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charlesarthur : failure   11

Killed by Google • The Google Graveyard
One programmer's effort (though it's open source; anyone can contribute to this). There's a <em>lot</em> of things here. (I <a href="">had a go back in 2013</a>. Average lifespan then was about four years.)
google  business  innovation  failure 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Why Android Nearby, iBeacons, and Eddystone failed to gain traction • VentureBeat
Kyle Wiggers:
<p>It’s tough to convince customers to download a service they’ve never used, even with the promise of discounts — especially considering up to 70% haven’t heard of beacons.

Power and range limitations pose an additional challenge. Only about 40% of users in North America report using Bluetooth (though it’s worth noting that on most newer devices, Bluetooth interacts passively with BLE beacons), and Bluetooth signals are more easily obstructed by physical objects than Wi-Fi. Though they last for years in some cases, beacons’ batteries also have a finite lifespan. Deployment takes a lot of planning and testing.

Beacons tend to be spammy, too. Google cited “a significant increase in locally irrelevant … notifications” as the reason it decided to discontinue Nearby Notifications, and not without good reason. One recent study showed a 313% decline in shopping app use by customers who received more than one beacon notification in a single location.

And then there’s the matter of privacy. Few in-store apps are explicitly clear about what sort of location and behavioral information they’re collecting, which can include metrics like visits, unique visitors, new visitors, popular paths, repeat visits, retention, and more. The same goes for APIs like Google’s Nearby, which came under fire from privacy advocates concerned about how the audio component of the beacons is recorded and stored.

None of that’s to suggest beacons are entirely dead. Big-name retailers like Walmart, Rite Aid, and Target continue to trial BLE beacon-powered in-store shopping experiences; Google’s providing beacons to retailers in the US and UK; and overall annual beacon shipments are expected to hit 565 million units by 2021.</p>

I'm struggling with the concept of a 313% decline in shopping app use. Did people delete the app off friends' phones as well as their own?

But it's another example of how you can't force technology on people if they think it's for someone else's benefit, not their own. (I suspect people probably understand the tradeoff they're making with Google and Facebook, given their rejection of beacons.)
bluetooth  beacons  failure 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Another technological tragedy • bit-player
Brian Hayes, author of the book Infrastructure, on the explosions that blew up mains gas-connected buildings in Massachusetts in September, which was caused by a feedback loop that wasn't actually a loop - so it pushed up pressure because its readings said the pressure was too low, measured in the wrong pipes:
<p>when you open the valve to increase the inflow of gas, you expect the pressure to increase. (Or, in some circumstances, to decrease more slowly. In any event, the sign of the second derivative should be positive.) If that doesn’t happen, the control law would call for making an even stronger correction, opening the valve further and forcing still more gas into the pipeline. But you, in your wisdom, might pause to consider the possible causes of this anomaly. Perhaps pressure is falling because a backhoe just ruptured a gas main. Or, as in Lawrence last month, maybe the pressure isn’t actually falling at all; you’re looking at sensors plugged into the wrong pipes. Opening the valve further could make matters worse.

Could we build an automatic control system with this kind of situational awareness? Control theory offers many options beyond the simple feedback loop. We might add a supervisory loop that essentially controls the controller and sets the set point. And there is an extensive literature on predictive control, where the controller has a built-in mathematical model of the plant, and uses it to find the best trajectory from the current state to the desired state. But neither of these techniques is commonly used for the kind of last-ditch safety measures that might have saved those homes in the Merrimack Valley. More often, when events get too weird, the controller is designed to give up, bail out, and leave it to the humans. That’s what happened in Lawrence.</p>

This is a fascinating little discussion (with a couple of other accidents, including the notorious Air France 447 from Rio de Janeiro) which leaves much to think about. It also reminded me of control theory, which I haven't had to think of in decades. (Via Ben Thompson.)
energy  technology  failure  accident  systems 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
The undertakers of Silicon Valley: how failure became big business • The Guardian
Adrian Daub:
<p>Silicon Valley’s tolerance for failure has long sustained an obsession with youth. If a founder fails, tech discourse interprets it as a sign of young vigor. In a country in which 25-year-old white rapists are “still boys” and black 12-year-olds on the playground “look like adults”, the question of who gets to be a kid and who counts as a grownup is clearly charged with privilege.

