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Daring Fireball: Amazon Echo Look -- A Camera for Your Dressing Room
from Daring Fireball

Me, a few days ago:

Once you start thinking about the implications of an AI-driven device that can both see and hear you, it becomes obvious just how primitive these devices still are. I want a C–3PO, not a talking camera fixed on my dresser that tells me if my socks and shirt match.

Now that I think about it, what I really want is HAL. Think about it: HAL 9000 is the platonic ideal of these voice-driven assistants. He understands you perfectly, every time; he answers immediately; he can see not just hear; and he’s available throughout your home/spaceship. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clark were amazingly prescient about where AI and human-computer interfaces were heading. They were just too optimistic about how soon we’d get there.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
yesterday by josephschmitt
Watch how Elon Musk’s Boring Company tunnels will move cars faster | TechCrunch
from Daring Fireball

Darrell Etherington, writing for TechCrunch on Elon Musk’s (admittedly cleverly named) Boring Company:

Just what does Elon Musk’s Boring Company want to accomplish? This might be our clearest picture yet — a video shown during Musk’s TEDTalk from Friday morning, which includes a rendering of a future underground transit network where cars travel on crisscrossing layers of tunnels that include sleds shuttling vehicles around on rails at around 130 mph.

This is a stupid idea, and I can’t believe anyone is taking it seriously. Why in the world would any city in the world invest in a public transit system for cars? I’m all for major investments in public transit infrastructure, but public transit is and should be for people, not for fucking cars.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
yesterday by josephschmitt
EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades - The Washington Post
from Daring Fireball

Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin, reporting for The Washington Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday evening that its website would be “undergoing changes” to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information. […]

The staffer described the process of reviewing the site as “a work in progress, but we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site.

Yet the website overhaul appears to include not only policy-related changes but also scrutiny of a scientific Web page that has existed for nearly two decades, and that explained what climate change is and how it worked.

Translation: “*We can’t let scientific facts get in the way of our policies.”

The Bush administration wasn’t exactly known as a friend to environmental concerns, but even they didn’t take down these pages of scientific facts and data. The Trump kakistocracy is something else entirely.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
yesterday by josephschmitt
Hacker Leaks Stolen ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Season 5 Episodes to Piracy Network | Variety
from Daring Fireball

Todd Spangler, reporting for Variety:

An anonymous hacker has carried through on a threat to release “Orange Is the New Black” season five episodes online — after Netflix allegedly failed to respond to the cybercriminal’s shakedown demands. […]

The first 10 episodes of season 5 were apparently shared shortly before 6 a.m. ET Saturday, with the 10 files comprising a total of 11.46 gigabytes. […]

According to “thedarkoverlord,” the hacker or hackers also have obtained unreleased shows from ABC, Fox, National Geographic and IFC. The content appears to have been stolen in an attack on post-production studio Larson Studios in late 2016, according to piracy-news site TorrentFreak. “Thedarkoverlord” explained in an online post that they obtained only the first 10 of the 13 episodes of “OITNB” season 5 because the cyberattack was carried out before the final three installments were available.

Here’s “Thedarkoverlord“‘s post announcing the release of the episodes.

I got a tour of MLB Advanced Media’s facilities in New York last year. We weren’t allowed anywhere near the area where HBO shows were handled. That area was like the count room in a casino — the securest of secure areas. You know how you don’t crack jokes about bombs while you’re in the security line at a casino? It’s like that with leaked episodes of Game of Thrones at MLB Advanced Media — no joking matter.

I would not want to be Larson Studios.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
yesterday by josephschmitt
www.nytimes.com
from Daring Fireball

George Takei, in an op-ed for The New York Times:

I was 5 years old at the beginning of our internment in Arkansas. I remember every school morning reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, my eyes upon the stars and stripes of the flag, but at the same time I could see from the window the barbed wire and the sentry towers where guards kept guns trained on us.

I was 7 years old when we were transferred to another camp for “disloyals.” My mother and father’s only crime was refusing, out of principle, to sign a loyalty pledge promulgated by the government. The authorities had already taken my parents’ home on Garnet Street in Los Angeles, their once thriving dry cleaning business, and finally their liberty. Now they wanted them to grovel; this was an indignity too far.

When I was a kid, I thought World War II was “a long time ago”. Now that I’m in my 40s, when I think about the fact that the Japanese internment happened just 30 years before I was born, it gives me pause. It wasn’t that long ago.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
yesterday by josephschmitt
Apple Halts License Payments to Qualcomm in ‘All-Out War’ - Bloomberg
from Daring Fireball

Ian King, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. cut off billions of dollars in payments to Qualcomm Inc., turning a contract dispute into what one analyst called an “all-out war” that forced the chip supplier to slash forecasts given only days ago.

