Episode 562 – Aussie Tech Heads Shownotes

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Apple to pay $20 billion in back tax to Ireland

The European Commission said the record sum was the result of Apple receiving unfair tax incentives from Ireland.

More than a year after the EU order, Dublin’s slow pace in recovering the money has landed it in court. Ireland is now seeking an investment manager and a custodian to operate the account and expects to appoint both next month.

“We expect the money will begin to be transmitted into the account from Apple across the first quarter of next year.”

Both Dublin and Apple have challenged the EU order.

Amazon finally launched in Australia this week

20 product categories, including including books, video games, consumer electronics, sports & outdoors, tools, toys, home improvement, beauty, clothing & accessories, shoes and Amazon’s own devices like Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Sticks.

 

The store already has a large range of IT and electronics on sale from some of the largest vendors in the channel, including Acer, Asus, HP, Huawei, Intel and Microsoft.

mazon will offer free delivery to customers that purchase its own devices on orders above $49, and will have one-day delivery in some areas.

Amazon’s Australian orders will be fulfilled out of the company’s centre in Dandenong South in Victoria. Amazon said it already has more than 1000 employees in Australia across offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra.

 
 

ACCC awards $6.5 million contract for broadband speeds monitoring program

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will be recording broadband speeds across 4000 Australian homes over the next four years.

The regulator awarded UK-based SamKnows a $6.5 million deal to deliver its Measuring Broadband Australia program, following an open tender.

more than 8000 households sign up to take part in the program

About 2000 households will receive testing devices during the program’s first year, with the results of the speed tests to be reported publicly in 2018.

Sad poop emoji gets flushed after row

The symbol was floated as one of many to be introduced in 2018, but it angered typographers who said it was “embarrassing” to the group.

The Unicode Consortium pushes out a central list of emoji so that they show up properly on different devices.

It said changes to the “pile of poo” emoji had not been totally dumped.

While the Unicode Consortium curates the standard list of emoji, it is up to individual phone and app-makers to design what they look like.

Also being considered as emojis for 2018 are:

  • people with red hair, curly hair, grey hair and no hair
  • a badger, llama, peacock and lobster
  • a mango, cupcake and bagel
  • an abacus, microbe and DNA

 

Facebook, Google left out of Aussie safe harbour copyright changes

The federal government this week unveiled legislation that would extend copyright safe harbour provisions to a range of parties, but has left online platforms including Google and Facebook off the list.

The government has spent the past seven months consulting on a potential expansion of safe harbour laws to cover a broader number of parties outside of just internet service providers.

Copyright safe harbour provisions – which prevent intermediaries from being held accountable for their users’ actions – currently only apply to internet service providers, leaving the likes of Google and Facebook in legal uncertainty.

Rights holders have long argued against having the safe harbour scheme extended to the likes of Google and Facebook.

The exclusion of Google and Facebook will be considered a win for rights holders, who say they are forced to engage in expensive battles to have infringing content taken down in regions like the US and Europe where safe harbour provisions exist.

Aussie internet suffers as subsea cable cut again

Australian internet users face more inter-Asia latency after the SEA-ME-WE3 subsea internet cable connecting Perth to Singapore was cut again, just six weeks after being repaired.

 

The new cut was identified in the early hours of Sunday morning AEST and there is currently no estimate for when it may be able to be repaired.

 

Traffic to and from Asia may have to be re-routed via the United States once more.

Apart from being close to or at capacity, SEA-ME-WE3 suffers frequent cable breakages, due to storms or shipping traffic.

 

JASON

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http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/amazon-australias-secret-weapon-still-on-hold-free-express-shipping-20171205-gzyxm4.html

 

The day local retailers have long been dreading is finally upon us, but the launch of Amazon’s full scale retail assault on Australia is only one piece of the puzzle. Aussies can’t sign up for the Amazon Prime customer VIP program until next year, meaning for now deliveries still take days rather than hours.

The online retail behemoth still remains tight-lipped as to exactly when its famed service will arrive in Australia and what it will deliver.

Australians are clearly keen to get onboard, with 43 per cent of people intending to shop on Amazon in the near future, according to market research group Honeycomb Strategy. Almost half of Australians under the age of 40 already prefer to shop at Amazon rather than local retailers, and that’s before you add Amazon Prime to the bargain.

In America, a $US99 ($129.50) Amazon Prime annual subscription offers free two-day shipping on millions of eligible products, helping secure custom loyalty in a cut-throat market. In some cities Amazon Prime Now even offers two-hour express delivery on thousands of items.

To further sweeten the deal for US Prime subscribers, Amazon throws in free access to its Prime Music, Prime Video and Twitch Prime subscription services along with some free books and magazines.

In Australia, Amazon Prime is confirmed for “mid 2018” but all that Amazon will reveal at this point is that it will offer “exclusive delivery benefits”.

