Episode 468 – Aussie Tech Heads Shownotes

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Optus fined for false NBN speed claims

$51,000 fine for misleading claims that its HFC network offered “NBN-like-speeds”.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said that between January and August, Optus advertised plans offering download/upload speeds of 30/2 Mbps that were comparable to NBN speeds.

The advertised plans are significantly lower than on the NBN network, which ranges from 50/20 Mbps to 100/40 Mbps.

Optus has agreed not to use the term “NBN-like-speeds” in its advertising, and acknowledged that it may have contravened Australian consumer law. Optus also agreed to refund customers their startup fees and cancel their contracts at no cost if they purchased plans when the offer was advertised.

In 2011, Optus agreed to transfer its HFC network to NBN for $800 million. However, leaked NBN documents revealed last month said the network was in such a degraded state that the national network builder was considering replacing Optus’s network for an additional $375 million.


Teachers in line for $37m as court rules on laptop scheme

The federal court has ordered the Victorian government to repay teachers $37 million after its scheme to make teachers lease laptops from the education department was found to be unlawful.

Last month the federal court ruled that the scheme was illegal under the Fair Work Act, which prohibits employers from forcing staff to spend money on a specifc product or service if it is unreasonable.

Under the scheme, teachers were restricted from bringing in their own devices, and instead made to lease laptops from the department.

It charged between $4 and $17 per fortnight for the machines, which was automatically taken out of teacher salaries. The agency operated under a standard four-year lease agreement.

The Victorian government today said it would not appeal the court’s decision given laptops were an essential tool for teachers.

It agreed to pay back $37 million to 46,000 of the state’s teachers.

The move has potential implications for other jurisdictions across the country, as NSW and Western Australia operate similar laptop leasing programs.


Short supply of Surface stock slows channel expansion

The popularity of the latest Microsoft Surface devices has led to supply shortages for Australian resellers.

Stock of the latest model, the Surface Pro 4, is constrained for the Surface Authorised Device Resellers,

Both JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman currently have limited availability of Surface Pro 4 SKUs. None of the Intel Core i7 models were available for immediate order from Harvey Norman, while only the 8GB RAM i7 was available from JB Hi-Fi.

The new Microsoft Store in Sydney was last week still taking orders on certain Surface Pro 4 models, both the 128GB and 256GB i5 models as well as the entry-level 128GB m3.

Microsoft’s online store had all models except the 256GB Core i7 model with 16GB RAM.


Facebook enters transport business with Uber

The new service means Messenger users will be able to ask for an Uber vehicle without leaving the Facebook software.

Users will not need to download the Uber app separately.

“Uber on Messenger” began in parts of the US this week, the two firms said.

The companies announced their new venture via separate blogs.

Facebook has some 1.5 billion users globally and Uber is the world’s biggest driver-hailing app in terms of financing.

Facebook’s Messenger app has some 700 million users worldwide.

Uber was founded six years ago. It has operations in about 60 countries


Uber legal in NSW, taxi owners to be compensated

More than 50 taxi and hire care regulations have been immediately repealed.

About 5800 perpetual plate owners will be given a $20,000 flat fee for the plate ownership, with multiple plate owners able to claim for a maximum of two plates.

A compensation fund budgeted at $250 million will be distributed on a case-by-case basis for plate owners who purchased them recently

The legalisation of the controversial cab service will mean traditional taxis will still have the exclusive right to pick up passengers from ranks and off the street, and will have exclusive access to Sydney Airport. (How they gunna know)

Uber drivers will now have to pay a licence fee and undergo criminal checks, as well as regularly get their cars checked for safety.

the changes mean a $30 million reduction in regulatory costs for the industry.


Netflix to offer better-looking streams and reduce data usage by up to 20 per cent

making a tweak to the way it encodes its content.

Since 2011, members of the Netflix video algorithm team have been working to revamp the encoding technology, which currently selects a certain bitrate for all titles based on the internet connection available.

The new approach will see streaming giant running analysis on each individual title to determine how it should be encoded based on its complexity.

writing on its blog “Imagine having very involved action scenes that need more bits to encapsulate the information versus unchanging landscape scenes or animation that need less,”

Under the previous encoding method, low-bandwidth conditions would have seen an animation like BoJack Horseman playing in the same quality as something complex, like House of Cards streaming in 1080p.

