Google’s research division today detailed just how easy it is for computer algorithms to bypass standard photo watermarking practices, stripping those images of copyright protection and making them vulnerable to reposting across the internet without credit. The research, presented at a leading computer vision conference in Hawaii back in July, is described in detail in a paper titled, “On the Effectiveness of Visible Watermarks.”
“As often done with vulnerabilities discovered in operating systems, applications or protocols, we want to disclose this vulnerability and propose solutions in order to help the photography and stock image communities adapt and better protect its copyrighted content and creations,” Tali Dekel and Michael Rubinstein, Google research scientists, explain in a post published on Google’s research blog earlier today.
Dekel and Rubinstein say the core problem with current photo watermarking processes is the high level of consistency in style. “We show that this consistency can be used to invert the watermarking process — that is, estimate the watermark image and its opacity, and recover the original, watermark-free image underneath,” the duo explain. “This can all be done automatically, without any user intervention or prior information about the watermark, and by only observing watermarked image collections publicly available online.”
The team behind the watermark-removal algorithm was able to train software with enough public examples to identify watermark patterns and then, through a process called “multi-image matting,” separate the watermark’s components from the rest of the image. Then, because the software understands the elements of the watermark like its opacity, structure, and shadow or color gradient effects, Google’s algorithm is able to remove it from any photo containing that specific watermark or a similar one.
To fix this, and create stronger copyright protections for images on the web, the team suggests adding elements of specific randomness to the watermark. However, you can’t simply change the location, or make changes to the opacity of the watermark, Dekel and Rubinstein explain. Instead, you need to make changes that will leave visible artifacts after the removal process. This includes adding “random geometric perturbations to the watermark” — effectively warping the text and logos being used. That way, when algorithms like the one Google uses try to scrub the watermark out, they’ll leave outlines of the image because these systems are trained to look for consistency and work by targeting the vulnerabilities inherent in that consistency.
Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare:
Earlier today, Cloudflare terminated the account of the Daily Stormer. We’ve stopped proxying their traffic and stopped answering DNS requests for their sites. We’ve taken measures to ensure that they cannot sign up for Cloudflare’s services ever again.
Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.
Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare.
Now, having made that decision, let me explain why it’s so dangerous.
Andrew Liptak, writing for The Verge:
Hardware developer Gamevice filed a lawsuit against Nintendo earlier this week, claiming that the design of the Nintendo Switch is too similar to its own products, and that it infringes on a patent that it holds.
In 2015, Gamevice was granted a patent titled “Combination computing device and game controller with flexible bridge section,” which consists of a computing device linked with a pair of connected controllers on each side of it. In its complaint, Gamevice lays out the various ways that it claims Nintendo is infringing on its property and is asking the court to halt production and sales of the device, and to award it damages.
It’s not clear if the court will allow the lawsuit to proceed. As Mashable points out, there’s a major difference between Gamevice’s patent and the Nintendo Switch, namely that the two Switch controllers aren’t connected by a “flexible bridge.”
John Gruber, on the reaction to a piece he wrote comparing Safari vs. Chrome on the Mac:
But really, taken as a whole, the response to my piece was about one thing and one thing only: the fact that Safari does not show favicons on tabs and Chrome does. There are a huge number of Daring Fireball readers who use Chrome because it shows favicons on tabs and would switch to Safari if it did.
The reaction was so overwhelming I almost couldn’t believe it.
The gist of it is two-fold: (1) there are some people who strongly prefer to see favicons in tabs even when they don’t have a ton of tabs open, simply because they prefer identifying tabs graphically rather than by the text of the page title; and (2) for people who do have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs.
I really can’t say this strongly enough: I think Safari’s lack of favicons in tabs, combined with its corresponding crumminess when displaying a dozen or more tabs in a window, is the single biggest reason why so many Mac users use Chrome.
You can even make an argument that adding favicons to Safari wouldn’t just make Safari better, but would make the entire MacOS system better, because Safari gets dramatically better battery life than Chrome. For MacBook users who spend much or most of their days in a web browser, it can mean the difference of 1-2 hours of battery life. This is actually a common refrain I heard from numerous readers back in May: that they wished they could switch from Chrome to Safari because they know Safari gets better battery life, but won’t because Safari — seemingly inexplicably — doesn’t show favicons in tabs.
