Apple’s pricey Mac Pro

Apple’s pricey Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR will ship before Christmas

apple pro

Apple’s intent to price the 2019 Mac Pro and new Pro Display XDR out of general consumer reach was obvious when the computer and monitor were announced back in June, as the company unveiled them alongside an “optional” $999 monitor stand that was as expensive as its prior Mac monitors. Today, the company officially revealed ship dates and full pricing for the high-end machines, including an entry-level Mac Pro at $5,999 and a rack-mounted version for $6,499.

As of today, the most tricked-out configuration of the new Mac Pro sells for $52,599 — that includes a 28-core Intel Xeon W processor with 2.5GHz base speed and 4.4GHz Turbo Boost, 1.5TB of DDR4 EEC memory, twin Radeon Pro Vega II Duo cards with 64GB total of HBM2 memory, and 4TB of SSD storage, as well as an Afterburner video accelerator and optional wheels




mac pro












Apple is not yet selling the more expensive rack-mounted model, and will soon add a more expensive 8TB drive, driving the price and features of the top-of-line model up further. For reference, the 1.5TB RAM upgrade alone is a $25,000 option compared with the entry-level model’s 32GB configuration, while the Afterburner card is $2,000 and the wheels sell for $400.

Because of extensive customization options for each machine,


Mac Pros will take longer than other Apple computers to ship. The company is offering five Intel Xeon W processor choices, including the aforementioned 28-core version, a 2.7GHz/4.4GHz 24-core chip, a 3.2GHz/4.4GHz 16-core chip, a 3.3GHz/4.4GHz 12-core chip, and a 3.5GHz/4.0GHz 8-core chip. There are also five graphics cards in addition to Apple’s ProRes-decoding Afterburner video rendering accelerator option, eight RAM configurations, and four SSD alternatives. Unlike most other Macs, most of these components can be replaced and user-upgraded after the initial purchase.

mac pros

Apple promised in mid-November that the new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR would begin arriving in December, and users will just barely be able to get them within Apple’s original “fall” timeline. Rather than providing a specific date, Apple is offering a one- to two-week delivery window, with some configurations showing December 19 to December 27 dates; the rack model is listed only as “coming soon.” The last day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere is December 21, 2019, just ahead of Christmas.

Interestingly, the Mac Pro’s optional wheels appear to be a major factor in delaying shipment of customized machines. If you add them to an otherwise loaded machine, the ship date slips from December to a window between January 28 and February 3. “Configuring your Mac Pro with wheels makes it about an inch taller than the frame with feet,” Apple says, though waiting an extra month or so will bring you as close to an Apple Car as you’re likely to get any time soon.


The Mac Pro notably undergoes “final assembly” in Austin, Texas for customers in the Americas, including the United States. Apple CEO Tim Cook and U.S. President Donald Trump toured the assembly factory last month, touting the machine’s “assembled in USA” designation after the company was exempted from tariffs on some of its Chinese-manufactured components.


Pro Display XDR monitors start at $4,999 with a glossy screen, with a $1,000 nano-textured anti-glare screen as an option. Each monitor comes with a two-meter power cord, two-meter Thunderbolt 3 Pro Cable, and polishing cloth, but no stand. As previously announced, Apple is selling an adjustable aluminum Pro Stand for $999, as well as a $199 VESA wall mount. The “Standard glass” version and Pro Stand currently show availability for delivery between December 18-20, with the “Nano-texture glass” model from December 20-30.

By |2019-12-24T06:45:49+00:00December 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Microsoft Office app

Microsoft Teams is the first Office app for Linux

Microsoft today launched Microsoft Teams for Linux in public preview. No, that’s not a typo — Microsoft Teams is indeed the first Office app that the company has ported to Linux. You can download Microsoft Teams as a native Linux package in .deb and .rpm formats from here.

Teams is the company’s Office 365 chat-based collaboration tool that competes with Google’s Hangouts Chat, Facebook’s Workplace, and Slack. It’s also Microsoft’s fastest-growing business app ever. In March, Microsoft shared that Teams is used by 500,000 organizations, just two years after launch. In November, Microsoft said Teams had passed 20 million daily active users.

There is a lot of nuance in that figure Slack, Microsoft Teams’ main rival, is particularly critical of how Microsoft got to 20 million daily active users (Slack has over 12 million daily active users as of October). Nevertheless, Slack is already available for Linux (although still in beta), so Microsoft is playing catch-up here. If you were thinking about adopting Microsoft Teams or Slack at your company, and Linux was the deal-breaker, the decision just got harder.

microsoft

Not like Skype for Business

Microsoft has shown a lot of love for Linux lately (open-sourcing .NET and taking it cross-platform to Mac and Linux, open-sourcing PowerShell and extending it to Linux, bringing Visual Studio Code to Linux as a Snap, and so on). An Office app on Linux is something else. The operating system has less than 2% desktop market share. Still, it’s much more popular among developers and business users. If Microsoft wants Teams to be the communication tool for everyone, Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and the web isn’t enough.

Microsoft promises that Teams for Linux “will support all of Teams’ core capabilities.” If you’re a developer who built an app for Microsoft Teams, you’ll be happy to know that it will work in Slack for Linux as well. Microsoft did not respond to a couple questions in time for publication: what features the app does not support and whether we can expect other Office apps coming to Linux. Update at 1:15 p.m.