However, because the animation is less visually complex than the television show, the new approach will allow it to be streamed at a higher resolution for the same bitrate.

White House of Cards would remain the same quality under low-bandwidth, Netflix said under a faster condition, it would also improve because it would be encoded at a higher maximum bitrate than it is currently.

The change is expected to be implemented early next year.


Australia’s banks sign up to Android Pay

ANZ Bank, Westpac, ING Direct, Macquarie Bank, St George, Bank of Melbourne, Bank of South Australia and Bendigo Bank will all support the Android payment service when it lands in Australia in the first half of next year.

At launch, Android Pay will support Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards, Google said in a blog post today. The company is currently “working with Eftpos” on similar support.

Commonwealth Bank already provides a market-leading mobile wallet experience through the CommBank app NAB is also not listed as an initial Android Pay partner. It declined to comment

Negotiations have been underway since the payments service was announced last year, but banks are holding back over the cut of transaction fees Apple is pushing for.

It is understood Apple wants around $0.15 of the $0.83 interchange fees banks get for every $100 worth of transactions they process on customer Visa or Mastercards, similar to what Apple gets in the US.

But interchange fees in the US are much higher, Australia’s banks argue, and are refusing to budge.

Google and Android Pay, on the other hand, is understood not to demand a cut of the interchange fee of transactions.


Tax Office to spend $189m banishing the paper group certificate

Single touch payroll to hit employers in 2018.

The effort aims to give employers the ability to automatically exchange payroll information and superannuation payments with the tax man via their own accounting software.

The information will then be pre-populated into individual’s electronic tax returns via the ATO database.

To ease the transition, the ATO is offering small businesses a $100 tax offset to pay for standard business reporting enabled software in 2017-18 and help them manage their accounts according to the government’s accounting standards.

The crusade against paper will also catch the tax file number declarations handed out to employees


Microsoft apologises, partly restores OneDrive cloud quotas

Blaming users who backed up entire computers, DVD and movie collections to OneDrive, Microsoft said last month it would decrease free OneDrive storage from 15GB to just 5GB, and also remove the free 15GB camera roll offering for photographs, and the unlimited storage option.

The decision did not go down well, and over the weekend, Microsoft said it had introduced a new offer that allows OneDrive users to keep their existing 15GB of storage and camera roll bonus.

Users who wish to keep their free storage must, however, opt in at a special site and log in with their Microsoft accounts, otherwise capacity reductions will still go ahead in January.

New OneDrive users will be limited to just 5GB of storage with no 15GB camera roll bonus from next year. Microsoft will also not restore the unlimited storage option for OneDrive.

Microsoft group program manager Douglas Pearce said Office 365 Home, personal and university subscribers


Next Byte brand to disappear as Apple reseller shuts down

Apple reseller Next Byte will cease to exist from next March when its parent company closes the doors of the last storefront in a surrender to the retailer’s long struggle to compete against Apple outlets.

The Next Byte brand has underperformed financially over the last few years as Apple increased its physical apple-stores-in-australia


Fans’ first glimpse of Star Wars: The Force Awakens: ‘A sacred experience’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is widely expected the break the current UK box office revenue record, currently held by Skyfall.

Microsoft backflips on OneDrive cloud storage cut

By

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian freelance technology journalist with a passion for gadgets and the “digital lounge room”.

Microsoft is giving back the 10GB of free only storage it took away from users last month. Photo: Michael Nakamura

Microsoft giveth, Microsoft taketh away, everyone complains so Microsoft giveth back.

In a world where free online storage is pretty much taken for granted, Microsoft made the surprising move last month of scaling back the storage it offers to OneDrive users. The unlimited cloud storage offered to Office 365 subscribers was wound back to a more manageable 1TB, with the change set to take place next year. Meanwhile the 15GB allowance for free accounts was slashed to 5GB and the camera roll upload allowance scrapped.

After a major outcry from users, Microsoft has backflipped on one of these decisions. The 1TB limit for Office 365 subscribers still stands, which is understandable considering that it was always going to be abused. Instead Microsoft has reinstated the 15GB allowance for free accounts, along with another 15GB for camera roll uploads.

