Smartphones, Except Landlocked
> Phone lines, while not initially designed to transfer binary data, turned out to be a good enough way to do so—up until the 2000s, at least. From sending faxes to browsing the Internet, people relied on effectively the same copper wires they used with Ma Bell-leased telephones. But while most of the personal tech evolved towards greater connectivity, landline phones mostly got better only at the ergonomics of calling and dialing. Today’s Tedium is dedicated to the few ones which dared to be smarter.
Plus this great anecdote:
> The mild criticism (“not proving the success that Sir Alan Sugar had hoped” was all that was ever written about the phone) pushed Sugar to send a message to all 95,000 service subscribers, asking them to send an email to Charles Arthur, the newspaper’s tech editor.
The Exxon Valdez of cyberspace
> In 1989 the thin-hulled Exxon Valdez supertanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, pouring a quarter of a million barrels of oil into the surrounding waters. At the time, it was America’s worst offshore spill, and a huge blow to the reputation of the ship’s owner, Exxon. The firm paid $3bn to clean up the area and settle legal claims, and to improve safety the American government ordered the phasing out of single-hull ships such as Exxon Valdez. All vessels used worldwide by Exxon’s corporate descendant, ExxonMobil, are now double-hulled. But that is not all. The disaster gave rise to a cultlike culture of discipline within ExxonMobil that helped turn it into the profitmaking beast it is today.
If we haven’t yet seen a sufficiently nasty data breach to motivate cleanups, I don’t think we want to.
Yelp is Screwing Over Restaurants By Quietly Replacing Their Phone Numbers
> The phone numbers add tracking before connecting to a restaurant so that Grubhub can bill for a marketing fee.
> “There’s a button where you could hit play and so I was like, what is this?” he said. “I hit play, and the first call was me on the phone, which freaked me out because I didn’t know I was being recorded.” The call was a customer who had his restaurant confused with another restaurant. It took four minutes to figure this out before the customer hung up without placing an order. “I got charged almost $8 for that phone call.”
Cisco to pay $8.6 million fine for selling government hackable surveillance technology
> Cisco has agreed to pay $8.6 million to settle a claim it sold video surveillance software it knew was vulnerable to hackers to hospitals, airports, schools, state governments and federal agencies. The tech giant continued to sell the software and didn’t fix the massive security weakness for about four years after a whistleblower first alerted the company about it in 2008, according to a settlement unsealed Wednesday with the Justice Department and 15 states as well as the District.
This is a new wrinkle in the disclosure debate. Refuse to patch, pay out later. But 10 years seems like a very long timeline.
The Roots of Boeing’s 737 Max Crisis: A Regulator Relaxes Its Oversight
> In the days after the first crash of Boeing’s 737 Max, engineers at the Federal Aviation Administration came to a troubling realization: They didn’t fully understand the automated system that helped send the plane into a nose-dive, killing everyone on board.
> Engineers at the agency scoured their files for information about the system designed to help avoid stalls. They didn’t find much. Regulators had never independently assessed the risks of the dangerous software known as MCAS when they approved the plane in 2017.
When it absolutely, positively has to be there for the product demo overnight
> The person responsible for getting the fancy computer to Hawaii talked with the shipping company about the situation. At the time, they were Microsoft’s exclusive provider of overnight delivery services, and from how this story unfolds, it’s clear that they were serious about maintaining that status.
Adblocking: How About Nah?
> The rise and rise of ad-blockers (and ad-blocker-blocker-blockers) is without parallel: 26% of Internet users are now blocking ads, and the figure is rising. It’s been called the biggest boycott in human history.
> Adversarial interoperability occurs when someone figures out how to plug a new product or service into an existing product or service, against the wishes of the company behind that existing product or service.
Plus a history of ads on the web.
Who Can Pay Venezuela’s Debts?
> Also racing sponsorships, credit ratings, ice-water celebrations and Trump on crypto.
This was a good one.
Red Wing, Iconic U.S. Shoe Maker, Labors Mightily to Bring Production Home
> Yet in a sign of how hard it can be to reverse the tide of globalization, when Red Wing decided to introduce a new line of work boots here, the process took more than two years.
> When the Ohio-based maker of Red Wing’s Taslan shoelaces closed in the early 2000s, two Red Wing design team members spent months teaching other vendors old-school methods for making laces, dissecting vintage laces and testing ways to texture nylon yarns and weave patterns.
