The LEGO Group and Nintendo  lift  the lid on exciting new LEGO Super Mario  details; preorders begin today

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 7, 2020 by itnerd

The LEGO Group today announced pre-order availability of the LEGO® Super Mario™ Adventures with Mario Starter Course. Fans can now secure their own set of this upcoming and highly anticipated new product line, the result of a unique partnership with Nintendo. The new LEGO Super Mario product line features an interactive LEGO Mario figure that collects coins in real-life game levels created with LEGO bricks. Neither a video game nor a traditional LEGO brick-based set, it promises to change the way people interact with Super Mario in the physical world and engage in LEGO experiences.  

Disclosed for the first time today by LEGO Design Lead Jonathan Bennink, fans will be able to begin exploring the fun-packed LEGO Super Mario universe with the Adventures with Mario Starter Course. This entry point set to the world of LEGO Super Mario is needed to unlock expansion sets and features seven action bricks for different interactions with the LEGO Mario figure that are only included in this set. 

The LEGO Mario figure itself has LCD screens in his eyes, mouth and belly to display a wide variety of instant reactions to movement, color and action bricks. Also included is a speaker that plays iconic sounds and music from the video game series. 

Kids aged 6+ can build levels and play their own way, with action-packed challenges having lots of creative fun in a highly interactive experience. LEGO Mario is used to collect virtual coins as he runs and jumps from the Start Pipe to the Goal Pole via LEGO bricks, cloud platform, and clashes with the Goomba figure and Bowser Jr. figure.  

The Starter Course can be combined with LEGO Super Mario Expansion Sets, which each unlock unique challenges and characters to play with and against friends. The first Expansion Sets, also revealed today, include the Piranha Plant Power Slide Expansion Set and the Bowser’s Castle Boss Battle Expansion Set. And because the products all include modular builds, fans are fully in charge of creating exactly the LEGO level course they want to see Mario come to life in. 

Fans will also love the free LEGO® Super Mario™ app by the LEGO Group, a supporting feature to further enhance the physical play experience. It keeps track of scores to encourage continuous rebuilding, as well as it provides digital building instructions with zoom and rotate viewing tools to make building easier, suggests other creative ways to build and play, and is a safe forum to share ideas with friends. 

The update was shared in a video posted by the LEGO Group and Nintendo earlier today and on the LEGO Super Mario website at www.LEGO.com/SuperMario.

The full LEGO Super Mario assortment will launch Aug. 1st 2020, but fans can now pre-order the LEGO Super Mario Adventures with Mario Starter Course on  
www.lego.com/supermario-startercourse and from select leading retailers around the world.  

The recommended retail price for the Starter Course is 59.99 EUR/USD, while the recommended retail price for the two expansion sets will be 29.99 USD/EUR for the Piranha Plant Power Slide Expansion Set and 99.99 USD/EUR for the Bowser’s Castle Boss Battle Expansion Set. 

Technology Aids The Fight Against Unemployment In The COVID-19 Crisis

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 6, 2020 by itnerd

To assist companies responding to the COVID-19 crisis, Tundra Technical Solutions Inc., a leader in providing essential recruitment services, quickly delivered an innovative free-of-charge solution matching available talent with urgent positions tackling the crisis. 

Tundra and TalentNet, a human capital management software provider, joined forces to mobilize “A Community for a Greater Cause,” where companies requiring immediate hires are matched with volunteers, healthcare professionals and fabricators. 

As companies retool facilities, processes and retrain teams to tackle the COVID supply shortage, hiring demands from manufacturing or frontline healthcare workers have skyrocketed. 

There is a strong lifesaving need, especially after the Canadian and U.S. governments revealed billions in spend to help businesses ramp up production for personal protective equipment, ventilators, masks and test kits. As North American companies increase production, many expect to double workforces to meet demand. Recruitment services can be very important as companies look to hire new talent for several initiatives combatting the virus.

Looking to hire for the cause? To access qualified candidates for COVID-19 related projects, reach out to tundracovid19@tundratechnical.com where you will be assigned to an Account Executive in your state or province to strategize a hiring plan. All services are completely free as Tundra and TalentNet believe that matching talent to COVID-19- related projects is one of many essential solutions to combat the crisis.  

Join the cause to provide services as a volunteer or paid contract worker by registering here. Simply upload a resume, customize your profile, and TalentNet’s AI matching software will notify you of new positions as they come available. 

Guest Post: NordVPN Asks Is Our Freedom Of Speech At Stake? The Most Significant Laws That Will Shape The Future Of The Internet

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 6, 2020 by itnerd

2019 saw some curious laws regarding the internet. Several countries made somewhat questionable moves in an attempt to regulate users’ freedom online — some in more extreme ways than others. 

