Issue 689

Friday, 27th July 2018

In This Issue


Atlassian gives its chat products to Slack in return for an investment in Slack

Atlassian's HipChat and Stride chat products have been purchased by Slack (yes, their main competitor) and Atlassian has made an equity investment in Slack. Slack will now "provide a migration path to Slack" for all Hipchat and Stride customers, as Atlassian is discontinuing those products. Dunno how much money is involved in the deal. There's a lot of talk in Atlassian's and Slack's announcements about vision and what's best for customers and connecting people - but really, Atlassian realised nobody really cared about HipChat and Stride and conceded to the market leader. Nothing wrong with that I reckon, smart move to not keep burning money on something nobody wants. Investors agreed too, with Atlassian shares up after the news.

The ACLU uses members of US Congress members to show flaws in Amazon's facial recognition software

To make a point about how weak facial recognition software is at identifying individuals accurately, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spent US$12 on Amazon Rekognition and ran images of every US Congress member against a mughot database containing 25,000 photos of arrested people. The result was 28 Congress members labelled as crims and to make matters worse, the false matches were disproportionately of people of colour. Amazon Rekognition is used by many police forces across the US and considering how poor it is, the ALCU reckons it really shouldn't be used by cops to arrest people. Three of the 28 politicians falsely identified sent a letter to Amazon, "expressing concern and inquiring about the tool’s accuracy and use by law enforcement" and Amazon said that "Rekognition was normally used to narrow the field for human review, not to make final decisions".

IBM's Watson sucks at treating cancer

IBM loves promoting its Watson artificial intelligence system as solving real-world health issues in hospitals around the world. It's not a lab experiment, but bona fide sci-fi saving lives. Unfortunately, the reality is that Watson is practically useless, with a doctor calling it a "piece of shit" and that "we bought it for marketing and with hopes that you would achieve the vision. We can’t use it for most cases". Apparently Watson was fed a bunch of dud info and instead of learning, just kept on regurgitating the crappy results. One example given explains how a man with lung cancer and severe bleeding was advised to be given a drug that has a known side effect of increasing bleeding. These reports come from IBM's own deputy chief health officer, who gave two presentations outlining how bad things are before resigning a few weeks later.

GlaxoSmithKline invests $300m in 23andme, scoring all that juicy DNA for medical research

23andme is partnering up with massive pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and will share its genetic database with them for medical research. If you're unaware, 23andme is a company you send a vial of spit to and in return, they sequence your DNA and provide you with a bunch of insights like diseases you may be at risk at and family tree info. The disease risk stuff was pretty dodgy so the FDA told them to stop it, the family stuff often raised thorny questions (e.g: people finding out they're adopted) and recently, US police used DNA voluntarily submitted to arrest and convict a serial killer. GlaxoSmithKline invested $300m into 23andme and now has access to all that DNA. Who knows who else 23andme will sell its data to next? I sent my spit to 23andme almost 10 yrs ago, it was a more innocent time! I thought it would be cool!

Fast Cities Australia has money to install super fast EV chargers around the country

Good news for electric car fans like myself - Fast Cities Australia has identified 42 sites around the country where they want to install at least two Australian made Tritium 350kW EV fast chargers. They've got $7m of funding to build the "first 16 sites - which will span between Brisbane and Melbourne - installed by the end of 2019, with the balance of the 42 to be completed by the end of 2021". Range anxiety is one of the big issues holding back EV adoption (along with high prices & lack of govt incentives), so it's great to see more infrastructure rolling out despite the government's intense lack of interest. The St. Baker Energy Innovation Fund has a bit more info on the project but disappointingly, not a map of the locations they have in mind!

Not News, But Still Cool

Rocket makes using emoji on macOS easier

There's so many emoji these days, I find it difficult to find the right little icon to express how I feel. Matthew Palmer faced the same issue and made Rocket - a better emoji picker for macOS. It displays the emoji larger, so they're easier to see and you can search by keywords, kinda like on Slack, but system wide in macOS. This is a must have for any emoji aficionado.

Next time someone asks for a fax, try FaxRocket

It's becoming less and less common these days, but every now and then some jerk wants you to send them a fax. Bookmark Fax Rocket and keep it handy for the next time a luddite makes you communicate with them via an obsolete technology. Fax Rocket lets you send a fax anywhere in the world from your computer by simply uploading a PDF, entering the destination number and your credit card. No need to sign up for a monthly plan or buy credit or any of that nonsense.

OCR your macOS screenshots so you can search for them by keyword in Spotlight

This is probably for more advanced users, but if you're comfortable running homebrew apps on your Mac, someone's made a really cool script that'll do OCR on your screenshots and make them keyword searchable via Spotlight. It's just something I found on Github, so don't expect much support, but it works and it's pretty damn handy when you've got like 200 screenshots in a folder and you're looking for a certain one! Apple should really implement this into the default Spotlight behaviour.

That's it, see ya Monday!

Spiderbait - Shazam