Link

AnandTech reviews the iPhone 6s in great detail

AnandTech posted their review of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus yesterday. I haven't seen one of their reviews for a while but it always amazes me how much detail they go into, including details and assumptions about the processor design. 

This review really shows how much attention Apple pays to the details of processor design and how much having the scale to design and build their own chips has paid off. It also shows how far ahead of every other smartphone manufacturer their hardware is. 

In the 1990s people wondered how Microsoft would ever be eclipsed. It really feels like that today with Apple. With the amount of money that Apple has available to develop their future products, how can any competitor keep up, let alone catch up?

Apple’s silicon-making advantages

Great, if slightly long, article from Steve Cheney about the advantages that Apple has gained from doing their chip design in-house. 

Consider the audacity back in 2007 for Apple to believe it could pull this off. How would they ever make back the R&D to build out a team and pay for expensive silicon designs over the long run, never mind design comparative performing chips? Well today we know. Apple makes nearly 100% of the profit in the entire smartphone space.

It's amazing to think about the advances that Apple are making with their chips and how it is powering their lead in the mobile space. 

Uber might be ruthless, but so is the taxi industry

Good overview from Buzzfeed of the fight by Uber for permission to operate in Las Vegas. 

Uber might have an underhanded way of getting into markets, but the taxi industry is standing up for itself, not the public, in their push for regulation.

But tonight, for the first time, there were Uber cars among the limos and cabs. One picked up a fare at Caesars Palace and embarked on what would have been one of the first Uber rides in Vegas. But before it could leave the hotel roundabout, the Uber was cut off by two unmarked cars, sirens blaring. Two men burst out, ordered everyone out of the Uber, and told the driver to put his hands on the car’s hood. They were masked and wearing bulletproof vests.

It also surprises me how much pointless regulation there seems to be in the United States. I don't even understand what a "business licence" is, or why it might be necessary, other than for helping incumbents. 

As an aside, it surprises me every time I read a great article like this from Buzzfeed. I don't think their focus on click-bait has done them any favours. 

Is it a bubble? "You can answer that question for yourself"

Interesting article from Carole Cadwalladr, writing at the Guardian, about TechCrunch Disrupt 2015 and the San Francisco startup scene.

It's a good read and rather cynical about the whole scene and expectations for the future.

Out on the exhibition floor, I meet Marcus Hawkins, another Brit. He’s from Norfolk and has successfully run his own software company for a decade or so but he recently set up a new company, Patrolo, a business-to-business enterprise offering a website mistake-correction service. What are you disrupting, I ask him. He thinks for a moment. “King’s Lynn.”

We swap other bits of jargon we’ve picked up. Have you pivoted, I say, a piece of startup-ese I’d learned five minutes earlier. It means to change your business strategy rapidly. “I’ve pivoted so many times I’m practically facing backwards,” he says. “But it’s OK. I have a lot of runway left.” Which is the amount of time a startup has before the money runs out, he explains.

The article is probably a little too cynical, but it does carefully tread the line between poking fun and being informative.

Troy Hunt on Ashley Madison

I guess the Ashley Madison data breach has everything that makes a good story: hacking, infidelity and fear.

I've not been too interested in the story because too many of the articles that I'm seeing are treating the leak as a witch hunt.  But, the way I see it, merely being on the site isn't confirmation that any bad behaviour was taking place.

This being an infidelity website doesn't make the data any more interesting than if it were medical, criminal or financial records being leaked. Any of those would be highly damaging too, even for the puritanical commenters enjoying this current leak with macabre glee. 

 Troy Hunt, a developer and security expert, has a good article on some of the questions he has been receiving about the hack.

Troy runs a site called Have I been Pwned, which seems to be a good source for discovering if any of your email addresses and other information have been part of any data leaks. Looks like one of my email addresses was part of the Adobe leak but everything else was clean.

These sorts of data breaches are going to be more common in the future. In my experience, security is often an after-thought for many developers and this has shown the dire consequences of that.

Subscriber share for streaming music?

There is an article trending on Medium currently that is complaining about the way artists are paid by streaming music services. 

It is an interesting problem, but at the end of the day, it's a problem that I personally don't care about it. Maybe this is because I never considered that the money I might pay for a streaming service would go directly to the artists. I had never assumed that if I paid $10 to Spotify and listened to only one song in a month that the $10 (less some profit margin) would go directly to the artist who created that song.

It's unfortunate that the system can be gamed by some artists but does it really matter? The article cites a number of examples where artists are using the existing system to their advantage but there is no real indication of how widespread this issue really is. 

The article is worth a read but I'm not convinced that this change is the slam dunk that the author portrays it as. 

Also, this article made me think about the time when I spent $10 buying YouTube advertisements. I had made a handful of YouTube videos and wanted to try and attract some users. I promoted a video I made that was a review of the Hyperlapse app from Instagram. I got a few hundred views from it but most of them were low quality views and I decided that YouTube advertising just wasn't worth it for me. Most of the views were from the Philippines and only generated about a 10 second view. I expect that they were just watching enough of the video to generate revenue for themselves from the view. 

