Poll: Does iOS 11’s Do Not Disturb While Driving Have A Bit Of A Problem With It?

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 26, 2017 by itnerd

For the last couple of days, I’ve been driving a 2018 Mazda CX-3 so that I can write a review on it. But in the process of doing so, I have discovered a bit of an inconsistency with Apple’s new Do Not Disturb While Driving feature that showed up in iOS 11.

Now I have my iPhone connected to the infotainment system of the CX-3 via Bluetooth, and I have Do Not Disturb While Driving to only enable over Bluetooth. That works perfectly. But, I am also the owner of a Series 2 Apple Watch. I have found that while notifications appear to be suppressed on the Apple Watch, I can still use the Apple Watch to check my e-mail and read text messages. Not only that, I can use it to send text messages via dictation. That part is what got my attention when I thought about this because Siri doesn’t read back your text the way it does with Apple CarPlay. Thus you have to read what you dictated to ensure it picked everything up correctly. This means that if you do this while driving, you’re distracted (Though I will admit that while the Series 3 Apple Watch has Siri speaking to you, it doesn’t mean that this is any less distracting. If it is, it’s only marginally so). Yet you’re not touching your phone. I would think that Do Not Distrub While Driving should not only stop you from using your phone while driving, but it should stop you from using your Apple Watch while driving as well seeing as the watch is wirelessly tethered to the phone and many of the functions of the Apple Watch are driven by the phone. But perhaps I am looking at this wrong. Thus I am posting this to see what your thoughts are. Please take the poll below and let’s see what the wisdom of of the crowd is:

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In Depth: Jackpot Digital

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 26, 2017 by itnerd

You might not have heard of Jackpot Digital, but perhaps you might want to pay attention to them as this Vancouver based company has a very unique niche in terms of having the high ground when it comes to electronic table games and mobile games for casinos, cruise ships, and online operators. I did a In Depth report of their Jackpot Blitz product not too long ago. I had the opportunity to speak to company CEO Jake Kalpakian last week who related to me the path that the company took to get to where they are today.

The company started out doing online poker games in the late 1990’s. But they were approached by a company named Pokertek to first do a wireless poker product for Carnival cruise lines, but later to do a next generation electronic poker table that was intended to offer a variety of poker games. The company ended up building the software part of this product and license it to Pokertek with the hopes of getting a piece of the licensing pie when they served it up to Carnival. Along the way, PokerTek was sold to Multimedia Games of Austin, Texas in 2014 who was then promptly bought by a company named Everi. Now Everi had other lines of business and electronic table games didn’t fit with their core business. Thus Jackpot Digital bought it and the table product developed into what is now Jackpot Blitz. One of the cool things about this product is that Kalpakian is not only targeting the casino industry with it, but he’s also targeting places like Newfoundland which is the home to video lottery terminals. The reason being is that this product requires no human interaction (read: you don’t need a dealer) and can be tailored to fit a variety of use cases. It also covers a wide demographic from baby boomers to millennials. The latter is a focus for Kalpakian.

One thing that Jackpot Digital has going for it is that they have a unique product that effectively makes them the only game in town. Thus, while some Canadian companies have a struggle breaking into the US market, Jackpot Digital doesn’t because those who are interested in what they have to offer chase them. That’s a unique position to be in and likely accounts for the fact that they’re growing. Another point, it’s not just US customers who are interested in their products, they’re seeing interest globally. The net result is that they’re number one in this market. But that’s not enough for Kalpakian as his goal is to extend their number one status so far that nobody can touch them. That’s a lofty goal, but given everything that I’ve seen, it’s reachable.

All of the above is are very good reasons to keep an eye on Jackpot Digital. That’s going to be very easy as they are a publicly traded company. They’ve clearly got technology that people want, and stand every chance of being Canada’s next great success story.

Review: Apple macOS High Sierra

Posted in Products with tags on September 26, 2017 by itnerd

Apple releases a new operating system every year. Sometimes the company makes massive changes. Other times it’s bug fixing and performance tweaking with only a handful of changes. macOS High Sierra is the latter. At least, that’s what Apple would have you believe. The fact is, that there are significant changes under the hood that make this worth installing.