Pacific: Microsoft declined to comment on plans for other apps coming to Linux. As for the other question, “there are a handful of features related to Office app functionality and screensharing/control in meetings that are not yet available in Linux,” a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat.

Today’s launch is a notable improvement for companies and schools that rely on Office 365. Microsoft never ported Skype for Business to Linux. As a result, employees with Linux devices had to rely on unofficial and unsupported clients of Skype for Business to communicate with the rest of the company. Now, with Microsoft Teams replacing Skype for Business, the same has been happening with Teams. First submitted in 2016, a Linux client is the sixth most upvoted request on Microsoft’s UserVoice forum. Microsoft would not say when to expect Microsoft Teams for Linux to launch out of public preview.

By |2019-12-23T09:50:01+00:00December 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Tab freezing

Chrome 79 released with tab freezing, back-forward caching, and loads of security features

Google has released today Chrome 79 for Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS users.
This release comes with security and bug fixes, but also with new features such as built-in support for the Password Checkup tool, real-time blacklisting of malicious sites via the Safe Browsing API, general availability of Predicitive Phishing protections, a ban on loading HTTPS “mixed content,” support for tab freezing, a new UI for the Chrome Sync profile section, and support for a back-forward caching mechanism.
Let’s go over each of these new features in greater depth, one by one.



BUILT-IN PASSWORD CHECKUP TOOL

Password Checkup is an online service through which Google takes all your Chrome-synced passwords and checks to see if any have leaked via breaches at other online services.
Until today, Password Checkup was only available as a separate Chrome extension or a section in the Google web dashboard.

Starting with Chrome 79, released today, the Password Checkup utility has been integrated into Chrome itself. To use it, Chrome users must be logged in their Google account inside Chrome.

chrome-passwords-check.png

Once enabled, the feature will let users know for what websites they’re using passwords that have been previously leaked online, and prompt the user to change them.

In a blog post published today, and shared with ZDNet, Google explained how this process works, in greater detail:

  • Whenever Google discovers a username and password exposed by another company’s data breach, we store a strongly hashed and encrypted copy of the data on our servers with a secret key known only to Google.
  • When you sign in to a website, Chrome will send a strongly hashed copy of your username and password to Google encrypted with a secret key only known to Chrome. No one, including Google, is able to derive your username or password from this encrypted copy.
  • In order to determine if your username and password appears in any breach, we use a technique called private set intersection with blinding that involves multiple layers of encryption. This allows us to compare your encrypted username and password with all of the encrypted breached usernames and passwords, without revealing your username and password, or revealing any information about any other users’ usernames and passwords. In order to make this computation more efficient, Chrome sends a 3-byte SHA256 hash prefix of your username to reduce the scale of the data joined from 4 billion records, down to 250 records while still ensuring your username remains anonymous.
  • Only you discover if your username and password have been compromised. If they have been compromised, we strongly encourage you to change your password.

REAL-TIME BLACKLISTING OF BAD SITES

For years, Chrome has featured a security setting known as the Safe Browsing API. Through this tool, Chrome downloads a list of known bad sites once every 30 minutes.
When a user visits a site, Chrome checks the URL against this list of known bad sites, which is stored locally inside all users’ browsers.

However, Google says that in recent months, threat actors have been changing sites and domains at a faster pace, taking advantage of this 30-minute delay.

Starting today, with the release of Chrome 79, Google says Chrome will get a new option in the “Sync and Google services” section that will allow users to enable the scanning of bad sites in real-time. Option 1 in the image below denotes that Safe Browsing is enabled. Option 2 gives Chrome permission to send URLs to Safe Browsing servers. Turning both options on enables real-time Safe Browsing.

chrome-79-safe-browsing.png

Enabling this feature also means that you’re OK with sending your web browsing history to Google. The company says that users have nothing to fear, as all URLs will be anonymized. The company explains how this will work:

“When you visit a website, Chrome checks it against a list stored on your computer of thousands of popular websites that are known to be safe. If the website is not on the safe-list, Chrome checks the URL anonymously with Google (after dropping any username or password embedded in the URL) to find out if you’re visiting a dangerous site. Our analysis has shown that this results in a 30% increase in protections by warning users on malicious sites that are brand new.”

In our test Chrome 79 install, this feature was enabled by default, a setting that some users or system administrators might want to turn off.
For Chrome enterprise installations, Google has prepared a group policy that will let administrators turn it on or off across an organization, depending on each company’s security policies.

PREDICTIVE PHISHING FOR EVERYONE

Another cool security feature added in Chrome 79 is the general availability of Predictive Phishing.
Launched in 2017, Predictive Phishing warns users when they might be entering passwords on suspected phishing sites.

Initially, the feature only supported detecting phishing sites when entering Google account credentials, and only when users were using the Sync feature inside Chrome.
With Chrome 79, Predictive Phishing warnings will be available for all usernames and passwords stored inside Chrome’s password database, even if the user is using the Sync feature or not.

warning.png

Warning for Google’s new predictive phishing protection

WARNINGS FOR HTTPS “MIXED CONTENT”

Chrome 79 is also another great step for HTTPS support in Chrome. With this release, Google will slowly start to block “mixed content” on HTTPS sites.
We won’t go over the details again, but you can read what’s what in our previous coverage, here.

