Archive for September, 2019

HP Has Announced Three New Consumer PC Devices

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 30, 2019 by itnerd

HP has announced three new consumer PC devices today.

Firstly, HP is introducing the next generation Spectre x360 13, which combines the cultivation of innovative design and mobility, along with thoughtful security and performance capabilities that allows customers to pursue their passions without constraint.

HP Spectre x360 13_Nightfall Black_FrontLeft_HP Sure View.png

Key features of the Spectre x360 13 include,

  • Beauty and Purpose: 13% smaller than last year’s model, with an industry-leading 90% screen-to-body ratio at every angle and a 2.8 lbs. chassis – all while increasing power.
  • Power and Connectivity: Featuring up to 22 hours of battery life, and two times the performance of the previous generation.
  • Secure and Smart: Featuring HP’s Webcam Kill Switch, that keeps users safe from webcam hacking with a physical on/off switch to electrically turn off the webcam when not in use, and an optional built-in privacy screen using HP’s award winning Sure View Gen3.

As well, HP announced two new Chromebooks, the Chromebook x360 12b and Chromebook x360 14b which will be available later this month via HP.com and select retailers.

HP Chromebook x360 12b and HP Chromebook x360 14 in natural silver.jpg

Both devices are the first HP Chromebooks to be USI pen enabled, offering a two-way communication protocol between a stylus and a USI enabled display for a consistent, easy-to-use experience across all USI devices.

Key features of the Chromebooks include,

  • Slim, Stylish and Practical: Designed for both those on the go, or on the couch, with a seamless backlit keyboard, an eye-catching white polished finish, and a selection of Type-A and Type-C ports for easy, convenient access.
  • Big Performance: Offering 10-12 hours of battery life and a more efficient fan-less design that will have users doing homework, watching movies, or just surfing the web with the performance they need, when they need it.
  • Voice, Touch and Pen: Interact with the touch-enabled convertible Chromebooks in new and exciting ways with the HP Rechargeable USI Pen and magnetic pen dock on the side of the chassis for easy access when drawing and editing documents. Both Chromebooks also feature Google Assistant  to control the Chromebook experience hands-free with a simple voice command.
  • Google Goodness: The Chromebook x360 12b and Chromebook x360 14b provide users with access to an expansive library of apps from the Google Play store as well as a one-year subscription to Google One – an all-in-one shareable plan that gives users access to expanded storage, Google experts, and exclusive member benefits.

 

HP Spectre x360 13_Nightfall Black_FrontLeft_HP Sure View.png

Dell Announces New EMC ECS Software And Hardware

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 30, 2019 by itnerd

Today, Dell EMC announced new hardware and software updates to ECS, the leading object-storage platform from Dell EMC, building on their long legacy of innovation.

Dell EMC ECS EX500 Appliance
The perfect blend of economy and density, the EX500 injects greater flexibility into the Dell EMC ECS portfolio. With rack capacity that can scale from 480TB to 4.6PB, the EX500 is a versatile option for midsized enterprises supporting both modern applications or deep archive use cases.

The EX500 joins its EX300 and EX3000 brethren as the latest member of the Dell EMC ECS hardware family.

Dell EMC ECS Software Version 3.4
In addition to the EX500, Dell EMC is simultaneously releasing version 3.4 of the ECS software.

55% Of Canadians Are More Productive Working Remotely With The Right Technology: Citrix

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 30, 2019 by itnerd

Citrix Canada, along with OnePoll, surveyed 750 Canadian workers about their ability to work remotely, workstyle preferences and habits, and their perceptions of corporate green initiatives. The results provide a look at how companies can make a significant impact on the environment, while at the same time reducing costs and retaining/recruiting the best talent, by implementing mobile workspaces.

The study revealed that nearly 60% of Canadian workers want to work for a company that is environmentally friendly and prioritizes green initiatives. This reinforces the fact that being green is more popular than ever.

By implementing mobile workspaces, companies can make a significant change for the good of the environment, while also improving employees’ productivity. By allowing employees to work remotely, companies can reduce the size of their office, while also reducing overhead costs and energy consumption.

