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Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws? – TechCrunch
from Daring Fireball

Devin Coldewey, writing for TechCrunch:

“It may be possible with careful design to extract the features you need without keeping the original, in a way where it’s mathematically impossible to recreate the recording,” Kortz said.

If that process is verifiable and there’s no possibility of eavesdropping — no chance any Google employee, law enforcement officer, or hacker could get into the system and intercept or collect that data — then potentially Duplex could be deemed benign, transitory recording in the eye of the law.

That assumes a lot, though. Frustratingly, Google could clear this up with a sentence or two. It’s suspicious that the company didn’t address this obvious question with even a single phrase, like Sundar Pichai adding during the presentation that “yes, we are compliant with recording consent laws.” Instead of people wondering if, they’d be wondering how.

This is one scenario I’m imagining for Google’s [complete refusal to answer any questions][a] related to the Duplex phone calls it has released — that they were actual Duplex calls to actual businesses (the one to Hong’s Gourmet almost certainly was, in my opinion), recorded without consent. Someone who works at the one restaurant we know Duplex called told Mashable they weren’t aware in advance.

This wouldn’t send anyone to prison, but it would be a bit of an embarrassment, and would reinforce the notion that Google has a cavalier stance on privacy (and adhering to privacy laws).

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2 days ago by josephschmitt
Trump administration preparing to hold immigrant children on military bases - The Washington Post
from Daring Fireball

Nick Miroff and Paul Sonne, reporting for The Washington Post this week:

The Trump administration is making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases, according to Defense Department communications, the latest sign the government is moving forward with plans to split up families who cross the border illegally.

According to an email notification sent to Pentagon staffers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make site visits at four military installations in Texas and Arkansas during the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability to shelter children.

The bases would be used for minors under 18 who arrive at the border without an adult relative or after the government has separated them from their parents. HHS is the government agency responsible for providing minors with foster care until another adult relative can assume custody.

Let’s not mince words. What they’re describing here are called concentration camps. For children, forcibly separated from their parents.

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2 days ago by josephschmitt
Rebecca Solnit: The Coup Has Already Happened | Literary Hub
from Daring Fireball

Rebecca Solnit, in a compelling essay for Literary Hub:

The current situation of the United States is obscene, insane, and incredible. If someone had pitched it for a thriller novel or film a few years ago, they would’ve been laughed out of whatever office their proposal made it to because fiction ought to be plausible. It isn’t plausible that a solipsistic buffoon and his retinue of petty crooks made it to the White House, but they did and there they are, wreaking more havoc than anyone would have imagined possible, from environmental laws to Iran nuclear deals. It is not plausible that the party in control of the federal government is for the most part a kleptomaniac criminal syndicate.

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2 days ago by josephschmitt
Samsung Compares Galaxy S9 to Very Slow iPhone 6 in Frivolous Ad - Mac Rumors
from Daring Fireball

Two thoughts on this Samsung ad trying to get iPhone 6 users to upgrade to a Galaxy S9:

I’m glad they’re making fun of the notch rather than copying it, like every other Android maker. Samsung should go all-in on anti-notch-ism. It’ll make them stand out not just compared to the iPhone, but to their Android competitors. I don’t think this weird haircut is the way to do it, though.

I’m curious about the legality of using the Apple logo on the shirts worn by the employees inside the fake Apple Store. I’m not sure I’ve seen that before. There’s a long history of second bananas mocking their market-leading competitor, by name, in ads. Pepsi mocking Coke, [Burger King mocking McDonald’s][k]. But can you imagine a Burger King commercial where someone goes into a McDonald’s, including employees wearing McDonald’s-logo’d uniforms, and gets a bad hamburger? Wendy’s iconic “Where’s the Beef?” spot took place in a generic competitor, not a McDonald’s (although the narrator mentions Big Mac and Whopper at the end).

Rather than show and mention an actual iPhone 6 and Apple Store, if I were Samsung (and were going to demean myself by doing an ad like this) I would have created a thinly veiled caricature — say, from a brand called Pineapple or Banana — and then exaggerated every aspect of the experience for comic effect. Go for actual humor, “Where’s the Beef”-style.

