Report: Toyota Not Integrating Android Auto Due To Privacy Concerns

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 19, 2018 by itnerd

Toyota for the longest while has been pushing their on infotainment systems in their cars. But recently they’re rolling out Apple CarPlay in first the Avalon, and in the upcoming Lexus UX with more vehicles to come in the future. But many people have asked about support for Android Auto. When is that going to show up in a Toyota vehicle?

Well, Motor1 reports that the company isn’t integrating Android Auto because it is keen to protect the privacy of its customers:

“We’re a conservative company and we wanted to make sure everything was okay,” said Mark DeJongh, Avalon’s Executive Program Manager, about the company’s stance against Android Auto. He spoke during a Toyota first-drive event this week. “We wanted to protect our customers privacy. We strongly believe in our stance and in what we’re doing.”

Toyota isn’t the first car company to have issues with Android Auto. Porsche famously flipped the bird to Android Auto a few years ago, and to this day no Porsche model offers it as a feature. Google claims that there’s nothing to see here. But seeing as Android Auto apparently collects everything from speed, throttle position, coolant and oil temp, engine revs etc. every time it is used, you can see why a car maker might have a wee bit of a problem. This will be something that Google cannot ignore and it will be interesting to see if or how they address it.


ASUS Announces AREZ Graphics Card Brand

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 18, 2018 by itnerd

Today, ASUS has announced AREZ, a new brand identity for ASUS Radeon RX graphics cards. Derived from Ares, the Greek God of War, AREZ-branded graphics cards are built using industry-leading automated manufacturing to provide AMD gamers and enthusiasts with superior cooling technology and a robust software ecosystem.


The new AREZ brand underlines the strong working partnership between ASUS and AMD that spans decades. Gamers and enthusiasts will enjoy a combination of exclusive ASUS innovations and technologies and AMD’s Radeon graphics processors and software.

Extreme durability: Auto-Extreme technology and Super Alloy Power II components

AREZ graphics cards are produced using Auto-Extreme technology, an industry-exclusive, 100%-automated production process that incorporates premium materials to set a new standard of quality, performance and longevity. Since the introduction of Auto-Extreme technology in ASUS graphics cards, reliability has improved by 30%. This manufacturing process is also environmentally friendly, eliminating harsh chemicals and reducing power consumption by 50%.

Super Alloy Power II components deliver enhanced efficiency, reduced power loss, reduced component buzzing by 50% under full load and achieve thermal levels that are approximately 50% cooler than previous designs for enhanced quality and reliability.

Hi-tech cooling: MaxContact, patented Wing-Blade IP5X-certified fans and FanConnect II

MaxContact is an industry-first GPU cooling technology featuring an enhanced copper heat-spreader that directly contacts the GPU. MaxContact utilizes precision machining to provide a 10X-flatter surface for up to 2X more contact area with the GPU than traditional heat spreaders, resulting in improved thermal transfer. Select AREZ graphics cards are also constructed with up to 40% more heatsink surface area than previous dual-slot designs, further improving heat dissipation for dramatically cooler and quieter performance.

A patented Wing-Blade fan design delivers 105%-greater static pressure over the heatsink for more efficient cooling and up to 3X-quieter operation compared to other fan designs. The fans are certified under the International Protection Marking (IP code) as IP5X dust resistant for improved reliability and a longer lifespan. This stringent certification process ensures AREZ graphics cards provide optimal fan performance, even under severe operating conditions. Additionally, 0dB technology stops the fan completely when the GPU temperature is below a set level, letting players enjoy light gaming sessions in complete silence.

ASUS FanConnect II features two four-pin hybrid-controlled headers that can be connected to both PWM and DC system fans for optimal system cooling. The connected fans reference both the GPU and CPU, and operate automatically based on the one with the higher temperature. A comprehensive set of tuning options allow gamers to tune fan speeds for efficient cooling.


Software ecosystem: GPU Tweak II, plus Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition

Redesigned with an intuitive user interface, GPU Tweak II makes gaming and overclocking easier than ever, while retaining advanced options for seasoned overclockers. With one click, the Gaming Booster function maximizes system performance by removing redundant processes and allocating all available resources automatically.

AREZ graphics cards also support the latest AMD Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition drivers for comprehensive control over AMD GPUs. Core features include power-saving Radeon Chill technology; Radeon WattMan for profile-based custom control of voltages, engine clocks and fan speeds[i]; and Radeon ReLive for easy capture and sharing of in-game action.


ASUS AREZ-branded graphics cards will be available from May 2018 in selected markets.


Cisco Enhances Webex to Include More of What You Do Every Day to Get Great Work Done

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 18, 2018 by itnerd

“Let’s talk about it—I’ll set up a Webex!” Ever heard (or said) that sentence? If you are like most workers, the answer is yes; the name “Webex” is synonymous with the word “meet”. It is the gold standard when it comes to real-time meetings and getting things done. More than six billion meeting minutes happen in Cisco Webex every month.

But the way people meet is changing. And Webex is ready.

