Data Retention Laws Passed
(link) Friday, 27-March-2015 03:19:12 (GMT +10) - by Agg
The data retention laws have been passed by Parliament. The laws will force telecommunications providers to keep records of phone and internet use for two years and allow security agencies to access the records. Companies already retain the data but for varying durations and in an unregulated environment. The Coalition and Labor have argued the laws were necessary to help authorities in counter-terrorism and serious crime investigations.
The official media release from the Attorney-General is here. By passing this Bill, the Parliament has ensured that our security and law enforcement agencies will continue to have access to the information they need to do their jobs. No responsible government can sit by while those who protect us lose access to vital information, particularly in the current high threat environment. At the same time, the Bill contains safeguards to protect our cherished rights and liberties, including through the establishment of additional oversight mechanisms covering the security and law enforcement agencies. Metadata is the basic building block in nearly every counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and organised crime investigation. It is also essential for child abuse and child pornography offences that are frequently carried out online.
Bizarrely, Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications, is openly telling people how to get around it. If you have a device, you know, a phone or a smartphone, and if I call you through the mobile phone network there will be a record. Say my phone’s with Telstra, there’ll be a record with Telstra that I’ve called your number. If on the other hand I communicate with you via Skype for a voice call or Viber, send you a message on WhatsApp or Wickr or Threema or Signal or Telegrammer — there’s a gazillion of them — or indeed if you make a FaceTime call, then all that the telco can see is that my device has had a connection with the Skype server or the WhatsApp server…but it doesn’t see anything happening with you.
Crikey have a guide summing up the issue. Crikey has been covering data retention for several years, and we’ve written tens of thousands of words in that time explaining what it is, why it’s important and the threat it poses to Australians. We know that a lot of people, especially in the media, have only started to focus on the issue in recent days, so we’ve further expanded this Q&A we prepared last year to take into account recent developments and give you a one-stop document for what will be Australia’s biggest ever mass surveillance regime.
The internet is abuzz with news that the BBC have dropped Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear, after investigating an "unprovoked physical and verbal attack" on a BBC producer. Responding to the news, Prime Minister David Cameron said he believed that "if you do something wrong at work there can be consequences" and that "aggressive and abusive behaviour is not acceptable in the workplace". Discussion of Top Gear UK continues in this thread.
Internode co-founder and now NBN Co board member Simon Hackett has indicated FTTP is still his preference over FTTN. "Ideally, the NBN would have been built with 100 percent fibre," said Hackett at the Communications Alliance's Fast Forward/Rewind event in Sydney on Wednesday. "[But] it's not my money."
SMH have a guide to the new video services recently released in Australia. Netflix, Quickflix, Presto and Stan are all fighting for your attention, but how easy are they to use and how hard will they hammer your internet connection?
Meanwhile the website blocking legislation has been introduced to Parliament today. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull today introduced proposed laws to allow content owners to apply for websites faciliating online piracy to be blocked, taking over responsibility for the bill from Attorney-General George Brandis.
Wired report on an interesting upcoming NASA mission, which is a test run for a Mars mission. Except it’s not a movie: That’s the real-life idea for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which NASA announced today. Other than simply being an awesome space version of the claw arcade game (you know you really wanted that stuffed Pikachu), the mission will let NASA test technology and practice techniques needed for going to Mars.
I don't normally link Kickstarter stuff, but there's a drive to get a new Descent: Underground game up and running. Descent was, from memory, the first proper game I ever played all the way through on the PC. I used to have Descent dreams.. Descent is back! Pilot your ship & battle foes through twisting, turning tunnels with unrestricted 3D movement & FPS action in Zero-G!
Scott Ludlam still seems to be the primary voice of opposition to the data retention scheme in Parliament. Ludlam began by expressing his frustrations with the blanket-nature in which the bills are going to pass, and the lack of broad democratic process that's been involved in the bill's debate. But far from simply targeting the Government about the legislation, Ludlam sharpest barbs were saved for the Labor party and their perceived cave-in and lack of opposition in debating and challenging the bill on some of its finer points.
If you're also opposed to the data retention scheme, you can protest by going dark today. This scheme is rushed, costly, ineffective, and against the public interest. Also, absurdly, the flawed legislation leaves open numerous loopholes, which can be used to evade the scheme. This means the data retention dragnet will capture the data of innocent Australians and cost millions of dollars, while allowing those who don't want to be caught to remain hidden.
Live video streaming service Twitch is the latest to report report a security issue and requires users to change their passwords. "For your protection, we have expired passwords and stream keys and have disconnected accounts from Twitter and YouTube," reads the statement. "As a result, you will be prompted to create a new password the next time you attempt to log into your Twitch account. We also recommend that you change your password at any website where you use the same or a similar password."
