Sizzle Highlights 2H2023


Threads kicks off with 50 million users in one day, annoys Elon enough to sue them already

Meta’s Threads app already has over 95 million posts, generated by over 50 million users in the first 24 and a bit hours. It’s the most popular free app in the iOS App Store right now (2 is MyGov, 3 is Temu). Not bad for what is essentially a beta, but also kinda low considering the 1b+ users of Meta’s products and considering you can’t use it on the web and if you want to delete your Threads account you gotta nuke your Instagram account too. It’s enough however, to piss off Elon Musk and that’s what really matters. He’s got his fancy lawyer to send a sad pathetic letter to Meta, claiming they’ve “engaged in systemic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property” by employing “dozens” of former Twitter employees. Employees Elon fired mercilessly are now working against him to make a better version of the dog shit Elon’s turned Twitter into. Mmmmm, delicious irony against the person that deserves it the most.

The giant LED sphere in Las Vegas is goddamn cool

Have you seen the Las Vegas Sphere? Part of the Venetian resort, it’s the world’s largest spherical building and the world’s largest and highest resolution LED screen. At night it comes alive with images displayed on the screen that seriously look like someone’s photoshopped them into an otherwise bland Las Vegas skyscape. It can display the moon, a basketball, a USA flag & fireworks theme for Independence Day, an eyeball, or anything a creative person can think of! Some of its first events will be a Darren Arronofsky movie in August and a series of U2 concerts starting late September that’ll happen inside its 18,000 seat auditorium. Each seat has haptic technology built in, with the interior containing a 16K wraparound LED and 164,000 speakers. The Sphere cost US$2.3b to build and they’re make another one in London. I want to visit this monstrosity!

Meta & Liberals rightfully salty about proposed ACMA powers to censor internet content

Meta is predictably not a fan of the proposed law that’ll give ACMA the power to “to combat online misinformation and disinformation”, aka the Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023. Meta’s head of public policy in Australia, Josh Machin, told a Senate inquiry that the draft law has “some potential for that power to be abused, or for it to be used in a way that inadvertently chills free and legitimate political expression online”. Coalition MPs are also going around on Sky News and whatnot calling it a “Ministry of Truth”. It’s weird to be agreeing with Meta and the Liberal party, but here we are. The law to me, at face value, seems deeply fucked up to have the government determine what can and can’t be said online, while the “mainstream media” gets a free pass. My gut feeling is that this is a very bad idea.

Disney to stop selling physical media in Australia

Bad news for people that like to own media instead of rent it - “The Digital Bits have confirmed today with multiple industry, distributor, and retailer sources in the region that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is indeed pulling out of the Australian market in terms of physical media. This follows similar moves in Asia (save for Japan) and Latin America, and the reason is apparently down to the gradual collapse of physical disc sales in the region, the growth of Disney+ Starz streaming, and also the rise of global retailers (think Amazon, Zavvi, etc). None of that will be of any comfort to disc fans in Australia, who will now have to pay a hefty shipping premium to import titles from outside the country”. It’s only a matter of time until Disney decides to end physical media releases entirely, making archival way more difficult.

Steam says no games containing AI generated content unless they can prove copyright

Valve has officially banned selling games on Steam that use AI-generated content, unless the developer can prove that the content generated didn’t come from an AI model trained on data that doesn’t “infringe on existing copyrights”. Valve said that they do not want to “discourage the use of [AI-generated content] on Steam”, but “our review process is a reflection of current copyright law and policies, not an added layer of our opinion. As these laws and policies evolve over time, so will our process”. Makes sense as there’s a huge grey area around these AI-systems sucking up data off the internet and using it without permission - just because something is public online, doesn’t mean you have the right to do whatever you like with it.


CNET burning decades of blog posts because Google’s algorithm rewards it

CNET, one of the longest running tech websites, has decided to delete decades of blog posts to appease the beast that is Google’s PageRank algorithm. CNET told Gizmodo that “in an ideal world, we would leave all of our content on our site in perpetuity. Unfortunately, we are penalised by the modern internet for leaving all previously published content live on our site”, as “pruning” old content “sends a signal to Google that says CNET is fresh, relevant and worthy of being placed higher than our competitors in search results”. It’s a perverse set of incentives, but in public at least, Google says the opposite and strongly recommends not deleting old content. The algorithm doesn’t agree however and this is apparently a common practice.