To make it easier for teams to meet and get great work done, today at Collaboration Summit it was announced that Cisco are converging the Cisco Spark and Webex platforms. The result is a new Webex Meetings application for your meetings and a new seamless team collaboration application called Webex Teams (formerly Cisco Spark). We are putting all our award-winning video devices onto this newly converged platform. And Cisco is adding a new hardware device that turns any work space with a TV into a Webex room. Plus everything easier to buy and Cisco is continuing to apply machine learning and artificial intelligence that will dramatically improve meetings as we know them today.

Here’s more information about each part of the news:

An all-new version of Webex meetings is launched.
The first thing you will notice about the new Webex Meetings is that it is “video first,” meaning you’ll be strongly encouraged to turn on your camera. That’s because seeing and being seen are fundamental to good teamwork. Gone are the days when you’d stare at the screen only to see the presentation. You’ll now see all your teammates, in crisp, clean layouts whether you are using your laptop, your Cisco video room device or your mobile device.

Because Cisco delivers Webex through the cloud, the one hundred million people worldwide who use Webex do not need to take any action. They will simply get the update in the coming months.

A brand new version of Cisco Spark with a new name.
Today’s business challenges are getting more and more complex, creating an urgency to help teams connect and get their best work done. Cisco wants to make it simple for Webex users to take the next step to team collaboration.

The goal has always been to make Cisco Spark the simplest, most secure team collaboration tool on the planet. Today, they launch a new version of Cisco Spark, and give it a new name: Webex Teams. Now, when companies are ready to make their move to team collaboration they can do so with the brand that they already know and love—Webex. All they need to do is add the Teams extension to start using team-based persistent collaboration.

With this new version, we have completely integrated the technology across the applications— so you can expect the same rich Webex meeting functionality in Teams meetings, and a common experience no matter which you choose.  Webex Teams gives you a much richer set of tools –including whiteboarding, persistent messaging, simple guest access, content sharing and integrated tools—to support teams both during and after the meeting.

The new name also extends to the award-winning devices. For instance, the Cisco Spark Board becomes the Webex Board. That’s because Webex meetings are even better when you join from one of Cisco’s video devices.

A new device that turns any space with a TV into a Webex room.
While visiting customers Cisco noticed that many huddle spaces—most, even—have a little-used TV hanging on the wall. What if you could enlist these TVs to make team huddles better?

Out of that question came Webex Share, a low-cost, super-simple way for teams to share content on the big screen in the space.  Simply plug the palm-sized adapter into the back of the TV. Pair with the system, and start sharing your document or screen.  When you’re done, keep the work going in your Webex Teams space. Plus, with Webex Share, teams will be able to easily reserve rooms, know when a room is already booked, and much more.

Webex Share will be available for Webex Meetings and Teams towards the end of 2018.

An all-new roadmap for how Webex will work with tools from Google, Microsoft, and other companies.
Cisco believes in choice. Cisco wants their customers to be free to choose whichever tool is right for them. Want to use Webex for meetings but Microsoft for team collaboration? No problem. With the new Webex you can do just that. It will work with Google, Slack and others, too. It’s important customers have choices, and therefore it is important to make it easier for them.

Cisco makes buying great tools for your team easy.
Buying should be simple and with the Cisco Collaboration Flex Plan, it is. As of today, companies can simply pay a subscription fee for each active user. And with Webex Meetings, now up to 1,000 people can join and we have added more storage, advanced security and analytics capabilities.

Cisco puts artificial intelligence (AI) to work to end lousy meetings.
In November, Cisco announced plans to use AI to make meetings better.  Today they build upon that in two ways:

Webex Assistant (formerly Cisco Spark Assistant) will be available on more devices and with more functionality. Cisco continues the journey to inject AI into every meeting, every call, every conversation and every interaction that you have. Based on technology from our MindMeld acquisition, Webex Assistant will start showing up over the next couple of months in all cloud-connected Webex Room Kit and Room Series devices.

Noise suppression saves the call. The loud typist. The barking dog. The side conversation. These are just a few of the annoyances that disrupt many meetings. But not anymore: all Cisco cloud-connected and on-premise video devices can now suppress disruptive noises. This means the next time someone starts loudly shuffling papers on a call, the system will automatically turn the volume down enough so that the sound no longer interrupts the conversation. And when the paper shuffler chimes in with a comment, the system will “know” that and automatically stop suppressing the sound. To the user, it’s magic: no need to do a thing.

Additional Resources:

Watch the Collaboration Summit keynote live today at 9 am Pacific.

Read Jonathan Rosenberg’s blog on this platform convergence news.

Read Snorre Kjesbu’s blog on Webex Share.

Nova Scotia Teen Gets Charged With Pwning Gov’t Website…. But I Think He’s A Scapegoat For Gov’t Incompetence

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 18, 2018 by itnerd

Here’s the situation. According to the CBC, a Nova Scotia teen was charged with “hacking” a Nova Scotia Government website called the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Portal. This is a website that serves up freedom of information requests to the public. The teen downloaded 7,000 publicly available documents from the site. Eventually the people who ran the site noticed and the teen got charged with “Unauthorized use of a computer.”

