Wednesday, May 23, 2018
"How many times can you say you're sorry before we stop caring?
If Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's globe-trotting apology tour over privacy violations, election meddling and allowing hate speech to flourish on Facebook is any sign, the answer is not that many.
After telling the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, Facebook's 2.2 billion users, the company's investors, 5,000 developers and loads of advertisers that he screwed up, Zuckerberg said he was sorry yet again on Tuesday when he admitted to the European Parliament that fake news and misuse of Facebook users' private information has become a serious problem for the world's largest social network.
But when it came to anything substantive about European privacy laws, concerns Facebook may be turning into a monopoly and how people can avoid their data being tracked by Facebook even if they're not a user, Zuck didn't have a lot to say.
European regulators ran out of patience.
"I asked you six 'yes' and 'no' questions, and I got not a single answer," said Guy Verhofstadt, a Parliament member representing Belgium. "Yes," someone in the room echoed in support. Others chimed in. One lawmaker interrupted Zuckerberg's closing statements to ask if Facebook is a monopoly. Another complained about the Facebook CEO's lackluster responses.
"I'll make sure we follow up and get you answers to those," Zuckerberg said, deferring to his team to provide more complete responses, just as he did with Congress in April.
That's what we heard, but what we're seeing with EU regulators' reaction is an uncomfortable reality for Zuck and Co.
Over the past two months, Facebook has scrambled to contain the fallout from the spiraling scandal that began with Russian meddling in the US election and then hit a fever pitch when the company admitted in March that as many as 87 million user profiles may have been sold to a UK-based political consultancy called Cambridge Analytica."
Mark Zuckerberg's worldwide apology tour for Facebook hits a snag in the EU - CNET
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Christopher Nolan is using the “unrestored” re-release of 2001: A Space Odyssey as his ultimate demo reel for an analog future - The Verge
"Christopher Nolan has seen the future, and it looks a lot like the past. Nolan is one of a handful of directors who’s made no secret of his commitment to shooting movies on film for as long as possible, even as digital filmmaking becomes the default and maybe an inevitability. In the 2012 documentary Side By Side, an enlightening examination of the digital-versus-film divide produced and hosted by Keanu Reeves, even Nolan’s longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister seemed to think the end of film was near. “I will be one of the last guys shooting film,” he tells Reeves, “and Chris Nolan will be one of the last directors using film. But I’m certain that we’ll be using digital technology within the next 10 years.”
Six years later, Nolan seems to be doubling down, not only refusing to shoot digitally but turning the chance to see 2017’s Dunkirk in 70mm into a significant selling point. He’s also one of the driving forces behind what’s being billed as an “unrestored” 70mm edition of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey that’s currently playing in theaters. And perhaps not by accident, it’s providing a stunning reminder of how much life remains in the old ways of moviemaking."
Christopher Nolan is using the “unrestored” re-release of 2001: A Space Odyssey as his ultimate demo reel for an analog future - The Verge
Monday, May 21, 2018
Sunday, May 20, 2018
"We just got a look at the upcoming RED Hydrogen One smartphone at an event meant for “RED Pioneers” (read: superfans). It is, without a doubt, one of the most ambitious smartphones in years from a company not named Apple, Google, or Samsung. It’s an Android phone with a 5.7-inch display and top-tier phone specs, but that description doesn’t do justice to what RED is trying to accomplish here.
The company better known for high-end 4K cameras with names like “Weapon” and “Epic-w” isn’t entering the smartphone game simply to sell you a better Android phone (though it does have both Verizon and AT&T signed on to support it). No, this phone is meant to be one piece of a modular system of cameras and other media creation equipment — the company claims it will be “the foundation of a future multi-dimensional media system.”
To that end, it has a big set of pogo pins on the back to connect it to RED’s other cameras and also to allow users to attach (forthcoming) modules to it, including lens mounts. If it were just a modular smartphone, we’d be talking about whether we really expected the company to produce enough modules to support it. Other phones have had mixed results in that department: Moto has released a bunch, Essential has not.
RED is planning on starting with a module that is essentially a huge camera sensor — the company is not ready to give exact details, but the plan is definitely more towards DSLR size than smartphone size. Then, according to CEO Jim Jannard, the company wants any traditional big camera lens to be attached to it. Answering a fan question, he joked that support for lenses will be “pretty limited,” working “just” with Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Leica, and more.
