Angry Robot

How Congress dismantled federal Internet privacy rules

After lobbying from nice organizations like the major telecoms, advertisers, Facebook and Google, while everyone else was distracted by the Trump shitshow, Republicans gutted Obama-era laws preventing ISPs from selling your browsing history. Because clearly what the world needs is more creepy microtargeted psychometric manipulation

Apple Is Manufacturing a Siri Speaker to Outdo Google and Amazon

Google co-founder Sergey Brin is reportedly building a $100 million ‘air yacht’ to help the poor

Valley douchebag charity poseur syndrome


Terrifying Lada Transformer with apparently real guns? Yikes.

All fossil-fuel vehicles will vanish in 8 years in twin ‘death spiral’ for big oil and big autos, says study that’s shocking the industries

This speedy revolution, a Stanford economist says, will be driven by technology, not climate policies — and while his timing may be off a few years, there is little doubt about the direction

New paint colors invented by neural network

Or Aphex Twin track names?

Russia’s US Social Media Hacking: Inside the Information War

Important stuff in here. Note that what Russia is accused of doing sounds very similar to what Cambridge Analytica does, and what many advertisers do. To quote at length:

Russia plays in every social media space. The intelligence officials have found that Moscow’s agents bought ads on Facebook to target specific populations with propaganda. “They buy the ads, where it says sponsored by–they do that just as much as anybody else does,” says the senior intelligence official. (A Facebook official says the company has no evidence of that occurring.) The ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner of Virginia, has said he is looking into why, for example, four of the top five Google search results the day the U.S. released a report on the 2016 operation were links to Russia’s TV propaganda arm, RT. (Google says it saw no meddling in this case.) Researchers at the University of Southern California, meanwhile, found that nearly 20% of political tweets in 2016 between Sept. 16 and Oct. 21 were generated by bots of unknown origin; investigators are trying to figure out how many were Russian.

As they dig into the viralizing of such stories, congressional investigations are probing not just Russia’s role but whether Moscow had help from the Trump campaign. Sources familiar with the investigations say they are probing two Trump-linked organizations: Cambridge Analytica, a data-analytics company hired by the campaign that is partly owned by deep-pocketed Trump backer Robert Mercer; and Breitbart News, the right-wing website formerly run by Trump’s top political adviser Stephen Bannon.

I’m no big fan of Google these days but I have to admit their AI stuff looks pretty impressive.

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down

This is an article from January about Cambridge Analytica using psychometrics for the Trump in 2016 – the same company that worked for the Brexit campaign, and is tied to both Bannon and Robert Mercer.

Screen Plus Speakers Equals… Wait a Minnit

Amazon announced their long-rumoured Echo with a screen today and frankly I think this thing is a dog, but what do I know.

So this is basically… a smart TV for your kitchen? Is there any other room in the prototypical house for which this would be an appropriate arrangement of screens and speakers? In a living room a TV would probably be better, on a desk a computer would be better, and in a bedroom basically any one of tablet/laptop/TV would be better. My problem is I haven’t tried a normal Echo, and I gather it’s distinguished by an unusually effective voice service, so maybe if I got hooked on Alexa I’d want one of these.

There are plenty of rumours now of Apple getting into this game, and Phil Schiller spoke up saying he thought screenless smart speakers weren’t that useful. But I don’t think that means Apple is bringing out a smart speaker with a screen. I think it means they’ll bring out a smart speaker that will send stuff to your Apple devices that have screens, which is pretty much all of them. Apple needs to bring Siri up to the level of Alexa, integrate more smart home stuff with HomeKit, and make Siri something that is essentially ubiquitous in your home (could be the speaker, but the Watch gets you 90% there), and it could dominate this category right quick. Easier said than done, I guess.

Amazon Prime members now get exclusive live concerts

The TV business is changing incredibly rapidly at this point.

The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked

Big data meets military psyops meets the far right.
Crazy, alarming story.

With 40 New Original Shows, YouTube Targets TV’s Breadbasket

Snapchat lines up media companies to produce original shows for Snap TV

OCR in OneNote

Here’s a note about notes. It turns out that there is some serious OCR (optical character recognition) in OneNote. I knew text in images and PDFs would show up in searches, which is handy but not mind-blowing as it’s been in Evernote for like 10 years. But what I didn’t know is:

  1. You can copy the text ‘out of’ an image and paste it as regular text, or simply convert it. I have been wanting this… For like 10 years.
  2. OneNote will OCR hand-written notes. I mean if your hardwiring has fallen into disrepair for lack of use like mine, it will be rocky, but OneNote will give it the college try.

