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Market Watch: The Apple Car could run traditional automakers off the road

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Vitaliy Katsenelson, Market Watch:

I had this “Aha!” moment recently when I visited a Tesla store and saw its cars’ power train. It looks just like a skateboard — basically a flat slab of metal (which houses the battery), four wheels, and an electric engine the size of a large watermelon. That’s it — the Tesla has only 18 moving parts.

Many Tesla showrooms have that full size power train on display. It really is something to behold, a marvel of efficiency.

If both Tesla and Apple bypass the dealership model, the GMs of the world will be at an even larger competitive disadvantage. They will have to abandon the dealership model too. Yes, I know, selling cars directly to consumers is not legal in many states, but if the U.S. Constitution could be amended 27 times, the law on car sales (which is an artifact of the Great Depression) can be amended as well. The traditional dealership model is unlikely to survive anyway, as its economics dramatically degrade in the electric-car world. A car with few moving parts and minimal electronics has few things to break. Consequently, electric cars will need less servicing, throttling the dealerships’ most important profit center.

And:

Think back to the day when Apple introduced the iPhone. No one suspected that it (and the smartphones that followed) would enable a service like Uber, which is putting cabdrivers worldwide out of business.

The baby boomer generation romanticizes cars. Most boomers can recite the horsepower and other engine specs of every car they have ever owned. For the tail end of Gen-X (my generation) and Millennials, a car is an interruption between Facebook and Twitter.

Obviously, this is conjecture. We do not know if Apple is building a car. But the idea of an Apple Car is fascinating, and this article homes in on some interesting truths if Apple does go down that path. Read the whole thing.

∞ Read this on The Loop

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glenn
12 hours ago
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Waterloo, Canada
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Mom and baby spared traumatic birth after heart surgery performed inside the womb

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Baby Sebastian

In what they believe is a world first, a team of Toronto doctors inserted a balloon into a baby's heart wall — while he was still in the womb — to save him from potentially devastating complications after birth.

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glenn
1 day ago
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wow, that's pretty amazing
Waterloo, Canada
dreadhead
1 day ago
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Vancouver Island, Canada
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Pickup Line

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
I actually have no idea how humans interact.

New comic!
Today's News:
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glenn
2 days ago
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Waterloo, Canada
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A Privacy Choice

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I departed Safari several years ago for performance and stability issues. Too often, I was finding myself in a situation where Safari was wedged or just plain slow. As the majority of my time is spent staring at a browser, this was unacceptable, so I moved to Chrome. Yeah, the typography rendering wasn’t as good, and my bookmark bar looked like a circus, but it launched quickly and remained fast.

No major complaints. Chrome is frequently updated, the keyboard support is just fine, the browser is fast, and I can’t remember the last time the application crashed. Both bookmarks and extensions are stored in the cloud, so my settings gracefully followed me between machines. No complaints…

… but a lingering worry.

Apple’s 2017 WWDC was dense with announcements, but one feature stuck in my head: disabling auto-play videos with audio. There is no better way to destroy flow than having a random video start playing audio as I’m digesting the state of the world via Feedly. Chrome, like Safari, has a rich set of developer-friendly extensions to augment browser functionality, so I found one that disabled autoplay of videos. The problem? The plug-in I selected was garbage. It did an excellent job of blocking auto-play videos, but there are videos you want to auto-play like Netflix or YouTube and the process of whitelisting these “approved” sites was error-prone and laborious.

My ears perked up when Craig Federighi announce that Safari would block auto playing videos with audio. I’ve yet to see the feature work, but by having the feature engineered into the browser, I am expecting thoughtfulness with low friction affordances allowing sites where I want autoplay.

Disabling was the impetus for considering a migration back to Safari, but the more I considered the situation, the more it became a required migration. To understand my reasoning, consider why autoplay videos with sound exist at all. Why does such a user-hostile feature exist? It starts with a difference of perspective.

There are legitimate and moral businesses who just love interrupting your flow with their message because that is how they earn money. They are rewarded as a function of how effectively they can interrupt you. They do not see the harm in this, and they do not call it interruption: they call it good business.

This is how it started. There was a meeting years ago at one of these businesses when Boris in customer acquisition suggested, “Hey, let’s just auto-play a video with sound and see what happens?” and every single other person in the meeting laughed loudly at him. They said what you and I know, “People are going to hate it. I’d hate it.”

Boris stood his ground and suggested, “Hold it, hold it. Let’s just test one page and one video for a month and see what the data says.” The rest of the team begrudgingly agreed because the company had this value painted on the walls that read, “Data wins arguments.”

Not surprisingly, the resulting data was incredible. Both awareness and other measures were way up. No one bothered to run an NPS survey, and no one bothered to look at the complaints to customer support because the data on hand were both blindingly delightful… and profitable.

It is this difference in perspective that has me back on Safari. It is not that I believe Google is evil (they aren’t) or that their browser is substandard (it’s exceptional). It’s that I’m certain there are Boris-like meetings going on all the time and they are packed with intelligent, rationale, and well-intentioned humans whose perspective is, “We need to run a healthy business, and our business is advertising.”

