The Sizzle

Issue 144 - Wednesday, 11th May 2016 - Nodding Profusely

Enjoy this lunchtime edition, because I have stuff to do today that requires me to be away from a computer between 2-4PM, when I usually compile The Sizzle.


US govt wants answers as to why Facebook was allegedly censoring right-wing content
Facebook has been accused of suppressing conservative related news articles on its service. Gizmodo's recent article about Facebook's "news curators" has detailed how they were instructed to ignore certain topics like Mitt Romney and right-wing events and promote other news topics instead. This is the opposite of Facebook's claims that trending items are simply what's most popular on Facebook. The US Senate's Commerce Committee has asked Mark Zuckerberg to respond to the allegations and hopefully confirm some of the tinfoil hat brigade's theories. Damn lefties.

WhatsApp is on Mac & Windows now
Also Facebook related, there's now a Mac and Windows version of WhatsApp, turning WhatsApp into probably the default cross-platform messaging client for most people. It's a native app too and looks rather nice and full featured. You gotta have WhatsApp set up on your phone first and all your messages are sent via your phone, so if your phone is off or doesn't have an internet connection, it won't work.

Confirmation that Victorian police don't intend to upgrade decrepit computer system
The Victorian Police have wanted to upgrade LEAP, their crime database, for yonks, but have failed multiple times. They've spent over $45m on upgrading it, but still haven't achieved a damn thing, with the same 1980's processes, such as faxing daily reports to a data entry team who type it in. Police management have recently stated that upgrading LEAP isn't on their short term roadmap and are instead conducting work to maintain the legacy system.

Xiaomi releases a phone with a huge screen and huge battery
Xiaomi have released a new phone with a 6.44" screen. Yeah, you read that right, 6.44" screen. To compare, the Samsung Note 5 has a 5.7" screen and the iPhone 6s Plus has a 5.5" display. The reason for the giant screen on the Mi Max is a bigger battery whilst retaining thinness - 4850mAh of battery in a 7.5mm chassis to be exact. It uses a slightly older SoC (Snapdragon 650/652), but if what you want is a big battery in a non-crap phone, this is it.

Reddit has pissweak account security
Reddit has been the plaything of a hacker called BVM, who is able to easily and quickly take over any subreddit he or she chooses. BVM said to Motherboard that, quote "Reddit's security is shit". Because there's no two factor auth and password retries are unlimited, a hacker is able to plow through heaps of passwords they think is a moderator's - particularly if that moderator uses the same password on Reddit as they do elsewhere. Implementing two factor authentication would easily solve the problem, but Reddit hasn't bothered to do so yet, even though they're aware of the issue.


Giphy's quest to be the online repository for GIFs
Backchannel has a puff piece about Giphy, who just wrapped up a deal with Fox to turn almost every second of The Simpsons into a GIF, ready to be inserted anywhere they'll fit across the internet. Giphy has dozens of people paid to make GIFs of TV shows, sporting events and political happenings, so that as soon as something happens, they're front and centre with an appropriate GIF. The graphics interchange format sure has come a long way since slowly trickling down my 9600bps modem, revealing a glorious half naked woman in all her 256 colour glory.

Who remembers Tucows?
In another blast from the past - Tucows is removing all its ads. On that same 9600bps modem, Tucows was the place to grab the latest shareware programs for your Windows 3.11 box. Tucows is something I haven't thought about in maybe 20 years, but they've been persevereing with offering downloads, but also running a successful US MVNO (Ting) and domain name management services. Tucows removing ads, or even still existing, really means nothing to me now - I just thought it was a warm fuzzy reminder of the olden days of the Interwebs that Tucows was fondly part of.

Stuffing a 6 node 3D rendering farm in an IKEA cabinet
I love a bit of IKEA hacking and I love computers, so this 3D rendering farm shoved into an IKEA Helmer cabinet is right up my alley. Shoving a fast but tiny computer (Mini ITX ftw) into each drawer of the Helmer cabinet and addingsome fans, turned it into a cheap way to house a 6 node cluster. The Helmer is still available in Australia too. You can get some mini ITX LGA2011-v3 mobos and a couple of 10 core Xeons and turn that cabinet into a 60 core beast.

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!