklee’s site.)
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Paul Graham is still asking to be eaten » Medium

Holly Wood has a scalding, insightful take on Paul Graham’s increasingly famous essay about how inequality is good for you:

I will throw Paul Graham a bone for recognizing that in terms of scale and impact on the American economy, Wall Street is definitely the bigger concern.

But my guess is that what probably infuriates you about Paul Graham’s essay is his tacit contention that startups create wealth.

This is not true.

First of all, over 95% of startups fail. Every venture capitalist knows this. Those pesky things, for the most part, just eat money and more often than not actually destroy wealth.

But the second reason why you should not allow yourself to think that startups create wealth is because of how they are funded.

What actually happens is wealthy people like Paul Graham fund startups because they think these things are valuable. Through venture funding, rich people legitimate startups. Thus, they confer value upon the startup. They then use their ridiculous money and connections to “advise” and “mentor” those they deemed worthy of capital so that they can use this capital to build a future people like Paul Graham expect to see.

What Paul Graham never dissects in his essay is that people like Paul Graham simply take it for granted that they’ll be the ones to decide where capital goes.

I’d like to examine those numbers in Graham’s essay about big and small companies back in the 1950s/60s too. But this is a great – worthwhile – read once you allow yourself to consider it with an open mind.
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Rebooting Android’s 10 millisecond problem: audio latency improvements in Android 6.0 Marshmallow » Superpowered

Gabor Szanto:

Since we published “Android’s 10 Millisecond Problem: The Android Audio Path Latency Explainer” in early 2015, Google has made tremendous strides in improving round-trip audio latency on Android OS. With the deployment of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the Huawei Nexus 6P clocks in at a much improved 18ms round-trip audio latency and the HTC Nexus 9 at 15 ms.

As readers may recall, 10ms round-trip audio latency is the threshold that must be met by Android to be considered truly ‘pro audio’.

One second of round-trip audio latency sounds like an eternity. 250 ms is still terrible. 100 ms is 10% of one second, and still sounds unacceptable. At 25ms, things begin to approach acceptable ranges. Unless you are Terence Fletcher, the nightmare-ish jazz instructor from the movie Whiplash, 10 ms should be perceived as instantaneous…

…In our previous article, we discussed that the the Android Audio Hardware Abstraction Layer (“HAL”) implementations, the component between the audio driver and the media server, are often poorly implemented across the the Android device landscape. Google has also ensured that the HAL has been implemented properly for the most recent Nexus devices.

However, the Android media server itself does not look like it has been significantly improved from Android Lollipop to Android Marshmallow. While it was already good in Lollipop, it appears as if Google is now hitting the hard limits of the media server’s “push” mechanism.

Seems like pro audio latency is, once more, something that Android will have next year. Meanwhile, the listing of device latencies still shows all iOS devices at below or only just above 10ms.
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Inside Deep Dreams: how Google made its computers go crazy » Medium

Steven Levy tells the story, but the key part is the implication of what Deep Dreams does:

it’s hard to tell what’s going on inside an effective neural net, and even harder to understand in what ways they work like real brains and in what ways they do not. But now that we know they do work, we need to know how, so as to improve the next generation.

That’s the utility of the Deep Dreams process. For instance, in one kind of experiment the researchers would choose which layer of the net would be active to enhance patterns it detected in a random photograph. If they chose one of the lower layers — those making the system’s initial assumptions about what an image contains — they would get intricate patterns, because at that point the network is analyzing the edges of objects and not yet classifying them. Another type of experiment tapped the higher layers, encouraging the system to riff on what it had begun to recognize. That’s when the weird animals will appear. While the output is fascinating, we’ve learned more about the way neural networks operate.

But [Alexander] Mordvintsev’s experiment is important in another way: as a pointer to the vast potential of neural nets. As these nets develop, they are destined to not only match human ability in some areas, but exceed it.

One of the notable quotes comes from a Swedish Swiss artist who argues that in five years we’ll be using this sort of thing inside – or instead of? – Photoshop.
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How rooftop solar is causing big falls in peak demand » Renew Economy

Giles Parkinson:

The big push by utilities across Australia to hit solar households with higher network charges is underpinned by the claim that rooftop solar does little to reduce peak demand.

There is increasing evidence that that is not the case. Peak demand has been pushed in some states to the evening, after the sun comes down, but what is often not displayed is what the peak would have looked like without rooftop solar.

In short, it would have occurred earlier in the day, and at a much higher peak. This is critical, because networks super-sized their grid in anticipation of big rises in peak demand. The combination of energy efficiency and rooftop solar and declining industrial demand has junked those forecasts. But we’re still paying for the investment.

This graph released last week by the Australian Energy Market Operator, in a presentation on the WA market that it now manages, illustrates the point in Western Australia.
The peak – without solar PV – would have appeared at 3pm in Perth, and be considerably higher than the peak level with solar PV, which now occurs at 4.30p. Yet still, the network wants solar households to be hit with higher network fees, another example of where the benefits of rooftop solar are not factored in.

Gotta love big business blaming people for doing the right thing, and finding a way to make it seem like it was the wrong thing.
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Apple News app is off to a rocky start » WSJ

Jack Marshall and Steven Perlberg note that it has been undercounting the number of users (oopsie!), though nobody knows by how much:

In response to requests from publishers, Apple said it now allows the integration of features from measurement specialist comScore into the app. Apple initially provided updates about the app’s usage by emailing spreadsheets that give a high-level overview of usage, but publishers want a more robust self-service dashboard to access that information.

Media outlets say they have questions about advertising, too.

If they sell their own ads, Apple requires that publishers use its iAd advertising technology to insert, or “serve,” them. Many publishers would prefer to use ad-serving tools provided by other companies such as Google. Requiring publishers to devote resources to a tool they only would use for Apple News could make them question whether it is worth it.

Mr. Cue said he was surprised by the extent to which publishers call on Apple to handle ad sales. He said Apple has accelerated the development of its iAd network and expects to launch a self-service ad-buying platform in the next two months to help increase ad spending.

Thin end of a wedge which Apple might want to consider. As surely as night follows day, advertisers will want to retarget ads across different publishers within Apple News, which means personalisation and user identification. Is news really that important?
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Snapchat’s valuation is based on a single flawed assumption » LinkedIn

Dare Obasanjo:

Instagram has about 300 million active users and is projected to make about $700m this year. One might then assert that $2 a user is a reasonable target for a social media app that is light on ads. Heck, I honestly haven’t seen an ad on Instagram outside of screenshots in news stories about ads on Instagram. Reddit is a popular social media site that has about half the users of Instagram with about 160 million active users. How much do you then think they made last year? $350m? $175m? $100m? $80m?

Nope. The answer is $8m. That’s 5 cents a user.

What Reddit has found out the hard way is that their advertising doesn’t fit natively into their platform.Their ads often don’t match the form of the content and when it does, it doesn’t match user intent for what they want out of Reddit. On the other hand, people go to Instagram to see beautiful photos. Beautiful photos from brands they’ve expressed an affinity with via Facebook or Instagram’s social graph are the epitome of a native advertising slam dunk. The results advertisers have seen speak for themselves.

Is Snapchat like Reddit or like Facebook? Snapchat’s original product is actually quite bad from an advertising perspective. When you launch it to send messages you start directly in the camera so no place for ads. Secondly, ads into the user’s inbox of received messages or as part of message viewing would be extremely disliked by users and isn’t aligned with user intent.

He has a point. Instagram’s ads (“sponsored posts”) are pretty dire, too.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: Russia v Android, Citymapper and Crosslink, the Windows 10 problem, and more


Android Marshmallow is out. What’s inside? Photo by Waleed Alzuhair on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 11 links for you. Hydrated for greater comfort. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Russian antitrust officials give Google deadline on Android bundling » Re/code

Mark Bergen:

Here’s the edict from the Russian antitrust agency (pulled from Google Translate, since it has yet to update its English site): “In order to restore competition in the market … Google [must] adjust the agreements with the manufacturers of mobile devices to exclude from the agreements anticompetitive requirements limiting the installation of applications and services to other developers.”

Google declined to comment. It could face a fine, according to the Russian agency, of up to 15% of the revenue from the preinstalled apps. Morgan Stanley has estimated that Russia accounts for about $560m of Google’s annual revenue, or roughly 1%.

Yandex, which brought the case, said in a statement it was “satisfied” with the decision. “Our goal is to return fair play to the market – when apps are preinstalled on mobile devices based on how good or how popular they are rather than due to restrictions imposed by the owner of the operating system,” the company added.

As I read it, that would only apply to devices sold inside Russia after the November 18 deadline. Wonder what it means for grey imports. Obviously it can’t be retrospective.
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Learning more about Google’s self-driving cars made me terrified to ever drive again » Business Insider

Jillian D’Onfro:

less than 24 hours after Google’s presentation… I had to drive to and from Los Altos, California. What would otherwise have seemed like a completely typical trip suddenly made me realize just how pathetic a driver I am compared to one of Google’s cars.

Although I didn’t commit the cardinal sin of texting while driving, I was for the first time hyper-conscious of how often I let me eyes drift from the road, whether to check Google Maps on my phone or change the radio station. At one point, I needed to slam the brakes: I had been watching traffic, but deep in thought, making my reaction time slower than it should have been.

Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to get out of that car. The person driving next to me, yapping on her phone, immediately seemed like a threat. As did the fact that I was taking my eyes away from the road ahead to look at her. I have never loved driving, but recognizing all the normal minutiae as potentially dangerous distractions makes me hate it. 

I think there are going to be two reactions to SDCs: those like D’Onfro, and those who enjoy the chance to beat the slowpoke super-cautious SDCs by driving aggressively.
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Building a city without open data » Medium

Citymapper explains how it began with open data for its travel planning service, but is now working on cities which don’t:

We’ve learned that the goal is not just to launch cities and win fancy prizes, although that’s fun. It’s about maintaining and improving data so that citizens and travellers can trust us to give them the best information when and where they need it.

And this is hard. The largest cities of our planet are complicated and evolve over time. They require dedicated focus. And we’ve found that open data is not enough to satisfy the information demands of the ever wanting smartphone user.

So we’ve been fixing data. And we’ve been improving data. And we’ve been adding data. And in the process of doing so we’ve developed a number of tools to help us scale and solve problems faster. And to empower our heroes to fix things and solve problems without the need for engineering.

We’ve done a lot with these tools. Well for one, we’ve used them to create some fake data…

They can show you what travel in London is going to be like with Crossrail. Terrific.
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Android 6.0 Marshmallow, thoroughly reviewed » Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo:

Google says that the new release has a “back to basics” motif with a focus on “polish and quality.” Marshmallow makes many long-requested features a reality with selectable app permissions, a data backup system that actually works, and the ability to format SD cards as Ext4, allowing the system to treat cards just like internal storage. Marshmallow is also prepared for the future with support for USB Type-C’s power delivery spec, a Fingerprint authentication API, and 4K display support. And, as with any Android release, there’s also lots of new Googley stuff—a slick new search interface and a contextual search mode called “Google Now on Tap,” for example.

While this is a review of the final build of “Android 6.0,” we’re going to cover many of Google’s apps along with some other bits that aren’t technically exclusive to Marshmallow. Indeed, big chunks of “Android” don’t actually live in the operating system anymore. Google offloads as much of Android as possible to Google Play Services and to the Play Store for easier updating and backporting to older versions, and this structure allows the company to retain control over its open source platform. As such, consider this a look at the shipping Google Android software package rather than just the base operating system. “Review: New Android stuff Google has released recently” would be a more accurate title, though not as catchy.

The 23rd version of Android, though I’m guessing that includes hundredth-decimal point updates. Amadeo’s predictions about how developers will abuse the battery-saving Doze mode are worth reading (as the whole thing is – allow plenty of time). Finally fixed permissions, eh? Only been waiting since 2012. And definitely read the last page if nothing else.
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Carriers are making more from mobile ads than publishers are » Medium

Rob Leathern crunched the numbers, based on the NY Times article about sites’ ad heft:

For each site, take Mb/minute x Avg per/Mb mobile data cost, and weight the average by each site’s monthly unique mobile visitors (so heavier data-using sites get more weight in our calculation) and normalize to one minute of time on each site, for a value ranging from $0.01 to $0.24 per minute. Compare that figure to our average revenue of $0.15/hour = $0.0025/minute and weight the average to get the result:

16.6x more in data costs to the user than mobile ad revenue to these top 50 news sites on average

Even if it isn’t exactly accurate, it’s showing an order of magnitude difference. Publishers get an absolute pittance from ads. Then again, people spend very little time on them – Leathern’s data (from public sources) says it’s about 3.5 minutes per month.
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We’re replacing comments with something better » Motherboard

Derek Mead, editor-in-chief of Motherboard:

Comment sections inspire quick, potent remarks, which too easily veer into being useless or worse. Sending an email knowing that a human will actually see it tends to foster thought, which is what we want. So in addition to encouraging that you reach out to our reporters via email or social media, you can now also share your thoughts with editors via letters@motherboard.tv. Once a week or thereabouts we’ll publish a digest of the most insightful letters we get.

The argument for comments has long been that a well-moderated section lowers the barrier to entry for readers to share their thoughts, positive or otherwise. In a vacuum, that sounds like a dream, but the key there is “well-moderated.” Good comment sections exist, and social media can be just as abrasive an alternative. But for a growing site like ours, I think that our readers are best served by dedicating our resources to doing more reporting than attempting to police a comments section in the hopes of marginally increasing the number of useful comments.

Ah, another one. Gresham’s Law continues to apply.
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Microsoft lowers its expectations for phones » WSJ

Shira Ovide on the forthcoming launch of new (high end?) Lumia phones:

Microsoft is betting that shoppers and mobile-application developers will find it alluring to buy Windows smartphones, or write applications for them, in tandem with Windows PCs. To lure app makers who have treated Windows smartphones as an afterthought, Microsoft has made it easier to repurpose their iPhone or Android apps for Microsoft phones.

People close to Microsoft say success at proliferating Windows 10—the company aims to have it installed on 1 billion devices by mid-2018—would give a huge lift to Windows smartphones. That would likely invert the pattern set by Apple, which found that people who bought iPhones were more willing to buy a Mac computer.

“The best thing for Windows phone devices is Windows 10 use,” said a person familiar with Microsoft’s strategy.

Microsoft executives hoping for a smartphone turnaround can point to a precedent: the company’s Surface line of tablet-plus-PC devices, a once-struggling hardware business that found its groove even without blockbuster sales.

“Let’s write an Uber app for the desktop!”
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I once was in Maps, but now I’m found » Unauthoritative Pronouncements

Joe Steel has some worthwhile objections to Apple Maps:

One of the things I’ve found puzzling about the design of the Apple Maps interface is that you can see traffic, and travel estimates supposedly influenced by traffic, in the route overview, but no traffic information is provided when turn-by-turn is on. All the roads are tranquil, neutral tones, and a serene blue path flows before you. It’s as if you’re in a kayak, on a river, being gently pulled along by the flow of water.

That’s not true, of course, because why would there be that much water in Los Angeles?

At heavy intersections, like Highland Ave. and Franklin Ave., you see no information about the flow of traffic in any direction. Instead of blue, you should see the streets run red with the blood of the Traffic God. Woe betide thee that commute on his most sacred of poorly designed intersections!

Tonight, Apple Maps routed me down Cahuenga to Highland. That sent me past the large, somewhat famous, amphitheater known as The Hollywood Bowl. Not a big deal, unless there’s an event at The Bowl. Guess what? There was an event! Van Halen! There were orange, safety cones and traffic cops directing at intersections. Apple Maps just herp-derped me through that. The only difference in the display was the estimated arrival time slowly ticking upward as I crawled.

On exactly one occasion I had Apple Maps present me with a yellow bar across the top, and Siri’s voice notified me that there was a delay due to an accident. (No alternate routing was provided on this occasion.) Waze has a leg up on Apple and Google when it comes to accident notifications. You even get notified about which lane the accident is in. Google sources some Waze data, but isn’t as specific. On the 101 N last night there was a very sudden slowdown, without warning, at a time of night when there shouldn’t be traffic at all. I waited patiently for Apple Maps to let me know what it was, and Apple Maps was oblivious to it. There was apparently a car accident that closed two lanes, and the car was being loaded on to a flatbed truck, so it wasn’t recent. Why Apple Maps kept silent about it, I don’t know.

The “not showing traffic when you’re en route” question puzzles me too. And TomTom, which is Apple’s data provider, does offer a (paid) service with alerts about traffic. I don’t think Apple’s privacy approach (it splits the route halfway and runs it under another random ID) is the cause, but it seems odd not to feed in traffic data in from other devices on the same route ahead of you.
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The death of advertising and the future of advertising » Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin:

our research indicates the extremely valuable 18-35 yr old demographic ranks highest in our surveys of those who use an ad blocker. In the US particularly, 4 in 10 millennials admit to blocking internet advertising. Anyone in marketing will tell you this age bracket is highly sought after by marketers. In follow-up interviews I’ve had with this demographic, one of the driving motivations for use of an ad blocker is so they can block ads on YouTube. Watching videos on YouTube is a hefty part of millennials’ weekly activity and many indicated to me their desire to skip ads and get right to the video was centered on their feeling ads were a waste of time. They were going to YouTube to see a short video and did not feel a 5 or 15-second ad before a video was an efficient use of their time. I also asked millennials how they found out they could block ads on the web and the most common answer was from a friend. It seems ad blockers are going viral with many US millennials and it is unlikely this trend loses steam any time soon.

Remember too that those young millennials are highly likely to be using an iPhone – where they can now get an adblocker too.
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Reverse engineering proves journalist security app is anything but secure » Motherboard

JM Porup:

On Friday, Motherboard reported that the new Reporta app, billed as “the only comprehensive security app available worldwide created specifically for journalists,” may not be secure at all.

After we published our story, Frederic Jacobs, Open Whisper Systems’s lead developer for their secure messaging app, Signal, spent his Friday night at home reverse engineering the Reporta binary for iOS. He published the results here. His conclusion was, in a tweet, “Sloppy engineering. Reporta is forensics & analytics rich.”

