Apple MacBook Air (2017) review

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 17th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Apple’s MacBook Air is as close to iconic as a piece of consumer technology gets. It’s the single laptop model you’re most likely to see everywhere, from college campuses to airports to coffee shops and even offices. And it’s been that way for a very long time.

That’s the problem. Not counting an incremental spec bump in mid-2017, this is still internally almost the same MacBook Air as the last refresh in 2015, and externally, it’s had basically the same design since 2010 (when the original 2008 design got an overhaul). In technology terms, that’s roughly forever.

apple-macbook-air-2017-21


Sarah Tew/CNET

But it’s also a testament to what a strong product the Air was in its heyday. To have a laptop that looks and feels the same as it did for so many years while still a maintaining a loyal following, that’s a rare achievement. The MacBook Air is no longer the best-for-almost-everyone device it once was, but it’s the least expensive way (by far) to get MacOS on a laptop, so there’s certainly still a place for it. Note that the Air we tested had a Core i7 CPU and 256GB SSD upgrade, for a total of $1,349, £1,234 or AU$2,039. The Air still starts at $999, £949 and AU$1,499, and can be found for even less online.  

SYSTEM NAME

Price as reviewed

$1,349, £1,234 or AU$2,039 (starts at $999, £949 or AU$1,499)

Display size/resolution

13-inch, 1,440×900-pixel display

CPU

2.2GHz Intel Core i7-5650U

Memory

8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz

Graphics

1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 6000

Storage

256GB SSD

Networking

802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless; Bluetooth 4.0

Operating system

MacOS 10.12.6 Sierra

Still kicking

And a lot about the MacBook Air still works. As a long-time Air user, but also someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time on one over the last few years, firing up the 2017 version felt like visiting an old friend.

There’s the just-right size of the 13-inch screen, still the best balance between viewability and portability; the rock-solid aluminum body, which can stand up to years of abuse; and the chunky island-style keyboard, itself now extinct across the rest of the MacBook line, replaced by super-shallow butterfly keys that lack this level of tactile feedback.

apple-macbook-air-2017-16


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Air also scores points for being the last MacBook with a good, old-fashioned USB-A port. You know, the kind that every mouse, memory key and other accessory you own fits into. The MacBook Pro and the 12-inch MacBook have both gone all-in on USB-C, which is forward-looking to be sure, but a limiting frustration for many.

Picking it up, I was reminded of another reason I loved this particular laptop line for so long: the MagSafe power connection. The plug, which automatically pulls away from the body when you yank the cord or trip over it, remains one of the most brilliant bits of consumer PC engineering ever. 

apple-macbook-air-2017-12


Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s since been replaced by USB-C power connections, which are handy for sharing data, power, video and other connections through the same port, but not nearly as flexible. That classic MagSafe has rescued many, many laptops from a grim fate over the years, and that’s just the ones I’ve personally almost killed. 

Feeling its age

But using a MacBook Air, even a brand new one, in 2017 feels like getting stuck in a bit of a time warp. The processor is years out of date compared to newer slim laptops — even though the big update for 2017 is a slight base CPU uptick, from a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 to a 1.8GHz one, or in our case, an optional 2.2GHz Core i7. All are from the same fifth generation of those chips, while Intel is about to announce details of the upcoming eighth-generation Core CPUs.

I’d argue that for websurfing, video streaming and social media, it’s not a huge deal to have an older-generation processor, but for a thousand bucks and up, you’re not wrong to want something newer. It is great, however, to get 8GB of RAM as the default now, over the previous 4GB. The optional Core i7 in our test system helped the Air keep pace with, or beat, some slim laptops with newer Core i5 CPUs. But much more importantly, the Air is still a battery life king, running more than 10 hours.

Article source: https://www.cnet.com/products/apple-macbook-air-13-inch-2017/#ftag=CADe9e329a

Apple MacBook Air (2017) review

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 17th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Apple’s MacBook Air is as close to iconic as a piece of consumer technology gets. It’s the single laptop model you’re most likely to see everywhere, from college campuses to airports to coffee shops and even offices. And it’s been that way for a very long time.

