Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Don’t Squeeze the Garmin

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Happy Friday.

If you were wondering whether there was any election cyber shenanigans going on, the Washington Post (“WAPO”) is reporting that Facebook has already purged over 800 U.S. accounts and pages for pushing political spam.

WAPO points out that in doing so, Facebook is potentially wading into politically treacherous waters, because some of those accounts had been in existence for years and had amassed millions of followers on both sides of the aisle.

At stake is the company’s future ability to operate with minimal government scrutiny: Prominent Republican and Democratic politicians now say Facebook should be regulated more heavily if it cannot control a growing list of abuses, including foreign meddling, the spread of misleading news — and if it abuses its power to censor, as conservatives have repeatedly alleged.

Still long on Facebook, much?

Meanwhile, back in the entertainment realm, here’s a creepy but interesting one for you.  Amy Winehouse is coming back to life and going out on tour as a hologram.

Proceeds from the tour will go toward the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which is dedicated to drug and alcohol abuse awareness and prevention among young people.

The tour is being produced by BASE Hologram, which uses holographic film technology to produce live entertainment tours and attractions worldwide, in partnership with the Winehouse family.

The tour will featured digitally remastered arrangements of the British singer’s hits — including “Rehab,” “Back to Black” and “Valerie” — with Winehouse’s hologram backed by a live band, singers and “theatrical stagecraft,” according to BASE.

I was a fan, and call me old fashioned, but I’m not sure I’m mentally prepared to show up to a stadium full of fans in order to watch a hologram sing. 

And if you’re in the market for a hardcore new smart watch to make sure you don’t miss the Amy hologram show, Garmin’s got your back with a new GPS watch called “Instinct,” which The Verge is reporting is built for endurance for outdoor activities like running or mountain biking.

Instinct comes with a 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter, and multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo). Support for multiple navigation systems allows the watch to track a user’s location even in more remote environments. It also uses Garmin’s TracBack feature, which sets “digital breadcrumbs” as you travel and can navigate you back to your starting point.

The Instinct also comes with heart rate sensors and monitors other health markers like daily activity, calories burned, sleep, and stress (measured through heart rate variability). There’s also a variety of built-in sports apps.

Garmin says the Instinct is built to military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance (the latter rated to 100 meters). It comes with a fiber reinforced polymer case, silicon band, and a display the company says is “chemically strengthened” as well as scratch resistant.

The Garman Instinct will be priced at U.S. $299.99.

Written by turbotodd

October 12, 2018 at 12:20 pm

Posted in 2018, hollywood, music, wearables

Tagged with , , ,

Apple Chips

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How about that rough stock market ride yesterday?

All I have to say about that is that it’s October (check your stock market history).

But yesterday’s steep selloff hasn’t stopped deals from happening.

TechCrunch is reporting that Apple will buy a part of Dialog Semiconductor, a chipmaker based out of unit, for $300 million in cash and a commitment of another $300 in further purchases from the company.

While Dialog is describing this as an asset transfer and licensing deal, it will be Apple’s biggest acquisition by far in terms of people: 300 people will be joining Apple as part of it, or about 16 percent of Dialog’s total workforce. From what we understand, those who are joining have already been working tightly with Apple up to now. The teams joining are based across Livorno in Italy, Swindon in England, and Nabern and Neuaubing in Germany, near Munich, where Apple already has an operation.

TechCrunch suggests this deal is part of a continued emphasis on Apple’s "putting considerable effort into building faster and more efficient chips that can help differentiate its hardware from the rest of the consumer Electronics pack….and comes at a time when many expect Apple to release a VR headset in the future."

Dialog says post the acquisition, the remaining part of the business will focus more on IoT, as well as mobile, automotive, computing and storage markets, specifically as a provider of custom and configurable mixed-signal integrated circuit chips.

Written by turbotodd

October 11, 2018 at 9:55 am

Bigger, Better, Badder Pixels

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Well, uh, that was awkward. 

Just a day after Google had to come clean about its Google+ privacy debacle (and announced the imminent demise of G+ for consumers once and for all), Google announced some new members of its hardware family.

I’m an iPhone guy, but I did purchase a Google Pixelbook chromebook earlier this year that I’ve been very happy with, so at minimum I wanted to pass along the speeds and feeds from yesterday’s Google Pixel 3/XL Android smartphone announcements.