Yup, it’s how I made this note. I wrote it last night with the Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro. I converted it and had to do some editing, and there’s the downside. Of course it’s not 100% or even 80% accurate (again, I mostly blame my handwriting). But also you can’t actually convert to text on the iPad. I’m using the Windows client right now which is the most full-featured, perhaps unsurprisingly. Checking…

No, you can’t do it on the Mac app either. That’s a shame. OCR is working in the background, indexing images so they show up in search results, but there is no feature in the interface that will convert to text.

Anyway, when this feature makes its way into the iOS client, this will be a wonderful option for note-taking. I definitely prefer handwriting for meetings, brainstorming, and some other uses – it’s great just to get away from a keyboard for a bit. It’s certainly one of those things that tablets are good at and feel a lot more delightful than typing. But the ability to turn that scrawl into usable text is to me, kind of a killer app.

A question few are asking is whether the tools of mass surveillance and social control we spent the last decade building could have had anything to do with the debacle of the 2017 election, or whether destroying local journalism and making national journalism so dependent on [the tech industry’s] platforms was, in retrospect, a good idea.

Lyrebird

Copy anyone’s voice based on a one-minute sample.
No, this tech won’t lead to huge problems at all!

Is It Time to Break Up Google?

Are tech giants like Google and Facebook monopolies?

So how do we feel about flying cars?

They’re happening, for rich people.

All these years after the Jetsons went off the air, we’re right on the verge of having access to robots that drive and fly us around while we sit and play Scrabble on our phones.

Even if somebody can give you a reasonable-sounding explanation [for his or her actions], it probably is incomplete, and the same could very well be true for AI. It might just be part of the nature of intelligence that only part of it is exposed to rational explanation. Some of it is just instinctual, or subconscious, or inscrutable.

The iPad These Days

So the iPad has issues. After exploding out of the gate in 2010, with sales growth greater even than the iPhone, sales have decreased over the past few years, as Horace Dediu discusses in iPad Optics:

The iPad is considered to be failing, with a presumption of an end of life in the near future. The evidence of this failure the year-on-year decline in units sold… The iPad decline is paired with a steady increase in the Mac. The iPad exhibits a four year decrease in overall volumes. This has, as they say, bad optics.

Neil Cybart notes:

A quick look at overall iPad sales reveals an ominous trend. Sales have declined for 12 consecutive quarters. After topping out 74M units in 1Q14, the annualized iPad sales rate has declined by 42% to 43M units.

Yeowch! Except it’s not all gloom. As Dediu notes,

the iPad is still a much loved and much used product. … Tablet ownership among US adults increased from 45% in April 2015 to 48% in April 2016 and 51% in November 2016. The rise has been steady. Although this counts tablets, the iPad had 85% share of the U.S. market for tablets priced above $200 so it’s a fair assumption that the iPad audience is growing.

Furthermore, iPads are still growing in “non-consuming” markets. iPad posted double-digit growth in both Mainland China and India, it continues to attract a very high percentage of first-time tablet buyers.

His explanation for the odd numbers is that “iPads remain in use far longer than phones, and perhaps even longer than some computers.”

Interestingly, Cybart blames iPad’s troubles on something else: its little brother.

People aren’t buying as many iPad mini devices these days. Excluding 7.9-inch iPad mini sales from overall iPad sales results in a completely different sales picture… iPad mini unit sales have declined 70% after peaking in 4Q13 and 1Q14. The product’s value proposition has been permanently reduced due to larger iPhones. Apple has clearly experienced Peak iPad Mini.

Whatever the reasons for the “bad optics” are, Apple is suddenly pushing iPad really hard, as Cybart notes. And they’re pushing it in two different directions, as indicated by the two main model lines. The Pro is more expensive than a normal iPad and has added hardware features, mainly the pencil and the keyboard. The iPad Pros are the subject of a new ad campaign, which Apple is clearly targeting at people who want a PC replacement.

Going the other direction, the regular ol’ iPad has just been refreshed. The biggest change is that they dropped the starting price to $329 US. That’s a big deal! The cheap new iPad will compete with Chromebooks in education, it will entice owners of ancient iPads, and it has at least a chance of competing against cheap Android tabs.

There’s a lot interesting about Apple’s strategy on both fronts: they think iPads are their best chance in education, and they think iPads are their best chance at switchers. It wasn’t so long ago it was to the Mac they were encouraging PC users to switch. We’ve known for some time that the iPad was Apple’s “vision for the future of personal computing”. But its latest moves indicate it’s their vision for the present.

Sony’s giant, $700 e-paper tablet is a great example of Weird Sony

U of T professor Geoffrey Hinton hailed as guru of new computing era

O.G. Neural Net Gangsta

Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?

Because your friends aren’t there. Same problem with almost every attempt to out-twitter twitter