Links and thinks: 15 January 2018

Posted by Ben Creet at 1.30pm on Monday 15 January.

Today, the country returns to full service from the holiday. It's hot here in Wellington, it's Monday and it's time for some links and our thinks about them!

This week we're thinking about how good people are with computers, facebook's news feed changes, the recent Meltdown vulnerability and Kodak.

How good are people at using computers?

We left of 2017 doing a lot of thinking about digital divides and how skilled New Zealanders are with computers and the Internet. I think I owe Jon Brewer a hat tip for re-finding this piece about the OECD's 2016 skill research. It's a bit old, but still a useful and somewhat sobering read about how skilled people are, or aren't with computers. No major reckons here from me, just a useful reminder that people generally aren't as skilled with a computer as some of us assume they may be.

Facebook's new news feed

Late last week Facebook announced it will be making some pretty significant changes to the way its algorithm presents posts into your news feed. Basically it seems they're re-prioritising what your friends and family post, over video from brands and businesses you like. Alternatively you could be a grognard (a gaming term of 'old soldiers') like me and just compulsively select most 'recent' instead of 'top news'? We'll see how this goes but if you run your own business that uses Facebook to communicate and advertise then you may want to read more and figure out what this will mean for you.

My initial read indicates less videos, more pictures of your friends food..

Meltdown & vulnerability collision

Sorry, I'm about to get a bit nerdy on you here. The recently disclosed and patched vulnerabilities Meltdown and Spectre made big news. If we put aside the vulnerabilities themselves, there's something really interesting about Meltdown - it was found and reported by four separate security researcher groups to Intel.

This is something that we call vulnerability collision - the idea that multple people will find the same bugs. It's a concept that underpins processes like the US Government's Vulnerabilities Equities Process, where the NSA and other agencies assess whether a bug should be reported & patched, or kept and used. These processes assume that bugs can be, and are, found by other groups.

This article by Andy Greenberg is a good write-up of this particular case, and the general issue.

Kodak & cryptocurrencies

Cryptocurrencies are like Hansel - so hot right now. Kodak, that photography company that almost ceased to exist, has made two recent announcements that made us raise our eyebrows.

Firstly, Kodak is launching its own cryptocurrency, KodakCoin, in what is known as an Initial Coin Offering (or an ICO). I'm not a authorised financial advisor so I won't give advice here. Instead I'll just leave this basic raised eyebrow emoji over here: 0_o

At CES Kodak released a rental-bitcoin mining machine where you pay US$3,400 to rent a bitcoin mining computer (a specialised, GPU-based computer that it optimised to mine cryptocurrencies) and then you get half of the value of the bitcoins your machine makes.

This seems to be targeted for people who a) want to mine bitcoin, b) can't or won't make their own mining rigs and c) don't want to pay the power costs associated with running multiple computers 24/7.

That seems a bit… niche to me but I must be wrong because Kodak's shares rose and as we all know, the markets are always right.

There you go Whanau, three interesting articles and another does of my cryptocurrency cynicism (I promise not to include a cryptocurrency article next week).

Have a great week everyone!