The Verge has this tight breakdown:

The Pixel 3 starts at $799 for 64GB, with the 3 XL costing $899. Add $100 to either for the 128GB storage option. That’s a $150 and $50 premium over last year’s models, respectively.. Core specs for both include a Snapdragon 845, 4GB RAM (there’s no option for more), Bluetooth 5.0, and front-facing stereo speakers. Also inside is a new Titan M security chip, which Google says provides “on-device protection for login credentials, disk encryption, app data, and the integrity of the operating system.” Preorders for both phones begin today, and buyers will get six months of free YouTube Music service. The Pixels will officially launch on October 18th.

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL both feature larger screens than last year’s models thanks to slimmed down bezels — and the controversial notch in the case of the bigger phone. The 3 XL has a 6.3-inch display (up from six inches on the 2 XL), while the regular 3 has a 5.5-inch screen (up from five inches). Overall, though, the actual phones are very similar in size and handling to their direct predecessors.

And Google’s own blog post explains how the Pixel 3 will help you keep from talking to those undesirable humans you’re trying to avoid:

…Starting out in English in the U.S., Pixel 3’s on-device AI helps you screen phone calls and avoid spam calls. Imagine you’re at dinner with family or in a meeting at work and a call from an unknown caller comes in. Just tap on “Screen call” to find out who’s calling and why, as well as other information (as prompted by you). You’ll immediately see a transcript of the caller’s responses so that you can then decide whether to pick up, respond by tapping a quick reply (e.g., “I’ll call you back later”), or mark the call as spam and dismiss. Processing the call details on-device means these experiences are fast, private to you, and use up less battery.

Second, Pixel users in the U.S. will be the first to get access to an experimental new Google Assistant feature, powered by Duplex technology, which helps you complete real-world tasks over the phone, like calling a restaurant to book a table. This feature will initially be available later this year in New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay Area to help people book restaurant reservations and will roll out to other U.S. cities in the future.

Because why talk to even yet another human to make a restaurant reservation when your Google Assistant can do all the work?

Written by turbotodd

October 10, 2018 at 9:44 am

Posted in 2018, google, privacy, smartphone

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Google Hides A Bug

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Happy Monday.

If it’s Monday, it must be a security and/or privacy breach day!

In today’s privacy cluster—— spotlight, The Wall Street Journal informs us that Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network — and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring.

According to the story, the company did so “in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage.”

This from the very same company that refused to send a very senior executive to the recent tech hearings on Capitol Hill (as opposed to Facebook and Twitter, who sent their COO and CEO, respectively).

Here’s the rundown on the core of the technical glitch and failed response:

A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger “immediate regulatory interest” and invite comparisons to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica….

….The internal memo from legal and policy staff says the company has no evidence that any outside developers misused the data but acknowledges it has no way of knowing for sure. The profile data that was exposed included full names, email addresses, birth dates, gender, profile photos, places lived, occupation and relationship status; it didn’t include phone numbers, email messages, timeline posts, direct messages or any other type of communication data, one of the people said.

The PII crown jewels, if you will.  

In response, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is going to announce “a sweeping set of data privacy measures that include permanently shutting down all consumer functionality of Google+.”

To which millions of tech geeks like myself around the globe publicly ponder, “Is Google+ even still a thing?!!”

So you think that Google search history of yours that you wouldn’t want your spouse or closest friends and colleagues to see is still safe?!!

Think again.

Want to send Serge and Larry and the gang a message?  Go to the following page and delete your entire Google history:

https://myactivity.google.com/delete-activity

Written by turbotodd

October 8, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Posted in 2018, google, privacy

Tagged with , ,

Back to School

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Fake IDs are about to go the way of the mullet.

Well, at least real fake IDs — you know, the ones with that picture that made one look as old as possible but which would hardly survive a TSA check circa 2018.

I’m talking about Apple’s new partnership for a contactless ID card introduced in iOS 12 and watchOS5, which will allow students at Duke University, University of Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma to access dorms, dining halls, library, the gym, and also pay for bookstore supplies, laundry usage, and even restaurant meals.

