The Sizzle

Issue 135 - Thursday, 28th April 2017


Possible senate inquiry into why the government is so bad at IT
The ALP's "digital economy spokesman" and Federal MP, Ed Husic is agitating for a senate inquiry into why the government is so bad at computers. Like most techies, Ed has noticed that whenever the government rolls out an IT project, it is a total shitshow. Things like the 2016 Census, the ATO's inability to keep its online services online, DHS' Child Support systems burning through $100k a day with nothing to show and the general ineptness of Turnbull's pet Digital Transformation aren't acceptable for an otherwise functioning democracy like Australia and Husic wants to get to the bottom of it. Hopefully the Senate grants him the inquiry he wants and we deserve. Even if it achieves sweet fuck all, it'll give me content for months!

OpenAI claims victory in a 1-on-1 DOTA 2 game against a human, kinda
Over the weekend, the research lab Elon Musk is ploughing his money into to make sure AI doesn't kill us all, OpenAI, defeated a human in a game of DOTA 2. Not just any human, but like, one of the world's best players of DOTA 2 at The International eSports tournament. Impressive right? A game of DOTA is a lot more complicated than Go or Chess right? Well.. Denny Britz has taken OpenAI's hype over its victory over a human down a notch. The AI played a human in a 1-on-1 game, which apparently is just two people running down a hallway with a gun or something, so not that hard. Plus the bot probably had access to the game's API, so it has an unfair advantage over a human, which at the moment at least, cannot interface directly to an API. It's still world leading AI, but not total domination of the human race. Yet.

Soundcloud lives to fight another day
Soundcloud ain't dead yet. It somehow managed to convince some rich people to hand over US$170m in "emergency funding" so they can keep the lights on after sacking 40% of their staff and most of their remote sites a few weeks ago. Part of the funding requirement was that the existing CEO, Alex Ljung had to stand down (he's still gonna be on the board), so he did. Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, Temasek is one of the investors. interesting. This new injection of cash should keep the company going for a while, at least until the next disaster. I know you were all terrified at the prospect of Soundcloud closing, hopefully now you can sleep safely at night knowing Soundcloud's immediate future is secure.

Bitcoin is off to the moon again
Bitcoin's going bananas again. The price of OG BTC, not the new Bitcoin Cash, has skyrocketed in value by almost US$1,000 in the past week, reaching a peak of US$4225 for a single Bitcoin (it's sitting on ~USD$4069 right now). What's caused the spike? According to TechCrunch, it's a few things - Bitcoin finally implemented SegWit, "a code modification that fixes malleability issues and frees up space in blocks, allowing for more transactions to be stored in each one" after the Bitcoin Cash clone was launched, you need Bitcoin to participate in those ICO's backed by Etherum (it's a long story) which has been fuelling demand, plus the normies on Wall Street are obsessed by Bitcoin, ploughing money into it because the price just keeps going up.

Shortest fibre cable link from AU to US gets started
Lower pings to the USA from the east coast of Australia coming soon! Southern Cross Cable Network is gonna roll out another long string of fibre optics to the land of the free and the home of the Nazis brave by the end of 2019 and besides the extra 60 terabits of capacity it'll bring, the NEXT cable will be the shortest route ever from AU to the US, hence reducing latency a few milliseconds. That's something to be excited about I reckon. NZ and some pacific island nations will also branch of the cable - NZ in particular needs fatter pipes for their excellent last mile connectivity, unlike us.


Uber reckons Sydney could use a dose of flying cars
This is still vaporware bullshit, but maybe, Sydney, will have flying cars zooming around thanks to Uber. Sydney has been selected as one of a handful of cities where Uber things it can operate electric VTOL aircraft to ferry people around congested areas. You can read more about it on Uber's blog, where they also link to a 99 page PDF whitepaper outlining how they reckon it'll work. Like I said, it's still vapourware that I reckon has bugger all chance of getting off the ground (hehe) but Uber is serious about it, as is the NSW government who Uber said are "very excited" about it - as you'd expect from those populist showboaters up north. Uber's also managed to get companies like Bell Helicopters and Embraer to work with them on their VTOL craft, so hey, maybe it will happen.

Nano Pi is the cheapest thing with an Ethernet port that'll run Pi-Hole
I know a few of you like to run Pi-Hole at home. I run it on an Ubuntu server and absolutely love it - it blocks all the ad bullshit before it hits my computers, so not only is it saving bandwidth because the ads don't load, it also doesn't waste CPU cycle and precious latency loading ads either. If you don't have a home server running already and don't want to splash the cash for a Raspberry Pi just to run it, check out these little NanoPi units. It's small and cheap Allwinner based computer, with Ethernet that'll run Ubuntu just fine and more than enough grunt for PiHole whilst using extremely little electricity (5V, ~200mA tops I reckon). Plug it into a USB port on your router for power, use a short ethernet cable to plug it in to one of your router's LAN ports, get a cheapo microSD card and off ya go.

Cheap Dell gaming PCs with Ryzen CPUs and RX570/580 GPUs
eBay's got another 20% off sale that'll last until the 21st of August. I haven't had time to go through it yet (will send out a dedicated email tomorrow I reckon), but there's a sweet bargain I wanted to tell you about before it possibly sells out. Dell are selling new gaming PCs decked out with decent GPUs and Ryzen CPUs for about the same, or even less, than it would cost to build yourself. There's two machines: Ryzen 7 1700X, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD + 256GB SSD, RX580 GPU for $1599.20, or a Ryzen 5 1600X, 8GB RAM, 1TB + 128GB SSD, RX570 GPU for $1279.20. Both are good value, I'd personally go the RX580 for a bit more performance in games. They also include a 1 year warranty and a copy of Windows 10 Home, making it an even better bargain I reckon. Use the code PTECH20.

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!