The Sizzle

Issue 339 - Friday, 24th February 2017

Surprise! It's a normal sized Sizzle because I couldn't muster up the emotion energy to talk to people in real life this morning, so stayed at home. There was also a lot of super interesting news I wanted to share.


Google accuses Uber of using secret stolen robocar info from ex-Google employees it hired
Uber has had a pretty shit week (not that I have any sympathy for em), but it just got a whole lot worse. Google has sued them for stealing Waymo's secret robocar sauce. Uber purchased Otto in August 2016 - the founder of Otto, Anthony Levandowski, used to be a big shot in Google's robocar team (before it was called Waymo). All of a sudden, Uber got really good at LiDAR, something they sucked at, but Google was great at. Google recently got an email from one of their suppliers who accidentally sent them Uber's LiDAR circuit board, which happened to look a lot like Google's! They then were able to track down that Levandowski downloaded almost 10GB of data six weeks before he quit Google. Other ex-Google, now Otto & Uber employees did the same thing. Here's Waymo's blog post where they explain why they've taken legal action against Uber.

SHA-1 is proper fucked now, stop using it
The SHA-1 cryptographic hash function is confirmed to be shithouse and vulnerable. It's been shithouse for a long time (at least since 2011 when NIST said to stop using it), but now there's a relatively easy way to forge the hash of a file to match a legit document. For example, you might create a hash of a PDF to ensure you're getting an untarnished version of that PDF. But now, someone can do a "collision attack" on the original PDF, make a new PDF (let's say, with the wrong bank details inside), give it the same hash as the original, so when the receipient goes to check it against their original hash, it'll check out and they trust it. Google has more detail on how the attack works.

Google has an API to rid the world of toxic internet discussions
Here's a third Google story for youse - they've gone and made an API you can use, that can detect online harassment via machine learning. It's called Perspective and it can assess wether a statement is "toxic", in a more advanced way than a simple keyword list and faster than a human (but probably not more accurately). Perspective is in use by The Guardian, New York Times and other sites right now, but I can't find out if those sites have found Perspective useful. Imagine if we get to a point where nothing will be allowed on the internet unless it's below a certain toxicity threshold?

Amazon reckons the things you say to Alexa are covered under the First Amendment
Amazon's Alexa has been tied up in a murder case in Arkansas. Apparently, Amazon keeps the audio of the things you yell at it, so it can improve its responses. In this murder case, the police reckon the suspect used Alexa to look up things (e.g: "Alexa, where's a good place to bury a body") that could lead to finding out the truth about this suspicious death. Amazon though, reckon it's a crock of shit and anything said to Alexa is covered under the USA's First Amendment. I reckon the only reason Amazon is fighting this, is because it'll be revealed just how much stuff Alexa records and sends to Amazon and that'll freak people out. But that's just cynical, tin-foil hat wearing me.

Nintendo Switch previews hit the web
The Nintendo Switch is verrrryyy close and the Ninty fans are salivating, like how my mouth gets all tingly when I can smell salt and vinegar chips or am about to douse my food in Tabasco sauce (that's for you Justin). To increase the amount of saliva flowing from the mouths of rabid gamers, Nintendo has allowed a bunch of sites to give pre-reviews of the Switch. Polygon, Kotaku, Engadget, Arstechnica and probably a fuckload of otther sites I don't read have published their opinions of the console afteer 48-hours or so of using it. A quick summary of their feels on the Switch: it's bulkier than it looks, the screen is shit in the sun, battery life is lame and snapping the Joy-Cons in to the sides of the Switch is very satisfying. Doesn't seem like anyone was allowed to comment on the games themselves, so yeah, it's more of an unboxing experience really. The Switch comes out March 3rd in Australia.


Bitcoin is off to the moon because the US might approve a Bitcoin ETF
Bitcoin has hit an all time high (US$1163) today. Reuters seems to think that its because a Bitcoin exchange traded fund might get the goahead soon. So you'd be able to invest in Bitcoin, without actually having any Bitcoin or exposing yourself to that world, but (ideally) benefit from its increasing value. Someone else decides when to buy and sell the Bitcoin for you, and the profits flow to all owners of the ETF depending on how much they've invested in the fund. This would bring a lot of "old money" like pension/super funds (god help us) into Bitcoin - further increasing the price.

Wix buys DeviantArt for $36m and I remember that DeviantArt exists
DeviantArt has been sold to Wix for US$36m. Good luck to them, I have no idea what Wix will do to it, but I kinda don't care now. But, DeviantArt! Who remembers that joint? I haven't thought about DeviantArt in a long time. I met a good friend on Deviant Art all those years ago - we're still friends today. I liked uploading photos. My page still exists! It even has a link to my Livejournal! (that thankfully, no longer exists on the internet). Main reason I mention this just to instil a warm feeling of nostalgia for what the internet was like 13-10 years ago, which, for me, was its peak. It's all been downhill since then and I blame Facebook and Google.

CSIRO reckons Australia can go 100% renewable energy with a tiny bit of effort
I don't know how much you care about renewable energy or how that fits into a "tech" newsletter, but I find it interesting, so I'll probably keep mentioning it from time to time. Anyways, a story on Renew Economy yesterday had the following headline: "CSIRO says Australia can get to 100 per cent renewable energy" - the CSIRO's energy division's principal research scientist said this in a Senate select committee that is trying to find out how our electricity infrastructure will cope with global warming. The CSIRO actually think that it's a piece of piss for Australia to get 30% of its energy from solar and wind, and that with a little effort, 100% can happen. This is totally different than what our politicians are saying renewable energy is capable of. I dunno who I trust more - the CSIRO, or the politicians? The CSIRO? Or the guys bringing a lump of coal into the parliament? Hmm, who is telling the truth here, can someone help me decide?

Here endeth the sizzle (until Monday!)

The Sizzle is curated by Anthony "@decryption" Agius and emailed every weekday afternoon. Like The Sizzle? Like it on Facebook!