The Withings Activité Pop is a cheaper brand of beautiful fitness-tracking wristwatch →

The Verge:

The Withings Activité is a watch. A Swiss Made watch, much like the ones we’ve been wearing for decades — only slightly smarter. At $450, it’s a serious purchase, an investment in quality. Now Withings has tweaked the formula a bit. The Activité Pop, which was just announced at CES 2015, is a $149.95 wristwatch made more for the Timex wearer.

The Pop comes in three colors: Azure, Shark Gray, and Sand. Which is to say it comes in black, blue, and beige. (There are other strap colors, too.) You won’t find "Swiss Made" anywhere on these devices, because they’re not nearly as high-end as the Activité; they’re made of PVD-coated metal, a standard material in many mid-range watches, along with a silicone strap. The watch is water-resistant up to 30 meters, and its battery lasts up to eight months.

Withings follows up on its Activité with a cheaper model, but still good-looking.

Chaos Computer Club claims it can reproduce fingerprints from people’s public photos →


Chaos Computer Club, Europe’s largest association of hackers, claims it can reproduce your fingerprints from a couple of photos that show your fingers. At the 31st annual Chaos Computer Club convention in Hamburg, Germany, Jan Krissler, also known by his alias “Starbug,” explained how he copied the thumbprint of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.


Krissler said he used commercially available software called VeriFinger to pull off the feat. The main source was a close-up picture of von der Leyen’s thumb, obtained during a news conference in October, along with photographs taken from different angles to get an image of the complete fingerprint.

If anyone can really use this method as easily as described, it could be a potentially big blow to the use of fingerprints for security purposes. Nonetheless, this is no reason to stop using them: It’s important to keep the findings in perspective.

Even if reproducing a fingerprint was a viable method for breaking into a system, be it a smartphone or a high-security vault, this news doesn’t mean that fingerprints are suddenly useless. Perfect security measures do not exist, and fingerprints definitely still have their place. They can still be more secure than PIN codes in many cases, and can always be used in conjunction with them or other types of passwords for multiple layers of security.

No panic. Fingerprints are still more secure than passwords, you know these things we use to access every service on the web.

Apple and Apps Dominated Christmas 2014 →

Flurry is a well-known analytics solution owned by Yahoo and used in more than 540,000 apps. It does not represent the whole mobile market, but its figures should give a good representation of brand preferences for Christmas:

It’s clear that Santa is no longer into cookies – he prefers Apples. It was a banner Christmas for the Apple, the company that started the mobile revolution with the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007. Seven years later, Apple accounted for 51% of the new device activations worldwide Flurry recognized in the week leading up to and including Christmas Day (December 19th – 25th). Samsung held the #2 position with 18% of new device activations, and Microsoft (Nokia) rounded out the top three with 5.8% share for mostly Lumia devices. After the top three manufacturers, the device market becomes increasingly fragmented with only Sony and LG commanding more than one percent share of new activations on Christmas Day. Up-and-comers Xiaomi, Huawei, and HTC all had less than one percent share on Christmas Day. One reason is surely their popularity in Asian markets where December 25th is not the biggest gift-giving day of the year.

The Verge: Withings Activité review →

The lesson of the Activité is how trivially easy it is to add these data-collection tools to a wristwatch. Sure, it decreases the battery life, but certainly not enough to be an issue; it definitely doesn’t require any real design compromise. It’s an almost exclusively additive process, making the thing you wear on your wrist more than just a device for telling the time.

It is a watch, a beautiful watch, a Swiss Made™ watch. Buy it because it looks beautiful as a watch. What is awesome about it though is that it can track your steps, your activities and your sleep. Taking this approach, David Pierce, who wrote the review, actually has an interesting idea for high-end watches:

If it’s a smartwatch, it’s the least capable smartwatch I’ve ever seen. What the Activité actually represents is the new table stakes for a watch, the new minimum for a device that looks like this and costs this much. Watches can already blare sound to wake you up in the morning, so why can’t they buzz quietly? Why can’t I swap bands before I get in the pool and have it track my splits? It’s all clearly possible, and I don’t think it’ll be long before those features are as commonplace as a sweeping second-hand. Rolex, Timex, and Bulgari have all already done the hard part: building a beautiful watch. So did Withings. And it proved that the other half, the technological half, doesn’t require sacrifice.