That’s the problem. Not counting an incremental spec bump in mid-2017, this is still internally almost the same MacBook Air as the last refresh in 2015, and externally, it’s had basically the same design since 2010 (when the original 2008 design got an overhaul). In technology terms, that’s roughly forever.

apple-macbook-air-2017-21


Sarah Tew/CNET

But it’s also a testament to what a strong product the Air was in its heyday. To have a laptop that looks and feels the same as it did for so many years while still a maintaining a loyal following, that’s a rare achievement. The MacBook Air is no longer the best-for-almost-everyone device it once was, but it’s the least expensive way (by far) to get MacOS on a laptop, so there’s certainly still a place for it. Note that the Air we tested had a Core i7 CPU and 256GB SSD upgrade, for a total of $1,349, £1,234 or AU$2,039. The Air still starts at $999, £949 and AU$1,499, and can be found for even less online.  

SYSTEM NAME

Price as reviewed

$1,349, £1,234 or AU$2,039 (starts at $999, £949 or AU$1,499)

Display size/resolution

13-inch, 1,440×900-pixel display

CPU

2.2GHz Intel Core i7-5650U

Memory

8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz

Graphics

1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 6000

Storage

256GB SSD

Networking

802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless; Bluetooth 4.0

Operating system

MacOS 10.12.6 Sierra

Still kicking

And a lot about the MacBook Air still works. As a long-time Air user, but also someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time on one over the last few years, firing up the 2017 version felt like visiting an old friend.

There’s the just-right size of the 13-inch screen, still the best balance between viewability and portability; the rock-solid aluminum body, which can stand up to years of abuse; and the chunky island-style keyboard, itself now extinct across the rest of the MacBook line, replaced by super-shallow butterfly keys that lack this level of tactile feedback.

apple-macbook-air-2017-16


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Air also scores points for being the last MacBook with a good, old-fashioned USB-A port. You know, the kind that every mouse, memory key and other accessory you own fits into. The MacBook Pro and the 12-inch MacBook have both gone all-in on USB-C, which is forward-looking to be sure, but a limiting frustration for many.

Picking it up, I was reminded of another reason I loved this particular laptop line for so long: the MagSafe power connection. The plug, which automatically pulls away from the body when you yank the cord or trip over it, remains one of the most brilliant bits of consumer PC engineering ever. 

apple-macbook-air-2017-12


Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s since been replaced by USB-C power connections, which are handy for sharing data, power, video and other connections through the same port, but not nearly as flexible. That classic MagSafe has rescued many, many laptops from a grim fate over the years, and that’s just the ones I’ve personally almost killed. 

Feeling its age

But using a MacBook Air, even a brand new one, in 2017 feels like getting stuck in a bit of a time warp. The processor is years out of date compared to newer slim laptops — even though the big update for 2017 is a slight base CPU uptick, from a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 to a 1.8GHz one, or in our case, an optional 2.2GHz Core i7. All are from the same fifth generation of those chips, while Intel is about to announce details of the upcoming eighth-generation Core CPUs.

I’d argue that for websurfing, video streaming and social media, it’s not a huge deal to have an older-generation processor, but for a thousand bucks and up, you’re not wrong to want something newer. It is great, however, to get 8GB of RAM as the default now, over the previous 4GB. The optional Core i7 in our test system helped the Air keep pace with, or beat, some slim laptops with newer Core i5 CPUs. But much more importantly, the Air is still a battery life king, running more than 10 hours.

Article source: https://www.cnet.com/products/apple-macbook-air-13-inch-2017/#ftag=CADe9e329a

Norton's Core wants to be the ultimate watchdog for your home tech

Posted by Carl on 17th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics

You know Symantec’s (SYMC) Norton for its line of PC security software that continuously tells you it needs to be updated. But now the company is moving into the hardware space with a special kind of router that promises to secure all of your disparate connected devices.

The Norton Core, available now for the not insignificant price of $279, is designed to ensure everything from your PC and Mac to your smartphone and connected door bell are protected against attacks from hackers or malware. Its built-in device management features and parental controls can also help prevent your kids from accessing inappropriate websites.

But its high cost is a big ask, especially coupled with the fact that you’ll need to pay $10 per month to get the best security features after your first free year runs out.

It starts with an app

The big trend in Wi-Fi routers, if there is such a thing, is simplifying the setup process for consumers by retiring those old-school web page interfaces in favor of easy-to-follow app-based instructions.

To get started, you download the Norton Core app to your smartphone, plug in your Core to your wall outlet and your modem and sign up for Norton account. Once you have your account set up, the Core will take ask you to do things like choose a network name and password and add a guest network for when friends come over.

