Issue 686

Tuesday, 24th July 2018

In This Issue


Google still made heaps of money this quarter, despite its EU fine

Google announced that it made more money this quarter than it expected to, sucking in sucked in over US$32b in revenue. They would have made over $8b in profit, but they had to pay that annoying US$5b EU anti-trust fine. Of that $32b in revenue, 86% of it comes from Google's advertising business. Despite the GDPR, Google still manages to dominate the online advertising market and in most of the world, it's business as usual. Investors are also excited over the possibilities for Google Home smart speakers to show ads and that Google Maps is still a relatively untapped advertising platform. Another interesting tidbit from the Alphabet financials - it spends a billion dollars a quarter on the random "other bets" stuff in X, roughly $4b/yr on nerdy tinkering projects that mostly go nowhere. With the share price increasing thanks to these results, Google is getting closer to being a trillion dollar company, along with Apple and Amazon. A trillion fucking dollar company based on internet ads, god help us.

Russian hackers are still lurking around US electricity companies

The Wall Street Journal (paywalled, here's a Reuters article summarising the WSJ) is reporting that state-sponsored Russian hackers have been poking around the networks of US electric utilities since 2017, based off interviews with Homeland Security officials. The hackers got in via poorly secured sub-contracting companies that have access to the more secure networks. They'd simply use "spear-phishing emails and watering-hole attacks" to get the stooge's details, then just pretend to be them when accessing the critical systems, making it difficult for the utilities to spot as the hacker is accessing the services via an account that uses the services often. The ultimate worry is that this is all reconnaissance so when the Russians or Chinese want to attack the USA, they can turn off everyone's electricity, then invade, or strategically impede US industry to give their own industry a leg up.

Microsoft may have found a way to do internet game streaming without lag

Back at E3, Microsoft announced that it's gonna be offering a game streaming service so that you can play all the latest games via a subscription, without having to buy the latest expensive console. Pretty much like Sony's PlayStation Now. Brad Sams over at has some new info on the hardware that'll make this thing tick. Apparently Microsoft will be releasing a console code named Scarlett Cloud, that'll kinda sit in the middle of a full fat gaming console and a purely streaming dumb client. This new console will have enough power to do things locally like "controller input, image processing, and importantly, collision detection", making it much cheaper than a full Xbox and much more useful for those into FPS style games where streaming hasn't done too well due to latency issues. My experience with gaming streaming, on a 250/100 internet connection, has been pretty shitty, so good luck to Microsoft.

UK to roll out fibre internet to every home by 2033, calls out AU NBN for being slow & expensive

The UK has realised its copper based broadband network is holding it back economically and will be providing fibre broadband to every home in the country by 2033. I remember when Australia was gonna do that. The UK's constant upgrading of their copper phone network was Turnbull's favourite example for justifying the NBN's anti-fibre stance. That didn't last long, did it? The UK government's review into the future of their country's internet infrastructure mentioned Australia's shitty "single national provider" approach to the NBN as resulting in "slow delivery, expensive roll out and an eventual freezing of the market via a state-run monopoly". They will be taking the much more successful NZ approach of letting private enterprise roll out fibre networks.

Telstra's new "Peace of Mind" plans & new proper unlimited 4G plan

Telstra has launched new mobile plans, like it said it would a month ago during its Telstra 2022 strategy announcement. These plans are supposed to be simpler to understand, but are really just the old plans with some of the higher priced ones including a "Peace of Mind" feature that caps your internet speeds at 1.5Mbps once you go over your full speed data limit. There's also a new $199/m plan with unlimited data tied to a "FairPlay" policy. The T&Cs are in that linked PDF, but it seems like Telstra will boot you off if you're being an absolute massive data pig (I'd assume over 1TB/m on a regular basis maybe). Could be a good deal for someone absolutely desperate for faster internet with no other options other than Telstra 4G.

Not News, But Still Cool

CSIRAC is out of storage and on display at Scienceworks

CSIRAC is back baby! Australia's first computer is now on display at Scienceworks in Melbourne, after getting turfed out from the Melbourne Museum to make way for yet another exhibit aimed at parents wanting to keep their hyperactive kids occupied for a few minutes under the thin veneer of education. CSIRAC is part of a new permanent exhibit called Think Ahead. CSIRAC was also the first computer to ever play music. Beep beep! I haven't been to Scienceworks in about 20 years, I should really go back and visit the grand old girl

Cool as hell x86 assembly language demo vids

Have I shown you this before? Fuck it, you'll watch it again anyways and be amazed at it again too. Fermi Paradox is a 64 kilobyte visual demo, written in x86 assembly language that looks goddamn amazing - here's a YouTube video of it if you don't want to download the EXE file. 256-bytes can do what looks like full blown CGI graphics at a full 60 frames per second. This entire email is more than 64kb and it a billion times less impressive than this demo. This YouTube channel has a bunch of these demos you can check out. It really is amazing what can be done with some code. This glitter demo looks bloody real.

How a TV works, explained in slow motion

Slow motion video capture is a great way to understand how something operates. The Slow Mo Guys YouTube channel uses this technique to explain how a TV is just 24, or 50 or 60 still images shown to you one after the other. They also compare the difference between a CRT to an LCD. Seeing a CRT draw each dot as it horizontally scans is wild. I kinda miss those big vacuum tubes. Watching an LED backlit LCD flick red, blue and green LEDs, or a group of organic LEDs completely turning themselves off to imitate billions of colour is cool too.

That's it, see ya tomorrow!

Nirvana - Aneurysm