Counter Culture: The Curse of Online Status →

Interesting short documentary by Hamish Stephenson about online’s influence over creativity. Interviewees are from the fashion world. I’m not used to posting about fashion and creativity here, but it is relevant because it looks at digital influence and how these kids can become influential with an Instagram and Twitter account. The question then is how can they use this influence to make a career?

Whether you think they deserve to make money from their online presence or not, it actually works. About Mike The Ruler and Luka Sabbat, I encourage you to read this article from Dazed “mike the ruler’s kingdom”, you’ll learn a lot about the new generation.

Why random #hashtags fail in marketing campaigns →

Luke Ryan, from the agency WeAreSocial, about what he calls #campaignhashtags, those hashtags pushed by brands everywhere that consumers never use:

#campaignhashtags fail because they are completely forgetting where social begins – with the audience. Attempting to start a social conversation with a hashtag that is not linked to a larger social behaviour already taking place is like heading to the casino, putting all your chips on one number at the roulette table and expecting to win.

It is up to brands to understand the conversations already occurring and be relevant in this pre-existing context. The whole notion of social media marketing is there is already a conversation taking place, not to force one.


Luke Ryan goes on by giving advice on how to find the right hashtag in his article. Great advice!

China Has Overtaken the U.S. as the World’s Largest Economy →

Very interesting article by Joseph Stiglitz, 2001 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, in response to China’s surpassing of the USA as the no. 1 world economy:

When the history of 2014 is written, it will take note of a large fact that has received little attention: 2014 was the last year in which the United States could claim to be the world’s largest economic power. China enters 2015 in the top position, where it will likely remain for a very long time, if not forever. In doing so, it returns to the position it held through most of human history.

Of course, I’m in over my head on this topic, but Stiglitz’s words are clear and actually simple to understand. He takes us back along the last century to explain the USA’s rise to dominance and the challenges it will face from now on. Roughly put, the USA needs to have a hard look at itself and “put [its] own house in order”.

Definitely worth reading.

Could Europe really break up Google? A look at what’s possible →


The European Parliament in late October called on Internet companies operating in the region to “unbundle” its search engines from its other commercial properties. Although no companies were named, the motion was aimed squarely at Google, the leading search engine by a long shot in Europe with an estimated 90 percent market share.

The non-binding resolution had no legal weight, but sent the strongest signal yet to the European Commission to take action after almost four-years worth of unsuccessful negotiations to settle an ongoing antitrust probe into the company’s business practices. The company has been accused of anti-competitiveness including claims it deliberate buried search results of rival sites and services. The recent motion sought to “prevent any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by operators of search engines.”

I understand and agree with the diagnosis, but as the article explains later on splitting Google seems unlikely.

5 Viewability Findings on display ads, a study from Google →

From CMO Today, a Wall Street Journal blog:

To better understand the state of viewable impressions, Google compiled data from its various display ad platforms, including its ubiquitous ad server DoubleClick. The study examined display ads that appeared in browsers on desktop and mobile devices, but did not include video or in-app ads. Here are five key findings from the research.

Over half of online ad impressions aren’t visible.
56.1% of all display ad impressions never appeared on a screen, Google’s research found.

Let’s just quote here what a viewable ad is considered to be. As detailed in Google’s infographic (.pdf), summing the research up:

A display ad is considered viewable when 50% of an ad’s pixels are in view on the screen for a minimum as defined by the of one second, Media Rating Council.

Are media sellers going to give this information to their clients? Are they going to charge only for “viewed” ads (according to the above definition)? Seems like a potential big loss of revenues unless they step up their prices. How will they convince media buyers to swallow this price increase? By touting better performance only? Logically, “Viewed ads” should show better click-through rates and as a result motivate advertisers to spend more on these display ads. Is this a way for Google to boost ad spendings in the long run for its own ad network?

