The Sizzle

Issue 448 - Wednesday, 2nd August, 2017


Apple made a lot of money selling things that aren't iPhones
Apple's Q3 financials are out. As usual, they're making money hand over fist (over AU$56b in revenue, fuck), that's not particularly interesting. Apple is currently the most diversified it's been in a long time, with the iPhone "only" making up 55% of revenue, as opposed to over 70% the past few years. iPad sales grew for the first time in 3 years, which is nice. The Apple Watch saw a 50% increase in sales compared to this time last year. Services (iTunes, iCloud, ApplePay etc.) are now the size of a Fortune 100 company and had a huge increase in revenue. Apple's share price hit an all time high as a result of all this.

ASIC told Google and Apple to remove 330 dodgy finance apps off their app stores
Our tireless financial regulator, ASIC, has worked with Apple and Google to shitcan over 330 apps from the Australian app stores that "published misleading statements about the profitability of trading and the amounts that could be made". From ASIC's press release: "63% were offered by binary option issuers and facilitated trading, 25% were from various signal providers and the rest were controlled by introducing brokers or were apps designed to influence people to trade binary options". For those wondering, binary options are basically gambling on the price of a share. It's almost the same as betting on the outcome of a footy match, but with share prices of companies on various exchanges. Dodgy as fuck I reckon.

Bitcoin did a hard fork - say hello to Bitcoin Cash
Speaking of dodgy financial instruments, Bitcoin has forked. There's now two versions of Bitcoin. Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. I really don't know what is happening exactly, but I do know that a group of people wanted to release an update to the Bitcoin spec so that transactions can be verified faster, but a group of people who control the exchanges and mining operations didn't want to use that new version, so now there's two versions of Bitcoin. Bitcoin "classic" and Bitcoin Cash. Everyone who has Bitcoin "classic" has Bitcoin Cash too, as it's a fork of the same "ledger", but all transactions from 18:24:41 UTC onwards, are on two different blockchains now. The Bitcoin Cash website has an FAQ explaining stuff.

The UK drops more hints as to how it wants tech companies to "cooperate" with the law
The UK's Home Secretary has given an interview with the BBC outlining how encryption is a big problem for authorities trying to keep Britain safe from "the enemy" (her words). Same old stuff about how bad people are using these secure services that authorities can't access and how that's placing everyone's safety at risk. She even went as far as to say that "real people" don't need encrypted messaging. My favourite bit of the interview is that she wants tech companies to share more metadata about the messages being sent, but when asked what sort of metadata they're after, she replies. "I'm having those conversations in private", haha, beautiful. I only mention the UK's bullshit here because our government will follow whatever the UK does, so its important for us to keep an eye on what the Brits are up to. This comment on Hacker News is very apt as to how all this indiscriminate digital surveillance ends up being used in reality compared to how it's sold to the public.

USA tries to get IoT devices to suck less so government can use them safely
Some US Senators are trying to get a "IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017" law passed that would apply to all IoT devices purchased by the US government. From Kreb's article, the law aims to "develop alternative network-level security requirements for devices with limited data processing and software functionality". Basically, if you want to supply gear to the US government, your devices have to be able to be "patched when security updates are available; that the devices do not use hard-coded (unchangeable) passwords; and that vendors ensure the devices are free from known vulnerabilities when sold" - I guess this is good as maybe, those improvements will float down to consumer level gear? Maybe? Yanks sure do love their trickle-down theories.


Dell Canvas and HP backpack computer look interesting
Dell and HP unloaded some relatively cool gear at SIGRAPH overnight. The wild Dell Canvas they showed off at CES earlier this year is finally available to buy. The Canvas is like a Surface Studio, but you bring your own computer to plug in to the displays. Here's some pics of the thing and a video. At US$1799, it doesn't even seem that expensive. HP made a "wearable VR PC", which is to say, it's a computer you strap your back and walk around with whilst you peer through a VR headset. It's a laptop, without a screen. They've made these before, under their Omen or Fury gaming brand (I forget which), but now it's a "pro" unit with a Quadro GPU. I expect to see CEOs wearing this in their company's blue sky idea room by Q1 2018.

Mophie has a big battery for your MacBook
Mophie has a big arse battery that it claims will power one of Apple's 12" MacBooks for up to 14 hours. The Powerstation USB-C XXL is 19.5A of lithium wrapped in a nice fabric and metal body. It's US$150 (ouch) and there's probably other batteries out there that can power a MacBook for a while (like this Anker), but they're often hard to find in AU. The Mophie will be well stocked here and in Apple Stores (hello Derek), so it's easy to get - and will work properly, unlike some others that have trouble giving high current USB-C devices the juice they need. If they ever pop up in an eBay sale, I'll let ya know.

Storing data on magnetic tape isn't dead yet
The boffins at IBM and Sony have managed to place 330TB of uncompressed data onto 1098 meters of magnetic tape, about what's in a standard tape cartridge these days. When data is compressed, say, to a 2.5:1 ratio, that's 750TB! Right now, on a single LTO-7 tape, you can get 6TB uncompressed. 330TB raw on a tape the same size is a huge increase. This is the highest storage density ever achieved for magnetic storage. Impressive, but it's still a prototype, and IBM and Sony haven't said when this sort of density will come to market. I assume someone like Amazon is watching keenly so they can bring the cost of storing stuff on its Glacier service down to practically cents a terabyte instead of cents per gigabyte.

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!