TAB FREEZING

Looking beyond security features, Chrome 79 is also shipping with a new feature called “tab freezing.”
This new feature works by unloading all tabs that have been inactive for more than five minutes. This frees up CPU and RAM system resources for other tabs or other locally-running apps.
This feature isn’t turned on by default, but you can visit the following URL and enable it if you need it.

tab-freezing.png

NEW UI FOR THE CHROME PROFILE SECTION

Chrome 79 also comes with a cosmetic change for the user profile drop-down section.
Google told ZDNet that all the changes implemented have been done so “you always know which profile you’re currently using” and “be sure you are saving your passwords to the right profile.”
“This is a visual update and won’t change your current Sync settings. We’ve also updated the look of the profile menu itself: it now allows for easier switching and clearly shows if you are signed in to Chrome or not,” Google said.



new-ui.png

BACK-FORWARD BUTTON CACHING

Another new Chrome experimental flag that was added to Chrome 79 is the “Back-forward cache” feature.
What this feature does is to create a special cache for the Back and Forward Chrome buttons. If the user goes back or forward in their browsing history, the page is loaded from this cache, rather than being loaded from scratch.
Chrome engineers created this feature to improve page loading time in Chrome, and users can enable it via:

back-forward.png
By |2019-12-23T10:02:38+00:00December 11th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

New WiFi Booster

India: New WiFi Booster Stops Expensive Internet Next Tech

Tablet and iPad users finally found a way to drastically improve their internet speed and enjoy it to the fullest for the cheapest price possible…
Have you ever noticed how much slower your internet gets during the peak hours of the day?
It is now clear that all that annoying endless buffering happens because of your internet service provider (ISP) which is doing that on purpose! ISPs are capping your internet speeds to give their best-paying customers better service by transferring some of your “bandwidth” to them…

If your internet plan is one of those cheaper ones, there’s a great chance that you won’t be even able to watch Youtube, Netflix, or make a skype call during those hours of “throttling”.
That doesn’t sound fair, does it?

Luckily, there’s finally a solution! It takes only one simple yet genius device to put an end to this and many other annoying internet problems!
An ex-engineer, who’s been working for years at one of the largest internet providers in Germany, came up with this idea to solve this issue. He always knew that people pay full price for the service that sometimes barely works, and that internet operators control this process…

He never felt happy about being a part of this.
His solution was to create a device that would be able to bypass ISP’s speed throttling while increasing WiFi’s range and speed around your house. He wanted it to be as simple as possible, so that anyone, even the least tech-savvy ones, would be able to use it.

After days of trying, he finally reached his desired result… and called it “Wifi UltraBoost”.
How does Wifi UltraBoost work?
There’s a really simple way to explain this. The major problem in this situation are cheap Wi-Fi router boxes that are sold by our internet service providers.

Thick walls of our houses prevent that already weak signal from spreading around in full speed. Not to mention that it’s nearly impossible to connect more than one device…

This results in frustration brought by your weak Wi-Fi signal and many “dead spots” that appear around your house…
Wifi UltraBoost helps to overcome this problem by simply plugging in into any socket!

When you think about it, Wifi UltraBoost sounds like a miracle – two cutting-edge Wi-Fi routers and a powerful amplifier in one palm-sized device.
Wifi UltraBoost spots your existing signal, improves its characteristics and then transmits already amplified Wi-Fi through all the obstacles it meets on its way – whether it’s concrete walls or multiple floors.

But that’s not all! Wifi UltraBoost solves our main problem – Internet providers slowing down the speed – by preventing data usage reports from reaching ISPs in the first place. There’s probably no need to say that it makes the speed throttling not even possible!

To sum up: Wifi UltraBoost provides you with a much faster and stronger internet connection at any time and any corner at your house without additional costs.

Wifi UltraBoost

Wifi UltraBoost brings noticeable results immediately after you plug it in. It is now available for only $49 (instead of $99.99) which is totally worth all the benefits that come with it. Order now in India and enjoy your improved internet connection in a few days already!

The results

Wifi UltraBoost got acknowledged by expert magazines as a device with “the best reception we have ever tried,” that not only boosts slow internet connections but also improves already fast Wi-Fi by making it even better!
Below you see a test made with Wi-Fi that was only at almost 24Mbit through a wall. This is usually enough for a couple of devices to enjoy HD videos in Youtube at once. Wifi UltraBoost improved the speed into amazing 84,6Mbit that would make it possible for at least 10 devices to enjoy same videos in incredible 4k at the same time!

Wifi UltraBoost

All these great results achieved with such a simple device! So simple that all you need to start using it is to plug it into a wall socket!
What are the main features of Wifi UltraBoost?

  • Works with any internet router or brand
  • Uses the frequency of 2.4Ghz
  • Transfer rate of up to 300Mbps, equipped for all applications LAN RJ45 connection
  • Easy to set up
  • Energy-efficient and low-radiation interference
  • No additional material needed to install
  • Universal applicability

What problems does Wifi UltraBoost solve?

