Author Archive | Newley

Stories this Week: Google’s Android One and Project Loon in India

A scoop by a colleague and me earlier this week: Google’s taking another shot at low-cost smartphone success in India.

The story begins:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google helped launch a line of low-cost smartphones in India more than a year ago, part of a strategy to win more customers in fast-growing emerging markets. It was a flop.

Now, the tech giant is trying again by relaxing its rules, giving phone makers more latitude when it comes to features and price.

Google and India’s Lava International Ltd. plan to release a new low-cost smartphone in the coming months as part of the Android One program, people familiar with the matter say. The initiative aims to give users in developing economies an inexpensive way to get online through its Android mobile operating system.

Separately, I wrote an explainer: “Five Things to Know About Google’s Android One.

Meanwhile, here’s a quick post I wrote about the search giant targeting India for its stratospheric Internet balloons effort, Project Loon:

Google parent company Alphabet Inc. says it is discussing with the Indian government an ambitious project to use high-altitude balloons to provide Internet access in remote areas, the latest sign of U.S. tech firms’ interest in the world’s second-most-populous country.

Known as Project Loon, the Alphabet plan involves a network of balloons floating in the stratosphere that would serve as “floating mobile-phone towers.” The initiative is meant to connect people who now lack online access.


Rise of the ‘Coyowolf’ — Part Wolf, Part Dog, Part Coyote

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The Economist reports:

Like some people who might rather not admit it, wolves faced with a scarcity of potential sexual partners are not beneath lowering their standards. It was desperation of this sort, biologists reckon, that led dwindling wolf populations in southern Ontario to begin, a century or two ago, breeding widely with dogs and coyotes. The clearance of forests for farming, together with the deliberate persecution which wolves often suffer at the hand of man, had made life tough for the species. That same forest clearance, though, both permitted coyotes to spread from their prairie homeland into areas hitherto exclusively lupine, and brought the dogs that accompanied the farmers into the mix.

Interbreeding between animal species usually leads to offspring less vigorous than either parent—if they survive at all. But the combination of wolf, coyote and dog DNA that resulted from this reproductive necessity generated an exception. The consequence has been booming numbers of an extraordinarily fit new animal (see picture) spreading through the eastern part of North America. Some call this creature the eastern coyote. Others, though, have dubbed it the “coywolf”. Whatever name it goes by, Roland Kays of North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, reckons it now numbers in the millions.

Fascinating stuff. It’s not every day, as the story says, that scientists are able to witness a new species being formed.

There’s more from and Fusion. PBS even has an infographic.

Related post from 2013: What Domesticating Siberian Foxes May Tell Us About Dogs:

The gist: Over the course of more than 40 years, scientists took normal foxes, which were aggressive toward humans, and looked for the tamest ones.

Then they bred them.

In just a few generations, the foxes — animals that would typically attack humans when threatened — had become completely tame creatures that snuggled the scientists rather than biting their hands.

What’s more, over time, the foxes started to look like…dogs.

Cute dogs.

To take this one step further, friends, I ask you: Can it be long before people start trying to domesticate coyowolves?

Maybe it’s already happening?

Would they domesticate more quickly than wolves or coyotes, due to their canine DNA?


By Me This Week: Zuckerberg Visits India

The story begins:

Shut out of China, Mark Zuckerberg is training his sights on India as a source for future growth.

The Facebook Inc. founder arrived in India on Tuesday as he continues working to expand the company’s reach in a billion-person economy becoming increasingly important in the social networking giant’s quest to add new users.

It is Mr. Zuckerberg’s second visit to India in the last 12 months. During the last one he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and launched a free Internet initiative.

Connecting more people in the developing world has become an important goal for Mr. Zuckerberg and his firm. India’s population of more than 1.2 billion people, millions of whom speak English, will be one of the biggest targets for the company’s global growth plans, analysts say, as China doesn’t allow its citizens access to the website.

