The Sizzle

Issue 25 - Friday 6th November, 2015 - Downright Boring

An important Sizzle milestone has been achieved! As of 4PM today, there are now 101 Sizzle paid subscribers! How awesome is that? When I started The Sizzle I thought that if I reach 100 paid subscribers by the end of 2015, it's a good sign that I should keep going until I hit 200, which is where I'd reach a point where it's financially viable for the amount of time I put into it. Instead of hitting that 100 user point in December 2015, it only took from the 11th of October to the 6th of November - less than a month. To say this boosts my self-esteem and provides motivation to continue is an understatement. Thanks to all 101 of you and keep spreading the word!

If you're new to The Sizzle, feel free to check out some of the old issues on the website.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership comes out of hiding, rearing its full ugly head of American imperialism
After years of negotiating in secret, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement has finally been released in full - all 6000 pages of it. The Kiwis were first to release the thing, with all the other nations following not long after. It's only been publicly available for a few hours, so don't expect too many in-depth opinions just yet, but Josh Taylor over at Crikey has given a quick overview of what's in there. Relevant to the tech theme of this newsletter are the sections around intellectual property (i.e: digital media piracy), e-commerce and telecommunications. In those three areas, it looks like Australia is set for some legal shake ups as to match what the USA is doing. The telecommunications section seems to be a little positive, allowing easier and cheaper global roaming on mobile networks and facilitating investment in telco infrastructure across the TPP parties. The EFF are still strongly pissed off with the TPP, nothing's changed there with the full release of the text. This topic is going to be a slow burn of angry shouting over the coming months until it's inevitably approved blindly by all the governments involved and we all sigh begrudgingly that our government has sold us down the river - again.

Optus has 100% land mass coverage of Australia - via the Thuraya SatSleeve+
Optus has announced 100% mobile coverage of the Australian land mass. Holy shit, that's amazing! Even those sparse areas of desert! Well hang on, it's just Optus reselling the Thuraya SatSleeve+. I saw this thing in dodgy electronics stores in Dubai and thought it was pretty badarse. What is cool is that if you're an existing Optus customer, you can have your number divert to your your SatSleeve number when you're out of GSM signal range. (which will happen often if you're on Optus, amirite). Some caveats - it only works outdoors (need LoS to a satellite), data is slow (GmPRS), costs 9c for every 10kb - $9 a megabyte, an SMS is 75c each and a call is 65c/min to AU numbers.

ACCC wants to make sure all 25mbps+ broadband is available wholesale at a fair price
Even though the NBN hates fibre, there's still new fibre rolled out thanks to private companies like Red Train and Opticomm? Unfortunately, because it's operated by private companies they also tend to lock you in to using their services exclusively as who is going to run more fibre down a street that already has fibre? The ACCC wants to nip this in the bud and has created a draft plan for making it mandatory for all providers of fast broadband (defined as 25mbit+) to wholesale their services, with the ACCC deciding what a fair wholesale price is. It will only apply to residential services, so businesses stuck with a single fibre provider in an area are still gonna be stung for high prices unless the NBN rolls around, which is more and more unlikely as time goes on.

Around 20,000 apps are out there full of Android malware that can get root access to your device
There's some nasty Android malware around which is pretty much impossible to remove without totally re-flashing the device's ROM. There's around 20,000 fake apps on 3rd party app stores (not Google Play) which pose as popular apps such as Twitter or Facebook and work just fine, but actually contain malware that gets root access to the OS and display ads all over the place. They attempt to get money from these ad clicks and generate a revenue stream for the shifty developers of these malware loaded apps. While innocent on the face of it (just a bunch of ads), the fact an app is able to get root access to your phone relatively easily is bad. It's annoying ads now, later it's a RAT that spies on you, or a cryptolocker that locks your photo albums unless you pay a ransom, or changes your passwords to social media services on you.

Pebble Time Round reviews are in
The Pebble Time Round has hit reviewers wrists before its public release in 2-4 weeks. It's essentially the same as the other Pebble smart watches, with a colour e-ink display - but it's round display gives this inter-connected, Internet-enabled, 21st-century timepiece a more classic feel. It doesn't have the array of fitness sensors (heart rate, GPS, etc.) like the Apple Watch or Android Wear devices, but it's much much smaller and thinner. Not all of Pebble's app library works on the Round, due to the vast majority of apps designed for the other watches with a square screen, which some reviewers thought was a bit of a bummer. But they did like how the Round is a much better device for telling the time with than the Apple or Android watches, thanks to it's always on e-ink screen. The better reviews are from Wired, TechCrunch and The Verge.


A Mac GUI for youtube-dl, the best video downloader
I like to download YouTube videos because I am a dork. Sometimes the good ones are removed from YouTube by DCMA takedowns or the uploader jsut decides they no longer want them up there. Downloading YouTube vids used to be easy with a browser plugin, but latley all of them are piles of crap, infiltrated with ads, or not updated to support YouTube's latest formats. By far the best solution is youtube-dl, a regularly maintained python script with loads of options. But unless you're familiar with the command-line, it can be a pain in the arse to use. Michael Page has released an Automator workflow for the Mac which provides a GUI for youtube-dl. Thanks man!

Freeze is a cool (heh) way to use Amazon Glacier on your Mac
Do you use Amazon Glacier? It's perfect for uploading stuff you don't relaly plan to access again. I use it to manually upload videos I've edited, just as a cheap backup I don't have to worry about. I stumbled across a Mac OS X app called Freeze which looks like a really classy way to browse your Amazon Glacier instance. It's $14.99, but depending how often you use Glacier, seems like a small price to pay for a well designed way to view and transfer stuff.

Low End Box - great way to find cheap VPS hosting
If I'm ever in the market for a cheap VPS (virtual private server), I hit up Low End Box. It's a cool little website that lists discounts and sales for cheap servers hosted all over the world that you can do whatever you like with. Low End Box, as the name suggests, focuses on cheap and relatively low powered servers, suitable for tasks that aren't too CPU or RAM intensive. I personally use a cheap VPS to host my email backups, an OpenVPN server and just somewhere to upload files and shit I want to share with people. There's an active forum on Low End Box, where people chat about good deals and whether a host is fast or slow or unreliable and the like.

Here endeth the sizzle (until Monday!)

The Sizzle is curated by Anthony "@decryption" Agius and emailed every weekday afternoon. Like The Sizzle? Convert your free trial into a paid subscription now and never miss an issue! Already a subscriber? Thanks for being awesome.