Jack Dorsey has no clue what he wants • HuffPost UK
Ashley Feinberg:
<p>My only real goal was to get Dorsey to speak in specifics, about anything. In almost every interview he does, he’ll lament his past mistakes and talk about his various high-minded visions for improving the platform: improving conversational health, reducing echo chambers, increasing transparency and about 10 other rote, buzzy phrases.

But press him for a clear, unambiguous example of nearly anything, and Dorsey shuts down. At one point, for instance, Dorsey explained that Twitter was working toward using machine learning to spot harassment before it’s even reported. When asked how Twitter is handling the problem in the meantime, Dorsey had this to say:
<p>Most of our priority right now in terms of health, which is the No. 1 priority of the company, is around being proactive. How do we remove the burden from the victims or bystanders from reporting in the first place? It’s way too mechanical. It’s way too much work. ... But ultimately, we want to make sure that the number of reports that we receive is trending downward. And that will be because of two reasons. One, people are seeing far less abuse or harassment or other things that are against the terms of service. Or that we’re being more proactive about it. So we want to do both. So a lot of our work is that, and then better prioritization in the meantime. A lot more transparency, clearer actions within the product.</p>

Those are certainly words, though none of them appeared to answer my question.</p>

The interview is wonderful for its uncompromising approach (of which that is an example). Feinberg is also a <a href="https://twitter.com/ashleyfeinberg/">pretty astringent presence</a> on Twitter itself: pH about 1. She'll have your skin off before you realise it.
twitter  dorsey 
2 hours ago
Why Apple will be late to foldable phones (and still win) • Tom's Guide
Jason Snell (who has written for years and years about Apple):
<p>If Apple did build a foldable iPhone, it would probably be best to think of it as an iPhone that could expand to become a small iPad. Given the power of Apple's A-series processors and the increasingly sophisticated and PC-like features of the iPad, that could be a compelling product.

There's another possibility, and it arises from a long-standing Apple design philosophy. This is what I've taken to calling "Jobs' Law," the idea that every new iteration of an Apple product should strive to be thinner and lighter than the previous generation.

A foldable phone would seem to go against Jobs' Law, because that folding mechanism will presumably mean thicker phones, at least at the start. But I wonder if having a folding mechanism would enable Apple to design much smaller iPhones. While Apple has embraced large phones like the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS Max due to market pressures, I'm not entirely convinced that the company's heart is in it.

Maybe the future of the foldable iPhone is more like a Palm phone that flips out to become a phablet, not a phablet that becomes a tablet.

Sure, a foldable iPhone could be a giant phablet that folds out into a small iPad. But it could also be a small, iPhone SE-size model that flips open to provide iPhone XS Max-style real estate on demand. Maybe the future of the foldable iPhone is more like a Palm phone that flips out to become a phablet, not a phablet that becomes a tablet.</p>

The thing about a foldable iPhone (or iPad?) is that you'd want the bigger screen occasionally - like the people I see on the train who watch downloaded or streaming video on a tablet-sized screen. Much of the time you wouldn't.

I really can't figure out whether it's a gimmick or something useful.
apple  foldable 
3 hours ago
Twins get some 'mystifying' results when they put five DNA ancestry kits to the test • CBC News
Charlsie Agro and Luke Denne:
<p>One set of identical twins, two different ancestry profiles.

At least that's the suggestion from one of the world's largest ancestry DNA testing companies.

Last spring, Marketplace host Charlsie Agro and her twin sister, Carly, bought home kits from AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and Living DNA, and mailed samples of their DNA to each company for analysis.

Despite having virtually identical DNA, the twins did not receive matching results from any of the companies.

In most cases, the results from the same company traced each sister's ancestry to the same parts of the world — albeit by varying percentages.

But the results from California-based 23andMe seemed to suggest each twin had unique twists in their ancestry composition.</p>

Ah but: <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/identical-twins-genes-are-not-identical/">identical twins' DNA can actually be different</a>. Perhaps read this link rather than the main one, since it's your science lesson (if you didn't already know it) for today.
dna  genetics  twins 
3 hours ago
Here come the internet blackouts • New America
Justin Sherman:
<p>[The blackout method which sees] states deliberately severing internet connections within their country has an important history. In 2004, the Maldivian government caused an internet blackout when citizens protested the president; Nepal similarly caused a blackout shortly thereafter. In 2007, the Burmese government apparently damaged an underwater internet cable in order to “staunch the flow of pictures and messages from protesters reaching the outside world.” In 2011, Egypt cut most internet and cell services within its borders as the government attempted to quell protests against then-President Hosni Mubarak; Libya then did the same after its own unrest. In 2014, Syria had a major internet outage amid its civil war. In 2018, Mauritania was taken entirely offline for two days when undersea submarine internet cables were cut, around the same time as the Sierra Leone government may have imposed an internet blackout in the same region.

When we think about terms like “cyberspace” and “internet,” it can be tempting to associate them with vague notions of a digital world we can’t touch. And while this is perhaps useful in some contexts, this line of thinking forgets the very real wires, servers, and other hardware that form the architecture of the internet. If these physical elements cease to function, from a cut wire to a storm-damaged server farm, the internet, too, is affected. More than that, if a single entity controls—or can at least access—that hardware for a region or even an entire country, government-caused internet blackouts are a tempting method of censorship and social control.

Which is to say: As countries around the world tighten control of the internet within their borders, we can expect to see some governments with relatively centralized internets—particularly authoritarians or those with authoritarian leanings—literally disconnect their domestic internet networks from the rest of the globe during domestic unrest or other incidents.

As for the second method, we can expect a rise in DDoS attacks against internet infrastructure as millions of wildly insecure Internet of Things (IoT) devices—from smart thermostats to water-pressure sensors—are linked online.</p>
internet  blackout 
3 hours ago
Racial bias and in-group bias in judicial decisions: evidence from virtual reality courtrooms • NBER
Samantha Bielen, Wim Marneffe, Naci H. Mocan from Hasselt University in Belgium:
<p>We shot videos of criminal trials using 3D Virtual Reality (VR) technology, prosecuted by actual prosecutors and defended by actual defense attorneys in an actual courtroom.

This is the first paper that utilizes VR technology in a non-computer animated setting, which allows us to replace white defendants in the courtroom with individuals who have Middle Eastern or North African descent in a real-life environment. We alter only the race of the defendants in these trials, holding all activity in the courtroom constant (http://proficient.ninja/splitscreen/).

Law students, economics students and practicing lawyers are randomly assigned to watch with VR headsets, from the view point of the judge, the trials that differed only in defendants’ skin color. Background information obtained from the evaluators allowed us to identify their cultural heritage. Evaluators made decisions on guilt/innocence in these burglary and assault cases, as well as prison sentence length and fine in accordance with the guidelines provided by the relevant law.

There is suggestive evidence of negative in-group bias in conviction decisions where evaluators are harsher against defendants of their own race. There is, however, significant overall racial bias in conviction decisions against minorities.</p>

Clever use of VR - and an important result. The full paper requires NBER access; there were 25 participants seeing six different defendants. They used Oculus Rift.
virtualreality  court  racism 
3 hours ago
Alex Rosenblat’s Uberland: review • NY Mag
Adrian Chen:
<p>One thing you get from reading Alex Rosenblat’s Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work, is that there is nothing inevitable about management trending in a positive direction. Drawing on four years of ethnographic research among Uber drivers, Rosenblat has produced a thoroughly dystopian report that details how millions of drivers are now managed by a computerized system that combines the hard authoritarianism of Frederick Winslow Taylor with the cynical cheerleading of Michael Scott.

But wait: Isn’t the whole point of Uber that you can be your own boss? After all, Uber talks of its drivers not as employees but “partners.” In its propaganda, Uber portrays itself not as a taxi company at all but a technology platform that connects drivers directly to riders. “FREEDOM PAYS WEEKLY,” reads one recruitment ad reproduced in Uberland.

Next to it, there’s a picture of a breezy millennial with shaggy hair and a five-o’clock shadow, a scarf draped rakishly around his neck. He looks so noncorporate that he might not be wearing any pants.

In order to put that idea to rest, Rosenblat must first untangle the myths that made it seem possible in the first place. If you think about it, it’s bizarre that taxi drivers became a symbol of cutting-edge technological disruption. Cab drivers have typically occupied a benighted role in the public imagination: hustlers, criminals, or, at best, misanthropic folk philosophers. Rosenblat offers a valuable history of the ideological work that went into the “gentrification” of the profession.</p>
ai  uber  algorithm 
4 hours ago
Trump's slippage in support is real • The Bulwark
Bruce Gyory (a "veteran and shrewd New York political operative" according to Bill Kristol):
<p>The slippage is the worst kind—the slow erosion of support from key blocs: swing voters (independents and suburbanites) and those who put Trump over the top (blue collar white men and Republicans over 60).

It’s been registering in a cross section of polling data, not just one poll. Trump’s job approval rating is down to <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/245990/trump-congress-job-approval-mostly-steady-amid-shutdown.aspx?g_source=link_NEWSV9&g_medium=TOPIC&g_campaign=item_&g_content=Trump%2c%2520Congress%2520Job%2520Approval%2520Mostly%2520Steady%2520Amid%2520Shutdown">31% among independents</a> in Gallup. His approval ratings in Rasmussen are down from the 48-49% range of late last year to the <a href="http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/trump_administration/trump_approval_index_history">43-44%</a> level of the past week or so. The <a href="http://maristpoll.marist.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/NPR_PBS-NewsHour_Marist-Poll-USA-NOS-and-Tables_1901141631-1.pdf#page=1">Marist data</a> for PBS shows a drop of 10% in job approval among Republicans and a decline of 11% among white evangelicals and 17% among suburban men.

And Trump continues to enrage the Dem base while this erosion in his base continues to progress. Blue collar white men being turned off from Trump shouldn’t surprise anyone, for they know the difficulty of living paycheck to paycheck. This, plus the skew of the tax cut package, spells political trouble for Trump long term, especially if a slow down, much less a recession, looms in 2020.</p>

There's a certain amount of wish fulfilment in this: Kristol is newly installed as "editor-at-large" of The Bulwark, a right-wing (but not Trumpist!) site which seems to be trying to pick up the readers from Kristol's previous, and now-closed, Weekly Standard. The URL for that Gallup link reads "Trump-Congress Job Approval Mostly Steady Amid Shutdown".

Perhaps Trump's support among those famous uneducated whites is eroding, but there's no election this year.
trump  polls 
4 hours ago
Facebook's internal documents about how it made money off children to be released • Reveal
Nathan Halverson:
<p>Four documents that were either originally sealed or redacted were made partially available to Reveal in October. The documents show widespread confusion by children and their parents, who didn’t understand Facebook continued to charge them as they played games.

Facebook employees began voicing their concerns that people were being charged without their knowledge. The social media company decided to analyze one of the most popular games of the time, Angry Birds, and discovered the average age of people playing it on Facebook was 5 years old, according to newly revealed information.

“In nearly all cases the parents knew their child was playing Angry Birds, but didn’t think the child would be allowed to buy anything without their password or authorization first,” according to an internal Facebook memo. The memo noted that on other platforms, such as Apple’s iPhone, people were required to reauthorize additional purchases, such as by re-entering a password.

A Facebook employee noted that children were likely to be confused by the in-game purchases because it “doesn’t necessarily look like real money to a minor.”

Yet the company continued to deny refunds to children, profiting from their confusion.

In one of the unsealed documents, two Facebook employees deny a refund request from a child whom they refer to as a “whale” – a term coined by the casino industry to describe profligate spenders. The child had entered a credit card number to play a game, and in about two weeks racked up thousands of dollars in charges, according to an excerpt of messages between two employees at the social media giant.</p>

Not a good look for Facebook - though this is from 2012.
facebook  games  money 
5 hours ago
Why high-fidelity streaming is the audio revolution your ears have been waiting for • Forbes
Oisin Lunny:
<p>While our ears may be attuned to lossy compressed audio in most everyday scenarios, the experience of rediscovering high-fidelity lossless digital audio can be nothing short of a revelation. Fine details reappear, performers have more space, sounds have more definition, audio feels warmer, sounds clearer, and is noticeably more pleasurable to listen to. The higher you go with audio file resolution, the better it gets.

Thanks to the new range of streaming apps delivering CD-quality or higher, our beloved “universal jukebox” is undergoing a significant upgrade. Consumer demand for high-resolution audio has been growing steadily, for example users of Deezer HiFi have increased by 71% in the past 12 months alone, and the product is now available in 180 countries and works with a wide range of FLAC streaming compatible devices.

[Bang & Olufsen’s most senior Tonmeister (sound engineer)] Geoff Martin believes that demand for hi-fi streaming audio is growing due to a rise in the number of people buying high-end audio devices. “It used to be that you bought an iPhone and you used the white earbuds, but nowadays people are upgrading to better headphones, so they want a better file and a better app to play it on. The potential is there for somebody that wants to get high quality, and they don't have to spend a lot of money to get it.”</p>

I've sat in for tons of "high-fidelity audio" demonstrations. I've only rarely been able to tell the difference; the most noticeable time was at Arcam's testing studios in Cambridge, when it really was possible to tell the difference. But once you get to 256k MP3, the vast majority of people cannot tell the difference. So no, your ears haven't been waiting for this, and you shouldn't listen (aha) to those trying to upsell you with it.
music  audio  fidelity 
5 hours ago
Rafael Nadal faces his mini-me, Alex de Minaur, at the Australian Open • The New Yorker
Gerald Marzorati:
<p>The difference between men’s and women’s tennis, now, is lateral speed—the quickness to run down, and to get back with zip, balls that are angled far off the court. Not every male player can run, but those who can really can. No player currently on the women’s tour can match that speed. Scientists offer <a href="https://www.livescience.com/59289-why-men-run-faster-than-women.html">various theories</a> for why men’s bodies lend themselves to faster running: narrower hips that more closely align to the quads and make running more efficient; more lung capacity; larger fast-twitch muscle fibres.