Pro tip: If you give your new router’s network the same name and password as your last router’s network, all of your devices will automatically connect to the new network without issue. If you go for a different name and password, though, you’ll have to manually connect your devices, which is a huge pain.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Core looks more like a small-scale replica of Disney’s Epcot Center. The reason for the look is to make the router more attractive than the kind of antenna-laden monstrosities on the market today. The idea is to ensure you’re not afraid to put your router out in the open where it will provide the best signal rather than hiding it inside your entertainment center.

Managing your connection

The, well, core of Norton Core is the Norton Core app. From here you can monitor everything from how much data you use each day to the kinds of websites your kids can visit.

The home screen provides you with your overall security “score,” which Norton rates on a scale of 0 to 500. You’ll also see the number of devices on your network, your internet speed — the connection from your ISP, not the router itself — how many people are on your guest network and the names of the various users on your account.

I started off with a security score of 139, which is rated as “Fair.” The app said I was penalized for having a weak Wi-Fi password, a double network and not having the Norton’s Core Security software installed on all of my devices.

It’s important to note that you get a full year subscription to Symantec’s Norton Security for free, which can be installed on all of your PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets when you get the Core router.

The app also allows you to do things like set up individual accounts for users and control the kind of content they can view. I set up a test account that was supposed to block porn sites; then I visited two sites (for work!) and neither was blocked. I then tried again (again, for work!) and only one of the sites was blocked.

Still, when Norton noticed I was trying to visit a blocked site, it immediately sent a notification to my phone telling me about it. So get ready for some awkward conversations with your kids.

Securing your devices

The reason your average person would buy the Norton Core is because of its security features. Symantec says the router performs three types of security: Deep packet inspection, intrusion detection and intrusion prevention and endpoint protection. Packet inspection looks at the traffic crossing your network and if it notices something suspicious, it shuts down the device’s connection.

Intrusion detection and prevention looks for malware and other anomalies entering your network and checks websites to see if they are known to carry malware and shuts down your connection to them.

Endpoint protection, meanwhile, is the software that you install on your devices and helps protect them from viruses and any malware that might slip past the router’s other defenses.

During my time with the Core it blocked access to two potentially threatening pieces of software, sending alerts to my phone each time.

That might all sound like a bit of overkill, but Symantec’s plan is to keep your network wrapped in a kind of security bubble in the hopes that nothing on it can be used as an attack vector for malware.

One of the easiest ways for such software to end up on your network is through internet of things or IoT devices such as smart fridges, light bulbs, smart home assistants.

It’s those devices that are the easiest to attack and can be turned into zombie devices that make up massive botnets that attackers use in distributed denial of service (DDoS) schemes that can take down entire websites and networks.

Symantec says the Norton Core will protect these devices from such attacks, ensuring they don’t fall into the hands of attackers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test how well the router handled such attacks, since, you know, I wasn’t trying to get my own devices hit by hackers.

Here’s the thing about the Core’s security, though. If you let your subscription to the Norton Security app lapse, you lose those protections. At that point, the Core becomes another high-powered router. To be clear, it certainly is a solid performer; I saw download speeds as high as 100 megabits per second. Still, you’d end up spending $280 when you could have spent $200 for a similarly powerful router.

Should you get it?

If you’re a complete security nut and want to protect all of your gadgets, the Norton Core is a great start. It’ll ensure you’re safe from malware and network intrusions, while ensuring you don’t have any issues with your IoT devices. At the same time, you’ll get a subscription to Norton’s Core security software for full year. That’s a lot protection. But Norton isn’t the only game in town. F Secure offers a router and app combo that also promises to keep your tech secure for just $200.

If you’re not going to keep up with your Norton subscription after your free years runs out, there’s no sense in spending nearly $300 on the Core. But if you want some heavy security protecting your home’s tech, the Core is a solid bet.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

Article source: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/nortons-core-wants-ultimate-watchdog-home-tech-161438850.html

Norton's Core wants to be the ultimate watchdog for your home tech

Posted by Carl on 17th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics

You know Symantec’s (SYMC) Norton for its line of PC security software that continuously tells you it needs to be updated. But now the company is moving into the hardware space with a special kind of router that promises to secure all of your disparate connected devices.