  • Slow internet connection
  • Weak Wi-Fi signal after leaving the room
  • Bad quality of video calls
  • Wi-Fi “dead spots” around your house
  • Endless buffering
  • Thick walls that weakens the signal
  • Insufficient download and upload times

For a limited time, Wifi UltraBoost is available to you 50% cheaper! It takes only 3 simple steps to finally solve your frustrating internet problems:

Step 1: Get Wifi UltraBoost from the official website

However, this heavily discounted price is available only for a limited time…

Step 2: Plug Wifi UltraBoost into a socket and start the configuration.

Step 3: Be amazed of your Wi-Fi speed!

Why Get Wifi UltraBoost Today?

Wifi UltraBoost is now available at the best possible price to raise its awareness.

By |2019-12-23T10:07:22+00:00December 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Nokia’s smart TV

Nokia’s first branded smart TV just made its debut

When the brand “Nokia” is mentioned, most of us immediately think “phone.” This is pretty much what it is known for. However, it looks like the company is branching out — or, at least, it’s licensing its name to third-party retailers to branch out for it. As reported by Gadgets 360, Indian company Flipkart has been granted the use of the Nokia brand for its smart TVs — “a global first for the brand in the TV category,” according to Flipkart itself, which is a major e-commerce retailer in the country.

Vipul Mehrotra, Flipkart’s VP of Nokia brand partnerships, adds, “Flipkart’s understanding of the needs and behaviors of Indian consumers, and the power of its reach, will help it make Nokia branded smart TVs accessible and affordable.” If the TV is all that he says, then this could be a push for the Nokia brand, which hasn’t been as prominent in the public eye as it once was.

nokia smart tv
The 55-inch Nokia Ultra HD (4K) LED Smart Android TV will include two 24-watt speakers as part of a sound system from JBL by Harman (another partnership arrangement).

While Flipkart says the TV has an Android-based operating system, it doesn’t specify Android TV. The TV also includes a 16:9 display with a 60Hz refresh rate, support for Dolby Vision and HDR10, three HDMI ports, and two USB ports.

This first Nokia-branded TV will sell for 41,999 Indian rupees (the equivalent of about $589 US). According to Gadgets 360, it will become available on December 10th.

By |2019-12-23T10:15:12+00:00December 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Next Generation Headset

Magic Leap’s next-generation headset is reportedly ‘years away from launch’

Magic Leap’s sales numbers reportedly haven’t matched CEO Rony Abovitz’s high expectations — and a second-generation headset could be years away from release. The Information has published a sobering update on the much-hyped augmented reality company, which released its first product last year. According to former employees and people close to the company, Magic Leap had sold around 6,000 Magic Leap One headsets six months after release, compared to a goal of 100,000.

The company is apparently prototyping a Magic Leap Two headset with 5G connectivity, a wider field of view, and smaller and lighter hardware with multiple color options. But the project is reportedly hampered by “fundamental technology constraints,” and Magic Leap is more likely to release a near-term update with only slight changes.

headset

Meanwhile, The Information reports that two high-profile board members left quietly in 2018: Google CEO Sundar Pichai and former Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs. Both cases involved extenuating circumstances, though. Jacobs had been abruptly removed from Qualcomm’s board after trying to organize a buyout, and Pichai’s schedule was reportedly too busy, which makes sense given his expanding role at Google’s parent company Alphabet. Pichai was also replaced by another Google executive, Jennifer Fitzpatrick, so the company itself hasn’t ditched Magic Leap.

But Magic Leap has also reportedly laid off dozens of employees in the past weeks. Last month, Business Insider reported that two executives, CFO Scott Henry and SVP of creative strategy John Gaeta, had left the company. Documents revealed that the company signed over nearly 2,000 patents as collateral to JPMorgan Chase earlier this year.

This isn’t an inherently bad sign, and Magic Leap has said it’s in the middle of raising a significant new funding round. But the deal could cause problems if Magic Leap hits financial trouble down the road. A much smaller AR company, Meta, was effectively destroyed when a bank sold its assets out from under it.

Magic Leap told The Information that its report was “littered with inaccuracies and misleading statements.” But it’s difficult to gauge the company’s progress. The initial wave of hype around AR has worn off, so Magic Leap is simultaneously facing public disillusionment and potential competition from Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft — all of which are interested in AR glasses.

By |2020-04-07T05:25:25+00:00December 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Schools Spy on Kids

Schools Spy on Kids to Prevent Shootings, But There’s No Evidence It Works

Spyware like GoGuardian, Bark, and Gaggle are monitoring students’ internet habits, both on and off school grounds.

It was another sleepy board of education meeting in Woodbridge, N.J. The board gave out student commendations and presented budget requests. Parents complained about mold in classrooms. Then, a pair of high schoolers stepped up to the podium with a concern that took the district officials completely off guard.

spying on school children

     


“We have students so concerned about their privacy that they’re resorting to covering their [laptop] cameras and microphones with tape,” a junior
said at the October 18, 2018 meeting.

Woodbridge had recently joined hundreds of other school districts across the country in subscribing to GoGuardian, one of a growing number of school-focused surveillance companies. Promising to promote school safety and stop mass shootings, these companies sell tools that give administrators, teachers, and in some cases parents, the ability to snoop on every action students take on school-issued devices.


The Woodbridge students were not pleased.


