The Sizzle

I watched The Martian yesterday. It was great. I teared up a little. If you're nerdy enough to read this you'll get a kick out of this NASA propaganda (the good type of propaganda I reckon) film too. As usual, if you have any feedback, let me know by just replying to this email. Got a nice idea for making the email available as a webpage that you can add to your favourite read later service like Instapaper or Pocket, so you can view it nice and pretty at your leisure, offline even. I've got to find time to implement these ideas you people are giving me! Also, if you're using iCloud email and you got this, do me a favour and let me know too - I've been having some issues with Active Campaign and iCloud that I think are resolved, but some extra confirmation would be nice.

Wyatt Roy, a young man who somehow schmoozed so hard that he ended up as Assistant Minister for Innovation at age 25, is kicking off a government innovation policy hackathon, creating a clear demarcation point where hackathons officially jumped the shark. Combining the talents of cool kid hucksters in the startup industry with the traditional old money grubs of government, they're gonna sit (or stand, standing at a desk is on trend now) around and try to come up with policies the government can implement to nurture innovation. Sounds awful, but at least the government is listening to someone other than mining companies now. Good on 'em. They've started things off on OurSay, where random people can espouse what they think the government should do in order for innovation to thrive down under. Unfortunately, the top idea so far is literally "give us money so we can pay people" - luckily the government hasn't said they're actually going to implement any of these ideas.

A few days ago Anandtech (my favourite tech website) discovered that Apple is sourcing the A9 CPU inside the iPhone 6s from two different fabricators - TSMC and Samsung (probably why Apple was able to ship a record number of iPhones in the launch weekend). On paper they're supposed to be identical, but a Reddit user has found the the TSMC made chip has much better battery life. Sure it's only one person and this is anecdotal at best, but you do wonder if there are any significant differences in performance or battery life between the two different chip manufacturers?

Some of you might remember IceTV, an Australian company who used to be popular for those of us with Beyonwiz PVRs or running EyeTV on our Macs with Elgato tuners. IceTV was an EPG service that was generally more accurate than the free to air EPG and included remote recording capabilities so you could set stuff to record from a browser or even your phone. In 2006, Channel Nine ended up suing them, claiming the EPG data is copyrighted and they can't go making their own. IceTV fought it all the way to the High Court and won in 2009. I don't know what they've done since but they apparently they planned to launch a PVR that automatically skipped the commercials and this ruined the company. It cost more than they thought and now they're in voluntary administration. Hopefully they can get their act together as Skippa looked like a decent product and IceTV still is a great way to get remote recording and series link recording happening on your PVR or HTPC.

Australian info for the stuff Microsoft announced yesterday is out now. The Surface Pro 4 in a config you could actually use to replace your laptop and desktop will set you back $1999. Make sure you're sitting down when you check out the pricing on the Surface Book, the model with the discrete GPU (the exact model, Microsoft and nVidia still aren't revealing!) is a cool $2,949 and the top of the line Surface Book is $4199. Gonna be a tough sell at those prices I reckon. Both models are supposed to be shipping November 12. The Lumia 950 will be $1099 and the Lumia 950 XL $1199 - no dates though.

A report from the Centre for Tax Justice and the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund has worked out that if Apple kept its $181.1b cash stockpile in the USA instead of overseas, it would need to pay $59.2b in taxes. Imagine if Apple decided to bring that money to the USA and go "fuck it, we've got so much cash anyways, even after paying these taxes there's still $122b left!" and try do some social good with that US$60bn. You could revamp healthcare and education with that sort of cash. Buuttt, I don't think Americans actually want to fix these things, they had their chance and they fucked it (see the shitstorm trying to get Obamacare across the line and this ep of This American Life on racial segregation in American schools in 2015). So maybe the problem isn't exactly a lack of money, but money itself and the vested interests it causes. This is getting far too off topic. Apple has lots of money and they're bad people for making it, okay? Good.

Cool Stuff
I've been wondering what the hell Twitter could do to improve its product without pissing me off and Ben Thompson raises some really good ideas Twitter can implement to keep its core users (i.e: dorks like me) happy. Things like Moments are ok, but they're not for the regular Twitter users, they're for drive-by users that don't use Twitter like how the core do. Fiddling with the 140 character limit might not be that bad. Making things like the usernames @ replies, URLs and pictures not take up part of the 140 characters is a good start. Something basic as that would be great at keeping dorks like me happy. Not that I'm unhappy with Twtiter, but new features that are actually useful make me happier.

This iPhone and Apple Watch charging stand from Belkin tickled my fancy. I got rid of my Apple Watch but I kinda want one again, just for like shits and giggles. I miss having one, but mainly for the sake of owning one rather than the utility it provides. I'm not exactly flush with cash right now though, so I'll just want one instead of owning one. Speaking of Apple Watches, here's an unboxing of the Herm├Ęs Apple Watch. Mmm, low end luxury for the upper middle class.

Lebara, the guys known for being a cheap MVNO for overseas calls, have started an online video streaming service called Lebara Play. It's like Netflix but designed to be a source of non-English movies for people living in Australia. Currently there's a lot of Tamil and Sinhala content, but according to Ausdroid, Lebara Play should be getting some more African and European content in the coming months. As the son of an immigrant, I know how much this matters to people who come to Australia from overseas. My Mum still craves any Maltese TV shows or movies (there's hardly any these days as the kids all the speak English) as it reminds her of home - not because she hates it here or wants to go back, but because it's where she's from and she can relate to it more than the white people tropes on normal TV and in Hollywood movies. Hope Lebara can expand their range and make a few people living far away from home a little more comfortable.

Here endeth the sizzle (until tomorrow!)