But here’s the thing: no male player thirty years ago got to balls that were way out wide and then went on offense with his returns of them, the way that Rafael Nadal did when he first showed his potential to be an all-time great, in 2005. He was big and fast, sure, with an explosive first step, like a sprinter, toward an incoming ball. And there was a way he had, something I’d never seen before, of seeming to be sliding back to the center of the court—to reëstablish position, in order to give chase again—even before he had fully completed his follow-through. But there was something else, too, something just this side of ineffable: a relentlessness in pursuit of every last ball, driven by—you could glimpse it in his strained facial muscles—a sort of anxious fear of not getting there.</p>

The linked article about why men can be faster is interesting: biomechanics, hormones, and more.
tennis  sprinting 
2 days ago
Have Aliens found us? An Interview with the Harvard Astronomer Avi Loeb About the Mysterious Interstellar Object ‘Oumuamua | The New Yorker
Isaac Chotiner talks to Loeb, who thinks that the mysterious object dubbed ‘Oumuamua is an alien artefact:
<p>the evidence in this particular case is that there are six peculiar facts. And one of these facts is that it deviated from an orbit shaped by gravity while not showing any of the telltale signs of cometary outgassing activity. So we don’t see the gas around it, we don’t see the cometary tail. It has an extreme shape that we have never seen before in either asteroids or comets. We know that we couldn’t detect any heat from it and that it’s much more shiny, by a factor of ten, than a typical asteroid or comet. All of these are facts. I am following the facts.

Last year, I wrote a paper about cosmology where there was an unusual result, which showed that perhaps the gas in the universe was much colder than we expected. And so we postulated that maybe dark matter has some property that makes the gas cooler. And nobody cares, nobody is worried about it, no one says it is not science. Everyone says that is mainstream—to consider dark matter, a substance we have never seen. That’s completely fine. It doesn’t bother anyone.

But when you mention the possibility that there could be equipment out there that is coming from another civilization—which, to my mind, is much less speculative, because we have already sent things into space—then that is regarded as unscientific…

…Given the data that we have, I am putting this on the table, and it bothers people to even think about that, just like it bothered the Church in the days of Galileo to even think about the possibility that the Earth moves around the sun. Prejudice is based on experience in the past. The problem is that it prevents you from making discoveries. If you put the probability at zero per cent of an object coming into the solar system, you would never find it!</p>

Weirdly compelling. If it comes back... everyone hide.
science  astronomy  space  alien  Oumuamua 
3 days ago
Facebook’s own employees appear to be leaving 5-star Amazon reviews for the Portal camera • The Verge
Chaim Gartenberg:
<p>Facebook’s Portal smart displays have had an uphill battle, trying to convince people to willingly give the notoriously security-lax social media company another avenue into their homes. But it seems some people are pretty happy with their Portals: Facebook employees, who were just caught leaving five-star reviews for their own product on Amazon.

Credit for spotting this incredible coincidence <a href="https://twitter.com/kevinroose/status/1085947102818119681">goes to NYT tech columnist Kevin Roose</a>.

But it’s not just a coincidence. Facebook executive Andrew “Boz” Bosworth has seemly confirmed on Twitter that they’re indeed employees of the company, even though he says the company didn’t encourage this behavior.

As Roose notes in his tweet, at least three of the roughly 100 five-star reviews for the Facebook Portal all match the names of specific Facebook employees…

…the rules at Amazon are clear: the online retailer bans “Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your (or your relative’s, close friend’s, business associate’s, or employer’s) products or services,” which this would definitely fall under.

According to Facebook’s Bosworth, the reviews were “neither coordinated nor directed from the company,” noting additionally that when Portal first launched, Facebook actively encouraged employees internally to not review products it sells on Amazon, and that it would ask those employees to remove their reviews.</p>
facebook  amazon  portal 
3 days ago
Google buys undisclosed smartwatch technology from Fossil for $40m, includes some personnel • Android Police
Ryne Hager:
<p>Google's wearables platform hasn't been as successful as Android itself, but that isn't stopping Google from investing in it further. Today Fossil has announced that Google is acquiring undetermined "smartwatch technology" it is currently developing for a cool $40 million. Together with the IP acquisition, Google is also picking up part of Fossil's research and development team, with the sale set to close this month.

Precise details aren't certain, and we're as curious as you are when it comes to the nature of this new technology, still allegedly in development. All we know is Fossil and Google seem to think it's a pretty big deal. "We’ve built and advanced a technology that has the potential to improve upon our existing platform of smartwatches." said Greg McKelvey, Executive Vice President, and Chief Strategy and Digital Officer at Fossil Group. "Together with Google, our innovation partner, we’ll continue to unlock growth in wearables."

Still, this move is at least partly reminiscent of Google's HTC's hardware team acquisition in 2017-2018. Perhaps in-house wearable hardware may finally be in the pipeline?</p>

It sure looks that way. Indicating that Android Wear - well, WearOS - has not been a success in the market.
google  fossil  smartwatch 
3 days ago
Zimbabwe cracks down violently on fuel protesters • Financial Times
Joseph Cotterill:
<p>In Moscow, Mr Mnangagwa defended the fuel price increase as necessary. “It will take time for things to settle and results to be shown,” he said. At the same time his government unleashed the fiercest crackdown since the July election.

On Tuesday Zimbabwean social media users said they were unable to access WhatsApp, Twitter and other services. NetBlocks, an international civil society group, said the shutdown widened to a full internet blackout later on Tuesday.

On Monday police fired tear gas and live rounds at protesters in Harare, Bulawayo, the second-largest city, and other urban areas as trade unions called a three-day national shutdown over the fuel price rise. Some businesses were looted. Activists confirmed dozens were injured in the violence.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, an NGO, said its members treated several victims for gunfire wounds.

“This is a polarising set of actions by the state. They are faced with a situation they do not know how to control at the economic level,” Piers Pigou, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said.

The US dollar is the main benchmark currency used in Zimbabwe since 2008 but there are crippling shortages of the currency, throttling the ability to pay for imports.</p>

Notice the shutting down of the internet - the first move now for autocracies seeking to squash conflict. Poor Zimbabwe: it never finds its way out of the mess. (Mnangagwa's visit to Moscow will either be to get aid money or get buyers for produce.)
3 days ago
Microsoft pledges $500m for affordable housing in Seattle area • The New York Times
<p>Microsoft’s money represents the most ambitious effort by a tech company to directly address the inequality that has spread in areas where the industry is concentrated, particularly on the West Coast. It will fund construction for homes affordable not only to the company’s own non-tech workers, but also for teachers, firefighters and other middle- and low-income residents.

Microsoft’s move comes less than a year after Amazon successfully pushed to block a new tax in Seattle that would have made large businesses pay a per-employee tax to fund homeless services and the construction of affordable housing. The company said the tax created a disincentive to create jobs. Microsoft, which is based in nearby Redmond, Wash., and has few employees who work in the city, did not take a position on the tax.

The debate about the rapid growth of the tech industry and the inequality that often follows has spilled across the country, particularly as Amazon, with billions of taxpayer subsidies, announced plans to build major campuses in Long Island City, Queens, and Arlington, Va., that would employ a total of at least 50,000 people. In New York, elected officials and residents have raised concerns that Amazon has not made commitments to support affordable housing.

Microsoft has been at the vanguard of warning about the potential negative effects of technology, like privacy or the unintended consequences of artificial intelligence. Executives hope the housing efforts will spur other companies to follow its lead.</p>

Very laudable. Will Amazon follow?
microsoft  housing  seattle 
3 days ago
Tim Harford: how behavioural economics helped kick my phone addiction • Financial Times
Tim Harford cut back on his digital use, starting last November:
<p>The big question was: what to do with my social media accounts? Facebook was simply too troublesome to delete, especially since my personal account is connected in opaque ways to a “Tim Harford” page maintained by my publishers. But I never had Facebook on my phone and after briefly unfollowing or muting all my contacts, I had no problem staying logged out.

My Twitter habit is more of a problem. I have 145,000 followers, gently persuaded over 10 years and 40,000 tweets to follow me — that’s about 10 books’ worth, or 20 years of weekly columns. This alone was a reminder of just what an effort Twitter could be; but deleting the account felt like the nuclear option.

So what could I do? Two years ago, I hid the “mentions” column so that I don’t see what other people say about me on Twitter. (Much is friendly, some hurtful and almost all superfluous.) Yet I was still wasting a lot of time noodling around there for no obvious gain. So I deleted the smartphone app and on November 23 2018, I tweeted that I was planning to “get off Twitter for a bit”. By a pleasing coincidence, the last person I interacted with before logging out was the man who named the endowment effect, Richard Thaler.

But time for what? One of the most important — and misunderstood — ideas in economics is that of opportunity cost. Everything we do is an implicit decision not to do something else. If you decide to go to an evening lecture, you’re also deciding not to be at home reading a bedtime story. If you spend half an hour browsing news websites, that’s half an hour you can’t spend watching football. Those 40,000 tweets cost me something, but I am not sure what and I certainly didn’t ponder the cost while tweeting them.</p>

Well worth it for the explanation of this paragraph:
<p>Fifteen years ago, I would have struggled to explain this sequence of events to my wife. But nowadays, no explanation is really needed. We all know how swiftly and easily “When will it stop raining?” can lead to “What do Tomasz Schafernaker’s nipples look like?”</p>
economics  digital  smartphone 
3 days ago
YouTube says Tommy Robinson will no longer be able to make money from his videos • Buzzfeed
Mark di Stefano:
<p>On Thursday, YouTube told BuzzFeed News that it had suspended advertising on Robinson's channel — boasting more than 270,000 subscribers — for violating the company's advertising guidelines.

"We have suspended ads on Tommy Robinson’s YouTube channel as it breaches our advertising policies," a YouTube spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Earlier this week, Robinson uploaded a photo of a computer screen to Instagram, which appeared to show YouTube taking action against a recent video. According to the message, YouTube had "placed restrictions on how the video will be shown".

"We believe in the principles of free speech, even when the speech is unpopular or potentially offensive to some viewers," the statement from The YouTube Team read. "However, YouTube doesn't allow hate speech or content that promotes or incites violence."

In the 23-minute recap video of 2018, Robinson rails against "press-titutes" and "left-wing big tech platforms in Silicon Valley", and shows footage that he claims is of him punching a migrant on an Italian street.</p>

YouTube, please explain how he breaches your advertising policies but not your speech policies.
youtube  fascist 
3 days ago
The malign incompetence of the British ruling class • The New York Times
Pankaj Mishra:
<p>From David Cameron, who recklessly gambled his country’s future on a referendum in order to isolate some whingers in his Conservative party, to the opportunistic Boris Johnson, who jumped on the Brexit bandwagon to secure the prime ministerial chair once warmed by his role model Winston Churchill, and the top-hatted, theatrically retro Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose fund management company has set up an office within the European Union even as he vehemently scorns it, the British political class has offered to the world an astounding spectacle of mendacious, intellectually limited hustlers.

Even a columnist for The Economist, an organ of the British elite, now professes dismay over “Oxford chums” who coast through life on “bluff rather than expertise.” “Britain,” the magazine belatedly lamented last month, “is governed by a self-involved clique that rewards group membership above competence and self-confidence above expertise.” In Brexit, the British “chumocracy,” the column declared, “has finally met its Waterloo.”

It is actually more accurate, for those invoking British history, to say that partition — the British Empire’s ruinous exit strategy — has come home. In a grotesque irony, borders imposed in 1921 on Ireland, England’s first colony, have proved to be the biggest stumbling block for the English Brexiteers chasing imperial virility. Moreover, Britain itself faces the prospect of partition if Brexit, a primarily English demand, is achieved and Scottish nationalists renew their call for independence.

It is a measure of English Brexiteers’ political acumen that they were initially oblivious to the volatile Irish question and contemptuous of the Scottish one.</p>

Mishra is the author, most recently, of “Age of Anger: A History of the Present.” There's an undertone - or perhaps overtone - of utter rage in this piece which is echoed by many watching the incompetent buffoons shamble towards a trade cliff edge. (Boris Johnson suggested this week he knows more about the car industry than the head of British vehicle maker Jaguar Land Rover.)
india  ireland  pakistan  brexit 
3 days ago
Say hello, new logo • The Official Slack Blog
<p>Firstly, it’s not change for the sake of change. That said, change is inevitable, and something to be embraced, etc. etc., but that’s not a good enough reason to change a logo. A good reason to change a logo is that it’s not doing the job you want it to do—and because a simpler, more distinctive evolution of it could do that job better.  

Our first logo was created before the company launched. It was distinctive, and playful, and the octothorpe (or pound sign, or hash, or whatever name by which you know it) resembled the same character that you see in front of channels in our product.

