China brings Apple & Amazon to their knees, cryptocurrencies are the new gold and the Hyperloop is the future of public transportation — Issue #20
China brings Apple and Amazon to their knees, cryptocurrencies are the new gold and the Hyperloop is the future of public transportation 🏁
🌍 Around the web
BREAKING! Remember that guy everybody thought was a hero and a white hacker? Well, nope! And this is why we can’t have nice things…
Marcus Hutchins entered the pantheon of hacker heroes for stopping the WannaCry ransomware attack that ripped through the internet and paralyzed hundreds of thousands of computers. Now he’s been arrested and charged with involvement in another mass hacking scheme (…) Yesterday authorities detained 22-year-old Hutchins after the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas as he attempted to fly home to the UK (…) the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against Hutchins, charging that he created the Kronos banking trojan, a widespread piece of malware used to steal banking credentials for fraud. He’s accused of intentionally creating that banking malware for criminal use, as well as being part of a conspiracy to sell it for $3,000 between 2014 and 2015 on cybercrime market sites such as the now-defunct AlphaBay dark web market.
It’s hard to spend a week without hearing about Amazon or Uber drama…
According to sources, that top leader is not going to be a woman, as the board of the car-hailing company struggles to move forward.
To add to the drama: Some directors worry that its former CEO Travis Kalanick — who was ousted — is trying to game the outcome in his favor, after he told several people that he was “Steve Jobs-ing it.” It is a reference to the late leader of Apple, who was fired from the company, only to later return in triumph.
Fascinating (and sad) recollection of what happened to SoundCloud.
SoundCloud was once a platform beloved by listeners and creators, whose leaders hoped to revolutionize the music industry. Hamstrung by management mistakes and fierce competition, they never did. Here’s the story of how it all came crashing down.
But ‘What does it mean if someone can delete hundreds and thousands of hours of sound culture overnight?’ See Jenna Wortham’s interesting take on the matter.
Didn’t see that one coming but curious to see what they’ll come up with. A redesign is definitely a good thing haha!
Reddit has raised $200 million in new venture funding and is now valued at $1.8 billion, according to CEO Steve Huffman. The new funding round, the company’s largest ever, should expedite a number of internal product and business efforts, including a redesign of its homepage and its first foray into user-uploaded video (…)The money comes courtesy of a number of well-known Silicon Valley investors, including firms like Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital, and individual investors like Y Combinator President Sam Altman (also a board member) and SV Angel’s Ron Conway.
Twitter talks a lot about Daily Active User growth but doesn’t break out any hard numbers as they added zero users last quarter!
On the DAU, front, Twitter’s user growth looks good, which is a key reason it’s focusing on that figure. When Twitter reported earnings Thursday, the company said its daily user base grew 12 percent in Q2 over the same period last year, marking the third straight quarter that DAU growth was in the double digits. (Twitter’s MAU growth, for comparison, was just 5 percent year over year, and the company didn’t add any new users in Q2.)
There’s just one problem with this DAU focus: Twitter doesn’t actually share how many daily users it has. Which makes 12 percent growth hard to appreciate. That’s 12 percent growth from what?
Later in the week, Twitter’s stock price also rised after unlikely Google buyout rumours.
It was just a matter of time before this happened.
A prominent privacy rights watchdog is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a new Google advertising program that ties consumers’ online behavior to their purchases in brick-and-mortar stores.
The legal complaint from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to be filed with the FTC on Monday, alleges that Google is newly gaining access to a trove of highly sensitive information — the credit and debit card purchase records of the majority of U.S. consumers — without revealing how they got the information or giving consumers meaningful ways to opt out. Moreover, the group claims that the search giant is relying on a secretive technical method to protect the data — a method that should be audited by outsiders and is likely vulnerable to hacks or other data breaches.
After Apple (pulling 60 VPNs from China App Store), it’s Amazon’s turn to bow before China’s censors.
A Chinese company that operates Amazon’s cloud-computing and online services business there said on Tuesday that it told local customers to cease using any software that would allow Chinese to circumvent the country’s extensive system of internet blocks. The company, called Beijing Sinnet Technology and operator of the American company’s Amazon Web Services operations in China, sent one round of emails to customers on Friday and another on Monday.
“If users don’t comply with the guidance, the offered services and their websites can be shut down,” said a woman surnamed Wang who answered a Sinnet service hotline. “We the operators also check routinely if any of our users use these softwares or store illegal content.”
Speaking of Amazon, here is your weekly update. Good news for customers but bad news for sellers and small businesses.
Amazon sellers are up in arms over a new returns policy that will make it easier for consumers to send back items at the merchant’s expense.
Marketplace sellers who ship products from their home, garage or warehouse — rather than using Amazon’s facilities — were told this week by email that starting Oct. 2, items they sell will be “automatically authorized” for return.
That means a buyer will no longer need to contact the seller before sending an item back, and the merchant won’t have the opportunity to communicate with the customer. If a consumer is returning an electronic device because it’s difficult to use, for example, the seller won’t be able to offer help before being forced to pay a refund.
🤖 Technology / AI / Blockchain
What a great time to be alive!
The Los Angeles company leading the race to fulfill Elon Musk’s dream of tubular transit tested its pod for the first time last weekend. That pod is 28 feet long and made of aluminum and carbon fiber. It looks a bit like a bus with a beak.
A fast bus with a beak. Once loaded into a 1,600-foot-long concrete tube in the Nevada desert, the pod hit 192 mph in about 5 seconds, using an electric propulsion system producing more than 3,000 horsepower.
