The Sizzle

Issue 433 - Wednesday, 12th July 2017


Google caught paying for academic papers on topics it lobbies govts about
Google's been caught out paying for academic studies into pet topics it's trying to lobby government about. Here's a scenario: Google's trying to convince government that copyright needs reform in a certain way that suits Google's interests. Google then hunts around universities for a professor into copyright law and gives them a wad of cash because Google is a fan of their work. They can do whatever they like with that money, but more often than not, it goes towards research of a particular thing that would validate Google's point of view. Once the paper is done and published, Google can go "see, we aren't making this up, there's independent research on the topic!" when they go lobbying in Washington. Here's Google's response to the allegations. It's probably not as bad as the WSJ makes out and researchers probably aren't on the take as such, but it's still very grey and a little dodgy.

Facebook starts placing ads in Messenger
Facebook is gonna pump ads into its Messenger app. Of course it is! Why else do you think Facebook exists? It just operates its hordes of servers and employs thousands just for a bit of fun? Nah mate, it's to sell ads and ads go where people's eyeballs are and there's over a billion pairs of eyeballs in Messenger, so that's where they'll go. The ads stick out like dog's balls too, they're fucken huge and right in your contact and conversation list. Even less reason to use that flaming pile of shit if you ask me.

People are suing Trump for blocking them on Twitter
A group of people blocked by Donald Trump on Twitter are suing him for infringing on their constitutional rights. With the help of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, these internet lepers are claiming that because they've been blocked by Donny and can't reply to his tweets, their First Amendment right to free speech (i.e: talking to the President) has been shit on. I'm no constitutional lawyer or nothin but there's plenty of ways to harass the president if you get out from behind ya keyboard. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

Windows Phone 8.1 put out to pasture
Can someone send an SMS to anyone still using a smartphone running Windows Phone 8.1 that they won't get updates for their already obsolete operating system? Windows Phone 8.1 has been well replaced by Windows 10 on smartphones, so I don't know what the big deal is here. 3 years of support is better than most Android phones! The real question is what is Microsoft up to with new features and hardware for Windows 10 on smartphones? Are they still in the game or have they given up?

ATO staffer makes public some slides outlining how they break in to smartphones
Someone at the ATO posted a a presentation to Slideshare full of info about how the ATO goes about breaking into people's phones. The ABC saw the slides and asked the ATO what the fuck is that doing on Slideshare!? Everyone kinda knew the ATO was getting into the infosec game for their own investigations, but now we have proof that yeah, they have specific hardware for getting into passcode protected smartphones belonging to people under investigation. The ATO came out and said that they aren't doing mass surveillance of everyone, just specific people they're looking into and have warrants for. Pay your taxes and you've got nothing to worry about citizen. I don't think the ATO having this ability via a warrant isn't a bad thing, what is bad is some dickhead being extremely careless with sensitive info.


Audi A8 is the first level 3 autonomous car
Audi's new A8 is the first production car with level 3 autonomy. If you don't know, level 3 autonomy is "eyes off", which means in certain circumstances, Audi reckon you can take your eyes off the road in the A8. The situation they give is in traffic on a highway, at speeds under 60km/h, turn on "AI traffic jam pilot" and the car will take over acceleration, braking, steering, and starting from a dead-stop. As fancy as Tesla's self-driving gear is, it can't do that. Sure it'll set you back a lazy $200,000, but if you got the cash, damn it's cool.

Aus govt aims to reduce car emissions & everyone shits themselves
Unlike most parts of the developed world, Australia has very weak car emissions standards. You can sell any old shitbox engine here and it's cool. Europe and the USA have laws around how much pollution new cars can emit. Those laws have been a key reason why car makers have bothered with EVs. As the government rules become more strict and development of cleaner engines becomes more difficult, the easiest way to make a car that meets those strict emissions rules is to make a car with no emissions at all - electric cars! Unfortunately, Australia's attempts to get on the same page as the rest of the world has been met with a hysterical claim that cars will cost $5000 more because of a carbon tax. This is why we can't have nice things. What's weird enough is that Fairfax have two articles on the go on the topic - one saying how cars will skyrocket in price if emissions laws catch up with the rest of the world and another saying that's absolute bullshit. Hmmm.

Renault and VW local bosses talk EVs and why AU sucks for em
And to complete the 100%, totally fabricated myth that The Sizzle is nothing but an electric car propaganda newsletter, Renault's Australian boss has said that despite the lack of government subsidies for EVs, they will be pushing ahead with "creative" ways to sell the Zoe here. This likely means they'll bring the battery rental model that's been popular in the UK here too. I reckon it makes it unnecessarily complicated, but does bring the headline price down, so whatever, go for it Renault. Volkswagen Australia's boss was also talking EVs and continued the theme from other car makers that without government assistance, either with direct subsidies or rolling out heaps of charging infrastructure, Australians will take a long time to bother even considering an EV for their next car. You know what would help make people consider an EV? Selling the same fucking things here as you do overseas.

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!