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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 26 January 2018, 4:58 pm

Here's the weekly update from TechBlog editor Paul Brislen.


You know you're on a hiding to nothing when Linus Torvalds calls you out on your shoddy updates. Intel, sadly, doubled down on the fixes its put out for the Spectre security flaw by telling some users not to install the patches because, well, they'll break your system even more.

Spectre, in case you missed it, is a massive security flaw built in to almost all the chips used in almost all modern IT systems, from phones to servers. So that's something you really want to manage carefully, but sadly for Intel the cards have not fallen well for the microprocessor giant.

It started off poorly, by issuing a press release that sprayed the blame as far and wide as possible, insisting that every company was involved not just Intel, which did little to engender it to either the customer base or its partners.

Then it issued a fix that caused some devices to randomly reboot, so that's not good either. Finally Linus, founder of the Linux operating system and one of the Angry Young Men of the internet, declared the patches utter garbage (or to quote his email exchange accurately, "COMPLETE AND UTTER GARBAGE,") and said, "The patches do things like add the garbage MSR writes to the kernel entry/exit points. That's insane. That says 'we're trying to protect the kernel'. We already have retpoline there, with less overhead."

Linus pointedly asks, "WHAT THE F*CK IS GOING ON?" which pretty much sums up the whole stinking mess.

LV Martin and Sons, a retailer you're all far too young to remember, used to say "If it's not right, we'll put it right and it's the putting right that counts!" and never a truer word has been said.

The Register - 'WHAT THE F*CK IS GOING ON?' Linus Torvalds explodes at Intel spinning Spectre fix as a security feature

The Register - Death notice: Moore's Law. 19 April 1965 - 2 January 2018

Lifehacker - Don't Use Intel's Latest Spectre Patch



Rocket Lab

What a rush.

Not only did a New Zealand company get a rocket into orbit, not only did the launch go flawlessly (aside from some random yachty sailing into the exclusion zone the day before), not only did the payload execute flawlessly but there was a secret payload (a disco ball no less) that has caused no end of angst among the twitterati, thus cementing the launch in Kiwi mythology.

They've even produced a t-shirt although I'm sad to see they haven't immortalized the Kiwi-accented countdown in such a manner ("Sivin… Sux.. Foive…" A beauty to behold)

Peter Beck, founder and chief mad scientist, put it well on Radio New Zealand after the launch when he said nobody expected a Kiwi company would be able to build a launch pad, get a law change, get an international treaty signed, raise $200 million and then get a rocket up into orbit. Yet that's exactly what they've done.

Now to do it again. And again and again. Beck is expecting two launches a month (and even at that rate it will take the better part of two years to clear the backlog of payloads already on the company's books) and can extend that out to a launch every 72 hours if demand keeps up.

And with the total rocket coming in at around $6 million per launch, for many companies and scientists, the question won't be "can we afford to send up a satellite" but "how many can we send" because that price is about 95% less than almost every other delivery system on the planet.

So, with that in mind, the challenge for the rest of the high tech sector is what can you do to change New Zealand's future? Because from here it looks very much as though the sky is the limit.

Stuff - Rocket Lab reveals secret project, 'humanity star' satellite orbiting Earth

RNZ - NZ space industry reaching for the stars

The Verge - Rocket Lab secretly launched a disco ball satellite on its latest test flight

NZ Herald - Paul Charman: Humanity Star exciting, but also mortifying




2018: the year ahead

So it's going to be a busy year I suspect. There's a lot going on in the tech space both locally and internationally and we've got plenty of politics to keep us going as well.

Locally we have a review of the Telecommunications Act, the Commerce Commission taking a closer look at both backhaul services and the nature of the mobile market, no doubt more movements in the media space as the bigger players struggle to find a way through the morass of a market they've helped create and yet more interest in the multinationals and how much they make out of us (and how much tax they pay as a result).

There's also the government's new Chief Technology Officer role to be announced, along with a council to help advise the government on the future, both of which are sorely needed. I see the role as being more of a futurist than an actual hands-on tech officer (we have those already) so you want someone with vision and an ability to tell stories to bring the best of New Zealand tech to the world and vice versa.

And there's the deployment of UFB2 and RBI2 to really show you can reach out to the distant corners of the country.

Internationally there's possibly even more going on. If last year was the year of the ransomware, this year will be … who knows? Blockchain gets a lot of press, but then so did WAP and that's the first time anyone's mentioned that particular acronym in print for 50 years (Editor: That's a slight exaggeration I suspect).

We've got the European deployment of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which if you don't know about it and have customers, staff, partners, family or even people who have heard of your company residing in the European Union will give you something to discuss at your next team meeting.

And then there's Trump, whose anti-immigration stance means the H1B visa programme is starting to look a tad shaky at best.

With America's retreat behind its wall (metaphorically speaking, at this stage) that leaves the door open to other superpowers to step up and the Washington Post has a very interesting piece on the rise of China as a centre of tech research and development (see below for the whole story).

Remember, chaos isn't a pit, it's a ladder and this year could well be the start of a period of opportunity for the New Zealand tech sector.

The Register - What is... jee-dee-pee-argh? Survey suggests smaller firms living under rocks as EU privacy regs loom

The Register - H-1B visa hopefuls, green card holders are feeling the wrath of 'America first' Trump

Washington Post - China's breathtaking transformation into a scientific superpower


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