 

Google Photo tagging has issues with racism

There have been a few complaints from users of Google Photos about racist tags being applied to some photos.

This is an unfortunate mishap for Google, and one of those things that is always going  to happen with any service that is attempting to display "intelligence".

I would say that while the words might be racist, the problem isn't one of racism, as I presume (and hope) that there is no intention by Google to be racist.

However, it does draw my attention to white privilege. As a white man, I'm unlikely to have my photos labelled with offensive terms as my boring middle-aged-man photos are going to form a large part of Google's test set. Also, boring English words like "gorilla" don't often take on an additional meaning that is offensive to boring middle-aged men.

It makes you think.

Crowd-sourced time-lapses

Sometimes I'm amazed by what crowd-sourcing can achieve. There is a story out in Wired this week about creating time-lapse movies based on crowd-sourced photos. This is quite amazing to see.

The people behind the project have created a YouTube video describing the project and showing some examples. It's unbelievable. I do find some of the video clips to be a little bit creepy because they are merging together so many source photos and there is no sign of any human activity. There are no people on the sidewalk and no cars on the roads. It's like an eerie post-apocalyptic scene that is slowly changing.

Once everything that we are creating, such as photos, movies and music, move online, there are endless possibilities of how they can be remixed

If you are interested, it is worth looking at the researchers' site for a look at the original research paper.

Self-driving cars? Who cares! what about a self-driving truck

Over the past couple of years, we've heard a lot of stories about self-driving cars, with visible projects from Google and Tesla, along with Uber talking about it too. Less obvious to me have been stories about other types of self-driving vehicles.

I found this story from The Verge about self-driving trucks from Daimler to be fascinating. Truck drivers are frequently driving long distances and they would certainly benefit more from self-driving vehicles than I would.

Many of our goods are transported across the country on the back of a truck on either dangerous or boring roads. Self-driving vehicles would hopefully provide benefits in both of those situations.

The article is worth a read. It sounds like the technology needs a little bit of work as it will only direct a vehicle when there are visible road markings on both sides of the lane and requires the driver to take over at other times.

John Harrison's extremely accurate 18th century clock

I love the story of John Harrison, as told (in simplified form) in the book Longitude. Harrison was a self-educated clockmaker who invented an accurate clock that would work on a ship and allow longitude to be calculated. This was well before GPS, at a time when Britain and other nations were venturing out into the world by sea without the ability to accurately find their position. 

Harrison did a significant amount of work towards solving the problem and received a reward from the Longitude Act.

It seems that he also created a design for a clock more accurate than anything else at the time. Finally, after 250 years this clock was built, tested and found to be as accurate as expected.

The story of Harrison is quite interesting in that he devoted his life to solving the problem of creating an accurate nautical clock, actually succeed and received the recognition he deserved, during his lifetime.

How much snooping is the government doing? Probably more than we realise

Following on from my post earlier today about law enforcement agencies wanting to break communications encryption, here is another article from The Verge about police in Baltimore just breaking the mobile phone system in trying to investigate cases.

It seems that Baltimore police have used the StingRay phone tracker at least 25,000 times over the past eight years. This is a device (based on my quick read of the Wikipedia page) that is designed to download information from all mobile phone in an area and, as a side effect, disrupts service to the cellular network.

As far as I can tell, this sort of device is common throughout the United States and probably in many other countries. I believe that the use of this sort of device is an unacceptably broad search of the population. 

Just merely allowing police departments access to these devices means that they will be used and likely used excessively. When the only tool you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Update: If you want to find out more about the StingRay, have a look at this 2012 page from the EFF, and or this recent article from the Examiner about StingRay use in San Diego.

Charli's Crafty Kitchen on YouTube

Business Insider has an article, which is obviously based on someone else's article, based on a report from an advertising company.

The article is a little unexciting because I know that some people are making money on YouTube.

However, the real surprise was Charli's Crafty Kitchen. I've seen a few of the videos from this channel in the past week and they are great fun. Go and watch them now.

How secure is keyless car entry?

Nick Bilton at the New York Times has an interesting account of seeing potential thieves enter his car without using a key. 

I watched as the girl, who was dressed in a baggy T-shirt and jeans, hopped off her bike and pulled out a small black device from her backpack. She then reached down, opened the door and climbed into my car.

It's interesting that it can be quite so easy to get into a car equipped with keyless entry. For years car entry systems have been getting more and more secure. Wireless fobs seem to be a retrograde step in certain circumstances.

My car is getting close to its 20th birthday so I don't have this problem at the moment. I think I first wondered about it after seeing the keyless entry prank on Top Gear a few years ago.

Car security is obviously something that manufacturers take seriously so I assume this isn't a widespread problem. But it still appears to be a problem.

Oh, FBI, I can't even....

The Amy Hess from the FBI has published a blog post on the WSJ site in response to an earlier article putting forward viewpoints from opposing sides of the debate.