It was also extremely easy to get wrong. It was 11 different colors—and if placed on any color other than white, or at the wrong angle (instead of the precisely prescribed 18º rotation), or with the colors tweaked wrong, it looked terrible. It pained us. Just look:

<img src="https://slackhq.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2019-01_BrandRefresh_slack-brand-refresh_01-bad-logos.png" width="100%" />

Simply awful.

We developed different versions of the logo to compensate, which worked well for different purposes. But that meant that every app button looked different, and each one in turn was different from the logo.</p>

This new logo is getting kicked up and down Twitter - <a href="https://daringfireball.net/2019/01/pentagram_slack_range_of_possibilities">John Gruber's critique</a> is a good example - but I think in two months people will struggle to remember the old one. It was always the same with newspaper design: people hated the new design. A week later, they couldn't remember the old design. I saw this happen again and again.
logo  design  slack 
3 days ago
An astonishing 773 million records exposed in monster breach • Wired
Brian Barrett:
<p>The data set was <a href="https://www.troyhunt.com/the-773-million-record-collection-1-data-reach/">first reported by security researcher Troy Hunt</a>, who maintains Have I Been Pwned, a way to search whether your own email or password has been compromised by a breach at any point. (Trick question: It has.) The so-called Collection #1 is the largest breach in Hunt's menagerie, and it’s not particularly close.

If anything, the above numbers belie the real volume of the breach, as they reflect Hunt’s effort to clean up the data set to account for duplicates and to strip out unusable bits. In raw form, it comprises 2.7 billion rows of email addresses and passwords, including over a billion unique combinations of email addresses and passwords.

The trove appeared briefly on MEGA, the cloud service, and persisted on what Hunt refers to as “a popular hacking forum.” It sat in a folder called Collection #1, which contained over 12,000 files that weigh in at over 87 gigabytes. While it’s difficult to confirm exactly where all that info came from, it appears to be something of a breach of breaches; that is to say, it claims to aggregate over 2,000 leaked databases that contain passwords whose protective hashing has been cracked.

“It just looks like a completely random collection of sites purely to maximize the number of credentials available to hackers,” Hunt tells WIRED. “There’s no obvious patterns, just maximum exposure.”</p>

It's worth using Hunt's Pwned Passwords service to check whether your own email/other account has been hacked. (In passing: Android users who don't use two-factor authentication must have more to lose from being hacked, because their Gmail sign-in also lets someone set up a new device with their credentials).

Personally, my email password isn't in there. Nor are other family members'. How about you?
hacking  email 
3 days ago
North Korean hackers infiltrate Chile's ATM network after Skype job interview • ZDNet
Catalin Cimpanu:
<p> an investigation conducted by Chilean tech news site trendTIC revealed that the financial firm was the victim of a serious cyber-attack, and not something that could be easily dismissed.

According to reporters, the source of the hack was identified as a LinkedIn ad for a developer position at another company to which one of the Redbanc employees applied.

The hiring company, believed to be a front for the Lazarus Group operators who realized they baited a big fish, approached the Redbanc employee for an interview, which they conducted in Spanish via a Skype call.

trendTIC reports that during this interview, the Redbanc employee was asked to download, install, and run a file named ApplicationPDF.exe, a program that would help with the recruitment process and generate a standard application form.

But according to an analysis of this executable by Vitali Kremez, director of research at Flashpoint, the file downloaded and installed PowerRatankba, a malware strain previously linked to Lazarus Group hacks, according to a Proofpoint report published in December 2017.

The malware, Kremez said, collected information about the Redbanc employee's work PC and sent it back to a remote server. Collected information included the PC's username, hardware and OS details, proxy settings, a list of current processes, if the infected host had RPC and SMB open file shares, and the status of its RDP connection.</p>

North Korea isn't changing its spots. Still focussed on nuclear weapons and hacking as its two most important strategic strengths. The Lazarus Group was behind the Sony Pictures hack in October 2014, as I wrote in my book Cyber Wars.
northkorea  hacking  lazarus 
4 days ago
Facebook's '10 year challenge' is just a harmless meme—right? • WIRED
Kate O'Neill wondered about that "my picture side by side ten years apart" meme: could it be a secret attempt to train a facial recognition
<p>Is it bad that someone could use your Facebook photos to train a facial recognition algorithm? Not necessarily; in a way, it’s inevitable. Still, the broader takeaway here is that we need to approach our interactions with technology mindful of the data we generate and how it can be used at scale. I’ll offer three plausible use cases for facial recognition: one respectable, one mundane, and one risky.

The benign scenario: Facial recognition technology, specifically age progression capability, could help with finding missing kids. Last year police in New Delhi reported tracking down nearly 3,000 missing kids in just four days using facial recognition technology. If the kids had been missing a while, they would likely look a little different from the last known photo of them, so a reliable age progression algorithm could be genuinely helpful here.

Facial recognition's potential is mostly mundane: Age recognition is probably most useful for targeted advertising. Ad displays that incorporate cameras or sensors and can adapt their messaging for age-group demographics (as well as other visually recognizable characteristics and discernible contexts) will likely be commonplace before very long. That application isn’t very exciting, but stands to make advertising more relevant. But as that data flows downstream and becomes enmeshed with our location tracking, response and purchase behavior, and other signals, it could bring about some genuinely creepy interactions.</p>

She then goes into more detail about the scenarios. Very interesting.
facialrecognition  facebook 
4 days ago
Robot hotel loses love for robots • WSJ
Alastair Gale and Takashi Mochizuki:
<p>The hotel launched with around 80 robots. The initial positive reaction encouraged it to add many more for guests’ entertainment, such as a team of human and dog robot dancers in the lobby.

That’s when problems started to pile up, said the hotel’s general manager, Takeyoshi Oe.

Toshifumi Nakamura, a former hotel guest, recalled that about half the puppy-size lobby dancers appeared to be broken or in need of charging when he visited in mid-2016. Mr. Oe said the hotel increased overtime for the human staff to cope with the additional workload.

Guests became frustrated when the hotel’s robots failed to keep pace with Siri or Alexa. One laggard was the robot assistant in each room named “Churi” because of its tulip-shaped head. The doll-like device can manage simple hello-how-are-you type conversations and adjust room heating and lighting in response to voice commands. But some guests quizzed her in vain about things like the opening time of the nearby theme park.

Atsushi Nishiguchi, a guest at the hotel in 2017, said that after an irate exchange with Churi he decided to phone the hotel reception, only to find there was no phone in the room because the assistant was intended to handle guests’ requests. He used his cellphone to call the main hotel number to reach a human worker.

Mr. Ishikawa, the heavy snorer, said he wasn’t sure how to turn Churi off. “She got a bad reputation,” said Hideo Sawada, president of the travel company that owns the hotel. Churi was among the robots removed.

Similarly, the hotel’s main concierge robot was axed because guests peppered it with questions it couldn’t answer, such as flight schedules and tourist attractions in nearby cities. These days, a human staff member is usually available to answer questions in the lobby.</p>
japan  robots  hotel 
4 days ago
Ocean warming is accelerating faster than thought, new research finds • The New York Times
Kendra Pierre-Louis:
<p>A new analysis, <a href="http://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6423/128.summary">published last Thursday in the journal Science</a>, found that the oceans are heating up 40% faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago. The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.

“2018 is going to be the warmest year on record for the Earth’s oceans,” said Zeke Hausfather, an energy systems analyst at the independent climate research group Berkeley Earth and an author of the study. “As 2017 was the warmest year, and 2016 was the warmest year.”

As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a critical buffer. They have slowed the effects of climate change by absorbing 93% of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases humans pump into the atmosphere.

“If the ocean wasn’t absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land would heat up much faster than it is right now,” said Malin L. Pinsky, an associate professor in the department of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University. “In fact, the ocean is saving us from massive warming right now.”

But the surging water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.</p>

Filed under "things that are more important than Brexit".
climate  sea  temperature 
4 days ago
Did the Wall Street Journal fall for a prank directed at Laura Loomer? • Right Wing Watch
Jared Holt:
<p>After Loomer’s handcuffing stunt [where she handcuffed herself to Twitter's HQ after being banned from it for repeated violations], Nathan Bernard and his associates, who say they seek to rile up and expose right-wing figures through a media operation they’ve dubbed “Bernard Media,” got to work devising a prank in which they would pose as a Twitter employee named Brad and seek to convince Loomer that “Brad” could help get her account reinstated.

As the prank wore on and Loomer continued communicating with Bernard and his friends, they devised a plan to see how hard it would be to play off her anti-Muslim attitudes and convince her that Muslim groups were directly responsible for her suspension. Since December, Bernard and his friends exchanged hundreds of text messages with Loomer and spoke with her on the phone for nearly a half-hour, a conversation in which they offered deadpan confirmations of all conspiracy theories Loomer suggested to them about Muslim groups’ responsibility for her suspension.

They even sent her a fabricated appointment calendar they said showed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s schedule, and it included a notation for a meeting with CAIR on a date just days before Loomer’s suspension from the platform.

When the Wall Street Journal published a story last week in which reporters repeated Loomer’s claims about what she said was CAIR’s role in her Twitter suspension, Bernard and his associates shared details of their prank with Right Wing Watch.</p>

I really hope these guys don't try this again. They'll never pull it back: Loomer will insist till the moon dissolves that it was true - for example that she was getting similar stuff from *other* sources - and the WSJ reporters aren't going to retract easily. And even if they do, the crazy right-wing sites such as Breitbart will never retract it. That's a win for Loomer. Thanks, pranksters.
twitter  prank  internet 
4 days ago
Apple talking to private Medicare plans about subsidizing Apple Watch • CNBC
Christina Farr:
<p>Apple has been in talks with at least three private Medicare plans about subsidizing the Apple Watch for people over 65 to use as a health tracker, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The insurers are exploring ways to subsidize the cost of the device for those who can’t afford the $279 price tag, which is the starting cost of an older model. The latest version of the device, which includes the most extensive health features including fall detection and an electrocardiogram to measure the heart’s rhythm, retails for a minimum of $399, which many seniors could benefit from but can’t afford.

The talks have not resulted in any official deals just yet, the people said. Apple has paid a visit to several of the largest insurers in the market, as well as some smaller, venture-backed Medicare Advantage plans…

…Health experts say that seniors are an ideal market for the Apple Watch, which has introduced features that can be used by anyone, but are most beneficial to seniors, including fall detection and cardiac arrhythmia monitoring. It also makes sense as a business model for insurers, as seniors are a particularly lucrative market.</p>

Some VCs <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-watch-future-2018-9">suggested</a> to Business Insider that appealing to an older demographic would "tarnish [Apple's] cool, fashion-adjacent image". Somehow, I don't think so.
applewatch  health  insurance 
4 days ago
United Neuroscience’s Alzheimer vaccine just might work • Bloomberg
Ashlee Vance:
<p>United Neuroscience Inc. hasn’t solved Alzheimer’s yet, nor has it claimed to. But previously unreported results from a small, recent United clinical trial show that 96% of patients responded, without serious side effects, to the Alzheimer’s vaccine the company calls UB-311. The patients demonstrated improved brain function and showed a reduction in the protein plaque gumming up their neurons, the company’s report says. “We are doing better than the placebo on all these things,” says chief executive officer Mei Mei Hu. “We can’t make any claims yet, but we’re pointing in all the right directions.”

While scientists aren’t sure what causes or exacerbates Alzheimer’s, there are several prime suspects: amyloid, a group of proteins that build up in the body over time and clump together in ways that wreak havoc on the brain; tau, another family of proteins with similar issues; and inflammation in general. United’s vaccine stimulates the patient’s own immune system to attack amyloid, which some researchers believe to be the leading cause. The vaccine’s job is to slow the proteins’ clumping and, if possible, reverse some damage and restore brain function.</p>

Promising; this is a phase 2 trial, so the next move if this is confirmed would be phase 3 - full human testing. After that, it would aim to get on the market, if it can be shown to work.
alzheimer  drug  trial 
4 days ago
Federal prosecutors pursuing criminal case against Huawei for alleged theft of trade secrets • WSJ
Dan Strumpf, Nicole Hong and Aruna Viswanatha:
<p>Federal prosecutors are pursuing a criminal investigation of China’s Huawei Technologies Co. for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. business partners, including the technology behind a robotic device that T-Mobile US Inc. used to test smartphones, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigation grew in part out of civil lawsuits against Huawei, including <a href="https://www.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/Tmobile_vs_Huawei_9-2-2014.pdf?mod=article_inline">one in which a Seattle jury found Huawei liable</a> for misappropriating robotic technology from T-Mobile’s Bellevue, Wash., lab, the people familiar with the matter said. The probe is at an advanced stage and could lead to an indictment soon, they said.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

A Huawei spokesman declined to comment. The company contested the T-Mobile case, but conceded that two employees acted improperly.</p>

US feds starting the year as they mean to go on: by finding old civil cases and seeing whether they can hang a criminal case around it.
huawei  us 
4 days ago
Don’t abandon sunscreen just yet • Slate
Shannon Palus, following up on that surprising story (linked earlier this week) which suggested that we shouldn't use sunscreen because it could lead to vitamin D deficiency:
<p>even sunscreen-adherents end up spending a non-negligible amount of their time outdoors uncovered, allowing Vitamin D in. And the amount of sun exposure you need to get Vitamin D is actually pretty minimal: experts advocating sun exposure as the best way to absorb the vitamin say that you should spend on the order of 10 to 30 minutes three times a week with your arms and legs exposed during midday in the summer for ideal exposure (it’s impossible to give an exact amount, as that will vary by location and skin tone, and yes, as Jacobson notes, it seems possible this recommendation is geared toward light-skinned folks). But even considering that a low estimate, it’s an extremely easy level of exposure if you’re spending a day outside—even if you wear sunscreen.

