Who needs jesters with kings like these?

Jill Stein posted this to her Facebook a couple days ago:

We need to begin having honest conversations about the oppressive tactics corporate comedians continue to do towards already-marginalized groups of people.

And had this to add on her campaign website:

Oliver’s staff actually called our campaign before the program to ask for clarification on Jill’s platform – especially on the main part of his rant, cancelling student debt.

Despite this stab at due diligence (of the sort comedians undertake) … Oliver got it woefully, intentionally wrong. Gosh, it was almost as if they weren’t interested in the truth. It’s almost as if they just wanted to do a hatchet job…

Of course Oliver isn’t interested in the truth: he’s interested in making people laugh and in keeping his job. His show is a little better than some of his competitors because HBO doesn’t have to answer to advertisers, but it is owned by a company that answers to advertisers and lobbies the government. Of course corporate media forwards the goals of corporate media: it’s impossible for any sufficiently large corporation to pursue goals outside of growth and profit, because every decision is scrutinized by understandably penny-conscious shareholders. Oliver is a consumer-facing, front-line product from a Time/Warner company, and he fits into some larger strategy they have for growth and profit. To expect otherwise from a comedy show is misguided.

And this is the real problem. These comedy shows, like The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight, lampoon the news, and in doing so, replace the news for people that prefer to actually enjoy their television experience. I think the problems Stein should really be pointing out is that Oliver gets to market himself as news without needing to uphold journalistic standards, like supplements get to pose as medicine without upholding standards of safety and efficacy, and that the news has become so intolerable with the 24 hours news cycle that it’s difficult for me to believe anyone voluntary watches it (Their ratings must be falsely inflated by TVs in airports whose remote control has been misplaced.)

I’m considering voting for Stein come election day, Oliver’s piece made me laugh heartily, and it made no change to my convictions. When you decide to watch controversial, political, or lewd comedy, it’s just stupid to get offended when you, your ideology, or your identity is made fun. What did you expect? That only things you dislike would be mocked? To try to suppress this would be an affront to free speech, one of our most important freedoms. Not only is this stupid, but you cede power to the comedian when you do this, and you’ll often make the joke funnier for the target audience. If you want an example of how to handle being made fun of, and it’s uncomfortable for me to praise a group I have so many problems with, look no further than how the Mormon Church handled “The Book of Mormon”:

The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.

Let me rephrase that for you Jill Stein:

Jon Oliver may attempt to entertain viewers for an 20 minutes or so, but the ideology of the Green Party is designed to benefit the general population of the United States, unlike the corporatist duopoly.

TechCrunch: “Google buys Eyefluence eye-tracking startup”

TechCrunch:

Eyefluence shared the announcement quietly today in a blog post, spotted first by Mattermark:

Today, we are excited to announce that the Eyefluence team is joining Google!  With our forces combined, we will continue to advance eye-interaction technology to expand human potential and empathy on an even larger scale.  We look forward to the life-changing innovations we’ll create together!

As Google launches its Daydream virtual reality platform next month with its Daydream View headset, there is already attention being directed to its next-gen headset efforts.

There’s no reason to believe that Google or any other company has today or will evee infiltrate people’s computers to track their eye movements, but they’re certainly incentivized to do so. I encourage you cover your cameras.

iOS development links: October 25th, 2016

Zany genius rocket man releases dreadfully cool video of Tesla’s self-driving car

Tesla have released a video of their self-driving technology via HackerNews. Here’s what it looks like:

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-10-19-14-am

It looks just like a Tesla. Compare this with Uber’s self-driving offering:

uber-self-driving-car-pittsburgh

Given the recent rumor that Apple is pulling out of making the car itself, I think it’s worth noting a critical difference in these two cars: only one of them is cool, and it’s the one with integrated hardware and software.

The U.S. and Russia fighting proxy war in Syria

From Military.com:

In a warning to Russia, the Pentagon said Tuesday that the U.S. maintains the right to self-defense against advanced anti-aircraft systems sent to Syria by Moscow.

“This is something that we take very, very seriously — the safety of our aircrews,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in response to reportsthat Russia sent highly mobile S-300 anti-air missile systems (known to NATO as the SA-23) to its naval facility in the northwestern Syrian port of Tartus over the weekend.

“Those aircrews have the inherent right to self-defense,” Cook said at a Pentagon news conference.

Hillary Clinton via The Intercept:

“They’re getting more sophisticated thanks to Russian imports. To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk—you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians,” she said. “So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.”

From the Guardian, “are US-led airstrikes on Syrians as bad as Russia’s?”:

It only attributes deaths with clear evidence so not all are accounted for, but its records hold the Syrian government and affiliated militia responsible for 92,000 civilian deaths, Russian forces for 3,412, Syrian opposition fighters, excluding Isis, for 2,470, and Isis for 3,078. It attributes 768 to the international coalition.

