Web heroine turns out to be hoax

“For more than three years, a twentysomething Minnesota woman named Layne Johnson lured thousands of people to her Web site every day with a poignant and brutally honest diary of her life. She was witty, sexually adventurous and intimate with her readers, sharing photos of her travels and exchanging private e-mails and instant messages with fans. She posted messages to other people’s Weblogs and created personal profiles at social networking sites. Many readers felt deeply connected to her,” reports Michael Bazeley in the Mercury News.

“Now the person behind Layne has come forward and admitted that it was all an elaborate hoax. Odin Soli — a 35-year-old male entrepreneur and writer, married with two children and living near St. Paul, Minn. — said he created Layne as an experiment in ‘interactive fiction’.”

Comment: See for Odin’s story, “Layne and Acanit Tell All”, and Plain Layne is Gone (“The archive has been taken down and is unavailable”). Ryan Schultz’s blog at also has background info.

Introducing Airport Express

And suddenly, Apple started making interesting announcements again – two in one day! This time, it’s a new wireless gadget that appears to be the much needed, long-awaited digital bridge between iTunes and your hi-fi, as well as a handy portable wireless hub for… ahem… your hotel room? (Maybe someone should tell Apple execs that few us get to stay in hotel rooms big enough to require WiFi…). Anyway – from the press release:
“Apple today unveiled AirPort Express, the world’s first 802.11g mobile base station that can be plugged directly into the wall for wireless Internet connections and USB printing, or thrown into a laptop bag to bring wireless freedom to hotel rooms with broadband connections. AirPort Express also features analog and digital audio outputs that can be connected to a stereo and AirTunes music networking software which works seamlessly with iTunes?, giving users a simple and inexpensive way to wirelessly stream iTunes music on their Mac? or PC to any room in the house. AirPort Express features a single piece ultra-compact design weighing just 6.7 ounces, and will be available to Mac and PC users starting in July for just ?99 (inc VAT).

‘AirPort Express isn’t just the world’s first mobile 802.11g base station—with the addition of AirTunes users can now play their iTunes music on any stereo in their home – all without wires,’ said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. ‘This innovative Apple product will appeal to both notebook users who want wireless freedom in their hotel rooms and to music lovers who want to listen to their iTunes music library on a stereo located anywhere in their home.'”

Mmm. Yes please.

Brazils GPS census, wrong iPad forecasts, Facebook spam success and more

Census in this part of Brazil not too challenging. Photo by tipiro on Flickr. Some rights reserved

A quick burst of 7 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Brazil’s Smartphone Census >> Parminder Bahra
“The Brazilians say that the digital census has several advantages over paper and pen methods. They say that the data is more accurate since GPS data will pinpoint the exact location of a household. The GPS data is cross-referenced with satellite images to ensure that responses are correctly geo-tagged. The digital approach allows changes to areas, streets and buildings to be incorporated. This is particularly pertinent in the slums as these areas tend to change quickly and their density mean that printed maps are quickly out of date. The use of digital technology means that mapping is considerably more accurate and that adjustments and changes can be made all the time to ensure that the coverage is as comprehensive as possible.

“IBGE estimates that upto 5 per cent of households are incorrectly located in traditional censuses compared with 0.5 per cent of digital data.”

Music, Sweet music >> Asymco.com
Back in March, Asymco collected together what people were saying about the then-announced-but-still-forthcoming iPad. Manufacturers like Lenovo said they’d tried the idea but teens didn’t like it in prototype. They’re nothing new. Quite useful if you need a collection of people whose predictions you need to avoid.

What’s the success rate of Facebook spam? >> F-Secure
Investigating statistics unwittingly provided by spammers which show how well (or badly) their spam links have done.

DLL Hijacking and Why Loading Libraries is Hard >> F-Secure
“The problem is really quite simple. An attacker will try to trick someone into opening a data file (for example, an MP3 file in the case of iTunes) from a folder while at the same time placing a malicious Dynamic-link Library (DLL) somewhere under the same location. By doing this, he can force a vulnerable application to execute the malicious code. So, double-clicking on the wrong file on a network share might get your machine infected.

