30 April 2014

Jared Sinclair Blog: “Bug in Videos.app Doesn’t Clear Cached Data for Streamed TV Shows and Movies”

The publicly-available versions of iOS 7 disabled the swipe to delete feature for streamed content. I assumed – incorrectly – that the feature was removed because cached video content was being automatically removed from disk. This turns out not to be the case, as I have discovered tonight. This means that the developers of Videos.app removed the only way to delete cached video, seemingly without replacing it with any other cache-clearing strategy. Maybe it’s just an oversight, but either way it’s frustrating. Jared Sinclair

Back in iOS 6, a similar swipe-to-delete gesture was available in ‘Settings’ to delete the entire Camera Roll – and now in iOS 7 it has mysteriously disappeared! So currently there’s no easy way to clear the storage space occupied by photos on your device after a local backup (selecting hundreds of them one by one doesn’t count for obvious reasons!). Another annoyance to add to the growing list of unsolved iOS issues

29 April 2014

TechCrunch: “A Personal Reflection On Google+”

Google+ was also weighed down by its expected integration with every product at Google. It was literally everything to everyone. It was supposed to facilitate the future of chat (“Google Talk”) through Hangouts, be the glue for games across Android and the web, handle the future of news on Google News and Google Reader, and myriad other priorities, in addition to being the personal data layer across the company and a delightful social product to boot.

One of the key lessons I learned from the experience that I have drilled into every founder I have worked with is that focus is absolutely everything. As soon as you have two goals, even one that is minor, you start heading toward the center of the convex set of solutions, and your product deeply suffers.

Danny Crichton

It’s fascinating how this article feels true, while at the same time sounding like a cleverly written recap of all the clichés circulating about Google+ in the tech press. Since the author only worked at for a couple of months, it’s best to take his version with a large grain of salt.

27 April 2014

James Patrick Kelly - The Promise of Space

in Bucharest, Romania

Aveam impresia că am descoperit această povestire tot printre recomandările despre care am scris recent, dar se pare că nu e așa; în orice caz a fost o lectură impresionantă. De la un capăt la altul doar un dialog punctat de precizări ale datei și orei la care a avut loc fiecare fragment, în curând ne dăm seama că e vorba de fapt de un jurnal medical ținut de soție la căpătâiul soțului ei. Cu fiecare nouă secțiune descoperim mai multe despre relația dintre cei doi: ea scriitoare de science-fiction nominalizată la premiul Nebula, el Căpitanul Kirk, unul dintre cei șase eroi marsnauți. În urma unui accident în spațiu, el se găsește la un pas de moarte; și atunci intră în vigoare polița de asigurare la care lucrase de ani de zile, o înregistrare a fiecărui moment al vieții în speranța că la nevoie personalitatea lui va putea fi reconstruită și readusă la viață într‑o simulare pe calculator. Povestirea combină original două teme destul de distincte, pericolele explorării spațiului și mirajul conștiinței artificiale și Singularității, și le completează cu posibile tehnologii și mișcări sociale ale următoarelor decenii. Dar ceea ce face povestirea mai remarcabilă este interacțiunea dintre Zoe și recreerea digitală a lui Andy, gradul de familiaritate între ei, intensitatea cu care ea încearcă să regăsească omul alături de care și‑a petrecut ultimii ani în discursul confuz venind din difuzoare, frica de a‑l fi pierdut definitiv, incertitudinea continuă dacă procesul a reușit sau nu. În cursul a doar câteva zeci de pagini, autorul reușește ce alții nu pot în sute, să creeze o legătură emoțională între personaje și cititor, prin care mesajul lui se afirmă infinit mai bine decât prin discursuri seci și jargon pseudo-științific.

How can I tell whether what’s sad or happy or angry is you or clever algorithms? I don’t know, Andy. When are you going to say I love you?
Nota mea: 5.0

disponibilă online pe site‑ul Clarkesworld Magazine

Din recomandările lui Aliette de Bodard

in Bucharest, Romania

Datorită Internet‑ului, în ziua de azi scriitorii nu sunt limitați să comunice cu cititorii lor doar prin intermediul literaturii, revistelor și ocazionalelor convenții; există blog‑uri, pagini de Facebook și conturi de Twitter și cine știe câte alte opțiuni. Și eu urmăresc blogurile unora dintre autorii mei contemporani preferați și așa am văzut un articol de la Aliette de Bodard despre nominalizarea povestirii The Waiting Stars la mai multe premii SF. Mai interesante însă au fost povestirile recomandate de ea acolo, dintre care am ales și citit câteva. Am sărit peste cea a lui Ken Liu, pentru că eu nu mă împac deloc cu scrisul lui, dar restul au fost originale și plăcut de citit.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew – Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade

