Cold Takes


(First published on 2/16/17 on Cold Takes, my newsletter— more)

Hello from New York City. First trip of the year. It’s cold as hell. And yet, this weekend, they’re saying it will be 60 degrees. Having grown up in a similar climate (Northeast Ohio), I can’t say I miss this type of schizophrenic weather. Part of me does miss the transition from winter to spring and the move from summer to fall. The first snowfall of the year…

Don’t get me wrong, living in a place that’s always between 60–80 degrees is great — really great — but it can get monotonous. And I find it sometimes alters my perception of time passing…

But it’s the gradual seasonality shifts I miss. Not this insanity.

5ish Links

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Russian slot machine 479603952 feat 1200x630

Brendan I. Koerner with a fascinating tale of how a group of Russian hackers cheated at — and are continuing to cheat at — slot machines:

The cell phones from Pechanga, combined with intelligence from investigations in Missouri and Europe, revealed key details. According to Willy Allison, a Las Vegas–based casino security consultant who has been tracking the Russian scam for years, the operatives use their phones to record about two dozen spins on a game they aim to cheat. They upload that footage to a technical staff in St. Petersburg, who analyze the video and calculate the machine’s pattern based on what they know about the model’s pseudorandom number generator. Finally, the St. Petersburg team transmits a list of timing markers to a custom app on the operative’s phone; those markers cause the handset to vibrate roughly 0.25 seconds before the operative should press the spin button.

“The normal reaction time for a human is about a quarter of a second, which is why they do that,” says Allison, who is also the founder of the annual World Game Protection Conference. The timed spins are not always successful, but they result in far more payouts than a machine normally awards: Individual scammers typically win more than $10,000 per day. (Allison notes that those operatives try to keep their winnings on each machine to less than $1,000, to avoid arousing suspicion.) A four-person team working multiple casinos can earn upwards of $250,000 in a single week.


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Apple CEO Tim Cook on the “Fake News” phenomenon:

“We are going through this period of time right here where unfortunately some of the people that are winning are the people that spend their time trying to get the most clicks, not tell the most truth,” he said. “It’s killing people’s minds in a way.”

Interesting to see him take such a strong stand here given that Apple, Apple News aside, isn’t really in this world…

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…and Uber is trying to deliver. Brad Stone on Uber’s hiring of Mark Moore from… NASA:

Moore acknowledged that many obstacles stand in the way, and they’re not only technical. He says each flying car company would need to independently negotiate with suppliers to get prices down, and lobby regulators to certify aircrafts and relax air-traffic restrictions. But he says Uber, with its 55 million active riders, can uniquely demonstrate that there could be a massive, profitable and safe market. “If you don’t have a business case that makes economic sense, than all of this is just a wild tech game and not really a wise investment,” Moore says.

Is there anyone out there who wouldn’t root for this to be a reality?

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H. Perry Horton:

Just before production began on the second — and best, in most opinions — of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, The Dark Knight, he had his production heads watch Michael Mann’s Heat.

Heat is perhaps my all-time favorite movie. The Dark Knight is up there as well. And yet, I did not know this little tidbit. Be sure to watch the video Horton includes in his post.

Thought-provoking post from Jeremy Philips (who happens to be a partner at Spark Capital alongside my wife):

For many firms, the bundle is not a decaying symbol of legacy distribution. Rather, it is the new network effect: a critical strategy to amplify scale in the hope of building or deepening a moat to protect against foes everywhere.

Bundles unbundle only to bundle again… Also interesting to think about the net neutrality side of this equation…

500ish Words

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The pricing of Super Mario Run makes no sense (and little cents)…

(First published on 2/16/17 on Cold Takes, my newsletter)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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