Favicons wouldn’t even have to be displayed by default to solve the problem — Apple could just make it a preference setting, and power users would find it. The fact that it’s not even a preference, even though it may well be the single most-common feature request for Safari, seems downright spiteful. And not just mean-to-others spiteful, but cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face spiteful. It might sound silly if you’re not a heavy user of browser tabs, but I am convinced that the lack of favicons is holding back Safari’s market share.
I’ve spent many months of development on Overcast’s Apple Watch app, especially implementing standalone “Send to Watch” playback. Unfortunately, I now need to remove the “Send to Watch” feature.
I’m sorry to the people who used it. While there weren’t many of you (about 0.1% of active users), I’ve heard from some who it meant quite a bit to.
I shelved the feature until other Apple Watch podcast apps revealed a workaround that made background audio much more usable on watchOS, so I decided to use the same technique and ship the feature anyway, despite its other shortcomings. That was a mistake.
That workaround doesn’t work anymore in watchOS 4. Rewriting “Send to Watch” playback to use the only supported alternative would likely take at least another month of development and testing that I currently can’t spare, and due to its limitations, the resulting usability and experience wouldn’t be good enough for me to confidently ship.
I intend to continue supporting and updating the Watch app as a convenient, lightweight, fast remote control for iPhone playback. But it’s not possible to ship a good standalone podcast player on watchOS today, and it’ll probably take a few more years of hardware and software evolution before that changes.
Consumer Reports is removing its “recommended” designation from four Microsoft laptops and cannot recommend any other Microsoft laptops or tablets because of poor predicted reliability in comparison with most other brands.
To judge reliability, Consumer Reports surveys its subscribers about the products they own and use. New studies conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center estimate that 25 percent of Microsoft laptops and tablets will present their owners with problems by the end of the second year of ownership.
The decision by Consumer Reports applies to Microsoft devices with detachable keyboards, such as the new Surface Pro released in June and the Surface Book, as well as the company’s Surface Laptops with conventional clamshell designs.
A number of survey respondents said they experienced problems with their devices during startup. A few commented that their machines froze or shut down unexpectedly, and several others told CR that the touch screens weren’t responsive enough.
The new studies of laptop and tablet reliability leverage data on 90,741 tablets and laptops that subscribers bought new between 2014 and the beginning of 2017. Predicted reliability is a projection of how new models from each brand will fare, based on data from models already in users’ hands.
Take anything that comes out of Consumer Reports labs with a grain of salt, but this is an interesting report to read over.
DHTML was totally rad, like how the Budweiser frogs were rad. In the late 90’s you really couldn’t do much of anything on the web except add 88x31 buttons and build with 1x1.gif spacer tricks. But then Dynamic HTML came out in IE4 and a whole world of hover animations, mouse pointer effects, and pretty much nothing else were possible. It was really cool.
David Letterman, the longest-serving host in U.S. late night television – the original host of Late Night (NBC) and The Late Show (CBS) – is returning to television for a new series for Netflix.
The yet-to-be-named, six-episode series has Letterman combining two interests for which he is renowned: in-depth conversations with extraordinary people, and in-the-field segments expressing his curiosity and humor. In each hour-long episode, Letterman will conduct a long-form conversation with a singular guest - and will also explore topics on his own, away from the studio. The series is set to premiere in 2018.
Said Letterman, “I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here's what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely.”
"Just meeting David Letterman was a thrill; imagine how exciting it is for me to announce that we will be working together," said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix. “David Letterman is a true television icon, and I can’t wait to see him out in the wild, out from behind the desk and interviewing the people he finds most interesting. We’ll have to see if he keeps the beard.”
The project is being produced by RadicalMedia, the Academy Award® and Emmy-winning company behind Netflix’s What Happened, Miss Simone?, Oh Hello on Broadway and Abstract: The Art of Design, and Letterman’s Worldwide Pants.
In 33 years on late-night television, David Letterman hosted 6,028 episodes of Late Night (NBC) and The Late Show (CBS), and is the longest-running late-night broadcaster in American history.
As a writer, performer and producer, Letterman is one of the most-nominated individuals in Emmy Award history, with 52 nominations, resulting in 10 wins. Letterman is also a two-time Peabody-Award winner, a Kennedy Center Honoree, and will receive the Mark Twain Prize in October.
From his roots in comedy, Letterman also became renowned as an interviewer, sharing the stage with U.S. presidents, cabinet officials, Medal of Honor recipients, and virtually every presidential candidate for more than 20 years. Through his guest interviews, Letterman also brought to light important global issues such as world hunger and climate change.