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2 days ago by josephschmitt
Daring Fireball: The Restaurant Where Google Claims to Have Booked an Actual Meal Via Duplex
from Daring Fireball

At the bottom of Google’s AI Blog announcement of Duplex (“An AI System for Accomplishing Real World Tasks Over the Phone”), they included a photo of two Duplex engineers eat a meal, with the following caption:

Yaniv Leviathan, Google Duplex lead, and Matan Kalman, engineering manager on the project, enjoying a meal booked through a call from Duplex.

As suspicions around this announcement deepen, I got to wondering if we could identify this restaurant. If we could identify the restaurant, we could ask them if they had been told in advance they would be speaking to Google Duplex, among other interesting questions.

The image is cropped somewhat tightly, but they’re clearly eating Chinese food, the bench style and wall color are distinctive, and there’s a large picture hanging over their heads. So, I did the laziest thing I could possibly do: I asked my Twitter followers if any of them recognized it.

22 minutes later, we had the answer from DF reader Jay P: Hong’s Gourmet, in Sarasota, CA. This image on Yelp shows the same bench, same wall, and same picture on the wall. Next door to Hong’s Gourmet is Masu Sushi, whose sign is legibly reflected in the glass of the picture behind the Google engineers.1

My thanks to Jay P and everyone else who contributed to the thread on Twitter. Jay deserves the credit for cracking this, by going backwards from the Masu Sushi sign in the reflection.2 All I did was ask. The fact that I had an answer to my question in just 22 minutes shows that having a large follower count on Twitter is a bit of a super power. I honestly can’t think of another way to have answered this question without Google PR’s help. I suppose, without Twitter, I could have just posted the question on Daring Fireball, and I might have gotten the same answer. But the threaded, public, instant nature of Twitter allowed for multiple people to contribute — we went from “this might be the place” to “this is definitely place” in just a handful of minutes. Remarkable, really.

One weird detail is that the image from Google of the engineers has been flipped horizontally, so the reflection of the neighboring restaurant’s sign isn’t mirrored. My only guess as to why Google flipped this image is that they wanted Leviathan, the project lead, to have his name listed first in the caption. ↩︎

Solving this not from the decor of the restaurant but instead from the tiny reflection of the neighboring restaurant’s sign brings to mind one word: “Enhance.” ↩︎︎
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3 days ago by josephschmitt
GOP lawmaker says rocks falling into ocean to blame for rising sea levels | TheHill
from Daring Fireball

Avery Anapol, reporting for The Hill:

A Republican lawmaker on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee said Thursday that rocks from the White Cliffs of Dover and the California coastline, as well as silt from rivers tumbling into the ocean, are contributing to high sea levels globally.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) made the comment during a hearing on technology and the changing climate, which largely turned into a Q&A on the basics of climate research.

I think some of those rocks fell out of his head. Remember, this isn’t just a congressman, he’s on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

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3 days ago by josephschmitt
Fifteen Crazy Years: a Toast to Life – Jan Van Boghout – Medium
from Daring Fireball

Longstanding Mac editor Espresso (mentioned here at DF numerous times over the years) is changing hands to the newly-founded Warewolf, and Espresso creator Jan Van Boghout is closing shop at MacRabbit to join the team at Framer. There are a lot of very talented people who’ve built many great apps over the years involved in this story. Congratulations and good wishes to all.

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4 days ago by josephschmitt
Daring Fireball: The End of Third-Party Twitter Clients?
from Daring Fireball

“Apps of a Feather” — a joint statement from the developers of several top third-party Twitter clients:

After August 16th, 2018, “streaming services” at Twitter will be removed. This means two things for third-party apps:

Push notifications will no longer arrive

Timelines won’t refresh automatically

If you use an app like Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, or Twitterrific, there is no way for its developer to fix these issues.

We are incredibly eager to update our apps. However, *despite many requests for clarification and guidance, Twitter has not provided a way for us to recreate the lost functionality. We’ve been waiting for more than a year and have had one reprieve.

This antipathy to third-party clients is especially confounding considering that Twitter recently dropped support for their own native Mac client. As far as I’m aware, once this comes to pass next month, there will be no way to receive notifications of Twitter DMs on a Mac. None. (Twitter’s website doesn’t even support Safari’s desktop notification feature.) That’s just wacky.

Twitter management obviously wants to steer people to their first-party mobile app and desktop website. I get that. But they already have that: the overwhelming number of Twitter users use exactly those products to access the service. What Twitter management seems to be missing is that many of its most influential users — including yours truly, yes — have been on the platform a long time and have a high tendency to be among those who not just use, but depend upon third-party clients.

