Posted in Commentary on June 2, 2020 by itnerd

Zoom May Only Enable End To End Encryption For Paying Customers…. My Take

Posted in Commentary with tags on June 1, 2020 by itnerd

Zoom has been working hard to overcome their security issues over the last few months. One of the things that they needed to address is the fact that communications were not end to end encrypted, even though the company claimed that they were. The company finally admitted that this was something that needed to be addressed. And it looks like that end to end encryption is about to be lit up, assuming that you have the latest version of the Zoom app, and you happen to be a paying customer:

The company, whose business has boomed with the coronavirus pandemic, discussed the move on a call with civil liberties groups and child-sex abuse fighters on Thursday, and Zoom security consultant Alex Stamos confirmed it on Friday. 

In an interview, Stamos said the plan was subject to change and it was not yet clear which, if any, nonprofits or other users, such as political dissidents, might qualify for accounts allowing more secure video meetings. 

He added that a combination of technological, safety and business factors went into the plan, which drew mixed reactions from privacy advocates.

Now I can look at this two ways:

  • It makes sense that Zoom would focus this on paying customers. After all, that is what keeps the lights on. It also gets rid of the people who are hogging resources related to the free tier of the app which likely costs Zoom money.
  • Other apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal offer end to end encryption for free.

You’ll note that the plan is subject to change. I suspect that it may change based on either the blowback that they get, or if people on the free tier abandon the platform for another video chat solution en masse.

My take is that I think that Zoom is doing the right thing. Yes there’s going to be blowback from some who think Zoom should enable end to end encryption for all. But that’s really not viable in my opinion. Zoom is a business and not a charity. At some point they have to pay for all the security improvements that are going into the app. And if you want want those security improvements, you need to pay up. So I would suggest that users who are on the free tier of Zoom who want these improvements should put their money where their mouths are.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas from HP

Posted in Commentary with tags on June 1, 2020 by itnerd

With Father’s Day coming up on June 21, I wanted to share a list of gifts from HP for great gift ideas:

For the dad who loves photography: HP Tango ($179.99 CAD

  • The HP Tango is perfect for the dad who loves capturing and preserving every milestone, from standing on the front porch on the first day of school to waiting in the aisles on graduation day. The Tango makes it easy to print off photos that will last the test of time from anywhere, anytime using cellular data or a remote WIFI connection.

For the dad who is far away: HP ENVY Laptop (Starting from $1,099.99)

  • The HP ENVY allows you to stay connected with dad – whether you’re miles apart or just can’t be together physically on his special day. The wide vision HD camera makes it easy to chat with the entire family in crystal clear detail. 

For the dad who has hopped on the booming gaming-train: HP OMEN 15 Gaming Laptop (starting from $2,299.99)

  • Gaming is on the rise right now. For the dads who can’t get enough, the HP OMEN 15 Laptop is sure to please. This laptop has desktop-class graphics performance, immersion, and upgradability. With the OMEN 15 Laptop, dad can game anywhere.

Review: Ever Widening Circles

Posted in Products with tags on May 29, 2020 by itnerd

Right now we live in a world of bad news regardless whether we’ve talking about the pandemic, or we are talking about the economy, or politics. And the news that we see reflects that. It’s downright depressing at times.

So what if I said that you could download an app that would serve up more positive news to you. There’s a new mobile app called Ever Widening Circles which is available via the Apple Store or Google Play that allows you to take a few moments from your day to experience the lighter and more uplifting side of the 24/7 always-on news cycle. I took a few minutes to download the app onto my iPhone and spent a lot of time going through it. Here’s my observations on this app:

The front page of the app shows the latest articles that are on offer. I like the fact that it gives you an estimation of how long it will take to read.

The articles themselves are very rich when it comes to media. It’s not just text, there are Instagram and YouTube links as well. This makes each article a very engaging experience.

There are a rather large number of categories available. I noted that they had TED Talks, Life Hacks, Science and Technology. Whatever you are interested in, it’s likely here.

