The Sizzle

Issue 375 - Wednesdya, 19th April 2017


457 visa reforms - nothing to see here for IT sector
That 457 visa thing from yesterday? No big deal, practically business as usual for the IT sector. In March 2018 the 457 will be called the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa instead, have a few stricter controls (police checks, must be under 45yo, stronger English skills) and some job descriptions have been removed from the list, but for IT the roles of: electronic engineering technician, ICT support and test engineers, ICT support technicians, web developers, telecommunications cable jointers, and telecommunications technicians are no longer allowed in. Everyone else is the same though. All those smart coders wanting to flee their dumpster fires of a country to work in the paradise that is Australia can still do so. The innovation boom can continue unabated.

News from Facebook's developer conference
Facebook's currently in the midst of F8, their developer conference and delivered some announceables. There's Spaces, a "social VR" platform where you can chat to your buddies in virtual reality, can't wait. Messenger will get QR codes so you can be dropped straight into a convo with a chat bot without having to search or add the bot to your friends list. Facebook AR Studio is basically a dev platform to build Snapchat-esque camera filters. The F8 conference goes for a few days, so expect more Facebook stuff tomorrow. The full keynote is available on the F8 conference website.

Plans to do NAPLAN online in 2017 have been postponed
Here's something totally unsurprising and fully predictable - online NAPLAN testing is so shit, the government has shitcanned its plans to do this year's round of testing online and will go back to paper based exams. The WA education minister said "My primary concern is to ensure students are able to demonstrate their literacy and numeracy skills without experiencing IT issues." The Victorian minister: "the state wasn't confident NAPLAN Online would be a "positive experience" for students and schools." This ABC report states that "one question remained on the screen the entire numeracy test, obscuring other questions and answers." Maybe it's PEBCAK, maybe it's just a typical shithouse government implemented system, hard to say.

AMD releases RX580 and RX570 - reheated versions of the RX480 and RX470
AMD is on a tear lately, releasing new RX580 and RX570 GPUs, straight off the release of their return to form Ryzen CPUs. The RX500 series of GPUs is a refresh of the RX400 series Polaris GPUs and replace them in AMD's product line up. Don't expect huge gains. Vega is AMD's "flagship" GPU that's apparently coming this quarter. The RX580 is practically identical benchmark wise, but uses a bit more electricity. It's a toss up whether to get one of these or an Nvidia GTX1060 as either one makes a fine 1080p gaming GPU. Civ 6 seems to perform better on the AMD cards though, so if I was building a low-key gaming rig, I'd grab a Ryzen 5 and an RX580.

Vic government throws $18m at telcos to improve mobile coverage along V/Line railway
Good news for country bumpkins like me - the Victorian government is handing out $18m to Telstra, Vodafone and Optus to improve signal along V/Line routes. The Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Traralgon and Seymour will be blanketed in glorious 4G as part of the Regional Rail Connectivity Project. Apparently Telstra is gonna roll out "in-train technology which will boost signal throughout the train itself", then base stations along the railway will get installed and upgraded. Thank fuck for this. It sucks when I'm catching a train into the city and at least 50% of the trip has no signal.


Smart opinion on how stupid mandatory data retention is
Troy Hunt has posted his two cents about the whole mandatory data retention bullshit going down in AU. He's also noticed the mainstream mentioning of VPNs to hide your browsing activity from the man, but he's also smartly explained that running one 24x7 sucks for most people. Which puts the whole data retention thing into the stupid idea category - anyone actually doing stuff that should be logged and police notified, is probably going to use proper encryption, yet for those of us who just want privacy are inconvenienced.

Sneaky unicode URLs perfectly imitate legit URLs
And on the topic of infosec bullshit - some arseholes are going around using Unicode characters in domain names that render in browser URL bars exactly like existing domain names, but aren't! It's perfect for phishing attacks. The article I've linked to gives the example of - a legit website where you might hand over medical info. But the domain when placed in a browser bar is rendered with characters that look identical to e p i and c. To make matters worse, they were able to use Let's Encrypt to gain an SSL cert so that the little green padlock appears and lends even more credibility (a quick look at the cert shows it's fucked, but who does that?). The internet is a hostile place for normies.

Microsoft Authenticator allows passwordless logins to Microsoft stuff
You can now log in to your Microsoft account without a password. Install Microsoft Authenticator on your phone, set it up, and next time you're at a Microsoft login prompt, it'll send a push notification out asking you to confirm that it was you who wanted to sign in. Pretty cool! Oh, it doesn't work on Windows Phone, hahaha, suckers. Microsoft reckons this is way more secure than a password or even a password and typical 2FA methods like SMS. I think I'll give this a crack.

Here endeth the sizzle (until tomorrow!)

The Sizzle is curated by Anthony "@decryption" Agius and emailed every weekday afternoon. Join us on Slack and chat with other Sizzle subscribers.