Wednesday, September 28th, 2016


A third way to make money from mobile apps #

First up, I consider Overcast the best mobile podcast clients currently available. Marco Arment’s client has grown over the years and developed almost every feature that I could want. The only trouble he’s had is trying to create a solid income from it. Following the initial one-year subscription model, then a patronage-based model, he’s now looking at a third option:

Ads are the great compromise: money needs to come from somewhere, and the vast majority of people choose free-with-ads over direct payment. Ads need not be a bad thing: when implemented respectfully, all parties can get what they want.

Most podcasts played in Overcast are funded by ads for this reason, and as a podcaster and (occasional) blogger myself, I already make most of my income from ads.

I’m far from the first one to try an ad-supported app — among many others, my co-host on Under The Radar, David Smith, now makes the majority of his App Store income from ads — and it’s unwise to rule out any reasonable business model in today’s App Store.

So I’m trying ads in Overcast: simple, non-animated, mostly-text banners on the main list screens that unobtrusively scroll with the content.

Arment has kept much of discussion over the app’s development and business models on his blog, and I hope that he finds true success with Overcast. Needless to say I’ll be paying the premium to remove apps (I’m so old-school sometimes) and watching the continuing story with interest.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016


‘The Touch’ becomes ‘Warrior’ #

Stan Bush’s career shows the power of a single hit song. Since ‘The Touch’ in 1986 pushed him into pop culture and the hearts of millions of fans, he’s re-iterated the same song style over and over… and over again. And why not? Part of being a creative is realising  when you are in the  middle of ‘a good thing’ and it’s not getting any better.

Because it’s really hard to listen to his latest track ‘Warrior‘ without thinking of his classic.

Monday, September 26th, 2016


Trivial Posts #26: Fast Scripts, Slow Games, And A Martian Graveyard #

Another week, and another collection of internet links that have made me stop and think during the last week. Hopefully they’ll make you do the same. Never forget you can sign up to have this posted out to you every week, subscribe to the newsletter version here.

When Reality Shows Meet Reality

As the reality TV season kicks in on prime-time Saturday night television in the United Kingdom, ‘Strictly Come Dancing‘ and ‘The X-Factor‘ are set to dominate the schedules and the social media chat. It’s also a time where the power of the producers and scriptwriters of the shows can be seen impacting the fortunes of the contestants. Alongside a primer on how these shows work in practice, Sofabet’s Daniel Gould’s retrospective of the scriptwriting behind a previous contestant on ‘The X-Factor‘ illustrates just little power the contestants have:

Today’s article is an in-depth case study on the treatment of recent eliminee Abi Alton. We hope it will be an accessible introduction for newbies to the kind of tactics used to manipulate viewers’ perceptions of acts. For more seasoned observers, too, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I believe that rewatching an act’s entire journey with the benefit of hindsight, as I did to write this piece, is always a worthwhile learning exercise. It sharpens our ability to read future clues.

Abi’s Journey: A Case Study in X Factor Manipulation

Were You ‘Deadly’?

No Man’s Sky‘ is the reason I asked for a PlayStation 4 for Christmas…. last year. Now it has arrived I’ve been entranced with its eighties throwback nature, lack of competitive online combat, leisurely pace, and a meta of finding your own reason to live in this world. You know, how gaming used to be when I were a lad.

Turns out Martin Belam agrees, and agrees in a far more coherent form than me!

So it doesn’t strike me as odd that the four or five people I know who have really got into No Man’s Sky are all of a similar-ish age and generation to me. I feel like the game fulfils an 80’s vision of games, the kind of thing I could have played years ago. Except infinitely bigger and brighter than anything we had back then. The features that it “lacks”, that have made people angry, are almost exactly the same features that make it appeal to me and some of my peers.

How No Man’s Sky Exposes The Gaming Generation Gap For 80’s Kids

Facebook Instant Articles… Worth The Hassle?