The first reason to install macOS High Sierra is the new APFS (Apple File System) file system. It replaces the 20 or so year old HFS+ (Hierarchical File System) file system by bringing the following to the table:

  • Built-in encryption and support for full disk encryption
  • Snapshots, which used to record the state of your storage device based on points in time, helpful for backups
  • Space sharing, which makes it easier to resize and mange different partitions
  • Faster performance
  • The ability to better manage very large storage capacities and files

Here’s the catch. At present you need an SSD installed to leverage this feature (though support for Fusion Drives and spinning disks will be coming at some point in the future). And as I have noted previously, you’re going to get this new filesystem on your SSD whether you want it or not. Apple also says that the time to convert to APFS may vary based on the size and speed of your disk, the speed of your Mac, how much free space you have, and whether the volume is encrypted or not. In my case the total time to upgrade to High Sierra took almost five hours. Now I did check to see if I had any pre-existing issues with the SSD in my MacBook Pro which had about 230GB of data on it, or the OS, and there were none. Thus I am unable to explain this result. I will be running an upgrade on my wife’s MacBook Pro this weekend so I will get a chance to see if this was a fluke and I will update this post with the results. Once it was installed, here’s what I noticed:

  • I got 2.1GB in disk space back.
  • Opening applications felt a touch faster

So on the surface it seems that APFS does make a difference. Your mileage may vary.

The next difference that you’ll see is in Apple’s Safari web browser. It now stops videos from auto playing. Something I know that annoys a lot of you who are reading this. Second, is Intelligent Tracking Prevention. This stops sites from tracking you and displaying ads based on where you’ve been on the web. While advertisers won’t like this, you will. There’s a bunch of performance and functionality improvements that are along for the ride as well that make this a better browser overall.

Photos is the one app in High Sierra that gets the most changes. For starters it’s a better organization tool via tweaks to the sidebar and toolbar, drag-and-drop organization, imports history, improved accuracy with the People album, and more. The Edit mode is redesigned with better access to tools, Live Photo support, and there are also new filters. Photos also has new Project Extensions, so you can use third-party services to create websites, books, etc. There’s so many changes with Photos that I could do a separate review on Photos alone. So I will simply say that you should try it and I think you’ll love it.

There are other features that make this a worthwhile upgrade:

  • High Sierra now has support for VR headsets
  • Apple’s new Metal 2 API has support for external GPU hardware, which could mean you can boost your MacBook’s graphics performance by using Thunderbolt to hook up an external box with a top-end graphics card. Something that’s popular on the PC side of the fence. There’s also support for machine learning which should help Siri be a better virtual assistant.
  • Two new file formats that are now supported in High Sierra are High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC) for video and High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) for photos. In fact, an iPhone that is on the same iCloud account as a Mac running High Sierra will automatically use the latter by default.
  • Siri gets a new voice and some more intelligence.
  • There are tweaks to iCloud to support the new Family Sharing feature as well as sharing files to non-iCloud users. Something that iCloud desperately needed to compete against services like DropBox.

So is there a reason that you shouldn’t upgrade to High Sierra? Frankly, other than this security hole, if your Mac support High Sierra (which any Mac that ran Sierra will), then this is a worthwhile upgrade. Just take my advice on what to do before you upgrade and you too can leverage the performance tweaks that High Sierra brings to the table.

BREAKING: Equifax CEO “Retires” In The Wake Of Epic Pwnage

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 26, 2017 by itnerd

It seems that the heat is too much for Richard Smith who up until a few minutes ago was the CEO of Equifax. Because he’s suddenly “retired”:

The retirement is effective Tuesday, according to the statement. Mark Feidler, a current board member will serve as Non-Executive Chairman. Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., president of company’s Asia Pacific region, has been appointed as interim CEO.

I guess he decided to get out and chances are that if he “retired” he’d get paid a nice pile of cash. All in the wake of the most epic pwnage the world has ever seen. Hopefully this doesn’t stop him from being called in front of the public flogging known as a congressional hearing to explain how hand why things went so horribly sideways.

BREAKING: Zero Day Bug In macOS High Sierra Can Facilitate Password Theft

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 25, 2017 by itnerd

On the day that Apple decided to drop it’s latest and greatest OS which is macOS High Sierra, comes this bombshell from Patrick Wardle who a former NSA hacker who now serves as chief security researcher at ‎Synack:

Let me translate this for you. He has a proof of concept attack using an unsigned app that exploits a hole in macOS High Sierra that facilitates the theft of any or all of your passwords that are stored in the Keychain app.

