The Sizzle

Issue 499 - Friday, 13th October 2017


Sheryl Sandberg talks about Facebook dropping the ball with Russian propaganda
Facebook's COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is the first executive besides Zuck to talk about the mess Facebook's in regarding Russia turning their platform into a propaganda machine. She sat down with Axios for a 36 minute chat and there's some choice quotes from the interview: "Things happened on our platform that shouldn't have happened" - speaking about the way it was used during the 2016 election, and "Facebook owes the American people an apology. Not just an apology, but determination for our role in enabling Russian interference during the election". If you want an overview of what's going on and why this is such a big deal, there's a great story by Alexis Madrigal about Facebook's role in this and how they're severely changing how political discourse occurs.
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One bitcoin is now worth over AU$7200, an all time high
Bitcoin has hit yet another record high. It was down recently amidst the Chinese and Russian crackdowns on cryptocurrencies, but is back and better than ever. Why? According to Reuters, "upcoming splits in its software, reports that Goldman Sachs is considering offering bitcoin trading, rumours that China could ease restrictions, and even a political crisis in Spain’s Catalonia region were all cited by market-watchers as reasons for the rally." But really, according to the finance dude they found to quote, it's simply "people are just wanting to be part of it". FOMO investments always work out well *cough*
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Google has $1b to hand out so people can learn to code & fix computers
Google has realised that its relentless disruption of various industries means people are starting to not like them. So to win hearts and minds, it's got a US$1b slush fund to hand out to "nonprofits in education and professional training". Grow With Google will help people learn skills to work in "information technology support and app development" as those will basically the only jobs left once Google's done sucking the profits out of society. The training will all be done online so everyone (with a decent internet connection and rudimentary computer skills - which aren't as common as Google thinks they are) will be able to participate. Here's the Grow With Google Website, looks kinda useful if you're American.
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Equifax's customers got exposed to malware
Equifax is back in the news, as its website was hacked again! "Independent security analyst Randy Abrams said in a blog post that while he was trying to download his credit report from the Equifax site, he clicked a link that kicked him to a third-party website with “one of the ubiquitous fake Flash Player Update screens" hahaha, these bastards are hopeless. Equifax reckons it wasn't hacked again and is blaming a script it uses to "collect website performance data", which it said was compromised and serving up the malware, not Equifax. Either way, Equifax are still incompetent.
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Richard Branson and Virgin invest in Hyperloop One
A hyperloop actually getting built, transporting people safely at an affordable price seems so far away, maybe even impossible. But Richard Branson thinks it can happen and has put his money where his mouth is, taking part in a US$85m investment round for Hyperloop One - the same company looking to set up a hyperloop between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The company is now called Virgin Hyperloop One and Branson has joined their board. The co-founder of Hyperloop One siad that Branson invested because of their "proven technology" - mate, people haven't sat inside your potentially lethal metal tube yet, don't get cocky. Richo's posted on his blog about how rapt he is to be part of the "the world’s most revolutionary train service". Doesn't sound so sexy when he puts it like that, even though a fast train is basically what a hyperloop is.
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99% of VPN reviews are untrustworthy, here's the 1%
There's so many dodgy VPN review sites out there, but That One Privacy Site seems to be on the level as are they are not relying on commissions from those VPN providers to turn a buck. They've been doing reviews of VPN services for a while, but just did their first Patreon supporter review, of Mullvad, a Swedish VPN company highly rated around the tin foil hat brigade. Good news is that TOPS really likes Mullvad too, concluding the review with - "Mullvad easily has one of the best VPNs I've ever seen or used". So there you go, if you need a VPN and are cool using an OpenVPN (Windows and Apple platforms only support L2TP/IPSec natively), Mullvad it is.
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Why would General Motors buy a lidar startup?
Earlier this week I mentioned General Motor's purchase of Strobe, who have come up with a nifty way to make a lidar unit that's relatively cheap and reliable, something vital to autonomous driving. This Arstechnica article is a great explainer as to why Strobe's kit is so important to GM. Very briefly, normal Lidar units cost multiple thousand dollars each, plus, they have moving parts - that bit that spins around. Strobe's is "solid state", with no moving bits, which others are doing, but the real value is that Strobe claim to have found a way to move the laser beams, with no moving parts *and* on a single integrated circuit that they claim will cost 99% less than existing solutions. If it's not vapourware, GM are gonna enter a second golden age, printing money like it's the 50s and 60s again.
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100 books that'll make you fear the future
Looking for something to read? Enjoy a bit of dystopian fiction? (nerds and dystopia tend to go hand in hand, we are suckers for a bleak future ruined by the things we made - it's fucked up) Vulture has a list of 100 such titles that may tickle your fancy. There's the classics like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Neuromancer and Snow Crash - read em if ya haven't already. But also some intriguing modern titles like Moxyland and Feed that I haven't read. Two more books for the list! I should make a list of all the books I've recommended in The Sizzle...
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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.