George Monbiot on “the flight of reason”

In a powerfully argued essay, George Monbiot makes the case we should fly less to save the planet:

The prime minister has just announced that her cabinet will recommend where a new runway should be built. Then there will be a consultation on the decision. There is only one answer that doesn’t involve abandoning our climate change commitments and our moral scruples: nowhere. […]

Are we incapable of making such changes for the sake of others? If so, our ethics are weaker than those of 1791, when 300,000 British people, to dissociate themselves from slavery, stopped using sugar, reducing sales by one third. They understood the moral implications of an act that carried no ill intent, that seemed sweetly innocent.

The perceptual gulf between us and the distant and future victims of climate change is no wider than the ocean that lay between the people of Britain and the Caribbean. If we do not make the leap of imagination that connects our actions with their consequences, it is not because we can’t but because we won’t.

Event: Sam Jarman on Push Notifications @ CocoaHeadsNYC

Thank you to Sam Jarman, CocoaHeadsNYC, and Google for hosting an event on push notifications. Sam has a lot of good advice on push notifications, the biggest take away being that notifications are sent to people and not devices, and that you should respect peoples time. One of the data points he has to back this up is that 70% of app uninstalls are triggered by a push notification! So be wary!

Naked Capitalism: “Wells Fargo Fake Accounts Hidden by Fake Whistleblowing”

Wells Fargo have been implicated in not only forging signatures to set up fake accounts for customers, but they’ve now been found to have fired whistleblowers for reporting it. Naked Capitalism via Richard Stallman:

Mind you, the CNN story didn’t establish that Wells Fargo had larded up the numbers by including internal dissenters it fired. But what it has found is far worse: the bank terminated employees who made use of formal whistleblower procedures to object to account fakery and other abuses, like forging signatures.

Not only does the story have multiple sources, most of whom let their names be published, but it also includes a source from Wells Fargo who confirms that the “can the whistleblowers” process was institutionalized. For instance, the Human Resources department gave the business units tips as to how to created trumped-up charges so as to cover for the real reason for the firings.

Why won’t anyone, including the CEO, be prosecuted? Wells Fargo have contributed $1,370,643 to political parties and has been significantly increasing their contributions year over year since 1990.

Electrek: “Tesla increases its lead on the US luxury sedan market, beating Mercedes, BMW and Audi”

Gruber:

Fred Lambert:

Tesla shocked the industry earlier this year when it confirmed having delivered 25,202 Model S sedans in the U.S. in 2015, which gave the company a 25% market share in the premium sedan market. For the first time, Tesla had surpassed market leaders like BMW and Mercedes. Furthermore, every single other large luxury sedan has seen its sales decrease during the same period.

Now the electric automaker is increasing its lead on the US luxury sedan market to such a point that the Model S is now twice as popular as the Mercedes S-Class or the BMW 7-Series. Tesla is literally selling more all-electric sedans in the US than Mercedes and BMW are selling S-Class and 7-Series combined.

I’m surprised at how few of these cars are sold overall, but it’s amazing that Tesla has already taken a commanding lead.

Here’s a take I’m not completely sold on and may be slightly controversial: the cars Tesla are making are faster horses relative to the combustion automobile. The coming revolution in the industry is not a car powered by a different energy source, but a more efficient way of getting between two points, where efficiency is profit, energy, and convenience, namely self-driving. Tesla makes beautiful cars with a laudable set of innovations, which I hope continues have a place in the market, but I see Uber, Apple, and Google as better placed to deliver an autonomous car platform than Ford, General Motors, and by association, Tesla. The Apple or Google autonomous car will not be something you buy at a dealership, it will be a service that’s available in your city.

Related to this point: the dirty secret of Teslas is that they don’t do much to reduce carbon emissions today in the sense that nearly 70% of electricity used charge these cars are the result of burning stuff (which admittedly is a hell of a lot better than a combustion engine’s 100%, it’s likely much more efficient to burn this fuel elsewhere, deliver the electricity, and perhaps capture the carbon). Of course, Tesla seems to be taking steps to address this with Solar City, and they’re doing great work. In fact, far from being a reason to not buy a Tesla, I much prefer the idea of individual ownership of cars to the collectivization of means of transportation for privacy and autonomy reasons, but I digress.

Was just struggling with a very annoying bug where my Storyboard would always display “Internal error. Please file a bug.” Following the suggestion of a StackOverflow answer, I delete my derived data and cleaned the project to avail. I want to love Storyboards Apple, please make sure they work!

Was just struggling with a very annoying bug where my Storyboard would always display “Internal error. Please file a bug.” Following the suggestion of a StackOverflow answer, I delete my derived data and cleaned the project to avail. I want to love Storyboards Apple, please make sure they work!

Ars: “Verizon says its Pixels will get updates at the same time as Google’s”

Gruber:

Ron Amadeo:

A Verizon spokesperson has reached out to Ars with the following corrections about its version of the Pixel:

“… [W]hen Google releases an update, Verizon phones will receive the same update at the same time (much like iOS updates). … [W]e have three apps pre-installed on the phone Go90, My Verizon (which is your account management tool) and Verizon Messages (your messaging app). As you noted, all three can easily be uninstalled by the user.”

Assuming this pans out, it’s the closest anyone has gotten to Apple’s total control over the software on its phones. The only difference: the (removable) pre-installed Verizon crapware apps.