“Every action is logged,” he wrote in his report. Google Analytics is built into the app, which stores the logs in a local cache before uploading them to Google’s servers. Reporta also uses Twitter’s Crashlytics crash-reporting framework, he explained.

“If you’re building an app for journalists in ‘potentially dangerous conditions,’” Jacobs wrote in a Twitter direct message, “you shouldn’t be tracking your users that much. And certainly not giving out that information to third parties without asking for consent of their users.”

Also has variable use of https and on-device encryption.
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Windows 10 does not change the PC’s fate » Gartner

John Lovelock:


The market is still rebalancing. PC sales continue to decline, and tablets are the preferred consumption device. But new lightweight PCs have emerged that can compete with tablets as an all-day carry device. Made possible by Ivy Bridge architecture in 2013, which has improved steadily since, the new ultramobile premium devices, such as Microsoft’s Surface, now compete with tablets on four fronts; mobility, light weight, all-day batteries and lower price. Windows 10 is targeted at the last of the tablet’s differentiators – ease of use and empowering users.

The global installed base for desktops and laptops will decline for at least five more years, nothing changes that. However, the PC ecosystem now has a Windows 10 device that can re-engage users in the thin, light, all-day ultramobile devices that pack the power of a PC. Ultramobile premium devices halt the decline in PC shipments in 2017 and halt the decline of the PC installed base in 2019.

If you’re into webinars, Gartner is doing a free one at 11am EDT today (Tues October 6) on the PC market’s impact on overall IT spending. “Webinar”. Hmm.
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Start up: Huawei’s ambition, HTC R+D layoffs, 3D copyright, Google’s odd war on app ads, and more


But not with “Google Here”, thank you. Photo by x-ray delta one on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Still nothing about logos. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

FTC settles with Machinima for paying YouTube influencers to endorse Xbox One » GamesBeat | Games | by Dean Takahashi

Dean Takahashi:

According to the FTC’s complaint, Machinima and its influencers were part of an Xbox One marketing campaign managed by Microsoft’s advertising agency, Starcom MediaVest Group. Machinima guaranteed Starcom that the influencer videos receive at least 19 million times.

In a statement, Machinima said, “Machinima is actively and deeply committed to ensuring transparency with all of its social influencer campaigns.  Through collaboration with the FTC, we are pleased to have firmly resolved this matter, related to an incident that occurred in 2013, prior to Machinima’s change of management in March 2014. We hope and expect that the agreement we have reached today will set standards and best practices for the entire industry to follow to ensure the best consumer experience possible.”

In the first phase of the marketing campaign, a small group of influencers received access to prerelease versions of the Xbox One console and video games in order to produce and upload two endorsement videos each. According to the FTC, Machinima paid two of these endorsers $15,000 and $30,000 for producing You Tube videos that garnered 250,000 views and 730,000 views, respectively.

After that, Machinima promised to pay a larger group of influencers $1 for every 1,000 video views, up to a total of $25,000. Machinima did not require any of the influencers to disclose they were being paid for their endorsement.

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Huawei chips away at Samsung » WSJ

Juro Osawa:

For the past three years, Samsung Electronics Co. has been the world’s top seller of smartphones, but its global lead is now under attack from fast-growing Chinese rival Huawei Technologies Co.

Long known as a telecommunications-equipment supplier to global carriers, Huawei has already toppled Samsung in China, the world’s biggest market, where 425 million smartphones are expected to be shipped this year. Globally, the Shenzhen-based company became the third-largest smartphone maker in the second quarter, according to data from IDC. This is due, in part, to its ability to gain market share in the Middle East and Africa, where smartphone growth exceeds that of any other region.

With handset revenue up 87% in the first half of this year, Huawei expects profit from its smartphone business to more than double this year. If its pace of growth continues, Huawei hopes to challenge top competitors Samsung and Apple in the smartphone market.

Huawei doesn’t (yet?) break out its handset profits. It’s aiming to ship 109m smartphones this year – a weirdly precise figure – having shifted 47m in the first half, so 62m to go. Apple sold 192m phones in 2014, and 109m in the first half of this year, so the challenge might take a little while yet.

Cleverly, it introduced a phone with a “Force Touch”-style capability at IFA on Wednesday; it showed it estimating the weight of an orange resting on the screen. Not an apple?

The biggest challenge will be teaching non-Chinese how to say the name (Hoo-waa-way).
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Chinese mobe market suffers pre-pwned Android pandemic » The Register

G DATA found that more than two dozen phones from different manufacturers were already compromised straight out of the box.

Kit from manufacturers including Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi have pre-installed espionage functions in the firmware. G DATA suspects that middlemen modified the device software to steal user data and inject their own advertising to earn money.

Other possibilities include unintentional infection through compromised devices in the supply chain (a problem which affected Vodafone Spain back in 2010) or intentional interference by government spies. Many of the models implicated in the malfeasance sell well in China.

The pre-pwned device issue has become a perennial problem for privacy-conscious smartphone users. Sticking to the Play Store, avoiding dodgy websites and following common-sense security precautions are no help in such cases.

If the phones got to G DATA then it seems unlikely to have been the Chinese government, non? More like middlemen seeking cash for ads.
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HTC to lay off 600 employees working in Taiwan » Digitimes

Trevor Huang and Steve Shen:

About 400 out of the more than 9,000 employees currently at HTC’s headquarters in Taoyuan will be laid off, confirmed the Taoyuan City Government, which has received the layoff plan from HTC. The 400 employees include production line works, R&D and backup personnel.

The New Taipei City Government also confirmed that it had received a notification from HTC about discharging 200 workers at its Xindian plant by the end of October. Those who will lose their jobs at the Xindian plant, which has a total of 2,912 employees, are mostly R&D personnel.

Cutting R+D staff seems like an obvious thing to do when finances are tight, but tends to leave you with nothing to go forward with when – if – you emerge from the squeeze.
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Apple receiving G/G touch samples for 2016 iPhone » Digitimes

Siu Han and Alex Wolfgram:

Makers have already begun sending samples of fully laminated G/G technology to Apple and Corning along with Asahi Glass have also reportedly sent glass samples.

Market observers have recently noted that Apple is in discussions over whether to go back to G/G instead of in-cell technology for future iPhone devices as in-cell technology is currently struggling with various production bottlenecks that are preventing Apple from adding new features as well as increasing resolutions. As a result, touch panel makers are aiming to create G/G touch panels that would allow Apple to create smartphones similar in thickness to current iPhones equipped with in-cell touch panels.

G/G touch panels may also help Apple develop bezel-free smartphones as in-cell touch panels reportedly are struggling with touch sensitivity on the edges. Additionally, in-cell touch panels also make it difficult for vendors to pursue higher resolutions including Ultra HD (4K) due to current bottlenecks, the observers said.

Tells you something about what Apple might have planned for 2016. Incremental steps every time.
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What happened to the Readymake: Duchamp chess pieces? » Scott Kildall

Kildall and Bryan Cera had scanned these very rare pieces and uploaded the scanned files to Thingiverse, a site for sharing Makerbot 3D printing files:


The answer is that we ran into an unexpected copyright concern. The Marcel Duchamp Estate objected to the posting of our reconstructed 3D files on Thingiverse, claiming that our project was an infringement of French intellectual property law. Although the copyright claim never went to legal adjudication, we decided that it was in our best interests to remove the 3D-printable files from Thingiverse – both to avoid a legal conflict, and to respect the position of the estate.

Disputes like this might become commonplace if 3D printing really breaks through.
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Beautiful New Designs for Full-Screen In-App Ads » Inside Google AdWords blog

Pasha Nahass, product manager:

Nearly 60% of smartphone users expect their favorite apps to look visually appealing. We’ve always believed that in-app ads can enhance an app’s overall experience by being well designed. So today we’re announcing a completely new look for our interstitial in-app ad formats – also known as full-screen ads – that run on apps in the AdMob network and DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

Ah. So let’s walk through this.
• Full-screen interstitials for apps from mobile search results = bad, attracting search ranking penalties
• Full-screen AdWord ads inside existing apps = good. Especially if, as this post suggests, you use the full-screen interstitials for a mobile app install campaign.

On Twitter, this was described to me as “just don’t block the front door [from search] with an interstitial.” Which makes sense; if you’re already inside the app, you’re less likely to bounce away from a full-page ad.
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Silk Road case: US agent investigating dark web drug site admits to $800,000 Bitcoin theft » City A.M.

Clara Guiborg:

Former secret service agent Shaun Bridges has pleaded guilty to Bitcoin theft, admitting to sending over $800,000 worth of the digital currency to his personal account while he was investigating the dark web drug trafficking site.

Silk Road was shut down in the autumn of 2013, having netted Bitcoin sales of over $200m of drugs and other illegal items during its two years of operations. The site’s founder, Ross Ulbricht, who went by the alias “Dread Pirate Roberts”, was sentenced to life imprisonment during a highly-publicised case.

But the investigation itself led to further illicit uses of Bitcoin.

Bridges is the second US federal agent to have fallen foul of Bitcoin theft temptation during the investigation, after former agent Carl Force pleaded guilty to this just two months ago.