  • From an environmentally conscious perspective, an important reason for businesses to implement mobile workspaces is to reduce carbon emissions from the 76% of respondents who regularly drive to work, averaging 31 minutes on their commute.
  • When Canadian employees were asked if they leave their PC’s running overnight, a staggering 57% claimed they did not power down, further reinforcing the need for companies to adopt energy efficient devices that help reduce energy consumption.
  • 93% of respondents confirmed that their offices are mostly or fully occupied on a regular basis.  However, 51% state that their jobs can be performed remotely if allowed.
  • What’s more, 55% of respondents agree that they would be more or as productive working remotely than in the office.

 

ADAPTING FOR THE FUTURE OF WORK

More than ever, climate change is on the top of everyone’s minds.  This is most evident with the Generation Z and Millennial generations.

  • From those interviewed between the ages of 18-24, 66% agreed or somewhat agreed that they are most inclined to work for a company that makes green initiatives a priority and 83% stated they are most inclined to work for a company that allows them to work remotely.
  • Similar results were found for those between the ages of 24-34, with 64% agreeing or somewhat agreeing that they are most inclined to work for a company that makes green initiatives a priority and 73% stated they are most inclined to work for a company that allows them to work remotely.
  • This shows the passion that Millennials and Generation Z have for making a difference and the importance for companies to have this in mind if they want to attract and retain the best talent.
  • With climate change producing strong winter storms, companies also need to consider mobile workspaces as part of their business continuity plans.
    • Of those surveyed, only 53% stated their companies had policies or technology in place to work remotely in the case of a natural disaster.

 

A CHANGING LANDSCAPE

Canada’s vast landscape offers a variety of commuting requirements, each dependent on the industry that province or city attracts and operates in. However, whether it is long flat roads through the prairies, or the stop and go traffic of Toronto, reducing commuting times and therefore cutting back on office space is a great way that organizations can incorporate a more flexible work policy, saving people time and energy.

  • The Atlantic region (Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick) had the highest percentage of people (36%) who travel 1-10 minutes to and from work each day. However, the same region had the highest percentage of people who leave their computers running over night.
  • In Central Canada (Quebec and Ontario), provinces that attract an extremely diverse industry and workforce, had the highest percentage of people who travel an extensive 91+ minute during their commute to work (5%). While, the Prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) had the highest percentage of people who work remotely.

That “Unpatchable” Exploit On Older iPhones That You’ve Been Hearing About Is ALMOST A Non-Issue…..Here’s Why

Posted in Commentary on September 30, 2019 by itnerd

On Friday the world was sent into a tizzy because of a supposedly “unpatchable” exploit being announced by a security researcher who goes by the handle “axi0mX” on Twitter. Dubbed “checkm8”  this is a bootrom exploit for iOS devices equipped with A5 through A11 chips, including the iPhone 4S through the iPhone X, several iPad models dating back to the iPad 2, and the fifth-generation iPod touch and later. And because of the fact that this is in the bootrom, Apple can’t do anything to patch it. Thus those devices are vulnerable to being pwned by hackers. Right?

Well, not so fast.

The problem with this is that the universe lost its cookies about the exploit without understanding what the exploit is. So what I will be doing in this post is explaining what the exploit is and why this is almost a non-issue for most iOS users.

The exploit as mentioned above is a bootrom exploit. That means that beyond the fact that it is “unpatchable”, it can get around the protection that Apple built into the bootrom of the most recent iPhones and iPads. By using this exploit you can execute any code at the bootrom level that you want. But this is the key weakness of this exploit. Anything you do after you use the exploit to get into the phone is only in RAM. Which means that once you reboot the phone, anything bad is gone with the exception of the exploit which is ROM. So breaking into the phone and planting some malware is a non-starter because it would only be there until the next reboot.

