Issue 557

Thursday, 18th January 2018

In This Issue


Amazon's Alexa assistant & Echo speakers comes to Australia Feb 1st

Alexa has finally launched in Australia and Echo devices will go on sale Feb 1st. It's like every other voice assistant you've used (Siri, Google, Cortana - wait, nobody's used Cortana), but is properly localised for Australia. Alexa ties in to many Australian apps and businesses. For example, Seek, Dominos, Sky News, SBS News, Qantas and Uber all have support for Alexa right out of the box. Something heaps of you will dig is NextThere integration for public transport. I have it on good authority that there's AFL scores & info too! If you're keen to give it a crack, Amazon has an introductory price of $199 for two Echos or $79 for two Echo Dots.

Apple to bring most of its cash from overseas to the USA & pay tax on it

Apple's accountants have been busy today, announcing that the world's most profitable company will make a once-off US$38b tax payment to the US government. This is a result of Apple deciding to repatriate that massive US$252b pile of cash it has sitting in overseas bank accounts, likely due to new tax laws that Donald Trump is keen to take credit for. Apple's press release tries very hard to let everyone know how much of a positive impact they're having on the US economy, despite not manufacturing anything there. Most of it is due to Apple being so big and buying so much stuff to support its operation, that other companies get the crumbs (they're big crumbs, but still crumbs) of Apple's success.

Nintendo Labo is the cutest way to get kids into the maker spirit

Nintendo has announced Labo, a range of cardboard accessories for the Switch that are made following the instructions in the game. Once made, you can use them in the game in conjunction with the Switch. The app explains not only how to construct the kits, but also how they work. There's some ingenious ways of using the precise accelerometers, gyroscopes and other sensors in the Switch to make things like a piano, fishing rod and even a robot suit. They're awesome and here's a video of Labo in action. Australia will get Labo the same day as the rest of the world - April 20th, the variety kit will cost $99.95 and the robot kit will be $119.95. There's a set of cute stickers, tape and stencils to go with your creations for $14.95.

Bitcoin & other cryptocurrencies still tanking

Bitcoin is now worth 50% less than it was just a month ago. If you purchased some BTC back in December, you just lost half your money. Besides all the governments contemplating regulation (I mentioned that yesterday), some people are desperately blaming the collapse on the Chinese New Year - heaps of people are bulling out their BTC in order to pay for travel, gifts & festivities to celebrate the new lunar year. Then there's this guy on Reddit who (rather accurately, I reckon) thinks the collapse is related to big money players manipulating the market to avoid their futures contract obligations. Also on Reddit, the most popular post in the main cryptocurrency subreddit is info about a suicide prevention hotline.

Random stuff that's interesting but not that important

The TWiT podcast is suing Twitter for using its trademark because it thinks TWiT had a promise from Ev Williams that the similarly named Twitter wouldn't be involved with audio or video. Good luck with that, Leo.

Colgate has a US$99.95 smart toothbrush sold exclusively in Apple Stores (not in AU) that will teach you how to brush your teeth properly and includes games for spoilt kids that really should just listen to their parents.

Facebook is testing Watch Party, a way for groups of people to simultaneously watch videos on Facebook. Facebook is also "deepening" its investigation into whether or not it was a pawn in Russia's attempt to influence the outcome of Brexit.

An algorithm used by various states across the USA to determine if someone should be granted bail based on their likelihood of committing another crime. A similar set of questions was posed to random people on Amazon's Mechanical Turk and the humans did a better job than the algorithm.

Tim Cook confirmed that users will be able to disable controversial power management stuff on older iPhones that lead to speed being sacrificed for battery life. Apple is also giving all "employees below a senior level title of director" $2,500 worth of restricted stock as a bonus.

Not News, But Still Cool

49 photos of Apple's Reno datacentre

In amongst Apple's news of employee bonuses, new campuses and massive tax dealings, they've also allowed a photographer into their Reno datacentre - the main location (maybe the only?) of all Apple's cloud based infrastructure for iMessages, iCloud and iTunes. There's 49 pictures in this gallery, which if you've ever been inside a datacentre, isn't anything unusual except for the cleanliness and the seemingly custom built machines. Even though I've been in dozens of datacentres over the years, I still find them amazing pieces of infrastructure. Without them, you wouldn't be able to read this.

Pornhub's traffic was severely altered by the Hawaiian false missile alert

Moving on from server porn to naked people porn, PornHub has a fascinating chart of what happened to its activity levels in Hawaii during the missile false alarm last week. When the warning was sent to everyone's smartphone, traffic plunged 77% below the average level. Understandable - you don't want to be jerking off while the world ends (or do you?). But what I thought was even more interesting, was the 48% jump in traffic over the average when the "lol its a false alarm, relax" message was sent. It's like most of Hawaii decided to relieve their stress by busting a nut.

A few eBay sale items, mostly monitors

Just a handful more eBay items from their latest 20% off sale. Use the code PCTECH.

  • LG 27UD88-W 27" WQHD monitor (has USB-C on it to do charge & video at the same time) - $780
  • AOC G2460VQ6 24" 1080p monitor (1ms refresh, 75hz, FreeSync) - $153.60
  • Dell Ultrasharp U2414H 1080p monitor (IPS, decent stand) - $260
  • DJI Spark drone Fly More combo - $751.20
  • Sony WH-1000XM2 Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones (arguably superior to the Bose) - $351.19

That's it, see ya tomorrow!