The Norton Core, available now for the not insignificant price of $279, is designed to ensure everything from your PC and Mac to your smartphone and connected door bell are protected against attacks from hackers or malware. Its built-in device management features and parental controls can also help prevent your kids from accessing inappropriate websites.

But its high cost is a big ask, especially coupled with the fact that you’ll need to pay $10 per month to get the best security features after your first free year runs out.

It starts with an app

The big trend in Wi-Fi routers, if there is such a thing, is simplifying the setup process for consumers by retiring those old-school web page interfaces in favor of easy-to-follow app-based instructions.

To get started, you download the Norton Core app to your smartphone, plug in your Core to your wall outlet and your modem and sign up for Norton account. Once you have your account set up, the Core will take ask you to do things like choose a network name and password and add a guest network for when friends come over.

Pro tip: If you give your new router’s network the same name and password as your last router’s network, all of your devices will automatically connect to the new network without issue. If you go for a different name and password, though, you’ll have to manually connect your devices, which is a huge pain.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Core looks more like a small-scale replica of Disney’s Epcot Center. The reason for the look is to make the router more attractive than the kind of antenna-laden monstrosities on the market today. The idea is to ensure you’re not afraid to put your router out in the open where it will provide the best signal rather than hiding it inside your entertainment center.

Managing your connection

The, well, core of Norton Core is the Norton Core app. From here you can monitor everything from how much data you use each day to the kinds of websites your kids can visit.

The home screen provides you with your overall security “score,” which Norton rates on a scale of 0 to 500. You’ll also see the number of devices on your network, your internet speed — the connection from your ISP, not the router itself — how many people are on your guest network and the names of the various users on your account.

I started off with a security score of 139, which is rated as “Fair.” The app said I was penalized for having a weak Wi-Fi password, a double network and not having the Norton’s Core Security software installed on all of my devices.

It’s important to note that you get a full year subscription to Symantec’s Norton Security for free, which can be installed on all of your PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets when you get the Core router.

The app also allows you to do things like set up individual accounts for users and control the kind of content they can view. I set up a test account that was supposed to block porn sites; then I visited two sites (for work!) and neither was blocked. I then tried again (again, for work!) and only one of the sites was blocked.

Still, when Norton noticed I was trying to visit a blocked site, it immediately sent a notification to my phone telling me about it. So get ready for some awkward conversations with your kids.

Securing your devices

The reason your average person would buy the Norton Core is because of its security features. Symantec says the router performs three types of security: Deep packet inspection, intrusion detection and intrusion prevention and endpoint protection. Packet inspection looks at the traffic crossing your network and if it notices something suspicious, it shuts down the device’s connection.

Intrusion detection and prevention looks for malware and other anomalies entering your network and checks websites to see if they are known to carry malware and shuts down your connection to them.

Endpoint protection, meanwhile, is the software that you install on your devices and helps protect them from viruses and any malware that might slip past the router’s other defenses.

During my time with the Core it blocked access to two potentially threatening pieces of software, sending alerts to my phone each time.

That might all sound like a bit of overkill, but Symantec’s plan is to keep your network wrapped in a kind of security bubble in the hopes that nothing on it can be used as an attack vector for malware.

One of the easiest ways for such software to end up on your network is through internet of things or IoT devices such as smart fridges, light bulbs, smart home assistants.

It’s those devices that are the easiest to attack and can be turned into zombie devices that make up massive botnets that attackers use in distributed denial of service (DDoS) schemes that can take down entire websites and networks.

Symantec says the Norton Core will protect these devices from such attacks, ensuring they don’t fall into the hands of attackers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test how well the router handled such attacks, since, you know, I wasn’t trying to get my own devices hit by hackers.

Here’s the thing about the Core’s security, though. If you let your subscription to the Norton Security app lapse, you lose those protections. At that point, the Core becomes another high-powered router. To be clear, it certainly is a solid performer; I saw download speeds as high as 100 megabits per second. Still, you’d end up spending $280 when you could have spent $200 for a similarly powerful router.

Should you get it?

If you’re a complete security nut and want to protect all of your gadgets, the Norton Core is a great start. It’ll ensure you’re safe from malware and network intrusions, while ensuring you don’t have any issues with your IoT devices. At the same time, you’ll get a subscription to Norton’s Core security software for full year. That’s a lot protection. But Norton isn’t the only game in town. F Secure offers a router and app combo that also promises to keep your tech secure for just $200.