Prima dintre ele se desfășoară într‑un viitor îndepărtat, în care Hegemonia Costeya trimite un războinic încercat, generalul Lunha de la Podul Tăcut, să pacifice planeta Tiansong, unde o mișcare recentă militează pentru deconectarea planetei din rețeaua de sincronizare a Hegemoniei. Problema este că Tiansong este planeta natală a lui Lunha; ba mai mult, lidera rebeliunii, Xinjia de la Cascada Palidă, a fost demult soția lui Lunha, așa că o abordare în forță nu pare a avea mari sorți de izbândă. Ca teme și decor se apropie semnificativ de povestirile lui Aliette de Bodard, cu conflictul mocnit între hegemonia culturală a unui imperiu puternic și tradițiile locale de inspirație orientală. Sincronizarea care ține imperiul laolaltă este o formă mai perversă a rescrierii permanente a istoriei introdusă pe scena SF de 1984; practic creierele tuturor cetățenilor sunt legate la o rețea centrală care le poate rescrie la nevoie amintirile – de unde și reticența crescândă față de sistem din partea celor de pe Tiansong. O dilemă similară e tratată într‑un episod StarGate pe care l‑am revăzut recent – serialul este practic pe heavy-rotation la un post din Franța! Dacă mai adaug că generalul Lunha este în mod prezent femeie după ce a trăit câteva vieți ca bărbat, iar în timpul căsătoriei cu Xinjia fusese de asemenea femeie, este clar cum povestea extinde potențialul social al viitorului într‑o direcție neașteptată. Singura problemă pare să fie tocmai asta: cu atâtea concepte într‑un spațiu redus e uneori greu de ținut pasul cu autoarea și finalul rămâne în suspans – probabil un semn că urmează o continuare în același decor.

The public sync, the great shared memory, is an instrument to maintain peace. Even after learning of it and what it does, Lunha continued to believe this, as she does now. It doesn’t do much for freedom of thought; it comes with all the downsides of information regulated under the state’s clenched fist and the grid usurps perception of the real. But it functions, stabilizes. The Costeya Hegemony has existed in equilibrium for centuries.
Nota mea: 4.0

disponibilă online pe site‑ul Clarkesworld Magazine

24 April 2014

TechCrunch: “Facebook Acquires Fitness and Activity Tracking App Moves”

Today, we're delighted to announce that Facebook has acquired our company and the Moves app. Since we launched Moves, we’ve been focused on running a simple and clean activity diary that millions of people have enjoyed using. Moves Press Releases

I am everything but delighted to hear this! I started using Moves on the iPhone a couple of months ago to track my walks and to geo-tag my travel photos with the GPS data from the app. The results were not perfect, because the app had some issues keeping GPS tracking on; whenever I opened another app using location, Moves turns off tracking and so it would loose dozens of minutes of walking. It was in any case easier than remembering all the places I visited at which hour.

22 April 2014

asymco: “On the future of Google. Part 2”

The disproportionate weight of US/UK income and the low growth of income from rest-of-world vs. the far faster growth of usage outside the US/UK means that the toughest nut for Google to crack is not penetration but emerging market monetization.

The disparity is enormous. US/UK revenue is on average $86/user/yr (2012) and rising. The rest of the world only manages $12/user/yr. That Rest Of World includes many wealthy countries such as all of Europe and Japan. So the problem for Google is that it has an order of magnitude less income per user in the part of the internet which remains unpenetrated and the trends show that they are not narrowing the gap.

Horace Dediu

’s problem is exacerbated by the fact that its market share in Europe is effectively 100% (more precisely between 92 and 93% according to StatCounter), the search engine giant is completely dominating the market, yet still unable to effectively monetize it. This is a more general trend for US-based companies though, which usually focus on US users; to cite a recent example, Apple’s iTunes Radio launched in the US only a couple of months ago and still hasn’t expanded much, except in Australia. Also, Microsoft’s search engine competitor Bing has a tiny market share outside the US. Google’s results are simply much better internationally and I get the impression that the Bing team was focused on breaking Google’s dominance in that key market and silently ignored the rest of the world.

19 April 2014

A Hi Moment: “More time is better than more money”

When you have abundant time you can get closer to core of a place. You can hang around and see what really happens. You can meet a wider variety of people. You can slow down until the hour that the secret vault is opened. You have enough time to learn some new words, to understand what the real prices are, to wait out the weather, to get to that place that takes a week in a jeep.

