The Sizzle

Issue 182 - Tuesday, 5th July 2016 - That's What Keeps Me Down


NASA's Juno spacecraft is now orbiting Jupiter
NASA's latest hunk of metal hurtling through space, covered in crazy sensors, made it to its destination successfully! Juno entered Jupiter's orbit a few hours ago and everyone is happy. The aim is to "improve our understanding of the solar system's beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter". There's even three LEGO minifigs onboard, made from aluminum (plastic won't last in space) - one of the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo, who was important in discovering Jupiter's (the planet) existence. It's the first spacecraft to explore Jupiter since Galileo in 1995 - it's good to be back.

China completes the world's largest radio telescope
Also in space news (it's 4th of July in the USA - fuck all news again out of the US), China has completed the installation of the world's biggest radio telescope. The Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope is huge, with a 500m diameter. It'll spend its time scanning the universe for pulsars and trying to detect communication signals from other planets (i.e SETI). Radio astronomy is weird as fuck, go check out the sorts of things a giant, super sensitive antenna can do.

NTT Data to keep on managing Myki for 7 years
In far less ambitious and inspiring news, the same duds that made Myki and subsequently stuffed it up, won a new contract to continue operating it! NTT Data (apparently the Japanese Telstra) will run it for another seven years, somehow beating Cubic Transportation Systems, the people behind successful ticketing systems like Oyster (London) and Opal (Sydney). Proof that incompetence is no barrier to success. As part of this contract, the Victorian state government said it'll also look into allowing passengers to use their smartphones to pay for fares.

Lenovo's UEFI firmware on Thinkpads has serious security flaw
Oh Lenovo, what are we gonna do with your stupid arse? Someone found a vuln in a UEFI driver component installed on Lenovo laptops as far back as the X220 (fuck I own one of those). If exploited, the vulnerability lets someone disable secure boot and disable flash write protection. Lenovo is blaming the developers of the BIOS for these machines, for not spotting it and for Intel, for shipping the UEFI code with this in it. If this is true, then it probably means over OEMs are impacted, as they all use similar codebases.

UNHCR tells the world to stop blaming the internet for why bad things happen
The UNHCR (the same guys who keep telling our government that locking up people on a pacific island is bad), have passed a non-binding resolution to protect "The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet". Simply put, the UN is saying that freedom of speech online is the same as freedom of speech offline. States cutting off internet access = bad. States censoring what is said on the internet = bad. States killing people for things said on a blog = bad. By the way, Australia agreed with this sentiment and slapped its name on the resolution.


A robotic rectum (there's a video)
At the Imperial College in London, there's a robotic arsehole that doctors can use to practice prostate exams. There's pressure sensors inside that can detect if the doctor is getting too rough. The haptic sensor on their finger gives feedback as to what they're touching in there. The doctor is able to experience what they should be feeling for, before doing the same on a real human. Thank you scientists and engineers for making this robotic arse. Here's a great video of it in action.

Some arguments for implementing e-voting in Australia
All the fuss about the AEC taking its time to count all the votes from the Federal election, it's natural a few people would ask what's the go with electronic voting. David Glace, Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at the University of Western Australia has given his 2c about why we should implement an electronic voting system. Security ain't a big deal according to him. He talks about using the magical blockchain to ensure the integrity of the system. The AIIA reckons we should vote online (they would say that, wouldn't they). I dunno man, computers kinda suck sometimes and when you mix governments and computers, the rate of suckage exponentially increases.

One damn slide after another - an essay about PowerPoint
This essay on how PowerPoint and that style of presentation has become so pervasive in modern society is good stuff. It goes into detail about the origins of PowerPoint (did you know Microsoft purchased it off some other company back int he 80s?) and that some giant computer called Genigraphics was the proto PowerPoint in the 70s, which outputted 35mm slides after an incredibly convoluted process involving raster graphics programming. Then it goes on to explain the deficiencies in the presentation style being so common. When done badly, it bores people so much, that it's one of the reasons space shuttle Columbia crashed. PowerPoint is part of our visual culture, taken for granted, abused even. The environment of a room, darkened, with a projector and some chairs and a podium with a person in front of it, so common, that we've never stopped to think "what the fuck is this?".

Here endeth the sizzle (until tomorrow!)

The Sizzle is curated by Anthony "@decryption" Agius and emailed every weekday afternoon. Today's subject line is from Leave, by R.E.M.Like The Sizzle? Tell your friends!