The Hydrogen One is very big. The prototype used we looked at was larger than an iPhone 8 Plus, complete with a USB-C plug, stereo speakers, and a headphone jack. It is also very much a RED product, which is to say it’s incredibly industrial-looking. It comes in either aluminum (pre-order price: $1,195) or titanium (pre-order price: $1,595) and it is not shy about the metal on either model.
It’s covered in metal fins and ridges — the sides have “scallops” to make it easier to hold in one hand, and the power button on the right is where you’ll find the fingerprint sensor. The company’s camera may be called “weapon,” but it definitely feels like you could do some damage with this thing.
What I saw was a big step over 3D on other phones
I wasn’t really able to do the standard stuff that you normally do with a smartphone hands-on. I couldn’t test out the cameras or spend a bunch of time testing out the speed and responsiveness. These are also definitely prototypes — there were the sort of fit and finish issues you’d expect with such early devices.
The processor inside will be a slightly-out-of-date Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but it seemed fast enough in the few demos I was able to try. Honestly, though, if you’re looking to get this thing just as a phone, you’re probably making your decision based on the wrong metrics. It’s probably going to be a perfectly capable phone, but at this price what you’re buying into is the module ecosystem.
The other innovation on the Hydrogen One is a fancy new screen technology the company is calling “4-view.” It will allow users to switch the 2560 x 1440 screen from a standard 2D to 3D to a “holographic” view. Unfortunately, it’s not the sort of thing that photographs well — so much so that the company issued a blanket ban on taking any photos or video of the front of the phone.
I tried two different 4 view demos. In the first, I watched a loop of a bunch of different videos and what I saw was a big step over 3D on other phones. Essentially, I was able to move and tilt the phone around without the 3D effect becoming broken. It worked in both landscape and portrait and the depth of the 3D was also better than I’ve seen on a phone before — but of course that’s not very strong praise.
The last phone to really make a go at having a 3D display was the Amazon Fire Phone, which was of course a flop. With that phone, the combination of bad 3D and little reason for it to exist turned the entire enterprise into an industry punchline. For the Hydrogen One, RED is planning on creating a streaming service to provide holographic content.
The second demo was also impressive. With a Hydrogen One, I was doing a simple video chat with somebody across the room. But this was a “Holo chat,” so both my face and theirs was displayed as a hologram in real time. There are two front-facing cameras, as you need two to make a 3D effect.
As for how RED is making this effect happen, it’s complicated to the point of sounding like handy-wavy science fiction filler. Jannard told me that there is a special layer underneath the LCD display which, when enabled, is able to direct light in multiple directions instead of the standard two that happen with lenticular displays. RED is also doing more than just combining two images to make standard 3D — I’m told it’s trying to use an algorithm to blend multiple angles from those two lenses to create the effect.
It’s a hologram, basically, but it doesn’t really pop out of the screen so much as give you depth within it. I wouldn’t describe this screen as the reason to go out an buy this phone, but it was neat.
RED has also talked big game about the audio on this phone, beyond the built-in stereo speakers (and, again, headphone jack). The company’s claim is that it can do for audio what it’s doing for images: create a virtual surround sound effect through its algorithms. In the demo, the “A3D” sound did have rich stereo separation just from the phone’s stereo speakers, but mostly they were just super loud.
However, with headphones the effect is much more impressive, I’m told. I haven’t yet had a chance to try to it myself (stay tuned for updates), but fans at the event described it as being just as good as Dolby 5.1 surround. They said it effectively made you believe you were hearing noises directly behind and even above you.
Its unapologetically industrial and beefy design is likely to be polarizing
RED is absolutely running the RED playbook: lots of hype, lots of big promises about amazing technology, and honestly lots of questions about whether all of this adds up to a real product that lots of people will want to buy. But the thing is: it doesn’t have to be that last thing — RED cameras are only for a small niche of people, after all.
I came away from my time playing around the Hydrogen One thinking that as a phone, its unapologetically industrial and beefy design is likely to be polarizing. I also think most people will be better served by getting something cheaper. As a hologram making and viewing machine, it’s a solid technical improvement over what I’ve seen before, but whether anybody really needs or wants that on a phone remains to be seen. As the basis for a system of phone modules, there’s still a lot to prove and a long history of competitors who tried and whiffed.
The most compelling part of the Hydrogen One isn’t the phone itself, honestly, it’s the RED ecosystem of cameras. If the company can find a way to make it an essential part of a filmmaker’s kit alongside its other cameras, it could have a successful niche product on its hands. Beyond that, though, we’ll have to wait for more final devices to really say for sure."
