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There’s something scary in Fortune’s new article about AT&T:
“Say you and your neighbor are both DirecTV customers and you’re watching the same live program at the same time,” says Brian Lesser, who oversees the vast data-crunching operation that supports this kind of advertising at AT&T. “We can now dynamically change the advertising. Maybe your neighbor’s in the market for a vacation, so they get a vacation ad. You’re in the market for a car, you get a car ad. If you’re watching on your phone, and you’re not at home, we can customize that and maybe you get an ad specific to a car retailer in that location.”
Such targeting has caused privacy headaches for Yahoo, Google, and Facebook, of course. That’s why AT&T requires that customers give permission for use of their data; like those other companies, it anonymizes that data and groups it into audiences — for example, consumers likely to be shopping for a pickup truck — rather than targeting specific individuals. Regardless of how you see a directed car ad, say, AT&T can then use geolocation data from your phone to see if you went to a dealership and possibly use data from the automaker to see if you signed up for a test-drive — and then tell the automaker, “Here’s the specific ROI on that advertising,” says Lesser. AT&T claims marketers are paying four times the usual rate for that kind of advertising.
“This is a terrifying vision of permanent surveillance,” argues the Verge (in an article shared by schwit1):
In order to make this work, AT&T would have to:
– Own the video services you’re watching so it can dynamically place targeted ads in your streams
– Collect and maintain a dataset of your personal information and interests so it can determine when it should target this car ad to you
– Know when you’re watching something so it can actually target the ads
– Track your location using your phone and combine it with the ad-targeting data to see if you visit a dealership after you see the ads
– Collect even more data about you from the dealership to determine if you took a test-drive
– Do all of this tracking and data collection repeatedly and simultaneously for every ad you see
– Aggregate all of that data in some way for salespeople to show clients and justify a 4x premium over other kinds of advertising, including the already scary-targeted ads from Google and Facebook.
If this was a story about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, this scheme would cause a week-long outrage cycle…
AT&T can claim up and down that it’s asked for permission to use customer information to do this, but there is simply no possible way the average customer has ever even read their AT&T contracts, let alone puzzled out that they’re signing up to be permanently tracked and influenced by targeted media in this way.
of …read more
Cruising through the children’s hands-on activity zone at Maker Faire Bay Area, we see kids building a cardboard enclosure for the Chatterbox smart speaker kit. It would be tempting to dismiss the little smiling box as “just for kids” but doing so would overlook something more interesting: an alternative to data-mining corporations who dominate the smart speaker market. People are rightly concerned about Amazon Echo and Google Home, always-listening devices for online retail sending data back to their corporate data centers. In order to be appropriate for children, Chatterbox is none of those things. It only listens when a button is pressed, and its online model is designed to support the mission of CCFC (Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.)
Getting started with a Chatterbox is much like other products designed to encourage young makers. The hardware — Raspberry Pi, custom HAT, speaker and button inside a cardboard enclosure — is conceptually similar to a Google AIY Voice kit but paired with an entirely different software experience. Instead of signing in to a Google developer account, children create their own voice interaction behavior with a block-based programming environment resembling MIT Scratch. Moving online, Chatterbox interactions draw upon resources of similarly privacy-minded entities like DuckDuckGo web search. Voice interaction foundation is built upon a fork of Mycroft with changes focused on education and child-friendliness. If a Chatterbox is unsure whether a query was for “Moana” or “Marijuana”, it will decide in favor of the Disney movie.
Many of these privacy-conscious pieces are open source or freely available, but Chatterbox pulls them all together into a single package that’s an appealing alternative to the big brand options. Based on conversations during Hackaday’s Maker Faire meetup, there’s a market beyond parents of young children. From technically aware adults who lack web API coding skills, to senior citizens unaware of dark corners of the web. Chatterbox Kickstarter campaign has a few more weeks to run but has already reached funding goals. We look forward to having a privacy-minded option in voice assistants.
“Most snails are ‘righties’. Now scientists have found genes that can change the shell coiling direction,” writes the New York Times. ( Non-paywalled version here )
Suren Enfiajyan shares their report:
Studying these snails offers clues to the evolution of body plans in many animals. It also could be important for understanding why up to 10 percent of people are born with sinus inversus, a condition where their internal organs are flipped like a lefty snail’s shell. Now scientists are turning to Crispr — the powerful gene editing tool — to figure out why some snails turn out this way. A team in Japan led by Reiko Kuroda, a chemist and biologist, has successfully used the technique to manipulate a single gene responsible for shell direction in a species of great pond snail.
