Issue 591

Tuesday, 6th March 2018

In This Issue


The Minister for Women wants tech companies to remove trolls from the internet

Kelly O'Dwyer, the Minister for Women in the federal government, along with the sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, and e-Safety commissioner Julie Inman Grant, are going to meet with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram every three months to "ensure they're doing what they can to crack down on online trolls". Twitter, Facebook and Instagram haven't said they'd actually rock up to the tri-monthly meetings, but the Minister plans to make them attend via the threat of further regulation. The main issue is eradicating revenge porn, particularly on websites set up for that specific purpose and hosted overseas. That's a much spicier meatball than getting Facebook or Twitter to do stuff. I wish them luck as revenge porn is absolutely nasty stuff.

Xiaomi to sell smartphones in the USA late this year

Xiaomi's CEO confirmed to the Wall Street Journal today that they're finally going to sell smartphones in the USA late this year. They're super popular in India, as well as in China, so the USA is their final frontier for world domination. I honestly thought this would never happen, considering the US government's latest anti-China stance regarding telecommunications and AT&T's refusal to sell Huawei phones. But considering Xiaomi doesn't build infrastructure like Huawei, there's less chance of a Xiaomi device ban. I hope this leads to Xiaoami's little smart home gadgets getting full English support. That would be awesome.

Toyota throws $3b at robocar software development

Toyota, Denso and Aisin Seiki (all of which are owned or part owned by Toyota) have chucked 300 billion yen (A$3.6b) into a new company called Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, with the aim to create reliable software for self-driving cars. Toyota isn't convinced the tech bros in Silicon Valley can do it properly, so it's doing it itself, unlike American car makers that have all teamed up with someone else. Ford paid $1b for Argo, GM is apparently doing great with Cruise and Chrysler somehow managed to convince Waymo to be its friend.

Reddit had a part in Russian propaganda during the US election, of course

Reddit is the latest internet company to come out and say its users were part of the Russian plot to swing the US Presidential election in 2016. Unlike Facebook, where Russians were buying ads to promote misleading content, Reddit's role in this mess was simply people "unwittingly promoting Russian propaganda". There was a handful of posts made directly by Russians wanting to stir shit, but the biggest cause of concern for Reddit was the way Twitter accounts known to belong to "Russian agents" were amplified by Reddit communities. It's as if all the social media networks were feeding off each other, like symbiotic parasites.

Badgery's Creek airport to get a STEM school, 5G lab & lots of smart city stuff

The NSW state government has announced the Western Sydney City Deal, a plan to turn the area around the upcoming Badgery's Creek airport into an economy focused on aviation. The plan is pretty big, but the bits relevant to tech people are a specialist STEM high school and university, a 5G wireless data network, "interoperable smart and secure technology" and openly available data sets. Lots of nice buzzwords there for all levels of government keen to win those crucial western Sydney votes. The government's website has more info, but as usual for a government announcement, it's all pretty light on in terms of detail. I wouldn't plan too much of your life around it.

Not News, But Still Cool

Pack it up, the TRS rort is over

Looks like the government is cracking down on my favourite rort, the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS). It's supposed to be for tourists only, but Aussies have been abusing it for years (myself included). According to an AusBT reader, when he got to the claims desk, "she took a photocopy of my passport and said that my return flight next week had been noted and my bags would be flagged for inspection, in case I brought my purchases back into Australia but didn't declare them". The jig is up everyone, it was good while it lasted.

A digital magazine you can only read if you turn your internet off

The Disconnect describes itself as "an offline-only, digital magazine of commentary, fiction, and poetry. Each issue forces you to disconnect from the internet, giving you a break from constant distractions and relentless advertisements" - that's right, the damn thing doesn't let you read it unless you disable your internet connection! I haven't read it yet, so it could be crappy, but I liked the concept of having to literally disconnect from the internet to read something.

Your regular reminder that the prepaid data SIM wiki exists and is excellent

Vodafone's Red Roaming is pretty good, at $5/day to use your current SIM anywhere in the world. But if you aren't on Vodafone or are going to be away from AU for more than two weeks, getting a local SIM is the way to go. But which SIM do you get? There's so damn many! Here's another reminder of what I think is the best website on the internet - the prepaid data SIM wiki. It's where I found out about the Three UK SIM, that can be activated outside of the UK and gets you 12GB of data to use across 71 countries and only costs ~$50. It's currently on sale at SimsDirect for $38.35.

That's it, see ya tomorrow!

TISM - The History of Western Civilisation