“We just want to ask again: How are you going to assure our right to privacy when we have been having these problems and we have so many fears because of GoGuardian, and the fact that they can monitor everything that we see and we do?” the student asked the school board.


After a pause, board president Jonathan Triebwasser responded: “A very fair question. I don’t know enough about GoGuardian to give you a fair answer.” He asked the district’s superintendent to look into it.


The capabilities of software programs like GoGuardian vary, but most can
monitor the user’s browsing history, social media activity, and location, and some even log keystrokes. That surveillance doesn’t stop at the school doors, but continues everywhere children carry their school-issued computers and whenever they log into school accounts.

The companies that make this software—popular brands include Securly, Gaggle, and Bark—say that their machine learning detection systems keep students safe from themselves and away from harmful online content. Some vendors claim to have prevented school shootings and intervened to save thousands of suicidal children.

There is, however, no independent research that backs up these claims.
The few published studies looking into the impacts of these tools indicate that they may have the opposite effect, breaking down trust relationships within schools and discouraging adolescents from reaching out for help—particularly those in minority and LGBTQ communities, who are far more likely to seek help online.

“I’m sure there are some instances in which these tools might have worked, but I haven’t seen the data and I can’t verify in any way that what they’re saying is correct, or that there weren’t other ways available to get that information without subjecting the entire school to that surveillance,” said Faiza Patel, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program, who researches surveillance software.

School spying software has spread quickly as districts have increasingly put personal laptops and tablets in the hands of students. Meanwhile, school officials are under intense pressure to protect their wards from explicit online content and, even more urgently, detect early signs of potential school shootings.

Bark says that its free monitoring software for schools protects more than 4 million children. Its tools have “prevented” 16 school shootings and detected more than 20,000 “severe self-harm” threats, according to the company’s homepage. From January through August 2018 alone, Bark claims, it identified five bomb and shooting threats, nine instances of online predators contacting children, 135,984 instances of cyberbullying, 309,299 instances of students using school accounts to talk about or buy drugs, 11,548 instances of children expressing desires to harm themselves or commit suicide, and 199,236 instances of children sharing explicit content.

Numbers like that are understandably convincing to district administrators and parents, especially when companies offer their products to schools for free. Bark spokeswoman Janelle Dickerson said Bark makes its money from the $9-per-month version of its tool that it sells to families. The paid version currently covers 200,000 children, a small fraction of the 4 million children watched by the free version in schools.. Securly offers a paid premium product with more features than its free tool. Both companies categorically denied profiting from the data they collect on millions of students through their free offerings.

Upon closer inspection, the numbers Bark touts for its school software appear much more like marketing copy than legitimate data.
For one thing, the company’s numbers don’t always appear to be consistent. Earlier this year, Bark told TV stations in North Carolina and South Carolina that from May 2018 to May 2019, it had identified 14,671 instances of students expressing desires to harm themselves or commit suicide in those states alone.

When compared to the national statistics on its website, that would mean that the two states—which include just 50 of the more than 1,200 K-12 districts Bark claims as customers—produced a huge proportion of the incidents Bark flags across all 50 states.
The numbers suggest that during a 12-month period the company identified significantly more instances of kids contemplating self harm in the Carolinas (14,671) than it did nationwide during an overlapping nine-month period (11,548). Similarly, the 50 districts in the Carolinas apparently produced 88,827 instances of cyberbullying during that year, equivalent to 65 percent of the 135,984 cyberbullying cases detected in all 1,200 Bark districts across the country during that same period. The rest of the data shared with the Carolina TV stations is similarly disproportionate.

Statistics like these have prompted academics and school policy officials to question the integrity and consistency of digital surveillance companies’ data.
“What is particularly challenging about this issue is the tremendous urgency school districts are being faced with to do something and do something now [about suicide and school shootings] … combined with a tremendous lack of evidence that these tools do what they say they do,” said Elizabeth Laird, the senior fellow for student privacy at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

“If there is evidence or research that is available, it’s provided by the vendor. It’s not provided by an independent researcher.”
Bark’s claims also dwarf those of some of its larger competitors, suggesting a severe lack of consistency across the industry when it comes to defining what constitutes a threat.

For example, Securly, which also offers many of its products to schools for free, says it serves more than 10 million kids across 10,000 districts. During the last school year, its artificial intelligence systems and human monitors detected a comparatively miniscule 465 “imminent threats” to students—86 percent of those cases involved instances of potential self-harm, 12 percent violence toward others, 1 percent cyberbullying, and 1 percent drug-related comments, according to Mike Jolley, a former North Carolina school principal who now serves as Securly’s director of K-12 safety operations.

Asked what evidence Bark relies on to determine whether its products make schools or students safer, a company spokeswoman responded: “The primary evidence is the testimonials we receive from parents and schools daily.”

She added that Bark has never participated in an independent study of its services because “We do not retain data nor would we share user data with a third party.” However, the company does retain data for the purpose of publishing aggregate marketing statistics.

Other companies, like GoGuardian, don’t publicize their threat detection statistics as part of their marketing material. GoGuardian did not respond to multiple requests for an interview or written questions.
Motherboard signed up for Bark’s free service, giving the company access to an email account, Twitter, Spotify, Google Drive, and web browsing history. Inexplicably, the monitoring extension for the Chrome browser didn’t appear to work, even after Motherboard verified it was installed correctly with a Bark representative. During the course of the month-long experiment the extension didn’t flag a single issue, despite a reporter visiting numerous sites that included the same keywords and content that Bark flagged in emails.