The little lightning symbol on articles linked on Facebook means you can read them in a Facebook formatted post, with pre-fetched data, and generally it feels like reading in the Facebook app. Many major publishers are using the ‘Instant Article’ system, but is it worth it in terms of revenue and handing over user ownership to Mark Zuckerberg?

The revenue is improving too. In February, the CPM was $1.30. In the summer, it rose to $3.40; now, it’s back down to $2.10 — double the Instant Articles ad revenue it made last year, when it pulled in around €10,000 ($11,200). On its own mobile sites, CPM is less than $1.

Not everyone, however, is seeing the same success with yields. The commercial chief of a major digital media publisher, who wished to stay anonymous, likened the yields on Instant Articles to the equivalent of remnant inventory traded programmatically.

UK Publishers Are Mixed On Performance Of Facebook Instant Articles

Get Your Musk To Mars!

Bond villain in training Elon Musk wants to die on Mars and be buried there. This week he’ll make a big speech about how everyone should be funding his program to get to the red planet (presumably while stroking a white cat on his lap):

Meanwhile, during the next five years Musk might fly his Red Dragons to Mars. He might continue to develop and test the Raptor engines that would power his next-generation rocket. He could make reusable rocketry a reality. He could fly commercial crew missions safely and demonstrate his reliability with US astronauts. He could continue do all of this at a fraction of the cost of similar government programs. If he does this, a commercial pathway to Mars, offered by SpaceX at a cost of $50 billion to $100 billion might have some credibility with a future president and Congress. And if NASA doesn’t buy it, perhaps another foreign government might.

Between A Rocket And A Hard Place

I’m Sorry Dave, I Can’t Print That

Got an HP printer? A number of the devices stopped accepting third-party ink cartridges this month, following on from code that was part of March’s firmware update. If it’s not HP in HP, you won’t be able to print anything. That’s the long-game right there to make sure the code was in place before it was triggered. More at Boingboing from Cory Doctorow:

On September 13, owners of HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X began contacting third-party ink vendors by the thousand, reporting that their HP printers no longer accepted third-party ink.

The last HP printer firmware update was pushed in March 2016, and it appears that with that update (or possibly an earlier one), HP had set a time-bomb ticking in its customers’ printers counting down to the date when they’d begin refusing to follow their owners’ orders.

HP says that the March update’s purpose was “to protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property.”

Of course. And it’s nothing to do with selling printer ink that costs in the region of $2,700 per gallon.

HP Detonates Its Printer Timebomb

Quick Hits

The once-dominant Symbian OS had a Twitter client called ‘Gravity’. The developer now has a version available on Android, called ‘Gravity Forever‘.

Tom Forth’s automatic Guardian comment generator.

American sportswriters love Marriott, which goes some way to explaining the power of points-driven loyalty schemes in the travel industry.

What Have I Been Up To?

I’ve written up some of the strategy behind the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus for Forbes where I ask ‘Is Apple Flying or Dying?‘ along with the weekly Apple and Android news columns.

Away from technology the weekly radio show that is ‘Europe’s Heartbeat’ continues to air weekly on various radio stations around the world. It debuts every Saturday morning on Radio Six, and you can listen to the previous week’s show on demand at EuropesHeartbeat.com.

Before the end of the year I’ll be attending the Web Summit (Lisbon 7-10 November 2016), and I’m planning to be at Tech Crunch Disrupt in London (5-6 December 2016). Next year’s plans include attending SXSW (Austin, 10-20 March 2017). If you want to meet up at any of these events, let me know.

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.

Saturday, September 24th, 2016


Celebrate forty years of thrill power #

2000 A.D. celebrates forty years of publication next year (along with the release of issue prog 2000 next week, both notable milestones in the comic industry. For the latter, head to your nearest comic book supplier, for the latter the team is putting together a conference that Tharg would be proud of:

Next February, Rebellion toasts 40 years of the publication of legendary British weekly comic 2000 AD by presenting a huge celebration in the UK capital. The main event, a one-day ‘immersive live extravaganza‘, will take place at Hammersmith’s Novotel and includes a jam-packed schedule of prestige events, original programming, world exclusive merchandise and one-of-a-kind spectacles befitting the legacy of the finest comic book export the UK has ever produced.

