Issue 707

Wednesday, 22nd August 2018

In This Issue


Vodafone and TPG are discussing a merger

Vodafone and TPG have confirmed that they're discussing a merger. It's still really early days but the entire telco industry knows this is inevitable. Vodafone has struggled for years to be profitable against the deep pockets of SingTel (who owns Optus) and the incumbent might of Telstra, so things are only going to get worse when TPG's 4G network launches any day now and steals their price conscious customers. TPG is already a Vodafone MVNO and built Vodafone's fibre network that supplies data to most of its towers. The only question on my mind is will TPG take over both Hutchinson's & Vodafone's share of Vodafone Australia or will Vodafone give TPG half of its 50%?

German research shows areas with higher Facebook use have higher violence against refugees

Another day, another story of how Facebook disproportionately contributes to social unrest. This time it's research out of Germany detailing how "towns where Facebook use was higher than average, like Altena, reliably experienced more attacks on refugees. That held true in virtually any sort of community — big city or small town; affluent or struggling; liberal haven or far-right stronghold — suggesting that the link applies universally". The researchers reckon that 10% of all racial violence in Germany is because of how "social media scrambles users' perceptions of outsiders, of reality, even of right and wrong". The 90s internet seems so innocent and naive now. I don't like this new, evil internet. The full study is available here.

Microsoft and Facebook thwart state-sponsored abuse of their platforms

Microsoft and Facebook have been busy fighting Russian and Iranian state-sponsored groups trying to use them as pawns in spreading political misinformation. Microsoft closed down a bunch of convincing fake sites that were used to "spear phish" political candidates and gain access to their emails, that they allege was set up by "a group widely associated with the Russian government and known as Strontium, or alternatively Fancy Bear or APT28". Facebook "removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and US". That "co-ordinated inauthentic behavior" (what an Orwellian phrase) is mainly Brexit and anti-Israel shitposting.

There's gonna be a parliamentary inquiry into why the NDIS IT system sucks

The shambolic IT system set up for the NDIS is getting a parliamentary inquiry. "The inquiry will scrutinise the impact of ICT infrastructure on the implementation of the scheme, as well as the appropriateness of NDIS-facing IT systems and the MyPlace Portal used by participants and providers". For the past month, NDIA staff have been unable to communicate with vital DHS systems, which is heavily impacting how people are enrolled and providers are paid. Personally, I find this IT system failure even more sad, as it impacts some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It's an awful state of affairs when a system designed to get disabled people the things they need to live a dignified life can't even get the right resources to operate its computers properly. A report on the inquiry is due November 29th.

WA's auditor general found that 26% of government network accounts have crap passwords

West Australia's auditor-general has published their annual Information Systems Audit Report and you'll be totally unsurprised to know it surmises that the WA state government sucks at keeping IT systems safe. "The audit – focusing on 17 agencies – found that password security continues to prevail as one of the state's most common weaknesses". 26% of the Active Directory passwords were weak or commonly used passwords. Something incredibly basic to protect against and enforce, simply isn't being done. The audit also found that there's bugger all access controls for sensitive data in 5 agencies, meaning anyone can access juicy info and nobody would know who did it or why. The full report is here if you're interested.

Not News, But Still Cool

Hyundai delays Australian Kona EV launch until early 2019

I've got bad news for fellow prospective EV buyers - Hyundai has delayed launching the Kona Electric in Australia. It's now not coming until early 2019. The Ioniq will be launching in October however, but we still don't know how much it'll cost. The Ioniq is cool, but there's not much point paying ~$45,000 for the Ioniq with 200km range, when the Kona will likely cost ~$55,000 and have 400km range. The issue with launching these (and other EVs like the Nissan LEAF) in Australia seems to be that local arms of car makers struggling to convince HQ to give them a slice of very constrained global stock. EVs are so popular in Europe and parts of the USA that there's waiting lists in those markets. Why bother introducing a trickle of supply here when there's no incentives and extremely low customer awareness?

Descript lets you edit spoken word audio like a text file

I recently found out about a service called Descript. You feed it audio of someone talking and it spits out text of that audio. That's cool, but common and not that amazing to mention here. What makes Descript a bit "whoa, what the fuck is this black magic?" is that you can then edit the text and Descript will edit the audio! They say you can edit audio like you're editing a document in a word processor - and they aren't bullshitting. Pretty awesome way to edit a spoken word audio. I gave it a quick shot and whilst the speech recognition was iffy with an Australian accent, it was surprisingly decent at editing, particularly deleting words. Moving a word mid-sentence sounds unnatural, but moving an entire sentence works well.

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That's it, see ya tomorrow!

Simon & Garfunkel - A Hazy Shade of Winter