Linus Tech Tips shuts down production amid turmoil

The Tech-Tuber-Sphere has imploded over the past couple of days with Linus Sebastian’s Linus Media Group (LMG) announcing a one week pause on all production after a number of errors and poor responses to valid criticism were called out by fellow Tech-Tubers “Gamers Nexus”. Their apology video is a 20 minute long paint-by-corporate-numbers saga led by a new CEO who’s just 6 weeks into the role & wondering what the hell he’s just signed up for. In it a meek Linus reiterates he was never qualified to be CEO in the first place and takes responsibility for a ranting forum post when the criticisms first landed. Sadly it doesn’t stop there though. Just hours after posting the apology a former employee has taken to X (Twitter) detailing alleged daily abuse, sexual harassment and toxic work conditions they experience whilst at LMG. Sounds like they’re going to need a lot longer than a week to sort their shit out over there.

LK-99 reproduction experiments conclude it isn’t a room-temp superconductor

Now that a bunch of scientists have a crack at trying to make LK-99, that material from South Korea that was hyped as a viable room temperature superconductor, Nature is now saying LK-99 probably is not the superconductor of our dreams. A lab in Germany managed to make “pure, single crystals of LK-99” and determined that “LK-99 is not a superconductor, but an insulator with a resistance in the millions of ohms — too high to run a standard conductivity test” and that “the hints of superconductivity seen in LK-99 were attributable to Cu2S impurities, which are absent from their crystal”. I don’t know what that means, but I do know that handheld quantum computers, gigawatts of electricity over hair thin cables and maglev trains are not happening any time soon.

Microsoft jams Python into Excel

Python is coming to Excel. If you 1. know what that means and 2. are excited by it, then yep, you are a certified dork and I love you. According to a support document from Microsoft, “Python in Excel brings the power of Python analytics into Excel. Use it to process data in Excel with Python code. You type Python directly into a cell, the Python calculations run in the Microsoft cloud, and your results are returned to the worksheet”. No local version of Python is included or needed, as everything runs in the cloud - which of course means internet access is required. Also it’s only available in the Windows version of Excel (via the Microsoft 365 Insider Program & Beta Channel). No word if this will come to the Mac version of Excel.

Aussies want data privacy but don’t know how to get it

The latest Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey (regularly carried out by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner), has found that “three-quarters of Australians feel data breaches are one of the biggest risks to privacy they face” and that “78% of Australians place a high level of importance on privacy when choosing a product – the third-most important factor behind quality and price”. 62% of people say their “personal information was seen as a major concern in life”, but “57% of people do not know what to do to protect it”. What used to be tin foil hat mood is pretty mainstream now. Hopefully it gives government the mandate it needs to tighten up privacy laws in favor of us, not businesses.


SMIC manages to mass produce 7nm SoC for Huawei phones

One of the USA’s top priorities seems to be preventing China from getting access to the best semiconductor technology. Experts have said that the aggressive trade sanctions preventing non-US companies like Zeiss and ASML selling crucial tools and technology to Chinese companies could lead to China being more self-sufficient and going by a new Bloomberg article, that appears to be happening. They got TechInsights to analyse a brand new Huawei Mate 60 Pro smartphone and discovered that its SMIC manufactured SoC uses pretty advanced 7nm technology that most people didn’t think China could mass produce yet. TSMC is still more advanced, but SMIC is catching up and doing it without “western” help.

UK decides not to enforce the bit in its Online Safety Bill that’ll break end-to-end encryption

The UK has given up on trying to break end-to-end encryption in their Online Safety Bill - kinda. From what I can gather, the text of the bill still gives the government the option to force tech companies to scan all messages, but regulator Ofcom, will only enforce that part of the bill once it is “technically feasible and where technology has been accredited as meeting minimum standards of accuracy in detecting only child sexual abuse and exploitation content”. Arguably, it may never be technically feasible and the accuracy of such a system may never reach a minimum standard. Either way, WhatsApp, Signal and Apple threatening to pull out of the UK market worked and digital rights got another win after a long run of kicks in the gut. Stay frosty everyone.