Jacobson takes pains throughout his piece to acknowledge that his thesis is supported by a new, small line of research that is regarded with skepticism within the dermatology community, which is all the more reason not to take the piece as advice on how to live your daily life, at least not yet. But it’s not clear that some of the main pieces of evidence for this rogue take are even correct. For example, he strangely evokes the health of “our ancestors” who “lived outdoors in tropical regions and ran around half naked” without noting the improvements in lifespan since, despite that being an incredibly relevant factor to cancer incidence.

Jacobson’s article does contain an important truth: Sunscreen isn’t a one-size-fits-all prescription.
Some of the more rigorous research seems like weak support, too. </p>

I'm glad this article appeared, because an Overspill reader with a lot of expertise in this subject (who doesn't want to be identified, but pointed me to this) had suggested that the original might be overstating the case. "Having been a melanoma researcher, I wear sunscreen every day," in their words. So, your decision. But the scientists aren't moved at present.
cancer  skin  vitamind  sunscreen 
4 days ago
2018 E-scooter findings report • The City of Portland, Oregon
Portland obliged scooter companies to share data with it during a trial period:
<p>Tens of thousands of Portlanders and visitors alike enthusiastically embraced scooters. During the four-month period, people took 700,369 trips covering 801,887 miles on 2,043 e-scooters. Trip data analysis and survey data revealed more about ridership trends:

A majority of Portlanders viewed e-scooters positively. In a representative citywide poll by DHM Research, 62 percent of all Portlanders viewed e-scooters positively at the end of the pilot. Support was even higher among Portlanders under 35 (71%), from people of color (74 percent), and those with incomes below $30,000 (66%).

Portlanders primarily used e-scooters for transportation. 71% of Portlanders reported that they most frequently used e-scooters to get to a destination, while only a third of respondents (28.6%) said they most frequently used e-scooters for recreation or exercise. 

E-scooters replaced driving and ride-hailing trips. 34% of Portland riders and 48% of visitors took an e-scooter instead of driving a personal car or using Uber, Lyft, or taxi.

E-scooter users preferred riding on low-speed streets and in bike lanes. Many of the highest utilized streets were part of Portland’s bikeway network. Staff observations also found lower rates of sidewalk riding on low-speed streets or those with dedicated space for non-motorized users. Users ranked bike lanes as their preferred road type, and sidewalks last.

E-scooters attracted new people to active transportation. 74% of local users reported never riding BIKETOWN and 42% never bicycling.</p>

Then there's the bit about injuries. That's worth reading. As is the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/15/technology/electric-scooters-portland-oregon.html">NY Times piece on the analysis</a>.
scooter  portland 
4 days ago
SEC brings charges in Edgar hacking case • Securities and Exchange Commission
<p>The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against nine defendants for participating in a previously disclosed scheme to hack into the SEC’s EDGAR system [for distributing price-sensitive news and other data] and extract nonpublic information to use for illegal trading. The SEC charged a Ukrainian hacker, six individual traders in California, Ukraine, and Russia, and two entities. The hacker and some of the traders were also involved in a similar scheme to hack into newswire services and trade on information that had not yet been released to the public. The SEC charged the hacker and other traders for that conduct in 2015 (see here, here and here).

The SEC’s complaint alleges that after hacking the newswire services, Ukrainian hacker Oleksandr Ieremenko turned his attention to EDGAR and, using deceptive hacking techniques, gained access in 2016. Ieremenko extracted EDGAR files containing nonpublic earnings results. The information was passed to individuals who used it to trade in the narrow window between when the files were extracted from SEC systems and when the companies released the information to the public. In total, the traders traded before at least 157 earnings releases from May to October 2016 and generated at least $4.1m in illegal profits.</p>

Now *that's* audacious.
sec  hacking 
4 days ago
Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’ • The Guardian
Damian Carrington:
<p>“We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.”

His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished. The most likely culprit by far is global warming.

“It was just astonishing,” Lister said. “Before, both the sticky ground plates and canopy plates would be covered with insects. You’d be there for hours picking them off the plates at night. But now the plates would come down after 12 hours in the tropical forest with a couple of lonely insects trapped or none at all.”

“It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” he said. “We began to realise this is terrible – a very, very disturbing result.”

…Since Lister’s first visits to Luquillo, other scientists had predicted that tropical insects, having evolved in a very stable climate, would be much more sensitive to climate warming. “If you go a little bit past the thermal optimum for tropical insects, their fitness just plummets,” he said.

As the data came in, the predictions were confirmed in startling fashion. “The number of hot spells, temperatures above 29C, have increased tremendously,” he said. “It went from zero in the 1970s up to something like 44% of the days.” Factors important elsewhere in the world, such as destruction of habitat and pesticide use, could not explain the plummeting insect populations in Luquillo, which has long been a protected area.</p>

You think Brexit (or Trump) is bad? The collapse of the insect population is far worse. This is an emergency.
insects  globalwarming 
5 days ago
‘I don’t trust the government to look after me or my dog’: meet the Brexit stockpilers • The Guardian
Sam Wollaston:
<p>In Cambridge, Diane says she is also stockpiling, though she doesn’t want to go into too much detail. “I’m a bit cautious about being presented as an idiot who has a cupboard full of stuff,” she says. She’s OK about using her surname, though: she is Diane Coyle, OBE, FACSS, the economist, Bennett professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge, former adviser to the Treasury, vice-chair of the BBC Trust, member of the Competition Commission, winner of the Indigo prize … in short, really not an idiot.

“The point about supply chains,” she explains, “is that the things you buy in the supermarket today were on the road last night. Supermarkets now don’t have warehouses full of stuff. If we have a no deal and the delays go up even by 12 hours – although I see there’s a new report saying it is going to be much more – then things will stop being put on the shelves. They will run out. And it’s not just stuff we buy from the EU, and it’s not just fresh produce – it’s quite a lot of things.”

Coyle knows that she can’t get by without a cuppa and doesn’t want to run out of teabags or coffee because she didn’t get any in before a no-deal exit. “It’s things that matter to me, that we import, and it’s a bit of insurance.”

…Does she really expect empty shelves this time? “I don’t know – it’s completely uncertain. There are serious people saying the chances of a no-deal exit are significant. And even if they are only 10%, and it’s 90% we’ll have a deal, why would you not have that extra bit of insurance? It’s perfectly sensible.”</p>

Written before Tuesday's vote, but everyone - literally everyone - knew that Tuesday's vote would go against May.

If Diane Coyle thinks it's an issue… that's concerning. (She's married to Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC's technology correspondent, a former industrial correspondent, who also knows this stuff.)
brexit  stockpiling 
5 days ago
Brave browser will pay you to view ads that respect your privacy • CNet
Stephen Shankland:
<p>ads and ad trackers take their toll on computing power, battery life and network usage. And then some ads are just plain bad. About one in 200 ads is a form of malware, and more than one in 100 video ads is fraudulent, according to December report from security company Confiant.

Sure, we could pay our way to a healthier internet. Spending money on paywalls and subscriptions is a great way to get online video, news and music without ads' downsides. But honestly, how many services are you going to pay for on top of your phone bill, broadband, Netflix, HBO Now, Spotify and Amazon Prime? We don't generally bristle at ads in magazines and newspapers, and some of us even tune into the Super Bowl to watch them.

The first phase of Brave's ad system won't actually pay anybody anything, but instead will just get the system on its feet. Actual payments are scheduled to arrive in several weeks with the release of Brave 1.0. When it kicks in, you'll get 70% of the ad revenue. Brave collects the rest. A slider will let you pick how many ads to see each day, from one to 20. Just seeing an ad generates a bit of revenue, but clicking on it generates more.

It's an opt-in system. So unless you enable it, you'll just keep getting the regular ad-blocking Brave.

"If enough opt in, that could become the main revenue of the company," Eich said, adding that he thinks it's possible that 40% of users could sign up.</p>

Publishers are furious about this, and you can see why: it's adblocking and then Brave inserts its own ads. Where's the money for the publishers who provide the content? Meanwhile, Brave will track you, just like all the other ad systems, to serve you "relevant" ads.

But I also think Eich's hope for 40% signing up is wildly optimistic because it's going to be done with cryptocurrency. Ain't nobody got time for that.
brave  browser 
5 days ago
Canadian startup North made Alexa smart glasses that actually look like glasses • WIRED
Lauren Goode:
<p>Focals run on the company’s custom software, built on top of Android. The software interface is simple, almost primitive, in its early stages. Download the Focals app and pair it with your glasses to see the weather, receive and respond to text messages, view your calendar appointments, and call an Uber. Another feature, called Go, relies on databases from Mapbox and Foursquare to either guide you to a specific location, or create a walking experience based on nearby points of interest. You navigate all of this by nudging and pressing on the tiny joystick on the ring.

You can also use Alexa. Long-pressing on the joystick summons Alexa, which hears your voice commands and responds to you through the glasses. The speaker and microphone are built into the right arm of the Focals, along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. You can ask Alexa on Focals to do nearly anything that the virtual assistant can do on another Alexa-equipped devices, except it won’t play long strings of audio, and it won’t show you videos.

My second experience trying on Focals was dramatically different from the first. The glasses still weren’t custom-fit to my face, so I sometimes felt cross-eyed while I tried to focus on the floating interface. And as much as North refers to the light reflection as a hologram, there isn't any volume or depth to the image being projected into your eye. It's a flat image, one that lands somewhere between the chin and the shoulder of a person you might be talking to.

But I started to get a better sense of what North hopes to accomplish with these anti-smart-glasses glasses.</p>

Iterate, iterate, iterate. Some year soon it's going to be right.
smartglasses  augmentedreality  ar 
5 days ago
Consumerism in crisis as millennials stay away from shops • The Conversation
Brendan Canavan is senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Huddersfield:
<p>Consumer studies academics have been picking up on changing habits for a number of years. This includes an increased ambivalence towards consumption itself: people are buying less often and less overall. This is particularly true in the clothing industry, where research shows that millenials are especially unforthcoming – even after you factor in the shift to online retail. A lack of bricks and mortar did not, for instance, prevent online fashion retailer Asos from shocking the City with a profit warning shortly before Christmas.

The American car industry is another harbinger of generational change: sales are stalling because younger people seem less interested in ownership. The average age of a new car buyer in the US was 50 in 2015. Or to give one more example, witness Apple’s recent trading problems. People are not only opting for cheaper smartphones, but they are keeping them for longer. If the world’s first company to pass the trillion dollar value mark is showing signs of struggling, we ought to take note.

Some of this shift in consumption may be ideological. Researchers have suggested that environmental concerns might be pushing some people to consume less. Economic drivers are also probably involved. Since the 2008 financial crash, for instance, alternative consumer communities have emerged. They are more collaborative and self-sufficient; doing things among themselves rather than buying in from outside. The rise of the swapping movement is a good example.

Yet more broadly, lifestyle changes are seeing us moving away from the consumer model which has dominated post-war capitalist economies. Buying more and more things as a source of identity and meaning seems to be gradually but consistently falling out of favour.</p>

Huddersfield is one of the places where retail outlets are closing. Not even students are taking part.
retail  consumerism 
5 days ago
DuckDuckGo taps Apple Maps to power private search results • Spread Privacy
<p>We're excited to announce that map and address-related searches on DuckDuckGo for mobile and desktop are now powered by Apple's MapKit JS framework, giving you a valuable combination of mapping and privacy. As one of the first global companies using Apple MapKit JS, we can now offer users improved address searches, additional visual features, enhanced satellite imagery, and continually updated maps already in use on billions of Apple devices worldwide.

With this updated integration, Apple Maps are now available both embedded within our private search results for relevant queries, as well as available from the "Maps" tab on any search result page.</p>

DDG is still miniscule compared to Google, but it's profitable and not going away any time soon. This is a clever way to enhance its "privacy" story.
apple  duckduckgo  location  maps 
5 days ago
CES 2019: a show report • Learning By Shipping
Steve Sinofsky tramped around so you don't have to:
<p>There are three big developments that are enabling the vast majority of scenarios on display at CES 2019:

Any screen/speaker can play any streaming media. Whether via casting or cross-platform runtimes, any device can now connect to a streaming audio or video service and display or play content. The hardest problem of the 2000s was actually getting a signal from one place to another — video over CAT5, whole house audio, or craziness like wireless HDMI were all precursors to the wifi/cloud/processor based streaming we experience today. By the way, it is just as amazing that everything being said applies as much to a house as it does to a moving car!

Any device can be turned on/off/controlled by voice. Seemingly out of nowhere, everything can be controlled by shouting at it. Our homes can now be populated by a whole new family of digital friends Alexa, Siri, Bixby, and OK Google [sic]. Again, it was just a few years ago that every single device had a different way, if any way at all, to control it from another part of the house. By the way, it is just as amazing that everything being said applies as much to controlling within a home as it does to controlling from the other side of the earth. Plus these virtual assistants can be helpful in all sorts of other ways.

