Issue 684

Friday, 20th July 2018

In This Issue


UK intelligence agency takes a dump on Huawei

The UK's GCHQ has downgraded their position of Huawei's risk to the UK's national security, saying that "identification of shortcomings in Huawei's engineering processes have exposed new risks in the UK telecommunication networks and long-term challenges in mitigation and management". In laymans terms: "this year we can't tell if Huawei is full of shit, so best not to take the risk using their gear regardless of how cheap it is". Huawei's relationship with governments has always been iffy at best, but Huawei used their special Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre oversight board arrangement with the UK as an example that they've got nothing to hide. Now that the UK has done that for a few years and the UK still can't decide if they trust Huawei not to spy on them, it doesn't look good for Huawei's dreams of supplying 5G networks to Australian or American telcos.

Microsoft reckons US congressional candidates are getting hit with constant phishing attempts

Microsoft has revealed that at least three US congressional candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections have been targeted by high quality phishing expeditions, all pretending to be Microsoft asking for credentials. Microsoft hasn't named who they reckon is responsible, but Microsoft did say the same style of attack was used by Strontium, "the same hackers who targeted the Democratic National Committee in 2016, and who have been tied to Russian military intelligence". These phishing attempts where unsuccessful, but imagine an idiot like Barnaby Joyce or Craig Kelly, men that struggle to tie their own shoelaces without incident, sitting at their computers and getting a well designed and targeted phishing email - do you reckon their pathetic lizard brains have enough capacity to resist a half-decent phishing email?

Fortnite's made US$1b from hats & dances since its launch in Oct 2017

A report by SuperData extrapolates that Fortnite has made over US$1b from in-app purchases since its launch in October 2017. For those without kids in their life, Fortnight is free, you don't pay for it. Even better is that the game is not gimped in free mode. You can't drop a few bucks to get a level boost or anything like that. That $1b of in-app purchases comes purely from people buying hats, dances and clothes for their characters. It's a fucking licence to print money! That said, the huge 8-week Fortnite Summer Skirmish tournament started last weekend and it was a turd, with unwatchable lag, poor camera work and hyper-cautious players not wanting to risk losing a $250,000 grand prize. There's still 7 more weeks though, and Epic promises the next tournament will be way better. I should really dust off the PS4 and play Fortnite one day.

Dude in Sydney arrested for selling AWS Snowball storage devices that don't belong to him

A bloke living in Sydney has been arrested and is now out on bail, for stealing 31 of Amazon's Snowball storage devices - those rugged boxes filled with HDDs that you chuck dozens of terabytes of data on and send back to Amazon to upload to S3. The 26 year old would order the Snowballs (which cost US$320 for an 80TB box to be sent) and then strip the boxes of their drives, presumably selling them on Gumtree for a bargain price. Let's assume there's 8x 10TB drives in a Snowball, which at a retail price of ~$400ea, would be an easy $2500 cash (sell each drive for $300) per Snowball. Old mate got 31 of em, probably making a cool 70 grand after expenses just for the drives. Amazon claims they're worth $600,000, but I reckon this guy would have made around $100,000 selling his ill-gained loot.

Apple rejigs its proposed Fed Square store to appease critics

Apple has submitted new designs for its Federation Square store in the heart of Melbourne's CBD, turning the Pizza Hut pagoda with a golden roof into a shipping container with the side cut off and facing the Yarra. The new design will also feature "more than 500 sqm of new public space, outdoor shading, improved connections between the Square and the Yarra River, and will allow for the delivery of more cultural events". I still don't know if Federation Square is the right spot for an Apple Store, but this new design looks way better. I do reckon the state government should have found a way for Apple to pitch in for the development of space above the railway from Fed Square to Richmond station. Milk Apple for all they're worth!

Not News, But Still Cool

Steve Blank explains Silicon Valley's military roots

Back in 2008, Steve Blank gave a fascinating lecture about the secret history of Silicon Valley. The founding myth of the place we associate with so much technology is of a relatively benign bunch of technologists who turned fruit orchards into campuses building computers, with companies like Shockley Semiconductor, Hewlett-Packard and Apple leading the way. The real fact is that Silicon Valley was a concentration of defence contractors, building electronics post-WW2 to ensure the USA keeps its techno-military industrial complex advantage over the Russians. Steve's blog goes into heaps more detail on this topic if it interests you.

The 2018 MBP keyboard has better dust ingress protection

Apple's placed a new plastic membrane around the key switch mechanisms and according to iFixit, this membrane does a good job keeping out what I'd consider, a normal level of dust that can then be cleaned out with compressed air. But when larger debris is introduced, like sand, all bets are off and the keys jam up. Apple's own service documentation suggests that the membrane is there to "prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism". I'd be comfortable with buying a MacBook Pro with this keyboard thanks to some level of dust ingress protection. Shame the non-touchbar 13" MBP hasn't got the new keyboard, as that's the MacBook Pro I'd get if my 2013 MacBook Air shits the bed. Or maybe a 12" MacBook with an ARM CPU...

Die With Me is a fun little art app for iOS

In the minutes before your smartphone's battery dies, you should check out Die With Me, a chatroom app you can only use if your device's battery has 5% or less of battery life. Strangers around the world can console each other before sweet release is placed upon them. Look, I know this app is a gimmick, but Die With Me offers us a chance to reflect on how transfixed society is with our smartphones. Or, what normal people with a sense of nuance call it - art.

That's it, see ya tomorrow!

Silverchair - Without You