Yikes!

Now Apple hasn’t responded to this zero day threat, but to be frank it has to respond. This is not a trivial issue and this can be a major threat to anyone who upgrades to this OS which was released an hour ago as I type this story. The other side of the fence is that because it requires the use of an unsigned app to get pwned, being careful should keep you safe. But regardless of which side of the fence you happen to agree with, Apple needs to get a fix for this out there now. Until then, you have to question if upgrading to Apple’s latest and greatest is a good idea.

Deloitte Pwned…. Secret Emails & Plans Exposed

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 25, 2017 by itnerd

The Guardian has details on yet another epic hack. This time it’s consulting firm Deloitte who got pwned by hackers. And the way that the hackers got in screams of amateur hour in their IT department:

The Guardian understands Deloitte clients across all of these sectors had material in the company email system that was breached. The companies include household names as well as US government departments.

So far, six of Deloitte’s clients have been told their information was “impacted” by the hack. Deloitte’s internal review into the incident is ongoing.

The Guardian understands Deloitte discovered the hack in March this year, but it is believed the attackers may have had access to its systems since October or November 2016.

The hacker compromised the firm’s global email server through an “administrator’s account” that, in theory, gave them privileged, unrestricted “access to all areas”.

The account required only a single password and did not have “two-step“ verification, sources said.

So, let me simplify this for you. The administrator account allows a user to do anything they want. Usually, this account is disabled, or has some sort of strong protection such as two factor authentication to ensure that this exact scenario does not happen. Those protections were clearly not in place. Thus they got pwned. Another issue is the fact that the attackers had access to this email system for months. So who knows what they got away with? Finally, the time it took to disclose this is problematic. There really needs to be more transparency on that front.

Here’s what’s ironic about all of this. In 2012, Deloitte was ranked the best cybersecurity consultant in the world. But clearly in the five years since that award, things have slipped at the firm.

Pity.

Review: TP-Link Archer C2300 AC2300 Router

Posted in Products with tags on September 25, 2017 by itnerd

The latest router to hit my review desk is the TP-Link Archer C2300 AC2300 router. Here’s what you get under the hood:

  • A dual-core 1.8GHz CPU
  • 128 MB of storage memory
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • Four Gigabit ports
  • USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports
  • WiFi speeds of 1625Mbps on the 5GHz band and 600Mbps on 2.4GHz.
  • MU-MIMO support
  • Beamforming support

In terms of looks, it looks flies under the radar.

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It features a black plastic exterior, with the top side divided into two main parts, one is covered by a black glossy finish and the other is covered by lots of diamond-shaped cut-outs to allow for better airflow inside the case. The lights aren’t over the top bright either which means it won’t make a student’s dorm room glow in the dark. Of interest, there’s a button on the side that disables WiFi in a single button press. I’ve never seen that before and I can see how it can be handy to get your kids off their devices and off to bed.

The router features a web-based utility which can be reached by either directly connecting the router to a computer using a cable or by connecting wirelessly to the preconfigured WiFi network using the SSID and password provided on the bottom label. Then you open a web-browser and go to http://tplinkwifi.net to create a new secure administrator password. You then access the Quick Setup wizard, which will guide you through the setup process. But there’s another option which is the TP-Link’s Tether app. This app works on both Android and iOS, and walks you through the setup procedure of the router. Either way, the setup process pretty painless and accessible for most users.

To test the router, I took my MacBook Pro and ran some speed tests. On 802.11ac I got an average of 573 Mbps next to the router. Then going to the far end of my condo and I got an average of 481 Mbps. One thing to keep in mind is that I have a concrete wall for WiFi to get through which makes this result more than respectable. For giggles I then repeated the same experiment on 802.11n and next to the router I got an average of 139 Mbps, while at far end of my condo the speed slightly decreased to 122 Mbps. That too is pretty respectable. TP-Link markets this router as being ideal for streaming 4k video, sharing files, as an extender to your existing wireless network, or simply to browse the web. Given my results, I would say that this marketing is easily believable. One other point, this router had no problem reaching the far reaches of my condo. Something that some routers struggle to do.

Here’s the best thing about this router. It’s the price. At $200 CDN retail (less of you look around) it gives you a lot of performance for not a lot of your hard earned money in return. It’s a great value for anyone who needs a router for a decent sized home while having a fair amount of performance.