Any device can have a radio and connect to any other device with a radio. Every device is now a radio. Radios can be WiFi, GSM, or Bluetooth. The ability to have a radio and power it has become so cost and energy efficient, one can hardly find anything that doesn’t have a radio in it. Even the cheapest TV remote controls are now RF solving one of the most annoying problems of the 1990s which was how to avoid “displaying” all your AV gear (gear which no longer exists). By the way, it is just as amazing that everything being said applies to devices plugged into a wall as it does to devices that just sit there waiting to come to life and connect when needed. It wasn’t that long ago that a home alarm system required running wires from every door and window to power those sensors which are now powered by coin-batteries for years at a time.</p>
ces  infrastructure 
5 days ago
Happy 18th birthday, Wikipedia: let’s celebrate the Internet’s good grownup • The Washington Post
Stephen Harrison:
<p>YouTube Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki announced a plan last March to pair misleading conspiracy videos with links to corresponding articles from Wikipedia. Facebook has also released a feature using Wikipedia’s content to provide users more information about the publication source for articles in their feed.

Wikipedia’s rise is driven by a crucial difference in values that separates it from its peers in the top 10 websites: On Wikipedia, truth trumps self-expression.

Last year, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales told NPR that Wikipedia has largely avoided the “fake news” problem, raising the question of what the encyclopedia does differently than other popular websites. As Brian Feldman suggested in New York magazine, perhaps it’s simply the willingness within the Wikipedia community to delete. If a user posts bad information on Wikipedia, other users are authorized and empowered to remove that unencyclopedic content. It’s a striking contrast to Twitter, which allows lies and inflammatory statements to remain on its platform for years.

The Wikipedia community has also embraced automated technologies to protect the integrity of the encyclopedia. While YouTube scans videos for potential content violations using its Content ID database, the community of Wikipedia editors have created editing bots that go further by making determinations about content quality. </p>

This is the thing that makes Wikipedia so necessary today.
5 days ago
Feds can't force you to unlock your iPhone with finger or face, judge rules • Forbes
Thomas Brewster
<p>Previously, US judges had ruled that police were allowed to force unlock devices like Apple’s iPhone with biometrics, such as fingerprints, faces or irises. That was despite the fact feds weren’t permitted to force a suspect to divulge a passcode. But according to <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5684083-Judge-Says-Facial-Recognition-Unlocks-Not.html">a ruling uncovered by Forbes</a>, all logins are equal.

The order came from the US District Court for the Northern District of California in the denial of a search warrant for an unspecified property in Oakland. The warrant was filed as part of an investigation into a Facebook extortion crime, in which a victim was asked to pay up or have an “embarassing” video of them publicly released. The cops had some suspects in mind and wanted to raid their property. In doing so, the feds also wanted to open up any phone on the premises via facial recognition, a fingerprint or an iris.

While the judge agreed that investigators had shown probable cause to search the property, they didn’t have the right to open all devices inside by forcing unlocks with biometric features.</p>

This is going to lead to all sorts of negative publicity around cases very much like this one. Imagine if there's a terror incident.
smartphone  legal  unlock 
5 days ago
Strongest opponents of GM foods know the least but think they know the most • The Guardian
Ian Sample:
<p>The most extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least about science but believe they know the most, researchers have found.

The findings from public surveys in the US, France and Germany suggest that rather than being a barrier to the possession of strongly held views, ignorance of the matter at hand might better be described as a fuel.

“This is part and parcel of the psychology of extremism,” said Philip Fernbach, a researcher at the University of Colorado and co-author of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. “To maintain these strong counter-scientific consensus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowledge.”

Fernbach and others analysed surveys completed by nationally representative samples of the US, French and German public. Those who took part were asked about their attitudes to GM foods and given instructions on how to judge their understanding of the topic. Next, they completed a scientific literacy test. Among the statements the participants had to wrestle with were: “Ordinary tomatoes do not have genes, whereas genetically modified tomatoes do” (false), and “the oxygen we breathe comes from plants” (true).

The results from more than 2,500 respondents revealed the curious trend. “What we found is that as the extremity of opposition increased, objective knowledge went down, but self-assessed knowledge went up,” Fernbach said.</p>

When I was writing a lot about GM foods, about 20 years ago, it was noticeable that many of the arguments against them came from emotion. (There are some legitimate arguments against GM, around intellectual property on seeds.) But I suspect this result could be generalised; it's something of a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect">Dunning-Kruger</a> corollary.
genetics  gm  food  science 
5 days ago
Hot Trump. Cool @aoc • Medium
Jeff Jarvis:
<p>I’ve been rereading a lot of Marshall McLuhan lately and I’m as confounded as ever by his conception of "hot" vs. "cool" media. And so I decided to try to test my thinking by comparing the phenomena of Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at this millennial media wendepunkt, as text and television give way to the net and whatever it becomes. I’ll also try to address the question: Why is @aoc driving the GOP mad?

…As TV became hotter [in McLuhan terms] — as it became high-definition — it found its man in Trump, who is as hot and unsubtle as a thermonuclear blast. Trump burns himself out with every appearance before crowds and cameras, never able to go far enough past his last performance — and it is a performance — to find a destination. He is destruction personified and that’s why he won, because his voters and believers yearn to destroy the institutions they do not trust, which is every institution we have today. Trump then represents the destruction of television itself. He’s so hot, he blew it up, ruining it for any candidate to follow, who cannot possibly top him on it. Kennedy was the first cool television politician. Obama was the last cool TV politician. Trump is the hot politician, the one who then took the medium’s every weakness and nuked it. TV amused itself to death.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was not a candidate of television or radio or text because media — that is, journalists — completely missed her presence and success, didn’t cover her, and had to trip over each other to discover her long after voters had. How did voters discover her? How did she succeed? Social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube….

I think McLuhan’s analysis here would be straightforward: Social media are cool [media forms]. Twitter in particular is cool because it provides such low-fidelity and requires the world to fill in so much, not only in interpretation and empathy but also in distribution (sharing). And Ocasio-Cortez herself is cool in every definition.

…Yes, she shoots at her opponents, but like a sniper, always from her position, her platform.</p>

I found this a fascinating analysis. Like Jeff, I've tried for years to comprehend McLuhan's declensions; this one makes it understandable. And I love the "sniper" line.
socialmedia  politics  octaviocortez 
6 days ago
Artificial intelligence can detect Alzheimer’s disease in brain scans six years before a diagnosis • UC San Francisco
Dana Smith:
<p>glucose PET scans are much more common and cheaper, especially in smaller health care facilities and developing countries, because they’re also used for cancer staging.

Radiologists have used these scans to try to detect Alzheimer’s by looking for reduced glucose levels across the brain, especially in the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain. However, because the disease is a slow progressive disorder, the changes in glucose are very subtle and so difficult to spot with the naked eye.

To solve this problem, Sohn applied a machine learning algorithm to PET scans to help diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s disease more reliably.

“This is an ideal application of deep learning because it is particularly strong at finding very subtle but diffuse processes. Human radiologists are really strong at identifying tiny focal finding like a brain tumor, but we struggle at detecting more slow, global changes,” says Sohn. “Given the strength of deep learning in this type of application, especially compared to humans, it seemed like a natural application.”

To train the algorithm, Sohn fed it images from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a massive public dataset of PET scans from patients who were eventually diagnosed with either Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment or no disorder. Eventually, the algorithm began to learn on its own which features are important for predicting the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and which are not.

…The algorithm performed with flying colors. It correctly identified 92% of patients who developed Alzheimer’s disease in the first test set and 98% in the second test set. What’s more, it made these correct predictions on average 75.8 months – a little more than six years – before the patient received their final diagnosis.</p>

Slightly scary. What do you do with a diagnosis like that?
ai  alzheimers 
6 days ago
Whirlpool WLabs oven can detect your food and cook it properly • CNBC
Todd Haselton:
<p>A new countertop oven from Whirlpool’s WLabs can automatically detect the food you put in it, and cook it for the right time. It takes all of the guesswork out of cooking.

The oven was on display at CES last week where CNBC had a chance to see how it works. I tried to insert a bunch of fake asparagus in one demo and, in another, a tray of salmon. Sensors inside the oven were able to determine what I was trying to cook, and then proposed the right amount of cook time and temperature.

This is different than Amazon’s microwave, which knows how long to microwave certain foods, but can’t automatically detect what you’ve placed inside.

The oven can identify 50 different types of food using infrared sensors in the oven. For meat, a user inserts a probe into the filet so that the oven can cook it to your liking.</p>

Only $800! Why do it?
cooking  oven 
6 days ago
Stop the presses: How a new publishing platform can help local news • Google blog
Jim Albrecht, product management director of search:
<p>Shouldn't doing great editorial work be enough?

We think so, and that's why the Google News Initiative has partnered with Automattic/WordPress and invested $1.2m in its effort to create Newspack: a fast, secure, low-cost publishing system tailor-made to the needs of small newsrooms. Other funders include the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Civil Media collectively contributing another $1m.

Journalists should be writing stories and covering their communities, not worrying about  designing websites, configuring CMSs, or building commerce systems. Their publishing platform should solve these problems for them. So while Newspack publishers will have access to all the plugins created by the WordPress developer community, the core product is not trying to be all things to all publishers. It is trying to help small publishers succeed by building best practices into the product while removing distractions that may divert scarce resources. We like to call it "an opinionated CMS:” it knows the right thing to do, even when you don’t.</p>

Good that it's built on Wordpress - but will it get the security updates that Wordpress gets? Will Google try to inveigle itself in, by doing updates?
google  news  wordpress 
6 days ago
Mozilla kills default support for Adobe Flash in Firefox 69 • Threatpost
Lindsay O'Donnell:
<p>Firefox 69 will force users to manually install Adobe Flash as the plugin inches toward end of life.

Mozilla is disabling default support for Adobe’s Flash Player plugin in the latest upcoming version of its FireFox browser, marking the latest step in end-of-life for the infamous plugin.

The disabled default support means that Firefox users will now be required to manually enable Adobe Flash in Mozilla’s latest browser version, Firefox 69. More importantly, the change signals another step toward the end of Flash in general, as Mozilla and other popular browsers push the plugin off the radar.</p>

Only 3.9% of sites use Flash now, compared to 28.5% in 2011. (Guessing that a big part of that fall is the rise in sites configured for mobile - where Flash isn't installed.
mozilla  flash 
6 days ago
Fortnite skins are key to the future of global trade • Bloomberg
Shawn Donnan:
<p>Discussions about globalization—and its costs and benefits—often focus on physical goods such as steel beams, cars, or soybeans. The reality is that the integration of economies is increasingly a digital one that happens in invisible daily bursts—like the sessions in which far-flung armies of Fortnite players face off against each other on an imaginary island. “The digital economy is everywhere, and much of it is international without our even knowing it,” says Anupam Chander, a law professor and expert on digital trade at Georgetown University.

If we don’t always fully appreciate the scale of what’s going on, it’s because much of digital trade is not being captured in official statistics, says Susan Lund of the McKinsey Global Institute, the consultant’s in-house think tank. In a report, Lund and her co-authors <a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/digital-globalization-the-new-era-of-global-flows">documented an explosion</a> in global data flows that they argued generated $2.8 trillion in economic output in 2014 alone and was doing more to benefit the world economy than the stalling international trade in physical goods.

In some cases, the World Trade Organization <a href="https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/publications_e/world_trade_report18_e.pdf">pointed out in a report</a> last year, the rapid propagation of digital technologies has contributed to a false picture of globalization in retreat as shipping containers filled with hardcovers and DVDs are replaced by e-book downloads and streaming music.</p>

I seem to recall that much the same was said about Second Life, and then World of Warcraft, and then EVE Online, but the general point is true - digital globalisation is changing things.
fortnite  economy  digital 
6 days ago
Only nuclear energy can save the planet • WSJ
Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist:
<p>the consumption of fossil fuels is growing quickly as poorer countries climb out of poverty and increase their energy use. Improving energy efficiency can reduce some of the burden, but it’s not nearly enough to offset growing demand.

Any serious effort to decarbonize the world economy will require, then, a great deal more clean energy, on the order of 100 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, by our calculations—roughly equivalent to today’s entire annual fossil-fuel usage. A key variable is speed. To reach the target within three decades, the world would have to add about 3.3 trillion more kilowatt-hours of clean energy every year.

Solar and wind power alone can’t scale up fast enough to generate the vast amounts of electricity that will be needed by midcentury, especially as we convert car engines and the like from fossil fuels to carbon-free energy sources. Even Germany’s concerted recent effort to add renewables—the most ambitious national effort so far—was nowhere near fast enough. A global increase in renewables at a rate matching Germany’s peak success would add about 0.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity every year. That’s just over a fifth of the necessary 3.3 trillion annual target.

…So why isn’t everyone who is concerned about climate change getting behind nuclear power? Why isn’t the nuclear power industry in the U.S. and the world expanding to meet the rising demand for clean electricity? The key reason is that most countries’ policies are shaped not by hard facts but by long-standing and widely shared phobias about radiation.</p>

There's one other point: they're pretty slow to build. But it's true. We need more of them.
nuclear  climatechange 
6 days ago
A first look at Twitter’s new beta app and its bid to remain ‘valuable and relevant’ • TechCrunch
Sarah Perez and Ingrid Lunden:
<p>During the first beta, participants will try out new conversation features which offer color-coded replies to differentiate between responses from the original poster of the tweet, those from people you follow, and those from people you don’t follow.