At NordVPN, we support freedom of speech online and believe that the internet should maintain one of its fundamental objectives  to empower every individual connected to it. Of course, some regulations are necessary, but some countries tend to create overly intrusive laws that restrict freedom of expression or free access to information. Many experts worldwide agree that it often happens not only because governments want more control over their citizens, but also because lawmakers lack technical knowledge. 

Here are some of the laws from different countries that were discussed by cybersecurity experts and human rights activists last year:

Vietnam 

On January 1, 2019, Vietnam passed a law that raised some concerns among cybersecurity experts. Some compare Vietnam’s new regulation to China’s internet governance regime, which is marked by censorship, pervasive internet control, and surveillance. For example, the law allows Vietnamese authorities to delete or block access to data, inspect computer systems, and criminalize propaganda against the official government. Even though the official aim of this law is to help to better protect the country from foreign cybersecurity threats, it gives more power to the Vietnamese government to monitor or even block access to information.

Russia

On November 1, 2019, Russia’s “sovereign internet” law went into effect. This law enables Russia to disconnect their internet from the rest of the world. In December 2019, Russia successfully tested it. RuNet would essentially work like a gigantic intranet, similar to what large corporations have. This concerns many cybersecurity experts, as people will be kept in a bubble, unable to have a dialogue or access information from outside the country. The idea that Russian citizens will not be able to access outside information is rather worrying – essentially, RuNet could become a tool for country-wide propaganda.

China

China is notoriously known for censoring the internet. In 2019, their government implemented more than 60 restrictions. On January 4, 2019, China kicked off a project to take down many sites featuring content with pornography, gambling, parody, promoting “bad lifestyle”, and “bad popular culture” among many others. Later in January, China implemented even more restrictions, such as prohibiting content with “the pessimistic outlook on millennials,” “one-night stand,” “non-mainstream view of love and marriage.” In July 2019, China announced a regulation stating that users who seriously violate related laws and regulations would be subject to the Social Credit System blacklist. And even if some of those sound reasonable, experts fear that these laws are only stepping stones for further censorship.

Nepal

In December 2019, Nepal introduced the Information Technology bill, which would empower the government to censor online content, including social media. According to this bill, anyone who posts an “offensive” comment could face up to 5 years of jail time and a fine of 1.5m rupees (about $13,000). The law concerns cybersecurity and human rights experts as it restricts freedom of expression. For example, it criminalizes any content on social media, which is against “national unity, self-respect, national interest, the relationship between federal units.” The law itself contains three sections, and one of them restricts publishing such content via any electronic platform — news websites, blogs, and even sending by email. According to Freedom Forum, 38 journalists were arrested, detained, or questioned by the police in 2019, and the new IT bill might even worsen the situation. 

Thailand

In February 2019, Thailand’s military-appointed parliament passed a controversial law that gives sweeping powers to state cyber agencies. The government could search and seize data and equipment in cases that are deemed issues of national emergency. This could enable internet traffic monitoring and access to private data, including communications, without a court order. Given the political climate, it is concerning that the law could be weaponized by the government to silence critics.

Facebook Tried To Buy An NSO Group Tool To Spy On Their Users….. Perhaps A New Reason To #DeleteFacebook

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 3, 2020 by itnerd

You might recall that Facebook is currently suing the shadowy NSO Group who is known for selling top shelf spyware that often exploits zero day vectors to nation states with questionable human rights records. A real bombshell dropped today via a Vice story which says this:

According to a declaration from NSO CEO Shalev Hulio, two Facebook representatives approached NSO in October 2017 and asked to purchase the right to use certain capabilities of Pegasus. 

At the time, Facebook was in the early stages of deploying a VPN product called Onavo Protect, which, unbeknownst to some users, analyzed the web traffic of users who downloaded it to see what other apps they were using. According to the court documents, it seems the Facebook representatives were not interested in buying parts of Pegasus as a hacking tool to remotely break into phones, but more as a way to more effectively monitor phones of users who had already installed Onavo.

“The Facebook representatives stated that Facebook was concerned that its method for gathering user data through Onavo Protect was less effective on Apple devices than on Android devices,” the court filing reads. “The Facebook representatives also stated that Facebook wanted to use purported capabilities of Pegasus to monitor users on Apple devices and were willing to pay for the ability to monitor Onavo Protect users.”

Facebook proposed to pay NSO a monthly fee for each Onavo Protect user, the filing adds.