To me this is like finding out you’re now required to access email entirely through a web browser. Sure, lots of people already do it that way and either prefer it or think it’s eh, just fine, who cares — but a lot of others hate it and find it completely disruptive to longstanding workflows.

I urge Twitter to reconsider this decision. Third-party clients account for a relatively small part of the Twitter ecosystem, but it’s an important one. Twitter may not care about a native Mac client, but the users of these apps, and the developers who make them, certainly do.
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4 days ago by josephschmitt
Simpsons editor Taylor Allen teaches us how an episode comes together - YouTube
from Daring Fireball

I had no idea staffers at The Simpsons were such sharp dressers.

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4 days ago by josephschmitt
StopTheMadness
from Daring Fireball

From developer Jeff Johnson:

StopTheMadness is a Safari extension for Mac that stops web sites from making Safari harder to use. Some web sites disable Mac user interface features in Safari that you normally expect to work. For example:

password autocomplete

⌘-click to open a link in a new tab

⌘-key keyboard shortcuts

selecting, copying, cutting, and pasting of text

drag and drop

opening contextual menus

StopTheMadness ensures that those features continue to work in Safari. With StopTheMadness enabled, the annoying web sites that deliberately make your life harder suddenly become easy to use again!

This extension works great and fixes so many little things that annoy me about websites. I just ran into a site today that somehow ate my keyboard shortcut for switching between tabs. I realized I hadn’t yet installed StopTheMadness on this Mac (I’ve been running it my MacBook Pro for a few weeks). I installed it, restarted Safari, and boom — that website no longer eats my keyboard shortcut. This is also a great way to work around those banking sites that try to keep you from autocompleting passwords.

$5 and worth every penny.

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4 days ago by josephschmitt
Meet Surface Hub 2 - Microsoft Devices BlogMicrosoft Devices Blog
from Daring Fireball

Very impressive-looking successor to the current Surface Hub. I particularly like the way you can tile up to 4 of them next to each other. No pricing details yet, and it’s not shipping until sometime next year.

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5 days ago by josephschmitt
Twitter
Went to sign up for promo and got standard offer. Any options for anyone not in the fir…
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6 days ago by bighowdy
Google will make its paid storage plans cheaper - The Verge
from Daring Fireball

Shannon Liao, writing for The Verge:

Google One will get a new $2.99 a month option that gets you 200GB of storage. The 2TB plan, which usually costs $19.99 per month, will now cost $9.99 a month. Finally, the 1TB plan that costs $9.99 a month is getting removed. The other plans for 10, 20, or 30TB won’t see any changes.

Google will also make the plan shareable within a family of up to five members, and give users access to live chat support even if you’re on the cheapest plan of $1.99 a month for 100GB. It’s the first time live support is coming to Google for users who may not have a G Suite business account.

If you want to use Google One without paying at all, the company will still offer Drive’s basic 15GB of free space option.

Apple’s monthly prices for iCloud storage (which has had a family plan for years):

Free: 5 GB

$1: 50 GB

$3: 200 GB

$10: 2 TB

So Google is now ahead on the free and $1/month tiers — but not by much — and is only matching Apple at the other tiers. I would think Google would want to kick Apple’s ass here.

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6 days ago by josephschmitt
Google will soon be able to remove objects from photos - The Verge
from Daring Fireball

I got a lot of email and Twitter feedback regarding my skepticism regarding Google’s Duplex over the weekend. Here’s a point: Google has a history of making product announcements that they claim are imminent but aren’t. One example: they announced this seemingly-magical photo-editing feature last year, convinced the press it was coming “soon” — that’s The Verge’s word, not mine — and here we are a year later and we haven’t heard a word about it since.

I maintain that Google is wrong for the way it presents in-the-works not-yet-ready features. I think like Microsoft of old (and Apple of ancient times), Google, institutionally, is only excited about things that are in the works, not the things it’s actually shipping. But unlike Microsoft of old, Google presents concept videos without labeling them as concept videos.

But I think the other problem is with the media, that, time after time, buys into Google’s demo claims unquestionably — and then never circles back to them when they don’t ship.

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6 days ago by josephschmitt
Apple knew its computers were “defective,” sold them anyway, suit alleges | The Outline
from Daring Fireball

Casey Johnston, writing at The Outline:

Late Friday night, Apple was hit with a class action lawsuit over the finicky butterfly-switch keyboards that have plagued its customers since they were released in 2015. The suit, filed in the Northern District Court of California, cites forum complaints going back to 2015, and substantially describes the difficulties of two named plaintiffs, one of whom experienced a failed keyboard after only one month.