What’s interesting is that there is a core team behind all the articles that work to put all of this together. That means that the stories that you get are curated and that you won’t see anywhere else. They promise no agenda: no politics or commercial biases. And from what I can tell, there isn’t any of that. Sources are cited as well which I appreciate. And to top it off, there’s a pretty clear privacy policy that doesn’t ring any alarm bells for me.

The app is free to download. But there are two subscription plans:

  • A $0.99 monthly subscription plan with the first month free.
  • A $9.99 yearly subscription plan with the first month free.

If you want to brighten up your day and take your mind off the news that can drag you down, Ever Widening Circles is a good way to do it. And it is worth your time to download it and have a look.

Review: Taotronics SoundLiberty 79 Smart AI TWS Headphones

Posted in Products with tags on May 29, 2020 by itnerd

True wireless headphones, meaning a pair of Bluetooth headphones that are not connected by a wire are officially a thing as the millennials would say. Apple has dominated this category, but players like Sony, Sennheiser, and others have joined the party. But I tripped over a serious contender from a brand that you may not have heard of. That brand is Taotronics and the true wireless headphones in question are the SoundLiberty 79 Smart AI TWS Headphones:

Here’s what comes in the box:

Starting from the top left are the headphones themselves along with their charging case. Then on the right is a very short USB-A to USB-C cable, and below them are a package with extra wing tips and ear tips.

Here’s a closer look at one of the headphones. You can see the copper charing pins as well as the wing tips and the ear tips. I should note that the ear tips which are purple are not the ones that come with these headphones. More on that later.

The front of the headphone looks sleek and low key. The silver tip is the only thing on it that could be considered to be “bling”. In other words, they won’t attract attention while you are wearing them. The outside of the headphone support tapping to control your music and allow you to answer calls. More on that in a bit.

The headphones charge by USB-C and for those who want wireless charging, it doesn’t support that. The headphones will last 8 hours on a single charge and another 22 hours in the charging case. That’s a total of 30 hours. During my testing, I couldn’t get the headphones to run out of juice during a day of Zoom calls or listening to music.

There are four buttons on the front of the case. When you plug it in, it will display 1 to 4 lights to indicate the level of charge. And when it’s not plugged in and the headphones are inside of the case, you’ll get the lights that you see above which indicates that it’s charging both headphones. The case is small and easy to pocket.

Pairing them was easy via Bluetooth 5.0. Open the case, and wait for it to pop up in your Bluetooth menu. Done.

So how well do these headphones work? Here’s my observations:

  • I used them for several hours on Zoom calls. The default ear tips which were the medium ones worked fine and were comfortable to wear for the four or so hours that I was doing Zoom calls as I felt no discomfort whatsoever. The sound quality that I heard was absolutely crystal clear. And people on the calls had no problem hearing me. You will not have any complaints here. After that I checked the battery status. I started out this day with three dots on the case which indicated that I had about a 75% charge. By the end of day I had two dots on the case which indicated about a 50% charge. I will note that I put the headphones in the case to recharge between calls.
  • I did a test call with my wife and she said that I sounded crystal clear. She sounded crystal clear as well. You will not have any complaints here either. In both cases, you can thank built in noise cancelling which makes your voice sound better.
  • These headphones seal off outside noise effectively. Which is great for calls and music But I should note that there’s no transparency mode to let outside noise in.
  • I listened to music using one of the audio torture test playlists that I use for testing the audio systems in cars. The audio profile is designed to produce a very neutral audio profile. By that I mean that it will not produce a lot of bass or treble artificially. That’s what I tend to prefer when I listen to music. The stereo separation was excellent and there was a lot of detail to the music. You will not have any complaints on this front.
  • The headphones are IPX7 water resistant which means it can survive immersion for 30 minutes to a depth of 1 meter. That means I had to test it during a workout. So I took it on a workout on my bike indoors on the Zwift platform. While these headphones are comfortable, they will not stay in your ears once you get sweaty. That’s a bit unfortunate. But it does highlight the one weakness with these headphones which are the ear tips. They are comfortable, but also thin enough that they tear easily if you are not careful while removing them so that you can change them to a different size. This is why I used the purple ones that you saw in the pictures above that I had lying around as they were more robust while producing no difference in the sound quality.
  • The headphones support a variety of tapping commands to do everything from controlling your music to summoning the voice assistant of your choice. But the area that you need to hit to do any sort of tapping is small enough that I found it easy to miss. In the end I gave up and used my Apple Watch to control the music and answer phone calls. I suspect that this might be a your mileage may vary thing.