When I originally read the blog post, I thought it was broader than just decrypting communication. I thought that it was proposing a global backdoor for all encryption, instead it's just reviving the '90's idea of the Clipper chip

The original article is interesting in that the affirmative viewpoint is all about increasing fear

We can’t fight terrorism and violent crime in the dark. But that is where we’re headed if law-enforcement and intelligence officials are denied the legal access they need.

While the counter-point is based on actual fact and laws. Like the Constitution:

The fact that the Constitution offers a process for obtaining a search warrant does not mean it should therefore be illegal to make an unbreakable lock or use an unbreakable code. These are two distinct concepts.

Amazingly, the FBI post takes until the third paragraph to mention terrorism. It's a bit like a veiled threat. We must give the FBI and law enforcement the tools they require or the terrorists will win. And the paedophiles!

We welcome the discussion of how to continue to ensure civil liberties while protecting the safety of the American people in this dynamic new context.

It's understandable that law enforcement agencies should request tools that make their job easier. However, because of the scope for misuse caused by creating backdoors in encryption technology, the government must resist these calls.

Life is hard. The FBI shouldn't get a free pass to break encryption.

Paying employees well

Last week, I saw a lot of articles about Gravity Payments and their announcement that they would move all their employees to a salary of at least $70,000 over the next three years. 

This is a very interesting policy and a reversal of a trend of the last few decades where more of the rewards of success are going higher up the tree. 

Years ago, it was possible to make a decent living as a blue-collar factory worker. That seems a lot harder now and for many people even making ends meet on a low salary is next to impossible. 

Gravity Payments are obviously getting a fair amount of free publicity out of this, but they will also get increased staff retention and hopefully lower costs in the long run. 

It's an interesting experiment and hopefully something that we see more of. It makes a great change for the awful stories we hear about Amazon, Walmart, fast food restaurants and so many other large employers.

Web security is out of your hands

This article describes an attack on the author's bank and mobile phone accounts. It goes to show that no matter how strong your electronic security is, the human in the middle is usually the weak link. 

My digital security is good; unique strong passwords, held in a secure password store behind another strong password. It would be hard to compromise. However, this attacker had only a bunch of data that you could hoover up from any online store order.

It's unclear what else an account holder can do if companies allow social engineering attacks to get through. The criminals behind this sort of attack are going to be good at what they do and are going to learn how these security systems work and how they can be circumvented.

However, I've tried to contact the tax department and a bank (neither of which I contact often), and struggled to get any useful information because I couldn't remember addresses or passwords so there needs to be some leniency. It's a difficult situation for a company. 

With the ability to launch these sorts of attacks from anywhere in the world and with little ability to track down the thieves, this is going to become a significant problem over the next few years. I doubt there is going to be any easy solution.

via Charles Arthur

Apple Watch review avalanche

Who knew the embargo was over?

Joanna Stern has been putting out some great reviews lately and now she has got a review of the Apple Watch. The additional video review comes complete with a battery indicator, head-mounted DSLR and cameo from Rupert Murdoch. 

I'm guessing there is going to be an avalanche of Apple Watch reviews coming in the next 72 hours. Update: looks like The Verge has got a review too... I'm guessing that every tech site I look at will have one. Time to start reading.

Stay classy Daily Mail

The Daily Mail is a loved or loathed institution in the UK. I would read it on occasion in cafes and it would usually make me angry. Stories in it were aimed to attack immigrants, paedophiles, criminals, the unemployed, poor people, bureaucrats, modern technology, and anyone else who isn't part of middle Britain from the 1950s. There is even a great song about their antics

Over the past few years, the Daily Mail has attempted to become a global internet destination and has been reasonably successful at it. A recent article on Gawker described the experience of one reporter who spent a year working there.

After the George Clooney incident in 2014, and many accusations of plagiarism and copyright infringement, there is nothing in the Gawker article that should be surprising. I could probably have almost written the article myself. The article is worth a read although the author is no Richard Peppiatt.

Why release Cortana for iOS and Android?

This morning I had been reading about rumours that Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant for Windows Phone, is to be released as an app for iOS and Android. This decision didn't seem to make much sense to me until I found this article from Gregg Keizer at Computerworld:

"This will reinforce the value of Windows 10," argued Dawson, referring to the Cortana-equipped upgrade scheduled to ship later this year. "Microsoft wants customers to have an integrated experience, a complete experience across all devices. But although Cortana is a headline feature on Windows Phone, the most common scenario will be a user who owns a Windows PC with a non-Windows phone."

When I was contemplating the impending release, I hadn't realised that Cortana was in the pipeline for Windows 10. It makes much more sense now. Microsoft is working on some interesting things at the moment and this could become one of them.


Let me look into my crystal ball about driverless cars...

Driverless cars are years away from existing in the real world, yet some pointy-heads at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have decided that they will cause more pollution. 

How?

A self-driving car would make more trips to finish the same tasks, the University of Michigan researchers said. It might drop off one parent at work, return home to pick up the other, and then take the kids to school, return home, then start the return cycle.

This is taken from a Bloomberg article about the research. Without a link to the original research, who knows what conclusions the researchers actually came to or their rationale but from the Bloomberg article, it seems a lot like crystal ball gazing.