During the month of the experiment, Bark flagged 78 potential issues, which were summarized in daily emails sent to a Motherboard account registered as a parent. The vast majority of the flagged content came from daily email roundups from news outlets—including the Washington Post, MIT Technology Review, and others. This echoes a complaint made by students in Woodbridge and other school districts—that surveillance software often blocks access to legitimate news and educational websites.

After filtering out the newsletters, there were a few remaining activities that may have caused some parents of minors genuine concern: Drake lyrics, and an email conversation with a catering company that included a wine and beer order.
But most of what was left merely demonstrated the limits of language analysis algorithms when it comes to understanding context. Bark flagged a retweet about the U.S. withdrawing troops from Syria as hate speech and cyberbullying. It deemed a Seamless ad for the restaurant Jerk off the Grill to be sexual content.
Slightly humorous miscategorizations like these may be warnings of more significant issues with algorithms designed to detect violent or worrying behavior.

Natural language processing algorithms have been shown to be worse at recognizing and categorizing African American dialects of English. And popular tools used to screen online comments for hate speech and cyberbullying tend to disproportionately flag posts from African Americans.

“One of the things to kind of understand about surveillance software is that it’s going to have a huge number of false positives,” Patel said. “The question becomes: Well, what do you do when kids are flagged and how does the school react to that? We know that school discipline disproportionately targets African American and Latino youth, regardless of the offense.”
Several school surveillance software companies claim that their algorithms go beyond simple keyword identification—such as flagging when a student writes “bomb” or “gun”—and analyze the context of the message along with recent web activity. How they do that, though, is considered a proprietary secret.

“With sentiment analysis, a student can say ‘I can’t take this anymore, I want to end it all’ … something that’s just looking for keywords may not catch that,” said Jolley, the Securly director of K-12 security.
But the task becomes much more difficult when you consider LGBTQ students, or those from other marginalized groups, who rely on the internet for health information and positive communities.

Valerie Steeves, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa, has researched the effects of school surveillance on children extensively. She’s currently gathering data from students exposed to similar tools in Eastern and Central Canada.
“The trans and LGBTQ kids we talk to … they articulate very clearly that these kinds of technologies (internet forums and social media) have been great for them because they need some kind of place to find community and someplace to go to find health information,” Steeves told Motherboard. “And yet, they find they’re under so much surveillance that it affects them in ways that shuts them out of those resources. They learn not to look. They learn not to trust online public spaces.”
Jolley acknowledged that Securly is grappling with just that problem.

“It’s hard because students do use derogatory slang … and they say ‘Johnny you’re gay,’ and they may mean that in a bullying aspect,” he said. “We are actively working on ways to continue [improving our algorithms]. We have made efforts.”
“I feel like we’re doing a lot of positive things for student learning and how things are working at the school but I don’t have hard data,” he added.

There is no definitive study proving students perform worse when schools monitor their web activity and personal messages—nor are there any that show monitoring makes them safer, according to experts.

But there are real incidents that justify students’ fears—like the ones that prompted Woodbridge high schoolers to stick tape over their webcams. Woodbridge Superintendent Robert Zega initially agreed to an interview for this article, but did not speak to Motherboard before publication.

Nine years before the Woodbridge students spoke at their local board of education meeting, sophomore Blake Robbins was called into an assistant principal’s office in nearby Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. She accused him of dealing drugs. The evidence: a photo of Robbins sitting in his room with brightly colored pill-like objects that was taken when the district remotely activated his school-issued laptop’s webcam using device monitoring software called LANrev.
The picture was part of a cache of 56,000 photographs that the district took of students without their knowledge. It included sensitive material like Robbins standing shirtless in his room.

The “drugs” in the picture turned out to be candy. Following a federal class action lawsuit, the Lower Merion School District settled for $610,000. Robbins received $175,000 and a second student who joined the case received $10,000. The rest of the settlement covered their lawyers’ fees.

But the spyware that enabled the covert surveillance was bought and rebranded by Vancouver-based Absolute Software. It is the precursor to software that is now tracking devices in a number of school districts, including Baltimore Public Schools.
Egregious invasions of students’ privacy, like in the Lower Merion case, will grab headlines. But school communities should be equally worried about the long-term effects of using surveillance software on children, said Andrew Hope, a sociologist at Federation University, in Australia, who studies youth surveillance.

“Our contemporary surveillance technologies indoctrinate our students, our citizens … into a culture of observation in which they learn to be watched and are accepting of unremitting surveillance as a norm,” he said. “There is a behavioral modification that happens, but we’re not entirely sure what the outcomes of such a modification might be. Are we teaching them to be surveilled? To be producers of data in a surveillance economy?”

By |2019-12-23T10:20:20+00:00December 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Gaming Performance

Core Scaling and Gaming Performance
How Many Cores Do You Need?

Selecting the best processor for your new gaming PC build is a tough choice but can be critical to getting the optimal performance and gaming experiences for years to come. Recently, the discussion around gaming CPUs has expanded, and I wanted to share some interesting data that shapes how Intel builds products and why I believe our technology provides the best gaming experience on the planet.

