Unsupervised Learning No. 227

News & Analysis

STANDARD EDITION | EP. 227 | May 4, 2020

THIS WEEK’S TOPICS: VICE vs. Chinese Surveillance, Indian Contact Tracing, NHS + GCHQ, Banjo Racism, Singapore Requires Check-ins, Bruce on Contact Tracing, Technology News, Human News, Ideas Trends & Analysis, Discovery, Recommendations, and the Weekly Aphorism…


VICE and HBO teamed up to do a great documentary on automated sensors and analytics in China, which is full-on dystopian surveillance. The Skynet piece is just golden. Oh, and then they bring up Black Mirror by name, but as a goal, not as a cautionary tale. More

India is having all of its workers—both government and private—use an official contract-tracing app to help maintain social distancing. More

The UK has given GCHQ special dispensation to access NHS's IT systems to protect it during the pandemic. More

Banjo is an AI-powered surveillance company out of Utah that has a number of contracts in that state and elsewhere. A number of customers have suspended their contracts after learning that the CEO was associated with the KKK in his past and participated in a shooting of a synagogue in his youth. More

Singapore is moving to require smartphone check-ins at all businesses, tied to the visitors' national ID number. More

Some really cool analysis from the New York Times shows that non-COVID-related death rates have jumped massively in recent weeks (as compared to the previous five years), indicating that some major percentage of those probably were COVID-related. More

Bruce Schneier doesn't think contact tracing will work. Not because of privacy issues, he just thinks the whole thing is impossible due to technical errors. I've not thought much about it, but my inclination is the opposite. And my first thoughts are to look to places that have already been trying it. Didn't they have some success already? South Korea? Israel? These things don't require perfection to be effective. Just like masks or social distancing. It's a layer. More

The US is sending ships into disputed waters in the South China Sea while China is also there acting up while the world is distracted. Hopefully we don't add a war with China to our global list of problems. More


  • The Ghost blogging platform was compromised using recent Salt vulnerabilities, and attackers inserted code that mined cryptocurrency. More

  • Indonesia's largest online store, Tokopedia, just had 15 million records leaked. More


  • Salt has a CVSS 10 vulnerability. If you own it, patch it. More

  • Adobe patched some critical Illustrator, Bridge, and Magento flaws. More

  • Wordpress had some serious issues up to an including admin-level RCE. Make sure you get updated to 5.4.1. More


LinkedIn has developed an AI tool that analyzes your responses to interview questions, and tells you how you can improve. More

USB 4 will support 8K and 16K displays. More

Google Meet is about to be free for anyone with a Gmail account, and Facebook is launching its Zoom competitor soon as well. This will bring both companies into some serious conversations around anti-trust given the fact that they're leveraging a massive platform to compete (maybe unfairly) with companies like Zoom and WebEx. More

Brad Pitt's SNL monologue skit was shot on a prototype of RED's new 6K Comodo camera, which is supposed to sell for around $5,000. More

AWS hit $10 billion for the quarter. AWS, not Amazon. More

Walmart is launching a 2-hour delivery service at multiple stores. More

The US has ruled that AI cannot be recognized as an inventor. More


A lot of parents are deciding to just give up on teaching their kids this year, because doing it at home is too stressful. I wonder if there's a middle-ground there of mandated educational content. Khan Academy. History documentaries. Etc. There are many that are good enough to pass as entertainment instead of education. More

Evidently there is a new type of Asian hornet that's possibly about to infest the US. The worst part? They take out bee populations. More

Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway has sold all its US airline shares. More

After the horrible mass-shooting in Canada, Trudeau has banned 1,500 types of assault weapon. More

Amazon is releasing a new MMO-style CTF game called New World. It's kind of like a tower defense game, but at an MMO level. More


Opening vs. Closing is a False Dichotomy More

Death of the Office More

This is a perfect time for VR, but good gear is still too expensive for most people. Less than 2% of Steam users own VR headsets. More More

Chill playlists have become very popular. *checks music history* *nods* More

I feel like there's this massive Amazonification happening right now, and that will be magnified by this pandemic's fallout. In general we say we're going to have a recession or depression, but there are really two signals there. The bottom 50% are going to suffer greatly, and the top 10-20% are going to take more of the benefits that used to be distributed. Tens of thousands of businesses have to close? Amazon and Walmart benefit. Millions of people lose their jobs? The people with great skills and great jobs become more sought after and valuable. Basically, this whole thing could multiply the advantages of those on top, while decimating those on the bottom. It'll make all the wins and losses more extreme. And what this will do to everything, from the business world, to our psychology, to our politics, will be massive.

As the world laughs at the US, China looks to take advantage of our diminished status. In 2016 I predicted Russia would do this, but it appears China is taking the initiative. More


I finally finished A Dinner With Andre. When you get over how different it is you can appreciate it for what it is: a philosophical conversation between a couple of friends. I like those conversations. Both being part of them, and even observing them. So I'd happily watch more of them. The jarring part of it is calling it a movie. I think the mediums are simply mixing more now. I could easily see a series of these as video podcasts. And maybe some that are composed and performed. Kind of like they did with A Dinner With Andre.

While we're still unable to go back to work, I am going to try to get through a bunch of series' that I never got around to, like The Wire, and West Wing (yeah, I know).

I have done yet another update to my audio production on the show, this time doing a much deeper exploration into the recommendations of NPR's top audio engineer. I wrote a post about the changes. More Let Me Know How It Sounds


Anyone looking to defend their network when they don't have perfect detection and response in place—including on your home network—should be looking at Canary Tools, by Thinkst. They're juicy canary tokens that you can sprinkle throughout your environment and that will alert you if anyone touches them. Canary Tools Product Discovery Philosophy

This is my new manual coffee grinder. Think German engineering, but for coffee. More

A stunning look at the same scenes shot with both a regular and telephoto lens. It shows how you can tell completely different stories by changing the perspective. More

The most popular phone interview question at Google. More

So long, and thanks for all the Zsh. More

YARA 4 is out. More

How to Get NPR Level Clarity in Your Podcast More

Scott Helme documents his updated Ubiquity home network. More

A history of Russian bot activity. More

SSH tips and tricks. More

Discovering your spouse's annoying work personality. More

This is a Udemy course on ethical hacking for $20, which is 75% off. More

OSSEM — A tool for assessing data quality. More


I really enjoyed this episode of Sam's podcast where he interviews James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. It's the absolute best book on habits I've ever read. More Book


“A good thing can't be cruel.”

~ Charles Dickens