Did they think that bitcoins were untraceable? Strange.
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Almost no one sided with #GamerGate: a research paper on the internet’s reaction to last year’s mob » Superheroes in Racecars

Livio de la Cruz is a program manager at Microsoft, and has done an exhaustive study on coverage and reactions of Gamergate:

The Week compared GamerGate to a soccer team that has only ever managed to score on its own goal and responds with self-congratulatory remarks on a job well done. Their efforts to silence feminist and political critique of games actually ended up inspiring more of it. Their efforts to convince journalists to stop critiquing gamers for their sexist, bigoted behavior has only amplified people’s awareness of society’s misogyny problem. Their efforts to discredit Zoe Quinn, Leigh Alexander, Anita Sarkeesian, and Brianna Wu have led to them becoming some of the most respected voices in games, as more people are inspired by their work against abuse and their advancement of the medium itself. Their efforts to scare women out of the games industry actually led to more money, time, and talent being dedicated towards fixing tech’s diversity problem.

Before GamerGate, people might have had a rough idea of how diversity in teams was good for companies and how online harassment was maybe a problem that needed to be fixed. But now I suspect that people’s thought processes tend to go like this: Why do we need diversity in tech? Because of GamerGate. Why do need to fix online harassment? Because of GamerGate. Why is feminism so important? Because: GamerGate.

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Windows 10 first month worldwide usage well ahead of that recorded by Windows 8 » StatCounter Global Stats

In its first calendar month since launch, Windows 10 worldwide usage share far exceeds that of Windows 8 in the same time period, according to independent web analytics company StatCounter. Its analytics arm, StatCounter Global Stats finds that Windows 10 level of usage after one month also exceeds that recorded by Windows 7.

StatCounter conducted a special analysis of the take up of Edge by Windows 10 users. It found that Edge usage on Windows 10 peaked at 20.1% on 30th July, the day after the global launch, but fell back to 14.1% on the 31st August.

Easy to explain that dropoff: people went back to work on the August Monday (it wasn’t a holiday in the US), stopped using their Windows 10-updated machines at home, and used the old-OS machines at work. The peak in July is probably explained in the same way – people were on holiday.

Remarkable what happens when you force-upgrade peoples’ machines for free.
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Google shut down a secret Google Maps project called ‘Google Here’ » Fortune

Nice scoop by Erin Griffith:

The product was called Google Here, according to a document obtained by Fortune that describes the project’s specifications. The effort spanned multiple departments and was led by Dan Cath, a strategic partner manager, and the Google Maps team. The launch included partnerships with retailers, including Starbucks SBUX -2.03% . Had it launched, Google Here would have been available to more than 350 million Android users by early 2015, with plans to support iOS later in the year.

But people familiar with the project say it was shut down for two reasons: Google Here was potentially too invasive, and the company wasn’t sure if many retailers would want it. (Not helping matters, Nokia has used the name “Here” for its own mapping service.) A Google spokesman declined to comment.

Google Here worked by sending a notification to a smartphone user’s lock screen within five seconds of their entering a partner’s location. If the user clicked on the notification, a full screen HTLM5 “app” experience would launch. Google Here would know when to send the notification via Google Maps and beacons placed in the stores of participating partners. Google planned to supply the beacons to partners for the launch, according to the document. The experience could also be found by going to the Google Maps app.

Too invasive? Probably more likely retailers weren’t prepared to put the money in for an unclear return, since it would be permission-based (and hence isn’t really that invasive).
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Start up: after Windows Everywhere, what?, flying Twitter’s nest, Happy Uncopyrightday, and more


Lots of cabs, in theory. But in reality too? Photo by UrbanPaul on Flickr.

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

Microsoft, capitulation and the end of Windows Everywhere » Benedict Evans

Benedict Evans:

A new CEO is acknowledging the end of ‘Windows Everywhere’ as the driving strategic engine for Microsoft, and also acknowledging the decline of Microsoft Office as the monolithic, universal experience for productivity. Microsoft is also suggesting that Xbox is not strategically core either, reflecting the reality that it will be the smartphone, not the TV or a box plugged into it, that will be the hub of the digital experience for most people. The smartphone is the sun and everything else orbits it. 

This is a little like Google’s transition away from the plain-text web search as the centre of everything, and indeed Facebook’s tentative shifts away from the Newsfeed. Microsoft has two huge, profitable businesses in Windows and Office: they will slowly go away, so how do you use them to create something new? Instead of every new project having in some way to support Office and Windows, how do you use Office and Windows to support the future? You must distinguish between things that prop up the legacy Office and Windows businesses (and Microsoft is doing plenty to do that), while using them to drive the new things.

But you also need to work out was that ‘new’ would look like.

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More than 450 staff fly Twitter’s nest – FT.com

Hannah Kuchler, Aimee Keane, Leaf Arbuthnot:

An FT analysis of LinkedIn profiles suggests about 12% of Twitter’s staff have left in the last year, including senior staff in corporate development and partnerships, and executives from its MoPub acquisition.

The figure is likely to underestimate the true number of departures as not every employee has a profile on the professional social network or keeps it up to date. Despite the staff turnover, the group’s total headcount has increased 18% in the last year.

Robert Peck, a SunTrust Robinson Humphreys analyst, wrote in a note that while “brain drain” is always a risk in the highly competitive technology industry, he was concerned that the large sums of capital raised by start-ups “increases the risk for Twitter during the chief executive transition” as employees could be lured to private rivals by valuable pre-initial public offering stock.

“While some key talent may leave the company while it is in flux, it may also be difficult to hire new key talent without a permanent chief executive being in place,” he wrote.

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Apple HomeKit requires ID chip » EE Times

Rick Merritt:

Apple requires anyone making a device compatible with its HomeKit environment to buy and use a special identity chip. The revelation was one of many from a session on platforms for the Internet of Things at last week’s ESC SV event here.

“I know a lot of people who have been surprised by this requirement and had to re-spin boards for the chip,” said Michael Anderson, chief scientist of PTR Group in his talk. “A lot of manufacturers are up in arms [about the] Apple silicon [that makes their] device more expensive,” he said.

“There’s no clear story what the chip does but I expect it is involved with access to the cloud and may have triggers for geo location,” Anderson said. Overall, “there’s not a lot known about HomeKit since it was first launched in iOS 8 because Apple’s got it under wraps,” he added.

Good way to add cost, but also a good way to be sure of security. Or.. a good way for everything to be susceptible to the same security flaw.
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Windows 10 or OS X? A Mac user falls for the PC again » WSJ

Joanna Stern really loves Windows 10, but finds the hardware lacking:

Ironically, I found my MacBook Air to be the best Windows 10 laptop. It may not have a touchscreen, but it was snappier, and beat the Dell and Surface for normal scrolling and navigating. (The three-finger swipe wasn’t enabled during my tests, however.) Windows 10 is in desperate need of a worthy PC laptop.

Another thing that’s made me a master Windows 10 multitasker is the ability to easily snap email to one side of the screen and a Web browser to the other. Microsoft included app-snapping in previous Windows versions, but now it suggests other open apps or windows to place next to it. It also lets you tile up to four windows on the screen. It’s a huge time saver, especially when helping herd the stray windows on my external monitor.

The feature is so great, Apple put it in its next version of OS X and iOS for the iPad. But Microsoft’s implementation is better, in part because it has addictive keyboard shortcuts.

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Filmmakers fighting “Happy Birthday” copyright find their “smoking gun” » Ars Technica

Joe Mullin:

The “smoking gun” is a 1927 version of the “Happy Birthday” lyrics, predating Warner/Chappell’s 1935 copyright by eight years. That 1927 songbook, along with other versions located through the plaintiffs’ investigations, “conclusively prove that any copyright that may have existed for the song itself… expired decades ago.”

If the filmmakers’ lawyers are right, it could mean a quick route to victory in a lawsuit that’s been both slow-moving and closely watched by copyright reform advocates. Warner/Chappell has built a licensing empire based on “Happy Birthday,” which in 1996 was pulling in more than $2m per year.
Plaintiff Jennifer Nelson’s movie is actually called Happy Birthday, and it’s about the song. She had to pay Warner/Chappell $1,500 to use the song in her movie, and that didn’t sit well with the documentarian. She’s seeking to get that money back and also represent a class of plaintiffs who have paid similar licensing fees to Warner/Chappell on a copyright she and her lawyers say is illegitimate.

The 1927 songbook referenced above was found in a batch of 500 documents provided by Warner/Chappell earlier this month. That cache included “approximately 200 pages of documents [Warner/Chappell] claim were ‘mistakenly’ not produced during discovery, which ended on July 11, 2014, more than one year earlier,” Nelson’s lawyers write.

This has been a thorn in peoples’ sides for years. It would be great for it to be wiped out.
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Your car won’t be driving itself anytime soon » Forbes

Thejo Kote, co-founder and CEO of Automatic, which makes connectors for cars:

There is also the legal elephant in the room: liability. Car makers have always made sure that liability for the operation of a vehicle rests solely on the driver. The shift of liability to the manufacturer of the self-driving car is a huge change. Evaluating and understanding the risk they’re signing up for in a way that satisfies lawyers, legislators, and society at large is going to take a long time.

