57 episodes

A daily tech podcast from Australian journalists Peter Wells and Tess Bennett

The Helpdesk Peter Wells

    • Tech News
    • 4.8 • 21 Ratings

A daily tech podcast from Australian journalists Peter Wells and Tess Bennett

    Qanon Followers Left Disappointed

    Qanon Followers Left Disappointed

    Amazon is offering to help distribute the COVID vaccine in the US

    Joe Biden has set a goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the next 100 days, and Amazon is offering its distribution centres and logistical expertise to make that happen. 

    Amazon executive Dave Clark wrote in an open letter that “Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort.”

    Amazon also asks that “frontline workers” such as its own workers in distribution centres, and those working in delivery, should get the vaccine “as a priority” - which seems pretty fair, if a little self serving. 

    Considering I can find a useless thing i don’t need on Amazon and have it arrive the next day, I’d be happy with Amazon making a similar offer in Australia. 

    Alibaba’s Jack Ma makes his first public appearance in months 

    Jack Ma, the billionaire co-founder and former chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has appeared publicly for the first time since late October 2020

    In September 2020, Ma criticized regulators as having a “pawnshop mentality” when it came to technology, and asked the government for less regulation around money lending. This reportedly infuriated the Chinese government. 

    A month later, Chinese regulators cancelled the IPO of Ant Group, Ma’s fintech start up, saying it didn’t “meet the listing conditions or disclosure requirements”. The move knocked $68 billion off the value of Alibaba. 

    Ever since, Ma has not been seen, leading some to fear for his safety. His video today, which was described as “happy and positive, and did not look like a hostage video” -- has helped Alibaba shares rebound by 8% 

    LG prepares to exit the smartphone market
    The Korea Herald reports that the CEO of LG sent out an internal memo to staff on Wednesday, hinting that LG is considering exiting the smart phone business. 

    In a follow up to the Herald, a spokesperson for LG said : “Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about time for LG to make a cold judgment and the best choice. The company is considering all possible measures, including sale, withdrawal and downsizing of the smartphone business.”

    It’s an amazing fall for LG, who with HTC and Samsung were once the high flyers in Android phones. HTC has already ceased smartphones, which they blamed on spending too long chasing Windows phones. 

    LG on the other hand, seemed to constantly misjudge the timing of features for its phones, and was constantly out-marketed by Korean rival Samsung. 

    Increasingly, LG has looked to crazy gimmicks to market it’s phones, see roll up displays and that weird wing phone. But when was the last time you saw an LG phone in the wild? 

    Qanon followers struggle to cope with Inauguration day 

    Axios dove into the Qanon private groups and message threads to see how followers of Q are dealing with the inauguration of Joe Biden. 

    Overall the message boards were a mixture of anger and disappointment that “Trump did not black out U.S. communications networks and send in the military to arrest Biden and other Democrats and celebrities.”

    Axios notes “QAnon prophecies have failed before — all of them, in fact.” but this seems different, as the theory spun further and grander following the election - which made the non-event even more disappointing. This may be one disappointment too many for the followers. 

    Academics and researchers have warned there will be a lot of “angry, aimless, and humiliated” Q supporters looking to latch onto something new, and fear right wing groups may use this as a recruitment drive - so if you know a friend who somehow found themselves a Q believer, offer them support and understanding, not ridicule.
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    • 6 min
    Facebook Breaks Its Own Election Safety Policy

    Facebook Breaks Its Own Election Safety Policy

    US Government weighs in on Media Code

    In a submission to the parliamentary inquiry to the new Media Code, that would force Facebook and Google to pay for news aggregated on their websites, the US government described the proposed legislation as:

    unreasonable, impractical, “fundamentally imbalanced” and could run counter to the US-Australia free trade agreement, The Guardian reports.

    The US position is the Media code may do “undue harm”, and seems to “unfairly attack” just two companies, Facebook and Google. They ask the Australian government to put faith in “market forces” to sort it all out. 

    To be fair, the code does target just two companies, but both are effective monopolies in their field, so there’s not a lot of market force to challenge them… 

    Anyway, hopefully this is the last time we need to talk about the code, due to be discussed in parliament again this Friday, until next week… 

    Facebook did something it promised it wouldn't do 

    I know it’s hard to believe, but Facebook has been caught ignoring its own rules again. 

    In the run-up to the 2020 election, Facebook brought in a bunch of “emergency” measures to prevent people from using the platform to spread misinformation or coordinate violence.

