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October 16, 2021

Daily Tech News 16 October 2021

Top Story
  • From the What Were They Thinking Files: 7-Eleven decided to build a biometric database of their customers without actually bothering to tell anyone. (ZDNet)

    7-Eleven - apparently this was just in Australia - was conducting an in-store survey using a tablet interface that took your photo while you were filling it out. The photos were then analysed as faceprints and uploaded to the cloud.

    7-Eleven claims that the survey takers consented to this because they have terms somewhere on their website that say they can take your photo if you are in one of their stores. But there's a big difference between incidentally appearing on security footage which is erased after a period of time, and a company amassing a biometric database of a significant percentage of a country's population.

    Australia's Privacy Commissioner was unimpressed with the company's arguments and they have been ordered to stop doing this and to destroy all data collected.

    But the investigation started in July last year - a month after the survey started - and 7-Eleven carried on doing this until August of this year.

    The kicker is that 7-Eleven was conducting this survey to gather demographic information on its customer base - already heading into questionable territory - and built the biometric database so they could filter out inaccurate responses.

    Yes, online and automated surveys return trash results. Half the userbase on Steam was born on January 1. Tough shit, be happy they even deign to answer the question.




Tech News
  • Pine64 has announced a new phone that isn't a completely antiquated pile of junk. (Tom's Hardware)

    The new PinePhone Pro has dual A72 cores as well as the inescapable cluster of A53 cores. That should make it about twice as fast as the old model.

    The specs generally are mediocre by 2021 standards, but it should function well enough. My own phone has an A73, barely faster than the A72, and it runs fine for my needs.

    The distinction of the PinePhone is that it runs standard Linux. It's not locked down at all, unless you pop the cover and flip some dip switches to make it so. You own it, and it does what you tell it to.


  • The latest Windows 11 beta has a fix for the Ryzen cache bug. (Tom's Hardware)

    Still no explanation of what the bug actually is.


  • Time to bust some trusts. (LA Review of Books)

    I saw a link to this today. It's a couple of years old but hasn't lost any of its relevance. It covers the ignorance and arrogance endemic within the West Coast tech startup and VC culture, and suggests that the appropriate and necessary remedy is to start breaking them up. Or throwing them into a volcano, whatever works.


  • Apple has fired a leader of the "AppleToo" activist movement. (Apple Insider)

    Apple says for deleting files and impeding an internal investigation. Now-former employee Janneke Parrish says for publishing stories critical of Apple.

    It's probably both.


  • Tether has paid a $41 million settlement to the CFTC for lying about being, well, tethered. (Bloomberg)

    This follows an $18 million settlement by Tether and other companies to the state of New York.

    Which makes me wonder, if they don't have the funds to back their stablecoin, where are they getting the funds to pay these fines?

    In a long list of blockchain trends to be avoided, Tether seems to be fast approaching the top.


  • Valve has banned games that use the blockchain from Steam. (The Verge)

    Valve bans games that allow in-game items to be traded for real money - except when it's them doing it. The advantage of NFTs is that they create an instant marketplace separate from the game itself. The disadvantage of NFTs is they create an instant marketplace separate from the game itself... And also cost a few cents per transaction.

    Unless you're using Ethereum, in which case it's tens of dollars.


  • An experimental patch for Python removes the GIL without affecting single-threaded performance. (Python.org)

    In fact, it's 10% faster than the standard release on single-threaded code while scaling almost perfectly on multi-threaded code, something the stock Python interpreter cannot do.

    The problem is, Python extensions written in C generally assume there's no multi-threaded weirdness going on inside Python, and many of them are going to break horribly with this patch.


  • A drone has been used to deliver human lungs for transplant. (ExtremeTech)

    The flight took the human body parts from Toronto Western Hospital to Toronto General... Which is only a mile and a half and they could have just packed them in ice and walked, but that wouldn't have made much of a headline.


  • They're putting guns on robot dogs now. (The Verge)

    The gun in question ins a SWORD Systems SPUR, available in 6.5mm and NATO 7.62x51, with a 10-round magazine and a 30x optical zoom coupled with a Teledyne FLIR thermal camera.

    Slightly disappointing; when I first saw the photo I was hoping for some kind of minigun, but the robot dog in question is quite small.


  • It's a tough life for Minecraft pets. Baelz managed to smuggle two parrots from the Hololive Japan resource server to the Hololive Japan main server and then all the way back to the Hololive EN server - and then promptly got blown up by a creeper.


Disclaimer: Our gun-toting robot dog is perfect for guarding your next human body part delivery! Or obtaining it, as the case may be.
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