(link) Tuesday, 24-March-2015 07:29:47 (GMT +10) - by Agg
Here's some interesting things from people in the forums:
Telstra have apparently run out of IPv4 addresses - which some people believe will affect data retention, thanks Tony and mpot. During a panel session at Cisco Live last week, Burgess said Telstra's use of CGNAT would make no difference to its ability to adhere to the requirements of the Government's proposed data retention scheme. The scheme requires telcos and internet service providers to retain the so-called metadata of their customers for two years to assist law enforcement.
NASA & Planetary Resources have released a new app which will let the public hunt for dangerous asteroids. Protecting the Earth from the threat of asteroid impacts means first knowing where they are. NASA & Planetary Resources are harnessing the incredible potential of innovators, makers and citizen scientists by opening up the search. In an increasingly connected world, NASA recognizes the value of the public as a partner in addressing some of the country’s most pressing challenges. We need your help in identifying asteroids – and to help further this effort, we’ve built an application that enables everyone, everywhere, to help solve this global challenge.
NVIDIA's CEO and Elon Musk gave a joint keynote at GTC 2015, covering Titan X, deep learning and autonomous cars. One of the highlights of today’s opening keynote at the NVIDIA GPU Technology Conference in San Jose (GTC) was NVIDIA CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang’s invited special guest, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk and the “fireside chat” the two were scheduled to hold. Frankly, it was a bit shorter than expected, but when two visionaries take the stage, time does tend to fly, figuratively and literally. There’s no question, Jen-Hsun Huang is a visionary when it comes to visual computing, but Musk, Musk thinks way outside the box on a lot of things – from Electric Vehicles, to Hyperloop supersonic transport, to autonomous cars that are so reliable, they're safer on the road than humans.
A few people pointed out this flaw in the NSW iVote system. Since we’ve both done extensive research on the design and analysis of Internet voting systems, we decided to perform an independent security review of iVote. We’ll prepare a more extensive technical report after the election, but we’re writing today to share news about critical vulnerabilities we found that have put tens of thousands of votes at risk. We discovered a major security hole allowing a man-in-the middle attacker to read and manipulate votes. We also believe there are ways to circumvent the verification mechanism.
Also, it seems that your BIOS might be at risk. The attack could be used to render a computer unusable, but it could also be used to steal passwords and intercept encrypted data. The problem affects motherboards from companies including Gigabyte, Acer, MSI, HP and Asus. It is exacerbated by manufactures reusing codes across multiple UEFI BIOSes and places home users, businesses and governments at risk.
After 10 years in business and 7 years sponsoring OCAU, MojoDirect are shutting down. It's a shame, but in the meantime, you can grab some bargains from their closing down sale thread. All the best, guys!
AMD have revealed their FreeSync technology. HotHardware sum it up well: Soon after NVIDIA unveiled its G-SYNC technology, AMD announced that it would pursue an open standard, dubbed FreeSync, leveraging technologies already available in the DisplayPort specification to offer adaptive refresh rates to users of some discrete Radeon GPUs and AMD APUs. AMD’s goal with FreeSync was to introduce a technology that offered similar end-user benefits to NVIDIA’s G-SYNC, that didn’t require monitor manufacturers to employ any proprietary add-ons (like NVIDIA’s G-Sync module), and that could be adopted by any GPU maker.
Torrent sites are the target of new legislation to be submitted next week. The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill is a part of the government’s ongoing crackdown on copyright breaches in Australia and comes in the wake of a proposed three strikes scheme that could see illegal downloaders face harsh financial penalties. The bill will force ISPs to block overseas sites that allow people to share copyrighted material, at the request of a judge.
There's also continuing concerns about what the metadata scheme will mean for journalists. The MEAA argues the legislation, which mandates a two-year retention period for phone and internet records, is an attack on press freedom. "None of the amendments being proposed to the legislation recognise or protect the vital role of journalists and whistleblowers in a healthy democracy," Mr Murphy said.
Meanwhile the Victorian Government is set to sell thousands of seized bitcoins. The Victorian government will sell millions of dollars worth of bitcoins on the open market in coming months after taking possession of assets confiscated from a Warrandyte drug dealer. The bitcoins were seized in late 2013, but the state's Asset Confiscation Operations (ACO) had to wait until the man's case had been heard in the court system. A spokesman confirmed it has recently taken possession of 24,500 coins and would try to make the most of it.
