Google's management may have said that it's stopped development on a Chinese version of its search engine codenamed Dragonfly, but Google's employees reckon that's bullshit. According to The Information, a group of employees has "identified ongoing work on a batch of code that is associated with the China search engine", with hundreds of lines of code modified in a repository associated with the Chinese specific apps, plus "some 100 workers allocated to the "cost center" associated with Dragonfly, meaning that the company is maintaining a budget for potential ongoing work on the plan". Seems clear that Google's saying one thing in public to make the issue go away in the media because they're super sensitive about how they're perceived, but doing the opposite internally because they want to get those juicy Chinese ad dollars.
Fresh from announcing USB 3.2 last week, the USB Promoter Group has announced USB 4. Don't get too excited though, as it's just Thunderbolt 3 re-branded, with 40 Gbit/sec bandwidth and a USB Type-C connector, fully backwards compatible with previous USB specs. The full spec comes out in mid-2019, but now that Thunderbolt 3 is an "open" specification, anyone can technically make hardware that supports TB3/USB4. Intel's adding it to their upcoming CPUs so there won't be a need for an OEM to include additional hardware either. If there's a USB Type-C socket and the CPU supports USB4, you get all 40 Gbit/sec of goodness. The shits bits of USB 3.2 (the cable/port combination & capability crapshoot) remain though.
In December last year, Canada passed Bill C-76, which "requires online platforms to keep a registry of all political and partisan ads they directly or indirectly publish. The penalties for not doing so include fines and possible jail time". As Canada's federal election draws near, Google decided it's not technically capable of setting up and maintaining a registry of who advertises via its platform, so Google's just going to ban political ads entirely. Google reckons because its advertising system is automated, it just can't adhere to the law and can't even tell what ads are political or not. Welcome to regulation Google, enjoy it as more of it is coming, all over the world.
Off the back of Spotify buying Gimlet for US$230m, Luminary Media has popped up (I've never heard of em either) with the "Netflix of podcasts". Pay US$8/m and get access to exclusive podcasts from Lena Dunham, Conan O'Brien, Malcolm Gladwell and Trevor Noah. The shows will be ad free and will only be available in Luminary's app. No RSS feed you can dump in Pocketcasts or whatever. It'll be interesting to watch the podcast industry of the next few years to see if podcast piracy starts to be a thing. It's one thing to pay for a bunch of shows I want to hear individually, but lets say 4 or 5 of these podcast platforms pop up with only 1 or 2 shows each I want to hear. It could be easier and cheaper just to pirate the media and play it all in Plex.
I don't know what caused this to come back up in the news lately, but it's worth mentioning again anyways: Facebook is using the phone number you provide them for two factor authentication for things other than two factor authentication - like ad targeting and as a way for other users to find you. Facebook sucks you in by saying they need your number to improve account security (which is true), but then makes it so all your friends can find you via your phone number too, with no way to disable it. If you run a Facebook page that gets semi-popular, you don't even get the option, 2FA is mandatory. Facebook doesn't make it obvious because they want your phone number, but you can use a hardware token or a code generator app instead if you need to keep using Facebook but don't want to hand over your phone number.
A few of you liked that outdoor 4G router I linked to yesterday so I thought I'd also mention a cheaper unit I found on Aliexpress - the Yeacomm YF-P11. It's only $135 delivered, but there's no wi-fi, the enclosure isn't as robust (plastic instead of metal), there's no external antenna sockets, the PoE adapter doesn't have an AU plug and the LTE radio band coverage isn't as extensive (but still pretty good). You can hook up a Ubiquiti or TP-Link outdoor wi-fi access point pretty easily to get wi-fi if you need it. Might even be able to change the modem inside the unit if you want an upgrade. I want to buy one just to mess around with but my gadget budget is very low these days - so if you get one, let me know!
Marc Köhlbrugge has created an experimental chat room where you pay one US cent for every letter you publish. That sentence would have cost me US$0.88 - A$1.24. Type in a message, chuck in your credit card number via Stripe and your card is charged once a day depending on how many letters you spit out. Right now it's people just fucking around and not very active. I can see Edem, who paid 38c to say "Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is the best phone now!" and Hoiancity Travel who paid 21c to say "hello anyone from Korea?" - thrilling stuff. There's also a leaderboard of who's paid the most money, that also contains a link. The leader is "MINSK-промокаршеринг" who is linking to "jeiskeh.by" and I'm not game enough to click it.
That's it, see ya tomorrow!