Tech News Update 24.11.2017

Battle Front II

Electronic Arts have suspended in-game micro-transactions for Star Wars Battlefront II, following a massive backlash from fans. EA was widely criticised for including purchasable items that could provide a dramatically different gameplay experience, and provide an unfair advantage over players who do not purchase them. EA sought to defend the decision to include micro-transactions in a Reddit response, which turned out to be the most downvoted comment in Reddit history. The day before the game’s wide release, EA announced that while the loot boxes would remain in the game, microtransactions would temporarily be suspended. However, reports that Walt Disney consumer products and interactive media chairman Jimmy Pitaro contacted EA CEO Andrew Wilson hours before the announcement suggested the possibility that Disney strong-armed EA into suspending microtransactions in order to protect the “Star Wars” brand image.

HP Printer Exploit

HP has issued firmware updates for a vulnerability in several of its business and enterprise printers that could be abused to run arbitrary code remotely. FoxGlove Security researchers issued an advisory disclosing the technical details of the bug, earlier this week. The firm found HP did not sufficiently validate parts of dynamic link libraries, which the researchers exploited to create malware that could be remotely installed on the printers.

Facebook Messenger 4K Support

Facebook Messenger update will now allow you to send pictures to your friends in much higher quality than in the past. Facebook says you can now send and receive photos at 4K resolution, or 4,096 x 4,096 pixels per image. The update has started rolling out to Android and iPhone users in the UK, US, Canada, France, Australia, Singapore and South Korea, and Facebook says it will come to more countries in the coming weeks.

New Firefox Browser

Firefox Quantum, which was released last week, is all about performance. Firefox is twice as fast as it was a year ago, Mozilla claimed. In addition to improvements under the hood, Mozilla redesigned Firefox’s user interface. Even with performance advantages, Quantum will find it difficult to grab browser share from leader Chrome, which owned about 47 percent of the desktop market as of last month, according to numbers from NetMarketShare.

Uber Hack

Uber has revealed that 57 million customers and drivers have been compromised in a data theft, which occurred last year. Uber has admitted that they have initially tried to cover up the theft by paying a $US100,000 ransom, which the new chief executive confessed: “should not have happened”. Uber has confirmed that Australian customers’ personal information had been stolen in the hack and informed the Privacy Commissioner. The cybersecurity firm ESET has revealed new research showing three in five Australian organisations were still not prepared to report cybersecurity breaches immediately.

Tesla All-Electric Transport Truck

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled an all-electric heavy-duty truck on the 16th of November. The truck can do 0–100kms in 6 seconds (without load), can go up inclines at a steady 100kms (with load), has a cool centralised driving position, has wrap-around armoured glass windows and touchscreens. The two models will retail starting at $USD 150,000 for a version with 500 KM of range, and will also be available in a $USD 180,000 version with 800 KM of range. Musk said that it will cost less than a diesel semi considering fuel savings, lower maintenance, and other factors. The move fits with Musk’s stated goal for the company of accelerating the shift to sustainable transportation. Trucks account for nearly a quarter of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions in the US, according to government statistics.

Tesla Completes World’s Largest Battery

Tesla has completed production of a massive battery farm in South Australia, which is designed to capture and store energy produced by a wind farm and distribute it to the grid when it’s needed most, in an effort to curb frequent summer blackouts. According to a local state government website, the 100-megawatt Tesla Powerpacks set has now been fully installed and will be energized in the next few days as it enters a phase of regulatory testing.

Net Neutrality

US internet regulators want to dismantle net neutrality rules, which ensure that all data on the internet, from the smallest blog to the best video streaming sites, are able to be accessed equally. Net neutrality grants customers equal access to the internet and treats the web as an essential public utility, much like the phone line or electricity. The idea is that anyone with an internet connection should be able to access any website and that the speed of the internet is the same no matter which site is chosen. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the US equivalent to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, has proposed changes that mean ISPs can charge users more to access certain websites, slow down the delivery of certain websites and block access to some sites altogether. For example, the changes could allow ISPS to charge more for customers to consume high-data sites, such as Netflix. The move could also lead to broadband providers playing favourites with sites and favouring their own apps and services. The announcement is a big win for telecommunication companies, and it pits them against rival tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, who oppose the plan. While the move may not affect the Australian internet users directly, Australian businesses could be damaged by the changes, since many Australian businesses rely on hosting from US providers.

Amazon Australia Launch

Amazon soft-launched in Australia on Thursday, amid fears the nation’s retail industry is set for a massive shake-up because of the arrival of the online behemoth. While has long been a hub for Kindles and ebooks, the new version of the site expected to launch in full on Friday will look more like the US and UK versions, filled with everything from electronics to breakfast cereal, and from baby toys to motorhomes. It’s believed that the soft launch, or “internal testing phase” is limited to a small number of select customers, who will be able to order from the Australian site from Thursday afternoon. But for the bulk of Australians that functionality remains invisible, with no clear way to become one of the special early few.

Apple HomePod Delay

Late last week, Apple announced that it was delaying the release of the HomePod, the company’s Siri-based smart speaker that was initially slated to launch in December. Apple didn’t give a specific reason for the delay, only stating that it needs “a little more time before it’s ready for our customers.” Although this has frustrated many eager buyers, Apple assures that they only release products when they are fully baked and ready to go, as a sign of commitment towards ensuring positive user experience. The delay means Apple will miss out on potential sales during this year’s holiday season while competitors like Amazon and Google further entrench themselves as the leading players in the emerging space. The HomePod speaker was announced in June, with an initial launch date set for December. Apple said that its smart speaker will be able to control home appliances and take basic orders. It is rare but not unprecedented for Apple to delay a product launch.

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