The Onavo Protect VPN was eventually dropped by Facebook, but not before they got slapped by Apple because of how shady it was.

Here’s where things get weird. Vice reached out to Facebook for comment. And this is what Facebook said:

In a statement, Facebook suggested NSO is misrepresenting these conversations between NSO and Facebook employees.

“NSO is trying to distract from the facts Facebook and WhatsApp filed in court over six months ago. Their attempt to avoid responsibility includes inaccurate representations about both their spyware and a discussion with people who work at Facebook. Our lawsuit describes how NSO is responsible for attacking over 100 human rights activists and journalists around the world. NSO CEO Shalev Hulio has admitted his company can attack devices without a user knowing and he can see who has been targeted with Pegasus. We look forward to proving our case against NSO in court and seeking accountability for their actions,” the statement from a Facebook spokesperson read.

You’ll note that Facebook is not denying that conversations took place. Which is interesting. I would love to find out in court what the subject of those conversations were. The cynical side of me says that Facebook was looking for new ways to spy on users. But I would like to see if Facebook admits this under oath, or if facts come out that support what NSO Group is saying. And to be clear, NSO Group are not boy scouts. Which is why this needs to come out in court. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

A Concise Guide To Securing Your Zoom Meetings

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 3, 2020 by itnerd

I’ve received a few emails over the last 48 hours asking for a concise guide on how to secure their Zoom sessions seeing as Zoom’s app security is dodgy at best. Though to be fair to Zoom, they are trying to address this. So here are my top tips to secure your Zoom meetings:

  1. Keep your Zoom apps up to date: With so many security researchers looking at Zoom right now, new issues are being discovered at an almost daily rate. And to Zoom’s credit, they are fixing these issues quickly. Thus you want to make sure that as those updates are applied as quickly as possible. I recommend checking for updates on a daily basis inside the Zoom app, or via the App Store or the Google Play Store.
  2. Password protect your meetings: “Zoom Bombings”, or uninvited people crashing your meeting, can only happen if your meeting isn’t password protected. Thus you should enable passwords on your meetings ASAP. The options “Require a password when scheduling new meetings”; and “Require a password for instant meetings” should be set. At the same time, disable the option “Embed password in meeting link for one-click join” and enable “Require password for participants joining by phone.”
  3. Do not share your meetings on social media: Another way that “Zoom Bombings” happen is that the meeting details are freely available online. Which means that miscreants simply have to get the details, dial in, and do their worst. So you can take this off the table by simply not posting your meetings in public.
  4. Enable waiting rooms: Zoom has a waiting room function that allows a host to see meeting attendees arrive, and it allows you to admit them one by one. That way miscreants can’t get into your meetings. This document that Zoom has on the topic can help you to enable this feature.

Now one thing that I should point out is that this is a very fluid situation. So I will say that if additional threats pop up, which they likely will based on what this has gone on this week, and mitigations exist, I will publish them. Related to that, if you have any tips that can help Zoom users, please pass them along.

Sonos Illustrates How Music Can Help Us During This Difficult Time

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 3, 2020 by itnerd

As many people are adjusting to their homes taking on new meaning – place of work, the classroom, the gym, the cinema, the concert venue, and more – here are a few ways Sonos can help by making it easy to stream great sound for anything. 

Home office help

Music can help increase productivity and boost your mood during the work day. In a study we compiled last year (more insights below), 67% of people said listening to music helps them get more done than drinking a cup of coffee. Try a pair of Sonos Ones or One SLs in your home office, or if you find yourself working everywhere from the patio to the kitchen, Move is the most versatile option to bring the music seamlessly from room to room.

Stream it all in brilliant sound 

Whether the latest Netflix binge, a workout on Hulu, a cooking class on YouTube, or a live concert on Instagram – you can listen to it all on Sonos. Meanwhile, your favorite albums, podcasts, and audiobooks are a great way to break up the screen-time. Beam is the best option for people who want great TV sound with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Airplay 2 built in. Sonos also has home theater sets for those looking for 5.1 surround sound. 

Escape with music

As a company, Sonos is obsessed with music and audio. It drives everything they do and is getting all of us through this time. In their research last year, we also learned 80% of parents said they hope their kids like their favorite music, and 65% of people listen to music their parents introduced them to.

With help from Sonos colleagues, they are adding new playlists including one for parents and kids. Here are three of the latest on Spotify (also available on other platforms).  

Finally, along with fast and free shipping, Sonos has extended our return policy to 100 days (money back guarantee) and there are some offers for the next few weeks on Sonos.com for OneOne SLBeam and speaker sets.

Brilliant Sound Survey Insights (global)
Music has a transformative power to increase productivity and reduce stress.