Using the Apple Wallet and contactless NFC readers, as well as the Apple Wallet, students simply need hold their device near a card reader to unlock a door.

The new high tech ID cards certainly have benefits in terms of safety and convenience, but one has to wonder what are the implications of privacy, and how can all that digital campus data potentially be used or misused.

Meanwhile, be aware that if you’re traveling to New Zealand, a new law that went into effect yesterday, the Customs and Excise Act 2018, could require you to provide access (via password, pin-code, or fingerprint) to your electronic devices if officials have a “reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.”

According to a story from RNZ, customs officials will examine one’s phone while it’s in flight mode (and not the cloud), but that for those who refuse, they could face fines up to $5,000 and confiscation of one’s device.

Privacy and due process issues abound…what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” and how does one challenge whether or not it is, in fact, reasonable.

So how long before we’re all chipped so we can be monitored everywhere, at all times, with no privacy whatsoever?

It could be sooner than you think.

Written by turbotodd

October 2, 2018 at 9:25 am

Posted in 2018, digital identity, privacy

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Big Fines and Big Pipes

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Happy Monday.

First off, a hearty congratulations to the European team Ryder Cup victors. They left the U.S. team babbling in Le Golf National’s dust from which U.S. captain Jim Furyk couldn’t see the forest for the fescue.

Meanwhile, tech-related news hardly stopped just because there was a not-so-exciting golf tournament going on outside Paris.

Remember that August Tweet Tesla’s Elon Musk sent about taking his company public at $420?

Yeah, well, he paid for that one when the SEC fined both he personally, and Tesla the company, $20 million apiece over the weekend.

Though Musk admitted no guilt, he did have to resign as chairman of Tesla for three years, as well as appoint two new independent directors. He will also be required to have his communications monitored, including his social media activity, ongoing.

We also learned that the state of California is being sued by the Trump Administration in an effort to block what some have described as the toughest net neutrality law ever enacted in the United States.

On Sunday, California became the largest state to adopt its own rules requiring internet providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to treat all web traffic equally.

Only hours after California’s proposal became official did senior Justice Department officials tell the Washington Post they would take the state to court on grounds that the federal government, not state leaders, has the exclusive power to regulate net neutrality.

That is the lowdown of the showdown in preparation for the big pipes throwdown.

Written by turbotodd

October 1, 2018 at 9:34 am

Facebook Security Flaw

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The New York Times is reporting that Facebook said today an attack on its computer network led to the exposure of information from nearly 50 million of its users.

Facebook said it discovered the breach earlier this week, “finding that attackers had exploited a feature in Facebook code that allowed them to take over user accounts.”

The Times reports that Facebook said it did not know the origin or identity of the attackers, nor had it fully assessed the scope of the attack, and is in the beginning stages of its investigation.

Here’s Facebook’s detailed explanation of the exploit and the actions it says it has taken:

Our investigation is still in its early stages. But it’s clear that attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts. Access tokens are the equivalent of digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don’t need to re-enter their password every time they use the app.

Here is the action we have already taken. First, we’ve fixed the vulnerability and informed law enforcement.

Second, we have reset the access tokens of the almost 50 million accounts we know were affected to protect their security. We’re also taking the precautionary step of resetting access tokens for another 40 million accounts that have been subject to a “View As” look-up in the last year. As a result, around 90 million people will now have to log back in to Facebook, or any of their apps that use Facebook Login. After they have logged back in, people will get a notification at the top of their News Feed explaining what happened.

Third, we’re temporarily turning off the “View As” feature while we conduct a thorough security review.

This attack exploited the complex interaction of multiple issues in our code. It stemmed from a change we made to our video uploading feature in July 2017, which impacted “View As.” The attackers not only needed to find this vulnerability and use it to get an access token, they then had to pivot from that account to others to steal more tokens.

The Times goes went on to write that:

One of Facebook’s most significant challenges has been convincing its users that it is responsible enough to handle the incredible wealth of data the company handles. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, and another two billion separately use WhatsApp, a messaging app owned by Facebook, and Instagram, the Facebook-owned popular photo-sharing app.

You know the drill.  Check your password, change it, etc ad nauseum ad infinitum.

Written by turbotodd

September 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Posted in 2018, cybersecurity

Tagged with , ,

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