Hands-on with the RED Hydrogen One, a wildly ambitious smartphone - The Verge
Saturday, May 19, 2018
"Google Assistant will identify itself at the beginning of conversations when it starts making phone calls on behalf of real users later this year using Google’s human-sounding Duplex AI technology. It will also alert those on the other end of the conversation “in certain jurisdictions” that calls are being recorded, according to Bloomberg, which reported on the details that were shared at a company meeting Thursday. Certain jurisdictions?! Many states require consent from both parties for phone calls to be recorded, so it’s a necessary step. But I really, really hope that Google plans to share that information in every call — not just in areas where it’s forced to by law.
The uproar that followed Google’s I/O demonstration of Duplex spanned a range of emotions — from amazement at the technology’s mimicry of casual human speech to deep concern over ethics — and the company has tried to resolve apprehension about Duplex in the days since. Duplex will launch in experimental form this summer and allow consumers to have it call businesses to make restaurant reservations or hair appointments.
On stage at I/O, CEO Sundar Pichai said that Assistant/Duplex would record calls so that users could review the conversation later on to see how things went. But he didn't say whether the recipient would be told about the call being captured. A few days after I/O, Google emphasized that “transparency in the technology is important” and said “we’ll make sure the system is appropriately identified.” Now we know that’ll probably be something like a friendly “Hi, this is Google Assistant!” greeting, though it’ll still sound real enough to pass as an actual person. Still creepy?
Over the last week, there has been some skepticism over whether the demonstrations of Duplex on stage and at Google’s blog are in fact real phone calls made to actual businesses. Twitter users seem to have successfully tracked down one restaurant that Google called, with Mashable reporting that employee confirmed it received a call. Bloomberg claims that some of the demo recordings were edited to remove identifying information about the recipients.
Google Assistant will alert people that Duplex calls are being recorded - The Verge
Friday, May 18, 2018
"Megan Brennan to double the rate the US Postal Service charges companies like Amazon to use its services, according to a report from The Washington Post today. The move is just the latest, and perhaps most dramatic, turn in the ongoing feud between the sitting president and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world and owner of The Washington Post. Trump has often criticized the newspaper for its coverage of his administration.
Brennan has managed to keep Trump at bay, fearful the request could massively complicate existing contracts between the USPS and companies like Amazon, many of which are reportedly reviewed by a regulatory commission, The Post reports. Yet last month, Trump ordered a Postal Service review via executive order so that a task force can evaluate the finances of the organization, presumably to help back up his claim that it loses billions a year due to poor deals struck with Amazon and others.
Trump has also criticized Amazon in the past for not paying an adequate amount of taxes and for using The Post as an idealogical arm of Bezos to criticize Republicans and the White House, a charge Trump has been making for years prior to his winning the 2016 US election. Bezos, in response, has offered to shoot Trump into space using a Blue Origin rocket, though he made the joke back in 2015 when it would likely garner a less polarized response.
Brennan, who has spent 32 years at the Postal Service and became Postmaster General in 2014, has met with Trump multiple times in the past 18 months to discuss the Amazon matter, according to The Post. Reportedly, the debate over how much Amazon should be paying the Postal Service has divided top administration officials, with Trump calling on and receiving conflicting opinions from members of his cabinet and staff like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, who left the White House in March over a major rift with Trump on proposed steel and aluminum tariffs.
Amazon’s relationship to the Postal Service is a complicated one. The Post reports that Amazon, like many other retailers, uses the USPS for so-called last-mile deliveries, meaning Amazon brings the package to the post office closest to a customer’s home so a mail worker can then bring it to the door. Amazon reportedly uses the USPS for 40 percent of its last-mile deliveries, according to some analysts, and paid $21.7 billion in 2017 in shipping costs.
The Postal Service, though it’s lost money for the last 11 years, reported a 11.8 percent year-over-year increase in revenue to $19.5 billion last year, some of which is likely attributable to Amazon’s increased spending in the area. The nature of Amazon and the Postal Service’s deal remains secret."
Trump reportedly wants to punish Amazon by trying to double Postal Service rates - The Verge
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
By Zach Epstein, bgr.com May 16th, 2018
Like most other smartphone vendors out there, OnePlus has a history of copying Apple’s iPhone designs. The notion of Android vendors copying Apple’s iPhone designs is obviously nothing new. But last year’s OnePlus 5 is notable because it was one of the most blatant iPhone copies we had seen in quite some time. In a nutshell, the OnePlus 5 was an iPhone 7 Plus that ran Android. I mean, look at this thing. Not only did it sport the same design, OnePlus even copied elements of Apple’s software design, such as the camera UI. That was particularly ironic, because the OnePlus 5 also copied the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual-lens rear camera and used the second lens for the exact same features as Apple’s iPhone: Optical zoom and a portrait mode effect.
