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Best of the Web

Self-driving cars: Are they finally here?

Self-driving cars: Are they finally here

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Our pick of the week from around the web, including autonomous vehicles, why internet hijacks are on the rise and the key difference between Apple and Amazon.

Stuxnet’s secret twin
Ralph Langner | Foreign Policy | 19 November 2013

Three-year study of the Stuxnet virus shows it was designed to slow down Iran’s nuclear production line, not to destroy it. And it did just that, probably delaying Iran’s efforts by two years. The code discovered in 2009 was a second version of the virus; the first was found two years earlier but not recognised. Disclosure of Stuxnet may have been deliberate, to publicise America’s technical prowess. (Metered paywall)

Between planning and reality
Clay Shirky | 19 November 2013

Healthcare.gov fiasco follows from the “contempt” that management everywhere has for tech employees. There’s no understanding of the trade-off between features, quality, and time. “The vision of ‘technology’ as something you can buy according to a plan, then have delivered as if it were coming off a truck, flatters and relieves managers who have no idea and no interest in how this stuff works, but it’s also a breeding ground for disaster.”

Targeted internet traffic misdirection
Jim Cowie | Renesys | 19 November 2013

How man-in-the-middle attacks work. Internet traffic passing from – say – Guadelajara to New York can be hijacked relatively easily, redirected half way around the world, inspected or modified, then routed back to the intended recipients, who are none the wiser. This isn’t just conjecture: it has happened on a large scale at least twice this year. But who is doing it?

The Amazon whisperer
Jason Feifer | Fast Company | 18 November 2013

Meet the company that makes products based on Amazon reviews of other products. It’s called C&A and it has 20 staff in New Jersey scanning internet comments to find what additional features shoppers want in a product. If customer reviews of waterproof audio speakers on Amazon are asking for a speaker with Bluetooth connectivity, for example, C&A hires a manufacturer in China to produce one.

Has the self-driving car arrived?
Burkhard Bilger | New Yorker | 18 November 2013

Why Google is leading the race towards a driverless car, and the car companies are following reluctantly. For a car company, the driving experience is the main selling point of the car; the driver is the customer. For Google, the point of the car is to get from A to B; the driver is the weak link, the prime cause of accidents. Sample quote from Anthony Levandowski, engineer at Google X: “My fiancee is a dancer in her soul, I’m a robot.”

Amazon and Apple business models
Jean-Louis Gassée | Monday Note | 18 November 2013

Compare and contrast. Apple books huge profits. Amazon books none. But just lately, investors seem to prefer Amazon’s way of doing things. They have bid its shares up, while discounting those of Apple. Why? Because Amazon is using its cash not only to grow, but to diversify, and, thanks to Jeff Bezos, seems to do everything uniformly well. Apple relies on a few hit products, which makes investors nervous.

Why the banner ad is heroic
John Battelle | Searchblog | 17 November 2013

In praise of online advertising, as a driver of innovation. “One generation from now, we may not click on banner ads, but we’ll always be pulling into traffic, filing health insurance claims, buying clothes in retail stores, turning up our thermostats. Those myriad transactions will be lit with data and processed by a real time infrastructure initially built to execute one pedestrian task: serve a simple banner ad.”

Fix your boring slides
Andy Baio | Waxy | 14 November 2013

Tips from XOXO conference founder. Use big words and pictures, add some colour, and change the typeface. “Gill Sans is a great typeface, but because it’s the Keynote default, it shows up everywhere and feels deadly boring. Avenir, Seravek, and Helvetica Neue Condensed Bold are safe bets and ship with current versions of OS X. If you know what you’re doing, drop some money on a good commercial typeface.”

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