The world’s largest publicly-traded technology company and one of the main suppliers of components to the iPhone, its most important product, have traded accusations of lying, making threats and trying to create an illegal monopoly. The fight involves billions of dollars of technology licensing revenue that, if permanently cut off or reduced, would damage Qualcomm’s main source of profit and help bolster Apple’s margins.

Apple told Qualcomm it will stop paying licensing revenue to contract manufacturers of the iPhone, the mechanism by which it’s paid the chipmaker since the best-selling smartphone debuted in 2007, the San Diego, California-based company said in a statement. Qualcomm removed any assumption it will get those fees from its forecast for the current period. Apple doesn’t have a direct license with Qualcomm, unlike other phone makers.

Reminds me of that episode of Mad Men where Don Draper said to Duck Phillips, “I don’t have a contract.” This is some serious hardball — Qualcomm had to cut its revenue forecast for the next quarter by $500 million.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
yesterday by josephschmitt
The Talk Show ✪, Ep. 188: Transcript
from Daring Fireball

Full transcript of Lisa Jackson’s interview on The Talk Show last week. In case you missed it, it’s a great episode.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
Exclusive: Trump says he thought being president would be easier than his old life| Reuters
from Daring Fireball

Reuters reporters Stephen J. Adler, Jeff Mason, and Steve Holland:

President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

As with his admission two weeks ago that after just 10 minutes with President Xi Jinping of China, he realized he was completely ignorant of the complexity of Chinese-North Korean relations, what’s striking here isn’t that Trump was so ignorant that he thought being president of the United States would be easier than hosting a game show. It’s that he’s so militantly ignorant that he’s not embarrassed to admit this. He’s a laughingstock around the world.

More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump’s mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

He had copies for each of the three Reuters reporters in the room.

The election is old news to everyone but Trump, because it’s the only thing he can hold onto as any form of success. Again, the fact that he’s still obsessed with it is bad enough, but even worse is that lacks the self-awareness to realize that perseverating on it in an interview with Reuters — with prepared printed material in triplicate — lays his pathological narcissism bare for the world to see.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
Taibbi: Trump Named Craig Phillips to Fix Wall Street - Rolling Stone
from Daring Fireball

Matt Taibbi, writing for Rolling Stone:

Of those bad actors, there is a subset of still-worse actors, who not only sold these toxic investments to institutional investors like pension funds and Fannie and Freddie, but helped get a generation of home borrowers — often minorities and the poor — into deadly mortgages that ended up wiping out their equity.

Phillips, who helped Fannie and Freddie into substantial losses and worked with predatory firms like New Century, belongs in this second category. As Beavis and Butthead would put it, Phillips comes from the “ass of the ass.”

Donald Trump, then, has essentially picked one of the last people on earth who should be allowed to help reshape the mortgage markets. This is like putting a guy who sold thousand-dollar magazine subscriptions to your grandmother on the telephone in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the A.A.R.P.

Kakistrocracy.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
Was Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Really the 2nd Best 'Wii Tennis' Player in the World? An Investigation - Motherboard
from Daring Fireball

Jess Joho, investigating for Motherboard:

As the story goes, one night in 2010 or so, Kalanick was with friend and Uber investor Chris Sacca. Sacca’s dad requested a game of “Wii Tennis” and Kalanick allegedly blew them all away before revealing he was tied for 2nd best in the world.

The first problem here is that “Wii Tennis” is not a video game that exists. I reached out to several Uber representatives a few times for clarity on this but the company replied that, “we’re not commenting.” When we asked Nintendo of America for help in identifying this game, it said “We have nothing to announce on this topic.”

Based on this story’s many retellings (and the images used whenever it makes media rounds throughout the past couple of years), most people assume that they actually meant Wii Sports, released in 2006, which included a tennis mini-game. It was also an insanely popular game that sold over 82 million copies and was packed in with the Wii in North America, so it makes sense that Sacca’s dad had it. The problem here is that Wii Sports had no online play of any kind and therefore no leaderboard to keep track of the best players in the world.

“Second-best in the world” is such a funny thing to lie about.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
2 days ago by josephschmitt
Politics of Climate Change - YouTube
from Daring Fireball

Terrific 5-minute video from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island on the politics behind the Republican Party’s stonewalling on climate change. Watch it and pass it along.