In 2017, a chastened Travis Kalanick admitted: “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.” Even in a place as chock-a-block with balding skateboarders and middle-aged trick-or-treaters as San Francisco, a 40-year-old CEO of a $15bn company casting himself as an overenthusiastic kid who just needs to get his shit together is a bit much.

Failing in Silicon Valley is often a prerogative of the young – or, in Kalanick’s case, the adolescent-acting. And people don’t talk about how much less sustainable it has become to be young in the Valley. One VC who back in the early aughts grew a tiny startup into an $80m company with more than 250 employees reminisced to me about the early days when “we just lived with our parents in Toronto”. “Our labor force was ourselves and we paid for the servers by credit card,” he continued. Then he reflected a moment. “That’s no longer possible, which I guess is what makes us necessary.”

But the thing about failing is that it seems to carry opposite meanings depending on who does it. If a traditional brick-and-mortar business hemorrhages money as unregulated digital competition moves in, then that’s just a sign that brick-and-mortar deserves to die. By contrast, if a disruptive new economy startup loses money by the billions, it’s a sign of how revolutionary and bold they are.</p>

It's one of those irregular verbs - "my internet startup began too early, your bricks-and-mortar business failed."
internet  failure 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Dishwasher has directory traversal bug • The Register
Richard Chirgwin:
<p>Don't say you weren't warned: Miele went full Internet-of-Things with a dishwasher, gave it a web server and now finds itself on the wrong end of a bug report and it's accused of ignoring the warning.

The utterly predictable <a href="">bug report</a> at Full Disclosure details CVE-2017-7240, “Miele Professional PG 8528 - Web Server Directory Traversal”.

“The corresponding embedded Web server 'PST10 WebServer' typically listens to port 80 and is prone to a directory traversal attack, therefore an unauthenticated attacker may be able to exploit this issue to access sensitive information to aide in subsequent attacks.”

Proving it for yourself is simple: GET /../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/shadow HTTP/1.1 to whatever IP the dishwasher has on the LAN.

Directory traversal attacks let miscreants access directories other than those needed by a web server. And once they're in those directories, it's party time because they can insert their own code and tell the web server to execute it.</p>

If you squint hard, you can see why you might want this - to turn on your dishwasher at some convenient time of day when you're not there. (Solar panels work during the day...) However, internet security is harder than making dishwashers.
iot  security  failure 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
Amazon AWS S3 outage is breaking things for a lot of websites and apps • TechCrunch
Darrell Etherington:
<p>The S3 outage is due to “high error rates with S3 in US-EAST-1,” according to <a href="">Amazon’s AWS service health dashboard</a>, which is where the company also says it’s working on “remediating the issue,” without initially revealing any further details.

Affected websites and services include Quora, newsletter provider Sailthru, Business Insider, Giphy, image hosting at a number of publisher websites, filesharing in Slack, and many more. Connected lightbulbs, thermostats and other IoT hardware is also being impacted, with many unable to control these devices as a result of the outage.

Amazon S3 is used by around 148,213 websites, and 121,761 unique domains, according to data tracked by SimilarTech, and its popularity as a content host concentrates specifically in the U.S. It’s used by 0.8% of the top 1 million websites, which is actually quite a bit smaller than CloudFlare, which is used by 6.2% of the top 1 million websites globally – and yet it’s still having this much of an effect.</p>

Be very interested to know what the cause is; it's not clear at the moment. Some Apple services, Netflix, Expedia, The Verge and the US Securities and Exchange Commission also affected. Amazon S3 has quietly become the circulatory system of the internet.
amazon  cloud  failure 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Dying Intel Atom processors take out network equipment • iTnews
Juha Saarinen:
<p>A serious flaw with Intel's Atom C2000 product family can cause processors to fail completely, rendering the devices they power inoperable after just 18 months of operation.