  • 67% of people say listening to music helps them get more done than drinking coffee.
  • 74% of people say listening to music helps reduce stress.
  • 76% of people say that listening to music helps them produce their best work. 
  • 42% of people say podcasts had a relaxing effect on their mood. 
  • 75% of people say music has made them laugh or cry unexpectedly.

Listening Motivates Us Toward Health Goals

  • 68% of people say that music helps motivate them to workout when they’re tempted to skip it. 
  • Majority of listeners say that music helps encourage them to workout longer (52%), push themselves further (55%) and exercise with greater intensity (51%)
  • 75% of people say that music has a bigger impact on their workout regimen than any supplement does.

ASUS ROG Announces New Gaming Laptop Lineup

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 2, 2020 by itnerd

ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) today announced the top-to-bottom refresh of its gaming laptops with new 10th Generation Intel® CoreTM processors. Striking new chassis designs and thoughtful quality-of-life additions raise the bar for gamers and content creators, while the latest Intel CPUs, NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX SUPERTM graphics, and custom Intelligent Cooling solutions set a new performance standard.

The ROG Spring 2020 collection is headlined by the Zephyrus Duo 15 and its unique secondary ROG ScreenPad Plus touchscreen, along with refreshed Zephyrus S, M, and G models that are more portable and powerful than ever. For those seeking esports glory, ROG Strix SCAR laptops are built for top-flight competition with up to RTX 2080 SUPER GPUs and 300 Hz panels, while the bold colors of the ROG Strix G15 Electro Punk laptop and its bundle of matching accessories open new possibilities for personal expression.

The very latest components are on full show, from the liquid metal thermal compound rolling out across ROG’s entire 10th Gen Intel lineup, to high-speed DDR4 RAM and blazingly fast displays.

ROG Zephyrus Duo 15

The new ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 integrates the innovative ROG ScreenPad Plus, a secondary touchscreen for innovative multitasking that brings gaming, streaming, working, and chatting together in one portable device. The 14.1-inch 4K (3840 x 1100) IPS ROG ScreenPad Plus sits above the Duo 15’s forward-set keyboard and below its main panel, making for easy second-monitor style interaction or a dramatic continuation of the primary screen.

As the lid opens, a hinge tilts the secondary display up at a 13-degree angle for viewing comfort while exposing a massive 28.5 mm air intake that draws in cool air from above the laptop. This Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) arrangement means that the Zephyrus Duo can house powerful components in a slender chassis, including Intel’s 10th Gen Core i9 CPU and NVIDIA’s trailblazing RTX 2080 SUPER GPU.

The Zephyrus Duo ships with two high-end display options: a lightning-fast 300 Hz FHD display or a 4K UHD display with 100% Adobe RGB coverage for people who split their time between AAA gaming and content production. NVIDIA G-SYNC® technology keeps gaming visuals smooth and tear-free, while ROG GPU Switch technology enables swapping between G-SYNC and NVIDIA’s battery-saving Optimus mode.

With its one-of-a-kind secondary display, premium components, and sleek design, Zephyrus Duo 15 takes over as the flagship ROG Zephyrus laptop. From its thin all-metal chassis to its powerful ThunderboltTM 3 port, from its RAID 0 storage array to its top-of-the-line displays, this laptop embodies ROG’s ruthless drive for excellence.

ROG Zephyrus S17

The new Zephyrus S17 offers an expansive 17.3- inch display with super-narrow bezels in a svelte 18.7- millimeter-thin chassis. With a 300 Hz refresh rate and 3 ms grey-to-grey response time, the screen is a speed demon that can be paired with up to a RTX 2080 SUPER GPU and 10th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU. It shares GPU Switch benefits with the Zephyrus Duo 15 and S15 models, as well as PANTONE® Validated color accuracy making it ideal for creative work and gaming alike.

Zephyrus S17’s chassis gave ROG engineers room to include a few premium extras, including a full desktop-style keyboard with per-key RGB LED backlighting, NumberPad — a combination touchpad and numeric keypad — and an integrated volume roller complete with backlight brightness. System thermals benefit from a unique AAS cooling solution that opens a large intake vent beneath the system when the lid is raised.

Zephyrus S17 proves that big doesn’t have to mean bulky. In a lean, portable chassis, the laptop exploits the expansive screen space while providing a premium ROG experience.