Auto insurance as we know it can’t be applied to self-driving cars; brand new insurance models will have to be developed. I work closely with senior executives at some of the largest insurers in the world, and while they’re actively preparing for the transition, even their most aggressive projections indicate that there won’t be any meaningful changes in the market for well over a decade.

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OnePlus 2 vs Moto X Play: what’s the difference? » Pocket-lint

Elyse Betters:

Based on white sheet specs, the OnePlus 2 seems to beat the Moto X Play in terms of internal specs (like processor speed and RAM). It also completely beat the Moto X Play when it came to design and build, whereas the Moto X Play dominated in the camera department. And both devices had comparable displays and software experiences.

Moto X Play also makes improvements over its predecessor and naturally blows the Moto G out of the water, but as we said, it costs £299. Moto X Play also supports microSD, which the OnePlus 2 doesn’t, but the OnePlus 2 does have a fingerprint sensor and USB Type-C. And the 64GB version with 4GB of RAM only costs $389 (convers to £249).

Specs of course don’t tell everything. But she comes down on the side of the OnePlus (though it doesn’t have NFC).
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Uber’s phantom cabs » Motherboard

Alex Rosenblat:

There are two versions of Uber’s app: one for drivers to use to find passengers, and one for passengers to use to hail a ride. Frequently, drivers login to the passenger app to see where other drivers are so they don’t sit unknowingly in the same one-mile stretch as the competition.

What the passenger app shows can be deceptive, however. The discrepancy Heather noticed wouldn’t have been obvious in a busy location with a shorter wait time. But in more remote areas, the app clearly shows drivers where there are none.

Over a six month period, my colleague Luke Stark and I have been studying how Uber drivers interact with the Uber app as part of a research project funded by Microsoft FUSE Labs. Our research was conducted primarily in Uber driver forums, and through interviews with Uber drivers. We’ve observed that drivers across multiple forums discuss the fake cars they see on their own residential streets.

Ooh, this article is fascinating all the way through.
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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.
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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.
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Start up: Fitbit’s problem, Google’s staff boom, Apple Watch keeps ticking, and more


Oh, that tsunami. Photo(montage) by arkhangellohim on Flickr.

A selection of 12 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Fitbit’s dilemma: what problems will it solve better than other devices? » Mobile Forward

Hristo Daniel Ushev on the company that’s presently valued at $9bn (that’s the net present value of the stock market’s guess of its total future profits):

Smartwatches – at least the Android ones – will eventually rival the price of Fitbit’s high-end products. Fitbit will need to either make smarter products or lower-priced products. It doesn’t appear to have the basis for the former, and it likely won’t have the cost structure for the latter (compared to low-cost rivals). It might just maintain an existence in the US, where its installed base and brand are strong (today). I don’t doubt there will always be some consumers who prefer the Fitbit’s design, user interface, analytics, subscription services, or power efficiency.

But, at least in terms of the performance level visible today, Fitbit’s proficiency in those areas doesn’t appear to be unique enough to constitute a protect-able advantage.

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Earthquake experts on ‘The Really Big One’: Here’s what will actually happen in Seattle » GeekWire

Following the New Yorker article on the coming (but nobody knows when) earthquake around Seattle, some earthquake scientists did a Reddit AMA:

“Washington’s resilience plan estimates it could be months before all major transport routes are reopened, though emergency routes … will open up before that,” Doughton said. Bridge inspectors will be among the first responders, checking for small cracks that could lead to devastating failures soon after the quake.

With transportation down, supplies are going to be tight. Goetz recommends that residents keep a 7-to-10-day supply of food, water and essentials in case of a major earthquake, along with some supplies at work and in their car.

“Beyond supplies, I always encourage people to talk about their plans,” Goetz said, “especially around communication, which we know will be affected. Where will they be? How can they get back together? Where could they meet if not at home?”

She also suggests staying put once the quake starts.

“Getting on the roads will only create more congestion and depending on the damage to bridges and streets, you honestly may not get very far,” she said. “Smartest plan—take a protective action, keep yourself safe, check on others and help them afterwards.”

Yeeaah. Not quite going to buy that seaside condo in Seattle though.
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Toyota recalls 625,000 hybrids: Software bug kills engines by THERMAL OVERLOAD » The Register

Iain Thomson:

The recall is for Prius vehicles sold between 2012 and 2014, and affects 109,000 vehicles in the US, 340,000 in Japan, 160,000 in Europe, and sundry other locales. Toyota didn’t say how many cases the Prius had suffered, but did mention that there were no reports of injury as a result of the flaw.

“In the involved vehicles, the current software settings for the motor/generator control engine control unit (ECU) and hybrid control ECU could result in higher thermal stress in certain transistors, potentially causing them to become damaged,” Toyota said in the recall notice.

“If this happens, various warning lights will illuminate and the vehicle can enter a failsafe mode. In rare circumstances, the hybrid system might shut down while the vehicle is being driven, resulting in the loss of power and the vehicle coming to a stop.”

Seems not good.
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No more mobile fun: mobile game app users decrease for five consecutive months » BusinessKorea

Cho Jin-young:

The number of mobile game app users has decreased for the first time in the last two years. It clearly shows stagnation in the growth of the domestic mobile game market.

According to market research institution Nielsen Korea on July 14, the number of mobile game app users with Android OS stood at 19.95 million last month. The figure has decreased by 850,000, or 4.11 percent, from the 20.81 million of June last year. It is the first time in the last two years that the monthly number of game app users has shown a year-on-year decrease.

In particular, the number of game app users is on the decrease this year, even though the total number of mobile app users is steadily increasing.

Offered as a data point.
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Microsoft has finalized Windows 10 » The Verge

Tom Warren:

Microsoft has now finalized Windows 10, ready for its release later this month. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the software giant has selected build 10240 as the final release to manufacturing (RTM) copy, allowing PC makers to start loading the software onto new machines ready for release. We understand that Microsoft is signing off on the build internally today, and may announce the RTM publicly by the end of the week or choose to ignore the milestone and focus on the launch.

Goes live on 29 July, in case you’d forgotten.
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Preliminary Q2 2015 global smartphone market and observations » Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin:

For Samsung, we believe shipments will be in the low 70m range, 73-74m to be exact. Our Apple estimates are for 53m units sold. Huawei announced 50m smartphones sold in the first half of 2015 which, by doing the math on first quarter sales, means 32m smartphones shipped. Xiaomi announced 34m smartphones shipped in first half of 2015 for first quarter shipments of 20m.

For philosophical reasons, I do not lump Lenovo and Motorolla sales together. If we were to combine the two, Lenovo would be #4 and Xiaomi #5.

Folks love to talk about Xiaomi but it is clear their initial target of 100m smartphones sold in 2015 is unlikely.

(This is content for subscribers; there’s more to it, obviously, and you can pay per-article.)
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Feb 2015: Google layoffs inevitable » blogorrhea

Kaz Thomas, in February 2015:

Google G+A expenses
With ad revenues leveling off and expenses skyrocketing (G&A has quadrupled in 5 years), Google is headed for a financial meltdown, and when it happens, the company will need to shave $2 billion a year off its $16 billion/yr in R&D and G&A costs, which means, if we count the fully burdened cost of a Google employee at $200K per year, it needs to shave 10,000 jobs.

Google has $100 billion in the bank, so the situation is hardly dire, but Wall St. likes to see expenses cut by some other method than hauling money out of the bank. They like to see a sound Income Statement, and very soon, Google’s Income Statement will be anything but sound.

On a percent-of-income basis, Google outspends Apple on R&D six-to-one. Where is that money going? Driverless cars, Google Glass, body odor patents. Stuff that doesn’t have a chance in hell of generating revenue any time soon. On the one hand, Google is to be credited with thinking long-term, something American companies don’t tend to do very well, but on the other hand, Google needs to execute well on the revenue side.

Now read on.
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Google takes stricter approach to costs » WSJ

Alistair Barr:

Google staff adds by quarter

Google will offer an update on its expenses on Thursday, when it reports second-quarter financial results after regular trading hours and Ms. Porat is expected to speak during a conference call with Google analysts for the first time. The company declined to comment for this article.

The clearest sign of the new attitude: Google added 1,819 employees in the first quarter, bringing its total to 55,419. That was the smallest increase since the final quarter of 2013; last year, Google added an average of 2,435 employees per quarter.

For many years, Google teams assumed they could add staff each year. Now, Google executives are selecting which groups can hire, based on the company’s strategic priorities. Since late last year, many Google teams have had to submit plans describing how additional employees will produce specific business objectives, such as increased revenue or more users.

For example, Google last year capped hiring at the struggling Google+ social-media division, while the Nest connected-home unit was given more leeway to grow, according to people familiar with the changes.

It’s been really evident since this article appeared that Wall Street really likes Google’s course of action here: its stock rose every day (until, of course, now I choose to link to it) from this article appearing.
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MacBook users outraged over ‘Staingate’ display damage » ZDNet

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes:

“We are a group of Apple customers that paid more than 2000 USD/EUR for a Macbook that is showing horrific stains in the screen,” writes the group on its website, Staingate.org.

“The stains can start as early as 7 months after the purchase. There is no clear pattern as to how it starts: some experience it in small spots around the edge, on other screens it appears in the middle as large patches.”

