Archive for January 4, 2018

Soundstream to Introduce VRA-67B Alexa-Enabled Head Unit

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2018 by itnerd

Soundstream is set to announce its very first Alexa-enabled head unit during next week’s Consumer Electronics Show. This is the very first head unit for Soundstream to incorporate Alexa Voice Service (AVS). The Soundstream VRA-67B incorporates Alexa Voice Service (AVS) commands similar to what you would find on a typical Amazon Echo Dot.

Some of the benefits of Alexa Voice Service featured on this unit include:

  • News and Entertainment – This includes information on the latest headlines and such information as the weather.
  • Notifications – Ask Alexa for to remind you of all of your appointments and meetings.
  • Localized Search – Ask to be taken to your nearest mall or McDonald’s all via voice command.

This unit features a double-DIN screen with a 6.2” LCD touchscreen. Additional features include: DVD, CD/MP3, AM/FM receiver and 4.0 Bluetooth Connectivity.

The Alexa source unit is expected at Soundstream dealers during the second quarter of 2018.

To learn more about Epsilon Electronics Inc. visit www.epsilonelectronicsinc.com.

 

 

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ASUS Announces AiMesh

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2018 by itnerd

There was a time not too long ago when our WiFi networks only had to support a couple of computers and maybe a gaming console, but the last ten years have gifted us an entire ecosystem of smart devices to streamline our lives. Making matters worse is the fact that these devices are not all sitting in one convenient location where the WiFi signal is the strongest. These devices are now dispersed throughout your home, sometimes in rooms where you previously would not have noticed a weak spot in the network. Getting decent speeds or connection stability in the most-used areas of the house is no longer good enough.

Fortunately, the answer to this massive increase in connected devices is actually simple. Mesh networks allow you to blanket your entire house with WiFi, from garage to guest room to backyard patio, by spreading access across multiple nodes to cover your home’s layout. Although these Mesh network products can be convenient all-in-one solutions, they are often only available in expensive fixed bundles, with a limited choice of WiFi speeds, hardware features and upgrade paths. In fact, your old router probably won’t work with these systems, so you’ll need to get rid of it — an expensive and wasteful thing to do.

With AiMesh, users can create a completely flexible whole-home WiFi system tailored to their needs, while continuing to enjoy all the functions of their current ASUS router, such as class-leading WiFi performance and enhanced security features like AiProtection. AiMesh also offers convenient central management and control via either the ASUS Router mobile app or the ASUSWRT web interface.

Enabling AiMesh on a compatible router just requires an easy — and completely free — firmware update that allows it to be added to any AiMesh network, so users can mix and match ASUS models according to their budget and/or needs, while making good use of their old router when they upgrade.

For a full overview on ASUS AiMesh, how it works and why this might just be your perfect networking solution, please visit us at Edge Up ASUS to learn more.

ASUS AiMesh is a free update for selected ASUS routers and is now available worldwide.  To view currently supported ASUS routers, please check www.asus.com/AiMesh.  Additional ASUS wireless routers will be added throughout 2018, so please keep checking the AiMesh support page.

Roku Unveils Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program & Roku Entertainment Assistant

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2018 by itnerd

Roku, Inc. today unveiled plans to make it easier for consumers to enjoy streaming entertainment around the whole home. Roku plans to make it especially easy for Roku TV customers to add great audio to their TV experience. The new whole home entertainment licensing program will enable OEM brands to build soundbars and smart speakers, surround sound and multi-room audio systems that use Roku Connect software to work together as a home entertainment network. With Roku Connect devices working together they will be able to connect wirelessly and be controlled by voice commands and a single remote. In addition, OEM brands will be able to license smart soundbar and smart speaker hardware reference designs along with the Roku operating system, Roku OS. TCL is our lead OEM partner, and will announce its plans to offer the first device under the new program at its press conference at CES on Jan. 8.

Roku also announced plans to develop and launch a voice assistant, the Roku Entertainment Assistant, that is optimized for home entertainment. It, along with Roku Connect, is expected to be rolled out as a free software update to the Roku operating system by this Fall to most Roku TV models and Roku players. When launched, the Roku Entertainment Assistant will enable consumers to use voice commands to enjoy entertainment on voice-supported Roku devices. For example, customers will be able to say, “Hey Roku, play jazz in the living room” and a smart soundbar with Roku Connect will begin playing music – even if the TV is turned off.

Four years ago, Roku unveiled its TV licensing program, simplifying the smart TV and making it easy for OEM brands to delight consumers. Today, the Roku TV licensing program is flourishing. Roku TVs accounted for more than one out of every five smart TVs sold in the U.S. during the first nine months of 2017. Roku also today announced that Magnavox joins the program as the ninth brand – bringing new Roku TVs to market this Spring.

Roku believes that the home theater market is ready for a modern approach encompassing the whole home. By expanding its licensing program to allow for easy ways for audio devices to become part of the Roku streaming ecosystem, OEM brands can build smart devices for home entertainment. This is expected to make Roku TV even more appealing to both OEM brands and consumers, and allow Roku to continue to grow active accounts and increase engagement. Roku monetizes active accounts as users engage with content and advertising on its platform.

