30 June 2018

University of Bristol: “Study of 800-million tweets finds distinct daily cycles in our thinking patterns”

The first factor, with a peak expression time starting at around 5 am to 6 am, linked with measures of analytical thinking through the high use of nouns, articles and prepositions, which has been related, in other studies, to intelligence, improved class performance and education. This early-morning period also shows increased concern with achievement and power. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the researchers find a more impulsive, social, and emotional mode.

The second factor had a peak expression time starting at 3 am to 4 am, the aggregated twitter content found this time to be correlated with the language of existential concerns but anticorrelated with expression of positive emotions.

Overall, the study discovered strong evidence that our language changes dramatically between night and day, reflecting changes in our concerns and underlying cognitive and emotional processes. These shifts also occur at times associated with major changes in neural activity and hormonal levels, suggesting possible relations with our circadian clock. Furthermore, the study revealed both cognitive and emotional states change in a predictable way during the 24 hours.

Fabon Dzogang, Stafford Lightman, Nello Cristianini

It would certainly make sense that circadian rhythms influence our way of thinking and speaking, as we grow tired towards the end of the day, or hungry at certain times. But it feels a bit strange for the study to find an important peak before 6AM; I mean, who is even awake so early, and tweeting on top of that?!

Troubles with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Yet another article I planned on writing for some time (a couple of months to be more precise), but unfortunately life got in the way. It’s about my frustrating experience with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update from the fall of 2017. Overall, the new version delivered improved stability – in the roughly six months using it, I haven’t had any crash, whereas previously a Blue Screen of Death would randomly interrupt every couple of weeks – and a faster Edge browser. But I was left with two rather serious issues as well.

The first sign of trouble was that the update failed to complete on the first attempt; it encountered a problem and rolled back, starting from scratch a couple of days later. After reboot, the first problem was immediately apparent: a weird corruption of the Start Menu. Some apps that I had pinned to the Start Menu were now missing. To make matters worse, they were also gone from Windows Search, despite being installed. The only way to launch them was to search for the app in the Microsoft Store and click the ‘Launch’ button there – very tedious.

29 June 2018

TechCrunch: “How Instagram’s algorithm works”

Instagram relies on machine learning based on your past behavior to create a unique feed for everyone. Even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with those accounts.

Three main factors determine what you see in your Instagram feed:

  1. Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.
  2. Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.
  3. Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.
Josh Constine

Interesting article, I didn’t realized the Instagram feed ranking criteria were never explicitly spelled out like this – also, I always assumed they would be very similar, if not identical, to Facebook’s criteria. Based on my experience, I feel that some of these rules are enforced (or should I say followed) more strictly than others. The ranking of photo vs. video for example is very consistent for me: I almost never interact with videos, and so I see very few videos in my news feed. The recency rule on the other hand is anything but consistent: I often encounter photos I’ve seen (or even liked!) before. Maybe these are temporary glitches during algorithm updates, or caused by switching from the mobile to the desktop feed, but they are rather confusing.

28 June 2018

The Verge: “Apple just took a shot at Facebook’s web-tracking empire”

In technical terms, the change has to do with how Safari loads content, and how much information it gives to the site it’s loading. Browsers typically offer up your login token to any plug-in that asks for it, but the new Safari holds back, asking for specific permission before telling “share” buttons or comments sections who you are. That also applies to Facebook comments on third-party sites, the specific feature demoed by Federighi. Facebook was the company called out onstage, but it also has real consequences for Google, Facebook’s only real competitor in targeted ads.

There are other ways to track people on the web, but Safari takes aim at some of them, too, pulling back information on existing plug-ins, fonts, and other configurations. In Federighi’s terms, the result is to make your Mac look like all the other Macs, which makes it harder for advertisers to track you passively. It’s a major technique, and it will be a lot harder to pull off in the new Safari.

Russell Brandom

Basically Apple implemented in Safari a set of privacy rules similar to what GDPR put into law in the EU. It never ceases to amaze me how so many people have completely opposite reactions to (mostly) the same privacy framework: if it’s coming from Apple, it gets praised all over the Internet, as if Apple were the only bastion of privacy left in the world; but when it’s the EU putting these rules forth, people are moaning and complaining that an out-of-touch bureaucracy is trying to break the Internet and endanger innovation. It could come down to Americans’ growing distrust of a centralized state, and admiration of tech companies, but unfortunately it’s an unhealthy attitude that only serves to cement tech’s dominance over certain markets.