If you’re not going to keep up with your Norton subscription after your free years runs out, there’s no sense in spending nearly $300 on the Core. But if you want some heavy security protecting your home’s tech, the Core is a solid bet.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

Article source: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/nortons-core-wants-ultimate-watchdog-home-tech-161438850.html

iDevices Dimmer Switch Release Date, Price and Specs

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 16th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics

A smart lighting setup for the CNET Smart Home

Building the CNET Smart Home: Color-changing bulbs, connected switches and voice activation: We’re going all-in on smart lighting for our new living lab.

by Ry Crist

There are lots of ways to put smart home tech to work, but one of the easiest and most compelling might be voice-activated control of your lights. Now, iDevices is releasing a smart dimmer switch that’ll get the job done no matter which voice control platform you’re using.

idevices-dimmer-switch-app

With the iDevices Dimmer Switch wired into your wall, you’ll be able to control the lights from your phone, or by using a voice command with Alexa, Siri, or the Google Assistant.


iDevices

Fittingly enough, it’s called the iDevices Dimmer Switch, and it promises compatibility with Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant for an asking price of $100. Wire it into your wall in place of one of your existing light switches, and you’ll be able to program that light to turn on and off automatically, control it remotely from your phone or adjust the brightness using voice commands. 

The Dimmer Switch joins a growing family of iDevices smart home gadgets that already includes a plug-in smart switch, a connected thermostat, a screw adapter for light bulbs, a smart wall outlet and more. Like the dimmer, all of them work with all three major voice control platforms, making the entire lineup accessible to just about anyone who’s interested in smartening up their living space.

It might be an especially sound business strategy given that iDevices was recently bought out by Hubbell, a lighting and electrical manufacturer. As part of that acquisition, iDevices has pivoted slightly towards the dealer market, and begun pitching its products not only as DIY upgrades, but also as parts of professionally-installed smart home packages. Dealers like those want products that’ll work with as many customers as possible, regardless of which voice assistant they prefer.

home-v-echo-1

That puts iDevices squarely in between those higher-end dealer setups and cheaper, self-installed gadgets like the Belkin WeMo Dimmer, which costs $80. That rival already works with Alexa and with Google, but won’t work with Siri until Belkin releases its upcoming Apple HomeKit plug-in bridge later this year. Even after it arrives, the iDevices Dimmer is still likely to be the more tempting option for anyone who wants to build their smart home around Siri given that it doesn’t require you to purchase any extra hardware to hop in with HomeKit.

Another big differentiator: the iDevices Dimmer Switch will work with three-way switch setups, where more than one light switch controls the same light or set of lights. The WeMo Dimmer doesn’t.

The iDevices Dimmer Switch is available now for $100. Expect us to wire one in at the CNET Smart Home for tests and a full review in the coming weeks.

Article source: https://www.cnet.com/products/idevices-dimmer-switch/#ftag=CADe9e329a

Your next smartphone's camera could get a huge improvement

Posted by Carl on 16th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Your next smartphone’s camera could do more than take great pictures of your latest meal. Qualcomm (QCOM), the company that builds the processors found in a variety of Android handsets, has debuted its latest camera technology, which the chip-maker says will turn your phone into an augmented reality beast.

The tech is called active depth sensing and includes placing two cameras — one infrared and one standard — and a laser on the back of your phone. The laser, which uses an invisible infrared beam, is shot through a small cover that creates a pattern wherever you shine it.

The infrared camera, which is placed next to the normal camera, then captures that light and the resulting pattern to determine how far away the surface you’re pointing it at is. “Big deal,” you say?

That’s where you’re wrong. See, with more accurate depth-sensing technologies, augmented reality — think “Pokémon Go” and the like — will see drastic improvements. Objects will appear in space where your brain expects them to, so instead of a digital cup floating over your coffee table, it will actually sit on the table as if it were real.

To give me a better idea of how well the depth-sensing technology works, Qualcomm showed off a video of a person holding a tablet equipped with the three-camera setup shooting another person playing a keyboard.

And while the image was shot solely from above the player’s hands, the Qualcomm reps were then able to rotate the video to reveal that the depth-sensing camera was able to capture the player and keyboard in a nearly complete 3D image.