So many questions.

Apple reaches record breaking $700 billion market cap →

Apple Insider:

Shares of Apple fluctuated around the $100 mark until mid-October when the company reported a record September quarter, earning $8.5 billion in profit on sales of 39 million iPhones and 5.5 million Macs. Investors are bullish on demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and also have high hopes for the debut of the new Apple Watch in early 2015.

Leaving Earth by Commander Chris Hadfield →

Nothing will move you like this speech given by Chris Hadfield at Ted in which he recounts moments before and the actual take-off of the rocket that brought him into space.

Nokia’s first device after Microsoft is an iPad mini clone that runs Android →

The Verge:

The only things missing here to complete the iPad mini look are a home button, chamfered edges, and an Apple logo. There’s even "Natural Aluminum" and "Lava Grey" color schemes, and a cover that looks suspiciously similar to Apple’s Smart Case. Nokia’s own N1 website also looks like it’s straight from Other specifications include a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. Nokia’s N1 also has an 8-megapixel camera at the rear, and a 5-megapixel version at the front.

Shameless design from Nokia.

Pay Phones in New York City Will Become Free Wi-Fi Hot Spots →

The New York Times:

In a statement, Mr. de Blasio called expanded broadband access “essential for everything we need to do to be a fair and just city,” adding that the system would be “the fastest and largest municipal Wi-Fi network in the world.”

The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications said the network would be 100 times as fast as average municipal Wi-Fi systems, and more than 20 times as fast as average home Internet service in the city. A two-hour movie, officials said, could be downloaded in about 30 seconds.

The kiosks’ Wi-Fi range will extend 150 feet in any direction, officials said. Up to 250 devices would be able to use the network at each kiosk without diminishing service and in heavily trafficked areas access points can be added.

Great idea.

Ars Technica reviews the Nexus 6 →

Ron Amadeo has mixed feelings about the smartphone. He points out a lot of compromises. It is more expensive than the Nexus 5 ($649 unlocked versus $350 for the Nexus 5). It has a bigger screen, but Android Lollipop does not take advantage of that extra space at the moment. The camera is okay is daylight, but bad in low light. Battery life is worse than the Nexus 5. Performance is worse too:

In our experience, the Nexus 6 was slower than the Nexus 5. Apps took longer to launch, tasks took longer to switch, and sometimes—particularly during heavy multitasking — our Nexus 6 liked to get stuck and pause for a few minutes while it thought about things. It would often “chug” during our normal usage and in general felt like a slow device.

The only great things about this device seem to be The Ambient Display and always-on voice commands, which are stock Android Lollipop features. With Ambient Display, the screen switches to dim black-and-white mode when a new notification arrives or when you pick up the phone. Without the press of any button, you get a battery-friendly glance at your notifications. With always-on voice commands, you can use the Google Search app just by saying “OK Google”, no need to press any button again. The Nexus 6’s only merit is to be the first smartphone to have these features.

Landing on a Comet, 317 Million Miles From Home →

Fantastic series of photographs taken by Rosetta and Philae! The last image is a great reminder of the crazy route Rosetta has taken during these 10 years and especially the crazy calculations that went into posing a robot on a rock traveling at more than 64,000 km/h.

Chris Dixon: the return of podcasting →

In this NY Mag article I previously linked to, Kevin Roose attributes the resurgence of podcasts to the newly connected cars systems, the ones you can connect your smartphone to and listen to any audio file you want. Following this article, Chris Dixon wrote a few words about other successful factors. These words especially stood out to me:

Podcasting, on the other hand, feels fresh in the same way that other forms of social media did 5-10 years ago. No one knows what the right way to podcast is. Very few people have followings. The expectations are low. You are rewarded mostly for being fresh and experimental. It’s the beginning of a new medium, and no one knows the rules. That’s what makes it exciting and attracts pioneering creators.