In a development build of the beta app, Haider showed us what this looked like, with the caveat that the color scheme being used has been intentionally made to be overly saturated – it will be dialed down when the features launch to testers.

<img src="https://techcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/DSC00078-e1547423976173.jpg" width="100%" />

When you click into a conversation thread, the beta app will also offer visual cues to help you better find the parts of the thread that are of interest to you.

One way it’s doing so is by highlighting the replies in a thread that were written by people you follow on Twitter. Another change is that the person who posted the original tweet will also have their own replies in the thread highlighted.

In the build Haider showed us, replies from people she followed were shown in green, those from non-followers were blue, and her own replies were blue.</p>

May also get rid of likes (maybe) and add a "status" field such as availability, location, whether you're online "as on IM", says the story - perhaps oblivious to the fact that Twitter was started with the intent of being an SMS equivalent of the IM status field.
twitter  beta 
6 days ago
Madagascar's fast internet fuels outsourcing boom • Quartz Africa
<p>There are now 233 BPO [business process outsourcing] companies in Madagascar (up from just a handful in 2005, mostly in the capital Antananarivo, employing between 10,000 and 15,000 people (Morocco, the market leader, has 70,000). The reasons companies are flocking to Madagascar is a combination of cost and quality.

With salaries starting at $130 a month (nearly three times the minimum wage) Lalatiana Le Goff, director general at Vivetic, the oldest BPO operator in Madagascar and one of the largest with 1,400 employees, says that Madagascar is 50% cheaper than Morocco with similar levels of quality. “The Malagasies are diligent and have a real desire to learn,” she says. They also have a natural empathy, which, combined with the right training, makes them perfectly suited to handle disgruntled customers.

Then there is the language. The level of French is very good, and customers appreciate Malagasy French. “The tone is softer and slower [than in the Maghreb]; some people have an accent but it’s mild and hard to place,” says Ludovic d’Alançon, chief operating officer at Outsourcia, a Moroccan BPO company that acquired two companies in Madagascar in 2016, which employ 550 people. The time difference is also minimal (one hour in summer, two in winter).

What transformed the sector from data processing niche to stellar digital player however is the arrival of cable internet connection in 2009. Madagascar now boasts the fastest internet speed in Africa (faster even than many developed countries), a pre-requisite for good quality calls and real-time services. Since then, the number of companies has steadily grown.</p>

"They also have a natural empathy"? Is this a weird way of saying "despite where they live, they're human"? Anyway, a good demonstration of how important internet speed is: Madagascar's average broadband speed is 24.9MB/s, well above Canada, France and the soon-to-need-plenty-of-foreign-income UK.
internet  africa 
6 days ago
Ruth Bader Ginsburg news: searching on YouTube lands conspiracy theories instead • The Washington Post
Tony Romm and Drew Harwell:
<p>Conspiracy theories about the health of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have dominated YouTube this week, illustrating how the world’s most popular video site is failing to prevent its algorithm from helping popularize viral hoaxes and misinformation.

More than half of the top 20 search results for her initials, “RBG,” on Wednesday pointed to false far-right videos, some claiming doctors are using mysterious illegal drugs to keep her alive, according to a review by The Washington Post. Ginsburg has been absent from oral arguments at the Supreme Court this week as she recuperates from recent surgery to remove cancer from her lungs. Tests revealed Friday that she will need no further treatment and that her recovery is on track.

The falsehoods, most of which originated with the fringe movement QAnon, dramatically outnumbered results from credible news sources. Only one of the top results came from a mainstream news site, CNN, and it was an 11-month-old interview about her career. The algorithm rewarded the conspiracy videos over reliable news based on what it calculated was their “relevance,” signaling that the videos were probably new, popular or suitable to the search. By Thursday, a day after YouTube was contacted by The Washington Post, searches for “RBG” also surfaced multiple videos from mainstream news organizations.</p>

Yes I'm afraid 2019 is off to a flying start. Welcome back.
youtube  conspiracy 
7 days ago
Is sunscreen the new margarine? • Outside Online
Rowan Jacobsen:
<p>In November, one of the <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1809944">largest and most rigorous trials</a> of [Vitamin D supplements] ever conducted—in which 25,871 participants received high doses for five years—found no impact on cancer, heart disease, or stroke.

How did we get it so wrong? How could people with low vitamin D levels clearly suffer higher rates of so many diseases and yet not be helped by supplementation?

As it turns out, a rogue band of researchers has had an explanation all along. And if they’re right, it means that once again we have been epically misled.

These rebels argue that what made the people with high vitamin D levels so healthy was not the vitamin itself. That was just a marker. Their vitamin D levels were high because they were getting plenty of exposure to the thing that was really responsible for their good health—that big orange ball shining down from above.

One of the leaders of this rebellion is a mild-mannered dermatologist at the University of Edinburgh named Richard Weller. For years, Weller swallowed the party line about the destructive nature of the sun’s rays. “I’m not by nature a rebel,” he insisted when I called him up this fall. “I was always the good boy that toed the line at school. This pathway is one which came from following the data rather than a desire to overturn apple carts.”

Weller’s doubts began around 2010, when he was researching nitric oxide, a molecule produced in the body that dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. He discovered a previously unknown biological pathway by which the skin uses sunlight to make nitric oxide.

It was already well established that rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and overall mortality all rise the farther you get from the sunny equator, and they all rise in the darker months. Weller put two and two together and had what he calls his “eureka moment”: Could exposing skin to sunlight lower blood pressure?</p>

Sounds bonkers but: uh-huh.
science  vitamind  sunlight 
7 days ago
February 2017: VIZIO to pay $2.2m to FTC, state of New Jersey to settle charges it collected viewing histories on 11 million smart televisions without users’ consent • Federal Trade Commission
<p>VIZIO, Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers and sellers of internet-connected “smart” televisions, has agreed to pay $2.2m to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General that it installed software on its TVs to collect viewing data on 11 million consumer TVs without consumers’ knowledge or consent.

The stipulated federal court order requires VIZIO to prominently disclose and obtain affirmative express consent for its data collection and sharing practices, and prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information they collect. It also requires the company to delete data collected before March 1, 2016, and to implement a comprehensive data privacy program and biennial assessments of that program.</p>
security  vizio 
7 days ago
Common Questions About Environmentally-Lit Interfaces • Bob Burrough
Burrough used to work at Apple, where he was closely involved in developing the iPhone and iPad:
<p>An environmentally-lit interface takes information from the environment around the device and uses it to render physically-accurate things on the screen. It appears as if the lights around you are shining on the things on the screen. If the lighting in your room is bright, then the things on your screen are brightly lit. They can even take on complex characteristics like mother-of-pearl or opal…

[But isn't this very clunky? How's that going to work in practice?]

The very first haptics-enabled iOS devices we built were iPod Touches with haptic actuators sandwiched between the screen and rest of the device. They were an inch thick and powered by a pack of AA batteries hung on a wire outside the device. They were ridiculous-looking; nothing you would expect to be used in real life. It took many iterations to develop what eventually became Apple’s Taptic Engine. Today, no one would question the elegance of that feature of Apple’s most popular products.

To date, every demo of an environmentally-lit interface has used retrofitted hardware. None of these represent the ideal device capable of an environmentally-lit interface.</p>

It's interesting - the idea that elements on the screen will look as though they're real and in your environment. And the fact about the Taptic Engine is quite the thing.
apple  design 
7 days ago
Taking the smarts out of smart TVs would make them more expensive • The Verge
<p><strong>Nilay Patel: You guys are committed to low price points and you often beat the industry at those price points. Can you hit those price points without the additional data collection that TV does if you don’t have an ad business or a data business on top of the TV?</strong>

Bill Baxter, CTO of TV maker Vizio: So that’s a great question. Actually, we should have a beer and have a long, long chat about that.

So look, it’s not just about data collection. It’s about post-purchase monetization of the TV.

This is a cutthroat industry. It’s a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it’s pretty ruthless. You could say it’s self-inflicted, or you could say there’s a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don’t need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost.

And then I need to make money off those TVs. They live in households for 6.9 years — the average lifetime of a Vizio TV is 6.9 years. You would probably be amazed at the number of people come up to me saying, “I love Vizio TVs, I have one” and it’s 11 years old. I’m like, “Dude, that’s not even full HD, that’s 720p.”

…And the reason why we do that is there are ways to monetize that TV and data is one, but not only the only one. It’s sort of like a business of singles and doubles, it’s not home runs, right? You make a little money here, a little money there. You sell some movies, you sell some TV shows, you sell some ads, you know. It’s not really that different than The Verge website.</p>

Well, it's a point of view.
tv  advertising  smarttv 
7 days ago
Los Angeles accuses Weather Channel app of covertly mining user data • The New York Times
Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Natasha Singer:
<p>One of the most popular online weather services in the United States, the Weather Channel app has been downloaded more than 100 million times and has 45 million active users monthly.

The government said the Weather Company, the business behind the app, unfairly manipulated users into turning on location tracking by implying that the information would be used only to localize weather reports. Yet the company, which is owned by IBM, also used the data for unrelated commercial purposes, like targeted marketing and <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20180731211011/https://business.weather.com/writable/documents/Financial-Markets/InvestorInsights_SolutionSheet.pdf">analysis for hedge funds</a>, according to <a href="https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/554-l-a-weather-app-location/8980fd9af72915412e31/optimized/full.pdf">the lawsuit</a>.

The lawsuit accuses the Weather Channel of manipulating users by implying that tracking data would be used only to localize weather reports.

The city’s lawsuit cited an article last month in The New York Times that detailed a sprawling industry of companies that profit from continuously snooping on users’ precise whereabouts. The companies collect location data from smartphone apps to cater to advertisers, stores and investors seeking insights into consumer behavior.</p>

Covertly mining user data. Is this better or worse that using your computer to covertly mine cryptocurrency? Discuss.
weatherchannel  app  data 
7 days ago
Widely cited study of fake news retracted by researchers • Rolling Stone
Lilly Dancyger:
<p>The <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0132">study</a> sought to determine the role of short attention spans and information overload in the spread of fake news. To do this, researchers compared the empirical data from social networking sites that show that fake news is just as likely to be shared as real news — a fact that Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University and a co-author of the study, stresses to Rolling Stone is still definitely true — to a simplified model they created of a social media site where they could control for various factors.

Because of an error in processing their findings, their results showed that the simplified model was able to reproduce the real-life numbers, determining that people spread fake news because of their short attention spans and not necessarily, for example, because of foreign bots promoting particular stories. Last spring, the researchers discovered the error when they tried to reproduce their results and found that while attention span and information overload did impact how fake news spread through their model network, they didn’t impact it quite enough to account for the comparative rates at which real and fake news spread in real life. They alerted the journal right away, and the journal deliberated for almost a year whether to issue a correction or a retraction, before finally deciding on Monday to retract the article.</p>

Note the "still definitely true" bit. Also, could I just point out: this is Rolling Stone writing an article about the retraction of a peer-reviewed paper from the Nature group. Hello, 2019, how ya feeling.
fakenews  socialmedia 
7 days ago
Report: AirPower has entered production and coming soon [updated] • MacRumors
Joe Rossignol:
<p> Hong Kong website ChargerLAB cites a "credible source" within Apple's supply chain who claims Chinese manufacturer Luxshare Precision has started production of the AirPower. In a conversation on Chinese messaging app WeChat, the source adds he has heard the AirPower will be released soon…

Luxshare is a member of the Wireless Power Consortium behind the Qi standard and also assembles AirPods for Apple — and Lightning to USB-C cables, according to ChargerLAB. Reports had suggested Luxshare would be a primary supplier of the AirPower since as early as February 2017…

A few weeks ago, developer Steve Troughton-Smith said he's heard Apple may have overcome technical challenges with the AirPower and could move forward with a release. Those technical challenges included overheating and interference issues, according to Sonny Dickson, an occasional source of Apple leaks.</p>

Well, that would be fun. The longest-delayed Apple product finally seeing the light.
Airpower  apple 
7 days ago
Poland calls for 'joint' EU-Nato stance on Huawei after spying arrest • The Guardian
<p>Poland’s internal affairs minister, Joachim Brudziński, called for the European Union and Nato to work on a joint position over whether to exclude Huawei from their markets.

Brudziński said Poland wanted to continue cooperating with China but that a discussion was needed on whether to exclude Huawei from some markets.

“There are concerns about Huawei within Nato as well. It would make most sense to have a joint stance, among EU member states and Nato members,” he told broadcaster RMF FM.

“We want relations with China that are good, intensive and attractive for both sides,” he added.

Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecommunications equipment, is facing intense scrutiny in the west over its relationship with China’s government.

In August, the US president, Donald Trump, signed a bill that barred the US government from using Huawei equipment and is considering an executive order that would also ban US companies from doing so.

In December, Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the US, which wants her extradited to face charges that she misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Seeking to distance itself from the Polish incident, Huawei on Saturday said in a statement it had sacked Wang, whose “alleged actions have no relation to the company”.</p>

How this (and ZTE's position) plays out over the rest of this year could be crucial to China's position in 5G, and the progress of 5G. If this is also applied to Huawei handsets (a faint but real possibility) it would really put a crimp on things. Expect recriminations if that happens.
Huawei  smartphone  china 
7 days ago
Apple’s errors • Stratechery
Ben Thompson, with the only take you need on Apple's revenue warning at the start of January:
<p>to the extent that iPhone XS sales slowed in October, Apple likely expected the iPhone XR to pick up the slack; I strongly suspect the XR failed to live up to expectations.