Optus continues to whinge about streaming services using too much bandwidth

In a submission to a senate inquiry on the “influence of international digital platforms”, Optus continues ranting that “some streaming services charge customers extra for improved stream quality, streamers do not contribute financially to the costs associated with the traffic carried by telecommunications providers on their behalf”, claiming that “up to 80 percent of peak period traffic” was streaming services (i.e: Netflix, Amazon, Apple, etc). Some brain farts Optus came up with include: “a fee, managed by the ACCC”, a “negotiated settlement of costs” like the Media Bargaining Code, or a “levy where streamers pay into a central infrastructure fund that’s then divided up among telcos”.

NASA just got a delivery of asteroid dirt

NASA just received the “largest unspoiled sample of material ever returned to Earth from beyond the Moon, probably on the order of about 250 grams”. It is the final stage of the OSIRIS-REx mission, which sent a probe to asteroid Bennu back in 2016, collected the sample in 2020 and landed back on Earth this weekend. Scientists are now hoping to analyse the 250 grams of precious space dirt to try and help answer the question, “the things that are used in biology today, like amino acids that make proteins and nucleic acids that make up our genes — were they formed in ancient asteroid bodies and delivered to the Earth from outer space”? There’s more info about OSIRIS-REx on NASA’s website if you’re keen.

NFTs are worthless, even the crypto dudes admit it

Anyone with half a brain already knew NFTs are worthless, but a new report from cryptocurrency analysts dappGambl proves it beyond all reasonable doubt. Over 69,000 out of 73,000 NFT collections now have a market cap of $0. Out of the 8,850 “brand name” NFT collections (i.e: CryptoPunks), 18% are worth $0 and 41% are worth less than US$100. The report also states that “Data from the Block reveals a weekly traded value of around $80 million in July 2023, just 3% of its peak back in August 2021” and “numerous projects now struggling to find buyers following a pessimistic market outlook on their future value”. RIP NFTs, fuck off and never come back.


ACCC approves NBN special access undertaking, locks in annual price rises

After two years of back and forth between ISPs and NBN, the ACCC has finally approved the NBN Special Access Undertaking - a lengthy document that “sets the rules for how broadband providers will access the NBN over the coming decades and will apply until 2040”. According to the ACCC’s executive summary of the SAU (the full 368 page SAU is on NBN’s website if you’re keen), the most popular 50 Mbps wholesale plan price will go up immediately, but the 25 Mbps and 100 Mbps plans will go down a bit. From now until FY2023, wholesale pricing increases will be capped by the Consumer Price Index or 5%, whichever is greater - so expect 5% annual increases to your internet plans as ISPs pass this cost on to us. Awesome.

Liz Fong-Jones wins defo lawsuit against Aussie helping host Kiwi Farms

After being the target of a typically vile Kiwi Farms harassment campaign and managing to get Cloudflare to drop Kiwi Farms as a customer, Liz Fong-Jones investigated Kiwi’s new host, discovering that the IP addresses used by 1776 Solutions LLC (Kiwi Farms) are part of APNIC’s range and currently owned by a company called Flow Chemical, run by Brisbane man Vincent Zhen. Liz let the eSafety Commissioner know, but they did nothing, so Liz sued Flow Chemical for defamation a year ago. Today she won the case, mostly because Vincent ignored the lawsuit and didn’t show up to defend themselves in the Victorian supreme court. Liz gets $455,000 plus legal costs for their trouble, but it’s still a bit of a grey area if the owner of an Australian IP address can be liable for the defamatory content they host due to the default judgement.

California cancels Cruise’s robotaxi permit after too many safety incidents

The Californian DMV has told General Motors’ Cruise to cease operating driverless taxi services in the state immediately, declaring “based upon the performance of the vehicles, the Department determines the manufacturer’s vehicles are not safe for the public’s operation” and that “the manufacturer has misrepresented any information related to safety of the autonomous technology of its vehicles”. Big claims for along with Waymo, were considered the gold standard of autonomous driving. Vice reckons Cruise tried to cover up a rather nasty pedestrian incident, on top of campaigning from San Francisco emergency services who are sick of dealing with the bullshit these cars create on public roads.