An Australian Prime subscription will definitely include Prime Video and Twitch Prime, with Amazon Music a likely addition if it is launched in Australia alongside the Echo smart speakers early next year.

 

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/nbns-critical-hfc-mistake-revealed-prioritising-activations-over-repairs-20171204-gzy5oq.html

NBN Co’s announcement last week that it would cease selling services on its hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network has revealed one of the biggest errors in judgment the company has made under a Turnbull-Abbott led government.

The government-owned NBN Co blamed “interference” — which was leading to dropouts and unacceptable broadband service on a minority of users’ services — for the decision, which will result in an average delay of between six to nine months for millions of households looking to sign up.

But NBN Co first discovered that interference might become a problem down the track in mid-2016,when the first HFC asset transfers occurred between Telstra and NBN Co.

At the time, NBN management made the risky judgment call that it would not be a huge an issue. While it suspected that interference would cause some headaches in the rollout, NBN management didn’t fully realise the extent to which Telstra’s HFC network was in need of repair, or in the words of NBN Co engineers and management, “optimisation”.

Regardless, NBN ploughed through activating premises and dealing with issues later, until they became too large to ignore. NBN had originally envisioned doing network repairs once the network was in full operation and had been released for sale to service providers. To this point, the optimisation work had been part of its post-activation servicing rather than part of the construction schedule.

Of course this isn’t what ended up happening, and now optimisation work — or repair — is having to be conducted in many areas before HFC services are released for sale.

While NBN data showed that only 1 per cent of end users were reporting faults via their service provider, alarm bells began to ring after an internal NBN Co commissioned consumer satisfaction survey found up to 15 per cent of users were scoring their HFC service close to 0 out of 10, meaning that they were having the absolute worst time on HFC but that their provider wasn’t necessarily reporting it as a fault to NBN Co.

http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/queensland-police-consider-camera-technology-that-will-photograph-drivers-using-mobile-phones/news-story/c3a3f37b594cc5000751ff98056872d0

IF YOU think you can text behind the wheel without being caught, think again. New technology photographing drivers from above is soon to arrive.

QUEENSLAND Police are considering camera technology capable of photographing drivers using their mobile phones behind the wheel to combat road crashes in the state.

Assistant commissioner Mike Keating said he was aware of the world first red-light-style camera, which has just been trialled in Victoria, and would consider taking it to the state government if it proved effective.

“We will monitor that trial and see how it looks in terms of effectiveness and if we see some benefit in it, then certainly we’ll take it to the government in the future.”

It comes as police have issued a desperate plea to Queenslanders to follow road rules as they prepare to launch their Christmas Road Safety Campaign tomorrow.

Commissioner Ian Stewart declared all he wanted for Christmas was for motorists to exercise caution on the roads, after 40 people died during last year’s campaign and over 2000 were injured.

“I’m making an appeal to every person who uses our roads, I would like you to give your emergency services, police, fireys, ambos a Christmas present,” Commissioner Stewart said.

“That Christmas present is that we do not have to go out and deal with the trauma of one more road fatality or one more road crash this year.

“Not only would it be a present to your emergency services, but a present to every family member who has been affected by road trauma in the state.”

 

 

http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/social/facebook-launches-messenger-app-for-kids-under-13/news-story/de356790bce83f6b3598c33f5a895226

FACEBOOK is causing concern for parents, launching a new version of its popular Messenger app aimed directly at the under-13s.

FACEBOOK is coming for your kids. The social media giant is launching a messaging app for children to chat with their parents and with friends approved by their parents.

The free app is aimed at kids under 13, who can’t yet have their own accounts under Facebook’s rules, though they often do.

Messenger Kids comes with a slew of controls for parents. The service won’t let children add their own friends or delete messages — only parents can do that. Kids don’t get a separate Facebook or Messenger account; rather, it’s an extension of a parent’s account.

Messenger Kids came out on Monday in the US as an app for Apple devices — the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Versions for Android and Amazon’s tablets are coming later.

While children do use messaging and social media apps designed for teenagers and adults, those services aren’t built for them, said Kristelle Lavallee, a children’s psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service. “The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge,” she said.

Messenger Kids, meanwhile, “is a result of seeing what kids like,” which is images, emoji and the like. Face filters and playful masks can be distracting for adults, Lavallee said, but for kids who are just learning how to form relationships and stay in touch with parents digitally, they are ways to express themselves.

https://www.reddit.com/r/NiceHash/comments/7i0s6o/official_press_release_statement_by_nicehash/

 

Unfortunately, there has been a security breach involving NiceHash website. We are currently investigating the nature of the incident and, as a result, we are stopping all operations for the next 24 hours.

Importantly, our payment system was compromised and the contents of the NiceHash Bitcoin wallet have been stolen. We are working to verify the precise number of BTC taken.

