Start up: hacking Dems, Theranos loses another, Apple’s non-chatbot chatbots, slimmer Xbox!, and more

Remember when Obama had a BlackBerry? He doesn’t any more – though he’s not saying what he does have. Photo by rowdyman on Flickr.

Don’t you dare sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. No, really.

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 14 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump • The Washington Post

»Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.

The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic, said DNC officials and the security experts.

The intrusion into the DNC was one of several targeting American political organizations. The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some GOP political action committees, U.S. officials said. But details on those cases were not available.

A Russian Embassy spokesman said he had no knowledge of such intrusions.

«

link to this extract

 


The evil that is VPAID ads • Google+

Artem Russakovskii:

»A few months ago, I complained about the insane state of today’s advertising and the evil that is VPAID ads.

These ads destroy performance, leech bandwidth by 10s of megabytes, and are served by major ad networks, including Google’s own AdX and AdSense.

Today, these VPAID ads are as popular as ever – and that is just disgusting. They’re the real cancer of the advertising industry.

To showcase just how evil they still are, I took a single AdX ad tag and put it on an otherwise empty page. A static image ad loads, but it’s secretly a VPAID one. It then randomly switches to a video, then back to a static image, then back again – it’s like a never-ending self-reloading cascade of garbage.

Right now after several minutes of just leaving this one single ad open, I’m at 53MB downloaded and 5559 requests. By the time I finished typing this, I was at 6140 requests. A single ad did this. Without reloading the page, just leaving it open.

«

link to this extract

 


Obama finally upgraded from his BlackBerry • The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:

»President Obama has finally been allowed to replace his BlackBerry with something more modern — but he apparently isn’t thrilled with this new phone either.

“I get the thing, and they’re all like, ‘Well, Mr. President, for security reasons … it doesn’t take pictures, you can’t text, the phone doesn’t work, … you can’t play your music on it,'” Obama said during an appearance on The Tonight Show this week. “Basically, it’s like, does your three year old have one of those play phones?”

Obama’s been joking about his awful phone situation for years now. While his BlackBerry was considered surprisingly high-tech when he came into office, the situation quickly changed. As far back as 2010, Obama called using his BlackBerry “no fun,” and then a few years ago he lamented that security concerns prevent him from using an iPhone. While discussing his BlackBerry on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last year, Obama started laughing after a single person applauded. “The one old guy there,” Obama said, “He’s my age. Somebody my generation.”

«

Obama came into office eight years ago, and so was campaigning as much as ten years ago, when his use of its seemed radical. Times change. The unanswered question: what is he using?
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Walgreen terminates partnership with blood-testing firm Theranos • WSJ

Michael Siconolfi, Christopher Weaver and John Carreyrou:

»Drugstore operator Walgreen Co. formally ended a strained alliance with Theranos Inc. as regulators near a decision on whether to impose sanctions against the embattled Silicon Valley firm.

Some officials at the Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. unit had grown frustrated at not getting more details and documentation from Theranos after learning it had corrected tens of thousands of blood tests, including many performed on samples collected from patients at Walgreens pharmacies, according to people familiar with the partnership.

In a news release late Sunday, Walgreens said it had told Theranos it was terminating their nearly three-year-old partnership, effective immediately, and that it was shutting down Theranos lab-testing services in Walgreens locations…

…The move is a significant blow to Theranos. The 40 Theranos blood-draw sites inside Walgreens stores in Arizona, which the company calls “wellness centers,” have been the primary source of revenue for Theranos and its conduit to consumers, analysts say. The tie-up also has given the blood-testing firm a stamp of credibility since it was publicly announced in September 2013.