The most ambitious single occasion in the history of 2000 AD publishing, the festival will be the culmination of a whole slate of nationwide signings and events, and features an unprecedented number of writers, artists and editors to have graced its pages including: John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Alan Grant, Dave Gibbons, Mike McMahon, Steve Yeowell, Rob Williams, Si Spurrier, Al Ewing, Sean Phillips, Duncan Fregredo, Simon Bisley and many, many more!

Tickets go on sale October 12th for the Feb 11th conference.

Monday, September 19th, 2016


Trivial Posts #25: The Amazing, The Afraid, And The A.I.s #

I thought work was going to be all about the iPhone this week. In terms of popular culture it was, but I picked up success somewhere else. And in the middle of all that, I found some fun things online… these are the Trivial Posts that kept me from falling down an Apple-filled rabbit hole.

Never forget you can sign up to have this posted out to you every week, subscribe to the newsletter version here.

Dah dah dah dumm DUM!!

“Hum the music from Star Wars. Hum the music from James Bond. Hum the music from Harry Potter. Now hum the music from any Marvel film.”

And with that simple question. Tony Zhou nails another ‘Every Frame A Painting’ video on the magic behind the movies.

The Marvel Symphonic Universe (YouTube)

The Great Musical YouTube Debate

Times change, business models are tweaked, and the record industry still wants the same pound of flesh from those who consume it. That’s one angle. The other is that the music industry believes that many companies (primarily Google) is profiting from music without sharing the income fairly. Chris Cook takes time to look at the flashpoint issues for Complete Music Update:

Then streaming music started to take off. And then it started to really take off, in key markets like the US and UK. And as SoundExchange revenues started to grow in the former, and Spotify gained momentum in Europe, the monies being paid over by YouTube each month started to look much less impressive.

While YouTube continued to grow in terms of users, the royalties it paid over to the music industry did not keep up, with either YouTube’s own consumption growth, or the streaming market in general. Meanwhile, in Europe especially, it became clear that the real money in streaming was going to come from premium subscription services, not ad-funded free platforms.

Oh, and then download sales peaked. This was a key factor in the music industry’s changing relationship with YouTube

CMU Trends: The music industry and YouTube

We’re All Suspects So Watch Your Back

Once more, profiling and harassment at Airport security reveals far more about the humanity in the post 9/11 world. Riz Ahemd writes about his experiences at The Guardian.

My first film was in this mode, Michael Winterbottom’s The Road to Guantánamo. It told the story of a group of friends from Birmingham who were illegally imprisoned and tortured in the US detainment camp. When it won a prestigious award at the Berlin film festival, we were euphoric. For those who saw it, the inmates went from orange jumpsuits to human beings.

But airport security did not get the memo. Returning to the glamour of Luton Airport after our festival win, ironically named British intelligence officers frogmarched me to an unmarked room where they insulted, threatened, and then attacked me.

Typecast As A Terrorist

Let’s Teach The AIs How To Use Guns

For computers to learn how to drive cars, they need somewhere to practice. That could be on a real rod with a human co-driver, but that has to be late stage testing for obvious reasons. What could be used instead? Rockstar Games Grand Theft Auto:

There’s little chance of a computer learning bad behavior by playing violent computer games. But the stunningly realistic scenery found in Grand Theft Auto and other virtual worlds could help a machine perceive elements of the real world correctly.

A technique known as machine learning is enabling computers to do impressive new things, like identifying faces and recognizing speech as well as a person can. But the approach requires huge quantities of curated data, and it can be challenging and time-consuming to gather enough. The scenery in many games is so fantastically realistic that it can be used to generate data that’s as good as that generated by using real-world imagery.