Here’s the next reason why this exploit is almost a non-issue for most iOS users. Apple introduced the Secure Enclave and Touch ID in 2013, and this exploit can’t get into either of those. Meaning that you can’t unlock any phone with those features using this exploit. However, this exploit would allow you to very quickly get the PIN and get access to all the data of any iPhone that didn’t have the Secure Enclave and Touch ID. And I suspect that this is how devices from companies like Cellebrite and GrayShift break into iPhones. Though I also suspect that they are also taking advantage of multiple exploits to break into iPhones. Just using this exploit won’t allow them to do what they need to do.

Next up is the fact that iOS devices have what’s called a secure bootchain. Starting from the bootrom, every single step of the boot process is checked by the previous stage to make sure that it is trusted. Each step has a digital signature verified so that the phone only allows you to run software that is meant to be running on it. Which means that malware will not be able to get around this security as it will lack the sort of protections that Apple puts in place during the boot process.

So at this point, this exploit doesn’t look as scary as it did originally. But let’s go further. For you to execute this exploit, you need physical access to the phone so that you can put it into DFU Mode which is a mode that allows you restore an iPhone from any state. For example a bad software update. That requires a USB to Lightning cable and a PC or Mac along with pressing certain buttons on the iPhone in a certain sequence to fully pull off getting the phone into DFU Mode. Because of that, you cannot use this exploit remotely (such as going to a webpage that is booby trapped with attack code) which is how hackers would prefer to pwn any phone. iOS or Android.

So, let’s recap:

  • This exploit is not persistent. Meaning that getting in and loading some sort of malware is a non starter because any malware would be gone after the next reboot.
  • If you have an iPhone with the Secure Enclave and Touch ID, this exploit can’t break into those. But this exploit could be used to break into an iPhone without those features.
  • iPhones have protections in place to protect the boot process
  • It cannot be exploited remotely.

As a result it’s not going to affect 95% of iPhone users out there. Which means that your risk of being pwned by hackers is no different today than it was last week, or the week before that.

So why do I say this is almost a non-issue? Well, it is entirely possible that a nation state or some company who finds and sells exploits to the highest bidder, or a Grayshift or Cellebrite could use this exploit (if they aren’t already) and find some way to weaponize it so that it could become more useful which is a another way of saying more dangerous. And anyone who would weaponize an exploit like this is typically targeting specific people rather than the public at large. For example, exploits allegedly found by The NSO Group were allegedly used to target Arab dissidents. However these were exploits in iOS that we quickly patched by Apple. And they targeted specific individuals and not the public at large. On top of that devices from Grayshift or Cellebrite are typically used by law enforcement as part of criminal investigations. Which means that there’s due process behind the use of those devices, and they are again targeting specific individuals and not the public at large. So the take home message is that if whatever it is that you do would make you a target for this sort of activity, and you are running an iPhone X or older, you should run to the Apple Store to get a iPhone XR, XS, 11, or 11 Pro. The rest of you have nothing to worry about.

As a final note, bootrom exploits are the closest thing to a holy grail for jailbreakers and those who hope to hack into iPhones. As far as I know, there have only ever been eight of them and they are all listed here. But every time one of these exploits appears, Apple takes steps to make iOS and the environment it runs on more secure. So if there is a positive side to this, you can expect that your next iPhone to be even more secure than your current one.

Martello Places No. 206 On The Globe and Mail’s Ranking Of Canada’s Top Growing Companies

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 30, 2019 by itnerd

Martello Technologies Group Inc announced that it has placed No. 206 on the inaugural Report on Business ranking of Canada’s Top Growing Companies. Canada’s Top Growing Companies ranks Canadian Companies on three-year revenue growth. Martello earned its spot with three-year growth of 165%.

Martello’s accomplishments have been recognized by the industry. The Company was recently ranked for a third consecutive year on the Growth 500 list of high growth companies, and took position 215 in the 2019 edition of the widely respected Branham300 listing of Canada’s top ICT (Information and Communications Technology) companies. Martello is focused on global growth both organically and through acquisitions. The Company recently announced partnerships and sales wins with the City of Ottawa, Paessler PRTG, Onepoint and Suria Business Solutions.

