Episode 656- Aussie Tech Heads Shownotes

posted in: Show Notes


Optus crowned fastest internet provider after overtaking TPG


The consumer watchdog has revealed its latest list of the fastest internet services, and there’s a new provider in first place.

Optus has dethroned TPG in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latest Measuring Broadband Australia report by delivering the highest percentage of maximum download speed during peak periods.

All of the retail service providers (who purchase access to the national broadband network at wholesale rates from the company in charge of it and then sell that access on to their customers) returned speeds between 76 per cent and 87 per cent of the maximum plan speeds across NBN and ADSL during the hours of 7pm – 11pm for August this year.

Most RSPs actually managed to deliver average download speeds that exceeded their advertised speeds in almost all of the test periods, according to the report, but the ACCC has called out Dodo/iPrimus for basing its advertised speeds on an average of all evening performance, not just in peak periods when the network is busier.

“We will be following this up with Dodo/iPrimus as this approach means it will fall short whenever its speeds dip, as they did this quarter,” Mr Sims said.

He added consumers should contact their RSP if they’re not getting what they were promised.

Services that never come close to reaching their maximum advertised speed dropped from 12.4 per cent to 11.4 per cent, suggesting some progress.

Those on fibre to the node (FTTN) connections may not feel the benefits though.

One in four FTTN connections on the two fastest consumer-grade NBN tiers are underperforming, and rarely record speeds better than 75 per cent of their maximum plan speeds at any time during the day, not just in busier periods.


Netflix to stop working on some smart televisions next month

If you were an early adopter of smart TVs, you could be in for a shock.

Netflix has announced some older televisions from the start of the decade will no longer work with its app due to “technical limitations”.

The affected models are mainly from the start of the 2010s, with smart TVs from Samsung and Panasonic so far confirmed to be affected by the issue, which could also hit models from other vendors.

A Netflix spokesperson told news.com.au confirmed customers would soon lose access on some devices.

“On December 2, Netflix will no longer be supported on a small number of older devices due to technical limitations. We’ve notified all impacted members with more information about alternative devices we support so they can keep enjoying Netflix uninterrupted,” the spokesperson said.

Alternative devices include games consoles, such as PlayStation or Xbox, streaming sticks, boxes such as Google Chromecast and Apple TV, and some Blu-ray players.

It’s understood these technical limitations revolve around the digital rights management (DRM) protocol used by earlier televisions that has since been superseded and can’t be upgraded.

DRM is designed to combat piracy by restricting what copyright works can be viewed in which places and on what devices.

A post on a Samsung support page said its older televisions from “2010 and 2011 with a C or D after the screen size in the model code” will stop working with the Netflix app next month.

A number of Panasonic Viera smart TVs from 2013 and earlier are believed to be affected as well, but it’s best to check your own individual model before you rush out and buy another device.


Microsoft’s Project Silica uses glass for long-term data storage


Project Silica uses recent discoveries in high speed laser optics and AI to store data in quartz glass. As a proof of concept, Microsoft teamed up with Warner Bros to store Superman: The Movie on a glass panel roughly the size of a drink coaster, coming in at 75x75mm and 2mm thick. The full movie ended up being 75.6GB in size and was also successfully read back once stored, making this a big milestone.

The whole process works by using a laser to encode data in glass by “creating layers of 3D nanoscale gratings and deformations at various depths and angles”. Then, a computer controlled microscope shines light through the glass and reads the data back. A machine learning algorithm is used to point the microscrope in the right direction and then decode data as it is being read. While other forms of optical data storage degrade over time, Project Silica aims to be a more long-lasting form of data storage.

According to Microsoft, this glass can withstand boiling hot water, being baked in an oven or microwave, floods, demagnetisation and other environmental threats. With all of that protection in place, Project Silica seems like the next step for long-term data storage. Warner Bros was particularly interested in getting involved with Microsoft’s project, as the studio looks to safeguard historical films like Superman, Casablanca and others currently stored on ageing film reels.

Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure’s chief technology officer, labelled the Superman transfer as a major milestone, adding that this proof of concept means “we’re now in a phase where we’re working on refinement and experimentation, rather than asking the question ‘can we do it?’”


Google patched last month an Android bug that can let hackers spread malware to a nearby phone via a little-known Android OS feature called NFC beaming. NFC beaming works via an internal Android OS service known as Android Beam. This service allows an Android device to send data such as images, files, videos, or even apps, to another nearby device using NFC (Near-Field Communication) radio waves, as an alternative to WiFi or Bluetooth. Typically, apps (APK files) sent via NFC beaming are stored on disk and a notification is shown on screen. The notification asks the device owner if he wants to allow the NFC service to install an app from an unknown source. But, in January this year, a security researcher named Y. Shafranovich discovered that apps sent via NFC beaming on Android 8 (Oreo) or later versions would not show this prompt. Instead, the notification would allow the user to install the app with one tap, without any security warning.

The CVE-2019-2114 bug resided in the fact that the Android Beam app was also whitelisted, receiving the same level of trust as the official Play Store app. Google said this wasn’t meant to happen, as the Android Beam service was never meant as a way to install applications, but merely as a way to transfer data from device to device. The October 2019 Android patches removed the Android Beam service from the OS whitelist of trusted sources. However, many millions of users remain at risk. If users have the NFC service and the Android Beam service enabled, a nearby attacker could plant malware (malicious apps) on their phones.

Since most newly-sold devices have the NFC feature enabled by default, you’ll have to disable Android Beam and NFC or update your phone to receive the October 2019 security updates if you want to protect yourself from this bug.



Microsoft announced that its new Edge browser based on Google’s Chromium open source project has hit release candidate status. From a report:

Additionally, the company shared that Chromium Edge will hit general availability in more than 90 languages on January 15, 2020. Microsoft also detailed some new features around Microsoft Search in Bing. While the two announcements might seem disjointed at first, Microsoft is trying to position Edge and Bing as “the browser and search engine for business.” […] Now that Chromium Edge is at the release candidate stage, Microsoft is sharing a little more about how it plans to differentiate the new browser from the many other Chromium-based options. As with its decision to build its own Android phone, Microsoft is tapping Google to give business users unique features on popular consumer platforms.

Whether it’s hardware or software, Microsoft is obsessed with selling productivity. So that’s what Chromium Edge appears destined to be: a business browser. Businesses mainly use Windows, though some also have Macs floating around so Chromium Edge is not just a Windows 10 affair. Microsoft knows the existing version of Edge isn’t appealing because it isn’t keeping up with the web. But the company also knows Chromium Edge will not convert most existing Chrome users, so it’s focusing on the business use case. To do so, Microsoft plans to give Chromium Edge some extra privacy tools and access to corporate information that exists on company intranets. “The irony is that it is easier to find an obscure piece of information on the much larger internet than it is to find a simple document on your company’s intranet — such as a paystub portal, a pet at work policy, or the office location of a fellow employee,” Microsoft CVP Yusuf Mehdi laments.



Microsoft’s focus as a company is on productivity, but a recent experiment by Microsoft Japan suggests with a 4-day workweek we may be more productive if we work less.

In particular, it shows that a shorter workweek can actually impact productivity positively.

In August this year, Microsoft Japan ran an experiment where for one month they had a 3 day weekend, taken Friday off. This was paid leave and did not impact the worker’s usual vacation allocation.

Some results were predictable.

Workers were happier and took  25.4 percent fewer days off during the month.

There were also savings from spending less time at work.  23.1 percent less electricity was used and 58.7 percent fewer pages were printed.

More importantly from a bottom-line standpoint, however, productivity went up 39.9%, as fewer and shorter meetings were held, often virtually rather than in person.

In the end, the project had 92.1 percent employee approval, suggesting workers were happy with getting more done in less time.

The trial involved 2,300 employees, and Microsoft is looking to repeat it next summer.

While the approach may not work for everyone, I am sure many of us would appreciate giving a 4-day workweek a try in our own workplaces.