Self-Driving Cars Can Learn a Lot by Playing Grand Theft Auto

You Can Sing With It Or Hammer Some Nails Into The Wall

Where would the world be without music? And where would music be without the Shure SM58 microphone? Shure itself has celebrated its top product with a top ten list, but its hard to argue with the PR when the product is the indestructible microphone:

Ernie Seeler, the man behind the development of the SM58, didn’t like rock and roll.
It’s ironic that a quiet man who preferred classical music invented a mic that would become synonymous with rock and roll, first capturing the attention of acts like The Who and The Rolling Stones. Shocked by its widespread adoption on the rock stage, Ernie Seeler said, “I love classical music, but rock and roll, I don’t take very seriously.”

Ten Things You Might Not Know About The SM58.

What I’ve Been Up To

Well, the iPhone arrived in store and anyone could (allegedly) buy one. So it was off to brave the Apple Store so I could come home to my blanket fort to recover with the iPhone 7, open it up, and start reviewing it for Forbes. That said, this was the weekend of Android, as my weekly digest of Android news went viral and picked up over one million readers. Where do I pick up my ‘seven-figure blog post’ badge?

Today (Monday 19th) I’ll be attending the Next Radio conference in London. I’m here till Wednesday, so drop me a line if you’d like to meet up or talk technology while I’m in the capital. I’m also attending the Web Summit (Lisbon 7-10 November 2016) and SXSW (Austin, 10-20 March 2017)

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.

Thursday, September 15th, 2016


Why Do I Write What I Think About Technology? #

Tomorrow the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will be released to the public. For some reason Apple has never offered me the hardware to review ahead of a public launch, so I’ll be very close to the front of the line. After the purchase I’ll start reviewing the handset online, with my first impressions at the end of the day and a more refined review a week or two later.

Thinking about how to review the device has sent me down an interesting mental path, partly because of the reaction to the existing coverage of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. How should a technology journalist report and review a new hardware release?

There is a school of thought that a reporter should be covering just the facts, reporting these fixed details to the reader, and leaving them to make their own mind up. The arguments presented by the company should be taken as ‘the one true answer’ and that the only arbiter of a success will be sales, rather than the analysis of a thousand web monkeys at their Macbeth inspired keyboards.

The other side of the argument is that the facts are nothing more than a starting point. The thinking from the manufacturer and the idyllic view presented should be challenged and questioned. Decisions made in the design process should be questioned, and through this questioning the strength of the device will become clearer to the reader.

Naturally the latter will always input some bias from the writer (or the video producer, podcaster, whoever) because their understanding around the decisions made will colour the article. I have my biases, as do others. Those who are familiar with my writing will know where I see technology going and how that impacts on a device.

For me, covering the technology scene has never been about repeating the corporate line, declaring everything new to be magical, and cheerleading the courageous decisions being made. The comfortable corporate facts are the starting point. I see my role as informing people of those facts, providing context, questioning decisions, conveying how I see this all fitting together in an entertaining way, and allowing my readers to see multiple angles to make educated decisions on a subject if they wish.

Facts are good, but facts are the starting point of a longer journey. That’s what I write about, and that’s how I cover my beat. If you don’t like it, that’s okay. But tens of thousands of people every day are happy to read my words, and for that I am thankful.

And with that said, on to the iPhone 7 review.

Monday, September 12th, 2016


Trivial Posts #24: A Prisoner, A Delivery, And An Autistic Interview #

Time for another collection of links, stories, and images that caught my eye in the last week. Being the reveal week for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (next week is ‘review’ week where hand-picked publications get an early look at the handsets along with Apple’s ‘reviewer guide’ PDF; and the week after that is launch week), I’ve been busy on all things Apple over on my Forbes column, but let’s not talk about the iPhone any more. What else has happened?

As always, you can sign up to have this posted out to you every week, subscribe to the newsletter version here.

I Am Not A GIF

A quickie to start the links this week, as the BBC dives into its picture archive for the fiftieth anniversary of The Prisoner. Exquisite.