About Canada’s Top Growing Companies Ranking

Launched in 2019, the Canada’s Top Growing Companies ranking program aims to celebrate entrepreneurial achievement in Canada by identifying and amplifying the success of growth-minded, independent business in Canada. It is a voluntary program; companies had to complete an in-depth application process in order to quality. In total, 400 companies made the ranking this year.

The full list of 2019 winners, and accompanying editorial coverage, is published in the October issue of Report on Business magazine- out now- and online at tgam.ca/TopGrowing.

 

Should You Upgrade To The iPhone 11? Well…. That Depends….

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 27, 2019 by itnerd

Apple has a new iPhone out and the reviews that are out there paint a pretty positive picture of the iPhone 11. But the question is, should you upgrade? That depends on what you already own and what features in the iPhone lineup you need. Hopefully this post can make choosing the right iPhone 11 easier for you.

Let’s start with which iPhone 11 you should go for. Apple has three of them available for sale:

  • The iPhone 11 is a direct replacement for the iPhone XR from last year. The major difference between the two is that the iPhone now comes with two cameras which are wide and ultra wide cameras. And that allows you take portrait mode photos of anything unlike the iPhone XR which only takes portrait mode photos of people. Other than that, the price is lower than the iPhone XR last year, but interestingly it has the same A13 processor and the same 4GB of RAM that the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max have. And it still comes with features like Night Shot and it will still get the Deep Fusion upgrade later this year. For those reasons, I would suggest that this is the phone that most people should get as it will fulfill the needs of most people out there.
  • Replacing the iPhone XS and XS Max are the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. For the record, the Pro Max name is a #Fail. But I digress. They have better OLED displays that are still 5.8″ and 6.5″ respectively. They have better sound as well. But the big change is a third camera lens which is a telephoto lens. That will be important to those who really take their photography seriously as a telephoto lens will allow one take better zoomed in photos. Much along the lines of having a DSLR with a zoom lens. Thus if you want the best screen and the best iPhone for photography, and you are willing to pay big bucks for that seeing as neither of these phones are cheap, you should go for the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max.

Now whom should upgrade to any of these phones. That again depends on whom you are:

  • If you have anything less than the iPhone X, you’d be a candidate to upgrade. There are more than enough differences between what you may have and what these phones offer that would make an upgrade worthwhile.
  • If you have an iPhone X or newer, that’s where this becomes something that you really have to think about. Maybe iPhone X users have an argument to upgrade as their phones are two years old and the gap between the iPhone X and the iPhone 11 is enough to justify it. But I can’t justify a XS, XS Max or an XR user upgrading unless they really need the photography capabilities of the new iPhones.

Another thing to consider is that if you are coming from Team Android or you’re getting your first iPhone, then besides the iPhone 11 series, Apple still has has the iPhone XR and the iPhone 8 series available for those who simply need an iPhone at a lower cost and taking pictures and speed don’t matter. Though I suspect that many on Team Android will gravitate towards the iPhone 11 series as they match the features that Android users are used to, regardless of whether they actually use them or not.

TELUS Wins PC Mag Award for Fastest Mobile Network in Canada

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 27, 2019 by itnerd

Yesterday, I posted this tweet:

The mic drop reference is in relation to a commercial that TELUS put out in 2018 when they started to rack up awards for their network quality. Here’s the commercial:

 

Well, it’s mic drop time again as PCMag released its Fastest Mobile Networks Canada 2019 report and TELUS came out on top for the third year in a row, winning the award for Fastest Network in Canada, solidifying the strength of TELUS’ wireless network across the country.

This year marks the third year in a row that TELUS has won top recognition for its network superiority across all major Network Awards in Canada. In 2019, TELUS has been recognized by industry-leading experts, including:

  • Top spot with Tutela’s Mobile Experience Award for the second consecutive quarter
  • Canada’s Best Mobile Network from Ookla
  • Ranked first in Canada for Network Quality performance by J.D. Power
  • Opensignal awarded TELUS the top spot for 4G Availability, Video Experience, Download Speed Experience and Latency Experience

PC Mag tested 29 major and smaller cities this year with devices from Bell, Rogers, TELUS, Freedom, Videotron and Sasktel using industry standard software from Ookla Speedtest and Samsung Galaxy S10 phones. For more information, please visit PCMag.com.

