The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

We're #16!

Real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield has published a list of the top-25 tech cities in the U.S. It turns out, we're not Silicon Valley:

The report’s authors analyzed data from a variety of sources to measure factors such as universities, capital, talent and high-growth companies. The authors evaluated the cities on the potential for tech to affect the commercial real estate business, they wrote in the report.

Chicago’s overall rank, No. 16, placed it behind Portland and New York and ahead of Atlanta and Los Angeles. The authors addressed the low rankings of the country’s two largest cities in a release, saying New York faced a historic lack of engineers — which may change as investment in local universities and tech schools increases — and that Los Angeles’ economy is too diverse for tech to be a driving factor. They wrote that Seattle, home to tech giants Microsoft and Amazon, is likely the biggest competitor to the Bay Area.

The percentage of Chicago’s workforce made up of tech workers is also relatively low compared to other tech cities on the list, at about 5 percent. That places Chicago just behind Indianapolis and just ahead of New York, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Moody’s Analytics. Compare that to Silicon Valley, where more than 27.4 percent are tech workers.

We're still living in the Greatest City in North America. But as far as tech goes, we're a little behind the Bay Area, Boston, and Raleigh-Durham.

Biggest. Airplane. Ever.

Paul Allen has funded development of an airplane designed to launch satellites into space. It's...huge:

Called Stratolaunch, the plane has some impressive stats: a wingspan of 117 m, or longer than a football field, and a height of 15.24 m. Unfueled, it weighs 226,800 kg. But it can carry 113,400 kg of fuel, and its total weight can reach 590 tonnes.

But, really ... how big is it? It’s so big that it has 28 wheels and six 747 jet engines. It’s so big that it has 96 km of wire coursing through it. It’s so big that the county had to issue special construction permits just for the construction scaffolding.

But why is Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, building such a massive plane?

It’s not to carry passengers, but rather rockets. The bigger the plane, the larger the rockets, or the greater the number.

The Post has video. That is a very large airplane indeed:

By Giant_planes_comparison.svg: Clem Tillier (clem AT tillier.net) White_Knight_Two_planform.png: Mwarren us derivative work: Mwarren us (talk) - White_Knight_Two_planform.pngGiant_planes_comparison.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

A year of Google Maps

Via my company's Slack #general channel, San Francisco cartographer Justin O'Beirne has analyzed the changes Google has made to its Maps feature over the past year, while Apple Maps has stagnated:

So it seems that Apple is updating its map more frequently than Google.

But when we look closer, this doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. For instance, near the park’s southeast corner, there’s a group of three auto service-related businesses: Domport Auto Body ServiceFell Street Auto Service, and California Detailing...

Google has distinct locations for each. But Apple plots them at the same location...

...and as the months pass by, Apple cycles through all three – padding our addition/removal counts...

A number of the additions and removals we counted earlier on Apple are similar – the map is cycling though businesses plotted at the same location.

This all seems to suggest that Google’s location data is more precise than Apple’s. (Or that Apple’s geocoder is buggy.) And perhaps here we’re seeing the fruits of Google’s decade-long Street View project...

It's a long essay with tons of examples and animations. Total Daily Parker bait.

Speaking of my company, I'll have a post up on the company's blog shortly which I'll cross-post here. Keep your eyes peeled.

Fitbit helping to solve crimes?

Via security expert Bruce Schneier, the AP reports that police in central Connecticut obtained an arrest warrant partially on the timing of a murder victim's Fitbit step data:

Connecticut State Police allege [Richard] Dabate killed 39-year-old Connie Dabate at their Ellington home two days before Christmas in 2015, while their two young sons were in school.

Dabate told investigators a masked man shot his wife and tied him up before he burned the intruder with a torch. Authorities responded to a burglary alarm at the home and found Richard Dabate with superficial knife wounds, with one arm and one leg zip-tied to a folding chair.

But police said evidence contradicted Dabate's story and timeline of events, including information from Connie Dabate's Fitbit that showed she was still moving around the house an hour after Richard Dabate said she was shot.

Dabate pleaded not guilty to the crime. Also, the Fitibit data, while helpful to the police, may have had less impact than the allegation that "Dabate also told his pregnant girlfriend before the slaying that he was going to divorce his wife, state police said in an arrest warrant affidavit."

NBC has more.

Stuff I'll read later

A little busy today, so I'm putting these down for later consumption:

Now, I must prepare...for Whisky Fest!

Wait, didn't they kill all the bookstores?

Amazon is opening an actual brick-and-mortar bookstore right by the Southport Brown Line stop:

On Tuesday, it will open the doors of a brick-and-mortar store in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, giving customers a chance to test the e-commerce giant's take on offline shopping.

It's just one 6,000-square-foot neighborhood bookstore. But it's also one of Amazon's first experiments with live customer service and cash registers, and a sign that one of the retail industry's biggest disrupters may not be content to stick to e-commerce.

Amazon is still in the early days of its bookstore experiment. The first location opened in Seattle in late 2015, and the Chicago store, in the 3400 block of North Southport Avenue, will be Amazon's fifth, and first outside a mall. It opened briefly on Saturday as a test and is expected to start regularly scheduled hours Tuesday.

The question, of course, is "why?" I'm going to watch this space.