Apple claims that this is “cosmetic damage” and as such it is not covered by the warranty, leaving owners facing repair costs that can total up to $800.

The worst affected MacBooks appear to be those sold in 2013 but it seems that the problem dates back to 2009.

Seems to be a problem with the antiglare coating, as Kingsley-Hughes says. Currently over 3,000 people on the Staingate database. “Cosmetic”, perhaps, but cosmetic on the thing you look at all the time.
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Apple Watch, not dead yet » Re/code

Dawn Chmielweski:

To find another way to gauge the popularity of the Apple Watch, we consulted several veteran technology analysts with contacts in Apple’s manufacturing supply chain who claimed Slice’s data does not represent the whole market, and does not correspond to what they’re hearing from supplier sources.

Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies said he is seeing production gain momentum, not decrease, as Apple moves into its September quarter. He has raised his own Apple Watch sales forecast based on research with suppliers, estimating Apple will sell 20m smartwatches this calendar year, up from his initial projection of 19m.

Information research firm IDC is hearing the same based on its ongoing source checks in the global manufacturing and supply chain. IDC said the Apple Watch appears to be selling as expected: Following an initial burst of interest from Apple enthusiasts, demand tapered off. But sales continue apace, and appear to be on track to reach about 21.2m units sold this year.

“What we’ve heard and what I’ve confirmed with other analysts is … [the Apple watch] is still growing,” said Ryan Reith, research director for IDC’s mobile devices team. “They’re expecting it to grow throughout the year.”

Wait to see how big the “Other” chunk is in Apple’s results next Tuesday, and how much changed from previous quarters.
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Have you been hacked? Take this quiz to find out » The New Republic

Has your information been compromised, perhaps without your knowing it? Only the hackers know, but perhaps this quiz can help.

Just answer yes – it’ll be quicker. (One of my emails is on this list. Sodding Adobe.) Or you could use the excellent Have I Been Pwned site, maintained by Troy Hunt.
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The web we have to save » Medium

Hossein Derakhshan, who was jailed in Iran for six years and only released seven months ago, on the changes he perceives:

the web started out by imitating books and for many years, it was heavily dominated by text, by hypertext. Search engines put huge value on these things, and entire companies — entire monopolies — were built off the back of them. But as the number of image scanners and digital photos and video cameras grows exponentially, this seems to be changing. Search tools are starting to add advanced image recognition algorithms; advertising money is flowing there.

But the Stream, mobile applications, and moving images: They all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet. We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication — nodes and networks and links — toward a linear one, with centralization and hierarchies.

The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

link to this


Start up: Wi-Fi password sharing?, machine intelligence smart and stupid, Pebble Time review, and more


You’ll never believe what happens if you play it backwards. Photo by Janitors on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Show them eagerly to the person beside you! I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

UH OH: Windows 10 will share your WiFi key with your friends’ friends » The Register

Simon Rockman:

A Windows 10 feature, Wi-Fi Sense, smells like a security risk: it shares WiFi passwords with the user’s contacts.

Those contacts include their Outlook.com (nee Hotmail) contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, their Facebook friends. There is method in the Microsoft madness – it saves having to shout across the office or house “what’s the Wi-Fi password?” – but ease of use has to be teamed with security. If you wander close to a wireless network, and your friend knows the password, and you both have Wi-Fi Sense, you can now log into that network.

Wi-Fi Sense doesn’t reveal the plaintext password to your family, friends, acquaintances, and the chap at the takeaway who’s an Outlook.com contact, but it does allow them, if they are also running Wi-Fi Sense, to log in to your Wi-Fi. The password must be stored centrally by Microsoft, and is copied to a device for it to work; Microsoft just tries to stop you looking at it. How successful that will be isn’t yet known.

“For networks you choose to share access to, the password is sent over an encrypted connection and stored in an encrypted file on a Microsoft server, and then sent over a secure connection to your contacts’ phone if they use Wi-Fi Sense and they’re in range of the Wi-Fi network you shared,” the Wi-Fi Sense FAQ states.

Has been on Windows Phone for ages, yes, but most WP users don’t know any significant number of other WP users (because they’re so few). Not so with Windows. Microsoft says it only allows internet access and not LAN access – via port restrictions? That’s going to get hacked for sure.

Or could people maliciously spread their Wi-Fi details to try to sniff people’s viewing habits and details?


Pebble Time review » Wareable

Sophie Charara:

First things first, the Pebble looks better in real life than the pics you’ll have seen online. The black model is a little boring but will look neat under suit sleeves – for the record, we prefer the red and black Time.

Admittedly, the Time is plasticky, with a stainless steel bezel, but it retains the toy-like charm of the original Pebble while adding friendlier, more unisex curves. It’s very light at just 42.5g including the standard strap, 20% thinner at 9.5mm and the new slightly curved body helps to make it comfortable to wear on the wrist.

It’s amazing how many smartwatch manufacturers are satisfied with making devices that sit flat on top. The Time is the kind of smartwatch you can forget you’re wearing, until it vibrates.

I bought an original Pebble on Kickstarter. This? Looks like a toy compared to the Apple Watch. Not quite half the price, but really nothing like half as attractive.


Apple Sim iPads change the international data roaming game » Fortune

This morning, Apple and GigSky teamed up to offer travelers the ability to instantly connect to a local data network in more than 90 countries and territories upon touchdown—no need to visit a kiosk, talk to a service agent, or really, do anything at all. Instead, iPads with AppleSIM cards will automatically offer the option to sign up for a data plans as soon as a local network is in reach. (The GigSky network includes most of Western Europe, from France and Germany to the Netherlands; Australia; South Africa; parts of the Middle East; and beyond.)

Because travelers are accessing onto local networks, rather that roaming from their domestic carrier, prices are impressively affordable as long as you’re traveling on the beaten path. Entry-level data plans begin at just $10, covering anywhere between 10MB (in Papua New Guinea) to 75 MB (in Italy); in countries with better access, the premium plans top out at 3GB for $50. By comparison, AT&T’s best deal currently charges $30 for 120 MB or $120 for 800 MB.

Latest iPads only have them preinstalled, although for older ones you can get Apple SIMs in its stores, apparently.


Superconductivity record bolstered by magnetic data » Scientific American

Edwin Cartlidge:

The long-standing quest to find a material that can conduct electricity without resistance at room temperature may have taken a decisive step forward. Scientists in Germany have observed the common molecule hydrogen sulfide superconducting at a record-breaking 203 kelvin (–70 ˚C) when subjected to very high pressures. The result confirms preliminary findings released by the researchers late last year, and is said to be corroborated by data from several other groups.

Some physicists urge caution, however. Ivan Schuller at the University of California in San Diego, says that the results “look promising” but are not yet watertight.

Pressure of 1.5 million atmospheres. Don’t hold your breath for this one.


Why the BBC is wrong to republish ‘right to be forgotten’ links » The Guardian

Julia Powles:

The reaction to [BBC Online managing editor Neil] McIntosh’s post was predictable, inaccurate and devastating. The Times led with “BBC lists stories on abusers and rapists hidden under ‘right to be forgotten’”, gratuitously highlighting two stories.

The first was a 12-year-old story about a settlement between an alleged rape victim and the Catholic church, over incidents that occurred a half-century ago. The long-deceased abuser clearly couldn’t have filed the obscurity request with Google – leaving, rather less salaciously, the victim.

The second case concerned a nanny jailed for child abuse. Even a cursory Google search coupled with the basics of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act would have told the journalist that an unspent conviction for such an offence clearly denied any reasonable claim to delisting. Caution raised, a bit more searching would have revealed the truth: that the conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal. That former nanny has been exculpated under the law of the land – but not by Google and not, it seems, by the press either.

Other publications followed suit. Boing Boing drew attention to a rape story. Given it concerned a fairly recent conviction in 2012, clearly the sex offender has no entitlement to be delisted.

But what about his friend who was also named in the article because he happened to be in the house where the attack took place?

The “right to be forgotten” is so poorly understood, which frustrates the hell out of me. (See the comments under the article.) I wrote an explanation of what it is, and what it is not; please, before you discuss the topic with me (or anyone), read and absorb it. The topic is simple. It just takes a bit of thought.


Growing conspiracy theory: is spy equipment really included in Samsung smartphone batteries? » BusinessKorea

Cho Jin-young:

A video circulating on Facebook and YouTube that was posted at the beginning of the last week of June shows that after tearing off a sticker that wraps around the battery of the Galaxy S4, the man in the video points to a small coil inside, saying, “This is the spy equipment.”

He remarked, “Samsung can record pictures on your smartphone and overhear your calls through the coil shaped like this antenna,” adding, “So, you’d better tear off the sticker that wraps the battery first and use the phone.”

In fact, this video attracted 12 million views on Facebook only four days after it was initially posted, and around 300,000 people reportedly shared the video.

However, local media outlets pointed out that this conspiratorial video originated from a misunderstanding about the Near Field Communication (NFC) antenna, a communication technology that makes it possible to transmit different kinds of wireless data to a distance of 10 cm.

Would be fun to know how weird ideas like this get started. I’ve seen a few incoming search queries on this to this blog, and wondered what was going on (it was because I wrote about Samsung obviously knowing whether people use replacement batteries).