I also helped some colleagues out with a liveblog for the town hall Q&A Zuckerberg held in Delhi.

Click through for a re-cap of the event, in which Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s controversial free Internet project,, which I mentioned writing about few weeks back.


Two and a Half Days in Istanbul: How to Have an Amazing Time

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A and I recently spent two and a half fantastic days in Istanbul.

We were flying to New York from Hong Kong on Turkish Airlines, and simply arranged to have a very long layover in the city.

It was a scandalously short amount of time to spend there, of course, but we had a lot of fun and were able to take in much more than I had anticipated.

With the caveat that these were simply our experiences visiting the city for the first time and others may well have better advice, here are some tips for making the most of out a short stay there.


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We stayed at Levni Hotel, which we picked mainly because of its close proximity to sites in the old city like those listed below.

Though we often use friends’ recommendations when picking hotels, we found this one on our own, and were convinced by its many good reviews.

The rooms were tidy and ours had a nice view of the Bosphorus. The staff — especially those at the concierge desk — were extremely helpful in providing advice on navigating the city.

Another approach, when choosing hotels in Istanbul, is to stay on the Asian side of the city, which makes sense if you want to explore that area more. But we figured given the short amount of time, it was better to be in the middle of the more historical zone, on the European side.


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You’ll want to make the most of your time. Here’s what we took in:

  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque, is strikingly beautiful.
  • Not far away is Hagia Sofia, a building with a remarkable history. I was somewhat awe-struck to be able to stand just a few feet away, for example, from the Omphalion — the very place where emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire were once crowned.
  • The Grand Bazaar is incredible: densely packed, enormous, teeming with activity.

    An excellent shop, if you’re looking for souvenirs like pestemal (towels) and soaps, is Abdullah.

  • The Spice Bazaar is also worth a visit.
  • One evening I walked from the hotel down to the Galata Bridge, where people were strolling about, fishing, and chatting. It offers a nice persepctive from which to take in the city.

Eat and Drink

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  • One evening we took a taxi to Istiklal Avenue, a long street that is blocked off for pedestrians. It’s a great place to wander around and people watch.

    I’m a sucker for views, so we went to a rooftop bar called 360 Istanbul to watch the sun go down over the city (see the image in the middle of this post). The service was…well, not great. But the vistas sure were.

  • For simple, down home Turkish fare, you might try Ficcin. It’s just off Istiklal Avenue, not far from 360 Istanbul. We sat at a table on the street, which was quite atmospheric.
  • For Turkish delight and other sweets, check out the storied Hafiz Mustafa 1864, near the Grand Bazaar, pictured above. More info here and here.
  • We had an enjoyable lunch of kebabs at Buhara Restaurant, in the old city.

Other Resources

Have fun!


By Me Recently: E-Commerce Logistics in India, Outsourcing, Cyber-Security and More

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In Friday’s Wall Street Journal and online here is a story I’m especially proud of.

My colleagues and I followed — literally — a sari across India, illustrating the logistical challenge e-commerce startups in the country face.

The story begins:

MADURAI, India—The future of India’s booming e-commerce market is in the hands of small-time customers like 27-year-old Gayathri Rajamansingh.
Each Sunday, the owner of a small hair salon browses the Shopclues website from her home, hunting for bargains. Recently, she fixed on a floral-print sari, a traditional Indian one-piece garment, and clicked “Buy Now.”

Ms. Rajamansingh’s impulse purchase of the 199 rupee ($3.06) sari, set in motion a logistical operation that is complex and costly. Delivering the item involved a three-day, roughly 1,200-mile journey from Surat, in the western state of Gujarat, to her home in Madurai, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. More than 30 people moved the package, through two overnight truck journeys, a long-haul flight and, finally, a motorbike to her doorstep.

There’s also an interactive feature with some fun videos and maps.