25 June 2018

Macworld: “Apple TV: How Apple will roll out its new TV service”

The cost for all of this? It’s going to be $7.99 per month, the same as Netflix’s basic plan, but Apple’s plan will let all members of a family watch in 4K HDR. Apple’s not spending more than a billion dollars on programming just to roll this service into Apple Music. If you want to watch, you’ll need to pay. But if you’re a paying Apple Music subscriber, good news—Apple will also offer a Music & TV bundle that will save you a few bucks a month.

Oh, and where will Apple roll out this service? Everywhere. As many countries as possible. I’m going to assume that Apple is buying worldwide rights for every single series it’s commissioning, which will allow it to enter markets rapidly rather than wait around to construct custom streaming services in every single country. The clue here to Apple’s ambitions is that the company hired a BBC executive as the head of European video. Yeah, Apple’s ambitions are global.

Jason Snell

Clearly, ‘everywhere’ has a different meaning in Apple’s world. When I read ‘everywhere’, I expect a Netflix-like service available on nearly every device under the sun: apps for mobile devices, Windows and Mac desktops, and most smart TVs, Chromecast support for less smart TVs, even streaming from their website. For Apple’s fanatical fan base though, ‘everywhere’ means just Apple devices – and that’s a really poor solution for a TV streaming service that aims to go ‘global’.

21 June 2018

Mobile Opportunity: “Here Comes the Hammer: The Tech Industry’s Three Crises”

The challenge to tech is especially daunting because the industry doesn’t actually have just one problem, it has three: a PR problem, a legal problem, and a political problem. They’re all coming to a head at once, and they all interact to reinforce each other. I'm going to write a few posts exploring the problems, what caused them, and what we can do about them.

There are so many examples of this that they could fill a book. But here are three recent incidents:

1. Elon Musk’s decision to sell flamethrowers. What in the name of God is he thinking? Democracy is in trouble, nukes are proliferating, there’s Ebola in Africa -- and Elon and his buddies play with fire guns. If you want to convince people that you’re an unstable man-child unworthy to plan the future, I can think of no better way to do it. Elon’s poor judgment and lack of self-control is especially troubling because he’s running businesses that rely on public trust: trust me not to kill you with my car, trust me not to blow up your astronauts, trust that my tunnels under Los Angeles won’t collapse in an earthquake, etc.

Michael Mace

Not that other tech giants don’t have their own image problems, but Elon Musk’s behavior is increasingly bizarre – I would even venture to call it paranoid. He treats the slightest criticism in media as a personal affront and pushes back hard, accusing journalists of bias, of faking stories for traffic – kind of like Donald Trump. Just this week Tesla sued a former employee, accusing him of stealing massive amounts of confidential data and of sabotage. In an email to staff, Musk basically blames the alleged sabotage on Tesla’s ‘many enemies’, a tactic often applied by dictators to gain popular support against imagined threats. A classic paranoid thinking, always passing blame onto others, never looking inward for the real causes.

18 June 2018

PaulStamatiou.com: “Made on an iPad Pro”

The limitations don’t end there. Files can’t access any connected external storage devices, even if you find a way to hook one up via a USB adapter. I had hopes of being able to import RAW photos to the iPad Pro, then move them to a much larger external SSD as I travel. That’s unfortunately not possible at this time. You also can’t do simple things like put a few files into a zip archive. Some of these limitations with local files can be worked around with a third-party app like Documents by Readdle.

I tapped to select and import the 2,500+ 42-megapixel RAW photos on that SD card. I quickly learned that you cannot do anything while importing photos. If you background the Photos app, the import pauses.13

Long story short, it was so extremely slow that I gave up after an hour or two. It wasn’t worth it for me.14

Paul Stamatiou

A $1,000 computer that can’t multitask – that’s what you get if you replace your laptop with an iPad, Pro or otherwise.