«

This feels like the third act of a Greek tragedy; Theranos certainly sounds like it should come from a Greek word, perhaps meaning “the aching desire to find a cheap way to test blood”, but I can’t find a meaningful translation anywhere. Presently being turned into a screenplay, with Jennifer Lawrence slated to play Elizabeth Holmes, so the big question is: will Bradley Cooper play John Carreyrou of the WSJ who exposed it all?

link to this extract

 


Apple’s response to the chatbot craze doesn’t involve any chatbots • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»Microsoft has been letting developers build integrations into Skype, and Facebook has been doing the same with Messenger. Google has revealed related plans for its forthcoming Allo app. Kik, Line, and Telegram have begun accepting outside integrations, as well. Even in the parallel universe of enterprise software, this trend is playing out — Slack is the greatest example there.

But all of these companies have chosen a text-messaging interface through which people will talk to other services — namely chatbots. Apple, in its infinite Apple-ness, is circumventing the hype around bots and will be simply letting developers build app extensions that live inside of a new “app drawer,” which users will open in Messages on iOS 10 by tapping the little blue A button that historically stands for App Store.

Developers can build these iMessage Apps using the iOS software development kit (SDK), which became available today in the beta release of Xcode 8. It’s possible to fine-tune the look and functionality of these mini apps, so that they don’t just look like the rest of Messages. (Documentation is already available.)

Onstage today, Apple’s Craig Federighi talked about a Square Cash iMessage app. It’s a bright green widget that pops up in place of the keyboard. A user selected $200 as the amount on a scrollable dial and then hit the pay button to pay that amount to the message recipient. The result was a box right underneath an earlier text message with a big $200 bill and a link to “tap here to deposit this cash.”

Federighi also demonstrated a DoorDash iMessage App through which multiple people could collaborate on one food delivery order. In a message bubble, this iMessage App displayed a dish from San Francisco restaurant and food truck operator Curry Up Now, with a little red DoorDash logo in the top left. Underneath that, there was some text — “3 people,” “Brian Croll added 2 items,” and a grand total so far of $48.68. “So I could just tap in and see what’s going on,” Federighi said. After tapping on the widget he was confronted with a full screen showing more detail, courtesy of DoorDash — a menu, prices, estimated delivery time, and a “view group cart” button. From there, Federighi checked out the cart and then added to it. When he was done, the DoorDash widget that had originally appeared in his Messages group chat was updated to reflect the changes to the order.

«

In other words, you don’t need to talk to machines to get machines to do your bidding. I don’t get the chatbot thing; it seems like wasted effort.
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iOS 10.0 • Apple Developer documentation

»In iOS 10, the NSUserActivity object includes the mapItem property, which lets you provide location information that can be used in other contexts. For example, if your app displays hotel reviews, you can use the mapItem property to hold the location of the hotel the user is viewing so that when the user switches to a travel planning app, that hotel’s location is automatically available. And if you support app search, you can use the new text-based address component properties in CSSearchableItemAttributeSet, such as thoroughfare and postalCode, to fully specify locations to which the user may want to go. Note that when you use the mapItem property, the system automatically populates the contentAttributeSet property, too.

To share a location with the system, be sure to specify latitude and longitude values, in addition to values for the address component properties in CSSearchableItemAttributeSet. It’s also recommended that you supply a value for the namedLocation property, so that users can view the name of the location, and the phoneNumbers property, so that users can use Siri to initiate a call to the location.

«

So you can switch apps and have Siri call the hotel you were just looking at. Quite neat. Also notable in the documentation: “True Tone”, the ambient display adjustment presently only on the 9.7in iPad Pro, becomes part of the OS. It’ll surely be on the forthcoming iPhones.

And why link to this but not the Android N documentation? Because this will be on about half of iOS 10-capable devices within a month of release. Android M, released last year, is on perhaps 100m devices after nine months.
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Intel gets chip order from Apple, its first major mobile win • Bloomberg

Ian King and Scott Moritz:

»Apple’s next iPhone will use modems from Intel Corp., replacing Qualcomm chips in some versions of the new handset, a move by the world’s most-valuable public company to diversify its supplier base.