At Intel, we believe that the best processor for any task is the one that balances all vectors of performance including core count, frequency, IPC, and more for optimal performance. Our engineers and product planners are always optimizing designs based on what’s possible. Sometimes we expand cores to do more for creators, other times we optimize within a current core count envelope; we constantly look for new ways to add value to users’ experiences.

One of my repeated themes during the Intel Real World Performance Events (of which I wrote about the IFA iteration on this blog) is that it “isn’t an accident” that we excel in these areas of performance. Gaming requires a different type of performance than CPU-based ray traced rendering, just as an example, and optimizing your product stack for the workloads that matter and are utilized in each segment just makes sense.

For gaming, 8-cores is the optimal spot for performance scaling in modern PC gaming, and at 8-cores we get the best frequency scaling out of our Coffee Lake products and 14nm process technology today. And clock speed is what feeds the hungry primary threads of game engines today!

To back up this point with data, I wanted to showcase a couple of sets of benchmarks. First up is some testing on the Core i9–9900K, configured in 4-core, 6-core, and 8-core mode, with a fixed frequency of 4.0 GHz and HyperThreading disabled. The fixed frequency and HT disabled state helps to remove differences that might result from varied Turbo frequencies at different core residencies.

*See below for configuration details.

As you can see from this data, core scaling does exist in modern PC gaming. Moving from a 4-core to a 6-core configuration results in a modest 7% gain in Shadow of War but up to 33% in Assassin’s Creed Origins.

Interestingly, of the six games tested in this pre-existing data set, only three scale from 6C to 8C. We measured a total gain of 50% in Assassin’s Creed Origins and over 30% for both Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation and Hitman 2. The other three titles, including Far Cry 5, Shadow of War, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, do not scale with the move to 8-cores.
To demonstrate game performance scaling beyond 8-cores, I turned to some testing that our evaluation labs had handy based on the Core i9–9980XE 18-core CPU. Again, the clock speed is fixed at 4.0 GHz and HT was disabled.

*See below for configuration details

This data set happens to be a bit larger (as the testing was done for a different project) but it is a superset of the previous data from the 9900K, so it provides for an interesting extrapolation.

The first thing I see with this set is that going from 8-cores to 12-cores results in less than 10% scaling in all games, and in that 12-game set, 9 of them improve by 5% or less.

What about that 12-core to 16-core jump? Only one game in our results today sees an improvement (Ashes of the Singularity once again) while the other 11 games not only do not scale up in performance, THREE of them actually regress slightly, offering lower performance than a 12-core configuration.

The data backs up what Intel has been saying since its release: The Core i9–9900K is the world’s best gaming processor and the new Core i9–9900KS will be even faster. Adding core count just because you can, without a corresponding increase in sustained frequency and architectural design decisions necessary to feed these cores (like low latency memory systems), doesn’t result in better performance. The software engines that power games across the PC ecosystem scale best with frequency and IPC, and Intel plans to lead in this space for years to come.

By |2019-12-23T10:21:55+00:00December 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

xbox

Microsoft Is Still Planning A Cheaper, Disc-Less Next-Gen Xbox

In June, Microsoft announced Project Scarlett, a new iteration of the Xbox that the company said would “set a new bar for console power, speed and performance.” What Microsoft didn’t say is that it is also working on a lower-cost, disc-less version of Scarlett, code-named Lockhart, according to four people briefed on the company’s plans.

If those names sound familiar, that’s because they’ve been floating around for a while. The earliest rumors about Microsoft’s next-gen roadmap, circa 2018, suggested that Project Scarlett would consist of two Xbox models: the high-performance Anaconda and the lower-end Lockhart. In June, however, Microsoft announced that Scarlett was a single, high-end console, which led to speculation and then press reports that Lockhart had been canceled. But Kotaku has learned that Lockhart is in fact still in the works as a cheaper, digital-only alternative to Scarlett, as the original rumors suggested.

What we don’t know—and what likely isn’t finalized yet—is how the pricing will shake out. But it’s easiest to think of Anaconda as a successor to the Xbox One X and Lockhart as a successor to the Xbox One S, with a similar performance disparity. Game developers will be expected to support both Anaconda and Lockhart, which some are worried might hamper their ambitions for next-gen games in the coming years.


When speaking to Kotaku, one game developer briefed on Lockhart analogized it to the PlayStation 4 Pro in terms of raw graphical power, although there are other key differences that might make up for that. Lockhart is said to have a solid-state drive, like both Anaconda and Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 5, which is expected to have a significant impact on loading times. Developers briefed on Lockhart also say it has a faster CPU than any current video game console, which could allow for higher frame-rates, although there are other factors that might not become clear until the console is completely finalized, such as clock speed and cooling.

Microsoft’s ideal target performances are said to be 4K resolution and 60 frames-per-second on Anaconda and 1440p resolution and 60 frames-per-second on Lockhart. (That doesn’t mean that every single game on these consoles will live up to that performance—it’s the target that Microsoft is pushing developers to hit.)