This puts OneDrive back on par with the 15GB of free storage offered by Google Drive, except that you’re entitled to unlimited image storage via Google Photos. Meanwhile you get 5GB for free from Apple’s iCloud or 2GB from Dropbox, which boosts you storage allowance if you use the photo import tools. All of these services offer extra storage if you throw a few dollars at them.

The exemptions for online photo storage are handy but approach these features with caution. If you’re automatically uploading images from your mobile devices then you need to keep a close eye on your 3G/4G mobile data usage. Check for the option to only upload images when you’re on Wi-Fi.

To get your free 15GB back from Microsoft you have to opt-in to the new deal, which sounds reasonable but is bit of a sneaky tactic which will ensure that many people don’t get the full storage they’re entitled to. If Microsoft really was as sorry as it claims to be then the change would automatically be applied to every account.

Can you make do with free online storage limits or do you hand over a few bucks? Which cloud storage service wins your business?

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/gadgets-on-the-go/microsoft-backflips-on-onedrive-cloud-storage-cut-20151214-glmxax.html#ixzz3uHz7nnOB

Netflix to offer better-looking streams and reduce data usage by up to 20 per cent

NETFLIX is on the verge of rolling out a change that promises to offer better-looking streams, while also reducing data usage by up to 20 per cent.

The streaming service will achieve this by making a tweak to the way it encodes its content.

Since 2011, members of the Netflix video algorithm team have been working to revamp the encoding technology, which currently selects a certain bitrate for all titles based on the internet connection available.

The new approach will see streaming giant running analysis on each individual title to determine how it should be encoded based on its complexity.

“Imagine having very involved action scenes that need more bits to encapsulate the information versus unchanging landscape scenes or animation that need less,” Netflix wrote on its tech blog.

“This allows us to deliver the same or better experience while using less bandwidth.”

So essentially, per-title encoding will allow for the best content available based on the speed of the internet connection.

Under the previous encoding method, low-bandwidth conditions would have seen an animation like BoJack Horseman playing in the same quality as something complex, like House of Cards streaming in 1080p.

However, because the animation is less visually complex than the television show, the new approach will allow it to be streamed at a higher resolution for the same bitrate.

White House of Cards would remain the same quality under low-bandwidth, Netflix said under a faster condition, it would also improve because it would be encoded at a higher maximum bitrate than it is currently.

The change is expected to be implemented early next year.

From <http://www.news.com.au/technology/home-entertainment/tv/netflix-to-offer-betterlooking-streams-and-reduce-data-usage-by-up-to-20-per-cent/news-story/47ba344eeaea09fdf5c318ea20c3fc99>

Apple has a secret laboratory where it’s developing thinner and brighter iPhone displays,

APPLE has opened up a new and secretive research lab in Taiwan to help with it’s never-ending quest to create even thinner devices.

There, a team of about 50 engineers are working tirelessly to develop new display technologies that would ultimately allow Apple to release products which are lighter, thinner, and more energy-efficient.

Located in the Longtan District of Taiwan, the report relays that Apple has already hired former engineers from AU Optronics and Qualcomm to help speed along development.

Of course, the focus of Apple’s latest R & D lab is on iPhones and iPads; if there’s a way to make then even thinner, Apple wants to be on top of it.

“Apple began operating the lab this year as it aims to make products thinner, lighter, brighter and more energy-efficient,” Bloomberg writes.

“Engineers are developing more-advanced versions of the liquid-crystal displays currently used in iPhones, iPads and Mac personal computers, the people said. Apple also is keen to move to organic light-emitting diodes, which are even thinner and don’t require a backlight, they said.”

An interesting wrinkle to Apple’s new research initiative is that it may further lessen Apple’s reliance on Samsung.

Your next iPhone will be thinner than this if Apple has anything do with it.Source:Getty Images

If Apple becomes more directly involved with the development of display technologies, outsourcing “to smaller manufacturers such as Taiwan’s AU Optronics or Innolux Corp.” may become a possibility.

Additionally, Apple-designed iOS displays would help further differentiate the company’s mobile products from rivals.

Also worth highlighting is the claim that Apple has an interest in OLED displays, a rumour which we’ve seen sprout up with increasing frequency over the past few weeks.