ROG Zephyrus S15

The new Zephyrus S15 was tailor-made to provide serious gamers the specs they need in a package that won’t weigh them down. The compact, 18.9-millimeter-thin chassis includes top-end S17-level components, with configurations maxing out at a RTX 2080 SUPER GPU paired with a 300 Hz / 3 ms display. The combination of G-SYNC technology, ROG’s pre-applied CPU-cooling liquid metal, and an ultrahigh refresh rate makes for silky-smooth visuals even in the midst of frenetic action.

Honeycomb reinforcements under the palm rest keep the S15 sturdy and resistant to flex, with soft- touch paint adding a smooth, fingerprint-resistant finish. Inside, dual M.2 SSDs can be configured in a blazingly fast RAID 0 array. GPU Switch technology makes an appearance here as well, allowing users to toggle between G-SYNC mode for smooth gaming and Optimus mode for extended battery life.

With its slim chassis, Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, and comfortable 15-inch size, Zephyrus S15 makes the dream of ultraportable gaming a reality. It’s the ultimate Zephyrus laptop for the traveling gamer.

ROG Zephyrus M15

The attractively priced ROG Zephyrus M15 offers a range of configurations that make it an easy choice for a wide audience, beginning with the eight cores and 16 threads of a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor. Display options including 240 Hz and 144 Hz FHD panels and a 4K UHD panel let users pick the screen that best fits their needs, while GPU options range from the affordable yet capable GeForce GTX 1660 Ti up to the RTX 2070 GPU.

The Zephyrus M15’s slim, professional chassis is made of structurally reinforced magnesium alloy and finished with a classy, soft-touch skin. An ESS Sabre DAC drives a clear, powerful audio signal, and with two easily accessible M.2 slots, it packs the storage capacity to fit creative work alongside a loaded gaming library. The Zephyrus M15 offers a complete connectivity payload, including Thunderbolt 3, dual display outputs, and enough USB ports to connect a mouse, gamepad, and external storage.

ROG Strix SCAR 15/17

From the aluminum skin on the lid to the raised ridges that accent the ventilated 3D flow zone at the rear, ROG Strix laptops are unabashed gaming machines that shine in the spotlight of esports arenas.

ROG Strix SCAR 17 delivers unbridled gaming power built around a 300 Hz IPS-level panel. Thanks to its dizzyingly high refresh rate, this panel displays fast-paced action with unprecedented clarity, allowing gamers to react to on-screen events faster than they realized was possible. With an Intel processor up to the latest eight-core Core i9-10980-HK, up to 32 GB of 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM, and up to the e RTX 2080 SUPER GPU, the Strix SCAR 17 is prepped for peerless performance.

Those who prefer their competition-dominating hardware to be a bit more portable need look no further than ROG Strix SCAR 15. Its 15.6-inch display offers the same tournament-grade 300 Hz refresh rate with undeniable Strix SCAR look. It is powered by an Intel CPU up to a 10th Gen Core i9-10980-HK and up to the RTX 2070 SUPER GPU.

The SCAR series also boldly proclaims its gaming chops with customizable RGB LED lighting effects, including a wraparound light bar, keyboard backlighting, and illuminated RGB logo on the laptop’s lid, as well as the stand-out ROG Keystone II, an NFC-enabled device that docks into the side of the chassis. It can be customized to launch any game or app when inserted, provide access to a secret, encrypted Shadow Drive (exclusive to Windows 10 Pro), and trigger a stealth mode that mutes audio and minimizes all apps when removed.

ROG Strix G15/17

ROG Strix G15 and G17 are powered by 10th Gen Intel processors up to a Core i7. GPU options run up to the RTX 2070 SUPER GPU and drive high-refresh-rate displays built for today’s most popular esports titles. Strix G17 and Strix G15 have 144 Hz displays as standard, but both are also available with an even faster 240 Hz panel. personal style. In addition, Strix G laptops ship in three different color schemes to emphasize personal style.

Both models will be available in sophisticated Glacier Blue and Original Black. The Strix G15 Electro Punk is the real showstopper of the bunch. The contrast between its dark brushed metal and sizzling pink highlights is so striking that ROG gave it a complementary cast of gaming peripherals.

Each Electro Punk Strix G15 will include a 35 x 17-inch Electro Punk mouse pad large enough to cushion a full complement of gear. Certain regions will feature bundles of coordinating peripherals that includes the laptop and pad plus a ROG Strix Go Core Electro Punk Headset, ROG Impact II gaming mouse, and a ROG Ranger backpack, all of which sport the head-turning Electro Punk color scheme. It’s the complete PC gaming experience in one package.

AVAILABILITY & PRICING

The ASUS ROG Spring 2020 collection of gaming laptops and peripherals will be available in North America starting from Q2/Q3 2020. Please contact your local ASUS representative for further information.