Google has a compelling answer to not just autoplay ads with audio, but also pop-up ads and interstitial ads that obscure the whole page. They’re planning on banning them via recommendations of the Coalition for Better Ads not only because people hate them, but because this hate is driving us to install ad-blocking software that doesn’t just block these heinous ads, this software also blocks the tracking that allows 3rd party sites track user behavior.1 The latter of which is an advertiser’s bread and butter.

Google’s business is a function of their ability to convince other businesses that they have the most efficient means of delivering relevant Ad X to Targeted Human Y so that they’ll purchase Product Z. I have zero issue with Google building a multi-bajillion business convincing the Planet Earth that they are best in class in ad delivery efficiency (they are), but I am not convinced that Google’s interests align with mine.

Google’s compelling answer to ban heinous ads does not include affordances to block tracking, and I wouldn’t expect them to because they are an advertising company.2 That’d be like requiring Apple to legally embrace shitty typography. No way. Apple’s business is design, and that means Apple will prioritize low-friction useful and approachable elegance no matter what.

Google privacy policy is vast and worth a read. There is an army of privacy-minded humans in the Google privacy organization, and I trust they are trying to do the right thing about privacy. It is not this team’s intent where I have concerns. It is not the meetings they are invited to that I care about, it’s the meeting where privacy is not represented.

There is no nefarious reason they weren’t invited to this hypothetical meeting. It’s just a quick strategy meeting on a topic seemingly unrelated to privacy, and it results in an inconsequential decision that creates a privacy crack. It’s a tiny little space that no one is going to notice for years until someone somewhere else on the planet is going to find a clever way to use that crack for nefarious or semi-nefarious for-profit activities that also violates your privacy.

And I’m not even worried about this one meeting. I’m worried about all of the meetings and the collective compounding impact of all the small seemingly inconsequential decisions in a company where the business is selling advertising versus a company where the business is selling product.

I have great respect for the engineering teams building Safari and Chrome. They are building a window into the Internet, and the Internet is a hostile, for-profit, lying beast that actively fights the good intentions and well-debated choices of engineers and designers. Tough gig.3

But I get a choice.

I’m fine with advertising. It funds media and services I trust and depend upon. I appreciate ads that deliver value to me. I understand the more a company knows about me, the better they can deliver me ads I care about, but if that is their core business, I will forever question their motivations regarding the ethical use of my personal information.

I choose a business that began as a company building products to empower the individual. Apple has spent decades making approachable, functional, and ascetically pleasing technology for the individual and this bolsters their claim they want to protect the privacy of the individual.

That’s my choice.4


  1. I’m continuing to use Adblock Pro, and as part of the research for this piece, I started using Disconnect.Me. It appears Disconnect.Me duplicates tracking blocking in Adblock Pro, but I like the visual map that Disconnect.Me gives me regarding trackers. 
  2. Via Disconnect.Me, you will see four trackers on Rands: Google Analytics, Chartbeat, Twitter, and Gravatar. I’m planning on removing or replacing each of them all. With the demise of Mint, I’m in the market for self-hosted analytics. Drop me a note. 
  3. I’m also evaluating the Brave browser. First impression: many rough edges. 
  4. HTTPS is coming for Rands. I’ve got the certificate all set-up, but the process of converting the rest of the site is… laborious. 
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glenn
2 days ago
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ditto on Safari for me. I look longingly at Chrome performance but I got off of almost every Google service years ago for a reason
Waterloo, Canada
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Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

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Sessions discussed Trump campaign matters with Russian ambassador, according to U.S. intercepts

The accounts from Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to his superiors, intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, contradict public assertions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Post's Greg Miller explains. Accounts from Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, contradict public assertions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

(Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. Senator that he met with Kislyak.

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said in March when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any connections to the Trump campaign.

Team Trump’s ties to Russian interests

[Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault]

Current and former U.S. officials said that assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations during two encounters over the course of the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

The apparent discrepancy could pose new problems for Sessions at a time when his position in the administration appears increasingly tenuous.

Trump, in an interview this week, expressed frustration with Sessions’s recusing himself from the Russia probe and indicated that he regretted his decision to make the lawmaker from Alabama the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Trump also faulted Sessions as giving “bad answers” during his confirmation hearing about his Russian contacts during the campaign.

Officials emphasized that the information contradicting Sessions comes from U.S. intelligence on Kislyak’s communications with the Kremlin, and acknowledged that the Russian ambassador could have mischaracterized or exaggerated the nature of his interactions.

“Obviously I cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that the Washington Post has not seen and that has not been provided to me,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman in a statement. She reiterated that Sessions did not discuss interference in the election.

Russian and other foreign diplomats in Washington and elsewhere have been known, at times, to report false or misleading information to bolster their standing with their superiors or to confuse U.S. intelligence agencies.

But U.S. officials with regular access to Russian intelligence reports say Kislyak — whose tenure as ambassador to the United States ended recently — has a reputation for accurately relaying details about his interactions with officials in Washington.

