The Object-of-Consumption Edition Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Cold Discovery, by Drew Austin, Real Life Magazine

If covers can be construed as misleading or superficial wrappers, platform algorithms are hardly more honest. They introduce their own form of deception, feeding users content according to biases and affordances that are frequently opaque, obfuscated, concealed, or misleadingly represented. At their most transparent, streaming services like Spotify reductively mirror your past choices back to you; Netflix, however, has gone as far as to covertly recontextualize movie screen shots for its menu displays based on individual viewers’ data, in order to entice those viewers to watch more — an algorithmic subversion of the physical cover that is slightly different for everyone.

These dynamics highlight how, on platforms like Spotify and Netflix, specific artists and their works are not the objects offered to the users for consumption — a focus that covers supported. Instead, the object of consumption is the platforms themselves. More than watching certain shows, we watch Netflix; more than listening to songs, we listen to Spotify; more than reading particular books, we read our Kindles. We can choose not to pay attention to the details beyond that. Our peers frequently don’t know what we’re watching, listening to, or reading, but we don’t necessarily know either.

Super Micro Says Review Found No Malicious Chips In Motherboards, by Joseph Menn, Reuters

Computer hardware maker Super Micro Computer Inc told customers on Tuesday that an outside investigations firm had found no evidence of any malicious hardware in its current or older-model motherboards.

In a letter to customers, the San Jose, California, company said it was not surprised by the result of the review it commissioned in October after a Bloomberg article reported that spies for the Chinese government had tainted Super Micro equipment to eavesdrop on its clients.

Selling Phones

Qualcomm Wins Import Ban Against Several Apple iPhones In China, by Stephen Nellis, Reuters

The preliminary order affects the iPhone 6S through the iPhone X. [...] Because the patents concern software, Apple could make changes to its software to avoid the patents and still be able to sell its phones.

Huawei Arrest Puts 'Bullseye' On Apple, by Dave Lee, BBC

On Tuesday, a Chinese court banned the sale of older iPhone models as part of a long-running patent infringement lawsuit between Apple and Qualcomm. Most legal observers had expected China to reject Qualcomm’s request for an injunction.

There is no direct link between this action and the Huawei row. But taken against the backdrop of Ms Meng’s arrest, and ongoing tariff disputes, it’s being seen as a muscle-flexing display on the part of the Chinese.


iPad Pro Bug Makes Music Apps Stutter And Crackle, by Charlie Sorrel, Cult of Mac

Load up a couple of synthesizer apps inside AUM, and maybe add a few effects, then take a look at the CPU meter. It’ll be up way higher than it would be on an older iPad. But you won’t need to look at that meter, because the audio is probably crackling and stuttering already.

iPad Pro's Potential Becomes Clear With This $99 USB-C Hub, by Stephen Shankland, CNET

The hub's top feature is letting people use nice headphones or speakers connected with the 3.5mm jack while keeping the iPad plugged into power, Sanho Chief Executive Daniel Chin said. "With our dock, you can listen to your music and charge your iPad Pro at the same. You can't do that with any of Apple's adapters," he said.

Other possibilities: connecting both MIDI musical instruments over USB-A and headphones over 3.5mm audio; copying photos from a memory card while looking at photos on an external monitor; and using a full-size external keyboard and monitor like an ordinary laptop user. All of course while connected to power.

Day One 3.4 Introduces New Fonts, Drawing, And Apple Watch Improvements, by Josh Ginter, The Sweet Setup

Day One’s Premium subscribers can now insert a brand new type of entry into their journal: drawings. Although not limited to the Apple Pencil, Day One 3.4’s new drawing capabilities are best used with either of Apple’s drawing utensils.


The Thumb Zone, by Joe Cieplinski

Large screens on phones are not going away anytime soon. At the same time, our thumbs aren’t going to magically start getting longer. That shrinking percentage of reachable screen real-estate needs to become the focus of interactivity, while the outer regions of the screen are devoted mainly to information display. The more designers and developers consider this, the better time we will all have with our apps, regardless of our screen-size preferences.

Shutting Down, by Aaron Harris, Y-Combinator

The unintuitive thing about figuring out if you should shut down your company is that it isn’t the path of least resistance. The “easiest” thing to do for a struggling company is to fall into zombie mode – neither growing nor truly dead. This is easy because it doesn’t require an active decision, it just involves continuing to do the bare minimum to keep the company alive. This involves a series of seemingly small compromises that lead to stasis or failure.

Shutting down is hard because it means publicly admitting that you were wrong, unlucky, or incompetent. Because of this difficulty, we’ve evolved a set of terms that often mean “shut down” without saying “shut down.” In no particular order these are: pivot, hard pivot, rebrand, strategic shift, change customer focus, and platform switch.


US Tech Giants Decry Australia’s ‘Deeply Flawed’ New Anti-encryption Law, by Zack Whittaker, TechCrunch

“The new Australian law is deeply flawed, overly broad, and lacking in adequate independent oversight over the new authorities,” said the Reform Government Surveillance coalition in a statement. The tech companies added that the law would “undermine the cybersecurity, human rights, or the right to privacy of our users.”

Sorry, Your Data Can Still Be Identified Even If It’s Anonymized, by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, Fast Company

While the MIT group wasn’t trying to unmask specific users in this dataset, they proved that someone acting in bad faith could merge such anonymized datasets with personal ones using the same process, easily pinning the timestamps together to figure out who was who.

The takeaway is not just that a malicious actor or company could use this process to surveil citizens. It’s that urban planners and designers who stand to learn so much from these big urban datasets–for instance, Ratti’s own lab recently used such data for a project on reducing parking, while other groups use it to study everything from urban poverty to accessibility–need to be careful about whether all that data could be combined to deanonymize it.

Bottom of the Page

I love reading e-books on my iPhone, because I will always have a book with me, and I can easily whip out my iPhone to read another page no matter where I am.

Except this morning, when the e-book app refuses to load my half-read e-book, and started complaining about some server issue.


Thanks for reading.