Court documents confirm Google paid Apple US$18b in 2021 to remain default search engine

Google is still fighting the US government in court over anti-trust allegations regarding its search engine, and one of the core issues is how Google prevents competition by paying Apple vast sums of money to make sure nobody else gets the prize of being the default search engine on Apple devices. How much money Google was giving the world’s richest company was unknown, but thanks to this trial we now know it’s “around US$18b” as of 2021. According to an investigation by the New York Times, this figure is so high because Google is petrified of Apple deciding to make its own search engine, which they hinted at with Spotlight on iOS “showing users richer web results like those they could have found on Google”.

Musk took over Twitter a year ago and the plan is to turn it into a finance app

Can you believe its been a year since Musk took over Twitter? The Verge has a decent summary of all Elon’s Twitter/X related shenanigans - it’s a hell of a ride, yet despite all that, the site persists. Sure, active users are down (how down, we don’t really know as Musk doesn’t release any comparable stats, let alone trustworthy stats) and advertising spend has plummeted (60% according to Musk, who tried to blame the Anti-Defamation League for the drop), but it keeps on chugging along. The plan still seems to be turning Twitter/X into a payments platform, elaborating in an all-hands meeting last week that “when I say payments, I actually mean someone’s entire financial life. If it involves money. It’ll be on our platform. Money or securities or whatever. So, it’s not just like send $20 to my friend. I’m talking about, like, you won’t need a bank account”. The mind boggles at who would use this, but Americans have fucked up payment systems, so who knows.


Sam Bankman-Fried found guilty of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering

After a month long trial, the jury in Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial took less than four hours come to the decision that he is guilty on all charges, “including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering”. Sam will be sentenced March 28th, 2024. In a very brief nutshell, the crypto exchange FTX used money belonging to customers to fund a trading firm called Alameda Research (very illegal), which was the equivalent of a Sportsbet account for SBF but instead of a cheeky lobster on the Roos to beat the Eagles, it’s a few billion on random real estate, political donations and crypto startups. When the shit hit the fan (his bets didn’t work out but he owed customers money), SBF and mates tried to cover it all up and when the law came, his mates quickly turned and blamed SBF for everything. His defence was basically “I tried my best but fucked up”, but nobody believed it so here we are. TIME has a solid article outlining how it all played out. Expect a Hollywood movie about FTX and SBF in 3-5 years.

Humane’s much hyped Ai Pin officially announced

Humane has fully unveiled their Ai Pin gadget. This 10 minute intro video featuring the co-founders gives an overview of what it is capable of. My impression is that the Ai Pin re-imagines the smartphone - take photos, listen to music, look up info, text/call people, etc - but they took the screen off, so the main way to use it is via Siri or Google Assistant along with a few gestures and a blurry laser projection of text onto your hand. I agree that GPT is way better than Apple and Google’s voice assistant, but it’s not that amazing to avoid the 99% problem where it might be fine for 99% of stuff you want it to do, but that last 1% is a bag of dog shit rendering the device nothing more than a tech demo. It’s not a good sign that in the intro video it’s spitting out incorrect answers as if it was a fact. Humane’s Ai Pin is US-only for now, with pre-orders for the US$699 + US$24/m subscription device kicking off next week and shipments starting in early 2024. I look forward to some independent reviews next year.

Apple to implement RCS messaging standard in iOS later next year

Apple told TechRadar and 9to5Mac today that it will support Rich Communication Services (RCS) text messaging in iOS, alongside iMessage, SMS and MMS in the Messages app. The full Apple quote is, “Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association. We believe the RCS Universal Profile will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS. This will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users”. RCS requires carrier support (which now that iOS supports it, will come quickly) and only Google’s proprietary implementation of RCS that Apple won’t support is end-to-end encrypted, but it’s better than nothing right now and gives the industry something to build on. I reckon Apple is hoping that finally supporting RCS is enough to placate the EU’s Digital Markets Act instead of opening up iMessage.

Optus CEO fronts Senate, releases first report on what went wrong last week

As I write this, the Optus CEO and Managing Director of Networks are getting grilled by clueless Senators up in Canberra that you can wisely ignore, but as part of that process Optus submitted a document to the Senate with an account of what happened on the day. From 4am to 10am they didn’t really know what was happening, but by 10:21am realised that “resetting and clearing routing connectivity on network elements which had disconnected themselves from the network” and “physically rebooting and reconnecting some network elements to restore connectivity” appeared to fix things, so that’s what they did until everything was up and running at around 2PM. The document confirms that “the outage occurred due to approximately 90 PE routers automatically self-isolating in order to protect themselves from an overload of IP routing information” and was the result of “a software upgrade at one of the Singtel internet exchanges (known as STiX) in North America”. There’s still ACMA’s and the Communications department’s investigations too.