    One such measure was to stop promoting private political groups to users. Zuckerberg testified under oath last October saying the company had stopped promoting political groups, and the company made the claim again in a January 11th blog post. 

    Despite Facebook's promise, the markup has found that the company continued to recommend political groups to its users throughout December and January. Trump voters were most targeted with 25% of all Trump voters.

    In this study, receiving suggestions to join groups, like, “Rudy Giuliani's common sense group” and another simply called “storm the capitol.” 

    The study was based on users who have downloaded the Markup’s browser extension that shows how Facebook is targeting its users. 

    You may recall that Facebook wanted to shut down this research, because it said it violated Facebook's Terms of Service. 

    Netflix has stunned Wall Street with a massive quarter 

    The streaming giant added more than 8 million new subscribers worldwide.

    You may recall that wall street was a little disappointed in Netflix last quarter.

    While the company had grown throughout 2020 due to the pandemic. It was spending a hell of a lot of money as well. Investors were hoping that Netflix would rein in its spending.

    It hasn't done that, but it's created so much wealth that it doesn't really need to. Netflix has even hinted at a share buy back based on its profits. 

    As we mentioned last week, Netflix has over 70 movies premiering this year on the platform, which will no doubt go down well while cinemas remain closed.

    And finally, Ben Thompson of strategic theory has a long read on Intel's future 

    In his newsletter, Ben explains the last 20 years of Intel chips and how they did very very well in Google's data centers and, therefore, many other data centers that copied Google's model. 

    But their dominance in the data center is just as easily taken away by AMD and ARM as their dominance in desktops. 

    Ben argues that the company should be broken up. So that the “fab” plant, the plants that actually physically makes the chips is separated from the plant that designs them. 

    It's a long and nerdy post. But if you're into chip making and you thought I did a bad job of explaining Intel's possible year of work, then Ben has you covered.


    If you have questions or comments for the show, you can find us on Twitter @peterwells and @tessbennett - or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts with feedback. 
    Thanks for listening, and we’ll speak to you tomorrow 
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    • 6 min
    Intel’s new CEO is spooked by Apple’s M1 chip

    Intel’s new CEO is spooked by Apple’s M1 chip

    Intel’s new CEO is spooked by Apple’s M1 chip

    Last week, CES announcements were dominated by laptops running chips from AMD and ARM. Intel was still inside many PCs and laptops, but the headlines went to Intel’s rivals… 

    Amid the cover of CES, Intel’s CEO resigned. Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger doesn’t start his new role until February, but he attended an all hands meeting yesterday where he told Intel employees 

    “We have to deliver better products to the PC ecosystem than any possible thing that a lifestyle company in Cupertino [makes]. We have to be that good, in the future.”

    It’s a noble goal, but feels like one of those quotes that could haunt Gelsinger to his grave…  

    Speaking of Apple’s M1 Chips… 
    Apple rumour king, Mark Gurman had a raft of Apple product rumours over the weekend, involving said M1 chip 

    Gurman says we can expect to see new M1 based iMacs in the coming months, with smaller bezels and a more streamlined look, based on a more powerful variant of the M1 chip 

    That new chip is also expected in new 14” and 16” Macbook Pros - but for Apple fans the big news is Gurman expects these laptops to reintroduce Magsafe, and ditch the controversial touchbar. 

    Finally, Gurman predicts a new mini Mac Pro and to go with it, a new retina monitor with a more realistic price point, than the current $8k XDR display 

    Mac fans have commented and tweeted that this all sounds “too good to be true”... 

    Your smartwatch knows you have covid before you do 

    Smartwatches that continuously measure users' heart rates, skin temperature and other physiological markers can help spot coronavirus infections days before an individual is diagnosed.

    Devices like the Apple Watch, Garmin and Fitbit watches can predict whether an individual is positive for COVID-19 even before they are symptomatic or the virus is detectable by tests, according to studies from Mount Sinai Health System in New York. 

    A separate study from Stanford, in which participants wore a variety of different activity trackers from Garmin, Fitbit, Apple found that 81% of coronavirus-positive participants experienced changes in their resting heart rates up to nine and a half days prior to the onset of symptoms.

    Experts say wearable technology could play a vital role in stemming the pandemic and other communicable diseases.

    And finally, it’s not even news at this stage, but Covidsafe did not detect a single case during the recent Christmas clusters
    This period includes the South Australian Parafield outbreak starting in mid November, clusters in NSW on the Northern Beaches and Berala, and community transmission cases in Victoria.