Windows 10 will be free for everyone - even pirates, thanks mpot. Speaking to Reuters from the WinHEC conference in China, Microsoft's operating system chief Terry Myerson said, "We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10." This means that everyone running Windows 7 or 8.1, irrespective of whether you pirated the operating system or not, will be allowed to upgrade to a legitimate version of Windows 10.
But Windows 10 won't have Internet Explorer, as Microsoft are going to Project Spartan (hopefully with a more catchy name soon) instead, thanks Matt. "We’re now researching what the new brand, or the new name, for our browser should be in Windows 10," the company's marketing chief Chris Capossela told a conference.
Google have opened a Google Shop in London. The store, to be called The Google shop, will sell the company’s range of Android phones and tablets, Chromebook laptops, and Chromecast TV services. The shop will hold tutorials showing consumers how to use the devices and hold demonstrations showing off key Google apps. It is the first time that Google has opened a shop under its own name and highlights how online companies are increasingly exploring ways to open physical stores. Amazon is thought to be considering opening a shop in a standalone location in New York.
A few people let me know there's a new flying car set to go on sale in a couple of years. Ever wanted to buy a flying car? You only have a couple more years to wait, says a company that has built prototypes that can both drive and fly. The flying roadster, a sporty two seater that transforms into a light sports aircraft, aims to go on sale in just two years from Slovakia-based Aeromobil.
NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X
(link) Wednesday, 18-March-2015 14:51:00 (GMT +10) - by Agg
NVIDIA have unveiled their GeForce TITAN X, a 12GB, 3072-core, 1075MHz monster of a card. It pretty much blows everything else out of the water, but for more details, here's some reviews:
A court in The Netherlands has struck down their data retention law. The District court of The Hague said the law, which requires telecom providers to collect and store data for as long as 12 months, violates citizens’ right to privacy and the right to protection of personal data. “The judge finds that this violation is not limited to what is strictly necessary,” it said.
Hitachi have a 10TB HDD on the way, but it's not for everyone - yet. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies—aka HGST, aka a subsidiary of Western Digital—was recently showing off its gigantic new 10TB hard drive at the Linux Foundation Vault tradeshow in Boston. But unfortunately you won't be packing 10,000 gigabytes into your laptop anytime soon because the drive is designed for use in servers, and mostly because it requires special software to work.
BlueRaven spotted some internet nostalgia on Gizmodo. Six animated gifs courtesy of The Open University (and the Wayback Machine) show the HP, Apple, Boeing, Intel, Xerox and Open University websites as rendered by Netscape in 1996-1997, along with some interesting facts about the state of the net in those years.
Tweaktown have compared a few video cards in 4K surround. Let's clarify that: 6480x3840. This means we're rendering 1,492,992,000 pixels per second. 1.4 billion pixels, every second. Compare this to 1920x1080 (Full HD, or 1080p) which is rendering 124,416,000, or 124 million pixels per second - the 4K Surround system is rendering over 10x that of the 1080p resolution.
I've linked a couple of these cockpit panoramas before, but this one is particularly noteworthy because (a) it's a Supermarine Spitfire and (b) all the dials and knobs and things are labelled and explained by the viewer. Move the mouse corsor over an instrument or siwtch for information, use mouse or cursor keys for navigation.
2015 Melbourne F1
(link) Friday, 13-March-2015 01:58:22 (GMT +10) - by Agg
The 2015 Formula One season kicks off this weekend in Melbourne, and Free Practice 1 is underway at the moment. You can watch it right now on ONE HD or equivalent in your area (or here on the net. thanks MUTMAN). Should be an interesting season - keep on top of things in our Motorsport Forum.
Sir Terry Pratchett has died, aged 66. I don't know too many geeks of my age (or most ages) who haven't enjoyed at least one of his many novels. The author died at home, surrounded by his family, "with his cat sleeping on his bed", he added. Sir Terry wrote more than 70 books during his career and completed his final book last summer. He "enriched the planet like few before him" and through Discworld satirised the world "with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention," said Mr Finlay. Discussion here.
TPG is buying iiNet for $1.4B. The deal would make the pair one of the largest combined ISPs in the country, with TPG CEO David Teoh saying this morning that the total customer base would be around 1.7 million subscribers. “The combined businesses will provide broadband services to over 1.7 million subscribers and will be well positioned to deliver scale benefits in an NBN environment,” he added in a statement to the ASX. Discussion here.
