16 February 2018

The Verge: “Google removes ‘view image’ button from search results to make pics harder to steal”

Google is making a change to image search today that sounds small but will have a big impact: it’s removing the “view image” button that appeared when you clicked on a picture, which allowed you to open the image alone. The button was extremely useful for users, since when you’re searching for a picture, there’s a very good chance that you want to take it and use it for something. Now, you’ll have to take additional steps to save an image.

The change is essentially meant to frustrate users. Google has long been under fire from photographers and publishers who felt that image search allowed people to steal their pictures, and the removal of the view image button is one of many changes being made in response. A deal to show copyright information and improve attribution of Getty photos was announced last week and included these changes.

Jacob Kastrenakes

A terrible decision for users. When searching for images, I'm almost never interested in the webpage where it’s published, I want instead to access the image directly. With this change, users are pushed to visit sites that will most likely load ads and trackers into your browser; you’re wasting time for the site to load, then to look for the image on the page… a poor user experience overall. The superior experience of Google Search was based on speed and convenience – I guess Google is no longer interested in providing that.

08 February 2018

Quartz: “Apple Q1 2018 record-breaking earnings”

This quarter was expected, by Apple’s own estimation, to be its best ever in terms of revenue. The company said it expected to generate between $84 billion to $87 billion for the quarter, far outstripping its previous revenue record of $78.4 billion that it set in the same quarter last year. In the end it pulled in $88.2 billion, a jump of 12.5% over last year. That resulted in profit of more than $20 billion for the quarter, up over 12% from last year.

But it was not all good news for the Cupertino, California, company. Apple did not break its record for the number of iPhones sold in a quarter (it sold 77.3 million this quarter, about 1 million fewer than it sold in the same quarter last year), and its guidance for the current quarter was below what analysts had been expecting, initially sending its stock price down about 1.5% in after-hours trading.

Mike Murphy

Speaking of Apple, they recently announced their first quarter earnings, with record-breaking revenues, but a slight drop in iPhone sales. This year, I didn’t have time to write my usual sales forecast, even though I made some estimations (which were surprisingly accurate in regards to iPhone sales). Despite the good aspects fans like to parade around, I would like to underline two weak spots in Apple’s results:

07 February 2018

The Verge: “Apple HomePod review: locked in”

When you set down a HomePod and play music, it goes through a number of steps to tune itself. First, it tries to create a model of the room it’s in by detecting the sounds reflecting off walls. It does this in two passes: the first pass builds a model to a high degree of initial confidence, and the second pass refines the model. This happens faster if you’re playing music with a lot of bass.

Then, it creates a virtual array of soundbeams using that seven-tweeter array. Placed near a wall, the HomePod creates three beams: one pointed out the front for “direct” sounds like vocals and guitars, and two pointed at the wall to reflect “ambient” sounds like applause and room noises. This is called “beamforming,” and it’s a nifty, complicated idea; Apple told me it has something like 200 patents for the HomePod.

So the HomePod is using all seven physical speakers to create an array of virtual speakers and assigning those virtual speakers different parts of the music for increased clarity and bass. It’s not trying to create wide stereo separation — later this year, you’ll be able to pair two HomePods for that — it’s just trying to get as much from the audio you’re playing as possible, while eliminating the effects of the room you’re in.

Nilay Patel

The first part of this review, which details the engineering behind the HomePod hardware and its sound features, almost made me want to buy Apple’s newest speakers. But then the software half of the review started, and, oh, boy, is it bad! Basically a never-ending list of things Siri can’t do

05 February 2018

Axios: “Scoop: Apple delays iOS features to focus on reliability, performance”

Software head Craig Federighi announced the revised plan to employees at a meeting earlier this month, shortly before he and some top lieutenants headed to a company offsite.

On the cutting board: Pushed into 2019 are a number of features including a refresh of the home screen and in-car user interfaces, improvements to core apps like mail and updates to the picture-taking, photo editing and sharing experiences.

Ina Fried

In other words, a company with record revenues and cash reserves doesn’t have the resources to work on new features and reliability improvements simultaneously; and for their main product no less. Apple has grown complacent, to say the least.

04 February 2018

WSJ: “The Internet is filling up because Indians are sending Millions of ‘Good Morning!’ Texts”

Millions of Indians are getting online for the first time—and they are filling up the internet. Many like nothing better than to begin the day by sending greetings from their phones. Starting before sunrise and reaching a crescendo before 8 a.m., internet newbies post millions of good-morning images to friends, family and strangers.

All that good cheer is driving a 10-fold increase in the number of Google searches for “Good Morning images” over the past five years. Pinterest, the San Francisco visual-search platform, added a new section to display images with quotes. It saw a ninefold increase over the past year in the number of people in India downloading such pictures.

Newley Purnell

I’ve noticed this Indian habit first-hand last year, when I was included in a WhatApp group for a work trip. Back then, I assumed it was a way of showing they are online and available for our daily conference call, but it turns out it’s actually a widespread local trend. For the record, I never greeted them back.

30 January 2018

BuzzFeed News: “Facebook’s Bad Idea: Crowdsourced Ratings Work for Toasters, but not News”

Consumer reviews of products like toasters work because we have direct experience using them. Consumer reviews of news sources don’t work because we can’t personally verify the facts from direct experience; instead, our opinions of news are driven by strong emotional attachments to underlying sociopolitical issues. Put simply, our research shows that we’ll trust anyone to be objective about their kitchen appliances, but when it comes to news, we want experts who can verify the facts.

Second, user ratings are easily manipulated. We rely on online reviews, but research shows that 15-20% of online reviews are fake. Fake reviews are more common on websites that don’t verify whether the user has actually used the product or service. Zuckerberg said that Facebook would only accept ratings from users who say they are familiar with the news sources they are judging, but the honor system, while logical, won’t stop fake reviews.

Alan Dennis, Antino Kim & Tricia Moravec

Facebook has been struggling with its fake news problem for over a year, but apparently they still haven’t got a clue how to fix it. Their latest idea: just make people vote on what they think are reliable news sources. Never mind that this so-called solution raises more questions than it answers; personally, I fail to understand how this proposal is any different than the way News Feed algorithms selected news items until now. Instead on implicitly guessing your opinions and political attachments (by analyzing likes and reactions to previous posts and links), Facebook wants to ask people to list them explicitly… What could possibly go wrong?

21 January 2018

Reading stats for 2017

This past year hasn’t been very productive in terms of reading for me: I’ve finished only 18 books, down from 22 in 2016. This is due in part to consuming more long-form articles and podcasts on my daily work commute, but also to personal issues in the latter half of the year, which are affecting the frequency of posting on the blog as well. On the other hand, the number of pages read hasn’t dropped so significantly, from 6400 to 6040; the biggest contributor here was most likely the massive novel The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton. It alone accounts for 28.5% for the number of pages I’ve read during 2017.