In addition to smartphones, Qualcomm says it plans to implement this technology into virtual and augmented-reality headsets. And that’s where things truly get interesting.

That’s because with such image sensing technology, Qualcomm will be able to build lightweight, wireless headsets that can see your hands without the need for external cameras like the current crop of VR headsets. So instead of having to hold a controller, you’d be able to simply use your hand as the controller.

The cameras will also allow for what’s called inside-out tracking, which lets a computer recognize how you’re moving without the need to have external tracking devices like Facebook’s (FB) Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive.

Inside-out tracking isn’t new, though. Other headset makers like Microsoft (MSFT) and Oculus already use or are working on it as well. But Qualcomm’s plug-in play tech could give it a leg up.

Beyond AR and VR, Qualcomm says its new cameras will also be able to capture better video in low-light settings, something smartphones continue to struggle with.

Additionally, Qualcomm is working on a front-facing iris-scanning and facial-recognition camera. The company says this shooter will be able to detect “liveness” so you won’t be able to trick it by holding up a picture of a person’s eyes like the Samsung Galaxy S8’s camera.

In a somewhat unsettling video demonstration, Qualcomm showed how a mask of a person wouldn’t even be able to defeat its facial recognition tech. I saw it as unsettling because the life-like mask they used in the video looked like an absolute monstrosity. Still, it was cool to see it work.

You can expect smartphones with these new technologies to hit the market sometime next year.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

Article source: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/next-smartphones-camera-get-huge-improvement-203243900.html

AltspaceVR is keeping its virtual hangout open

Posted by Carl on 15th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics

If you’re not familiar, AltspaceVR is sort of like Second Life for virtual reality that works with the Gear VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. It announced its shutdown in July after running out of money and failing to secure another round of funding on time. Since the company had no choice but to let most of its employees go, a skeleton crew is keeping its virtual world running for now.

While the company is being very secretive about its future plans, TechCrunch has spotted a potential investor in Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. When AltspaceVR announced its shutdown, Luckey polled his followers, asking whether he should try to save the California-based firm:

Now, he has retweeted the company’s story announcing that it’s living on. Whoever its new investors are, AltspaceVR users can now throw virtual parties to celebrate their virtual hangout’s new lease on life.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/08/16/altspacevr-isnt-shutting-down/

AltspaceVR is keeping its virtual hangout open

Posted by Carl on 15th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics

If you’re not familiar, AltspaceVR is sort of like Second Life for virtual reality that works with the Gear VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. It announced its shutdown in July after running out of money and failing to secure another round of funding on time. Since the company had no choice but to let most of its employees go, a skeleton crew is keeping its virtual world running for now.

While the company is being very secretive about its future plans, TechCrunch has spotted a potential investor in Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. When AltspaceVR announced its shutdown, Luckey polled his followers, asking whether he should try to save the California-based firm:

Now, he has retweeted the company’s story announcing that it’s living on. Whoever its new investors are, AltspaceVR users can now throw virtual parties to celebrate their virtual hangout’s new lease on life.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/08/16/altspacevr-isnt-shutting-down/

June Pro Release Date, Price and Specs

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 15th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics
june-proEnlarge Image

The June Pro, which costs $1,995, is a built-in version of June’s smart countertop oven.


June

The company that created a countertop oven that uses a camera to identify and cook your food has created a built-in version of its smart cooker. 

june-pro-in-full-kitchenEnlarge Image

The June Pro is designed to be incorporated in your kitchen cabinetry.


June

The $1,995 June Pro, which goes on sale in the US today, is identical to the $1,495 June Intelligent Oven. Both appliances use mobile device-grade processors, high-definition cameras and your home’s Wi-Fi network to identify the food you put in (similar to facial recognition technology) and cook it automatically. You can also control each oven remotely from your iPhone or iPad and watch a live stream of your meal as it cooks. 

But June, the company that shares its name with its products, has designed the June Pro to become a more integral part of your kitchen design. The company will send professionals out to install the June Pro, a more involved installation then the June Intelligent Oven, which just sits on your countertop. The need for a more involved installation makes the June Pro a bigger investment than its predecessor. 

Think about it: Can the June Pro replace your full-size oven? Not quite. The June Pro only has 1 cubic foot of space (the same capacity as the original), so it’s more comparable in size to a microwave rather than a wall oven. The company has no plans to make an Android version of its app, which cuts out a lot of potential customers. And if the June Intelligent Oven we tested is any indication, the company still has some work to do on cooking basics. 