The most recent rumblings from the rumour mill suggest that Apple won’t make the transition to OLED displays until the iPhone 8, with the company already eyeing Samsung, Japan Display (a joint Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba venture), and LG as potential suppliers.

In fact, LG last month confirmed that it was investing a minimum of $8.4 billion into a new OLED plant set to begin operations in early 2018, just enough time for it to be ready for mass iPhone 8 production if Apple goes down that route.

While there are some drawbacks to OLED displays (they’re more expensive, colour saturation can dull over time), Apple is reportedly talking to suppliers about ways to address those issues.

On the plus side, OLED displays are thin and light, incredibly energy-efficient, and provide rich and vibrant colours.

Regardless, it seems clear that for as great as the iPhone and iPad displays already are, Apple isn’t resting on its laurels and is working hard to make them even better.

From <http://www.news.com.au/technology/gadgets/mobile-phones/apple-has-a-secret-laboratory-where-its-developing-thinner-and-brighter-iphone-displays/news-story/c5261617bed77bce14569ccfe1ee734c>

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Vodafone turns ‘Vodafail’ around

Three years ago Vodafone Hutchison Australia was dubbed “Vodafail” and was seen as a national punchline, with its network and customer service targeted by furious mobile users and comedic videos.

But under the leadership of Bill Morrow and his replacement Inaki Berroeta, the company started turning its fortunes around by spending billions of dollars on network investment and increasing the number of Australian call centre staff.

Now fresh data released by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman show that Vodafone Australia has gone from being the nation’s most hated phone company to one with some of the lowest complaint levels per capita. This is a vital point for a company looking to win back customers from Telstra and Singtel-Optus.

The Telecommunications Complaints in Context report for July to September 2015 showed that Vodafone Australia received 4.1 complaints per 10,000 services in operation. This is in stark contrast to the 12.2 it got in the same period in 2014.

By comparison, Telstra got 5.5 complaints per 10,000 services in operation, while Singtel-Optus got 6.7 in the three months ending September 2015. However, both of these companies have far more users and sell fixed-line as well as mobile services.

Vodafone Australia’s latest statistics fulfil a promise made by its director of customer service Errol van Graan in March to becomethe least-complained-about telco among mobile carriers by the end of 2015.

Best feedback

He told Fairfax Media some of his best feedback came from taxi drivers and fellow parents after they learned about where he worked.

“The TIO stats are a great achievement for our organisation,” he said. “But I’m going to school functions and barbecues, where customers are telling me, ‘Wow, the experience has really shifted at Vodafone’.

“There’s a significant shift in sentiment and people know that Vodafone is back . . . and I’m hoping a large portion of the customers have forgotten [about the problems] and are really focused on what’s happening currently.”

Vodafone Australia is still losing customers despite a pledge by its previous chief executive Mr Morrow to get positive subscriber growth by mid-2015. But the rate of decline has slowed and most analysts believe it will start winning back market share from 2016.

Independent network testing in October showed thatTelstra still has Australia’s best mobile network, followed by Optus in second place and Vodafone Australia in third. But all three players had improved compared to the year before.

Mr van Graan said there was plenty of work that still needed to be done when he joined Vodafone Australia in early 2015, after he moved from Telstra to work with Mr Berroeta. Both executives had spent time at Vodafone Romania.

A lot of work to be done

“The organisational turnaround was largely in place but in customer service there was a lot of work to be done in terms of the transformation,” he said.

Using insights from data analysis, getting constant feedback from customers and encouraging them to serve themselves via the internet and mobile apps were all helping to improve service levels, he said.

Vodafone Australia is also adopting techniques similar to those used at Telstra, where one staff member is responsible for a customer from their first call until problems are solved.

Many of the call centre workers are based in Hobart, Tasmania – a move the telco says is three times more expensive than basing them abroad.

Increased spending by Vodafone Australia and Singtel-Optus are a key reasonTelstra chief executive Andy Penn has pledged to spend more money, at the potential expense of profit margin, to offer a better network experience than his rivals.

Read more:http://www.smh.com.au/business/vodafone-turns-vodafail-around-20151217-glpppy.html#ixzz3uYuWeqhe

Follow us:@smh on Twitter |sydneymorningherald on Facebook

From <http://www.smh.com.au/business/vodafone-turns-vodafail-around-20151217-glpppy.html>

Shayne

MacKeeper discloses 13 million Mac users’ details with poor hash protection

  • Mac security software suite MacKeeper is recovering after a hack leaked millions of users’ personal information.