Lockhart will also likely be heavily promoted with Microsoft’s burgeoning xCloud streaming service and impressive Xbox Game Pass subscription, which allows users access to a huge library of games both big and small, including all new first-party games. Both of those services fit nicely with a disc-less console, and Microsoft has already packaged Xbox Game Pass with the digital-only version of the Xbox One S, which launched earlier this year.
The Xbox team isn’t officially talking about any of this. “We do not comment on rumors or speculation,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in an email to Kotaku last night.

The people behind Xbox have been quiet about their next-gen plans in the months following Scarlett’s announcement at E3, and over the past few months, some developers have grumbled to Kotaku about Microsoft’s lack of communication. Many say they’ve already received development kits for the PS5, code-named Prospero, and images of those devkits have been leaking all over the place. Scarlett development kits have been harder to come by, developers say, although most who are working on next-generation games have a rough idea of what kind of technical specs to target.

For many months, rumors have swirled about the performance differences between Scarlett and the PlayStation 5, and pundits have speculated as to which console will be beefier. What’s become clear, based on our conversations with developers, is that there’s no straight answer to that question yet.

Common consensus is that both consoles have roughly similar specs, and that the biggest differences may lie in other factors, like operating system features or slight technical edges that Sony or Microsoft are keeping under wraps. The biggest and perhaps most important question is one that still has no final answer: How much will these things cost?
Both companies, meanwhile, had been terrified of Google’s entry into the video game space after rumors started circulating in early 2018 that the tech conglomerate was doing something big.

Over the past couple of years, a number of developers have remarked to me that staff at both PlayStation and Xbox would talk frequently and reactively about Google’s plans, emphasizing each company’s own response to streaming as a result. After the tepid launch of Stadia last month, however, the threat of Google appears to have been overstated. The next generation of consoles will remain a battle between Sony and Microsoft, and will be one of gaming’s biggest stories in 2020.

By |2019-12-23T10:27:51+00:00December 5th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Voice search ascending

Voice search ascending: Three areas that require your attention right now

By next year, comScore expects that 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches. And of course, it won’t stop there. A decade from now, it’s not unreasonable to think that nine out of 10 searches will be via voice, and at that point, a lot about what we know about best practices in digital marketing will have shifted.

After all, in the world of voice search, simply getting onto the search engine results page becomes insufficient. What brands need is to find their way into what’s become known as the “zero position”—that singular best response generated by a voice assistant in regards to a natural language query.

Most marketers are watching the ascent of voice search with obvious interest, but few are sure exactly what they should be doing as this brave new world unfolds before their eyes. The good news is that there are very concrete steps that can be taken right now to better position brands for the voice-dominated future. If you focus on the following three fundamentals today, you’re going to be in strong shape tomorrow.

voice speaking

Optimize according to Schema

Schema represents a foundational means of ensuring your online content can be found and understood by web crawlers and properly ingested by the major search engines’ algorithms. This is true today, and it will be true tomorrow. Unfortunately, given the ever-increasing complexity of the marketing technology landscape these days, too many marketers have lost site of this important priority. To succeed—or even survive—in the world of voice search, the schema need to be a top digital marketing priority.

WHITEPAPER

 

voice search

In the most basic sense, schema is an agreed-upon structure for how online content should be organized in order to best be understood by search engines. The major search players of the world have codified the best practices of engagement via Schema.org, a joint effort focused on creating and maintaining schemas for structuring online data. These days, optimizing web pages with schema is a critical first step to succeeding in organic search.

The beauty of Schema.org is that it’s supported by all of the major search engines, and these are precisely the companies that are currently writing the future of voice search. We can expect to see similar structures dictating voice search results as we do in the currently established schema. Thus, best practices for site optimization today will remain the best practices for the future. However, neglecting these best practices in a world where the zero position can make or break a brand will become all the more vital.

Focus on featured snippets

Google’s Featured Snippets aren’t new, but they’re far more important in the world of voice search than in traditional web SEO. Featured snippets are designed to help people answer questions quickly in a way that naturally aligns with how people search with their voices. In other words, it rewards content that presents information in an obvious Q&A format versus being optimized for keyword searches.

To improve your chances of reaching the zero position for a given query, structure your content for featured snippets. In a blog post, for example, this might mean asking a question in the opening paragraph and ensuring it is answered in that same paragraph in 50 words or fewer.

Sure, the blog post can go on to discuss the subject in much more detail. But what a voice search engine will care about is being able to answer a user’s question in a succinct, straightforward way. Give them the questions and answers they crave.

 

Get your profiles under control

In preparing your brand and its digital assets for a voice-driven world, don’t forget about your third-party digital profiles. Again, this is a best practice in the search world today, but it’s going to become even more necessary for survival in a future dominated by voice search. After all, when people search for information relevant to your business, there’s a good chance the first place the search engine turns won’t be your website.

It will be a third-party profile that succinctly describes your business and, in particular, the details of nearby locations. After all, voice assistants powered by companies like Google also have their own business listings for your locations—and they’re highly likely to turn to those first when providing information back to users.

If your business information is inaccurate or outdated in your third-party profiles, reaching the zero position in a voice search with that information could be more harmful to your brand than not being found at all. So as you think through your digital strategy for a voice-driven world, be sure to get back to basics. Structure your content correctly. Give vs the answers they want. And above all, make sure your information is updated and accurate anywhere the algorithms might find it.

By |2019-12-23T10:32:21+00:00December 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments
Load More Posts