“The whole class of problems is really nothing new. As Thierry Zoller points out, a nearly identical issue was reported a good 10 years ago. Why are we seeing lots of new vulnerabilities now? A lot can be attributed to a new tool that was made available by HD Moore last Sunday. It makes finding such vulnerabilities very easy.”

All the new screens >> Asymco
“So what strikes me about all of these designs is that they’re basically just shiny rectangular things. There is very little you can do as a vendor to stand out with any particular rendition of a rectangle. This is also becoming obvious with the mechanical design of smartphones. They are all smaller rectangles with shiny black screens.

“Which begs the question: as they are all just screens, shouldn’t what’s on the screen matter more than the screen itself?”

Council transparency on spending wrongly implies see-through undies purchase – getsurrey
“The figures, which have been published on the council’s website in an effort to create greater transparency, clearly state that thousands of pounds were spent with a lingerie company during the last financial year. However, the council said that the money was a refund of business rates rather than a large purchase of underwear.”

Microsoft’s billion dollar bonfire >> Asymco
The Scandinavian analysts comment on Microsoft’s plans to spend $1bn marketing Windows Phone 7: “With hundreds of Android devices and RIM and Apple increasing distribution, why would operators be willing to spend hundreds on a venture to promote a new platform? This decision is even more puzzling when realizing that the vendor of the new platform left nothing but business model carcasses behind the last time they got involved in the industry.”

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RIMs video pain, Kim Dotcoms Megabox tease, will Twitter kill follower cou

A quick burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Paying developers is A Bad Idea >> Charlie Kindel
The companies that make the most profit are those who build virtuous platform cycles. There are no proof points in history of virtuous platform cycles being created when the platform provider incents developers to target the platform by paying them.

Paying developers to target your platform is a sign of desperation. Doing so means developers have no skin in the game. A platform where developers do not have skin in the game is artificially propped up and will not succeed in the long run.

The Windows Phone 7 team was in a very, very desperate situation.

Thoughtful post by ex-Microsoftie Kindel about the dynamics now in the smartphone, tablet and PC marketplace.

Ballmer pitches Windows 8 to developers, but keeps tight rein on Surface >> Wired.com
For such a rah-rah event meant to get developers excited to start building for Windows 8, Ballmer and the rest of the Microsoft team spent very little time talking about or showing off the Surface tablet, arguably Microsoft’s most exciting product. The tablet is due to launch at midnight on Oct. 26, at the same time as Windows 8. Yet the company has not let people have much hands-on time with the Surface and its innovative Touch Cover.

This was no exception. In the hands-on time after the event, the Surface was missing from the product table, where several other Windows 8 tablets and ultrabooks were available to test and examine.
Twitter mulls killing follower counts >> The Washington Post
Speaking at a BuzzFeed panel in New York yesterday, Twitter co-founder and board member Evan Williams said that reach is a much more important measure: “The dream metric is how many people saw your tweet.”

Engagement is certainly the metric that matters to marketers: if people don’t see your message, they cannot act on it. But follower count has long been a source of perceived legitimacy for some, and Twitter has previously taken steps to reduce its impact. Twitter even completely hit the reset button on follower account temporarily, after the infamous auto-follow bug.

But to whom will this metric be visible? Followers is crude, but it has a simply understood meaning.

How one video sums up the state of Blackberry >> The Velocity Digital Blog
The Blackberry brand has been suffering for a number of years now. From service outages to terrible handset design, the once mighty mobile device producer is in a world of pain. As we speak (well, read), the ‘Blackberry Jam’ conference is in full swing, during which, RIM are showcasing their new operating system, Blackberry 10. This morning, I had the ‘joy’ of watching a video from RIM that was designed to persuade application developers that they will benefit from making apps for Blackberry devices. I lasted 8.21 seconds. Take a look…

How do these things ever get greenlighted?

