Tuesday Twaddle

Oct 23, 2012 No Comments by


Your friends are my friends

Could you imagine a circumstance whereby mobile app developers – the likes of Instagram, Path and Yelp – used their apps to stealthily acquire smartphone users’ entire address books?  If not, try harder, because it happens every day.  A suit has been filed in the US against 10 app developers accusing them of all manner of evil subterfuge including racketeering but fundamentally of uploading users’ address books without asking.  The suit has been filed in Texas where, according to the developers being sued, “Address book data is not private, and accessing it is not considered ‘highly offensive; to a reasonable person.”

Texas also executes more people than any other US state and seems proud of doing so, so it may be they should take a closer look at what constitutes a ‘reasonable person’ before they start basing legislation on it.  And don’t go thinking ‘it couldn’t happen here,’ because it can and does. Who reads the interminable ‘life’s too short’ screed that constitutes the EULA (End User License Agreement) that everyone who downloads any software from anywhere has to agree to?  Read the full blurb from Online Media Daily here.



The only 4G network that supports the iPhone 5

More hoo ha this week about the roll out of 4G and how it’s a ‘much-needed’ upgrade of 3G, which now has all the tech cachet of Stephenson’s Rocket when set along side the Bullet Train.  It’s only much-needed if your needs are met by an endless deluge of audio-visual pap, an aspect of all this supposed tech advancement that TF touched on in a previous post.  Lots of users (over 1,500 who moaned during a Which? survey) are miffed that service providers will be able to charge them more to access 4G even though they are currently on a supposedly fixed price tariff.  Another ‘development’ is that EE (AKA Orange/T-Mobile), who jumped the gun in terms of a promissory offer of 4G by using frequencies they already owned, have been told by the government to wait and let other suppliers catch up, even though OFCOM gave EE the go-ahead and a near 12 month head start on the competition.  That just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?  One upshot of all this is that the iPhone 5 will only work as a 4G smartphone on EE.  It won’t function as a 4G device on the 4G frequencies being offered by the government to O2, Vodafone and 3. 4G – comes in various flavours, not all tasty. And the non-EE 4G is rumoured to be going cost the remaining service providers £3 billion.  And how will that investment be recouped?  By praying that handset manufacturers make versions of their smartphones that will work on their particular 4G frequencies and that customers sign up and pay higher tariffs.  That’s a lot of hoping.



Google has seen its stock price plummet somewhat in recent days as a consequence of a 20 per cent drop in year-on-year profits in the three months up to September, according to The Times.  Google gloss being tarnished?  How can this be?  A couple of reasons: they spent $517 million to acquire Motorola Mobility (which sounds like it makes wheelchairs but in fact makes phones, both smart and dumb) and people aren’t searching quite as much as they used to.  Google numbers are still utterly boggling: 146 million Gmail users; 620 million daily visitors and 7.2 billion daily page views.  Thing is, the relentless march of the app and the proliferation of mobile devices on which they are installed means users can more easily access stuff they want without having to search for it, which circumvents search engines completely. Much of Google’s revenue comes from elements associated with search so the knock on effect could be considerable.

In some ways TF find this supposed trend mildly disturbing.  It’s rather like having a sat-nav that only knows ten routes because those are the only ten routes you are ever likely to drive.  You’re on a closed network with a closed mind.  It’s a sad day when we stop searching.



These people are serious

It’s almost in the DNA of record companies to put file sharing/piracy/copyright infringement at the top of their ‘must stamp this out’ lists.  Sometimes it seems it’s all they care about, rather than, say, making decent music that a sane person might want to buy.  But even though hordes of ne’er do wells filch tunes off sites such as The Pirate Bay or Bit Torrent, research suggests that plenty of upstanding citizens still pay for CDs and music downloads.  In the US, nearly half of album acquisitions are via illegal file-sharing whereas people are much more likely to pay for single tracks.

“When it comes to individual songs… Americans paid for nearly 33 times as many songs as they pirated using Bit Torrent—a popular way to distribute and download music and other media for free,” said Ethan Smith in this article from the Wall Street Journal.

In the UK, though, naughty people download illegal stuff at a greater rate than their US counterparts.  That’s our lack of moral fibre going great guns right there.  Amidst all this gloom, though, we read that XL, the record company that has Adele on its roster, trousered profits of £41.7 million last year, up tenfold from 2010.  Richard Russell, XL’s co-owner sashayed off with a dividend of some £8.5 million.  On the one hand you could say he’d have got an awful lot more without Internet piracy diluting the pot but on the other you could point to the Internet’s ubiquity and scale that pumps Adele’s music into far more lugholes than any method prior.  In spite of all the hand-wringing it’s perfectly feasible that recorded music would be generating as much as it does legally, right now, if the Internet had never existed.  And we know that this would be a huge disappointment to record companies which saw the Internet as a cash cow and colossal threat in equal measure but there you go – all our crystal balls were a bit murky and only the likes of Napster, Spotify, Pandora and Last FM saw where the future of music was going.  And the bloke who created Bit Torrent.



Huawei Ascend G300 smartphone. Here’s looking at you?

ZTE and Huawei are Chinese companies that manufacture both consumer and business-related electronics products.  Given that virtually all electronic gizmos emanate from that locale this is hardly news but what sets them apart is that they are Chinese (as opposed to the many non-Chinese companies that use China as a manufacturing base) and the government’s attitude towards the Internet in China differs somewhat from that in the West.

ZTE makes budget smartphones both under its own brand name and for the likes of Orange (their San Francisco and San Diego smartphones are made my ZTE).  Huawei makes, among other things, routers and phones.  Like ZTE they peddle high-spec, low-cost smartphones and if TalkTalk is your broadband supplier you probably have a Huawei router.  The company has also been supplying BT with broadband-related paraphernalia since 2004.  So far, so so.  Call it paranoia, call it caution but the US government has decided that both companies pose a ‘national security threat’ on account of the apparent possibility that their equipment could be used for spying.

That Huawei is owned by its employees (a bit like John Lewis) and has no official ties to the Chinese government cuts no ice with security nobs in Washington who suspect Party meddling wherever it stands to garner influence.  The Chinese have cried ‘protectionism’ and very many fouls but it is true that Huawei has supplied some very dodgy regimes with software that would have enabled those regimes to spy on supposed dissidents within their country.  TF also has to wonder whether, if they really wanted to, the Chinese couldn’t squirrel spyware away in virtually every product made in China, whether the company whose name was on it was Chinese or not. The British government sees Huawei as a source of job creation over here and have no plans to send Huawei or ZTE to the naughty step.  Yet.