DRAM spot prices hit 28-month low, says Taiwan Central News Agency » Digitimes

Jessie Chen:

Spot prices for 4Gb DDR3 chips already declined 17.55% in the second quarter, after falling 12.77% in the first quarter, the report quoted DRAMeXchange as saying.

Since 2015, DRAM spot prices have been dragged down by sluggish PC sales and a slowdown in smartphone demand, the report noted.

Hadn’t heard about this slowdown in smartphone demand anywhere else. China has, but elsewhere? Dram prices are often an early warning though.


Google apologises for Photos app’s racist blunder » BBC News

Google says it is “appalled” that its new Photos app mistakenly labelled a black couple as being “gorillas”.

Its product automatically tags uploaded pictures using its own artificial intelligence software.
The error was brought to its attention by a New York-based software developer who was one of the people pictured in the photos involved.

Google was later criticised on social media because of the label’s racist connotations.
“This is 100% not OK,” acknowledged Google executive Yonatan Zunger after being contacted by Jacky Alcine via Twitter.

“[It was] high on my list of bugs you ‘never’ want to see happen.”

Machines can’t be racist, of course; but quite how Google is going to prevent this happening again is an open question. Neural network/deep learning like this isn’t something you can tweak directly. You can’t really peer inside it. Great when it’s drawing arcane pictures, not good when it’s mislabelling pictures.


Could this computer save your life? » CNN

Jillian Eugenios:

“In one panel of scans that we looked at, when you look at the number of times that radiologists sent someone home with a clean bill of health, about 7% of the time that patient was ultimately found to have cancer,” said John Zedlewski, a data scientist with Enlitic, a medical technology company.

When Zedlewski used Enlitic’s algorithm against the same panel, there weren’t any mistakes.

How does it work? Enlitic’s technology uses machine learning — which some say is a version of artificial intelligence. It takes medical information from one patient — whether it’s a CT scan, an X-ray or details about, say, a tumor — and then converts it into a mathematical representation. It’s then added to a large pool of data and compared to other patients who have experienced similar issues.

Think of it as crowdsourcing your symptoms. And not just with one or two people, but millions. The more data the computer has, the smarter it gets, and the more accurate the diagnoses.

At least that’s the dream.

Seems to have a large base of data.


Start up: Apple Watch’s big security hole, iPhone rumours!, fight for your right to be forgotten, and more


Forgetful sign. Photo by mikecogh on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Go on, click them. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Watch OS 1.0 lacks the necessary security features to dissuade thieves » iDownloadblog

Jeff Benjamin:

The Apple Watch contains security measures to prevent thieves from accessing your data, but it doesn’t include the necessary features to dissuade thieves from trying to steal your device to begin with.

The problem stems from the lack of an Activation Lock-like feature on Watch OS 1.0.

Unlike the iPhone, if someone steals your Apple Watch, they can easily reset the device (bypass the passcode), and pair it with a new iPhone logged in to a different iCloud account. In other words, it’s totally feasible to steal an Apple Watch and set it up on a different device as if you just purchased it from an Apple Store.

What a colossal security oversight. Bad, bad, bad.


Maybe Samsung is starting to think wearables through more carefully » ReadWrite

Brian Rubin:

Samsung’s new software development kit for its homegrown mobile OS Tizen offers a few hints about its upcoming Gear A smartwatch (codenamed Orbis)—namely, that it will probably sport a round display and a rotating bezel for taking a spin through the interface.

More important, though, the SDK also suggests that Samsung is taking a more measured approach to its new wearable—one that bodes well for its future efforts in the area.

Rotating bezel sounds a clever idea… until you try to think what you’d control with it. OK, it was a great idea on the iPod for scrolling through a long list. But on a watchface, you’d be obscuring part of the list at least once every revolution.


Introducing Windows 10 Editions » Microsoft

There’s Home, Pro, Enterprise, Education, and…

Windows 10 Mobile is designed to deliver the best user experience on smaller, mobile, touch-centric devices like smartphones and small tablets. It boasts the same, new universal Windows apps that are included in Windows 10 Home, as well as the new touch-optimized version of Office. Windows 10 Mobile offers great productivity, security and management capabilities for customers who use their personal devices at work. In addition, Windows 10 Mobile will enable some new devices to take advantage of Continuum for phone, so people can use their phone like a PC when connected to a larger screen.

Windows 10, a break from the past of confusing SKUs. Also: Windows Mobile. We have always been at war with Eurasia. (There’s a Mobile Enterprise version too.)


Next A9-based iPhone predicted to have 12MP camera, 2GB RAM, rose gold and more, mass production in August » Mac Rumors

As it’s never too early for “next iPhone” rumours, Joe Rossignol channels KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo (who has done OK on this stuff before):

The main selling point of the so-called “iPhone 6s” and “iPhone 6s Plus” will be Force Touch, the pressure-sensitive display technology built into Apple Watch and new MacBook trackpads. Other predicted features for Apple’s next iPhone, many of which have already been rumored, include an A9 processor with 2GB of RAM, improved 12-megapixel camera, a new Rose Gold colour option, possible sapphire cover lenses and more.

2GM of RAM is overdue. Unsure about the Force Touch thing: would that make the phone thicker? Would it work all over the screen? It might get rid of a moving part that’s probably prone to break (the home button) which could still have a sapphire lens for the fingerprint unlock. Might.

The most surprising forecast is that there won’t be a refashioned 4in model. Will the 5S remain on sale, but ageing? Or are the larger screens the only future?


Fitbit IPO rides on persuading you to dust off your wristband » Bloomberg Business

Caroline Chen:

Some Fitbit users have found they can use smartphone apps to count steps instead of having to wear a wristband. For others, the novelty just wore out. Catherine Toth Fox bought her Fitbit Charge, which sells for $129.95, in January and was done with it after a month.
“I stopped using it when I figured out how much activity it took me to hit 10,000 steps,” the Honolulu freelance writer, 40, said in an e-mail. “I realized very quickly that I was already reaching that goal just by my normal daily activities, so there was no need to have a device to tell me that anymore.” She gave the Fitbit to her mother, who uses it daily. Her husband, on the other hand, has never taken his out of the box.
Keeping users engaged will matter even more as Fitbit increases its offerings to employers. The device maker’s corporate wellness program lets companies buy Fitbits for their workers and monitor their health via a dashboard. For companies that are self-insured, encouraging employees to exercise more can help reduce the firm’s health bill.

That “I figured out how much was enough” point is an important one: it sets a ceiling even on active users.


How Google’s top minds decide what to forget » WSJ

Lisa Fleisher and Sam Schechner:

Google has only been removing results from European domains such as Google.fr or Google.co.uk—but not Google.com, even when accessed in Europe. That can make it simple to find results that have been removed, leading regulators to issue an opinion saying Google’s position didn’t go far enough.

Regulators say their position holds and that Google should comply or face legally binding orders to do so.

“Their position will have to change,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of the CNIL, France’s data-protection regulator, as well as chairwoman of a pan-European advisory body that includes all EU privacy regulators.

Another confrontation looms. (Clever headline, too.)


Google wins privacy case, allowed not to forget in Finland » Ars Technica UK

The (original) headline here is misleading. Let’s see why in this Glyn Moody article:

As the news site yle.fi reports, the case concerned a Finnish man’s business “blunders,” which he claimed were harming him because they continued to turn up in Google’s search results. After Google refused a request to remove them, the man appealed to Finland’s Data Protection Ombudsman. The latter pointed out that “Finland’s business register lists the man as still being involved in business operations, including debt collection.” That presumably meant the links to stories about his past would still be relevant to people who were seeking information about the person in question now. As such, there was no reason for Google to be forced to delete those hits from its search results page.

Ah, so this is an appeal. Which means the “RTBF” (or RTBdelinked) does apply in Finland. As the article continues by explaining:

Finland’s Data Protection Ombudsman is currently dealing with around 30 other complaints about Google’s refusal to delete results. According to the article, “In Finland there have been close to 3,700 requests [to Google] to remove information from roughly 12,000 search results. Google has conformed to about 45%.” This is close to its average compliance rate of 40% across the EU, where Google has received 250,000 requests to remove information from more than 900,000 search engine results.

So in fact the RTBF is enacted *more* strongly in Finland than elsewhere in Europe, on average. After I pointed this out to Moody, he tweaked the headline to “Google wins privacy case, allowed this time not to forget in Finland”.

People get worked up over the RTBF, even though it rests on the same principle as that preventing US companies from grabbing data from Europeans and abusing it. They like the latter, but not the former; except they’re indivisible because of their origin.


Apple Watch vs Android Wear: Why most smartwatches still suck for women » iMore

Serenity Caldwell:

When I first heard about Android Wear last year, I thought the folks behind the OS were doing a lot of things right. And I still do: the approach to notifications is smart, custom watch faces are neat, and Google Now — while creepy — works exceptionally well at providing smart information for your day.

There’s only one problem: There’s not a single Android Wear device designed to fit a small-wristed person.

