Issue 672

Wednesday, 4th July 2018

In This Issue


15 projects that will use data in My Health Record to improve medical care

I think by now most readers of The Sizzle would be familiar with My Health Record - the federal government's opt-out only giant medical records system for everyone using Medicare. One of the touted uses of such a large national database is the benefits it could possibly bring to medical research. To see if that claim is true, the government is giving out $8.5m to 15 projects around Australia, to "utilise information from a consenting patient's My Health Record to improve the delivery of their healthcare". A full list of the projects is on the Digital Health Test Beds program website. I can't wait to see how the data used here will be leaked or used inappropriately!

Vic government hands out $2.4m of startup related grants to local councils

Victoria has given out a fresh $2.4m in grants to local councils in an attempt to "boost access and participation in the state’s booming startup sector, with a focus on regional Victorian communities". 15 projects across 26 councils got between $50k-$400k for what appears to be a bunch of co-working spaces, hackathons and "mentoring" programs. Do these things actually work? Has anyone conducted an analysis on whether the money the government has spent here (e.g: $100,000 to the City of Ballarat to run "a program of meetups, hackathons, masterclasses and co-working trials") actually helps startups generate a profit and eventually employs people? It would be very interesting to follow the people that make use of the services these grants provide and check in on them every few months to see if the services made a difference.

Heaps of Android apps record your screen without asking for permission

Computer science researchers at Northeastern University tested 17,260 apps from various Android app stores to see how many of them secretly turn on your smartphone's mic to hear for ultrasonic beacons or even voices. The good news is that none of them recorded audio without notifying the user. However many apps did record screen captures of UI interactions via various third parties and didn't tell the user that was happening. One such third party is Appsee, who offers developers "powerful, qualitative analytics tools that enable you to track and optimize the UX in your app". The screen captures would often record personally identifiable information and send that stuff back to developers too. The full study can be found here.

Uganda implements a daily social media tax

Imagine if Malcom Turnbull got sick of being called a lightweight useless sack of shit that sold out his morals for power, on social media and decided to tax it use to keep people off? That's what's happened in Uganda. A law kicked in today that forces anyone wanting to use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to pay 200 Ugandan Shillings (about 7 Aussie cents) a day to their telco, which is then passed on to the government. The government argues the tax is needed to "cope with the consequences" of internet gossip, but Amnesty International is calling it "a clear attempt to undermine the right to freedom of expression", particularly for low income earners.

Australian Senate to investigate the issue of loot boxes

Loot boxes are going to come under government scrutiny thanks to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications launching an investigation into "gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items". The government wants to find out if in-game items that appear via chance that can be monetised are forms of gambling and if they are, should they be regulated like traditional gambling services? The investigation is currently accepting submissions on its website until the 27th of July and will hand in its report on the 17th of September. The Intercept has an interesting article on the loot box phenomenon if you're unaware of why these things are so nefarious.

Not News, But Still Cool

Microsoft's Solitare, Minesweeper, Hearts and FreeCell were more than just time wasters

Everyone's killed time playing Solitaire on their computers, but this game, along with other classics like Minesweeper, Hearts and FreeCell were actually designed by Microsoft to be a stealth method for people unfamiliar with computers to get acquainted with their new fangled toy. Solitaire helped teach people to drag and drop. Minesweeper got us used to the concept of left clicking and right clicking, as well as precision mouse use. Hearts was a way to get people interested in the then new networking capabilities of Windows. FreeCell was a way to test 32-bit and 16-bit app compatibility in Windows 3.1. If FreeCell didn't work, the compatibility layer wasn't installed properly. Old school gamification right here!

This web UI for aria2 is a great download manager for your home server

Are you a Firefox user lamenting the loss of DownThemAll? It was an excellent download manager Firefox extension, but sadly hasn't been ported across to the new Firefox extension format. webui-aria2 is like DownThemAll, but on steroids. It's designed to run on your home server and provides a web interface for the excellent command line aria2c download manager. This way, you can access your downloads from anywhere in the world. At work and want to download a file from your home network so it's ready for you when you get home? This can do that. I run it so I can download stuff I see on my iPad or iPhone direct to my server without having to remember to get it later.

Cheap domain names, iPhone SE, 128GB M.2 SSD, Samsung Gear S3, 4K Blu-Rays, Fitbit Surge

That's it, see ya tomorrow!

Rick Derringer - Real American