Expedia: from software bug to customer service nightmare, a modern Odyssey
> Instead of keeping an account and my data private, Expedia created a fake account. Instead of deleting the fake account, Expedia deleted both accounts. Instead of reactivating the account I had to create a new account. Instead of adding points to the new account, Expedia deleted the new account again. After 30+ interactions over two months with the massively incompetent support, I lost about 10,000 points, my status, but received $75 and 3000 points (about $100 total) in compensation. Go Expdia!
How Discount Brokerages Make Money
> This is outside of my usual software-oriented beat, but sometimes people are wrong on the Internet. Most recently, people have been wrong about payment for order flow, an esoteric topic in the investing industry which seems vaguely unsavory to Hacker News commenters, Michael Lewis , etc.
> Explaining why payment for order flow isn’t a big deal requires a more in-depth discussion of discount brokerages. All stats below are as of 2018; citations for the annual reports are at the bottom.
Why was Windows for Workgroups pejoratively nicknamed Windows for Warehouses?
> Windows for Workgroups came with a network card, instructions for installing it, and even a screwdriver to assist with the installation. Now, there were two network cable standards at the time: BNC and 10Base-T. The network card that came with Windows for Workgroups 3.10 used BNC, which turned out to be the loser in the standards battle.
GeoWorks GEOS History - The Other Windows
> Back in the early ’90s, it wasn’t a sure thing that Microsoft Windows was going to take over the market, even though they had a clear lead over many of their competitors, thanks to MS-DOS. In fact, one of the iconic GUI-based experiences of the era, AOL, hedged its bets for a while, creating and maintaining a DOS version of its iconic pseudo-internet software using an GUI platform few were familiar with: GeoWorks. It was an operating system for an era when it wasn’t even a sure thing we’d have a modem. Today, we do a dive into the world of GEOS. It’s a pretty fascinating place.
How did WeWork’s Adam Neumann turn office space with “community” into a $47 billion company? Not by sharing.
> I asked Neumann what his superpower is. “Change,” he said. “I think it’s the best superpower to have.” He then asked if I had seen the TV show Heroes. “There was one [character] that was very strong,” he said. “He had the ability to have all superpowers.” Neumann neglected to mention that this was the show’s villain: a serial killer who murdered people to get their powers.
‘Nobody Cares!’ Rich Unknowns Try Celebrity Tricks to Hide House Hunting
> While high-profile figures like Mark Zuckerberg are known for making stealthy real-estate buys, some of the most extreme secrecy measures are demanded by people you’ve never heard of. “Sometimes I want to say, ‘Nobody cares!’” said Compass real-estate agent Cindy Scholz, of New York.
> The client wouldn’t send his financial documents because of Mr. Swierczewski’s laptop software. “He hated Windows,” said Mr. Swierczewski, who agreed to install a Linux operating system. It took two days to get it work, forcing Mr. Swierczewski to cancel appointments. “I almost threw my computer at the wall,” he said.
Wall Street Isn’t Buying What Silicon Valley Is Selling
> Amazon is often pointed to as a model of how companies that lose money early on can then turn a profit. But its losses were modest by today’s standards. Its combined net losses over its first nine years totaled $3 billion, or roughly $4.5 billion adjusted for inflation, before it turned profitable in its 10th. Uber, 10 years old, lost $3.7 billion in the 12 months through March.
If you’re looking for gold, look in trees
> Prospecting for gold by looking for it in leaves has finally proved itself commercially in Australia
> The quantities are minuscule. In areas where there is no gold, leaves may have a background level of 0.15 parts per billion (ppb) of gold; on gold-rich sites that can rise to 4ppb.
Rain Much on Your Vacation? One Italian Island Offers Hotel Refunds
> But beginning this month, the Italian island of Elba, off the coast of Tuscany, started offering tourists an unexpected guarantee: Hotels will refund guests if it rains.
Why Recycling Doesn't Work
> After being picked up, enormous volumes of recyclable waste are unloaded at a local materials-recovery facility (MRF, pronounced like “smurf”), dumped onto conveyor belts, and passed through a battery of sieves, magnets, optical sorters, and manual workers who separate each item into its own stream—plastic, paper, metal, and so on. The batches from each stream are then sent to gigantic balers, squeezed into cubes, and sold, often by middleman companies, to “end markets.” These are the manufacturers, in Canada and around the world, that profit from turning our waste into something new—toilet paper, perhaps, or plastic lawn furniture, egg cartons, or drywall. More than a public service, recycling is largely a commodity business, as dependent on supply and demand as any other. When municipalities produce more recyclable garbage than end markets can absorb, the value of the product decreases, and in the selling market, Canada faces competition from countries across the world.