Meanwhile, here are some of my other recent stories:

  • Indian Startup Seclore Gains Traction Amid High Profile Hacks
  • Investors to Scrutinize India’s Information Technology Company Earnings
  • Ad-Focused Malware Targets Apple Users in China and Taiwan
  • Don’t forget that you can get my latest stories — and other links that catch my eye — delivered to your inbox. Sign up for my weekly email newsletter here.


    Talk About an Identity Crisis

    2015 10 07 rat

    I noted this on Facebook yesterday, and wanted to share here as well.

    So, that new “hog nosed” rat: Consider the “discovery” from the animal’s persepctive.

    You’ve lived your life in anonymity, as have your ancestors for time immemorial, and then one day it’s like, BAM. Your photo is plastered all over the Internets — and everyone’s making fun of your nose.

    Talk about an identity crisis.

    (Image: Discovery.)


    Derek Sivers: ‘Relax for the Same Result’

    I like this anecdote from Derek Sivers* about effort, stress, and the importance of relaxation while working:

    A few years ago, I lived in Santa Monica, California, right on the beach.

    There’s a great bike path that goes along the ocean for 7½ miles. So, 15 miles round trip.

    On weekday afternoons, it’s almost empty. It’s perfect for going full-speed.

    So a few times a week, I’d get on my bike and go as fast as I could for the 15 mile loop. I mean really full-on, 100%, head-down, red-faced, sprinting.

    I’d finish exhausted, and look at the time. 43 minutes. Every time. Maybe a minute more on a really windy day. But basically always 43 minutes.

    After a few months, I noticed I was getting less enthusiastic about this bike ride. I think had mentally linked it with being completely exhausted.

    So one day I decided I would do the same ride, but just chill. Take it easy, nice and slow. OK not super-slow, but dialing it back to about 50% of my usual effort.

    Give it a read.

    *Sivers, a longtime tech entrepreneur, has a great website. I especially like his section devoted to book recommendations.


    Not Sure What to Read in the ‘New Yorker’? Subscribe to this Email Newsletter

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    An email newsletter* I recently discovered and am loving: “The New Yorker Minute.

    It’s a weekly rundown of the gems in each issue — and a guide to what you can skip.

    Each Wednesday, subscribers receive a summary of material in the week’s issue, broken down into sections like “read this,” “window-shop these,” and “skip without guilt.”

    There are also pointers regarding short stories, poetry and cartoons.

    *Longtime readers know I really love email newsletters — and send out a weekly one myself.


    Mesmerizing Vine: Levandowski Scores 5 Goals in 9 Min.

    I’m, like, nearly a fortnight late in pointing this out, but still: It’s incredible.

    You may have seen the news that Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski recently scored five times in nine minutes against Wolfsburg. This link shows all of the goals in the run of play.

    I also found, embedded above and online here, a mesmerizing Vine showing all five stitched together.


    By Me and a Colleague: Facebook’s Iniative Faces Pushback

    The story, which ran last week online and on the front page of The WSJ‘s global edition, begins:

    When Muhammad Maiyagy Gery heard about a new mobile app from Facebook Inc. that provides free Internet access in his native Indonesia, he was excited.

    But after testing it, the 24-year-old student from a mining town on the eastern edge of Borneo soon deleted the app, called, frustrated that he was unable to access and some local Indonesian sites.

    Mr. Gery said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is an “inspiration in the tech world,” but added that the company’s free Internet effort is “inadequate.”

    Mr. Gery’s reaction illustrates the unexpected criticism Facebook has encountered to its bold initiative to bring free Internet access to the world’s four billion people who don’t have it, and to increase connectivity among those with limited access. He is one of many users who say a Facebook-led partnership is providing truncated access to websites, thwarting the principles of what is known in the U.S. as net neutrality—the view that Internet providers shouldn’t be able to dictate consumer access to websites.

    Embedded above and online here is an accompanying video. (You may recognize the narrator’s voice.)

    There’s also a piece called “5 Things to Know about Facebook’s Internet Initiative.”


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