In pictures: The Prisoner at 50

How Amazon Is ‘Helping’ FedEx and UPS

If there’s not enough delivery capacity, most companies would order more. What if there is no more? If you’re Amazon, you build out your own distribution network while reminding your delivery partners around the world that this isn’t a play to take their business, just to help them at peak times. Devin Leonard takes time to look at Amazon’s intentions to deliver everything as quickly as possible:

Two months after the Ohio announcement, Amazon leased 20 more jets from Atlas Air, an air cargo company based in Purchase, N.Y. Amazon has also purchased 4,000 truck trailers. Meanwhile, a company subsidiary in China has obtained a freight-forwarding license that analysts say enables it to sell space on container ships traveling between Asia and the U.S. and Europe. In short, Amazon is becoming a kind of e-commerce Walmart with a FedEx attached.

Will Amazon Kill FedEx?

And The Open Source Votes Go To…

It’s always fun to see where open source software turns up, and just how prevalent it has become. I’m not au fait with software used in television production (ask me about radio instead), so the anniversary of the on-screen graphic tool CasparCG introduces me to the package that has made many graphics that I love.

Jonas is the main person behind CasparCG, the open source professional graphics and video playout software developed by Swedish public broadcaster SVT. This year, a decade after its conception, CasparCG was used for the Eurovision Song Contest graphics, including all of the animated votes counting.

CasparCG performed flawlessly, answering the first question people always ask about open source: “Is it really fit for broadcast?” Since May 2016 the answer is: “Yes, although it has not been proven with a live audience larger than 204 million yet.”

Open Source At Eurovision

Hiring The Best People For The Job

Microsoft’s program to challenge how it recruits neurodiverse employees and integrate them into the company featured in Fast Company this month. Vauhini Vara’s article is a detailed in-depth look at the process through the experience of one candidate. Quite simply, lets have more of this sort of attitude from employers.

The program, which began in May 2015, does away with the typical interview approach, instead inviting candidates to hang out on campus for two weeks and work on projects while being observed and casually meeting managers who might be interested in hiring them. Only at the end of this stage do more formal interviews take place.

…What’s unorthodox about this, of course, isn’t just its setup. It also represents a novel, and potentially fraught, expansion of the idea of diversity. The impulse to hire more autistic employees is based on the same premise as hiring, say, women and people of color: Doing so not only welcomes in a wider range of creative and analytical talent, but brings more varied perspectives into an organization, and makes for a workforce that better reflects the general population of customers.

Microsoft Wants Autistic Coders. Can It Find Them And Keep Them?

When a ‘Metacritc 45’ reads like a 75

Sometimes published games get very good scores. Other times the games get a poor score. Behind every game is a team that worked hard for years to provide a commercial flop. Their stories are gathered together by Luke Winkle on Vice to find out how developers live with average games. Infinite Crisis is the hook here, but look beyond that one title to the humans behind the title:

“You only get to see the stuff that comes out and gets a bad score,” continues Day. “The people who work in the industry get to see a whole lot more that never sees the light of day. This isn’t just in video games – all across the tech industry people are working on things that get cancelled. You work on stuff for a long time, you pour your heart and soul in it, and when it gets shuttered it’s devastating. It’s a terrible, terrible feeling.”

What It’s Like to Work On a Video Game Flop.

Rafe Life

Many years ago, my daily writing wasn’t on Forbes but on the ‘All About’ websites, which at the time was the number one website for Nokia and Symbian smartphones. That was ‘the first break’ in terms of getting regular paid employment, and a piece of my heart will always be there. It was the brainchild of Rafe Blandford, and while he remains modest about it, he talks about how it started, how it dominated, how it fell away, and what he did next with his life on the 361 Degrees podcast.

Rafe Blandford’s Origin Story.

What I’ve Been Up To

Apart from the aforementioned smartphone stories, notable moments include a guide to visiting Kyiv for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest (it was announced as the winner of Ukraine’s bidding process on Friday) and appearing on Al Jazeera to talk about Samsung’s exploding batteries in the Galaxy Note 7.