Google have a new Chromebook. Of course, the Pixel is also great on the inside. It’s got a powerful Intel® Core™ i5 with 8GB RAM and a 32GB SSD. If that’s not enough for you, we’re making an LS (yup, that stands for "Ludicrous Speed") version that's even faster. And even with the new charger, you probably won’t be carrying it around much, since the new Pixel has 12 hours of battery life.* When you do need to top up, it’s fast—you’ll get up to two hours of battery life with just 15 minutes of charging.*
Tech Report have reached the end of their long-running SSD Endurance experiment, with all drives having failed now. The first lesson came quickly. All of the drives surpassed their official endurance specifications by writing hundreds of terabytes without issue. Delivering on the manufacturer-guaranteed write tolerance wouldn't normally be cause for celebration, but the scale makes this achievement important. Most PC users, myself included, write no more than a few terabytes per year. Even 100TB is far more endurance than the typical consumer needs.
As if cryptolocker wasn't enough reason to avoid unknown USB drives, there's also a Killer USB concept, thanks mpot. The basic idea of the USB drive is quite simple. When we connect it up to the USB port, an inverting DC/DC converter runs and charges capacitors to -110V. When the voltage is reached, the DC/DC is switched off. At the same time, the filed transistor opens. It is used to apply the -110V to signal lines of the USB interface. When the voltage on capacitors increases to -7V, the transistor closes and the DC/DC starts. The loop runs till everything possible is broken down.
We may have seen this before, but here's a nostalgic video from 2013 about old computers. The computer industry has changed drastically over the last 3 decades, but there are some things we've lost along the way.
Thursday Night Reviews
(link) Thursday, 12-March-2015 12:43:33 (GMT +10) - by Agg
(link) Wednesday, 11-March-2015 10:03:34 (GMT +10) - by Agg
Apple unveiled the Apple Watch yesterday. Many of the Apple Watch’s particulars were already known, but here, for the first time, is a comprehensive look at what will no doubt become the world’s most popular smartwatch. Well, there are certainly other options, and discussion continues in this thread.
Microsoft have a cool new folding keyboard, thanks mpot. The Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard (yes, that’s the full name) is similar to the original, with Bluetooth connectivity to work across multiple devices, and a lack of a dedicated Windows key. It reminds me of something we've seen before.
Lateline have a story on big data. Some time in the past decade, what it means to be a "private citizen" changed. Tonight, we're going to examine the concept of privacy. What does it mean any more? And what's the Government doing snooping around our metadata? They also interviewed Bruce Schneier on the issue of data retention.
Intel have a new Xeon D, with details on Tech Report and HotHardware. Intel announced the Xeon D System On A Chip (SoC) architecture today and really, it's kind of a big deal. This marks the first effort by Intel to integrate the Broadwell architecture into a fully integrated SoC design, complete with all IO including 10Gb Ethernet, all in a single chip 45 watt TDP.
The Minister for Justice has announced the trial of a new classification tool for mobile and online games. Australia has joined the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), a partnership of government and industry content classification authorities from around the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe and Brazil. As part of this partnership, Australia is preparing to trial the use of IARC’s new tool for classifying mobile and online games. Participating online storefronts that use the IARC tool require game developers to obtain certification by completing a questionnaire about the content of their games. The IARC tool then assigns games with local classifications for each member country or region based on standards set by the relevant authorities.
Here's a tip: if Flash and Youtube are an unreliable combination on your PC (as they certainly are in Firefox on mine), go to the Youtube HTML5 page and request the HTML5 player. This might be old news to many but it's not turned on by default, and enabling it has fixed up the endless browser stalls for me..
NASA are running a Space Apps Challenge around the world next month, with Australian camps in Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra. The International Space Apps Challenge is a two-day hackathon where teams of technologists, scientists, designers, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, developers and students across the globe collaborate and engage with publicly available data to design innovative solutions for global challenges.
SilentPCReview have a Quiet SLI Gaming PC Build Guide. This article, the 8th in our Quiet Gaming PC Build Guide series, details the component selection, assembly and fine tuning process of creating a very quiet gaming system based around two GTX 970 graphics cards.
Google+ is splitting off Photos. Google is splitting Google+ apart, breaking the social network's photo element away from what it's now calling "Streams." Bradley Horowitz, a longtime Google VP of product, announced that he had become the new lead for both new products, Google Photos and Streams, in a post on Google+ today. Horowitz steps into the role vacated by David Besbris, who took over the top job at Google+ less than a year ago.
Gizmodo have an article detailing the mechanics behind the Netflix Australia rollout. How did the boffins at Los Gatos — where Netflix is based — turn on the Australian region? It’s more than just the flick of a switch, so to find out exactly what’s involved, we went to the heart of Silicon Valley in California to discover how Netflix Australia was built.
Tech Report are the latest to play around with USB 3.1. Today, we're going to take our very first look at some USB 3.1 gear. Asus has supplied us with a drive enclosure and a matching motherboard, which will help us gauge the kinds of performance gains users can expect.