Apple has chosen Intel modem chips for the iPhone used on AT&T’s U.S. network and some other versions of the smartphone for overseas markets, said people familiar with the matter. IPhones on Verizon Communications’s network will stick with parts from Qualcomm, which is the only provider of the main communications component of current versions of Apple’s flagship product. Crucially for Qualcomm, iPhones sold in China will work on Qualcomm chips, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Apple hasn’t made its plans public.

«

So this seems like Qualcomm keeps the CDMA versions, but Intel gets the GSM market. China might be a toss-up.
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Devices able to run iOS 10, biggest iOS release ever • Apple

»iOS 10 will be available this fall as a free software update for iPhone 5 and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini 2 and later, and iPod touch 6th generation.

«

Ah, so that’s a lot clearer. There seemed to be suggestion on Monday that it would run on the iPad 2 and iPad 3; but they’re explicitly not in the list for the iPad. (Nor is the first iPad mini.)

The minimum iPad spec is the iPad 4, or iPad mini 2; for the phones, it’s the iPhone 5/C (which are the same thing).
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Microsoft reveals the new, slimmer Xbox One S, coming this August • TechCrunch

Brian Heater:

»The system the company showed off today arrived in a bright white color (“robot white,” according to press materials), a lightening up of the previous console. The device will come with a vertical stand, so users can decide how they want to orient it on their shelf.

The Xbox One S is 40% slimmer than the last version. Inside you’ll find a hard drive sporting up to 2TB and an integrated power supply. The new console features a built-in IR blaster, front-facing USB port (there are still two on the rear) and does 4K video. The One S also features HDR video support, for a more vibrantly colored gaming experience and higher contrast between dark colors and light.

«

One area that smartphones and tablets haven’t quite swallowed up. Notable how much more storage they’re offering; even as games are increasingly downloaded from the cloud, gamers want more local storage to keep data.
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This USB adapter is Microsoft’s final admission that Kinect failed • The Verge

Tom Warren:

»Hardware planning takes years, and it’s clear Microsoft quickly realized that bundling Kinect was a mistake. The new Xbox One S doesn’t even include a Kinect port, and Microsoft has created a USB adapter that you’ll need to use if you want Kinect support. It’s a free adapter if you already own an Xbox One and Kinect…

…Microsoft is now working to bring Cortana to the Xbox One in an update this summer. While it was originally supposed to debut last year, Microsoft announced Cortana would require Kinect at E3 last year, before mysteriously delaying the feature. It’s clear part of that delay was related to getting headsets working with Cortana, and you won’t need a Kinect to use the digital assistant this summer.

The removal of the Kinect port on the Xbox One S is the final admission that Microsoft’s accessory is dead. It’s hard to imagine that the Project Scorpio console will re-introduce a Kinect port next year, and the accessory wasn’t even mentioned during any of Microsoft’s demos on stage. Microsoft claimed at E3 last year that “there are games actually that are coming out for Kinect,” but at E3 this year the only mention is a USB adapter that admits Kinect failed.

«

Kinect is such an odd footnote in tech history: the fastest-selling piece of tech ever, considered a potentially useful tool for surgeons, and now an undesired add-on.
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Follow the sun • The Economist

»Led by big projects in these two countries [China and India], global solar-energy capacity rose by 26% last year. More remarkable is the decline in its cost. Studies of the “levelised cost” of electricity, which estimate the net present value of the costs of a generating system divided by the expected output over its lifetime, show solar getting close to gas and coal as an attractively cheap source of power. Auctions of long-term contracts to purchase solar power in developing countries such as South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Peru and Mexico provide real-world evidence that such assumptions may even prove to be conservative (see chart).

In sunny places solar power is now “shoulder to shoulder” with gas, coal and wind, says Cédric Philibert of the International Energy Agency, a prominent forecaster. He notes that since November 2014, when Dubai awarded a project to build 200MW of solar power at less than $60 a megawatt hour (MWh), auctions have become increasingly competitive.