The bottom line is that I was impressed with the Taotronics SoundLiberty 79 Smart AI TWS Headphones. The sound quality is great, they are comfortable to wear, and your voice will be crystal clear. Though they are not perfect as the ear tips are not that robust and the surface to tap out any commands is hit and miss. But given that they go for $59.99 USD, this is a great value. And I would say that you should consider taking a trip to Amazon to grab a pair.

Element AI Announces Collaboration with Veritas Consortium led by Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 28, 2020 by itnerd

Element AI, a global developer of artificial intelligence-powered (AI) solutions and software, today announced a new collaborative relationship with the Veritas Consortium led by Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), to assist with developing a framework for driving the responsible adoption of AI in the financial services industry.  The consortium has an overarching mandate to implement the FEAT principles (Fairness, Ethics, Accountability, Transparency) as critical considerations for the deployment of Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics (AIDA) technologies within financial institutions.

The FEAT principles and the Veritas initiative are part of Singapore’s National AI Strategy, aimed at building a vibrant and responsible environment for AI adoption within the financial sector.  As one of the AI technology providers to the consortium, Element AI’s involvement aims to include a range of research and development activities in support of this mandate. One of the first initiatives being undertaken is in collaboration with United Overseas Bank (UOB), one of the lead consortium members. Together they will develop a set of quantifiable metrics for financial institutions to assess the extent to which data and the algorithms or models used to evaluate credit scoring for unsecured lending meet the principles of Fairness. 

The consortium’s goal is to publish a research report on the project and to open-source the code for the metrics for AI practitioners to review and to eventually use within their own organizations. The report is expected to be published in the second half of 2020.

To learn more about Element AI advisory & enablement, and AI-powered solutions, visit:https://www.elementai.com/.

Aptum Launches Managed DevOps Service Powered by CloudOps

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 28, 2020 by itnerd

Aptum, a global hybrid cloud and managed services provider, today launched its Managed DevOps Service in partnership with CloudOps, a cloud consulting and professional services company specializing in DevOps. The Managed DevOps Service offers a cloud-based DevOps platform that allows customers to automate their development pipelines and reduce application delivery times. Customers are also provided with hands-on training on DevOps practices and tools so they can succeed. Through this offering, customers gain access to two highly sought-after skillsets – DevOps and Kubernetes – allowing teams to focus on developing applications without having to worry about navigating the complexity of the DevOps ecosystem alone or the operations of their DevOps platform.

The Managed DevOps Service from Aptum is a fully managed stack, running on cloud infrastructure. It can be deployed over Aptum’s managed private cloud, Azure, AWS and GCP. The service is based on a Kubernetes container orchestration system, which automates the deployment, scaling and management of containerized applications.

Aptum’s Managed DevOps Service solves several common DevOps challenges for customers:

  • Speeds up application development times
  • Avoids costs and time involved in hiring and retaining DevOps platform talent
  • Multi-cloud support enables agile and flexible deployments- Supports hyperscale and private clouds, allowing companies to choose the most cost-effective option
  • Customizable deployment of the data and control plane to comply with data sovereignty regulations.

The Managed DevOps Service is available immediately to customers in North America, United Kingdom and Europe. Additional details can be found here: https://aptum.com/services/cloud/managed-devops/.