Here’s the problem. This wasn’t a hack as such. It was a screw up by the Nova Scotia Government. According to privacy lawyer David Fraser and software engineer Evan d’Entremont, all one has to do is to change the document ID number at the end of a URL and it’s yours. Example, you could create a script to download document number 1234, then 1235, 1236 and so on as long as you knew what number to start at. Elite hacking this is not. What makes this worse is that not all the documents that are available on this website got redacted to remove personal info that is not relevant to the freedom of information request. So one who had ill intent could come up with some really juicy info. To top it all off, since this was a web site that was available to the public, the contents of these documents were picked up by Google’s webcache bots. So a simple Google search could uncover this info.

All of this sounds like to me the Nova Scotia Government really screwed up here. So when this teen came to their attention, I am guessing that they used this as an opportunity to cover up their stupidity by dropping the hammer on this teen. I say that because according to the teen, 15 cops showed up at his house.

I seriously doubt that this teen is a serious enough threat to public safety that it requires 15 cops to arrest him.

Now privacy watchdogs announced they were starting a probe into this gong show, including investigating whether or not the portal and its information was properly secured. I for one hope that the right heads roll when that’s completed. As in the people who were behind this stupidity. As for the teen behind this, while I don’t claim that he’s innocent, he’s no 1337 h4x0r with mad skillz that’s out for epic pwnage either. Hopefully when all is said and done, common sense will prevail and he’ll just get a slap on a wrist and a life lesson that will encourage him to not do this again.

#Fail: In An Effort To Block Telegram, Russia Takes Down Other Services As Well…. But Not Telegram

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 18, 2018 by itnerd

This isn’t going to look good for Vladimir Putin and his friends. I say that because the Russian government in its quest to block Telegram, accidentally shut down several other services as well. But ironically, they haven’t really stopped access to Telegram:

Russian authorities are freezing up vast swathes of the country’s online world in what critics call a heavy-handed — and so far unsuccessful — attempt to block a popular messaging app, Telegram.

The head of the communications watchdog acknowledged Wednesday that millions of IP addresses unrelated to Telegram have been blocked since a court ordered last week that the app be taken offline.

The move created trouble for millions of companies and consumers, and was described by some as “carpet bombing” the internet to get after one small company. Telegram was still available in Russia despite authorities’ frantic attempts to hit it by blocking other services, but many users are preparing for the worst, setting up proxies to circumvent the ban.

Clearly that was a #Fail. It’s also clear that Telegram is far more resilient than Russia expected. Thus there may be a lot more collateral damage inflicted as the Russians try to take Telegram down. And they’re likely not to give up as by doing so, they’ll be embarrassed. Thus expect this game to continue.

Facebook Says Users Must Accept Targeted Ads Even Under EU Law Which Could Lead To People Deciding To #DeleteFacebook

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 18, 2018 by itnerd

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect in the EU on May 25. Facebook is one of many companies who need to comply with this law. And they’re claiming that they’re doing their best to do so. However, this little tidbit popped up today via Reuters. You see, one of the facets of GDPR is that people who use services like Facebook must opt into the use of those services. In other words, the concept of being forced to use something and having to opt out if you don’t isn’t allowed. Which makes this tidbit a bit eyebrow raising:

Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman said the social network would begin seeking Europeans’ permission this week for a variety of ways Facebook uses their data, but he said that opting out of targeted marketing altogether would not be possible.

Facebook users will be able to limit the kinds of data that advertisers use to target their pitches, he added, but “all ads on Facebook are targeted to some extent, and that’s true for offline advertising, as well.”

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, will use what are known as “permission screens” – pages filled with text that require pressing a button to advance – to notify and obtain approval.

The screens will show up on the Facebook website and smartphone app in Europe this week and globally in the coming months, Sherman said.

The screens will not give Facebook users the option to hit “decline.” Instead, they will guide users to either “accept and continue” or “manage data setting,” according to copies the company showed reporters on Tuesday.

“People can choose to not be on Facebook if they want,” Sherman said.

So, basically EU users will have to consent to targeted ads or be forced to #DeleteFacebook. I’m pretty sure that this is a tactic to try and force the EU to allow their present business model to continue as there’s no technical reason why whey can’t allow people to opt into having targeted ads displayed to them.

Good luck with that.

I’m going to suggest that a healthy amount of privacy minded EU users will simply join team #DeleteFacebook rather than submit to this. And Facebook may be forced to rethink this and adjust their strategy accordingly. Thus it might be wise if Facebook rethinks this now to avoid their user base in the EU dropping rapidly.


Report: ZTE May Lose Access To The Android OS

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 18, 2018 by itnerd

Things are really starting to look bleak for Chinese telcom companies. After the news came out that Huawei is pulling out of the US market, comes this report from Reuters that ZTE could lose access to the Android OS because of it running afoul of the US in the last few days. You see, Google which is an American company makes the Android OS, Google would have to stop serving the Android OS to ZTE to comply with the directive that came out a few days ago. That would be a huge problem to ZTE which is why they and Google are figuring out how to deal with reportedly. It will be interesting to see what happens next as ZTE isn’t exactly a small player in the smartphone market which means they have a lot to lose here.