«

And that’s because the price of solar panels has fallen by 80% since 2010. Hell of a thing.
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Yes, there have been aliens • The New York Times

Adam Frank, who co-wrote a scientific paper on this vexed question:

»Instead of asking how many civilizations currently exist, we asked what the probability is that ours is the only technological civilization that has ever appeared. By asking this question, we could bypass the factor about the average lifetime of a civilization. This left us with only three unknown factors, which we combined into one “biotechnical” probability: the likelihood of the creation of life, intelligent life and technological capacity.

You might assume this probability is low, and thus the chances remain small that another technological civilization arose. But what our calculation revealed is that even if this probability is assumed to be extremely low, the odds that we are not the first technological civilization are actually high. Specifically, unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in 10 billion trillion, then we are not the first.

To give some context for that figure: In previous discussions of the Drake equation, a probability for civilizations to form of one in 10 billion per planet was considered highly pessimistic. According to our finding, even if you grant that level of pessimism, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.

«

So howcome they haven’t got in touch asking to borrow money? (The paper is available in full for free.)
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Motorola confirms Moto 360 Gen. 1 will not receive Android Wear 2.0 update • Android Police

David Ruddock:

»While you may have seen reports via Motorola’s Twitter account that the Moto 360 Gen. 1 would not be receiving Wear 2.0, we decided to follow up with Motorola’s official PR this morning on this news and received direct confirmation: the Moto 360 Gen. 1 won’t get Wear 2.0.

The Moto 360 was heavily hyped leading up to its launch nearly two years ago, and understandably so: a [semi-]circular display made it stand out from pretty much any smartwatch that had been released previously. While LG’s G Watch R was, in my opinion, a better take on the circular watch, the Moto 360 still stood out with its small bezels and minimalistic, lugless style. It really was, and is, a striking device.

Still, it seems more than a bit frustrating that Android Wear devices – which Google has time and again implied shouldn’t “age” like your smartphone does as new OS updates launch – are seemingly little-different in terms of support windows than smartphones. Watches, after all, are supposed to last for years, especially watches that cost upwards of $300.

«

Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola completed in October 2014, having been announced in January 2014. The Moto 360v1 was launched in September 2014, and would have been in the works for at least a year before. Lenovo is now losing money on its smartphone business.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lenovo/Motorola quietly dropped out of the Android Wear business at least until that specific sector shows signs of life. Speaking of which…
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How will the $34bn wearables market combat wearables fatigue? • Forbes

Paul Armstrong:

»Some sobering stats:

•50% of consumers lose interest in the product within a few months. [Endeavour Partners]
•More than half of US wearable owners who have owned a device no longer use it. [Pew Research, 2013]
The wearables market will be worth $34bn in 2020. [CCS Insight]


SOURCE: CCS Insight

It takes 66 days to make a new behaviour stick – that’s a long time in the fast-paced, notification saturated world we live in. Wearable devices can help but the person has to have a decent amount of willpower or the behaviour wanes. Successful apps usually demonstrate a good combination. For example; a fitness tracker and something like MyFitnessPal which monitors macronutrients food intake and can give you some great data points but it doesn’t give tailored advice. Based on the data above there may be trouble ahead if consumers don’t begin seeing value in wearable devices. The issues are clear – either the tech doesn’t work or it’s not of value.

«

Wearables’ biggest problem is battery life, no doubt. Means you have to take them off.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: EC v Android in detail, how neural networks spot nudes, Xbox 360’s black ring of death, and more

But now you can get a smart one with a remote app which doesn’t work! Photo by 1950sUnlimited on Flickr

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

A selection of 12 links for you. Jumping beans for moving goalposts. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Spring cleaning at CNET’s Smart Home starts with a new smart washer and dryer » CNET

Megan Wollerton:

»Here’s how it’s supposed to go:

Select “Add Appliance” in the app and follow the seemingly straightforward step-by-step tutorial. This includes selecting the type of appliance you want to connect – either a washer, dryer, refrigerator or dishwasher – then the app lists the compatible models. Next, you choose the model number that corresponds to your unit, enter the SAID pin (this number is listed in small font on a sticker when you open the washer and dryer’s lid), connect to Wi-Fi, enter your home address and finally, hit the “finish” button.