When I last purchased an iPhone from a carrier store, I was pressured to activate the phone in-store so they could install their apps for me, supposedly it was “company mandated policy.” I wanted to do an iCloud restore, I didn’t want to twiddle my thumbs while that happened in their store, so I insisted on getting the phone in the box or I was leaving. I was only allowed to do that on the promise that I’d install “myAT&T” when I was finished with the iCloud restore. Naturally, I didn’t do it, their website works just fine.

Mossberg: “Why does Siri seem so dumb?”

Phones have become good enough that differentiating them to consumers is becoming increasingly difficult. Consider that in pursuit of this, Samsung made a phone which explodes, Apple have been re-releasing the same core phone for 3 years now, and LG have actually marketed their DAC in the new V20. But another critical way these phones compete is in artificially intelligent assistants. Here’s Mossberg’s diagnosis:

It seems to me that Apple has wasted its lead with Siri. And now Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and others are on the march. Apple has made excited announcements each time it added knowledge domains like sports and movies and restaurants to Siri on the iPhone. But it seems like it hasn’t added any major new topic domains in quite a while.

With regards to the competitive landscape of of artificial intelligent voice assistants, I’d make a case like this: Siri can set timers and alarms, which it excels at, and occasionally to try to respond to a message when typing would be inconvenient, which it is mediocre at best at. I implore you to never try to use it while driving, as it often requires more interaction in time and taps with my phone than typing “yes” or “no” takes on the digital keyboard. Contrastingly, Alexa is great at transcribing, excels in its very limited domains, but cannot perform interesting tasks at the moment other than ordering stuff from Amazon. Similarly, Google’s assistant is probably the best in the market overall in terms of transcribing, understanding, and acting on input, but comes with a series of compromises in privacy and mobile OS that don’t make it worthwhile for me.

More broadly, Mossberg’s piece is unduly pessimistic about Apple’s competitiveness. Apple’s on the right track with Siri extensions – allowing 3rd party developers to interact with their assistant in predictable ways. You can now order an Uber or Lyft with Siri or send money to people, which I consider more important than knowing trivia about the presidential debate or sports games, even if that’s arguably lower hanging fruit. AI assistants are an abstraction which hides a computer’s complexity in a way that I’m not sure will ever be as productive or as fast as a command line or web page, but I look forward to them occupying a a convenient position in our digital lives.

Brand New Machine: Chase and Status Album Review

cs2308290-02a-bigBrand New Machine is a tasteful and innovative album by English drum & bass duo Chase and Status released in 2013 featuring collaborations from Major Lazer, Nile Rodgers, and Pusha T. It’s sound ranges from pure drum & bass, rap, pop, and jazz, in bits and pieces. “Gun Metal Grey” opens the album on a dark mysterious note, only to be blown open by the weirdly catchy but fierce “International” (with a superb remix from Skrillex on the deluxe edition). Brand New Machine is a bittersweet but aggressive album, with both toned down drum and bass over beautifully produced vocals and the synth sounds fans will known and love. It has enough range to be a good whole-album listen to but also has some singles that are well suited to a work out mix. Other standout tracks include “Machine Gun” and “Gangsta Boogie”.

TechCrunch: “Spotify and Apple Music get unofficial mixes, the best part of SoundCloud”

TechCrunch via MacRumors:

SoundCloud’s big differentiator is its offering of unofficial, user-uploaded content that the major labels don’t release and that isn’t on Spotify or Apple Music. Or at least they weren’t. The first unofficial single-track remixes just went live on Spotify and Apple Music thanks to their partnerships with music rights management service Dubset.

Despite not liking the song particularly, this is very cool. I enjoy listening to mixes of songs created by DJs, where one song is transitioned into the next, in order to not lose the “flow” of what I’m doing when a song ends or having to think particularly about what to play next. At the moment, I search SoundCloud and YouTube for them, but it’s at a much lower quality than Apple Music and not as reliable (I’m sure some people find this hard to believe). If this is a first step towards legitimizing and monetizing long-form mixes on popular music distribution services, I’d be very happy about it.

 

Facebook: “Introducing the Events from Facebook App”

Facebook have launched a new app for iOS based on the event functionality of Facebook, integrating with the phone’s calendar and events created on Facebook. In their own words via 9to5Mac:

Today we’re announcing Events from Facebook, a new app we designed for event seekers who are passionate about keeping up with nearby events and finding things to do with their friends. Whether you’re looking for something to attend this weekend or just wondering what’s happening in your area, Events will help get you there.

I find it striking that all of the default apps that Apple ships, like Messages, Calendar, and Camera, are being re-done by competitors. Arguably, you could set up your home screen by replacing the defaults completely with competitors: Messenger, Events, Instagram, Google Maps, YouTube, etc. Also: the design of the app is strongly evocative of Apple Maps redesign in iOS 10. Apple have heavy competition on their own platform for the best apps, and while I’m not swayed by Facebook’s offerings particularly, this is great for iOS users.

I think my favorite new feature in Xcode 8 is being able to control the zoom level of Interface Builder – it allows me to be pixel perfect when implementing UI.

I think my favorite new feature in Xcode 8 is being able to control the zoom level of Interface Builder – it allows me to be pixel perfect when implementing UI.