Sam Altman returns to OpenAI with new board

Sam Altman is back as CEO as OpenAI and the board that sacked him is now gone, replaced with an “initial board” consisting of Bret Taylor as Chair, Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo. Altman tweeted, “i love openai, and everything i’ve done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together. when i decided to join msft on sun evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team. with the new board and w satya’s support, i’m looking forward to returning to openai, and building on our strong partnership with msft”. So that’s that, OpenAI can now concentrate on building the Torment Nexus.


Official 90-second GTA6 trailer is here

Our first look at Grand Theft Auto VI arrived early this morning. The 90 second trailer has already clocked up 35m views in just 5 hours! It shows the main protagonist, Lucia, on a crime spree across Vice City (aka Miami) with an unnamed guy in a Bonne-and-Clyde style setup, along with plenty of scantily clad women and dudes with guns. There’s no game play and the graphics are all pre-rendered (I doubt the actual game will look that good?) but it does contain the usual Rockstar cynical commentary on American life. We will be able to play it in 2025, probably late-2025 knowing how these giant game projects go. I love the GTA franchise and can’t wait to see how Rockstar does it without Dan Houser leading the development.

Rollout of end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger by default starts now

The day law enforcement feared has finally arrived - Facebook Messenger is now end-to-end encrypted by default. This sucks for them as it’s one of the most popular messaging services in the world and people love using it for crimes. They could simply demand Meta send them chat logs between suspects and Meta had to hand it over, even if the evidence that a user could be a suspect is flimsy as hell. That can’t happen now as Meta legitimately can’t see what’s in these messages as Messenger is now using “the Signal Protocol, and our own novel Labyrinth Protocol”. It’ll take “months” to implement across its 1 billion users, but it’s coming and will be turned on by default. Group chats and Instagram messages will come “later”.

Google catches up to OpenAI with new Gemini AI model

Google’s Bard chatbot got a big upgrade. It’s now powered by Gemini, “the first model to outperform human experts on MMLU (Massive Multitask Language Understanding), one of the most popular methods to test the knowledge and problem solving abilities of AI models”. Google compares it directly to GPT-4 in a range of benchmarks, with Gemini coming out on top in the vast majority of them. There’s 3 models, Nano, Pro and Ultra. Pro is available now via Bard if you wanna muck around with it, but Ultra is the one with all the impressive benchmarks Google is comparing to GPT-4. Plebs won’t get access to Gemini Ultra until Bard Advanced is made public some time next year. If you have any technical knowledge about this stuff (I don’t), you might find the white paper on Gemini useful.

Consolidated Industry Codes of Practice for the Online Industry are now enforceable

The eSafety Commissioner will start enforcing the Consolidated Industry Codes of Practice for the Online Industry (Class 1A and Class 1B Material) as of tomorrow (16th Dec 2023). This means if you see any of the following practically anywhere on the internet: “unlawful material (such as child sexual abuse material) on the service, could not find sufficient safety features, tools, or acceptable use policies or terms of service could not find safety information on the use of the service, made a complaint to the service in relation to unlawful material or possible non-compliance with an industry code and it was not resolved, and/or responded to and were unable to make a complaint, or report content and/or misuse to the service” you can dob that service in to the eSafety Commissioner via this form.

Beeper Mini finds new way send iMessages, isn’t very practical

Beeper Mini is still plugging away at trying to get iMessages onto Android devices but keeps hitting hurdles every time they change their technique for communicating with Apple’s servers - primarily the registration phase of connecting your Apple ID or phone number with Apple to tell them it can be used with iMessage. Beeper’s latest fix for that problem appears to be using a Mac to register, then moving that registration info to your Android device “roughly once per week or month”. At this point there’s probably too much messing around for most users, so the dream of seamless cross-device iMessage sending is dead for all but the most desperate. God speed little Beeper, keep the dream alive!