This too, though, should have been predictable: sure, from a feature perspective the XR seemed remarkably competitive with the XS, but we have ample evidence that iPhone buyers want the best possible iPhone. After this year’s iPhone keynote I wrote:
<p>There is, of course, the question of cannibalism: if the XR is so great, why spend $250 more on an XS, or $350 more for the giant XS Max? This is where the iPhone X lesson matters. Last year’s iPhone 8 was a great phone too, with the same A11 processor as the iPhone X, a high quality LCD screen like the iPhone XR, and a premium aluminum-and-glass case (and 3D Touch!). It also had Touch ID and a more familiar interface, both arguably advantages in their own right, and the Plus size that so many people preferred.</p>

It didn’t matter: Apple’s best customers, not just those who buy an iPhone every year, but also those whose only two alternatives are “my current once-flagship iPhone” or “the new flagship iPhone” are motivated first-and-foremost by having the best; price is a secondary concern. That is why the iPhone X was the best-selling smartphone, and the iPhone 8 — which launched two months before the iPhone X — a footnote.

It remains to be seen the extent to which this is the case globally, but the market where having the flagship matters most has always been China. iPhone XS sales slowing and not being picked up by the just-launched XR certainly explain the timing of the missed forecast.</p>

After Apple delivered its warning, <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/8/18173364/samsung-earnings-guidance-q4-2018-warning">Samsung and then LG</a> followed suit. It's an economy thing, perhaps. But his point that the "S" updates don't work in China is well made.
apple  china  iphone 
8 days ago
The paranoid fantasy behind Brexit • The Guardian
Fintan O'Toole:
<p> In the imperial imagination, there are only two states: dominant and submissive, coloniser and colonised. This dualism lingers. If England is not an imperial power, it must be the only other thing it can be: a colony. And, as [Len] Deighton successfully demonstrated [in his book SS-GB], this logic can be founded in an alternative English history. The moment of greatest triumph – the defeat of the Nazis – can be reimagined as the moment of greatest humiliation – defeat by the Nazis. The pain of colonisation and defeat can, in the context of uneasy membership of the EU, be imaginatively appropriated. (Boris Johnson, in the Telegraph of 12 November, claimed that “we are on the verge of signing up for something even worse than the current constitutional position. These are the terms that might be enforced on a colony.”)

SS-GB was in part the inspiration for an even more successful English thriller, Robert Harris’s multimillion-selling Fatherland, published in 1992 and filmed for television in 1994. Harris had begun the novel in the mid-1980s but abandoned it. He revived and finished it explicitly in the context of German reunification in 1990 and of fears that the enemy Britain had defeated twice in the 20th century would end the century by dominating it: “If,” Harris wrote in the introduction to the 20th anniversary edition in 2012, “there was one factor that suddenly gave my fantasy of a united Germany a harder edge, it was the news that exactly such an entity was unexpectedly returning to the heart of Europe.”

…Europe’s role in this weird psychodrama is entirely pre-scripted. It does not greatly matter what the European Union is or what it is doing – its function in the plot is to be a more insidious form of nazism. This is important to grasp, because one of the key arguments in mainstream pro-Brexit political and journalistic discourse would be that Britain had to leave because the Europe it had joined was not the Europe it found itself part of in 2016.</p>

This is a big week for Brexit, of whatever flavour (hard, soft, revoked) in the UK. This piece is a good backgrounder to the enmity behind one side.
europe  brexit  history 
8 days ago
How cartographers for the US military inadvertently created a house of horrors in South Africa • Gizmodo
Kashmir Hill:
<p>MaxMind has never told me exactly what their secret sauce is for determining where in the world an IP address is located, but if it doesn’t know that much about an IP address, and knows only that it’s being used by a device somewhere in the United States, it previously gave the coordinates for the front yard of Joyce Taylor’s farm in Kansas; by the time I called her in 2016, 90 million IP addresses were mapped to her home in MaxMind’s database. Any time a device using one of those IP addresses did something terrible, those looking into it assumed the people who lived at the farm were responsible.

When I emailed the company’s founder Thomas Mather, back in 2016, asking why it had associated so many IP addresses with the Kansas farm, he’d been incredibly candid with me, explaining that the company had picked a default digital location for the United States basically at random without realizing it would cause problems for the person who lived there. He asked me what the company should do to rectify the situation. “Do you have a sense of how far away we should locate these lat/lons from a residential address?” he emailed me back. “Do we also need to locate the lat/lon away from business/commercial addresses?”

I was a little stunned at the time to have the CEO of a company ask me for that kind of very basic advice about his own business. The company wound up changing the default location for the U.S. from Joyce Taylor’s farm to a lake nearby. Taylor and the residents of the farm later sued MaxMind; the case settled out of court.</p>

But it didn't do it for every one of those locations. Such as, yes, one in South Africa. Hill is gradually picking off every badly-assigned house in the dataset.
geography  hassle 
8 days ago
Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why • Nature
Alexandra Witze:
<p>Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.</p>

Isn't this sort of the premise of <a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0298814/">the 2003 film The Core</a>, which critics noted proved that the centre of the earth is actually cheesy?

Oh, there's an update: "The release of the World Magnetic Model has been postponed to 30 January due to the ongoing US government shutdown."
russia  canada  geology  core  magnetic 
8 days ago
Mark Zuckerberg’s empire of oily rags • Locus Magazine
Cory Doctorow:
<p>Facebook isn’t a mind-control ray. It’s a tool for finding people who possess uncommon, hard-to-locate traits, whether that’s “person thinking of buying a new refrigerator,” “person with the same rare disease as you,” or “person who might participate in a genocidal pogrom,” and then pitching them on a nice side-by-side or some tiki torches, while showing them social proof of the desirability of their course of action, in the form of other people (or bots) that are doing the same thing, so they feel like they’re part of a crowd.

Even if mind-control rays remain science fiction, Facebook and other commercial surveillance platforms are still worrisome, and not just because they allow people with extreme views to find each other…

…It’s as though Mark Zuckerberg woke up one morning and realized that the oily rags he’d been accumulating in his garage could be refined for an extremely low-grade, low-value crude oil. No one would pay very much for this oil, but there were a lot of oily rags, and provided no one asked him to pay for the inevitable horrific fires that would result from filling the world’s garages with oily rags, he could turn a tidy profit.

A decade later, everything is on fire and we’re trying to tell Zuck and his friends that they’re going to need to pay for the damage and install the kinds of fire-suppression gear that anyone storing oily rags should have invested in from the beginning, and the commercial surveillance industry is absolutely unwilling to contemplate anything of the sort. </p>

The first point is so apt. The internet joins points at the edge; it's a way to find people with a common interest. Sometimes that's good. Sometimes that's really bad.
Zuckerberg  facebook  surveillance  socialwarming 
16 days ago
The Amazon Alexa eavesdropping nightmare came true • Gizmodo
Jennings Brown on how a German citizen requested their Alexa data under GDPR - and got someone else's instead, which they shared with C't magazine:
<p><a href="https://www.heise.de/downloads/18/2/5/6/5/3/9/6/ct.0119.016-018_engl.pdf">C’t magazine</a> listened to many of the files and was able “to piece together a detailed picture of the customer concerned and his personal habits.” It found that he used Alexa in various places, has an Echo at home, and has a Fire device on his TV. They noticed that a woman was around at times. They listened to him in the shower.
<p>We were able to navigate around a complete stranger’s private life without his knowledge, and the immoral, almost voyeuristic nature of what we were doing got our hair standing on end. The alarms, Spotify commands, and public transport inquiries included in the data revealed a lot about the victims’ personal habits, their jobs, and their taste in music. Using these files, it was fairly easy to identify the person involved and his female companion. Weather queries, first names, and even someone’s last name enabled us to quickly zero in on his circle of friends. Public data from Facebook and Twitter rounded out the picture.</p>

Using the information they gathered from the recordings, the magazine contacted the victim of the data leak. He “was audibly shocked,” and confirmed it was him in the recordings and that the outlet had figured out the identity of his girlfriend. He said Amazon did not contact him.</p>
amazon  alexa  echo 
4 weeks ago
Fortnite teen hackers 'earning thousands of pounds a week' • BBC News
Joe Tidy, BBC cybersecurity reporter:
<p>Children as young as 14 are making thousands of pounds a week as part of a global hacking network built around the popular video game Fortnite.

About 20 hackers told the BBC they were stealing the private gaming accounts of players and reselling them online.

Fortnite is free to play but is estimated to have made more than £1bn through the sale of "skins", which change the look of a character, and other add-ons. This fuels a growing black market. Hackers can sell player accounts for as little as 25p or hundreds of pounds, depending on what they contain.

The items are collected as in-game purchases but are purely cosmetic and do not give gamers any extra abilities. Fortnite-maker Epic declined to comment on the investigation but said it was working to improve account security. The game has more than 200 million players.

One British hacker said he got involved at the age of 14 earlier this summer, when he himself became the victim of a hack. Speaking from his bedroom via a video chat, wearing a baseball cap and bandana to hide his identity, the teenager said he had spent about £50 of his pocket money to build up a collection of skins, when he had woken up to a message that changed everything.

"The email said that my password had been changed and two-factor authentication had been added by someone else. It felt horrible," he recalled.</p>

Noted in passing: the BBC now has a cybersecurity reporter. Bet he's busy.
fortnite  hacking 
4 weeks ago
K-Cup creator John Sylvan regrets inventing Keurig coffee pod system • CBC News
<p>As the man who invented them, Sylvan might have been pleased with their popularity. But he left the company in 1997, selling his ownership of the product for $50,000.

To this day, he still doesn't understand why people like them. "I find them rather expensive," he said.

So, how does he make coffee? "I make a pot of coffee in the morning into a thermal carafe," he says. "Before I go to bed … I put the coffee and water in, and when I wake up there's a pot of coffee," he deadpans. "We throw away a lot of coffee but it's so cheap on a per-cup basis."

Canadian coffee firm takes Keurig to court in pod spat
Coffee starts to deteriorate the minute it comes in contact with oxygen, which is why at grocery stores, coffee is typically either sold in a foil bag or an aluminum tin, because both are impervious to air.

Plastic doesn't have the same properties, but the K-Cup basically achieves the same thing, while being able to be heated with hot water, by incorporating four different layers and types of plastic. That's problematic for recycling, because the process requires different recyclable materials to be separated into different groups.

For its part, Keurig Green Mountain pledges to have fully recyclable K-Cups by 2020, but by the company's own admission, the cups aren't recyclable at the moment.</p>
coffee  pods  recycling 
4 weeks ago
Does AI make strong tech companies stronger? • Benedict Evans
<p>We can’t actually describe all of the logical steps we use to walk, or to recognise a cat. With machine learning, instead of writing rules, you give examples (lots of examples) to a statistical engine, and that engine generates a model that can tell the difference. You give it 100,000 pictures labelled ‘cat’ and 100,000 labelled ‘no cat’ and the machine works out the difference. ML replaces hand-written logical steps with automatically determined patterns in data, and works much better for a very broad class of question - the easy demos are in computer vision, language and speech, but the use cases are much broader. Quite how much data you need is a moving target: there are research paths to allow ML to work with much smaller data sets, but for now, (much) more data is almost always better.  

Hence the question: if ML lets you do new and important things and ML is better the more data you have, then how far does that mean that companies that are already big and have lots of data get stronger? How far are there are winner-takes-all effects? It is easy to imagine virtuous circles strengthening a winner: ‘more data = more accurate model = better product = more users = more data’. From here it’s an easy step to statements like ‘Google / Facebook / Amazon have all the data‘ or indeed ‘China has all the data’ - the fear that the strongest tech companies will get stronger, as will countries with large populations and ‘permissive’ attitudes to centralised use of data.   

Well, sort of.</p>

Always worth reading.
machinelearning  artificialintelligence 
4 weeks ago
Annual smart speaker IQ test • Loup Ventures
Gene Munster (of "Apple will make a TV!" fame) and Will Thompson:
<p>We asked each smart speaker the same 800 questions, and they were graded on two metrics: 1. Did it understand what was said? 2. Did it deliver a correct response? The question set, which is designed to comprehensively test a smart speaker’s ability and utility, is broken into 5 categories:

• Local – Where is the nearest coffee shop?<br />• Commerce – Can you order me more paper towels?<br />• Navigation – How do I get to uptown on the bus?<br />• Information – Who do the Twins play tonight?<br />• Command – Remind me to call Steve at 2 pm today.

…Google Home continued its outperformance, answering 86% correctly and understanding all 800 questions. The HomePod correctly answered 75% and only misunderstood three, the Echo correctly answered 73% and misunderstood eight questions, and Cortana correctly answered 63% and misunderstood just five questions.</p>

You'd seriously ask a speaker in your home where the nearest coffee shop is? And how to get "uptown" (?) on the bus? I'd rather have something like "Play the Arctic Monkey's latest album". (A command I highly recommend, by the way.)
smartspeaker  information 
4 weeks ago
Slack bans Iranian academic living in Canada because of sanctions • Motherboard
Joseph Cox:
<p>The spokesperson added that Slack determines these violations by banning users who use IP addresses from banned countries.

“Our systems may have detected an account and/or a workspace owner on our platform with an IP address originating from a designated embargoed country. If our systems indicate a workspace primary owner has an IP address originating from a designated embargoed country, the entire workspace will be deactivated,” the statement read.

