Issue 796

Wednesday, 16th January 2019

In This Issue


It's now mandatory for US federal agencies to make all non-sensitive data machine readable

Donald Trump just signed a bill into law that isn't a piece of crap! The OPEN Government Data Act basically says that all non-sensitive data a government department has must be published in a machine-readable format. This is really, really cool. I'm sure there's people reading this who have had an idea but been stifled by the lack of data available to feed into an app or website. It will be interesting to see what US government agencies determine as "non-sensitive", as it could be loosely applied to stuff that they just can't be bothered digitising or make public. The Act only applies to federal agencies, so the lower levels of government don't have to play along.

Overseas ecommerce sites dodging their GST obligations might be geoblocked in Australia

The Australian government is considering using its site blocking powers to stop Australians from accessing overseas retailers dodging GST on items under $1000, by saying a $150 thing is only $3 or so. Hey stop laughing! That's literally what Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash has said in a letter to the Treasurer - "it is open to the Commonwealth to request internet service providers disrupt access to specified online services by blocking the offending website(s)". The small business and family enterprise ombudsman Kate Carnell reckons that it's a logical plan because it's too hard for Border Force to look at every package and assess if the declared value are correct. As funny as this is to you and I, I bet this makes perfect sense in their big brains.

This company figured out how to harvest enough electricity from ambient RF to power a Bluetooth stack

A company called Wiliot has come up with a way to "harvest energy from the ambient radio frequencies around us, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular signals, and use them to power a Bluetooth-equipped ARM processor that can be connected to a variety of sensors". Pretty nifty! Some examples of the things Wiliot reckons it could be used for include being placed on a "clothing label and used to communicate the optimal settings to a washing machine" or combined with weight or temperature sensors. It'll ship in limited numbers this year, before becoming "widely available" in 2020.

DuckDuckGo is using Apple Maps now

DuckDuckGo has switched from using MapBox (Google Maps plus a mashup of other providers like OSM & Here) for their location needs, over to Apple Maps. They claim it improves privacy versus other mapping solutions but unfortunately don't explain the improvements. In practice, this means searches done in DuckDuckGo that have a location based aspect to it (i.e: the name of a shop or restaurant) will now be provided Apple Maps in your browser via the MapKit JS framework. I gave it a quick shot on Firefox and yeah, it's the Apple Maps you know and have a love/hate relationship with, but on the web.

Two bits of iPhone related battery news

Apple's got new battery cases for the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR. Same humpback design as before, same expensive price tag ($199! For a battery case!), but the official Apple ones support wireless charging and fast charging with a high powered USB-C charger. On the topic of Apple and batteries, Tim Cook let loose at an "all-hands meeting" to discuss its revenue expectations drop, that Apple replaced 11 million iPhone batteries under the $29 replacement program. That's a lot of batteries.

Not News, But Still Cool

Consumer grade cryptocurrency mining is dead

The arse has fallen out of cryptocurrency mining hardware prices. Specialised mainboards with dozens of PCIe slots used to sell for hundreds of dollars only a few months ago. Now they're under $100. The metal frames/chassis that people slapped dozens of graphics cards on to are basically being given away at half the price they were selling for during the early-2018 peak. The biggest drop however, are graphics cards. They were in such short supply that cards like the RX580 were selling for twice what they are now. Even Nvidia's stock price took a hit now that demand for GPUs is cooling.

Everything on the internet is fake

Pretty much everything on the internet is fake. The metrics used to measure the massive online advertising industry - fake. Facebook can't even put out accurate data on who views what and for how long. The people on the internet - fake. There's click farms full of "real people" who are paid just to click on ads they don't care about on an industrial scale to earn money for app developers who make apps for the specific purpose of displaying ads! The content online, you guessed it - fake. YouTube's full of ripped off content, there's deepfakes popping up and everyone's trying to flog you crap.

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That's it, see ya tomorrow!

 (Rock) Superstar - Cypress Hill