(I’m surely the millionth person to make this observation, but how great would it be if he were elected president and we had a Whitehouse White House?)

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ifttt  daringfireball 
3 days ago by josephschmitt
Amazon Wants to Put a Camera and Microphone in Your Bedroom - Motherboard
from Daring Fireball

There are a few fleeting shots of men in Amazon’s intro video for the Echo Look, but this is clearly envisioned as a product for women. I’m trying to think of another gadget whose advertising is so heavily skewed toward women, and I’m coming up blank.

Once you start thinking about the implications of an AI-driven device that can both see and hear you, it becomes obvious just how primitive these devices still are. I want a C-3PO, not a talking camera fixed on my dresser that tells me if my socks and shirt match.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
3 days ago by josephschmitt
“Today at Apple” bringing new experiences to every Apple Store - Apple
from Daring Fireball

Apple:

Apple today announced plans to launch dozens of new educational sessions next month in all 495 Apple stores ranging in topics from photo and video to music, coding, art and design and more. The hands-on sessions, collectively called “Today at Apple,” will be led by highly-trained team members, and in select cities world-class artists, photographers and musicians, teaching sessions from basics and how-to lessons to professional-level programs.

I think Apple’s retail stores are one of the most overlooked / under-estimated advantages in all of technology. They have spaces around the world where people can have interactions with real people, in real life. Not through a screen. Real life. Who else has that? I think taking that to the next level is what this “Today at Apple” program is all about.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
5 days ago by josephschmitt
Animated Bézier Curves - Jason Davies
from Daring Fireball

Very cool web page by Jason Davies that interactively shows how Bézier curves work.

(Via Gus Mueller.)

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ifttt  daringfireball 
5 days ago by josephschmitt
Google Rewrites Its Powerful Search Rankings to Bury Fake News - Bloomberg
from Daring Fireball

Mark Bergen, writing for Bloomberg:

The Alphabet Inc. company is making a rare, sweeping change to the algorithm behind its powerful search engine to demote misleading, false and offensive articles online. Google is also setting new rules encouraging its “raters” — the 10,000-plus staff that assess search results — to flag web pages that host hoaxes, conspiracy theories and what the company calls “low-quality” content.

The moves follow months after criticism of Google and Facebook Inc. for hosting misleading information, particular tied to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Google executives claimed the type of web pages categorized in this bucket are relatively small, which is a reason why the search giant hadn’t addressed the issue before.

“It was not a large fraction of queries — only about a quarter percent of our traffic — but they were important queries,” said Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering for Google.

Good for them. What Gomes said is exactly right — it may not be many queries, but they are important queries.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
5 days ago by josephschmitt
In Response to Guardian’s Irresponsible Reporting on WhatsApp: A Plea for Responsible and Contextualized Reporting on User Security | technosociology
from Daring Fireball

Speaking of The Guardian, it’s now the last week of April and they still haven’t issued a retraction of their grievously irresponsible story alleging a “backdoor” in WhatsApp from January. Zeynep Tufekci, in an open letter signed by dozens of security/cryptography experts:

Unfortunately, your story was the equivalent of putting “VACCINES KILL PEOPLE” in a blaring headline over a poorly contextualized piece. While it is true that in a few cases, vaccines kill people through rare and unfortunate side effects, they also save millions of lives.

You would have no problem understanding why “Vaccines Kill People” would be a problem headline for a story, especially given the context of anti-vaccination movements. But your series of stories on WhatsApp does the same disservice and perpetrates a similar public health threat against secure communications.

The behavior described in your article is not a backdoor in WhatsApp. This is the overwhelming consensus of the cryptography and security community. It is also the collective opinion of the cryptography professionals whose names appear below. The behavior you highlight is a measured tradeoff that poses a remote threat in return for real benefits that help keep users secure, as we will discuss in a moment. […]

Since the publication of this story, we’ve observed and heard from worried activists, journalists and ordinary people who use WhatsApp, who tell us that people are switching to SMS and Facebook Messenger, among other options–many services that are strictly less secure than WhatsApp.

The Guardian has stretched this out for three months, so it looks like they think they can run out the clock on it. Shameful — this should be an everlasting hit to their credibility.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
6 days ago by josephschmitt
The Guardian pulls out of Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple News - Digiday
from Daring Fireball

Jessica Davies, reporting for Digiday:

A Guardian News and Media spokesperson confirmed the removal, and issued the following statement to Digiday: “We have run extensive trials on Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News to assess how they fit with our editorial and commercial objectives. Having evaluated these trials, we have decided to stop publishing in those formats on both platforms. Our primary objective is to bring audiences to the trusted environment of the Guardian to support building deeper relationships with our readers, and growing membership and contributions to fund our world-class journalism.”