Clearly, this is a matter of deep concern and we are working hard to rectify the matter in the coming days. In addition to undertaking our own investigation, the incident has been reported to the relevant authorities and law enforcement and we are co-operating with them as a matter of urgency.

We are fully committed to restoring the NiceHash service with the highest security measures at the earliest opportunity.

We would not exist without our devoted buyers and miners all around the globe. We understand that you will have a lot of questions, and we ask for patience and understanding while we investigate the causes and find the appropriate solutions for the future of the service. We will endeavour to update you at regular intervals.

While the full scope of what happened is not yet known, we recommend, as a precaution, that you change your online passwords.

We are truly sorry for any inconvenience that this may have caused and are committing every resource towards solving this issue as soon as possible.

 

 

https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/259882-bitcoin-mining-now-uses-power-159-countries

The value of Bitcoin has skyrocketed over the past year, putting past price spikes to shame. A single Bitcoin is now worth more than $11,000, but the drive to accumulate Bitcoins has also driven energy consumption to mind-boggling levels. Mining Bitcoin now consumes more than 30 terawatt-hours of power globally, which is higher than the individual energy usage of 159 countries.

According to Bitcoin analysis blog Digiconomist, energy consumed by Bitcoin mining now exceeds what is used by countries like Ireland, Hungary, Oman, and Lebanon. Bitcoin uses about as much power as the entire country of Morocco and slightly less than Bulgaria. If Bitcoin were a country, it would have the 61st highest energy consumption. However, this only covers miners. It does not include any power consumed by Bitcoin-enabled devices like vending machines and ATMs.

Unlike a fiat currency like the US dollar or Euro, Bitcoin needs to be “mined.” Of course, no one is digging digital currency out of the ground like gold — mining Bitcoin is just the process of running complicated calculations on computers. These calculations keep the Bitcoin network operational by verifying transactions on the Blockchain, which is the public ledger of all Bitcoin activity.

Bitcoins are awarded to systems that complete these calculations, but the complexity of the calculations increases over time. This is a basic element of the Bitcoin protocol, but it’s resulted in vastly higher energy usage as people scramble to earn more of the cryptocurrency. A few years ago when a Bitcoin was worth several dollars, you could perform calculations on a laptop CPU and earn a few coins. However, now there are massive server farms with Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) hardware precision tuned to crunch numbers for the Blockchain.

The cost of this hardware is high, but so is the cost of keeping it running. That’s why many Bitcoin mining operations are based in countries with lower energy rates. A study from the University of Cambridge earlier this year estimated that 58 percent of Bitcoin mining took place in China. That means much of the energy fueling Bitcoin comes from “dirty” sources like coal. While it’s possible mining hardware will become more efficient, the calculations for Bitcoin transactions will only become more complex.

As long as Bitcoin value keeps increasing, so too will the amount of energy going to verifying transactions. Meanwhile, other cryptocurrencies like Etherium and SafeCoin are on the rise. That means more CPUs and GPUs churning away in server rooms, even if Bitcoin drops in value.

 

https://www.polygon.com/2017/12/6/16742622/steam-ends-support-bitcoin-volatility

Valve is ending support for Steam purchases made with bitcoin, the company said today, citing “high fees and volatility” in the value of the cryptocurrency.

“In the past few months we’ve seen an increase in the volatility in the value of Bitcoin and a significant increase in the fees to process transactions on the Bitcoin network,” Valve said in a post on Steam. “For example, transaction fees that are charged to the customer by the Bitcoin network have skyrocketed this year, topping out at close to $20 a transaction last week (compared to roughly $0.20 when we initially enabled Bitcoin). Unfortunately, Valve has no control over the amount of the fee. These fees result in unreasonably high costs for purchasing games when paying with Bitcoin. The high transaction fees cause even greater problems when the value of Bitcoin itself drops dramatically.”

Valve said that the degree of volatility in bitcoin value “has become extreme in the last few months, losing as much as 25% in value over a period of days.” The open source cryptocurrency reached new highs this week, reaching a value of $12,000 per bitcointoday, jumping $1,000 in just 24 hours.

Valve explained why surges like that can have an impact on purchases through Steam.

“When checking out on Steam, a customer will transfer x amount of Bitcoin for the cost of the game, plus y amount of Bitcoin to cover the transaction fee charged by the Bitcoin network,” the company said. “The value of Bitcoin is only guaranteed for a certain period of time so if the transaction doesn’t complete within that window of time, then the amount of Bitcoin needed to cover the transaction can change. The amount it can change has been increasing recently to a point where it can be significantly different.”

Valve said that those price discrepancies will normally result in a refund or an additional payment from the customer when more traditional, more stable currencies are involved. But in the case of bitcoin, high transaction fees can make those resolutions costly.

“At this point, it has become untenable to support Bitcoin as a payment option,” Valve said. “We may re-evaluate whether Bitcoin makes sense for us and for the Steam community at a later date.”