The Sizzle

Issue 51 - 14th December, 2015 - Marsland Cricket Ground


Self balancing personal transportation platforms are the perfect example of China's manufacturing prowess
Hoverboards (that don't actually hover, but whatever) are the in thing at the moment. Planet Money had an excellent podcast on how this product just came out of nowhere, Buzzfeed followed that up with an interesting look inside the factories and sales teams of hoverboard manufacturers. CES has banned them from the expo floor, as have most US airlines. The London fire brigade don't like how they tend to catch fire. Wired has a story about why some of them are flammable (hint - shit batteries).

Preventing a sadistic and evil singularity via non-profit artificial intelligence
A bunch of rich people are very afraid of Skynet (seriously watch the Terminator already), so much so, that they've thrown about a billion dollars into an AI lab that will open source all its research. There's lots of well renown AI scientists involved with OpenAI and the billion dollars of funding is designed to last a long, long time. Thanks rich people for protecting us from the evil robots - I hope you find your Sarah Connor. Steven Levy has a longer read about OpenAI if you're interested.

Adobe making fat stacks thanks to subscription services
Adobe have released their latest financial results and they're doing better than ever. A total of US$4.8b in revenue a year is the most Adobe's managed in its long history. Adobe have actually done really well to move all their software over to a subscription model. No longer are you coughing up a few grand every two or three years, but $20 or so every month, for the rest of your life. There's positives and negatives for the subscription model, but overall it looks like Adobe and its customers like it.

Kickstarter using the power of investigative journalism to find why Kickstarter campaigns fail
Kickstarter campaigns are notorious for not delivering on their promises, particularly campaigns based around making complex physical items that seem a little too good to be true. The fact they're too good to be true is what brings the punters in, resulting in a lot of disappointment for everyone when the optimistic plans run into hard, cold, unloving reality. Kickstarter has employed Mark Harris, a quality tech journo, to look into why one particular project - the little Zano drone - bombed and left everyone pissed off.

Banksy using the image of Steve Jobs in a fruitless effort to show that immigrants are not a bad thing
Banksy chucked up a mural of Steve Jobs in a French refugee camp. Banksy wants to remind us that Jobs was the son of a Syrian refugee, in order to say, "hey, you the giant racist, yeah, look, these people aren't scum, they could be the next Steve Jobs!". He even put an OG Mac in Steve's hands. Classic Banksy.


"Citizens expressed distrust and fear of the solar panels"
In the never ending saga of idiots versus technology, I present to you the fuckwit citizens of Woodland, North Carolina, in the U S of A. A large scale solar farm was to be set up near their town and people objected to it for reasons like "it will prevent photosynthesis in plants", "it will suck up all the sun" and that "there's no proof that solar panels don't cause cancer". I can sympathise with people for not knowing the ins and outs of technology, not everyone gives a shit to care - but to be this blatantly backwards? Fuck the hell off.

How Netflix gets video from producers and encodes it for viewing
Netflix's tech blog is at it again, explaining how their encoding pipeline works for getting filums into a format people can watch. Netflix receives video from the content owners/producers in formats like ProRes and DPX, but prefers IMF (Interoperable Master Format) and runs a bunch of inspections on it to make sure it's not fucked. Interesting to note that because 4K original formats are so massive, they can't actually process an entire video on the largest Amazon EC2 instance as it doesn't have enough drive space, haha. Instead they have to cut it up and process it in chunks, re-combining it later. Which might sound like a pain, but it means they can parallelism the work, speeding it up immensely. I used to run RMIT's uni-wide lecture podcasting system back in the mid-2000s, so seeing how Netflix do this is awesome.

Remember when the NSA & GHCQ infiltrated Gemalto? That was bad stuff
One of the most shocking reveals of Snowden's leaks, for me at least, was the Gemalto hack. Gemalto make practically all the SIM cards in the world and are responsible for the encryption keys placed into all the SIMs to ensure that UMTS services have some level of security from people just setting up an antenna and a software defined radio, listening in to everyone's conversations and data sessions. The Intercept has the details on how the NSA and GHCQ infiltrated Gemalto to effectively get the means to eavesdrop on any phone, any time, any where.

Here endeth the sizzle (until tomorrow!)

The Sizzle is curated by Anthony "@decryption" Agius and emailed every weekday afternoon. Like The Sizzle? Tell your friends!