Issue 725

Monday, 17th September 2018

In This Issue


ACCC cracks down (again) on telcos offering "unlimited" data plans

Have you noticed mobile telcos suddenly offering "unlimited" 4G plans? Whilst they're technically unlimited in that you can download as much as you like, the fact you're shaped to a pathetic and almost useless 1.5Mbps doesn't really reflect what most normal people would accept as unlimited downloads. The ACCC realised this and investigated Optus, Vodafone and Telstra's use of the term unlimited. Since then, "all three retailers ceased using the headline claim of 'unlimited' to advertise their mobile data services" and have been put on notice that if they get back on their "unlimited" download bullshit, without actually offering unlimited, condition-free downloads, the ACCC will fine them tens of millions of dollars. God bless the ACCC (sometimes).

Sony's automated content filtering is very annoying

James Rhodes uploaded a nice video of himself playing some classical tunes by Bach to Facebook, however, Facebook's "oi don't upload copyrighted material you don't have permission for, ya filthy pirate" automated filter decided to remove the audio from James' video and sent him a message saying his "video matches 47 seconds of audio owned by Sony Music Entertainment". James appealed it using Facebook's built-in mechanisms for doing so, stating that his original recording of Bach is not owned by Sony. They denied the appeal and James' video remained mute - until James got 2,000+ retweets about this mess and Sony changed their mind. As the linked article surmises, "this kind of mistake is a predictable consequence of automated content filtering".

Cold-boot hacking attacks are back in fashion

A cold-boot attack is where some extremely keen to steal your data literally freezes the RAM in a computer (like, sprays compressed air on the RAM) to retain its contents even when the computer is off. To work around it, a bunch of OEMs made a thing that overwrites the contents of RAM when the power is turned back on, aka "MORLock". Unfortunately for those at risk of such an attack, "Security researchers Olle Segerdahl and Pasi Saarinen of F-Secure found a way to reprogram the non-volatile part of the memory chip that stores the overwrite instruction; thus, they were able to disable this action and enable booting from an external device (USB stick) to extract and analyze the data available in RAM". All computers are impacted by this attack, except Macs using the T2 chip (iMac Pro & 2018 MBPs).

Visiting this website will crash your iOS device

On the topic of shitty computers, Sabri Haddouche found a way to crash an iOS device simply by making someone visit a webpage with a bit of dodgy HTML & CSS in it. "The bug affects any iOS device that can interpret the background-filter effect, something which was first introduced in iOS 7. Essentially, the few lines of CSS apply a computed blur effect to every div element on the page. The accompanying HTML includes a lot of div elements. The computationally-expensive drawing overloads the WebKit renderer and the system cannot recover other than to kernel panic, crash to the Apple logo, and reboot". The 9to5 Mac article has a link to the crashy code if you wanna see it for yourself.

Amazon employees have been taking bribes to alter product reviews & hand out customer info

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese (mostly) sellers on Amazon's marketplace have been bribing Amazon employees to do them favours for them. "Middlemen use social media sites like WeChat to track down Amazon employees, offering them cash to turn over internal information or to delete negative reviews. The WSJ also reports that it costs roughly $300 to take down a bad review, with brokers "[demanding] a five-review minimum" per transaction. Amazon employees have also been asked to provide e-mail addresses of customers who left negative reviews, or to provide sales information to give sellers an edge against their competitors". Amazon reckons they've upped the amount of logging and auditing on this info so employees can be caught if the bribes get too good to resist again in the future.

Not News, But Still Cool

Another lesson in why stuff you buy off iTunes doesn't belong to you

Anders Gonçalves da Silva cracked the shits when a few movies he purchased could not be re-downloaded from iTunes after a move from Australia to Canada. His argument is that he paid good money to "own" to content, so why can't he re-download it? What's it matter which country he purchased it from? Apple responded that its merely the shop front and the content owner is no longer allowing iTunes to sell that movie in the Canada, so you can't re-download it. According to 9to5 Mac, "the issue seemingly relates to there being different versions of films between iTunes stores. da Silva owned the Australian version of the three movies in question, but not the Canadian versions. Had he downloaded them prior making the move, he would have been able to access them". What a goddamn mess, I hate contents right issues. Same goes for music disappearing off Apple Music. At least when I pirate something it stays goddamn put.

The BBC found a way to make internet video streaming latency the same as TV

One of the shitty things about relying on WatchAFL to view the footy, is the latency between what's happening at the ground and what you see on the screen. It's happened to me multiple times that my Dad has sent me an SMS saying North Melbourne lost by under a goal, but I'm 2 minutes behind, in a fantasy land where North can still kick a winning goal. The boffins at the BBC also hate this and came up with a way to stream video over the internet in 4K with the same delay as their digital TV service. It gets kinda technical, but basically, the BBC is making tweaks along every portion of the MPEG DASH pipeline so those with faster connections can leverage it, instead of trying to accommodate for the lowest common denominator.

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That's it, see ya tomorrow!

Death From Above 1979 - Romantic Rights