Last October, when Apple unveiled the redesigned MacBook Pro, I wanted one immediately (see “New MacBook Pros Add Context-sensitive Touch Bar,” 27 October 2016). Practically speaking, I needed a second Mac, and a portable one at that. But I was mostly lured in by the Touch Bar, both for its novelty factor, and because, as a technology writer, I like to have experience with each unique Apple device to inform our articles.
Alas, closing in on a year later, I’ve found that I don’t use the Touch Bar much. I was forced to confront this unhappy fact when Adam suggested that I write an article about interesting uses of the Touch Bar. After some research, we agreed that there wasn’t enough there to warrant an article. Although there was a flurry of fascinating developer projects after launch, nothing significant ever shipped.
I’m not saying the Touch Bar is useless, because that isn’t true. At least in theory, it’s more capable and more flexible than a row of physical keys. And Touch ID is fantastic for logging into my MacBook Pro and authenticating 1Password. But if you were to ask me today if you should spend the $300–$400 extra on a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, I would say no for two reasons:
Per Apple’s own Human Interface Guidelines, no functionality should be exclusive to the Touch Bar. That makes sense because Touch Bar-equipped Macs are a small minority, but the flip side is that the Touch Bar provides no additional functionality apart from Touch ID. That wouldn’t be terrible if using the Touch Bar was faster than using other interface elements, but it’s not, because of the second problem.
The Touch Bar offers no tactile feedback, and it’s impossible to use it without looking, as you can do with the function keys. On my iMac, my keyboard of choice is the Apple Wireless Keyboard. If I need to adjust volume or pause audio playback, I just tap the appropriate key, generally without looking. On my MacBook Pro, I have to take my eyes off the screen to find the right button on the Touch Bar, and then in the case of volume (as of macOS 10.13 High Sierra), adjust the slider accordingly.
Those two factors alone make the Touch Bar largely pointless. Here’s a simple example: in Microsoft Word, the Touch Bar offers shortcuts to items in the toolbar. Let’s say you want to bold some selected text. On a Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro, you have three main (there are others, but they’re even slower) ways to do this:
Press Command-B on the keyboard, which lets you keep your hands on the keyboard and eyes on the screen.
Click the Bold button in Word’s toolbar, which takes your hands off the keyboard but keeps your eyes on the screen.
Tap the Bold button on the Touch Bar, which takes your eyes off the screen and your hands off the keyboard.
In most cases, the Touch Bar is the slowest way to perform an action! It’s a cool-looking racing stripe that slows you down in many cases, and even worse, eliminates useful physical keys that you probably reach for reflexively, like Esc.
That’s not all. The screen is too small to be useful in some cases. For instance, you can use the Touch Bar to switch tabs in Safari, which looks cool, but you can barely make out what’s in each tab.
I've spent a lot of time now with both the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros. I'm hearing from a lot of listeners and readers who want some help choosing which iPad to buy. I have a few thoughts about that.
The Good News: They Are Both Great iPads
The first point to acknowledge is that Apple has largely leveled the playing field. A new 10.5-inch iPad and 12.9-inch iPad have the same internals. They have the same screen technology, processors, quick-charging capabilities, camera, RAM, and all the other internal bits. In the past, choosing one size over another usually came with compromises. One had a better screen than the other. One had a better camera than the other. That is no longer the case. Now you just get to pick which screen size is most appropriate for you, and you are going to have a great iPad.
The conventional wisdom is that if you want to replace a laptop, you get a 12.9-inch iPad, and if you are keeping a laptop, get the 10.5-inch iPad. I think that is too simplistic. You could replace a laptop with a 10.5-inch iPad. Likewise, I use my 12.9-inch iPad alongside my laptop all the time.
I think for most folks the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the starting place. It is big enough without being too big. The fact that the slightly larger screen now makes it even easier to type on than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will make the 10.5-inch iPad Pro the most popular choice by far.
I think the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the one you would choose for particular reasons. Maybe you do a lot of multitasking and getting two full-size iPad apps on the screen is important. Or maybe you just have less than perfect vision and need things a little bigger. Either way, if you plan to use the iPad on the go, the bigger one can be a pain, and you need a tangible reason to justify putting up with that.
For me, if my vision were better, I would be tempted to work with the 10.5-inch iPad exclusively. However, I do a lot of work on my iPad and being able to pull out the bigger one for certain tasks sure is nice. I won’t be upgrading my 12.9-inch iPad to the latest iteration, but I won’t be getting rid of my first generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro either.