More information regarding TELUS’ network accolades can be found on telus.com/network.

OVH Addresses Compute-Intensive Needs With Its New Infrastructure Dedicated Servers

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 26, 2019 by itnerd

Six months after announcing a complete revamp of its dedicated server ranges, OVH is now launching its new Infrastructure range, which addresses the scalability and performance requirements of medium-size companies, government agencies and universities when it comes to building clustered server architectures or managing big databases, along with numerous other applications.

Equipped with high-speed connectivity and advanced networking and security features, OVH’s Infrastructure range of dedicated servers can be implemented for a diverse range of use cases, from media and video processing to high-performance computing, financial analytics and virtualization.

In order to maximize performance for users, the new range provides four configurations, priced from $147.99 to $339.99 monthly, each of which is designed for complementary use cases, to help companies build their own cloud infrastructure.

INFRA-1 and INFRA-2 servers are particularly well-suited to media/video processing and 2D/3D applications. They are equipped with Intel Xeon E-2274G and E-2288G processors, respectively, and the Intel UHD Graphics P630 technology, allowing for better graphics rendering. Both servers provide advanced security features, based on the Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) technology, which completely separates the code being executed and the data being processed.

INFRA-3 servers enable the deployment of high-performance architectures for virtualization or containerization, as well as the ability to conduct complex analytics or build virtual offices. A brand-new configuration by OVH, INFRA-3 features the AMD Epyc 7371 processor, which is one of the industry’s most efficient 16-core CPUs, specifically designed for data centers.

Finally, OVH offers INFRA-4 servers to meet the execution requirements of complex workloads, and for the deployment of virtual environments and containers. As the only dual-processor configuration in the Infrastructure range, INFRA-4 is based on the second-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors.

All servers in the Infrastructure range leverage the latest OVH Link Aggregation (OLA) technology, which makes it possible to aggregate the network interfaces of each server to increase its availability, while simultaneously isolating the server from the public network and any potential threats.

Like all OVH’s dedicated servers, the new range meets the most stringent security standards, such as compliance to ISO/IEC 27001 and includes all the usual features provided by OVH, such as built-in anti-DDoS protection, along with the ability to interconnect all servers and cloud services to OVH’s private network, vRack. In addition, the new servers leverage OVH’s robust network, including a public network bandwidth ranging from 1Gbps (standard) to 4Gbps (optional), and the vRack offering bandwidth ranging from 2Gbps (standard) to 5Gbps (optional).

Review: Oral-B Genius X 10000 Toothbrush

Posted in Products with tags on September 26, 2019 by itnerd

Yes, I am reviewing an electric toothbrush. In fact, I am one of a handful of journalists to review this particular toothbrush which is the Oral-B Genius X 10000, which means it’s pretty special. And you’ll see in this review why it is special. Let’s start with what comes in the box:

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You get the toothbrush, a bunch of heads, a charging stand, and a travel case so you can ensure that your oral care regime stays on point when you are on the road. One cool thing about the travel case is that it’s designed to charge both your toothbrush and smartphone using only one outlet. But, the The battery on the toothbrush lasts up to 14 days between charges and has 6 modes:

  • Daily Clean
  • Pro Clean
  • Gum Care
  • Sensitive
  • Whitening
  • Tongue Cleaning

I ran it briefly in the daily clean mode. But I ended up parking it in the pro clean mode as I really liked the results that it provided.

The Oral-B Genius X 10000 works with the Oral-B app via Bluetooth connection to help you to brush effectively, track your results, and coach you on brushing better in real time as the toothbrush can figure out where in your mouth the toothbrush is. More on that in a second. Once the toothbrush connects with your phone, you get a screen like this:

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Anything that is in white is an area of your mouth that has been cleaned to the satisfaction of the toothbrush. Anything in blue still needs to be cleaned. And if see any section flashing in red, it means that you are pressing too hard. Which is a problem because it could hurt your gums. Something that gets illustrated when you get the report on how well you did.