Sessions removed himself from direct involvement in the Russia investigation after it was revealed in The Washington Post that he had met with Kislyak at least twice in 2016, contacts he failed to disclose during his confirmation hearing in January.

“I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions said when asked whether anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign had communicated with representatives of the Russian government.

He has since maintained that he misunderstood the scope of the question and that his meetings with Kislyak were strictly in his capacity as a U.S. senator. In a March appearance on Fox television, Sessions said, “I don’t recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way.”

Sessions appeared to narrow that assertion further in extensive testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, saying that he “never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

But when pressed for details, Sessions qualified many of his answers during that hearing by saying that he could “not recall” or did not have “any recollection.”

A former U.S. official who read the Kislyak reports said that the Russian ambassador reported speaking with Sessions about issues that were central to the campaign, including Trump’s positions on key policy matters of significance to Moscow.

Sessions had a third meeting with Kislyak in his Senate office in September. Officials declined to say whether U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted any Russian communications describing the third encounter.

As a result, the discrepancies center on two earlier Sessions-Kislyak conversations, including one that Sessions has acknowledged took place in July 2016 on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

By that point, Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to embark on a secret campaign to help Trump win the White House by leaking damaging emails about his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Although it remains unclear how involved Kislyak was in the covert Russian campaign to aid Trump, his superiors in Moscow were eager for updates about the candidate’s positions, particularly regarding U.S. sanctions on Russia and long-standing disputes with the Obama administration over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Kislyak also reported having a conversation with Sessions in April at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where then-candidate Trump delivered his first major foreign policy address, according to the officials familiar with intelligence on Kislyak.

Sessions has said he does not remember any encounter with Kislyak at that event. In his June testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions said, “I do not recall any conversations with any Russian official at the Mayflower Hotel.”

Later in that hearing, Sessions said that “it’s conceivable that that occurred. I just don’t remember it.”

Kislyak was also a key figure in the departure of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to leave that job after The Post revealed that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak even while telling others in the Trump administration that he had not done so.

In that case, however, Flynn’s phone conversations with Kislyak were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, providing irrefutable evidence. The intelligence on Sessions, by contrast, is based on Kislyak’s accounts and not corroborated by other sources.

Former FBI director James B. Comey fueled speculation about the possibility of a Sessions-Kislyak meeting at the Mayflower when he told the same Senate committee on June 8 that the bureau had information about Sessions that would have made it “problematic” for him to be involved in the Russia probe.

Comey would not provide details of what information the FBI had, except to say that he could only discuss it privately with the senators. Current and former officials said he appeared to be alluding to intelligence on Kislyak’s account of an encounter with Sessions at the Mayflower.

Senate Democrats later called on the FBI to investigate the event in April at the Mayflower hotel.

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Sessions’s role in removing Comey as FBI director angered many at the bureau and set in motion events that led to the appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel overseeing the Russia probe.

Trump’s harsh words toward the attorney general fueled speculation this week that Sessions would be fired or would resign. So far, he has resisted resigning, saying that he intends to stay in the job “as long as that is appropriate.”

Matt Zapotosky and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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glenn
5 days ago
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*now* can he be charged?
Waterloo, Canada
zippy72
4 days ago
And immediately pardoned by Trump the same day, I'm sure.
acdha
5 days ago
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Washington, DC
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Electronic music superhero Aphex Twin unearths massive, free music vault

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Enlarge / Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin, is careful about his likeness being photographed, but Warp Records swears that this is him. (credit: Warp Records)

Many of the greatest electronic musicians also happen to be computer and technology geeks. Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, is no exception. The 46-year-old British musician has spent decades making music with an incredible range of analog and digital synthesizers (more details here), and one of his most impressive albums, Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments, was made by programming robots to play live instruments to his exact specifications.

I could go on about James' nerd cred (including his decision to initially announce his 2014 "comeback" record Syro via deep-web links), but his lengthy, diverse, and weird collection of music does the talking—and now there's an easier way than ever to access it. A month-long countdown at the official Aphex Twin site concluded on Thursday, and with it came a near-complete collection of James' recording output since 1991. It includes a store where fans can buy lossless FLAC and LAME-encoded MP3 versions of albums, EPs, and even myriad side projects recorded under weird aliases (AFX, Polygon Window, The Tuss, etc).

"CIRKLON3," a 2016 Aphex Twin single. It's a good starting point for anybody new to his sound, as it strikes a decent balance between his early '90s ambient output, his later "dancier" output, and his knack for weirdness.

Should you be short on cash, there's an embedded streaming audio player with unlimited access to the entire catalog. This is notable for a few reasons, but the biggest is that James' new shop includes hours of previously unreleased material from pretty much every phase of his career. His breakout 1995 album ...I Care Because You Do has been bolstered with a whopping seven new, lengthy tracks (and they're quite good), while most of his albums, EPs, and singles now include additional demo recordings and isolated-element remixes.

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glenn
5 days ago
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Cool site!
Waterloo, Canada
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