Issue 1391 - Tuesday 22nd June, 2021

A quick heads up about an online event next week that the fine people at Electronic Frontiers Australia are running. Justin Warren (big nerd) and lawyer Angus Murray (a lawyer) will discuss all those shitty laws I mention here that government is running up the flagpole lately. Should be a good time if you want to learn more about this sorta thing. Register now!

In Today's Issue

The News

Victorian police dipped their toes into the COVID check-in data pool

Victorian cops have tried to access COVID-related check-in data at leat three times in December according to info provided at a parliamentary inquiry. Unlike their WA counterparts, they were unable to actually get the data from either the Health Department or Service Victoria because they needed a warrant and didn't do that. Also unlike WA, the Victorian police minister has said they won't be making a law to prevent the use of check-in data, as he "he wanted the option to remain available to authorities in serious cases". The Service Victoria app even lies about keeping all data on your device, when it actually uploads everything to their servers. Nice way to undermine public trust ya fuckwits.

Tesla claims to have the world's 5th fastest computer for Autopilot training

Tesla told the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition that it has the world's 5th fastest computer - they call it Dojo. It uses that massive computing power to suck in all the footage Tesla vehicles on the road send back and analyse them to train its AI/ML beast for vision based self driving. Tesla doesn't submit it's computer to the Top500 benchmark program so we kinda have to take Tesla's word for it that it is that fast. Serve The Home reckons Tesla have 720 nodes consisting of 8x Nvidia A100 GPUs, for a total of 5760 GPUs, along with 10 petabytes of NVMe storage that can operate at 1.6 terabits per second. Yeah, that's a fast computer. Imagine mining crypto on that thing. Probably make more money in the short term compared to selling cars!

Texans didn't know their smart thermostats were enrolled in energy demand response program

A bunch of people in Texas were unaware their fancy smart thermostats (e.g: Google Nest units) were enrolled in a demand response trial and cracked the shits when their ACs were set to a balmy 25.5-degrees Celsius by the trial operator in order to conserve power during a time of peak demand. It just lasted 3 hours and was easy to un-enrol from so it doesn't happen again, but it caused a fair bit of outrage over there. We've had similar tech going for a while in Australia. It's called DRED (Demand Response Enable Device) and at least in QLD, they run a cash-back program for people to install AC units with DRED support. Get familiar with it, as this kinda thing is a popular way to avoid costly network upgrades just to support peak demand for a few days a year.

Something I Saw On The Internet

An interesting way to repurpose an old broken smartphone as a backup server

Think about all those smartphones thrown in the bin, sent to recycling or sitting idle in a drawer because the OS is old, has a cracked screen, the camera stuffed or the battery exhausted. There's a perfectly good computer trapped in those busted phones, with gigabytes of RAM, highly efficient multi-core CPUs and high speed wi-fi. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to use those powerful computers for something rather than letting them rot? Hannah Lee decided to use theirs as a backup server running Debian and UrBackup. Hannah admits it's not an elegant solution, but I like the concept of repurposing old smartphones, particularly with newer ones having USB-C


The End

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