  • Kromtech, the software developer, confirmed that it had received notice of the hack yesterday, discovering a hole in its security which was exposing customer usernames, email addresses and other personal data for as much as 13 million users. According to Kromtech, the hole was patched within a matter of hours after security researcher Chris Vickery had published details of the error on Reddit over the weekend.

  • The German developer assured customers that there was no evidence that the data had been accessed by malicious third parties.

  • Analysis of our data storage system shows only one individual gained access performed by the security researcher himself,’ said Kromtech in a statement posted yesterday. ‘We have been in communication with Chris and he has not shared or used the data inappropriately.’

  • Vickery, who had been unfamiliar with both MacKeeper and Kromtech, explained that he had discovered the security fault by browsing the connected devices search engine Shodan.io. In a moment of boredom, Vickery said he randomly entered a search for ‘port:27017’ – a default gateway for the database management system MongoDB.

  • The random search returned four separate IP addresses linked to Kromtech. These offered public access to stores of customer information without the need for username or password authentication.

  • It is not clear how the hole came about, and Kromtech is yet to provide any comment explaining its occurrence.

US, China reach cyberespionage agreement

  • The U.S. and China have reached their first ever cybercrime and cyberespionage agreement, but the deal is quite general and how it will translate into actions is still unclear.

  • Leaders of both countries announced the deal in Washington on Friday after two days of top-level talks, but both dodged questions on specific hacking incidents or the indictment last year by the U.S. of five Chinese military hackers for cybercrimes.

  • “We have agreed that either the U.S. or the Chinese government will conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage,” President Obama said at a White House news conference.

  • The deal also seeks to improve cooperation between law enforcement in both countries on cyber investigations.

  • Chinese President Xi endorsed the deal and acknowledged that disagreements between the two countries over hacking were something to be avoided.

  • “The question now is, are words followed by actions. We will be watching carefully to make an assessment as to whether progress has been made in this area,” Obama said.

  • Neither leader addressed a question about whether China would hand over hacking suspects to the U.S. Last year’s indictment of the five accused military hackers illustrated that without an agreement on extradition, such moves were more symbolic than anything else.

  • Obama, indicated that the U.S. remains ready to act against Chinese cyberattacks while working with the Chinese government.

  • The two governments also said they would work together to try and establish international “rules of the road” for conduct in cyberspace.

Multiple US Airlines Ban Hoverboards Because They Keep Catching On Fire

  • The three largest airlines in America — American, Delta, and United — put hoverboards on the no-fly list this week. The decision came after multiple reports of the gadgets bursting into flames without warning. Obviously, spontaneous combustion and planes do not mix.

  • In addition to these three, both JetBlue and British Airways have banned people from bringing hoverboards on planes.

  • This week, Overstock.com announced that it would no longer be selling hoverboards due to safety risks.

  • On Thursday, the US Consumer Safety Protection Commission (CSPC) told Gizmodothat it has 10 active fire investigations in nine states.

  • Sadly, a hoverboard-related death was also reported this week. In London, a 15-year-old boy was struck by a bus while riding a hoverboard on Thursday night. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

  • Not sure why they are called Hoverboards either.

Why Pandora Shares Are Going Crazy

  • Music listening service Pandora saw a dramatic dip and then a dramatic 22% spike in after-hours trading Wednesday, as investors learned of the royalty rate decision.

  • Investors had been waiting all year for the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision, which determines how much Pandora and other digital radio services, including iHeartRadio, will be paying artists for the next five years. They settled on 17 cents per 100 song plays for non-subscribers, up from 14 cents for every 100 songs. The rate is 22 cents for every 100 songs played by subscribers.

  • While this will be more expensive for the unprofitable company, Pandora investors were bracing for a worst-case scenario, which is why the shares are trading up on the news. Some in the music industry had been asking for at least 25 cents for every 100 songs.

  • Unlike Spotify and Apple Music which negotiate with record labels directly, Pandora is subject to a flat fee across the board because it is considered a radio service.

  • The new rates will go into effect on January 1st

 

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