Two unhappy articles about your phone

First, two unidentified have discovered malware on 38 Android devices that could only have been installed after manufacture but before distribution to retailers:

An assortment of malware was found on 38 Android devices belonging to two unidentified companies. This is according to a blog post published Friday by Check Point Software Technologies, maker of a mobile threat prevention app. The malicious apps weren't part of the official ROM firmware supplied by the phone manufacturers but were added later somewhere along the supply chain. In six of the cases, the malware was installed to the ROM using system privileges, a technique that requires the firmware to be completely reinstalled for the phone to be disinfected.

"This finding proves that, even if a user is extremely careful, never clicks a malicious link, or downloads a fishy app, he can still be infected by malware without even knowing it," Check Point Mobile Threat Researcher Daniel Padon told Ars. "This should be a concern for all mobile users."

Padon said it's not clear if the two companies were specifically targeted or if the infections were part of a broader, more opportunistic campaign. The presence of ransomware and other easy-to-detect malware seems to suggest the latter. Check Point also doesn't know where the infected phones were obtained. One of the affected parties was a "large telecommunications company" and the other was a "multinational technology company."

But malware and password stealing doesn't always need software. Sometimes it just needs a suspicious border guard:

Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016.

According to DHS officials, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. Five-thousand devices were searched in February alone, more than in all of 2015.

The more aggressive tactics of the past two years, two senior intelligence officials told NBC News, were sparked by a string of domestic incidents in 2015 and 2016 in which the watch list system and the FBI failed to stop American citizens from conducting attacks. The searches also reflect new abilities to extract contact lists, travel patterns and other data from phones very quickly.

But the officials caution that rhetoric about a Muslim registry and ban during the presidential campaign also seems to have emboldened federal agents to act more forcefully.

"The shackles are off," said Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project. "We see individual officers and perhaps supervisors as well pushing those limits, exceeding their authority and violating people's rights."

Expect a lot of litigation and very unhappy travelers. Plus some other Fourth Amendment issues that go unreported.

Happy cell phoning!

Should we ignore presidential Tweets?

Jeet Heer says no:

[T]he very nature of our modern world, and the United States’ supremacy, makes it impossible to dismiss an American president’s word. The U.S. is a nuclear-armed superpower, with a commander in chief who presides over the world’s largest economy. Millions of people all over the world pay careful attention to what a president says, making their own plans based on the words coming out of the White House—and they will continue to do so whether or not the press corps and political class in Washington somehow agree en masse to ignore Trump’s tweets.

“Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY!” Trump tweeted in January. “Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.” Toyota’s stock promptly fell, as has the stock of other companies caught in Trump’s Twitter crosshairs. Because his tweets move markets, businesses are developing strategies for how to handle a presidential social media attack. There’s even an app that lets you know when Trump has tweeted negatively about a publicly traded company, so you can sell quickly if needed. Another company created a lightning-fast Twitter bot that automatically short sells such stocks. It’s called “Trump and Dump.”

“Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts, viewed with amazement outside the West Wing bubble, often create crises on the inside,” the Times reported. “That was never truer than when Mr. Trump began posting from his weekend retreat at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida shortly after sunrise on Saturday. His groggy staff realized quickly that this was no typical Trump broadside, but an allegation with potentially far-reaching implications that threatened to derail a coming week that included the rollout of his redrafted travel ban and the unveiling of the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.”

The more one watches this clown, the more one wonders just how much he's a genius, or, you know, something else?

Nokia dumbs down

The Finnish manufacturer is bringing back their 2000-era 3310:

Given the rising angst of a society run by technology, Nokia might have picked the perfect time to introduce an antidote to the smartphone. But even under today’s conditions, it is tempting to see the new Nokia 3310 merely as another example of retro nostalgia. Ha-ha, what if you could get a dumbphone instead? It would pair perfectly with a milk crate full of vinyl albums. But it’s also possible that the 3310 marks the start of a new period of technological mobility. One that offers a sense of how even the most entrenched technological habits might yet turn out differently.

It might be premature to announce the end of humanity’s love affair with the smartphone. But the relationship’s cracks are surely showing. Some have immediate consequence. Apps have contributed to a huge spike in traffic accidents and deaths, as more and more people attempt to operate finicky handheld devices while driving. The partial-reinforcement techniques baked into today’s apps and games has become more apparent to users, who seem increasingly resigned to services they also feel no option to quit. And the uniformity in design of devices has arrested their future potential. Every year another glass rectangle, affording no more or less than it promises, which is more of the same.

The smartphone’s conquest is definitive and complete. A decade after its form solidified, the contemporary citizen of the developed world has almost no choice but to own and operate one. And yet, the joy and the utility of doing so has declined, if not ceased entirely.

Hey, for $50 I might pick one up as a backup device, once they're offered in the U.S.

Poor dead phone

My new LG G5 is now a brick, so I'm back to my slightly-cracked G4.

Yesterday, the phone got hot, stopped responding to inputs, and rebooted itself twice in three hours. That's usually the sign of a runaway app. So upon turning it back on, I manually rebooted it to clear running apps (it auto-loads apps that were running when it resets), and all seemed fine.

Then sometime while I walked home from Wrigley it shut itself off completely and has not yet woken up.

Fortunately T-Mobile was able to move my SIM back to my old phone. Unfortunately the photos I took at Wrigley were on an encrypted SD card which is now unreadable because the decryption keys are hardware-based. (The whole point of the encryption scheme is to prevent an attacker from moving the data to a new phone.)

T-Mobile says I should have a replacement G5 by Monday.