Saturday, October 4, 2014

Boot up: unsapphirical iPhones, FBI in your face, Facebook's drag queen deletion

A burst of 8 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Tim Bajarin:

Many have suggested that the decision not to use sapphire was the result of manufacturing issues – that with more time, Apple would have used sapphire screens for the iPhone 6. As I looked closer at the Apple announcement, and after looking more at the benefits and drawbacks of sapphire, it seems that Apple had good reasons to go with ion-strengthened curved glass (Gorilla Glass) instead of sapphire.

While sapphire has been hyped as an alternative screen cover for smartphones, the continued use of strengthened glass has less to do with production issues and more to do with what smartphone manufacturers know about consumers, their preferences and, more importantly, how people actually use phones and what they're willing to pay for them.

By the way, some reports stated that up until a few weeks before the iPhone announcement, Apple was going to use sapphire but dropped it because of yield issues. This is not true.

As part of NGI's full operational capability, the NGI team is introducing two new services: Rap Back and the Interstate Photo System (IPS). Rap Back is a functionality that enables authorized entities the ability to receive ongoing status notifications of any criminal history reported on individuals holding positions of trust, such as school teachers. Law enforcement agencies, probation and parole offices, and other criminal justice entities will also greatly improve their effectiveness by being advised of subsequent criminal activity of persons under investigation or supervision. The IPS facial recognition service will provide the nation's law enforcement community with an investigative tool that provides an image-searching capability of photographs associated with criminal identities.

Yes, facial recognition. You read that correctly.

Stephen Shankland:

"Everybody is talking HEVC. VP9 doesn't even come up," said Dan Rayburn, a principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "The industry has already selected HEVC."

VPx's limited success shows that despite its technological depth and financial resources, Google has its limits. The company is able to influence computing industry standards through its control of both services that supply content and the Chrome and Android software used to reach those services. The video realm, though, is much broader than Google's Net-centric business, reaching out to cameras, processors, mobile phones, movies and TVs.

Limited success doesn't mean doomed, though. Google can play a long game, and the company remains committed to improving VPx and bringing it to the Web, if not necessarily to the entire video industry.

"We have seen the benefits it has brought YouTube and promises for other video use cases like real-time communication," said Renganathan Ramamoorthy, the Chrome team product manager overseeing VPx. "We believe these benefits are material and the Web should share these benefits."

"As part of our overall standards, we ask that people who use Facebook provide their real name on their profile," stated an email from a Facebook spokesperson. The real-names policy has been in place for a while, but it's not entirely clear why drag queens have been suddenly targeted en masse. Heklina was told by Facebook reps that it was just an algorithm that discovered the drag queens and started asking them to change their names.

Facebook's real names policy page states, "We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you're connecting with. This helps keep our community safe." This is problematic for the drag community. Heklina says queens often don't want their family or others to find them by their real names in order to protect themselves from bigotry and harm.

As commenters point out, if this is going to be applied, it should be applied universally. So when will this be applied to Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Elton John, and many actors (who use stage names)?

if you want to know why there are prominent journalists right now talking about how gamer culture is toxic, and how gamers as a label are dead, this is why. Because even if you're rational, passionate, and wanting good things, your voice is being drowned out by loud, hateful, toxic people. 

A couple of days ago, I posted an email from the San Francisco Police Department verifying a police report placed by Anita Sarkeesian. Why? Because a muckraker accused her of lying, and drummed up a BUNCH of hate. His message had over six hundred reshares. His thread had dozens of people talking about how she needs to be imprisoned, how she needs to be shot, and how she's... you get the picture. So, I fact-checked. And I posted the results of that fact-checking. Did I get six hundred people recanting their threats, insults, and accusations? No. I got a couple dozen people threatening me, and a fuckton of people insulting me for DARING to fact-check a journalist. When, mind you, the Gamergate movement is supposedly about holding journalists accountable. Do you know how many messages came up to the effect of, "Oh. I shouldn't have jumped the gun and accused her without the facts?" None. None at all. 

The problem is that this is now turning into a fight (almost, but thankfully not quite, literally) between a group fuelled by irrational faith and trolls on one side - who believe anything that fits their case, even when people like Hill disprove it - and rationalists. The trouble is that faith, being irrational, doesn't reduce in the face of rational argument.

Why did you sell Minecraft?
Minecraft has grown from a simple game to a project of monumental significance. Though we're massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never Notch's intention for it to get this big.

As you might already know, Notch is the creator of Minecraft and the majority shareholder at Mojang. He's decided that he doesn't want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. Over the past few years he's made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang. He'll continue to do cool stuff though. Don't worry about that.

There are only a handful of potential buyers with the resources to grow Minecraft on a scale that it deserves. We've worked closely with Microsoft since 2012, and have been impressed by their continued dedication to our game and its development. We're confident that Minecraft will continue to grow in an awesome way.

Jay Rosen describes this blogpost as "about as reassuring as a ransom note."

Mike Shatzkin:

The estimable Clay Shirky has written a lengthy piece called "Amazon, Publishers, and Readers" on saying, essentially, that an Amazon-dominated world would be an improvement over the Big Five "cartel"-dominated world of publishing we have today. This is an apples to oranges comparison. The Big Five are not nearly as broad a cartel as Amazon — which reaches way beyond the consumer books they publish — is a monopsony. Amazon touches much more of the book business than the Big Five publishers do. To make his case, Shirky recounts some very questionable history and employs some selective interpretation to get from his own impression of the current Hachette-Amazon dispute (about which he says "Amazon's tactics are awful, the worst possible in fact") to a completely different conclusion.

There's a lot of rebuttal going on around this topic.

Amid the noise from the relentless stream of expensive flagship smartphones that have been launched in recent weeks by Apple and others, Google has been quietly setting its sights on a much larger market of consumers who have yet to buy their first smartphone.

The US technology group will this week set out to establish the smartphone standard for the next billion mobile phone users in emerging markets by launching a low-cost platform in partnership with local manufacturers.

In New Delhi on Monday, Google will reveal the first handsets to be produced as part of the initiative that has become a personal project for Sundar Pichai, the Chennai-born boss of its operating system Android.

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