The Founding Murder and the Final Boss

alexdanco.com

We have to talk about WeWork again!

So I guess they’re postponing the IPO after all, now that we’ve spun the roulette wheel and landed on “too toxic to handle” rather than “trillion dollar market opportunity for community enlightenment”. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens to WeWork. But in the meantime there’s something fascinating going on: how the rest of the tech community is spinning its wheels overtime in order to make sure that WeWork’s failure to IPO does not inflict any collateral damage on the rest of the ecosystem. It’s a great excuse to dive into one of my favourite topics: the norms and rituals and beliefs that make up the Silicon Valley Kayfabe, and what happens when we face a credible threat that our belief system might fall apart.

First, let’s go on a little journey. Longtime Snippets readers may remember one of my…

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Technology Is as Biased as Its Makers

The road ahead is going to be turbulent as more people realize the extent to which technology can be biased. What we do about now will possibly set the direction for the next few decades…

Longreads

Lizzie O’Shea | an excerpt adapted from Future Histories: What Ada Lovelace, Tom Paine, and the Paris Commune Teach Us about Digital Technology | Verso | May 2019 | 30 minutes (8,211 words)

In the late spring of 1972, Lily Gray was driving her new Ford Pinto on a freeway in Los Angeles, and her thirteen-year-old neighbor, Richard Grimshaw, was in the passenger seat. The car stalled and was struck from behind at around 30 mph. The Pinto burst into flames, killing Gray and seriously injuring Grimshaw. He suffered permanent and disfiguring burns to his face and body, lost several fingers and required multiple surgeries.

Six years later, in Indiana, three teenaged girls died in a Ford Pinto that had been rammed from behind by a van. The body of the car reportedly collapsed “like an accordion,” trapping them inside. The fuel tank ruptured and ignited into a fireball.

Both…

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Down the memory lane with Digit

My tryst with the modern PCs started in the mid 90s when the internet was almost non existent in India. At the time, software and games were not easy to come by and magazines like Chip which have away trial versions and freeware in CDs along with their copies were quite sought after. Chip later became Digit in India but the freebies continued.

Digit magazine July 2019

It was with this thought that I attended the Digit Squad Tech Day in Mumbai today and it was fun to see all the colourful assembled desktops, consoles and mobile phones placed around the venue and fellow Digit Squad members participating enthusiastically in the different contests. Felt quite nostalgic to soak in the geeky environment.

Didn’t sit around idle of course and instead captured a few videos of the front camera fall detection in action for the smartphones on display. You can catch the video here.

OnePlus and Oppo seem to be catching on quite soon and they flash a dialog on screen while Samsung seems to be partially retracting their module. The Redmi K20 pro is similar in terms of responsiveness to Oppo and OnePlus but it closes the camera app instead of showing any alert. The Asus Zenfone 6z provides an interesting experience where you can see the arc on screen as the module rotates to its resting position.

And here are a few more shots from the event

Whose advice should you take?

A useful way to look at advice…

It's only chemo

My wife finds it irritating that I often take a long time to get round to following her recommendations, even though the ones I follow almost always turn out to be successful. This post is about what sort of advice is worth taking – my view of the evidence is, not much – and why a (very basic) bayesian attitude is worthwhile.

Everyone wants their advice to be taken, but almost no one actually wants or ever follows unsolicited advice. That paradox is worth thinking about.

The quality of people’s advice varies considerably depending on how specialist it is.

Even those people who are experts offering expert advice may not be that useful to you. A 2014 meta-study found, ‘deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions.’

All that practice will give…

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Facebook’s Crypto Strawman

This is their first attempt after all…

alexdanco.com

If you haven’t heard already:

Welcome to Libra | Facebook
Facebook announces Libra cryptocurrency: all you need to know | Josh Constine, Techcrunch

I mean, hey, good for Facebook for… going for it, I guess? After two-plus years of being called all sorts of nasty names – a threat to democracy, a nest of lies, a horde of children playing run-the-universe, you get the idea – Facebook has announced their newest plan to get everybody mad at them: they’re launching a new cryptocurrency / payments product for their users around the world. They call it “A simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people.” And it’s called Libra.

The actual mechanics of the Libra blockchain protocol are a real Rorschach test: whatever it is you already thought Facebook was doing, you’re probably going to keep thinking that, but armed with more talking points: 

  • Libra is a private…

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How the Model T drove hats out of fashion

Lama Al Rajih

Last week, I came across this tweet from an account I follow on Twitter.

Take a closer look at the picture.

Every single person in this picture, man or woman, was wearing a hat. There isn’t a single person in that picture that isn’t wearing a hat. People even wore broad-rimmed and Panama hats to the beach (unless they were swimming).

Of course, createstreets was pointing out the large sidewalks and tiny roads in the picture, reminding the audience that this was at a time when everybody was walking or riding a horse, and very few people drove cars.

I’m not really sure how my train of thought ended up where it did, but I quickly asked this question: did hats fall out of fashion because of cars?

I ended up getting into a conversation with Andrew, who previously worked in the fashion world, about this particular subject, and…

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First impressions of Spotify in India

The service launched yesterday in India in the midst of the Warner music conflict, but it seems to have a pretty decent catalogue in India. The recommendations engine is also top notch as I experienced it first hand by feeding in my preferred artists across different genres and it right away created a bunch of playlists with some of my favorite songs. Definitely the best experience of all the music streaming services so far for me.

I’m currently on the free tier which doesn’t lose out much other than the highest audio quality and offline storage. The ads are bearable for now. It also seems that Amazon is holding back with their Spotify support on the Echo line in India as seen in this mail from customer support.

The premium pricing is also in line with Apple Music though quite a bit more expensive than the Indian services like Wynk or Saavn. It also doesn’t seem to support in app purchases on iOS as evidenced below.

I’ll probably go for the premium subscription once the Echo support kicks in or I require the offline access. For now, happy with the free tier of Spotify and making do with Amazon Music on the Echo.

Sharing large videos on Whatsapp from an iPhone

WhatsApp has this frustrating limit of 16 MB or about 1-2 min for videos shared from the camera roll on my iPhone. There seems to be a reasonable workaround through the Google photos app wherein you can use the share option on the video of your choice and select the small option which usually compresses most reasonable length videos so that they can be sent in their entirety on Whatsapp.

The quality is of course pretty poor due to the heavy compression but it’s the simplest workaround.

Mi app store induced Whatsapp obsolescence

TLDR: If you are using a Xiaomi phone like the Mi 4 or redmi series then:

  1. Go to the Whatsapp site and download and install the apk (you may need to enable third party app installs in settings)
  2. Disable auto updates on the Mi app store to prevent similar issues with other apps

On opening Whatsapp yesterday (13 Jan), I was greeted by a message saying that the version of Whatsapp was obsolete and had expired on that day. Oddly, there was no update available on the Google Play store and I was not on their beta testing program either.

A bit of searching seemed to indicate that this was a MIUI problem, in particular due to their Mi App Store which seemed to be updating apps automatically. There was however no app update on it either.

Finally read on the discussion thread that downloading the apk directly from the Whatsapp site fixed the problem for most and that was exactly what I did. I also went and disabled the Mi app store auto updates to ensure that other apps don’t end up this way.