Kim Dotcom teases Megabox, reveals exclusive artists? >> TorrentFreak
Kim Dotcom is determined to put the major music labels out of business with Megabox. At the same time he promises to give artists full control over their own work and a healthy revenue stream. Today Dotcom released a video on the making of Megabox which unveils some of the service’s features. The video also shows “The Black Keys,” “Rusko,” “Two Fingers” and “Will.i.am” as exclusive artists.

No word heard from Will.i.am (or the others) on whether he’s indeed part of this. Best to be sceptical until proof emerges.

Report: fewer than 1% of sales can be tracked back to social media >> Marketing Lane
A new Forrester report titled “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers In 2012? analyzes conversion paths on 77,000 orders to determine what sources returned the most revenue. While the report found a handful of high revenue sources (paid search, organic search, email) one clear cut source fell behind the rest: social media. The data showed that fewer than 1% of transactions could be traced back to social links.
Apple in the dock over iPhone 5 connector row >> Consumers International

Stephen Russell, secretary-general of ANEC, the European consumer’s voice in standardisation:

Although the use of Lightning as the connection through which the iPhone 5 is charged complies with the Voluntary Agreement that Apple – and other manufacturers – signed with the European Commission in 2009 on the harmonisation of smartphone chargers, Apple has chosen not to adopt the micro-USB solution favoured by its competitors and recommended in the Agreement.

Instead, it has cited a tiny clause in the Agreement that permits an extra adapter between the phone and the “universal” charger if the manufacturer wishes to use one.
Saving Android from a second-rate future >> Wired.com

Anil Dash wrote the stuff above this comment. But it’s the comment directly linked here that sets out the framework for so much empty argument.

Micro Anvika goes titsup after Olympics fails to save its shops >> The Channel
The recession, costly overheads and the migration of shoppers from the traditional model to the online world were primarily to blame for Micro Anvika’s troubles, said [business advisor] Re10.

“The final nail in the coffin was the Olympics – the directors expected an uptick [in store footfall] but that didn’t happen,” said [Gary] Rupping [Re10 manager, who is seeking to sell the business as a going concern].

Rough end for a 28-year-old business.

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Keitai wo Motta Saru Monkeys With Mobiles

“Nobuo Masataka, a professor at the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute and author of the monster best seller “Keitai wo Motta Saru (Monkeys With Mobile Phones),” argues that the proliferation of mobile phones has got young Japanese making monkeys of themselves, aping the behavior patterns of chimpanzees,” reports Mainichi Daily News.

“There’s been a dramatic increase in the dearuki-zoku [out and about tribe]. They don’t eat meals at home with family members and you can clearly see with your own eyes the large increase in young people who hang about on the streets together with the same old friends,” Masataka tells Sapio. “They make places like Shibuya their territory and rarely head even to places like (nearby entertainment and shopping districts) Shinjuku or Harajuku. They get tired going to new places or meeting new people. If they get hungry while they’re strolling around, they simply get food by going into a convenience store, buying something and sitting down outside on the curb to eat it. If not that, then they just hang around for hours in fast food joints.”

The primate specialist says the actions of the dearuki-zoku closely resemble behavior patterns in chimpanzees, which tend to travel in groups, walking around for a long time without going to any specific place, then eating and disposing of their wastes in the same place before bedding down on piles of grass whenever and wherever the inclination takes them.

China puts surfers in therapy

Internet cafes in Beijing are increasingly popular. Photograph: Greg Baker/AP

China’s experiencing an internet boom of massive proportions – but not everybody’s happy about the results. Government officials aren’t happy about internet cafes, which they say erode morality – and as a result, they’re backing clinics to treat “internet addiction”, as Wired News reports.

The 12 teenagers and young adults, some in ripped jeans and baggy T-shirts, sit in a circle, chewing gum and fidgeting as they shyly introduce themselves.

“I’m 12 years old,” one boy announces with a smile. “I love playing computer games. That’s it.” “It’s been good to sleep” says another, a 17-year-old with spiky hair, now that he’s no longer on the computer all day.

The youths are patients at China’s first officially licensed clinic for internet addiction, a downside of the online frenzy that has accompanied the nation’s breathtaking economic boom.