In 2018, OnePlus dialed things back a bit. Sort of. Yes, one of the first things you’ll notice about the newly announced OnePlus 6 is that it has a notch cut out of the top of the display, and it’s shaped just like the one on the iPhone X. The OnePlus 6 is one of dozens of Android phones that copy the iPhone X’s display design, though — you can see 20 Android-powered iPhone X copycats all in one place right here. There are a few other ways the OnePlus 6 takes inspiration from Apple, but there’s also one important way that this phone improves upon Apple’s iPhone X design.
For the first time ever, we found a group of people who love Apple’s iPhone design even more than Apple fanboys: Android phone designers. In 2018, Android handset designers around the world apparently decided to take the year off. Why bother putting all that time, effort, and money into designing your own phone when Apple can do all the heavy lifting for you? We’ve seen countless iPhone copycats over the years, but we’ve never seen quite so many Android phone makers all copy Apple at once.
The new OnePlus 6 wouldn’t have a notch in its display had it not been for Apple’s iPhone X. That said, we’ve seen some Android phones out there that are complete iPhone X copycats from top to bottom. The OnePlus 6 might have the iPhone X’s notch, but it’s one of the tamest examples we’ve seen among Android phones that swiped Apple’s display design. The rest of the phone doesn’t look like the iPhone X at all. Actually, it sort of looks like someone slapped the front of the iPhone X onto the back of the LG G7 ThinQ… which is a phone that also stole Apple’s iPhone X display design, so I suppose one might say the OnePlus 6 simply looks like an LG G7 ThinQ.
There is one other way OnePlus might have taken inspiration from Apple, actually, and it’s a bit bizarre. Smartphones with glass backs have existed for years, but Apple didn’t switch to a design with an all-glass back until 2017 when it added wireless charging support to the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. This was a design decision born of necessity since current wireless charging technology doesn’t work efficiently through aluminum.
Purely by coincidence, I’m sure, OnePlus decided to adopt a new design for the OnePlus 6 this year that also uses a glass back. What’s so bizarre about that? Well, OnePlus decided to switch from a metal back to a more fragile glass back on the OnePlus 6… but it didn’t add wireless charging support to the phone.
That particular decision was a bit odd, sure, but the end result is a new flagship smartphone that looks fantastic. And there’s one thing in particular about the OnePlus 6’s design that I actually believe to be a big improvement over Apple’s iPhone X. It’s something I’ve discussed several times in the past here on the site: The size.
The 5.8 inch display measurement on the iPhone X is somewhat misleading. Yes, the phone’s beautiful OLED does in fact measure 5.8 inches diagonally. But the iPhone X’s excessively narrow aspect ratio of 19.5:9 means the total surface area of the display isn’t very large at all. In fact, the 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus actually has a bigger display than the 5.8-inch iPhone X.
OnePlus’ display on the OnePlus 6 measures 6.28 inches diagonally, and it’s sooooo much better. The aspect ratio is about the same at 19:9, but the added size makes all the difference in the world. The iPhone X can feel a bit cramped at times, and fonts can be a bit small on some pages. Meanwhile, everything is crystal clear on the OnePlus 6’s nice big display.
As I’ve mentioned a few times on the site — most recently in a post titled “2018 might be the first year I don’t buy a flagship iPhone” — this is going to be a tricky year for me and countless other iPhone users out there who are in the same boat. Finding the right balance between screen size and overall phone size is tough.
Apple’s upcoming “iPhone X Plus” is expected to have a 6.5-inch screen, and I think that’s going to make the phone too large to be used comfortably with one hand. There will supposedly be a 6.1-inch iPhone model as well, and it might end up being the perfect size. But that model will have an LCD screen instead of OLED, less impressive specs, and maybe even a “chin” bezel at the bottom (which would be a deal-breaker).
The OnePlus 6 is a great size with its 6.28-inch display. It’s narrower and a bit shorter than the iPhone 8 Plus, so it’s a bit more comfortable to use with one hand. I still wouldn’t mind a phone that’s a tiny bit narrower though, and the 6.1-inch iPhone will likely fit the bill. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to find out exactly what the tradeoffs will be for people who opt for Apple’s upcoming mid-range iPhone model."
OnePlus copied the iPhone X, but it also improved Apple’s design in one important way – BGR