Money is an attempt to buy time, but it rarely is able to buy any of the above. When we don’t have time we use money to try to get us to the secret door on time, or we use it avoid needing to know the real prices, or we use money to have someone explain to us what is really going on. Money can get us close, but not all the way.

Kevin Kelly

That’s how I like to travel!

Facebook Newsroom: “Introducing A New Optional Feature Called Nearby Friends”

When Nearby Friends is on, you can see when your friends are traveling if they’re also using this feature and sharing with you. You’ll be able to see the city or neighborhood they are in, including on their profile. When you see a friend visiting a place you’ve been, it’s the perfect opportunity to send a recommendation for a great restaurant. You can also make last-minute plans to meet up with a friend who happens to be in the same place you’re headed to. Andrea Vaccari

Cool idea, but is has a lot of problems to overcome: privacy concerns about constantly sharing your location with , notifications overload from hundreds of people you don’t really care that much about, and not least battery life, an area where Facebook is pretty bad. I don’t give it much change of succeeding, much like the many apps that have tried this before. I also find in interesting how the announcement stressed multiple times (including in the title!) that the feature is opt-in, as opposed to the usual Facebook approach of turning everything on and hoping people won’t notice.

17 April 2014

The New Yorker: “Cheap Words”

Jane Friedman, the former Random House and HarperCollins executive, who now runs a digital publisher called Open Road Integrated Media, told me, If there wasn’t an Amazon today, there probably wouldn’t be a book business. The senior editor who met Grandinetti said, They’re our biggest customer, we want them to succeed. As I recover from being punched in the face by Amazon, I also worry: What if they are a bubble? What if the stock market suddenly says, ‘We want a profit’? You don’t want your father who abuses you physically to lose his job. George Packer

The article paints a detailed picture – if somewhat unfavorable to Amazon – of the uneasy relationship, even dependency, between book publishers and the largest US online retailer. While they don’t like to admit it, their competencies are actually complementary – editors and publishers have the experience to discover the best books and authors, Amazon to sell them to the widest audience – and it would serve both parties (and readers) it they would cooperate better.

15 April 2014

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – not even digitally

There has been a lot of controversy lately around the fact that brands are seeing less and less engagement on Facebook, leaving them no other option than to pay for promotion to get back to the top, as Facebook is constantly tweaking the algorithms behind the News Feed. It started this time around with a so-called ‘breakup letter’ from Eat24 a company lamenting how much Facebook has changed for the worse and announcing they will be closing down their Facebook page. Many others have since then expressed opinions on the matter, from calling Facebook’s behavior outright ‘extortion’ to more balanced articles explaining that there’s a limit to the amount of information people can consume, so with more and more content, individual pages will appear less often in the news feed.

Someone even made an YouTube video about this: “The Problem With Facebook”

13 April 2014

Financial Times: “US v China: is this the new cold war?”

Fifteenth-century Venetians used to warn, Whoever is the Lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice. Hu Jintao echoed these sentiments when he warned in a 2003 speech that “certain major powers” are bent on controlling this crucial sea lane. Until now, China’s maritime security has been guaranteed largely by the US Navy. But, like aspiring great powers before it, China has been forced to confront a central geopolitical dilemma: can it rely on a rival to protect the country’s economic lifeline? Geoff Dyer

Lately is looks like the new cold war is US vs. Russia, all over again…

Nevertheless, China’s role will be much more important this time around, so it pays to watch their strategy closely. Increased tensions between Russia and the West may well facilitate China’s ambitions to take control over the Pacific, while the US is threatened on multiple fronts. On the other hand, China has strong economic ties with both parties, with Russia as energy supplier for the growing Chinese manufactory and America its main marketplace. If it wants the economy to keep growing, China must find a way to balance these two relationships – it would probably be best to play neutral for now, let the two have their skirmishes, while China continues to grow in influence and strength.

12 April 2014

The New Yorker: “On and Off the Road with Barack Obama”

Even as Obama travels for campaign alms and is as entangled in the funding system at least as much as any other politician, he insists that his commitment is to the middle class and the disadvantaged. Last summer, he received a letter from a single mother struggling to support herself and her daughter on a minimal income. She was drowning: I need help. I can’t imagine being out in the streets with my daughter and if I don’t get some type of relief soon, I’m afraid that’s what may happen. Copy to Senior Advisers, Obama wrote at the bottom of the letter. This is the person we are working for. David Remnick

Very interesting insight into the life of the current US president, from minor trivia about day-to-day procedures to the tedious process of gathering support for initiatives, to his personal philosophy about what it means to be a good president and his perspective on history, the so-called ‘long view’. While it does sound good in principle, a bit too idealistic maybe, I have a feeling that in the current context pragmatism and decisiveness would serve the US president better.