But:

Meanwhile the Guardian’s use of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, the rival to Instant Articles, seems to be going strong. In March the Guardian presented at AMP Conf, a two-day conference hosted in New York, where it revealed that 60 percent of the Guardian’s Google-referred mobile traffic was coming via AMP.

Follow that link, though, and it doesn’t sound like The Guardian is getting much out of AMP:

AMP pages are 2 percent more likely to be clicked on and clickthrough rates on AMP pages to non-AMP pages is 8.6 percent higher than they are on regular mobile pages, according to Natalia Baltazar, a developer for the British newspaper, who presented at AMP Conf, a two-day conference hosted by Google taking place in New York City March 7-8.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
6 days ago by josephschmitt
www.wikitribune.com
from Daring Fireball

New ad-free news site from Jimmy Wales, with professional journalists and Wikipedia-style volunteers working side-by-side. Terrific idea, and there’s a great launch video by Sandwich Video and Kirby Ferguson that explains the concept well.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
6 days ago by josephschmitt
302 Found
from Daring Fireball

Ben Einstein has a nice tear-down of Juicero’s $399 juicer:

Our usual advice to hardware founders is to focus on getting a product to market to test the core assumptions on actual target customers, and then iterate. Instead, Juicero spent $120M over two years to build a complex supply chain and perfectly engineered product that is too expensive for their target demographic.

Imagine a world where Juicero raised only $10M and built a product subject to significant constraints. Maybe the Press wouldn’t be so perfectly engineered but it might have a fewer features and cost a fraction of the original $699. Or maybe with a more iterative approach, they would have quickly found that customers vary greatly in their juice consumption patterns, and would have chosen a per-pack pricing model rather than one-size-fits-all $35/week subscription. Suddenly Juicero is incredibly compelling as a product offering, at least to this consumer.

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ifttt  daringfireball 
6 days ago by josephschmitt
Daring Fireball: Judging Apple Watch’s Success
from Daring Fireball

Mike Murphy, writing for Quartz, “Two Years After Its Launch, the Apple Watch Hasn’t Made a Difference at Apple”:

Apple’s biggest launch since the iPad in 2010, the Apple Watch was expected to be a hit: Given the massive financial success of the iPhone, it stood to reason that a companion device might be something customers craved.

Not so much. Apple has never shared hard numbers on how many wearables it has sold, and doesn’t even break out Watch sales in its quarterly earnings report. Instead, the device is bundled into Apple’s “Other products,” which the company says includes, “Apple TV, Apple Watch, Beats products, iPod and Apple-branded and third-party accessories.”

These articles come out like clockwork every 3 months, as Apple’s earnings report draws near. Apple told us they were not going to report hard numbers on Apple Watch right from the start, six months before it shipped. They want to keep them secret for competitive reasons.

Two years and two iterations after its launch, the Apple Watch has not proven to be as indispensable as the iPhone, or even as lucrative as the Mac, the iPad, or Apple’s services businesses. It’s unclear whether an iPhone-like overhaul, or attempts to market the watch directly to athletes or millennials, will ultimately make a difference.

The nut of every “Apple Watch is a dud” story is the fact that its clearly not an iPhone-size business. But that can’t be the only measure of success. The iPhone is the biggest and most successful consumer product in the history of the world. Nothing compares to the smartphone market, and it’s possible nothing else will in our lifetimes. You and I may never again see a product as profitable as the iPhone — not just from Apple, but from any company in any industry. Or maybe we will. It’s a complete unknown.

But if Apple gets it into its head that they should only work on iPhone-sized opportunities, it would paralyze the company. In baseball terms, it’s fine for Apple to hit a bunch of singles while waiting for their next home run. According to Apple, they had more watch sales by revenue in 2015 than any company other than Rolex, and Apple’s “Other” category, which is where Watch sales are accounted for, had a record-breaking holiday quarter three months ago, suggesting strongly that Watch sales were up over the year-ago holiday quarter.

These two facts are both true: Apple Watch sales are a rounding error compared to the iPhone, and Apple Watch is a smash hit compared to traditional watches and other wearable devices.
ifttt  daringfireball 
6 days ago by josephschmitt

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