The Sizzle

Issue 399 - Wednesday, 24th May 2017


Microsoft gave the Surface Pro got a decent update
Microsoft announced a brand new Surface Pro last night. It's mostly the same Surface Pro you know and love, just with the latest Kaby Lake chipset. What's new is that the i5 model no longer has a fan (despite a 15W TDP) - the hinge mechanism on the beloved kickstand can tilt back to 165-degrees so it's almost flat to accommodate the Surface Dial - a new stylus that supports 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity and lower latency (21ms) and Signature Type Covers with that same fancy Alcantara fabric as the Surface Laptop we saw a few weeks ago. The appearance is more or less the same (a little less angular maybe) and all the ports are the same as the previous Surface Pro (no USB-C). Starts shipping June 15th and local pricing is up on the Microsoft AU site for all 6 configs. If ya want a 16GB model, those start at A$3299 and don't include the keyboard or stylus.

Google takes off-line ad tracking to a new level
Google is ramping up the use of data it gets about your credit and debit card spending from retailers and banks. That info will link that back to your personal Google dossier, which will be cross-referenced with what ads you saw and which you clicked. So for example, I use my ANZ Visa card at Coles to buy a bottle of Pepsi. My card number and name (and if I use my FlyBuys card, all that info) is sent to Google, who can associate my card with my name and hence, my purchase of a bottle of Pepsi. Google also knows I saw that ad for Pepsi on (for example) and can use that as a way to tell Pepsi "Hey, Anthony saw that ad, then the next day, be bought a Pepsi instead of the Coca-Cola he normally gets. These ads totally work, give us more money!". Without that card linking, Pepsi and Google would just assume their ad was ineffective as they can't track off-line spends. Now apply that to everything you buy, places you go, the people you meet and more. Sounds gross doesn't it?

Daimler (aka Mercedes Benz) starts building its own huge battery factory
Daimler is entering the battery manufacturing game. They're begun construction of their own Gigafactory to build and supply the millions of battery packs needed for the EV and renewable energy future. It'll be in Kamenz, Germany and is a 500 million Euro investment designed to keep the German auto industry relevant. Daimler is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz and MB wants to be selling 10 pure EVs by 2022, which is a good idea, as the German government wants to ban the sale of fossil-fuel cars by 2030. So having their own battery factory is probably a smart move. As far as I know, no other car manufacturer, besides Tesla, has their own battery factory? Maybe partnerships with LG/Samsung whatever, but not a factory they paid for and operate?

Instagram is a nasty pit of FOMO and depression
A report from the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health reckons Instagram is the most negative social network around. It surveyed ~1500 people between 14-24 years old and asked questions to try discover how social media impacts their health, both physical and mental. All the social networks (gram, book, snap and the toots) were overall negative, with only YouTube being a net-positive in these respondent's lives. Instagram was particularly nasty for increasing FOMO, reducing self-esteem and fuelling anxiety and depression. Why? Because people forget that the stuff posted isn't necessarily real. Social media is a pantomime, or a highlight reel, not someone's true life.

Australian guidelines for robocar testing released today
More car news: Australia (finally) has guidelines for testing robocars. The National Transport Commission and AustRoads explain how laws currently don't allow for automated cars, but detail how to get exemptions from state governments. The guidelines set out that there has to be a specific location for the trial and you gotta explain how the tech you're using works and how you plan to protect the public if your Frankencar goes haywire. You also need insurance, which sounds obvious, but who insures robocars?! If you're interested in reading more, the guideline document is pretty easy to grok.


Cheap PSVR, 34" monitor, GTX1080 and Bose QC35s
eBay has yet another goddamn sale, but I haven't had time to trawl through it to see what's good, so I'm just highlighting some of the stuff I saw on Ozbargain. Grab a PlayStation VR for $474.05 from Big W's eBay store (use the code C5OZ for 5% off). Futu Online are selling the Samsung S34E790C 34" LED Curved Monitor for $840 (3440x1440, nice) and a Gigabyte Nvidia GTX1080 8GB for $640. Use the code COZY to get 20% off those. Myer have the popular Bose QC35 Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones for $359.20 - use the code C20MYER for 20% off there.

Dodgy subtitles can let hackers install malware on your device
Oh great, yet another way for hackers to ruin your day. A vulnerability in many video players such as VLC and Kodi allow malicious subtitle files to have "complete control over any device running them". So some hacker fuck can upload a new ep of say, Better Call Saul that has dodgy subs, everyone's auto-downloaders grab it, you sit down after a long day at work to watch your favourite TV show and boom, you're all owned. Kodi is yet to release an update, but VLC has. Plex, dunno yet. Hopefully not!

1Password's new Travel Mode is for hiding yo shit when entering the USA
1Password's new "Travel Mode" feature has been very popular today. The feature allows you to remove all data from 1Password with a single button, then restore it again easily. Log in to 1Password's website, enable Travel Mode and only specific info in your vault will appear across all your sync'd devices (a totally empty password manager might look suss to any border agents I guess). Once you've dodged the TSA's groping and survived CBP's interrogation, you can then turn Travel Mode off and everything's back to normal.

Here endeth the sizzle (until tomorrow!)

The Sizzle is curated by Anthony "@decryption" Agius and emailed every weekday afternoon. Join us on Slack and chat with other Sizzle subscribers. Know someone who could use a bit of Sizzle in their life? Buy them a gift subscription!