The Next Web’s Jon Russell fails at math

First sign of a comeback? HTC sales hit $970m in May, its best month of business since June 2012 :

It’s fair to say that things couldn’t have got any worse financially for Taiwan’s HTC after it posted a mere $2.88 million in profit in Q1 2013. But it appears the worst may be over as the phone maker took its first step back to respectability after announcing NT$29 billion (US$ 970 million) in revenue for May 2013.

That figure is still 3 percent lower than May 2012, but it’s close to double the NT$19.5 billion ($652 million) that the company grossed in April and represents its best month of business since June 2012.

I know tech journalism isn’t very math intensive, but seriously –  that’s not even a 50% increase, let alone “close to double.”

Update: Jon and I had a fun little exchange on Twitter. He thought I should add: no relation.

Chilean company lets you 3D print your thoughts

Your Thoughts Printed As 3D Objects:

First, users start by donning an Emotiv EPOC headset that uses an array of sensors to measure electrical signals in the brain that are associated with feelings and expressions. Next, Thinker Thing software shows users a series of basic, on-screen shapes. As those shapes begin to mutate and evolve, users can approve or disapprove each change according to the object they have in their mind. The EPOC headset transmits these thoughts to the system, which eventually whittles the user’s idea into a design that can be 3D printed.

‘Our software will allow the user to evolve 3D models with the power of thought which will then be created in ABS plastic using a MakerBot Industries Replicator, the latest in desktop 3D printing,’ explains the company’s website.

Yup, we live in the future.

Chicago Sun-Times lets go of entire photography staff

Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off All Its Full-Time Photographers:

The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire full-time photography staff Thursday, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, in a move that the newspaper’s management said resulted from a need to shift toward more online video.

I’m just going to point out the obvious: photographers probably make damn good videographers. Especially since it’s become rather standard practice to use DSLRs to record video.

Forbes writer travels in time from 2011, invents Surface

Intel Haswell Dramatically Strengthens The ‘2 In 1’ Device Argument – Forbes:

At 7 watts SDP, this could enable a tablet, detachable, or convertible with up to 8-10 hours of battery life with PC-like performance.  As a tablet, it would require a small fan and if it were a tablet would be a bit thicker than the iPad at 11-12mm, a bit heavier, and more expensive.  The trade-off is you get PC performance and features. Consider a convertible or detachable in this scenario.  You are basically getting the most powerful notebook at the thinnest dimensions with up to 8-10 hours battery life, always-on, always connected that can serve as a decent tablet under many circumstances.  All three of these form-factor scenarios are powerful, and I believe that this would sway many people to buy a new Haswell-based tablet, detachable or convertible. At this point you need to question just how many consumers will lay down $699 for your typically configured 10” iPad.

Wow: a tablet that:

  • has the power of a PC
  • needs a fan
  • is a bit thicker than an iPad
  • costs more than an iPad

I bet that would sell like hotcakes! Oh, wait:

According to the IDC, the Redmond company shipped 900,000 units of the Surface tablet. The unit figures equate to 1.8 percent of the first-quarter market share for 2013. The percentage presents both Surface with Windows RT and Surface with Windows 8 Pro tablets, however, IDC noted most of the shipments were of the latter.

News media needs to become more like Hollywood

How the New York Times can fight BuzzFeed & reinvent its future:

However, that is only part of the story. The trick is not to get married to just the oohs-and-aahs of the Snow Fall, but to think of it as a business opportunity, much like the way Hollywood studios creatively monetize their blockbusters. My question is why can’t newspapers and magazine companies take the same approach and build a business model that actually factors in various opportunities that something like Snow Fall can offer?

So instead of starting with a newspaper story and adapting it to different formats, the Times should start with the Snow Fall. If you look at Snow Fall closely, you can see a cohesive approach to content, one that adapts and morphs to not only the medium of access, but to diverse business models — much like the movies.

Om’s argument is that traditional news media has failed – with a few exceptions, like Paul Krugman and David Carr – to properly adopt the blog format on their sites. Instead, they have simply tried to post traditional news articles as blog posts.

As he notes, blogging is about tying together all kinds of media and sharing it through the lens of an individual’s take on the world:

Blogging is a way of editing the world and presenting it to my community, and that means everything from photos, links, tweets and videos, in addition to sharing my raw thoughts and fully packaged features, scoops and even basic news. Every act of sharing tells you what I am interested in and what I am willing to learn and talk about.

Rather than trying to shoot for tens of thousands of hits per short blog on their site, Om thinks that The New York Times should drop $25 million on making dozens of pieces like Snow Fall – long-form pieces with huge budgets that pack in tons of media and use fancy scrolling in the hopes that the spectacle will lead to millions of page views.

I think Malik is being a bit too optimistic here.

There’s a reason most blockbusters come out in summer – they’re a way to escape from the heat, relax, and keep the kids busy while they’re out of school. They have a reputation for being big dumb explosion fests because that’s what people want.

A long piece of excellent reporting like Snow Fall, however, is the opposite of that for most people: it’s thousands of words to read through with multiple pages and no indicator of how far into the story you’ve read. It’s work.

Now, I’m not saying  that making more pieces like Snow Fall would be a mistake in and of itself. It did get millions of page views. But to shift such a massive portion of the Times budget to making such pieces – even with the lower costs from already having the technology ready – would overestimate the demand for long-form journalism.

There’s a reason The New York Times has so many more readers than The New Yorker: people want news. Big stories are awesome, but gets 35 million monthly page views is because people trust it to have the best reporting on the most important news happening right now around the world. Articles with word counts in the tens of thousands simply don’t meet that need.