The research, published last week in the journal Development, offers definitive proof of the genetic underpinnings of handedness in this species, and could lead to clues about left- and right-handed mysteries in other organisms. “Ten years ago you might not imagine there were any similarities in the left/right asymmetry of a snail and the left/right asymmetry of humans. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that is the case,” said Angus Davison, an evolutionary geneticist, who has studied chiral pond snails, but was not a part of Dr. Kuroda’s study…
In the current study, Dr. Kuroda and Masanori Abe used Crispr to edit out the Lsdia1 gene, and then raised the resulting mutant snails. Confirming previous work, they showed that even in the first embryonic cell, genetic information started picking sides. And by the third cleavage, when four cells become eight, the mutant cells were rotating in the opposite direction of what is expected. These snails grew into lefties, and so did their offspring. Without two working copies of Lsdia1, snails can survive with Lsdia2 — but their shells won’t coil to the right.
In the article Dr. Davison says that there’s still more research to do. “Unfortunately, snail research doesn’t move quickly.”
of this story at Slashdot.
“Netflix has 175 days left to pull off a miracle… or it’s all over,” argues a headline at Forbes for an article by the chief analyst at disruption research firm RiskHedge:
Netflix is not the future of TV. Netflix changed how we watch TV, but it didn’t really change what we watch… Netflix has achieved its incredible growth by taking distribution away from cable companies. Instead of watching The Office on cable, people now watch The Office on Netflix. This edge isn’t sustainable.
In a world where you can watch practically anything whenever you want, dominance in distribution is very fragile. Because the internet has opened up a whole world of choice, featuring great exclusive content is now far more important than anything else… Netflix management knows content is king. The company spent $12 billion developing original shows last year… To fund its new shows, Netflix is borrowing huge sums of debt. It currently owes creditors $10.4 billion, which is 59% more than it owed this time last year. The problem is that no matter how much Netflix spends, it has no chance to catch up with its biggest rival…
in about 175 days, Disney is set to launch its own streaming service called Disney+. It’s going to charge $6.99/month — around $6 cheaper than Netflix. And it’s pulling all its content off of Netflix. This is a big deal. Disney owns Marvel, Pixar Animations, Star Wars, ESPN, National Geographic, Modern Family, and The Simpsons. Not to mention all the classic characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. In six of the past seven years, Disney has produced the world’s top-selling movie… Disney has shown it can produce movies and shows people want to watch. No competitor comes within 1,000 miles of Disney’s world of content. Disney’s ownership of iconic franchises like Star Wars gives it something no money can buy.
Meanwhile, Netflix will lose a lot of its best content — and potentially millions of subscribers who switch to Disney+. While Netflix is running into debt “trying out” new shows, Disney already has the best of the best in its arsenal.
of this story at Slashdot.
Friday the MIDI Association published an introduction to MIDI 2.0, describing updates to the already-evolving 36-year-old standard, including MIDI-CI, Profiles and Property Exchange:
MIDI 2.0 updates MIDI with new auto-configuration, extended resolution, increased expressiveness, and tighter timing — all while maintaining a high priority on backward compatibility. This major update of MIDI paves the way for a new generation of advanced interconnected MIDI devices, while still preserving interoperability with the millions of existing MIDI 1.0 devices. One of the core goals of MIDI 2.0 is to also enhance the MIDI 1.0 feature set whenever possible.
The additional capabilities that MIDI 2.0 brings to devices are enabled by MIDI-Capability Inquiry (MIDI-CI). The basic idea is that if devices have a bidirectional connection, they can exchange their capabilities with each other. Devices can share their configuration and what MIDI functions are supported. Devices use a bidirectional link to configure MIDI features when both devices agree to support that feature. MIDI-CI discovers and configures device features using three categories of inquiry: Profile Configuration, Property Exchange, and Protocol Negotiation. If a device does not support any new features, it uses the MIDI 1.0 as usual. Devices connected to that device will continue to use MIDI 1.0 in communication with that device…
MIDI 2.0 has a new Universal MIDI Packet format for carrying MIDI 1.0 Protocol messages and MIDI 2.0 Protocol messages…
The foundational specification, MIDI-CI has been published and is available for download. Other key MIDI 2.0 specifications are nearing completion in the MIDI Manufacturers Association. But it will take several years to write numerous Profile and Property Exchange specifications to follow…. [W]e do not expect any MIDI 2.0 products to be released in 2019. For MIDI to be fully useable, the industry needs devices, applications, operating systems, and DAWs to support these new specifications. It will take time for a whole system of devices to be available.