  • Roku TV – A smart TV powered by the Roku OS. To be updated with Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant by this Fall.
  • Smart Soundbar – Enhances the TV audio experience. Designed to work with any TV that has a HDMI ARC, and expected to have features to allow it to work better with a Roku TV. To be powered by the Roku OS and include Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant.
  • Smart Speaker – Stand-alone speaker or extends audio from another device for a multi-room experience. To be powered by the Roku OS and include Roku Connect and Roku Entertainment Assistant.
  • Roku Connect – Enables OEM brands to build home entertainment devices that connect wirelessly to Roku OS powered devices and other Roku Connect devices within a home entertainment network. Roku Connect devices will be identified by a Roku Connect logo.

OEM brands can license the Roku Connect software (which has a hardware requirement) for free. In addition, Roku does not expect licensing revenues, if any, from smart speakers and smart soundbars to be material in the foreseeable future.

OEMs interested in learning more or meeting at CES can contact OEM@roku.com.

Lenovo Slapped With Stiffer Punishment Over Superfish Scandal

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2018 by itnerd

The last time I wrote about the Lenovo Superfish spyware, the FTC had slapped them on the wrist with a $3.5 million fine and some other stuff that I questioned if would deter similar behavior in the future. That changed with this settlement [WARNING: PDF] which forces Lenovo to do the following:

  • Not install any bloatware/adware/spyware/evil stuff without explicit user permission.
  • Open themselves up to third-party auditing for the next 20 years.
  • Create a “comprehensive” software security program to protect the data it has collected on customers as well as fix any security risks it identifies on its laptops and the apps they are running through the program.

This is actually good. Seeing as Lenovo pretty much installed spyware on laptops, the fact that they’re under this much scrutiny should send a message that this sort of behavior is not acceptable.

Linus Torvalds Calls Out Intel Over Epic CPU Vulnerability In Epic Fashion

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2018 by itnerd

Linus Torvalds who is the man behind the LINUX operating system, which means he has some “street cred” as the kids say, had some choice words for Intel via this post. In short, he was enraged by the statement that the chip giant made in relation to the CPU vulnerability that came to light in the last couple of days. Here’s the key point:

I think somebody inside of Intel needs to really take a long hard look
at their CPU’s, and actually admit that they have issues instead of
writing PR blurbs that say that everything works as designed.

.. and that really means that all these mitigation patches should be
written with “not all CPU’s are crap” in mind.

Or is Intel basically saying “we are committed to selling you shit
forever and ever, and never fixing anything”?

Because if that’s the case, maybe we should start looking towards the
ARM64 people more.

Mic drop.

That’s a slap to the face. But to be fair, I said this yesterday when I covered the release of this statement:

Interesting. A statement that’s designed to create plausible deniability and avoid a massive lawsuit. 

The fact is Intel has some explaining to do. And if they can’t explain this adequately, I wonder how they would feel if Apple, Dell, ASUS, HP and others migrate to AMD chips? Would that get their attention?

Brazil To Apple: You Have Ten Days To Notify iPhone Users About Battery Replacements

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2018 by itnerd

Reuters is reporting that Procon-SP, a state agency in Sao Paulo, Brazil, says it has notified Apple it has ten days to notify Brazilian iPhone owners how they can buy battery replacements at new lower prices, But there’s a twist:

The agency said Apple employees refused to sign the notification, but Procon considered the company notified.

That’s not cool. You have to wonder why Apple employees in Brazil took that stance. As for what could happen to Apple if they don’t comply:

The agency did not say what could happen if Apple does not comply, but it has the power to fine or propose legal action against companies for causing losses to consumers.

I’m pretty sure that’s a road that Apple doesn’t want to go down. At least you’d think so. But clearly the “BatteryGate” scandal is not showing any signs of slowing down. Thus you have to wonder what the next shoe to drop will be.

Guest Post: NordVPN Discusses How To Access The Internet In Iran & Other Restricted Countries

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 4, 2018 by itnerd

Protests in Iran have been going on for about a week now, and the authorities have restricted social media, the main tool of circulating anti-government information.

Iran has blocked Telegram, and Internet has been cut off in several cities where protests have taken place as Iran’s interior minister announced that social networks are “causing violence and fear.”

Telegram was the most popular communications app in Iran with over 40 million users. Twitter and Facebook have already been banned in Iran since 2009.

Iran is just one example of government cutting off social media and Internet around the world in an attempt to silence freedom of speech and anti-government messages.

Living in countries where Internet access is blocked or restricted has made local people very resourceful – they use “unlocked” phones where they can install illegal apps or Google App Engine that conceals a user’s Google activity.

NordVPN, a VPN service provider, has designed domains that are meant to function in the countries where the web is restricted. For example, nordme.org domain is used for the Middle Eastern countries. So even if VPN is blocked, and the official NordVPN website is not accessible in these countries, by visiting a dedicated domain, local users will be able to access the website, configure a VPN and, once connected – to reach all blocked websites and apps, including Telegram, Facebook or Twitter.

“We stand for the freedom of speech, and are determined to help people access the unrestricted Internet in all the countries where it gets shut down, like Iran,” said Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN. “That’s why we had to devise an alternative way to provide people with access to our service. We see that this method is really working – currently, for example, we have a big jump in users from Iran. In addition, we provide free emergency VPN for 5 days – or more if needed.”

To access the free emergency VPN, visit NordVPN’s emergency page.