I realize that many people were a little confused about what that Bitcoin split and “civil war” meant. Here is a very clear explanation, in plain English :)
There’s a lot of fuss in the bitcoin community about what will happen on August 1. Will the cryptocurrency split into two new ones? Will it not? What is BIP 91? What is BIP 148? What is SegWit? The incredibly significant date is just around the corner but there are still so many unanswered questions!
Again, I know non-technical people sometimes struggle with cryptocurrencies so here are a couple of great resources to get started!
It starts with a high level overview of Bitcoin and the associated blockchain, getting into the basics of how it works technically, and looking at the long-term implications. It then branches into blockchains more generally, Ethereum and eventually other cryptocurrencies and “appcoins.”
Insane modern age gold rush, crypto miners are trying to get as many GPUs as they can.
(AMD) share price jumped after it beat revenue estimates thanks to cryptocurrency miners snapping up the firm’s graphics cards. Shares rose 11% after the chip company announced earnings on July 25, but the firm’s stock is up 152% over the last 12 months, making it the fourth best performer on the S&P 500, CNBC reported. (…) Crypto miners — in particular those mining ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency by market valuation behind bitcoin (…) are racing to take advantage of ethereum’s exploding price by adding more processing power to their mines. Some of them are even resorting to leasing Boeing 747s to fly the increasingly scarce graphics processors from AMD and Nvidia directly to their ethereum mines so they can be plugged in to the network as quickly as possible.
Artificial intelligence is trendy and cool but we still have a long way to go before computers can truly educate themselves.
To get computers to think like humans, we need a new A.I. paradigm, one that places “top down” and “bottom up” knowledge on equal footing. Bottom-up knowledge is the kind of raw information we get directly from our senses, like patterns of light falling on our retina. Top-down knowledge comprises cognitive models of the world and how it works.
Interesting perspective on how robots will force a lot of people to switch to marketing jobs.
The fear that robots, or more generally smart software, will put us all out of work is one of dominant economic memes of our time. But that fear is misplaced. We’re unlikely to see mass unemployment; rather, workers will shift into new economic sectors (…) The real risk is that the robots will push too many of us into less socially productive jobs — especially those in marketing. (…) Consider the general logic of labor substitution. Machines and software are often very good at “making stuff” and, increasingly, at delivering well-defined services, such as when Alexa arranges a package for you. But machines are not effective at persuading, at developing advertising campaigns, at branding products or corporations, or at greeting you at the door in a charming manner, as is done so often in restaurants, even if you order on an iPad. Those activities will remain the province of human beings for a long time to come.
⚙️ Development / Design / DIY projects
Finally, a dead-simple explanation of CS data structures (linked lists, hash maps, etc.). No CS degree necessary. No proofs, and no confusing academic jargon.
Modern websites are browsed through a lens of transparent systems built to enhance performance, extract analytics and supply numerous additional services. This almost invisible attack surface has been largely overlooked for years.
In this paper, I’ll show how to use malformed requests and esoteric headers to coax these systems into revealing themselves and opening gateways into our victim’s networks. I’ll share how by combining these techniques with a little Bash I was able to thoroughly perforate DoD networks, trivially earn over $30k in vulnerability bounties, and accidentally exploit my own ISP.
Chrome automation made simple. Runs locally or headless on AWS Lambda. Chromeless can be used to: run 1000s of browser integration tests in parallel; crawl the web and automate screenshots; write bots that require a real browser; do pretty much everything you’ve used PhantomJS, NightmareJS, or Selenium for before.
There are countless articles, discussions, and lots of social chatter comparing Docker, Kubernetes, and Mesos. If you listen to the partially-informed, you’d think that the three open source projects are in a fight-to-the death for container supremacy. You’d also believe that picking one over the other is almost a religious choice; with true believers espousing their faith and burning heretics who would dare to consider an alternative. That’s all bunk.
For the true nerds only but FASCINATING.
I built a programmable 8-bit computer from scratch on breadboards using only simple logic gates. I documented the whole project in a series of YouTube videos and on this web site.
Another very geeky but amazing project.
For an easy way to find out which channels are available, YouTuber “moononournation” came up with a Wi-Fi analyzer that not only runs on the inexpensive ESP8266, but is small enough to fit inside of a Tic Tac container. This makes a great enclosure, as not only is the LCD screen protected behind clear plastic, but the charging socket is revealed by opening the (former) candy door!
🔥 Bits and pieces
Busy week in the Bitcoin department. The feds took down one of Bitcoin’s largest exchanges. WannaCry ransomware bitcoins have been moved from online wallets and a New York City Education Department Employee got caught mining bitcoin at work!
Financial regulators have raised concerns over concentration risk: is Amazon’s cloud service too big to fail? Speaking of Amazon, it seems like the Echo could be turned into a spying device and it can’t be fixed by software patch.
Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube (Google/Alphabet, Inc) have formed the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism and Amber Rudd is asking them to quietly drop end-to-end encryption from their products. That is why you might want consider this list of non-technical steps for staying anonymous. The FCC is still full of sh*t and says its cybersecurity measures to prevent DDoS attacks must remain secret.
Here is how to make a racist AI without really trying to and no, Facebook did not panic and shut down an AI program that was getting too smart. A group of engineers hacked a 113-Year-Old Subway System’s Signs in New York City.
See how two brothers turned seven lines of code into a $9.2 billion startup (Stripe). Twitter’s latest move (a weird $99 ‘subscription’) could be the beginning of the end. Also, porn browsing habits and confidential documents could be found in supposedly anonymized data. And finally, take a look at the technologies that might come after Flash’s death.