08 April 2014

Overthought: “The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain”

One quick thing before we start — 99.9% of the time it is not actually iOS that is causing your battery to drain quickly. I guarantee you that if you erased your phone and there were no apps or email on it, it would last for ages. But, no one uses their device like that, nor should they. Hopefully with these steps you will be living in iOS battery bliss while still using all the apps and features you love. Scotty Loveless

A great deal of sound advice here – and some counterintuitive steps, like Stop Quitting Your Apps in Multitasking, which I see people do all the time. Personally I used most of them already, for example I usually turn off cellular data when I’m at home and use only Wi-Fi; even if I have good signal this almost doubles the battery life. I also disabled location services and background app refresh on most apps, including Facebook, although for a different reason: since iOS 7, every time I start an app that uses location and I’m not connected to Wi-Fi, I get a pop-up reminding me to turn on Wi-Fi to improve location accuracy – very annoying! But it’s nice to know that this saves power too.

05 April 2014

MacStories: “Facebook Messenger 4.1 Adds Free WiFi Calls For All Users”

Free calls in Facebook Messenger can be initiated from the chat interface by tapping on a phone icon in the upper right corner of the screen. Once started, Facebook Messenger will start “ringing” another user’s device — because Messenger can’t always run in the background like Apple’s Phone app, however, the company is using standard push notifications to inform users that a call is being received. In the Facebook Messenger app, the call interface is reminiscent of Apple’s Phone app design for iOS 7.0 and iOS 7.1 with circular buttons for speaker, mute, and hide, and standard green and red targets to answer or end a call. Federico Viticci

Cool feature, although its use will probably be limited to calling friends abroad.

On the other hand… WhatsApp is planning to add the same feature in the coming months, so the overlap between ’s two messaging apps will grow. Is it a good strategic move to have two products so closely competing with each other? I would think not. It the two development teams are working separately on the same features, it would be a waste of resources at company level; it they’re working together, that goes against the promises that WhatsApp will remain independent…

01 April 2014

TechCrunch: “Facebook Bought Oculus VR To Create The Metaverse”

In one potential future, the identities we project into the metaverse will be fuzzy or even obscured. Here, our avatars will have little or nothing in common with our actual selves in the real world. They will range from pseudonymous constructions to total fantasies, like the socially-awkward straight male who plays the female dark elf seductress when he enters cyberspace.

In another potential future, the avatars we project into the metaverse will much more closely mirror our actual selves. They will look like us, move like us, reflect our personal mannerisms, and so on. When we socialize in this virtual reality, we will be among friends, just from anywhere in the world with high-speed bandwidth, at anytime we choose.

Dan Kaplan

One of the great things about online gaming – and by extension virtual reality – is precisely that it enables people to create new identities, to escape the limited ‘reality’ for virtual spaces full of possibilities, where they can be what outside they could only dream of. But is this something compatible with ’s strict, unique, identity? The latter outcome looks much more likely once Oculus is integrated into Facebook’s social vision. Chatting with friends in a virtual environment, actually interacting with them as if face-to-face, would certainly be awesome and a great improvement over browsing their photo uploads and status updates; but I think this way the technology would miss its potential by far. Hence all the negative reactions to this new acquisition…

AVC: “The Search For The Next Platform”

It isn’t clear if the next thing is virtual reality, the internet of things, drones, machine learning, or something else. Larry doesn’t know. Zuck doesn’t know. I don’t know. But the race is on to figure it out. Trillions of dollars of collective market capitalizations are on the line. So a couple billion here or there is chump change. Except for the people who collect that chump change for selling them an option on the next thing. It’s real money to us. Fred Wilson

Probably the most sensible explanation for the recent acquisition spree in the tech world and the apparent lack of direction and long-term strategy of the biggest players. In these circumstances I am strangely reminded of this quote by Steve Jobs: You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.

I’m not saying Apple is the one who will come up with the next big thing; I’m just thinking that if some direction looks promising now, by the time actual products hit the market, consumers will have already moved on to other stuff. Chasing every year’s trendy technology and trying to push it to scale won’t build the next platform; for that you need a clear vision and the courage – or foolishness – to see it through.