The Outline was the first outlet to substantially cover the magnitude of the issue, writing that Apple Geniuses responsible for diagnosing and repairing these Apple computers would benevolently attribute dead keys and double-spacing spacebars to a “piece of dust” stuck under the keyboard.

Apple, along with other large corporations, gets hit with class action lawsuits all the time. I almost always get emails about them but almost never link to them. But in this case I think it’s worth your attention, if not legally, then because of the publicity. People are latched onto this issue.

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6 days ago by josephschmitt
Donald Trump and Sean Hannity’s Late Night Calls
from Daring Fireball

Fantastic piece for New York Magazine by Olivia Nuzzi:

The call to the White House comes after ten o’clock most weeknights, when Hannity is over. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Sean Hannity broadcasts live at 9 p.m. on Fox News, usually from Studio J in midtown, where the network is headquartered, but sometimes from a remote studio on Long Island, where he was raised and now lives.

All White House phone numbers begin with the same six digits: 202-456. Hannity calls the White House switchboard, a number listed publicly, and reaches an operator. The operator refers to a list of cleared callers, a few dozen friends and family members outside the administration who may contact President Donald Trump through this official channel — among them his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr.; private-equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman; media billionaire Rupert Murdoch; real-estate billionaire Tom Barrack; Patriots owner and also-billionaire Robert Kraft; and Hannity.

The operator then dials the president, who leaves the Oval Office around 7 p.m. and who, by this point in the evening, is almost always by himself on the third floor of the executive residence (the First Lady reportedly sleeps in a separate bedroom). He tells the operator to put Hannity through.

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6 days ago by josephschmitt
John Carmack - Steve JobsMy wife once asked me “Why do... | Facebook
from Daring Fireball

Some great anecdotes here, but it breaks my heart that he posted them on Facebook, of all places.

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6 days ago by josephschmitt
The Trump administration just forced smartphone maker ZTE to shut down | Ars Technica
from Daring Fireball

Timothy B. Lee, reporting four short days ago for Ars Technica:

Last year, ZTE admitted to an elaborate multi-year scheme to sell US-made technology to Iran and North Korea in violation of US sanctions laws. ZTE paid $890 million in penalties and said it was in the process of disciplining dozens of senior company officials who had orchestrated a scheme to violate US sanctions laws.

But last month the Trump administration accused ZTE of continuing to lie to the US government even after last year’s guilty plea. The company told the US government that the guilty executives had received letters of reprimand and had had their 2016 bonuses reduced. But the US now says that was a lie — many of the employees received full bonuses, and they didn’t receive letters of reprimand until early 2018 — after the US government challenged ZTE on the issue.

In the April 15 order activating the export ban against ZTE, US Commerce Department official Richard Majauskas wrote that ZTE had demonstrated a “pattern of deception, false statements, and repeated violations.” A July 2017 letter to US officials was “brimming with false statements,” he said.

ZTE announced that it was shutting the whole company down because it can’t operate with US components (Android software from Google and chips from Qualcomm). U.S. intelligence officials have also warned that ZTE phones (and Huawei’s) pose a security risk to U.S. citizens.

President Trump, today:

President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!

America first.

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7 days ago by josephschmitt
Google AI Blog: Google Duplex: An AI System for Accomplishing Real-World Tasks Over the Phone
from Daring Fireball

I’ve been thinking about this Google Duplex thing — the AI assistant that can, according to Google, make phone calls on your behalf that the company played a video of on stage during Sundar Pichai’s I/O keynote.

Why not demo it live? Why only play recordings? When is it rolling out to actual customers? Was there a hands-on after the event where members of the media or conference attendees could talk to Duplex? It’s totally credible that Google would be the first to achieve something like Duplex, but the fact that all they did — as far as I’ve seen — was play a recording just seems off. It feels like a con.

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9 days ago by josephschmitt
Apple, Influence, and Ive
from Daring Fireball

Jony Ive, in an interview with Hodinkee’s Ben Clymer:

I don’t look at watches for their relationship to popular culture, which I know is so much of the fun — but rather as somehow the distillation of craft, ingenuity, miniaturization, and of the art of making.

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11 days ago by josephschmitt

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