While treatment for addiction is no great surprise, there does seem something rather strange about some of the methods used here: “sessions on a machine that stimulates nerve impulses with 30-volt charges to pressure points” and “intravenous drips” sound particularly scary. I wonder how we’d all fare if government tests were applied to us…

Almunia row, Canadas open data win, mapping Sochi, and more

A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Google’s Almunia deal said to be criticized by EU officials >> Businessweek
European Union Antitrust Commissioner Joaquin Almunia’s deal to resolve a three-year-old dispute with Google was criticized by two EU officials at a meeting today, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, and Michel Barnier, who leads financial-services policy, told Almunia at a regular meeting they were unhappy with his handling of last week’s settlement, said the people who declined to be named because the talks were private.

“We had a very long debate which shows that there are a lot of concerns and questions,” Barnier told reporters today in Brussels. “We haven’t finished our work on this subject.”

The deal has to be approved by the other commissioners too.

Swartz, Manning, and Snowden: when programmers scrape by >> The New Yorker

Rusty Foster:

The difference between a “crawler” and a “scraper” is subtle, but typically a crawler is smarter about the links it follows, what it downloads, and what it leaves uncopied. For the most part, though, “crawling” is just scraping with a fancier name, and Google created one of the world’s most valuable companies in part by being better at scraping than anyone else. Google was incorporated in 1998, and by 2002 its Web-scraping “Googlebots” were so ubiquitous and voracious that, in a short story titled “Robot Exclusion Protocol,” the programmer and writer Paul Ford imagined one trying to index his bathroom. Some have suggested that Google’s recent acquisition of the smart-device maker Nest Labs is effectively an effort to scrape real-world data about our homes and lives, to add to the company’s trove of information about us, which now includes information about the Web pages we visit, our e-mails, the books we read, our shopping habits, and more.

The short story is great.

Why open data was the best $3m investment in Canada’s 2014 budget >> Cantech Letter
If Open Data strikes you as long on concept, short on results, you need not leaves the confines of Canada to witness one of the best and most widely cited examples of its relevance. In 2010, public policy expert David Eaves described “…a well documented but little known story about how open data helped expose one of the biggest tax frauds in Canada’s history.”

By accessing Canada Revenue Agency records, a colleague of Eaves discovered that the CRA was being duped by fake charitable receipts -in a big way. When all was said and done, it was revealed that sketchy charities were bilking Canadians out of a billion dollars a year. That was .6% of the entire annual budget of the Federal Government, notes Eaves.
Strange bedfellows: Microsoft could bring Android apps to Windows >> The Verge
Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company is seriously considering allowing Android apps to run on both Windows and Windows Phone. While planning is ongoing and it’s still early, we’re told that some inside Microsoft favor the idea of simply enabling Android apps inside its Windows and Windows Phone Stores, while others believe it could lead to the death of the Windows platform altogether. The mixed (and strong) feelings internally highlight that Microsoft will need to be careful with any radical move.

Could Microsoft clone the Google Play APIs and intercept calls from apps on the phone and provide its own services? Trouble is, it would be forever playing catchup to Google. That’s once you’ve got past the problem of implementing the Dalvik VM on Windows Phone.

Tablet hourly usage study: iPad dominates, Surface users more active during working hours >> Chitika

The graph shows the iPad miles ahead, with Android tablets at a quarter of the use, and the Surface in the low single digits. However, there’s also a “normalised” graph comparing each hour to its peak:

While no tablet experiences its volume peak during working hours, Microsoft Surface RT and 2 users generate a slightly greater share of their collective daily traffic between the hours of 12-5 p.m. ET as compared to iPad and Android tablet users. The results support the idea that Microsoft’s tablets are generally used more frequently during working hours as compared to its major competitors in the space, but it’s important to note the similarities in all three usage patterns, and that any differences in the precise online activities between user bases cannot be discerned from these data (e.g. e-mail, watching videos, etc.)

Chitika says the difference is statistically significant; the data (which applies to North America only) was collected over two weeks at the end of January 2014. It’s also not split out to RT and Pro – which would have been useful to know.