If wearable technology is the next big thing for our tech-connected society, why is Apple the only company paying attention to the smaller-wristed set? Lady or dude, there are quite a few people on this earth whose arms don’t resemble the trunk of a Sequoia tree — many of whom would be excited to use a smartwatch. I was thrilled when Apple announced multiple sizes for the Apple Watch, and moreover that both were reasonably-sized for the wrist; sadly, I have yet to find an Android Wear device that will fit on my wrist without making it look like the technology equivalent of an iron shackle.


Start up: Argentina v bitcoin, Secret shuts, Cyanogen dumps OnePlus, Windows10 seeks devs, and more


It’s like this for Secret. Photo by alex mertzanis on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Like brandy butter for your brain. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Expect more Cyanogen phones from Chinese vendors » PCWorld

Michael Kan:

OnePlus’s flagship phone shipped close to 1 million phones at the end of last year.

“Without Cyanogen, OnePlus would have sold like one device in international markets,” [Cyanogen CEO Kirk] McMaster said in an interview. “Essentially they built their brand on the back of Cyanogen.”

The OnePlus success also showed other Chinese vendors that CyanogenMod could open doors to the global market. A number of these vendors are larger companies than OnePlus, but struggling in international markets to develop visible brands, and want help, he added.

It’s a good sign for Cyanogen, which also managed to bring on board Microsoft as a partner this month. But as for OnePlus, its ties with Cyanogen are probably ending.

Earlier this month OnePlus launched its own custom Android ROM, built with a simple interface that could replace the CyanogenMod. The change means that OnePlus can offer “faster, more meaningful updates”, according to the Chinese company. Cyanogen, however, will continue offering support to OnePlus phones still running its OS.

Cyanogen, plus Microsoft, is for me the most interesting thing happening in smartphones.


Can Bitcoin conquer Argentina? » NYTimes.com

Nathaniel Popper:

That afternoon, a plump 48-year-old musician was one of several customers to drop by the rented room. A German customer had paid the musician in Bitcoin for some freelance compositions, and the musician needed to turn them into dollars. Castiglione joked about the corruption of Argentine politics as he peeled off five $100 bills, which he was trading for a little more than 1.5 Bitcoins, and gave them to his client. The musician did not hand over anything in return; before showing up, he had transferred the Bitcoins — in essence, digital tokens that exist only as entries in a digital ledger — from his Bitcoin address to Castiglione’s. Had the German client instead sent euros to a bank in Argentina, the musician would have been required to fill out a form to receive payment and, as a result of the country’s currency controls, sacrificed roughly 30% of his earnings to change his euros into pesos. Bitcoin makes it easier to move money the other way too. The day before, the owner of a small manufacturing company bought $20,000 worth of Bitcoin from Castiglione in order to get his money to the United States, where he needed to pay a vendor, a transaction far easier and less expensive than moving funds through Argentine banks.

A new rule: any country under sustained currency pressure will see citizens increasingly turning to bitcoin to evade currency controls.


Sunset at the Secret den » Medium

David Byttow:

After a lot of thought and consultation with our board, I’ve decided to shut down Secret.

This has been the hardest decision of my life and one that saddens me deeply. Unfortunately, Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company, so I believe it’s the right decision for myself, our investors and our team.

I’m extremely proud of our team, which has built a product that was used by over 15 million people and pushed the boundaries of traditional social media. I believe in honest, open communication and creative expression, and anonymity is a great device to achieve it. But it’s also the ultimate double-edged sword, which must be wielded with great respect and care. I look forward to seeing what others in this space do over time.

The phrase “Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company” was highlighted by Ev Williams, Medium’s founder (and a Twitter co-founder). The final couple of sentences seem to be saying “Yeah, good luck with that, Whisper.”


Number of mobile-only internet users now exceeds desktop-only in the US » comScore, Inc

Mobile’s rise over the past few years has been well-documented as it continues to achieve major milestones illustrating its immense popularity, such as last year when app usage surpassed desktop usage and began accounting for half of all U.S. digital media consumption. But its latest milestone shows just how far this platform has come in overtaking desktop’s longstanding dominance as the primary gateway to the internet. For the first time in March, the number of mobile-only adult internet users exceeded the number of desktop-only internet users.

11.3% against 10.6% (the other 78.1% used both, of course). Tablets are counted as “mobile”; desktops still account for 87% of digital commerce. The latter number used to be 100%, of course.


Huge news: Windows 10 can run reworked Android and iOS apps » The Verge

Tom Warren:

After months of rumors, Microsoft is revealing its plans to get mobile apps on Windows 10 today. While the company has been investigating emulating Android apps, it has settled on a different solution, or set of solutions, that will allow developers to bring their existing code to Windows 10.

iOS and Android developers will be able to port their apps and games directly to Windows universal apps, and Microsoft is enabling this with two new software development kits. On the Android side, Microsoft is enabling developers to use Java and C++ code on Windows 10, and for iOS developers they’ll be able to take advantage of their existing Objective C code. “We want to enable developers to leverage their current code and current skills to start building those Windows applications in the Store, and to be able to extend those applications,” explained Microsoft’s Terry Myerson during an interview with The Verge this morning.

I have no idea why an iOS or Android developer would want to bother doing this. Putting an app onto a different platform involves immediate cost and future cost (in support). Can Windows 10 Phone (or whatever it is) really repay that?

Also, typical of The Verge’s approach, there’s no attempt to find any external comment on whether this is smart, stupid, or somewhere in between. Developers aren’t hard to find; nor are analysts. A comment from one or both groups would have informed readers. This falls short. (Contrast Mashable’s Christina Warren – no relation as far as I know – and Rene Ritchie of iMore. Sure, The Verge might have got the interview exclusively, but that’s still no reason not to make it even better by finding separate comment.)

For example, here’s a developer’s response to Ritchie:


The bot bubble: click farms have inflated social media currency » The New Republic

Doug Bock Clark:

Richard Braggs, Casipong’s boss, sits at a desk positioned behind his employees, occasionally glancing up from his double monitor to survey their screens. Even in the gloom, he wears Ray-Ban sunglasses to shield his eyes from the glare of his computer. (“Richard Braggs” is the alias he uses for business purposes; he uses a number of pseudonyms for various online activities.)

Casipong inserts earbuds, queues up dance music—Paramore and Avicii—and checks her client’s instructions. Their specifications are often quite pointed. A São Paulo gym might request 75 female Brazilian fitness fanatics, or a Castro-district bar might want 1,000 gay men living in San Francisco. Her current order is the most common: Facebook profiles of beautiful American women between the ages of 20 and 30. Once they’ve received the accounts, the client will probably use them to sell Facebook likes to customers looking for an illicit social media boost.

Most of the accounts Casipong creates are sold to these digital middlemen—“click farms” as they have come to be known.

It’s a full-time job. Where’s the government promise to create work like this in the UK, eh?


Apple warns of ‘material’ financial damage from Irish tax probe » FT.com

Tim Bradshaw and Christian Oliver:

Apple has warned investors that it could face “material” financial penalties from the European Commission’s investigation into its tax deals with Ireland — the first time it has disclosed the potential consequences of the probe.

Under US securities rules, a material event is usually defined as 5% of a company’s average pre-tax earnings for the past three years. For Apple, which reported the highest quarterly profit ever for a US company in January, that could exceed $2.5bn, according to FT calculations.

The warning came in Apple’s regular 10-Q filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, a day after it reported first-quarter revenues of $58bn and net income of $13.6bn.

Forgotten what it’s about? Here’s some background.


Apple Watch: faulty Taptic Engine slows roll out » WSJ

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Lorraine Luk:

A key component of the Apple Watch made by one of two suppliers was found to be defective, prompting Apple Inc. to limit the availability of the highly anticipated new product, according to people familiar with the matter.

The part involved is the so-called taptic engine, designed by Apple to produce the sensation of being tapped on the wrist. After mass production began in February, reliability testing revealed that some taptic engines supplied by AAC Technologies Holdings of Shenzhen, China, started to break down over time, the people familiar with the matter said. One of those people said Apple scrapped some completed watches as a result.

Makes sense; some reviewers have complained about not getting anything noticeable “taps” in Watches they tried. Apple has moved to a different supplier, it seems, but is supply-constrained.


Engage Android users around the world » Jana

Over half of the top Google Play countries are emerging markets.

By download, that is, not revenue.


What if we are the microbiome of the silicon AI? » Edge.org

Tim O’Reilly, on the “website for thinkers”:

While all pundits allow that an AI may not be like us, and speculate about the risks implicit in those differences, they make one enormous assumption: the assumption of an individual self. The AI as imagined, is an individual consciousness.

What if, instead, an AI were more like a multicellular organism, a eukaryote evolution beyond our prokaryote selves? What’s more, what if we were not even the cells of such an organism, but its microbiome? And what if the intelligence of that eukaryote today was like the intelligence of Grypania spiralis, not yet self-aware as a human is aware, but still irrevocably on the evolutionary path that led to today’s humans.

This notion is at best a metaphor, but I believe it is a useful one.

Perhaps humans are the microbiome living in the guts of an AI that is only now being born! It is now recognized that without our microbiome, we would cease to live. Perhaps the global AI has the same characteristics—not an independent entity, but a symbiosis with the human consciousnesses living within it.

Oo, interesting idea.