Instead, the best thing the Times could do is to let the technology that came out of Snow Fall trickle down to average news stories. Just as CGI has become prevalent enough in Hollywood that even the lowest budget films don’t completely break the fourth wall whenever an explosion happens on-screen, The New York Times can move on from the shitty image galleries that most sites have for image-heavy articles and integrate videos more fluidly with text than the simple embeds used today.

As for Om’s point about using better native advertising (like including a Land Rover ad with Snow Fall)  – there’s no reason that doesn’t have to apply to almost every piece of news. The Times just need to put its sales and technology teams to work at making better software on the backend to let advertisers more accurately target individual articles related to their products.

Is the US military prepared for an alien invasion?

Battleship Earth – Foreign Policy:

As summer blockbuster season kicks into high gear, big-budget action movies like The Avengers, Battleship, and Prometheus remind us that there’s one thing that unites Americans: Our shared fear of an alien attack. They also remind us that when the invading space fleet arrives, humanity is not going to surrender without a fight to our intergalactic invaders. Instead, we will band together to fight off their incredibly advanced weaponry with our … well, with what, exactly? Are we really ready to battle our would-be alien overlords?

Luckily, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, as well as some of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers, are dreaming up the weapons of the future today. With the help of everything from lasers on jets to hypersonic planes to invisibility cloaks, we just might be able to make the battle for Earth a fair fight. You may think we’re joking, but why else would NASA be uploading The Avengers to the International Space Station if not as a training manual? Here’s a look at some of the most space-worthy inventions being cooked up now.

This was a really fun article, but I’m going to go ahead and note that if an alien species is able to get here from another star and wants to wipe us out (I’m thinking Independence Day- or Halo-style style aliens), most of this tech would be useless – they’ll just glass our planet with nukes or giant-fuckin’-lasers and be done with it. Now, if it’s Simpsons-style enslavement they’re after, I’m glad DARPA has the following in development:

Fighter jet-sized lasers – If aliens are coming to round us up and do labor for them (I don’t know, for farming maybe?), they’re going to come with enough of a force to take on 7+ billion people. They’ll probably come with massive fleet of vehicles – most of which would probably make even our fifth-generation fighters look like something the Wright Brothers cooked up. Our weapons-grade lasers are designed to take on multiple targets at once – which is pretty useful when you consider the fact that a sizable portion of our air forces will probably be wiped out in a surprise attack.

Hypersonic aircraft – If aliens attack where I live, I’m going to want the military responding as soon as possible. Having planes that can reach Mach-20 – that’s 13,000 miles per hour for those of you at home – would mean that we could respond to threats anywhere in the world in minutes.

Guided bullets – Would you rather confront an alien from within their line of site or from around a corner? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

CROSSHAIRS – Our ground troops roll up in a humvee equipped with one of these detection systems and automatically know where all the baddies are located. Assuming they don’t have invisibility cloaking. Then we’re kind of screwed.

Adaptive armor – Speaking of cloaking, having tanks that can hide their heat signatures would be pretty useful for engaging in guerrilla warfare against a greater alien force.

Google won’t approve facial recognition apps for Glass

Glass and Facial Recognition:

We’ve been listening closely to you, and many have expressed both interest and concern around the possibilities of facial recognition in Glass. As Google has said for several years, we won’t add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place. With that in mind, we won’t be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time.

Hey look, Google is taking privacy seriously. Good to see.

Finally! An opportunity to get rid of roaming fees

Neelie Kroes unveils Net Neutrality plan for Europe, aims to end mobile roaming fees in 2014:

While travellers in Europe are enjoying lower roaming fees across the continent, the European Commission (EC) believes that isn’t enough. As part of new legislation, its vice president Neelie Kroes today unveiled new plans to end mobile roaming, and for the first time, guarantee net neutrality. Kroes’ legislative package is aimed at uniting European carriers, offering a single telecoms market by next year.

This news is most welcome. While it doesn’t help those in the US, a single European telecoms market is an extremely appealing prospect and the idea of a Europe without data roaming charges is mouthwatering. Add in to that the idea of a Europe-wide net neutrality law and this prospect gets even better. Hopefully Kroes reaches a good compromise with all involved and we’ll see this concept become reality.

Many startups tend to ignore child privacy law

COPPA: The law most startups ignore that could have a big financial impact:

COPPA, a privacy law created by the Federal Trade Commission in 1998, was designed to give parents more control over the personally identifiable information (PII) that websites collect from children under the age of 13. Startups tend to ignore COPPA, believing they are exempt because their site or app wasn’t initially designed for kids. But over time, many startups discover that children are a part of their audience – sometimes growing into a large segment of active users. If this sounds familiar, then COPPA definitely applies to you.

I didn’t know this existed but it’s worrying that startups tend to ignore a law designed to protect children under 13 in the US.

Apple made Intel make better graphics chips

AnandTech | Intel Iris Pro 5200 Graphics Review: Core i7-4950HQ Tested:

Looking at the past few years of Apple products, you’ll recognize one common thread: Apple as a company values GPU performance. As a small customer of Intel’s, Apple’s GPU desires didn’t really matter, but as Apple grew, so did its influence within Intel. With every microprocessor generation, Intel talks to its major customers and uses their input to help shape the designs. There’s no sense in building silicon that no one wants to buy, so Intel engages its customers and rolls their feedback into silicon. Apple eventually got to the point where it was buying enough high-margin Intel silicon to influence Intel’s roadmap. That’s how we got Intel’s HD 3000. And that’s how we got here.

It’s amazing how Apple has influenced the tech industry over the last decade from the logistics side of things. Everyone knows (well, everyone but the most diehard Google fans) that the iPhone is what made Android go from this to this and that ultrabooks wouldn’t  be a thing without the MacBook Air.

How many people know that Intel decided to make chips actually capable of playing and editing high-definition video and playing PC games with decent frame rates because Apple made them to it?