Unfortunately, I experienced a couple of hiccups during what should have been a 10-minute process. The first time I tried to add the washing machine, the app crashed and would not let me log in for another 2 hours, saying, “Problem Signing In: Please try again Later.”

Once I was able to log in again, I ran into another road block when I hit the “finish” button — the very last step before the machine is connected and you can start using the app. This time the app said, “Registration Error: We couldn’t register the appliance. Please try again later.”

«

Ooh, I love the future. Love it. (Guess they had to get a woman to review it because none of the male writers would know what a washing machine was.)
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Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on Android » European Commission

Obkects over licensing of proprietary apps, “exclusivity” and “anti-fragmentation”, here:

»if a manufacturer wishes to pre-install Google proprietary apps, including Google Play Store and Google Search, on any of its devices, Google requires it to enter into an “Anti-Fragmentation Agreement” that commits it not to sell devices running on Android forks.

Google’s conduct has had a direct impact on consumers, as it has denied them access to innovative smart mobile devices based on alternative, potentially superior, versions of the Android operating system. For example, the Commission has found evidence that Google’s conduct prevented manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices based on a competing Android fork which had the potential of becoming a credible alternative to the Google Android operating system. In doing so, Google has also closed off an important way for its competitors to introduce apps and services, in particular general search services, which could be pre-installed on Android forks.

«

That “prevented from selling” is stated as fact; either it’s Amazon’s Fire Phone (Android OEMs couldn’t make the Fire Phone without breaking the Open Handset Alliance agreement) or something involving Cyanogen and a rival app store.
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Android’s model of open innovation » Google Europe Blog

Kent Walker, Google general counsel:

»Android has emerged as an engine for mobile software and hardware innovation.  It has empowered hundreds of manufacturers to build great phones, tablets, and other devices. And it has let developers of all sizes easily reach huge audiences.  The result?  Users enjoy extraordinary choices of apps and devices at ever-lower prices.

The European Commission has been investigating our approach, and today issued a Statement of Objections, raising questions about its impact on competition. We take these concerns seriously, but we also believe that our business model keeps manufacturers’ costs low and their flexibility high, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices.

«

Sure, but that isn’t what the EC is worked up about.
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The EU’s Android mistake » Beyond Devices

Jan Dawson:

»If the Commission’s main focus is on OEMs rather than consumers, it’s worth evaluating that a little. The reality is that OEMs clearly want to license the GMS [Google Mobile Services] version of Android, because that’s the version consumers want to buy. As Amazon has demonstrated, versions of Android without Google apps have some appeal, but far less than those versions that enable Google search, Gmail, Google Maps, and so on. Vestager’s statement alludes to a desire by at least some OEMs to use an alternative version of Android based on AOSP (presumably Cyanogen), but doesn’t go into specifics. Are there really many OEMs who would like to use both forms of Android in significant numbers, or is their complaining to the Commission just a way to push back on some of the other aspects of Android licensing they don’t like?

It’s certainly the case that OEMs and Android have a somewhat contentious relationship and Google has exerted more power in those relationships over the last recent years, but the main reason for the change in leverage is that Android OEMs have been so unsuccessful in differentiating their devices and hence making money from Android. Inviting the Commission to take action may be a roundabout way to change the balance of power in that relationship, but it’s not the solution to OEMs’ real problems.