Next week I’ll be attending the Next Radio conference (on Monday 19th September) in London. Get in touch if you’d like to meet up or talk technology while I’m in the capital. I’m also planning to attend the Web Summit (Lisbon 7-10 November) and SXSW (Austin, 10-20 March)

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.

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Thursday, September 8th, 2016


Choose Your Own iPhone 7 Review #

Right, time for some fun with the iPhone 7 – rather than write a single article, I’ve decided to review the launch of the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 plus in the form of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure / Fighting Fantasy’ book.

Which means the summary text has to be… “You are the reviewers. Find all the flaws. Can you review Apple’s latest smartphone? Love it or hate it, you control the final outcome as you ‘Choose Your Own iPhone 7 Review’.”

Start your Apple adventure here.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016


Sony Wins The iPhone 7 Content War #

I’m not sure if Sony’s decision to reveal the new PlayStation hardware today and force a head-to-head with Apple’s reveal of the iPhone 7 family is a suicidal marketing move or a tactical masterstroke, but I’m leaning towards the latter.

Although the iPhone is going to dominate the digital pages (and is likely to make the main evening news bulletins on television and radio around the world) there’s always going to be a hunger for the story that isn’t about Tim Cook showing off a new iPhone that looks and acts remarkably like last year’s iPhone. With the reveal of the PlayStation Slim, the PlayStation Neo, and details on a new DualShock controller and the PlayStation VR headset Sony has put together everything a technology reporter needs for a solid piece of counter-programming.

To take one practical example, I’ve written extensively about the iPhone 7 in the run up to today’s launch. I’ve got a number of angles that I want to explore after the launch, about the ebb and flow of Apple and its iPhones taking on Google and the Samsung Galaxy family, the slowing speed of progress, and the practicality of the iPhone design and the missing headphone jack.

But not today.

Every tech site has lined up iPhone coverage, every second stringer has an opinion hoping to strike it lucky today, every mainstream media publication will become an expert on all things Cupertino, and the fabric of online news will get gummed up. Today is the day to forget about the page views, to have some fun, and let others chase for a single gold medal. I picked up my medals last week and I know there’s a better chance of picking up more next week.

If I really must file some copy, I’m not going near the news from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Thanks, Sony.

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Tuesday, September 6th, 2016


Project Ara and the dream of a modular pocket computer #

Google’s Project Ara is no more.

The failure of Ara shouldn’t be seen as the inability to make a modular smartphone where users can replace parts (after all, Fairphone seem to be doing rather well with Fairphone 2… I just wish the team would hurry up and get Sailfish running on the Dutch handset). Ara’s cancellation feels like the realisation of Android’s commercial nature.

Modular smartphones are not going to be as efficient as custom-built sealed units. The software cannot be tightly optimised around specific hardware, the modular components require connectors to a central spine, they’ll need to be larger to allow removal and handling, and it’s far harder to achieve economies of scale with, say, multiple camera modules.

Further to that, modular smartphone designed and marketed by Google would be at odds with Android’s place in the market. Android survives on being the ‘power’ mobile operating system that delivers faster and faster phones every year. Manufacturers push each other to make bigger numbers. Ara does not fit in with that vision, and as Google rationalises its internal business divisions, the conflict between Ara and Android was likely brought into focus.

If for some reasons Ara was a runaway success, Google would have taken its little skunkworks project and used it to damage the partners that offer far more Android activations and Google-account using consumers. Ara didn’t fail because of hardware (even though modularity is complex), Ara failed because it was the wrong business model for Android in general and Google specifically.

It’s now left to smaller companies like Fairphone and Puzzlephone to push the functionality and practicality of a modular smartphone. The gadget lover in me hopes they succeed.

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Monday, September 5th, 2016


Trivial Posts #23: A Jukebox, A Fridge, And An Immortal Dragon #

Hello subscribers to Trivial Posts, it’s been a while…. lets see if I can get back into the swing of things with links out to curious stories, items that make me think, and stuff that’s just interesting.