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As you can see from this report, I covered 100% of my teeth, but I pressed too hard for 4 seconds. That dropped my brushing score to 80%. Clearly I had to improve. Which I did a few days later:

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I can go back and review my results via the app (available for iOS and Android) over days, weeks or months to see how I well I was doing. And the app has a gamification element within it where you can get awards for doing what you should be doing in terms of oral care. For example I got two awards during my test of the toothbrush for brushing and rinsing for seven days straight:

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Now for the most part, the toothbrush was able to figure out where I was brushing. But it did have some problems with my front teeth unless I was holding it in a way that allowed it to figure out where it was. And I did feel that my teeth were far cleaner than they normally would be. This is impressive given that I have used a power toothbrush (an Oral-b one for the record) for years and I thought that was doing a great job in terms of getting my teeth clean. But the real question is if my teeth were actually cleaner? To find out I used the Oral-B Genius X 10000 for a week and then visited my dental hygienist for my quarterly cleaning. And the results were interesting. Other than a piece of popcorn that was stuck in my gums that I missed while flossing, my dental hygienist said she had to do way less work to clean my teeth than normal. She also mentioned that the Genius series of toothbrushes are the “Rolls Royce” of toothbrushes and her patients get great results by using them. Thus I would conclude that the Oral-B Genius X 10000 works extremely well to keep my teeth clean and does so in a manner that takes my oral care to the next level. Thus I can say that it will do the same for you.

Gripes? I wouldn’t call this a gripe, but I would call it a feature request. It would be nice if the Oral-B app for iOS integrated itself with Apple Health as the iOS 13 version of the Health app now has a toothbrushing section in the Health app where the Oral-B app could add the data about your toothbrushing to. But to be fair to Oral-B, you can export your brushing results as a PDF from the Oral-B app and send them to your dentist which is similar to what Apple does with ECG results from the Apple Watch.

The Oral-B Genius X 10000 will be available in October and goes for around $299 CDN which is not cheap. But I truly believe that if you want to improve your oral care regime to the point where your dentist will thank you, then this is a good investment as there are worse ways to spend $299 CDN. And if it helps, more than one person can use the Oral-B Genius X 10000 as long as they bring their own phone and brush heads. That’s a winning strategy in my mind.

Review: Belkin BOOST↑UP Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch + USB-A port

Posted in Products with tags on September 25, 2019 by itnerd

My wife this summer got a iPhone XR which comes with wireless charging. That to me required a new charger to make her life easier as she was charging her previous iPhone 7 Plus with a Lightning cable. Thus Belkin was kind enough to hook her up with the BOOST↑UP Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch + USB-A port:

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This is everything that you get in the box. The power adapter is on the larger size. But the plug is at the end. Thus you won’t have a problem plugging it into a power bar. And you can see the charger which has stands for your Apple Watch on the right (which allows your Apple Watch to go into Nightstand Mode), and the stand for your iPhone on the left which supports 7.5w Qi-certified charging. One thing that I like about the Apple Watch end of the charge is that it will work with any band. By that I mean that if you have a traditional leather band, a sport loop, or something in between, you can still charge the watch.

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There’s a A 5-watt USB-A port on the back so you can charge another device. Though I can expect that somebody who reads this review would want USB-C to be here instead. I personally don’t think it’s a deal breaker though.

My wife had the following thoughts on the Belkin BOOST↑UP Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch + USB-A port:

  • My wife thinks that this charging stand is a game changer as she can just drop her iPhone XR in with the case and it will charge 100% of the time without fail and without thinking about it.
  • The fact that it also puts the Apple watch in Nightstand Mode is also great.
  • As far as she is concerned, it’s a home run for Belkin.

I think that another plus is that it doesn’t take up a whole lot of real estate. If you have a small nightstand, that’s important to take into consideration.

The Belkin BOOST↑UP Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch + USB-A port has a long name. But it does have a pretty decent price which is $139.99 USD. Consider this a must get if you need a wireless charger for your iPhone and Apple Watch.