«

These are all fair points. Though there’s a certain circularity to the argument of “GMS is what people want to buy, so that’s what is sold”. Dawson does note the above point about the “prevented” development. Was it Amazon? Cyanogen?
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September 2012: Why Google’s clash with Acer and Alibaba strains China’s Android market » The Guardian

By me, back in September 2012:

»The search giant lobbied Acer last week to halt its scheduled press showing of a new smartphone aimed at the Chinese market, pointing out that membership of the Open Handset Alliance – the group of companies forming the device, carrier, semiconductor, software and “commercialisation” sides of the Android ecosystem – forbids Acer from making devices that offer forked, or incompatible, versions of Android.

Acer cancelled the launch abruptly, leaving Alibaba fuming publicly at Google’s actions. John Spelich, Alibaba’s international spokesman, told CNet that “Aliyun is different” from Android – dismissing remarks aimed at him by Andy Rubin, head of Google’s mobile efforts including Android, saying to Spelich that “Aliyun uses the Android runtime, framework and tools. And your app store contains Android apps (including pirated Google apps).”

The upshot has been that Acer has withdrawn from the partnership with Alibaba, at least for now. But Digitimes, the Taiwan-based news site for the IT supply chain there and in China, says there is unease on the part of a number of ODMs (original device manufacturers) who would otherwise aim to benefit from making both Android-compatible and forked versions – the latter principally aimed at China.

«

This point is key. To break into or out of China, OEMs needed to be able to have different sets of services in different countries. And some OEMs wanted to be able to offer forks.
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What convolutional neural networks look at when they see nudity » Clarifai Blog

Ryan Compton:

»Automating the discovery of nude pictures has been a central problem in computer vision for over two decades now and, because of its rich history and straightforward goal, serves as a great example of how the field has evolved. In this blog post, I’ll use the problem of nudity detection to illustrate how training modern convolutional neural networks (convnets) differs from research done in the past.

*Warning: this blog post contains visualizations corresponding to very explicit nudity, proceed with caution!

«

When it’s *other peoples’* very explicit nudity then it’s worrying, of course, but not if it’s your own. NSFW, unless your work involves teaching neural networks to recognise naked people, I guess.
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The Democratic Party now belongs to Hillary Clinton » The American Conservative

Lloyd Green:

»Up until now, [Bernie] Sanders drew rock star crowds as he raged against the machine. Two days before the primary, 28,000 people showed up in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to watch the candidate and to listen to Grizzly Bear. The Wednesday before, a crowd of 27,000 filled Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park for Sanders and Vampire Weekend. Who needed Coachella when you had Bernie, people asked.

But opening acts aren’t the same thing as organization, concerts aren’t elections, and grand gestures don’t necessarily make you a winner. As Clinton pointed out in her victory speech, “it’s not enough to diagnose problems. You have to explain how you actually solve the problems.” Left unsaid was Clinton’s hand in making the messes she was complaining about. But never mind, Clinton clearly conveyed the message that Sanders was not ready for prime time.

In hindsight, Sanders’ jetting to the Vatican just days before the primary looks like showboating, and his ill-prepared interview before the New York Daily News editorial board seems reminiscent of a stoner trying to ace a college biology exam. And Sanders paid for all of it.

«

Just keeping you up to date on the US elections. You know.
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Intel to cut 12,000 jobs, puts focus on cloud » WSJ

Don Clark and Tess Stynes:

»Makers of handsets overwhelmingly chose chips based on designs licensed from ARM Holdings PLC, which are available from a plethora of suppliers, and Google Inc.’s Android software, which is available free. No matter how good Intel or Microsoft products became, they could never counter those fundamental changes.

Sales of PCs, meanwhile, have been mainly declining since Apple’s iPad emerged in 2010. The market recently seemed to plateau, but sales again dropped in the first quarter, falling nearly 10%, Gartner Inc. estimated.

The continuing decline has forced Intel to focus on growth areas such as computers for data centers and noncomputer devices outfitted with data processing and communications capabilities, known as the Internet of Things.

“They’ve looked at the decline of the PC market and clearly decided that they are going to put most of their effort elsewhere,” said Rob Enderle, a market research who heads the Enderle Group.