The Boys Are Always Back In Town

Really the title says it all, but keep reading. Not only an exercise in humanity, but a wonderfully written story as well:

Over the course of these past few months, I have come upon two bits of forbidden knowledge: One, this bar does not have a working “kill switch” (which allows the bartender to change a song in case someone plays, I dunno, the entire A-side of 2112). Two, this jukebox permits the same song to be played back-to-back if each instance was paid for with a separate bill.

It was 3 AM on a recent Tuesday when, standing in the dark outside my train station, these truths reconciled themselves within me. My compulsion became explicit and inescapable: I needed to stay up and play “The Boys Are Back in Town” as many times as I could. The thorns from the road ahead cleared themselves, and I walked toward the future amid roses to share the gospel with the other patrons of this unlikeable bar.

The boys were back.

I Played ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ on a Bar Jukebox Until I Got Kicked Out

6 Megabytes, 150 Requests, One Word

The New York Times manages to get away with a one-word story, as long as it doesn;t count the headline. Here’s the curious thing about that one-word story. The amount of crap, clutter, advertising, and screen real estate that accompanies the body text.

When I’m Mistakenly Put on an Email Chain, Should I Hit ‘Reply All’ Asking to Be Removed?

Chilling Out With Some Tech

The history of what we all call ‘The Internet of Things’ started with the idea of the Internet-connected Fridge. Nobody has every explained why this was a good idea (“it can order milk when you run out!” is the usual argument), but that hasn’t stopped Samsung. At last week’s IFA conference in Berlin, the South Korean company revealed… an internet connected fridge!

Samsung Electronics Australia chief marketing officer Phil Newton said the company’s Family Hub Refrigerator not only featured three connected cameras to let you check on its contents while at the supermarket, but users would be able to leave notes and watch TV shows on its 21-inch touchscreen.

The four-door, 671 litre fridge would cost $7499-

…and I’m out.

Samsung Unveils Smart Fridge

Arming The Science Of Queuing Theory

America has a gun registry. America does not allow the gun registry to be computerised. America relies on billions of sheets of paper and a human-powered index. America scares me sometimes

For five years Charlie took it upon himself to create a new workflow system for the tracing center, breaking down each step in the tracing process into equations, doing time-motion studies for actions as minute as how long on average it takes the ladies to go from their desks to the roll room. Every step was analyzed and rethought, the numbers crunched.

…Despite no increase in budget, no new technology, no new staff: “I’m doing twice as many guns, twice as fast, and almost twice as accurately as we did when I got here in 2005.”

The Federal Bureau Of Too Many Guns.

The Battle Of Rallos Zek

When tales are told of battle, when the Gods change the destiny of man, when the rag tag army can see an unlikely victory, stories will be told. Does it matter that the battlefield was a digital server when Cecillia D’Anastosio can tell the tale of the attack on Everquest’s last unkillable Dragon:

On EverQuest, in November of 2003, nearly 200 players came together to defeat the apparently invincible dragon Kerafyrm, known as “the Sleeper,” against Sony Online Entertainment’s designs. The story has everything: warring factions, a tomb, an invulnerable dragon, surprising partnerships and a panicked multinational corporation; and, as of a few days ago, it would have remained relatively unknown had I not received an encrypted PGP message from the moniker “Master Control Program.”

The Surprising And Allegedly Impossible Death Of EverQuest’s ‘Unkillable’ Dragon.

The Start Of The Eurovision Song Contest Season

One from my stable of writing to finish off this week’s newsletter. Although the televised Grand Final for the Eurovision Song Contest doesn’t take place until late May 2017, the cut-off date for songs passed on September 1st… any new song now aired is eligible to be sung at the Contest. ESC Insight will tell the story of the Contest this year, and my regular podcast (follow via RSS or through iTunes) will keep you updated in a fifteen minute burst of news – currently airing every two weeks as the season comes to life.