    A spokesperson for The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Victoria said that from 14 November, out of the 14 cases that had the app, it identified zero new contacts through the COVIDSafe data.


    If you have questions or comments for the show, you can find us on Twitter @peterwells and @tessbennett - or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts with feedback. 
    Thanks for listening, and we’ll speak to you tomorrow
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    • 5 min
    Red Hats Are Red Flags

    Red Hats Are Red Flags

    And first up today we have the continuing story of Australian media vs Google and Facebook 

    The Australian reports that “Google said it was burying links from traditional media outlets in some search ­results”

    The company has described the ­actions as an “experiment”, and just one of tens of thousands it conducts every year.

    But in the current cold war between big tech and big media, the experiment has raised eyebrows 

    The Greens slammed Google’s hiding Australian news content in its search engine for some users as a “scaremongering tactic” while Opposition communications spokesman Tim Watts said his party would support a “workable code”.

    The New York Times has an incredible story on Twitter’s ban on Trump 
    According to reports, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was “working remotely from a private island in French Polynesia when the decision was made. 

    The hands off CEO heard about Trump’s 12 hr ban after it had happened. Instead, the decision was made by twitter’s top lawyer Vijaya Gadde.

    Once Trump’s 12hr ban was lifted, the company monitored Trump’s tweets, just two of them, before permanently banning the account. 

    Twitter had long resisted silencing Trump, but during the 12hr ban, over 300 Twitter employees signed a company wide letter asking for the ban to become permanent. 

    Last Wednesday, Dorsey tweeted that he did “not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump” because “a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”

    Sticking with the US, and dating apps Bumble and Tinder are now on the front line of identifying rioters at the US Capitol. 

    The Washington Post reports the apps are using images captured from inside the Capitol siege and to identify and ban rioters’ accounts. 

    Alongside the ban, there appears to be a grassroots campaign of users identifying rioters, and then passing along their details to the FBI. 

    According to the report, “Many women in Washington over the past two weeks had taken notice of a surge in conservative men on dating apps, many wearing Make America Great Again hats or other markers of support for President Trump rarely seen in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.”

    One user said it was “her civic duty” to swipe on these accounts, get all the information available, and pass it along to the FBI. 

    This idea has sparked a debate on “ethical doxxing” - when is it ethical to turn in an account online? 

    And finally, Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal has a great article on the algorithms that rule our lives. 

    It’s one of the simplest breakdowns I’ve ever read of the power of the algorithm, and it’s a shame it’s behind a paywall. 

    Stern argues we lost control of social media back in 2016, when Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube replaced the standard chronological feed with one curated by artificial intelligence. 

    “Bye-bye, feeds that showed everything and everyone we followed in an unending, chronologically ordered river. Hello, high-energy feeds that popped with must-clicks.”

    “at the heart of it all, this is still a gigantic technology problem: Computers are in charge of what we see and they’re operating without transparency.”

    Stern ends the story with 3 suggestions to make social media great again: 

    1. No ads or algorithms. Which is not likely from any of the majors, but Stern points to a new social media network, MeWe, which is trying that model 
    2. Deprioritize the destructive” - here Stern calls on big tech to adjust the algorithms to not promote harmful content. 
    3. Give users control. Stern explains the way to turn off the algorithms as much as possible at a user level. 

    If you have questions or comments for the show, you can find us on Twitter @peterwells and @tessbennett - or leave us a review on Apple Podcas

    • 9 min
    CES Day 2 : The Oven For Your Head is A Baldness Cure

    CES Day 2 : The Oven For Your Head is A Baldness Cure

    Apologies, I did not make that clear. 
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    • 4 min
    The Helpdesk at CES - ASMR Edition

    The Helpdesk at CES - ASMR Edition

    The kids are finally in bed, so I could record a quick look at some of the announcements from Day One of CES.
    I'll speak a little louder tomorrow. Please do not listen when driving, or while operating heavy machinery.
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    • 5 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
21 Ratings

21 Ratings

Bertiemur ,

First class

The epitome of a great podcast.
Straight in at the top of my list every day.

Wilson_Pickett ,

Happy to have found this!

I've been looking for something like this for ages. I'm used to having to listen to international tech pods to get my news, so it's great to hear something in an Aussie accent. Love it!

Olive__Oil ,

Great podcast!

This is a great, informative podcast!

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