I’m already sold on podcasting. I listen to a ton of them, way more than music or watching TV, browsing the web, way more than any other form of media actually. I definitely see Chris Dixon’s point about experimentation and it clearly is the beauty of it.

However, I wonder how podcasts will conquer the hearts of a mainstream audience, especially in France. I guess the best introduction to them is via the traditional radio stations, which distribute their own shows as podcasts. Once accustomed to this new format, some listeners will subscribe to native podcasts.

I am not sure this will be enough though. I guess it will require one podcast series to be so good that the press will drive attention to it and introduce masses of people to this new format. Who is going to do this? A hobbyist? A big media organisation? A radio station?

Let’s see how it goes. I’m curious!

A day after launch, HTC sold the Nexus 9 for 50% off →

Last week precisely, I quoted The Verge’s review of the Nexus 9, specifically their overall feeling about the tablet and build quality. I added the following note:

Not that easy to build a convincing iPad competitor at the same price, it seems.

What was my surprise, when I read that one day after launch HTC cut the price by 50%.

Ars Technica:

We’ve seen widespread complaints about the new "premium" pricing strategy for the new Nexus devices, and to make matters worse, the Nexus 9 didn’t really live up to the "premium" price. With a price cut this deep just a day after launch, we have to wonder if the Nexus 9 is really worth $400. On Google Play, the device is still going for $400, but this is definitely an eyebrow-raising move by HTC.

We were able to buy one and actually got a confirmation e-mail. We’ll update this report should any new information on the situation become available.

Update: HTC just tweeted that it is "working on something for everyone who missed out," which makes it sound like more price cuts are coming.


A Study about banner blindness →

In my last post, I quoted Farhad Manjoo writing about banner ads and their decline. In his article, Manjoo linked to a study, published in March of 2013, about users’s responsiveness to banner ads. To follow up on my last post, here are the main results:

Infolinks, a global leader in monetizing digital advertising for publishers, brands and their agencies, today released the results of its first proprietary study examining the industry challenge of “banner blindness.” The message seems clear: Brands and publishers need to rethink banner ads.

Results showed that only 14% of respondents recalled the last display ad they saw and the company or product it promoted. Even with today’s sophisticated targeting technology, relevance remains a key challenge with only 2.8% of respondents stating that they thought the ad they saw was relevant to them.

  • Half of the users never click on online ads while 35% click on less than 5 ads a month.
  • Among online ad viewers, 75% saw the ad on their computer while the remaining 25% saw the ad on their phone or tablet.

Fall of the Banner Ad: The Monster That Swallowed the Web →

Farhad Manjoo for the New York Times:

These days, finally, the banner ad is in decline. That is because the web, the medium in which it has thrived, is also in decline. Today we live in a mobile, social world, spending most of our time online using apps that load faster and are much prettier and more useful than websites. Instead of banners, many of these apps, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, make money through ads that appear in users’ social feeds, rather than off to the side of the page.

But what’s so bad about banners?

For one, they have ruined the appearance and usability of the web, covering every available pixel of every page with clunky bits of sponsorship. More than that, banner ads perverted the content itself. Because they are so ineffective, banner ads are sold at low prices for high volume, which means to make any money from them, sites need to pull in major traffic. This business model instilled the idea that page views were a paramount goal of the web, thus spawning millions of low-rent, me-too sites bent on getting your click.

Finally, there is privacy. Behind just about every banner ad is a vast infrastructure designed to track your movements across the web to improve the effectiveness of ads that, according to several studies, most of us never view anyway.

Manjoo describes clearly why banner ads are declining. I can’t believe I still meet people who swear by them and cannot consider a campaign without them nowadays.

Amazon presents its new product, Echo →


Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, "Alexa." It’s also an expertly-tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.

Watching the video will give you a better understanding of what the Echo is.

I guess Amazon is being very subtle about the Echo though. They focus on information-based features, when they only want to put this device in your living-room so you buy more from them. It certainly looks kind of cool in the video, but I cannot figure out who is going to buy this. I’m curious to see, as always, what the first reviews are going to say about the voice recognition capabilities and hardware quality too.