It is not clear if Abdi did connect from an Iranian IP address; he did not respond to requests for comment. He did tweet that he cannot rule out the possibility of Slack connecting when he travelled to Iran earlier in the year.

Regardless, experts say determining which users have violated based on IP address is not the best way to enforce sanctions.

“If they looked into the account, saw where they are employed/where their bank accounts are and realize there is no flow of money between Iran and US/Canada because of this login, they surely would have no reason to do this,” Mahsa Alimardani, a researcher with freedom of expression organisation Article 19 and a doctoral student at the Oxford Internet Institute, told Motherboard in an online chat.</p>

Tricky. The US is aggressive with its sanctions enforcement, and if someone has used an Iranian IP address, you can bet a company is going to block that account. Better safe than sorry in the current climate: Slack won't want to end up before a judge being fined.
sanctions  iran  slack 
4 weeks ago
Apple to pull some iPhones in Germany as Qualcomm extends global wins • Reuters
Jörn Poltz and Stephen Nellis:
<p>Qualcomm’s win in Germany comes weeks after it secured a court order to ban sales of some iPhone models in China. Apple, which is contesting both rulings, has continued to offer its iPhones in China but made changes to its iOS operating system in the wake of the Chinese order.

The German victory may affect only a few million iPhones out of the hundreds of millions that Apple sells each year. Still, it is a small but clear win in a complex legal battle that will spin into overdrive in the coming months as antitrust regulators and Apple both take Qualcomm to court in the United States…

…Qualcomm is not pursuing the software patents in the Chinese case in other jurisdictions and suffered an early loss while pursuing a US sales ban on the US version of the hardware patent at issue in Germany.</p>

The phones being pulled are the iPhone 7 and 8. It feels like a rerun of 2010, with the Samsung bickering.
qualcomm  apple  germany  iphone  patent 
4 weeks ago
He tried to fake his way to fame and got caught red-handed. Or did he? • BBC News
Jessica Lussenhop on Threatin, the band (really one person) who <a href="http://www.metalsucks.net/2018/11/09/l-a-band-threatin-faked-a-fanbase-to-land-a-european-tour-no-one-attended/">faked a fanbase to get a European tour</a>:
<p>As he explained his tactics, Jered [Threatin] was relaxed, confident - not the slightest bit embarrassed. But that’s because he had something he was eager to show me - a series of emails that he said he sent out under yet another alias, a Gmail account belonging to “E. Evieknowsit”.

“URGENT: News tip,” the subject line read.

“The musician going by the name Threatin is a total fake. He faked a record label, booking agent, facebook likes, and an online fanbase to book a European tour. ZERO people are coming to the shows and it is clear that his entire operation is fake,” he wrote, including links to all his phoney websites.

“Please don’t let this man fake his way to fame... Please Expose him.”

The first such message he showed me was dated 2 November, a day into the Breaking the World Tour, and a week before the first news reports were published. He says he sent the messages out to a database of reporters’ emails he keeps in a massive Excel spreadsheet on his laptop - to outlets like the Huffington Post, Spin, Consequence of Sound, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Pitchfork, New York Times, MetalSucks and, yes, the BBC. Although it was unclear if the tips directly resulted in coverage, some of the emails appear to have predated articles.

During the tour, when the bandmates weren’t looking or in another room, Eames claimed he was on his phone on Facebook under his various aliases, stoking the controversy.</p>

Long read. You start wondering, is this one of those things where they say portentously "It's ART, you see."
music  internet  deception 
4 weeks ago
John Giannandrea named to Apple’s executive team • Apple
<p>John Giannandrea has been named to the company’s executive team as senior vice president of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Strategy. He joined Apple in April 2018.

Giannandrea oversees the strategy for AI and Machine Learning across all Apple products and services, as well as the development of Core ML and Siri technologies. His team's focus on advancing and tightly integrating machine learning into Apple products is delivering more personal, intelligent and natural interactions for customers while protecting user privacy. 

“John hit the ground running at Apple and we are thrilled to have him as part of our executive team,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Machine learning and AI are important to Apple’s future as they are fundamentally changing the way people interact with technology, and already helping our customers live better lives. We’re fortunate to have John, a leader in the AI industry, driving our efforts in this critical area.” </p>

Only taken seven years, but Siri now has his/her own veep. And note the points about ML/AI being "important". Not "essential"?
apple  ai  siri 
4 weeks ago
Did Google intentionally cripple Edge’s YouTube performance? • Medium
Jeremy Noring:
<p> Recently <a href="https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18697824">this article</a> has been making the rounds on Slashdot and other tech sites. The TL;DR of the article is a Microsoft intern insinuates that Google may have intentionally crippled Edge video rendering performance on YouTube:
<p>I very recently worked on the Edge team, and one of the reasons we decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn’t keep up. For example, they recently added a hidden empty div over YouTube videos that causes our hardware acceleration fast-path to bail (should now be fixed in Win10 Oct update). Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome’s dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life. What makes it so sad, is that their claimed dominance was not due to ingenious optimization work by Chrome, but due to a failure of YouTube. On the whole, they only made the web slower.</p>

My initial reaction to this wasn’t “gee, that’s suspicious…” but more along the lines of “wait a minute… I’m pretty sure I’ve written that exact code?”</p>

He suggests it's more the collision between accessibility and the way that Edge interacts with HTML5 video. In general, go with Hanlon's Law.
html5  video  youtube 
4 weeks ago
I’m an expert on negotiations, and I have some advice for Theresa May • NY Times
Deepak Malhotra is a professor who has sat in on and advised many negotiations:
<p>Mrs. May should do what she has resisted so far: announce her intention to hold a second Brexit referendum if she cannot get enough support for her deal. This is a one-two punch. First, it presents a credible threat to reluctant conservative members of Parliament who would prefer nearly anything to holding another referendum and, potentially, having Remain win. If this threat somehow fails to move enough votes, and Mrs. May’s deal is dead, the second punch follows through on the threat and lets voters vote again — having now witnessed the reality of Brexit — whether to leave or remain in the European Union. When all else fails, this helps avoid Mrs. May’s least preferred option: no deal.</p>

I thought it would be nonsense, but the logic (of which this is the conclusion - it's to get her deal through, not to have a another referendum) is powerful.
Negotiation  brexit 
4 weeks ago
As Facebook raised a privacy wall, it carved an opening for tech giants • The New York Times
Gabriel J.X. Dance, Michael LaForgia and Nicholas Confessore:
<p>Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.

Facebook has been reeling from a series of privacy scandals, set off by revelations in March that a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, improperly used Facebook data to build tools that aided President Trump’s 2016 campaign. Acknowledging that it had breached users’ trust, Facebook insisted that it had instituted stricter privacy protections long ago. Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, assured lawmakers in April that people “have complete control” over everything they share on Facebook.

But the documents, as well as interviews with about 50 former employees of Facebook and its corporate partners, reveal that Facebook allowed certain companies access to data despite those protections. They also raise questions about whether Facebook ran afoul of a 2011 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that barred the social network from sharing user data without explicit permission.</p>

Facebook has <a href="https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/12/facebooks-partners/">responded</a> on its PR page, and insists the access that was given was with consent, and didn't break the FTC decree. Also: "most of these features are now gone." (Me: "Most"?)

Related: <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/12/19/dc-attorney-general-sues-facebook-over-alleged-privacy-violations-cambridge-analytica-scandal/">[Washington] DC attorney general sues Facebook over alleged privacy violations from Cambridge Analytica scandal</a>.
4 weeks ago
E-cigarettes around 95% less harmful than tobacco estimates landmark review • GOV.UK
<p>An <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-cigarettes-an-evidence-update">expert independent evidence review</a> published today by Public Health England (PHE) concludes that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than tobacco and have the potential to help smokers quit smoking.

Key findings of the review include:

• the current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking<br />• nearly half the population (44.8%) don’t realise e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking<br />• there is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers

The review, commissioned by PHE and led by Professor Ann McNeill (King’s College London) and Professor Peter Hajek (Queen Mary University of London), suggests that e-cigarettes may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults and young people. Following the review PHE has published a paper on <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-cigarettes-an-evidence-update">the implications of the evidence for policy and practice</a>.

The comprehensive review of the evidence finds that almost all of the 2.6 million adults using e-cigarettes in Great Britain are current or ex-smokers, most of whom are using the devices to help them quit smoking or to prevent them going back to cigarettes. It also provides reassurance that very few adults and young people who have never smoked are becoming regular e-cigarette users (less than 1% in each group).</p>

Not surprising. The only risk is continuing nicotine addiction, and the cancers associated - oral, throat. But so much less dangerous than the smoke of tobacco.
drugs  ecigarettes 
4 weeks ago
Third Canadian detained in China amid Huawei dispute • Reuters
David Ljunggren:
<p>A third Canadian has been detained in China following the arrest of a Chinese technology executive in Vancouver, a Canadian government official said on Wednesday amid a diplomatic dispute also involving the United States.

The detentions of the Canadians followed the Dec. 1 arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, at the request of the United States, which is engaged in a trade war with China.</p>

Another victim of Trump's transactional diplomacy: the Chinese expect he'll ignore US law and trade them for Meng once she's extradited.
canada  huawei  trump 
4 weeks ago
Dirty dealing in the $175bn Amazon Marketplace • The Verge
Josh Dzieza:
<p>Last August, Zac Plansky woke to find that the rifle scopes he was selling on Amazon had received 16 five-star reviews overnight. Usually, that would be a good thing, but the reviews were strange. The scope would normally get a single review a day, and many of these referred to a different scope, as if they’d been cut and pasted from elsewhere. “I didn’t know what was going on, whether it was a glitch or whether somebody was trying to mess with us,” Plansky says.

As a precaution, he reported the reviews to Amazon. Most of them vanished days later — problem solved — and Plansky reimmersed himself in the work of running a six-employee, multimillion-dollar weapons accessory business on Amazon. Then, two weeks later, the trap sprang. “You have manipulated product reviews on our site,” an email from Amazon read. “This is against our policies. As a result, you may no longer sell on Amazon.com, and your listings have been removed from our site.”

A rival had framed Plansky for buying five-star reviews, a high crime in the world of Amazon. The funds in his account were immediately frozen, and his listings were shut down. Getting his store back would take him on a surreal weeks-long journey through Amazon’s bureaucracy, one that began with the click of a button at the bottom of his suspension message that read “appeal decision.”

…Sellers are more worried about a case being opened on Amazon than in actual court, says Dave Bryant, an Amazon seller and blogger. Amazon’s judgment is swifter and less predictable, and now that the company controls nearly half of the online retail market in the US, its rulings can instantly determine the success or failure of your business, he says. “Amazon is the judge, the jury, and the executioner.”

Amazon is far from the only tech company that, having annexed a vast sphere of human activity, finds itself in the position of having to govern it. But Amazon is the only platform that has a $175bn prize pool tempting people to game it, and the company must constantly implement new rules and penalties, which in turn, become tools for new abuses, which require yet more rules to police. </p>
amazon  marketplace  scam 
4 weeks ago
Pinterest readies itself for early 2019 IPO • WSJ
Maureen Farrell:
<p>Pinterest Inc. is actively preparing for an IPO that could come as soon as April, according to people familiar with the company’s plans, the latest in a line of tech companies ramping up plans to go public.

Pinterest has told bankers it could choose its slate of underwriters to run the initial-public-offering process as soon as January, these people said. It could achieve a valuation in the public market at or in excess of $12 billion—the level at which it most recently raised funding, some of the people said. Valuations can change until a company prices its initial public offering.

In September, Pinterest surpassed more than 250 million monthly active users, who visit the site to browse through billions of images on topics ranging from living-room furniture to dinner recipes and tattoos. The company generates revenue from ads scattered across its site and is poised to generate revenue in excess of $700m this year, up 50% from the prior year, according to a person familiar with the matter.</p>

With revenues like that, it might even be making a profit. How soon before we hear it has been taken over by Nazis and pornographers?
pinterest  ipo 
4 weeks ago
How Amazon Alexa uses machine learning to get smarter • WIRED
Brian Barrett:
<p>Because many voice assistant improvements aim to reduce friction, they’re almost invisible by design. Over the past year, Alexa has learned how to carry over context from one query to the next, and to register follow-up questions without having to repeat the wake word. You can ask Alexa to do more than one thing in the same request, and summon a skill—Alexa’s version of apps—without having to know its exact name.

Those may sound like small tweaks, but cumulatively they represent major progress toward a more conversational voice assistant, one that solves problems rather than introducing new frustrations. You can talk to Alexa in a far more natural way than you could a year ago, with a reasonable expectation that it will understand what you’re saying.

Those gains have come, unsurprisingly, through the continued introduction and refinement of machine learning techniques. So-called active learning, in which the system identifies areas in which it needs help from a human expert, has helped substantially cut down on Alexa’s error rates. “That’s fed into every part of our pipeline, including speech recognition and natural language understanding,” says Rohit Prasad, vice president and chief scientist of Amazon Alexa. “That makes all of our machine learning models look better.”

…The benefits of the machine learning improvements manifest themselves across all aspects of Alexa, but the simplest argument for its impact is that the system has seen a 25% reduction in its error rate over the last year. That’s a significant number of headaches Echo owners no longer have to deal with.</p>
amazon  alexa  machinelearning 
4 weeks ago
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