Issue 721

Tuesday, 11th September 2018

In This Issue


Privacy & industry groups submit feedback on the Assistance and Access Bill

Feedback on the Assistance and Access Bill has ended and many organisations and businesses have given the government a piece of their mind. Digital Rights Watch (a collection of privacy and civil liberties groups across Australia) has said that the bill creates "extremely broad powers with almost no oversight without any substantive justification". The terms used in the law are so vague, that they forsee it being abused by law enforcement pretty easily. A lobby group called Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI) — whose members include Amazon, Facebook, Google, Oath, and Twitter - said that that not only will forcing them by law to provide "technical assistance" weaken security for innocent users, but that doing so might violate laws in other countries, placing their members in an "impossible situation". The Digital Rights Watch and DIGI's feedback submissions are required reading if you want a technologist's view of the Assistance and Access Bill.

Pre-Apple event rumours (3 new iPhones, dual SIM card slots, ECG in the Apple Watch)

Here's some filthy rumours to keep you sufficiently hyped prior to Apple's event on Thursday morning: Gruman reckons there will be three new iPhones, "a 5.8-inch model named iPhone Xs, a larger 6.5-inch model named iPhone Xs Max and a lower-priced 6.1-inch model that Apple has considered naming iPhone Xr". Chinese telcos have been teasing that the new iPhone will have dual-SIM slots, but probably only for the Chinese market. New iPhone won't have 5G though and probably won't for at leat another year or two. MacRumors has conveniently placed all the little bits of info and leaks about the new iPhone into a single page. Old mate Ming-Chi Kuo has put out his latest supply chain related gossip, saying that the new Apple Watches will feature "narrower bezels, support electrocardiography (ECG), and all be equipped with ceramic backs".

$5k grant to add batteries to your solar panels if VIC ALP wins election

South Australia announced yesterday that it's going to give out $6,000 grants for homeowners to install batteries alongside their solar panels. Victoria just announced that they're gonna give $5,000 to 10,000 homeowners (existing solar systems & under $180k/yr household income) to do the same - if it wins the November election. This is on top of the existing announcement to provide half price solar panels to Victorians, also on the condition it wins the election. The Victorian government also announced it's giving $210,000 to Nissan, the CSIRO & Delta Energy to "study off-grid EV charging, using solar power and battery backup, and the optimisation of EV charging profiles to reduce grid impact and maximise the use of renewable energy". There's a bit more technical info in Delta's press release.

Qualcomm has a new smartwatch SoC for Android OS devices

Android smartwatch fans rejoice, for Qualcomm has pulled their finger out and announced a new smartwatch SoC. That means there will be a flood of new Android based smartwatches as there's finally some new hardware to justify releasing a new device with. The key feature of the Snapdragon Wear 3100 is an ultra-low power co-processor that is used for basic tasks like showing the time and step counting instead of the main CPU that if used to do that simple stuff, will drain the battery quickly. Google and Qualcomm claim that in "Traditional Watch Mode", a watch using the new SoC will have 30 days of use at full power. There's also NFC and LTE hardware built in, so expect a lot of Android watches to offer those as features now.

Researchers confirm spending more cash for a full FTTP NBN is worth it

UNSW researchers have released a paper explaining how they think governments should calculate the "social return" on their investments - a way to work out if something is worth throwing money at beyond a simple financial return. As part of the paper, they applied their method to the NBN and found that whilst FTTP would have cost more than FTTN, the "the monetary value of that extra six percent in social IRR would have offset the extra costs in rolling out FTTP". Simply put - sure, FTTP cost more, but it's so much better, it's worth it. It's obvious to most tech people how a fast, cheap and reliable broadband network is a good thing beyond a fatter pipe for existing uses, but selling that grand vision to non-tech people without an imagination was (and still is) always a problem.

Not News, But Still Cool

14,000 word profile of Zuck in the New Yorker is worth a read

There's a massive profile of Mark Zuckerberg in the New Yorker today. "In a series of conversations over the summer, I talked to Zuckerberg about Facebook's problems, and about his underlying views on technology and society. We spoke at his home, at his office, and by phone. I also interviewed four dozen people inside and outside the company about its culture, his performance, and his decision-making. I found Zuckerberg straining, not always coherently, to grasp problems for which he was plainly unprepared. These are not technical puzzles to be cracked in the middle of the night but some of the subtlest aspects of human affairs, including the meaning of truth, the limits of free speech, and the origins of violence". I'd say that this is worth taking the time to read for anyone wanting to understand why Facebook acts the way it does.

Over 185,000 hacked MikroTik routers are being used to serve up pages with cryptomining scripts

A flaw in MikroTik routers has lead to a crafty hacker infecting over 185,000 of them to serve up error pages containing CoinHive's web-based cryptocurrency mining software. "Initial investigation indicates that instead of running a malicious executable on the router itself, which is how the exploit was being used when it was first discovered, the attacker used the device's functionality in order to inject the CoinHive script into every web page that a user visited". On one hand, it sucks someone is fucking around with people's devices, but on the other, it's bloody genius and I'm jealous of the pure rat cunning on display here. I hope that if you are the admin of MikroTik gear, this isn't the first you've heard of the flaw and have already patched your shit.

Cheap Bose QC35, Netgear R7000P router, Dell monitors, Synology NAS, Sony smart headunit

eBay has a large-ish 20% off sale going on again. Use the code POLLEN. Here's some Sizzle favourites:

That's it, see ya tomorrow!

Deftones - Change (In The House of Flies)