The low-power Atom C2000 Silvermont processor range was introduced three years ago, and is found in popular network switches and routers, microservers, and network accessible storage systems.

Kit vendor Cisco has <a href="">issued an advisory</a> for the problem, noting the failures start appearing after a unit has been in use for around 18 months.

Once the processor fails, "the system will stop functioning, will not boot, and is not recoverable".

Cisco optical networking, routing, security, and switching gear - including the ASA and ISA3000 family - are affected.</p>
intel  atom  failure 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
A tragic loss • Tesla Motors
<p>We learned yesterday evening that NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot during a recent fatal crash that occurred in a Model S. This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.

Following our standard practice, Tesla informed NHTSA about the incident immediately after it occurred. What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S. Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents.</p>

But it didn't. The autopilot was in effect an accessory to the death. This was inevitable, eventually; what happens now?
tesla  autopilot  failure  death 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Software update destroys $286m Japanese satellite • Hackaday
Rud Merriam:
<p>The Japanese X-ray telescope Hitomi has been declared lost after it disintegrated in orbit, torn apart when spinning out of control. The cause is still under investigation but early analysis points to bad data in a software package pushed shortly after an instrument probe was extended from the rear of the satellite. JAXA, the Japanese space agency, lost $286m, three years of planned observations, and a possible additional 10 years of science research.

Hitomi, also known as ASTRO-H, successfully launched on February 17, 2016 but on March 26th catastrophe struck, leaving only pieces floating in space. JAXA, desperately worked to recover the satellite not knowing the extent of the failure. On April 28th they discontinued their efforts and are now working to determine the reasons for the failure, although a few weeks ago they did provide <a href="">an analysis of the failure sequence</a> at a press conference.</p>

Soon to be a plotline in a disaster movie.
failure  software 
may 2016 by charlesarthur
When the US Air Force discovered the flaw of averages » Toronto Star
Todd Rose:
<p>In the late 1940s, the United States air force had a serious problem: its pilots could not keep control of their planes. Although this was the dawn of jet-powered aviation and the planes were faster and more complicated to fly, the problems were so frequent and involved so many different aircraft that the air force had an alarming, life-or-death mystery on its hands. “It was a difficult time to be flying,” one retired airman told me. “You never knew if you were going to end up in the dirt.” At its worst point, 17 pilots crashed in a single day.

The two government designations for these noncombat mishaps were incidents and accidents, and they ranged from unintended dives and bungled landings to aircraft-obliterating fatalities. At first, the military brass pinned the blame on the men in the cockpits, citing “pilot error” as the most common reason in crash reports. This judgment certainly seemed reasonable, since the planes themselves seldom malfunctioned. Engineers confirmed this time and again, testing the mechanics and electronics of the planes and finding no defects. Pilots, too, were baffled. The only thing they knew for sure was that their piloting skills were not the cause of the problem. If it wasn’t human or mechanical error, what was it?</p>

A very subtle story, well told. Applicable to lots of things today too.
failure  average  ux  design 
february 2016 by charlesarthur
Harbingers of failure » Penn State University
Eric Anderson, Song Lin, Duncan Simester and Catherine Tucker:
We show that some customers, whom we call ‘Harbingers’ of failure, systematically purchase new products that flop. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail - the more they buy, the less likely the product will succeed. Firms can identify these customers either through past purchases of new products that failed, or through past purchases of existing products that few other customers purchase. We discuss how these insights can be readily incorporated into the new product development process. Our findings challenge the conventional wisdom that positive customer feedback is always a signal of future success.

The authors aren't specific, but might another word for such people be "Kickstarter participants"?
business  failure 
july 2015 by charlesarthur

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