«

Let it be recorded that Rob Enderle said something sensible.
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Antitrust: e-commerce sector inquiry finds geo-blocking is widespread throughout EU » European Commission

»Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said “The information gathered as part of our e-commerce sector inquiry confirms the indications that made us launch the inquiry: Not only does geo-blocking frequently prevent European consumers from buying goods and digital content online from another EU country, but some of that geo-blocking is the result of restrictions in agreements between suppliers and distributors. Where a non-dominant company decides unilaterally not to sell abroad, that is not an issue for competition law. But where geo-blocking occurs due to agreements, we need to take a close look whether there is anti-competitive behaviour, which can be addressed by EU competition tools.”

More and more goods and services are traded over the internet but cross-border online sales within the EU are only growing slowly. The Commission’s initial findings from the sector inquiry published today address a practice, so-called geo-blocking, whereby retailers and digital content providers prevent online shoppers from purchasing consumer goods or accessing digital content services because of the shopper’s location or country of residence. This is one factor affecting cross-border e-commerce.

«

Pretty much unnoticed among the hubbub about Android, but likely to have more real effect. More details (and pretty graphs!) in the accompanying factsheet.
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Huawei P9 Leica-branded dual-cam actually made by Sunny Optical » Digital Photography Review

Lars Rehm:

»When the Huawei P9 was launched recently, its unusual dual-camera grabbed headlines for a couple of reasons. On one hand, its innovative technological concept, with one 12MP sensor capturing RGB color information and a second 12MP chip exclusively recording monochrome image information, had not been seen in a smartphone before. On the other hand, a Leica badge next to the camera module had imaging enthusiasts speculating about just how much technology from the legendary German camera-maker had made it into the Chinese smartphone.

Huawei later provided additional information, saying the P9’s camera module had been certified by Leica but the German company had not been involved in development or production of the optics. Now it has been revealed that the camera module in question is actually made by the Chinese company Sunny Optical Technology of China, which, according to “insider sources”, is authorized to do so by Leica.

«

Reviewers praised the P9’s camera to the skies. Wonder if they’ll revisit what they wrote?
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Achievement unlocked: 10 years – thank you, Xbox 360 » Xbox Wire

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox:

»From the original Zero Hour launch event, to the incredible reaction received last year at E3 when we announced that you could play your Xbox 360 games on Xbox One, the soul of Xbox 360 was about putting gamers at the center of every decision we make – and we apply this principle across our business to this day.

Xbox 360 means a lot to everyone in Microsoft. And while we’ve had an amazing run, the realities of manufacturing a product over a decade old are starting to creep up on us. Which is why we have made the decision to stop manufacturing new Xbox 360 consoles. We will continue to sell existing inventory of Xbox 360 consoles, with availability varying by country.

We know that many of you became gamers on Xbox 360 and are still active, so it’s important to us that while the overall Xbox gaming experience will evolve and grow, we will continue to support the platform you love in multiple ways.

«

During which time it sold not quite 90m units, and was the cause of $1.15bn in writeoffs over the Red Ring of Death.
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Is Firefox search worth $375m/year to a Yahoo buyer? » Tech.pinions

I dug into Yahoo’s and Mozilla’s financials:

»Who stands to lose if Yahoo is sold — besides of course Marissa Mayer, who will probably lose her job along with a fair number of Yahoo staff? The surprising, and unobvious, answer is Mozilla and the Firefox browser.

That’s because Mozilla is highly dependent on a five-year contract with Yahoo, signed in December 2014, where it receives about $375m per year to make Yahoo the default search provider in the Firefox browser on the desktop. From 2004 to 2014, that contract was exclusively with Google; now it’s Yahoo in the US, Google in Europe, Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China.

How much is $375m per year compared to Mozilla’s spending? Most of it.

«

Is a Yahoo buyer really going to think that is a deal worth continuing with?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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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