John Selby has written an article summarising the metadata debate and exploring some related issues with white-collar crime. The call for communications service providers to retain two years of their customers’ metadata is simply the latest round in this debate. While much of the current discussion has centred on consumer data and policing agencies, the proposal also covers the communications of businesses, and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is one of the agencies seeking access.
Intel has unveiled new Atom x3, X5 and X7 mobile processors. These chips combine x86 Intel cores with integrated baseband modems and, oddly enough, graphics based on ARM's Mali IP. More info on the x5 and x7 variants here, and Tweaktown have a preview as well.
SimCity fans will be sad to hear that EA have shut down Maxis. EA has shut down Maxis Emeryville, the main Maxis studio and longrunning developer behind SimCity and Spore, among other games. Though the Maxis brand will carry on, the studio that most people knew as "Maxis" is no more. Discussion here.
Google have an online Cultural Institute featuring some high-profile Australian exhibits, including the Australian War Memorial and the Australian Museum. Google Cultural Institute was launched in 2011 and today partners with more than 600 organisations in more than 60 countries. Through this project more than 60,000 of the world’s most important and compelling artworks have been made accessible in high resolution online. Australia boasts internationally acclaimed artists, art companies and cultural institutions. Over the past 12 months Google has worked closely with our cultural institutions to bring some of our finest cultural and artistic treasures to the world.
NVIDIA have a few new goodies, including a 12GB GPU and SHIELD console (more here and here). NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang just got done speaking at the Made To Game event tonight in San Francisco and he had some major announcements that will change gaming forever. It is clear that gaming has gone to the living room. The first big announcement tonight is the NVIDIA SHIELD set top gaming box that that is the world’s first Android TV console designed for use in the living room.
Optus have unveiled a smartwatch for payments. OPTUS will introduce payments by smartwatch by year’s end and has flagged the possibility of supplying customers with other wearables such as intelligent watch straps for contactless payments. Optus’s move, announced in Barcelona today at Mobile World Congress, comes just days before Apple reveals more details of its upcoming smartwatch and its own Apple Pay payments system.
Netflix will start streaming to Australia on March 24th. Netflix has named the day on which its Australian (and New Zealand) service will commence: March 24th, 2015. Smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Philips and HiSense, plus Fetch TV’s second-generation set-top box, will all be able to access the service. Netflix's home-brand shows will be offered locally, along with content from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Many ISPs have announced that the service will be quota-free, including Optus, iiNet and Internode. More info here.
Wednesday Night Reviews
(link) Wednesday, 4-March-2015 12:48:36 (GMT +10) - by Agg
Leonard Nimoy passed away, age 83 on the weekend, to the dismay of Trekkies everywhere. It's a sentiment that Nimoy himself reflected upon on Twitter this past Sunday, in his very last post. "A life is like a garden," he wrote. "Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory." That's what we'll have to do, then.
On the topic of final frontiers, the world's largest aircraft is being built, for space-launch duties. Built for Stratolaunch by Scaled Composites, the Roc will be the largest aircraft ever made with a wingspan of 385 ft. This compares to 320 ft for the Hughes H-4 Hercules (Spruce Goose), 290 ft for the six-engined Antonov An-225, 262 ft. for the Airbus A380, and 225 ft. for the Boeing 747-8. Powered by six reconditioned Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines salvaged along with other parts from two ex-United Airlines Boeing 747-400s, the twin-fuselage carrier aircraft resembles a vastly enlarged version of the Scaled-built WhiteKnightTwo developed for Virgin Galactic.
Google are proclaiming that Android is ready for work, thanks mpot. For many, these phones have become essential tools to help us complete important work tasks like checking email, editing documents, reviewing sales pipelines and approving deals. But for the majority of workers, smartphones and tablets are underutilized in the workplace. Their business and innovation potential remain largely untapped. Today we're announcing the Android for Work program to tap into that potential. With a group of partners, we're helping businesses bring more devices to work by securing, managing and innovating on the Android platform. More info here.
Samsung meanwhile have announced the Galaxy S 6 and S 6 Edge. At the high end, many criticisms have been leveled at the industrial and material design of Galaxy S and Note devices, and outside of the hardware itself, TouchWiz has received a great deal of criticism for performance issues and poor design. This brings us to the Galaxy S 6 and S 6 edge, which represents a fundamental shift in the way Samsung approaches the way their phones are made and designed. While we’ve seen these changes in the form of the Galaxy A line and the Galaxy Note 4, the Galaxy S6 represents the first phone that has been made from the ground up with a focus on industrial and material design.