Are there really lots of vulnerable Apache web servers? >> Netcraft
The most recent security vulnerabilities affecting Apache were addressed in version 2.4.5, which included fixes for the vulnerabilities described in CVE-2013-1896 and CVE-2013-2249. Depending which Apache modules are installed, and how they are used, earlier versions may be vulnerable to unauthorised disclosure of information and disruption of service. The previous release in the 2.4 branch (2.4.4), also addressed several cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in various modules; such vulnerabilities can severely compromise a web application by facilitating remote session hijacking and the theft of user credentials. Nonetheless, millions of websites still appear to be using vulnerable versions of Apache, including versions which are no longer supported.

TL:DR “yes”.

At Sochi Olympics, crowdsourced OpenStreetMap trounces Google Maps >> Wired Science
If you’re looking for detailed maps of the Olympic sites around Sochi, Google maps may not be your best bet. OpenStreetMap, the crowdsourced Wikipedia of cartography, looks to have much better coverage of the Olympic sites, as the images in this gallery show.

The region outside Sochi where the Olympic ski and snowboard events will be held is virtually a pale green blank on Google maps, for example. The maps here come from the fun and fabulously time-sucking Map Compare tool on the website of Geofabrik, a German company developing commercial uses for OSM data. The Olympic park along the coast, and even downtown Sochi are also covered in more detail in OSM (although with some features that appear on one map but not the other, it’s not clear which is more accurate — at least not without being there).

OpenStreetMap is a modern wonder. (Apple’s map of the area is pretty much bereft of detail; Nokia HERE’s is OK. Puzzling why Apple doesn’t just take OSM’s content outright.)

Mobile phone market, excluding China, will see no growth this year >> Investors.com
Apple and Samsung continue to soak up all the industry’s profits, [Tavis] McCourt [of analysts Raymond James] says. Apple claimed 87.4% of phone earnings before interest and taxes in the fourth quarter, he said. Samsung took in 32.2% of industry profits. Because their combined earnings were higher than the industry’s total earnings as a result of many vendors losing money in Q4, Apple and Samsung mathematically accounted for more than 100% of the industry’s earnings.

A year ago, Apple accounted for 77.8% of mobile phone industry profits, followed by Samsung with 26.1%, McCourt said.

“It remains unclear to us where any non-Chinese vendor outside of Apple and Samsung will obtain the profits necessary to re-invest in the business,” McCourt said. “The mobile device market continues to look like an Apple and Samsung market in the developed world, with Chinese-based vendors continuing to take share in emerging markets.”

The fourth-quarter total for Apple and Samsung comes to 103.9% in 2012 and 119.7% in 2013. Both companies’ profits in that period were roughly flat, so the rest of the business seems to be getting worse.

Taiwan suppliers concerned about competition from China in 2014 >> Digitimes
Since China-based supply chain players already achieved significant improvements in both product design and quality, many vendors have started turning to place their orders with these players.

China-based electronics manufacturing service (EMS) provider BYD is one of the players that has been aggressively striving for orders. In addition to smartphone orders from Nokia, Samsung Electronics, Huawei, BlackBerry and High-Tech Computer (HTC), the company has recently landed orders for Intel’s education tablets, Acer’s entry-level smartphone and Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) tablets.

Intel has also turned to promote China suppliers for component purchasing and has relatively improved these suppliers ability to land orders.

With consequent long-term implications for Taiwan’s economy.

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Man versus machine

Michael Adams takes on chess legend Garry Kasparov at a tournament in 1999. Photograph: Hidajet Delic/AP

The world’s most powerful chess computer, “Hydra”, is set to take on Britain’s top grandmaster, Michael Adams, in a six-match standoff next month – with the winner scooping a purse of ?80,000.

Hydra is a 64-way cluster computer – that’s 64 PCs all hooked together – and its makers claim it can compute 200 million moves per second… and that it has never been beaten by a human.

Adams, a prodigal chess talent who became a grandmaster at the age of 17, said he wanted to prove “that nothing can match the power of human creativity”.

