Issue 824

Tuesday, 26th February 2019

In This Issue


SEC alleges Elon Musk's latest tweet violates their agreement over his previous tweets

One of the conditions of Elon Musk's agreement with the SEC over his infamous "funding secured" tweet, was that any tweets containing potentially market-moving information are to be reviewed by Tesla's lawyers before going out to the world. Well, Elon recently tweeted that Tesla was going to make 500,000 cars in 2019, but Tesla's told the stock market they're only going to make 400,000. Because of that, the SEC has asked a Federal judge to hold Elon in contempt for violating the terms of their agreement. When combined with Elon's 60 Minutes interview where he said "I do not respect the SEC", there's probably a strong case to be made that he's not adhering to the agreement (tweets aren't being checked) and should be punished further.

Facebook's moderation team endure a horror show of humanity every day and it's frying their brains

Over on The Verge, Casey Newton has reported on the shitshow of Facebook's attempt to moderate their platform. These people are going through hell viewing the worst things humanity has to offer. Murders, rapes, suicides, you name it, they've seen it. Many moderators are suffering PTSD, or get hooked on drugs or sex to cope and are micromanaged to an inch of their lives to meet Facebook's daily changes in moderation policy - all in return for US$15/hr. There's even moderators who have been sucked in to 9/11, Flat Earth or Holocaust conspiracy theories due to watching so many garbage videos to judge if they should be allowed to remain on Facebook. If Facebook just closed down, if it went away entirely - would we as society really lose much that couldn't be replaced with smaller scale online communities? I don't think so.

Microsoft employees protest against HoloLens military use, CEO says too bad

Microsoft's employees aren't happy that 100,000 new HoloLens 2 headsets will be used by a US military looking for a "single platform that provides its forces with "increased lethality, mobility and situational awareness" in combat". Satya Nadella responded saying that Microsoft's made "a principled decision that we're not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy". I kinda get what Satya's saying here (I'd rather Microsoft co-operate with the US govt than say, Chinese or Russian), but man, imagine being the engineers who worked on HoloLens and knowing it's gonna be used to train soldiers to kill. That's gotta crush your spirits. If you wanted to work on death machine accessories you'd go work for Raytheon or BAE or whatever, not Microsoft.

Google and Facebook respond to ACCC algorithm inquiry with "leave us alone"

Google and Facebook have each responded to the ACCC's preliminary report into digital platforms and they're pretty much what you'd expect: there's nothing wrong, but if there was, we already do enough to stop it, why are you doing this, leave us alone. Facebook said that while they agree there could be more transparency around the algorithms used to determine what's shown on user's news feeds, there's no reason why the government should get involved in regulating if that algorithm is fair. Google doesn't even agree there is a lack of transparency, saying "we already provide extensive guidance on search ranking, including our 164-page Search quality rater guidelines, and the How Search Works guide. And, of course, Google Search results are open for all to see". This is gonna be a spicy meatball once the report lands later in June. Would the government really set up an "algorithm regulator"?

Researchers were able to identify people based on public Australian census data

Speaking of algorithms, "researchers from Macquarie University uncovered a vulnerability in the Census data visualisation tool that would have allowed individuals to be re-identified through their responses". The flaw is part of TableBuilder, a tool from the ABS for people to create tables, graphs and maps of census data. To protect people's privacy, this tool adds "noise distributed within a bounded range (possibly undisclosed)", but that noise algorithm was pissweak and researchers could identify individuals with "probability of more than 95 percent with only 200 queries". The ABS has said they've fixed this "exploit" now, so there's nothing to fear citizen, return to your regular activities. If you're keen for specifics, here's the research paper: Averaging Attacks on Bounded Perturbation Algorithms.

Not News, But Still Cool

Energizer announces 18,000mAh battery pack with bonus attached smartphone

Are you one of those people always complaining that their smartphone hasn't got enough battery to last a day? I have just the product for you - Energizer's 18,000mAh battery with a phone slapped on top. For comparison, the battery in the Samsung S10 is 3,400mAh, so this thing would have roughly 5 times the battery life of a a Samsung S10. The phone itself though is kinda shit, with a Mediatek SoC and probably zero updates down the line. It's a big unit too, as it's literally an 18,000mAh battery pack with a phone on top. Energizer hasn't released size specs for the Power Max P18K Pop, but going by other 18,000mAh batteries, it's gonna weigh at least 400g.

Finally, a hands-on review of the Huawei Mate X folding smartphone

Vlad Savov got this hands on the Huawei Mate X - I think the first person outside Huawei or Samsung to touch one of those folding phones announced as MWC this week. Some notes from his hands-on time: it's a plastic screen, not glass (has to be so it can fold), but feels very similar to glass so there's no issues with tactile response. There are questions around durability though, as the plastic isn't as hard as glass to resist scratches and will the hinge portion of the display wear out with repeated use? Screen quality is great though, as good as any other modern smartphone. The software transition from folded to open is smooth, but it's unknown how 3rd party apps will handle it. Overall it seems to me like the Mate X doesn't suck and could be a great early adopter device.

My amazing, must-read review of the fascinating Epson ET-M1120 EcoTank monochrome inkjet printer

I reviewed a printer over on Reckoner recently - yeah, a printer. Like the article's introduction says, Epson's PR approached me to review the ET-M1120 (same PR also does D-Link and I receive their gear to review for magazines like PC PowerPlay and Australian Personal Computer) and really wanted to see what a monochrome inkjet printer that Epson claims is cheaper to run than a laser would be like. Doing the math (it's in the article, read it if you care), yeah, per page the Epson ET-M1120 with it's $25 bottles of ink is a bee's dick cheaper than a laser, but the printer itself costs twice as much as a cheap laser! If you use eBay consumables (toner & drum) for the laser, you end up at virtually the same cost per page and with way better print quality. So there ya go, I hope you enjoyed this printer review.

That's it, see ya tomorrow!

 Serve the Servants - Nirvana