The Sizzle

Issue 281 - Wednesday, 23rd November 2016 - Please Lord, This Boy Needs Jesus


Some NBN banter that'll make you shake your head
Here's a few "fuck me these people are morons" stories and one piece of silver lining, about the NBN. The first is an anecdote from a guy who was supremely trolled by the NBN who built an FTTN cabinet outside his house, then moved it when he asked to be connected and left him stuck with a fixed wireless service instead. Second is the UK's decision to give a heap of cash to private companies to roll out more fibre, as the UK government is worried it's speeds are slipping behind the rest of Europe. The UK, if you remember, was Malcolm Turnbull's justification to use FTTN instead of FTTP. The silver lining is that NBN has a new technology in the multi-technology mix, called FttC (fibre to the curb, or you might better know it as FttDP, fibre to the distribution point), that'll be used where FTTP and FTTN isn't appropriate, i.e: not a greenfield development and not dense enough for a copper node.

Apple make all the cash in smartphones, again
Apple is the profit king of smartphones, again, and by a bigger margin than ever before. 91% of global smartphone profits went to Apple in Q3 2016 - US$8.5b. Next was Huawei, who made $200m, capturing 2.4% of profit. It is insane how much cash Apple makes from these phones, yet nobody else is even remotely close. I still don't know how long so many manufacturers of smartphones (LG, HTC, Sony, etc.) will actually bother to continue to do so. The only people making cash besides Apple are the Chinese makers like Oppo, Huawei and possibly Xiaomi. Where's that leave the Korean and Japanese? Making phones for vanity purposes? Also, Samsung. We all know what happened there though - will they recover?

Kudos to the nerds who got Presidential Medals of Freedom
Obama handed out Presidential Medals of Freedom (similar to an Order of Australia) overnight, which are the highest civilian award that can be granted in the USA. Amongst its recipients this year are a few nerds you may know of and a few nerds you may not. Bill and Melinda Gates got one, but for their philanthropy, rather than Microsoft. Grace Hopper, who created the first code compiler and was a leading programmer of early computers was posthumously awarded. Margaret Hamilton, who coded the on-board flight computer for the Apollo command and lunar modules, as well as creating many software concepts taken for granted today. This article in Wired is a great read about Margaret's work and this video on YouTube is Grace Hopper at her best, on Letterman back in the 80s. The entire award ceremony can be seen on YouTube - Bill Gates looks so fucking proud.

The UN releases an enlightening report into global internet access
According to a new report by the UN's International Telecommunications Union, half the world's population is hooked up to the internet. In developed countries it's around 80%, but in developing countries, only 40% have access and in the even less developed countries, only 15% have access to the greatest source of information humanity has developed. Also interesting in that report is how pervasive mobile broadband is and how the smartphone is the trojan horse for internet access in most of the developing world. Read the summary, or the full report, if you're keen, on the ITU's website. It was also interesting to me read that whilst most of the world actually does have access to the internet, many people just don't use it. So stats that say "oh this country has 500m internet users" aren't really that useful, as whilst someone may pay $5/m for a service, they probably don't actually use it all that often, or only use it for like, Facebook.

Facebook makes a special censorship tool, in secret, for China and denies it exists
Looks like Facebook's sick of missing out on Chinese cash at the expense of freedom of speech and decided to make a tool that allows the Chinese government to censor Facebook posts before they appear. This tool would be operated by the government and basically allows them to keep an eye on any posts that gain traction and threaten to ruin China's "harmonious society" (e.g: communism is bad! Hey how about those guys in Tibet? Maybe we should stop being bullies in the South China Sea? Actually China isn't the best country in the world and the west hasn't really kept us down for centuries on purpose). Facebook is of course denying the existence of this tool. The real issue here isn't so much that China will censor its citizens online - that's nothing new - it's the fact that other countries will be inspired by it and ask Facebook for the same thing, "hey we know you've got that thing going for China, just give us access, no big deal right".


Tesla hooked a pacific island up with solar panels and batteries
Tesla has done a little puff piece on a project they've worked on with a small island called Ta'u, which is part of American Samoa. They've hooked it up with solar panels and batteries that'll let it be self-sufficient and end the reliance on diesel generators and daily diesel deliveries to generate electricity. The 5,328 solar panels and 6,000 kWh of batteries, enough to power the island for 3 days with no sunlight. Here's a cool video Tesla released to go with the announcement.

Cheap GTX1060, QNAP NAS, Xiaomi TV and console games
Some more Ozbargain finds: A 3GB GTX1060 (great mid-range GPU for those who game at 1080p) for only $259 plus shipping. QNAP TS-431+ 4-bay NAS for just $299 delivered. Yeah, it's not a Synology, but at this price and the specs it has, the QNAP will do just fine - it's almost $220 cheaper than the Synology DS416. Big W has a bunch of latest console games for pretty cheap too. JB Hi-Fi is selling the PS4 Slim for $299. And if you want a nice Android TV box that has the Google Play store on it and runs Android 6.0, the Xiaomi Mi TV (Global Version) is ~$100 from Aliexpress.

Nice summary of the NIST's draft password security recommendations
The NIST are the big swinging dicks of info sec and what they suggest, generally, is taken up by most businesses that give half a shit about the security of their data. They're in the process of creating new recommendations about securing passwords. This includes stuff like not giving password hints, avoiding rules around what characters can be used and removing secret questions and answers - because they suck and make things worse, not better. Things the NIST recommend are a minimum of 8 characters (not a maximum!), filter out dictionary words before they're made into user passwords and for the love of god, hash, salt and stretch the passwords. SMS as a 2 factor authentication method is also out of favour with the NIST due to the insecure nature of SMS itself. If you're designing auth systems, I hope you knew this already, but for those of us not involved in the creation of these systems, it's nice to know what a good one looks like.

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 Criminal, by Eminem. Like The Sizzle? Like it on Facebook!