ESC Insight: discussion and commentary around the Eurovision Song Contest.

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.

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Friday, September 2nd, 2016


Apple, the iPhone 7, and assuming Taniyama-Shimura #

There’s an Apple event next week, but anyone who follows tech news online knows that already. They have also read what Apple is announcing, even though Apple has confirmed absolutely nothing about the event. And the great thing about the tech reporting industry is that everyone is cool with that.

I find it curious that this attitude follows one of the great ‘I hope this is right’ moments of 20th century mathematics. In 1955, a presentation by Yutaka Taniyama and Goro Shimura proposed that every elliptic curve had a modular form. Every mathematician was confident that the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture was correct, even though nobody could prove it. Acres of mathematical theory were built on a foundation that started with the words ‘Assuming Taniyama-Shimura…’, and every accepted that they were trusting a hunch.

For the record, it was eventually proved and is now known as the Modularity theorem.

If everyone believes something, then (a) of course it is true and (b) if it turns out to be wrong then everyone is wrong and nobody suffers any disadvantage. Taniyama-Shimura was a get out of jail card to speculate on something that you don’t have confirmation of is probably true and you want to go ahead and do it anyway.

The same issue crops up when I write about the smartphone industry in general, and Apple in particular. We all know what’s coming, it’s not confirmed, and if we’re wrong, we’re all wrong together and it doesn’t matter.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my iPhone 7 coverage over the last few months is littered with  phrase ‘assuming Taniyama-Shimura’.

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Wednesday, August 31st, 2016


Apple Can Respond When It Wants To #

Early last week a design flaw with the iPhone 6 was published by iFixit and picked up by the media. To my eyes the removal of underfill in the IC board construction along with placing chips along a stressful point in the iPhone cause was causing chips to come loose from the main logic board.

Apple did not explain what was happening.

Then three zero-day exploits of iOS came to light that would allow an iPhone to be jailbroken and have malware installed came to the world’s attention. A n update to iOS was rolled out with the notes that it was about security.

Apple did not explain what was happening.

Now the European Commission has suggested to the Irish tax authorities that it might have worked out Apple’s tax bill incorrectly because it believed it was short 13 billion Euros.

Apple came out all guns blazing.

Good to see that there are some circumstances when Apple will provide comment.

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Tuesday, June 14th, 2016


‘Mind – The – Hashtag’ as Tube typography changes #

London Underground has updated the Johnston typeface. The world is ending.

Still, they’re there if you know where to look: the diamond dotting the lowercase ‘i’ and ‘j’ isn’t nearly as high in Johnston and Johnston100 as it is in New Johnston, while the top half of the lowercase ‘g’ has been stretched out to be less perfectly geometric, like it was back in the early 20th Century. The end result, Monotype hopes, is a typeface that is closer to Johnston’s original intent, feeling more personal and less utilitarian than it did before.

John Brownlee reports for Co.Design.

Sunday, June 12th, 2016


No returning to ‘Classic Microsoft’ under Nadella #

Fortune’s Andrew Nusca takes a look at Microsoft’s Enterprise approach in 2016, with a focus on the changes in the Enterprise department, and the importance of cloud-based services. It’s a piece that Microsoft’s PR team will love, but many people who have been burned by Microsoft in the past will need a bit more convincing.

But change is under way:

Still, the cloud represents a chance for Microsoft to make up for a lot of missed opportunities. “For the first time in probably 10 years, there’s a key secular trend on which Microsoft is at the very forefront,” Weiss says. “They missed search, the browser, mobile. The public cloud is one they got in front of, and it’s a big one that could be bigger than all the other ones combined.”

To ensure that it doesn’t lose out this time, Microsoft is undergoing a radical and rapid transformation. The former schoolyard bully of the software world is remaking itself as a collaborative, customer-friendly service provider. The real question is, Can the tech giant change fast enough to capitalize on its next great growth engine before its legacy businesses pull it under?

Fortune.