The post emphasizes that the original MIDI 1.0 “is not being replaced. Rather it is being extended and is expected to continue, well integrated with the new MIDI 2.0 environment. It is part of the Universal MIDI Packet, the fundamental MIDI data format…
“MIDI 2.0 is just part of the evolution of MIDI that has gone on for 36 years. The step by step evolution continues.”
of this story at Slashdot.
The Nitro can also be equipped with Radeon RX 560X graphics, while the 14-inch Swift 3 laptop weighs in at just 3.2 pounds. …read more
Night creatures and insomniacs of a bygone era may fondly recall a TV test pattern appearing once [Jack Parr] or [Steve Allen] had had their say and the local TV station’s regular broadcast day had concluded. It was affectionately known as the Indian Head test pattern, for the stylized Native American, resplendent in a feathered headdress, that featured prominently in the graphic.
Unknown to most viewers was exactly how that test pattern and others like it were generated. But thanks to [Rich “The Lab Guy” Diehl] and his monoscope restoration project, we can all share in the retro details. It turns out that while some test patterns were merely a studio camera trained on a printed card, most were generated by a special tube called a monoscope. It functioned in basically the same manner as a studio camera, but rather than scanning the incident light of a scene with an electron beam, the image was permanently etched into a thin aluminum plate. [Rich] laid hands on two vintage monoscope tubes, one containing the Indian Head test pattern, and set about building a device to use them. “The Chief” can hold either tube in a Faraday cage of thin, flexible PCB material and 3D-printed parts, with supporting electronics like the power supply and video amplifiers in an aluminum chassis below.
It’s a nice piece of work and a great lesson in how it used to be done, and the lithophane of the Indian head is a nice touch. Hats off to [The Lab Guy] for build quality and great documentation, including a detailed video series that starts with the video below. If you need a little more background on how video came to be, [Philo Farnsworth]’s story is a good place to start.
“The shampoo bottle, the deodorant stick, razors and even your toothbrush — they all get thrown away when they’re empty or worn out. But if they were reusable — or refillable — just imagine how much waste could be avoided.”
That’s how Bloomberg describes the new “Loop” initiative being tested for one year by the New Jersey recycling company TerraCycle:
This week, Loop began its U.S. trial, allowing consumers to use steel, glass and durable plastic reusable packaging for everyday items. Kroger Co. and Walgreens, along with such consumer brands as Procter & Gamble, Nestle, The Clorox Co. and Unilever, are taking part… For the trial, Loop is available online to customers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. You can order products made by the participating companies that will be delivered to you in special reusable packaging.
Under the program, manufacturers have redesigned product containers for some of their most well-known products. Loop will collect a refundable deposit, sometimes $5 to $10, that customers will get back when they return their containers. UPS will pick up your empties for no additional charge… Procter & Gamble has unveiled its Crest mouthwash in a sleek glass bottle — with a rubber base to prevent breakage. It also has non-electric Oral B toothbrushes that have a head that pops off so users can keep the base and replace the brush. But it was the stainless steel ice cream container for Nestle’s Haagen-Dazs (which isn’t too cold to the touch but keeps ice cream cool longer) that was the crowd favorite at a Manhattan rollout this week…. During Loop’s trial, returned containers will go to New Jersey and then Pennsylvania for washing, then back to the companies’ factories for refilling…
[W]hile reusable packaging may require more energy and materials when first made, Tom Szaky, chief executive of TerraCycle, said the carbon cost becomes equal to that of disposable packaging after just two or three uses. His goal, he said, is to produce items that can be reused 100 times… Szaky explained that Loop is all about bringing back the milkman model, where glass bottles of milk were left on your porch, and you put the empties there to be picked up…
“We want you to see Loop packaging 50 years from now still going around,” Szaky said.
of this story at Slashdot.