I’m sure the chance of 80,000 smackers in his back pocket had little to do with it.

Shoe Circus the Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates advert updated


On which planet does this advert make any sense? (Answer that and you could be in line for a $300 million contract….)

Maybe it’s the first part of a series that culminates in a knockout advert for Windows 7 in 2010 — possible, given its very leisurely pace. (At 90 seconds, it’s clearly a net ad, not a TV ad.) But it obviously is part of a series, so I assume you’re supposed to figure out what it means (if anything) and guess what’s in the next one.

As a one-off, it will probably go viral*, so millions of people will see it at no cost to Microsoft. But that’s only half the job, unless there’s a decent “payload” in the end. And so far, that’s nowhere in sight….

* Update 1: It’s currently No 2 in Today’s Top 20 Viral Videos.

Update 2: TechCrunch has published a memo to Microsoft staff explaining the campaign. Click below for more….

Update 3: It turns out the best place to watch the Microsoft commercial is at Windows.com, where it’s in nice sharp Silverlight widescreen. This also offers more videos, product info, downloads and a Buy button. There’s also a press release with an explanation and marketing info.

From: Bill Veghte Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2008 5:37 PM To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG) Subject: Telling the story of Windows

Since it first launched nearly 25 years ago, Windows has been one of the most successful products in the history of the high tech industry. As we set our sights on the next 25 years, it is essential that we deliver incredible offerings on a great platform. We must also tell the story of how Windows enables a billion people around the globe to do more with their lives today. We must inspire consumers with the promise of what Windows uniquely makes possible across the PC, phone and web.

Telling our story means making significant investments to improve the way consumers experience Windows. To that end, we are focused on making improvements at practically every consumer touch point, from the moment they hear about the Windows brand in our advertising to how they learn more about Windows products online; from how they view Windows and try it at retail to how they use the entire range of Windows offerings – Windows Vista, Windows Mobile and Windows Live – across their whole life.

Today, we are kicking off a highly visible advertising campaign. The first phase of this campaign is designed to engage consumers and spark a new conversation about Windows – a conversation that will evolve as the campaign progresses, but will always be marked by humor and humanity. The first in this series of television ads airs initially in the U.S., and it aims to re-ignite consumer excitement about the broader value of Windows. The first television spot aired on NBC during the opening game of the NFL season and will be seen throughout the evening on various primetime programs. Worldwide, you can view this first TV spot at

This first set of ads features Bill Gates and comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Think of these ads as an icebreaker to reintroduce Microsoft to viewers in a consumer context. Later this month, as the campaign moves into its next phase, we’ll go much deeper in telling the Windows story and celebrating what it can do for consumers at work, at play and on-the-go. At that time, I’ll be back to share more information about our plans to further strengthen the bond between consumers and Windows – one of the most amazing products, businesses and brands of all time, and, with the right tenacity, passion and agility from all of us, a story that has many great chapters to come.

Kutaragi off the board at Sony

One of the by-products of the Sony reshuffle (below) is that Ken Kutaragi, the “father of the PlayStation”, lost his seat on the Sony board. This is a bit of a shocker because Sony has been kept afloat mainly by the PlayStation’s huge success, and because Kutaragi’s strong opinions have given him a high profile in the press. Indeed, as this Reuters story notes, he was “once regarded as certain to succeed current CEO Nobuyuki Idei”, not be upstaged by Sir Howard Stringer.

Kutaragi will continue as chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment: I can’t imagine him quitting with the PS3 on the way.

I’ve criticised Kutaragi (eg below) for over-promising and under-delivering, and pointed out that he’s probably as responsible as other Sony executives for the company’s failure to get its numerous divisions working together. For example, the people in Sony’s VAIO business must wince every time he tries to put the boot into the PC industry.

It was therefore somewhat amusing to read Idei’s comment on why Ryoji Chubachi got the No 2 job at Sony, ahead of Kuturagi.

“I cannot compare them, but Mr Chubachi is a good listener… He is a man who listens to various people’s opinions carefully and makes the right decision at the right time,” said Idei.