The Truth: Trade Deal with China, Merkel Defends Huawei, Google Hands Over AMP

Monday, 14 October 2019

Hello and welcome to a fresh week here with The Truth. I apologise for being somewhat late today, but I had a very busy day. Anyway, here’s some tech news you might find interesting. Lots of German stories today for some reason.

The next version of Windows 10 will be called the “November 2019 Update”. And, if The Register is to be believed it might even arrive before November. Which would be in character for Microsoft which has had problems in aligning the names of the releases with the actual release months in the past.

Looks like Trump might actually getting somewhere on a trade deal with China. This might spell an end to the trade war that’s keeping the hardware side of the tech world awake at night. Of course, most of the press is saying it’s all lies from the President. But they would say that even if it wasn’t. As far as I can see, pretty much everyone is all in on anti-Trump rhetoric all the time. And I’m not quite sure how the New York Times or Bloomberg could even know any specifics on the deal. What I’m reading from them certainly doesn’t convince me, it’s too heavy on opinion and way too light on facts. I personally think Trump might actually have gotten somewhere with his pressure on the Chinese. The negotiation strategy seems solid, at least: “A bigger trade deal will come over time in three stages, according to Mr. Trump, with more divisive issues to be addressed later.”

Speaking of the trade war, in Germany the Chancellor herself intervened in plans to exclude Huwawei from 5G networks in the country. Originally, policy papers from the governmental network regulation agency Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) had stipulated that only “hardware from trustworthy suppliers” could be used in building and maintaining networks in Germany. Merkel is said to have removed this clause now (German) because, according to press reports, this might have excluded Huawei from supplying tech. I really don’t see how Huawei is a more trustworthy supplier than, say, Cisco. Unless being spied on by the US is OK and only Chinese espionage is horrible. Seeing that Germany isn’t part of the Five Eyes, I would think both cases were undesirable. And since there’s no hard evidence that Huawei is actually putting backdoors in their equipment, I think Merkel is totally right to intervene as she apparently did. If that changes, we just need to rip the hardware out after the fact. As we should do with any other tech, no matter were it was made, if we have hard evidence that it has backdoors that are being used to spy on us.

A developer of mail software is warning people of Apple’s latest macOS release. It looks like those 32-bit problems weren’t the only thing Apple broke with Catalina. Case in point: “Updating Mail’s data store from Mojave to Catalina sometimes says that it succeeded, but large numbers of messages turn out to be missing or incomplete. Moving messages between mailboxes, both via drag-and-drop and AppleScript, can result in a blank message (only headers) on the Mac. If the message was moved to a server mailbox, other devices see the message as deleted. And eventually this syncs back to the first Mac, where the message disappears as well.” Ooops. So much for “it just works”.

In Germany we have this uniquely German thing I like to call Verbotskultur. We love to ban things. On the forefront has always been the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien (BPjM), which in the past has outlawed video games for having too much blood or swastikas in them. I’d thought we’d be over this puritan crap, but now there’s a new thing people can get upset about: gambling in video games. It’s the new cool thing we should make verboten! And who should be riding that particular horse? Of course, it’s Jan Böhmermann! Everyone’s favourite comedian-turned-savior. He’s talked about an app called Coin Master on his show, which apparently simulates slot machines and targets children. Won’t somebody think of the children? Well Jan did, and now the BPjM is looking into a ban, which everyone is very happy about (German). Heise is already throwing NBA 2K20 up as a next candidate (German), because loot boxes. Great. I mean, Heise of all people, should see where this is going. Because what we need in Germany is more bans. We definitely don’t have enough of those.

Google’s controversial AMP project is being handed over to a subsidiary of the Linux Foundation. The Register has the details: “Google is a platinum member of the OpenJS Foundation and its parent The Linux Foundation – meaning it provides significant financial support – so the advertising giant can still be expected to have some influence over AMP governance. While placing the technology in the hands of a foundation is a positive move, it does not change the way Google can prioritize AMP pages in search results, and therefore ensure that publishers have to support the standard.”

We have lost cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first human to ever go on a spacewalk. And that first spacewalk was a doozy: “Leonov’s pressurised suit had ballooned in space, becoming rigid to the point where he was unable to re-enter the airlock. He was forced to reduce the pressure of his suit below safety limits in order to get back some flexibility in the joints and eventually rejoin Pavel Belyayev in the capsule. Naturally, as soon as things began to go south for Leonov, the authorities cut all transmissions from the spacecraft, replacing them with recordings of Mozart’s Requiem, usually reserved for when a senior politico had died, but before an official announcement was made.” He also landed the damn spaceship on manual, because the automatic guidance system crapped out. At 10 Gs. And then spent two night in deepest Siberia before skiing to safety. Oh yeah, and he painted in space. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

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