Article source: https://www.cnet.com/products/june-pro/#ftag=CADe9e329a

How companies leave your data online without your knowledge

Posted by Carl on 15th August 2017 in Consumer Electronics

 

SANTA ROSA, CALIF. — Chances are your private data has probably been available on the web for any random visitor to read. And you may not even be able to blame hackers or identity thieves for it.

Instead, somebody at a company that collected or handled your information — maybe a wireless carrier, maybe a software firm with a mailing list, maybe a political research firm trying to put you in one likely-voter box or another — may have left it vulnerable on their own. And this happens often enough for a security researcher to make finding these exposures his speciality.

What’s more, there’s really not much you can do about it short of becoming a digital hermit.

A boom in breaches

Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at Upguard Security, has a simple theory for why he keeps finding databases open. 

“I would say convenience is probably the biggest reason,” Vickery said during an interview at a coffee shop in this Sonoma County city where he works remotely for his Mountain View, California employer. “It’s easier just to have it open to everybody.”

At best, he added, some hapless employee doesn’t think they left the data exposed or believes nobody will stumble upon their attempt to ease telecommuting.

The biggest such example Vickery found to day was some 200 million voter-registration records that a Republican National Committee contractor left publicly accessible.

But the consequences of changing secure default settings in such cloud systems as Amazon’s (AMZN) AWS can go well beyond extra spam.

For example, the 13 million account credentials from the Mac-software firm Kromtech that Vickery found in 2015 could have been used to hack into other accounts “secured” with the same passwords.

The 6 million Verizon (VZ) wireless subscriber records Vickery found last month included some account passcodes that an attacker might have used to defeat two-step verification security that confirms strange logins with a one-time code texted to your phone.

(Verizon’s media division Oath owns Yahoo Finance.)

And the 87 million Mexican voting records he uncovered in 2016 could have been exploited by drug traffickers to compound the country’s plague of kidnappings and murders. Vickery recalled one immediate reaction: “You cannot let the cartels know about this.”

The 32-year-old’s work has won endorsements from other security researchers.

“Chris has been enormously effective at sniffing out exposed data left at risk in all sorts of obscure places,” said Troy Hunt, an Australian researcher who runs a data-breach index called Have I been pwned? that can reveal if your accounts have been exposed.

How to find a breach

Vickery said the easy part of his job is finding these databases, thanks to a searchable catalogue of publicly-accessible devices called Shodan and automated scanning tools that can quickly detect databases left open.

“The amount of data that comes back isn’t a ton, but it happens at a very, very fast rate,” he said.

At no point, he said, does he engage in hacking or impersonation of a legitimate user.

“If you have a password or a username set up, I’m not going to go any further,” he said. “I don’t trick anything.”

If a search locates apparently sensitive data, he will download a sample to confirm that it represents material that should have stayed private. He usually doesn’t bother looking for his own info, but he has not been amused when he finds it — such as in a leaked voter-registration database in 2016.

“I looked myself up just to see if it was legit, and it was all my data,” he recalled “I was pretty pissed.”

Then he will try to notify the affected company. That hasn’t always been easy. Kromtech, the maker of the often-scorned security app MacKeeper, didn’t respond to his queries until he posted about the problem on Reddit — though after securing the data, the firm hired him to blog about security issues.

Hunt, the Australian researcher, recently met even more egregious resistance when a British firm selling family discounts for things like theme parks blocked him and others on Twitter for tweeting about its lax security.

“I used to start at the bottom, calling the receptionist or something,” Vickery said. “Now I’ll start with the breached data and then find the CEO’s home number and call him at dinner. That usually gets a faster response.”

Unhelpful responses and an unhelpful law

But a response accepting his findings can still come seasoned with denial. Vickery advised against trusting the common excuse that only he saw the exposed data — many companies don’t keep the access records needed to prove that claim.

“They can say that plausibly because they’re not keeping logs,” he said.

Vickery said he has also received the occasional legal threat, despite making a point of not using hacking tools to sneak into sites.

“No law enforcement agency has ever even suggested that what I do is illegal,” he said.

But the 1986-vintage Computer Fraud and Abuse Act applies such a broad definition of online trespassing that a company could feasibly try to sue a researcher like Vickery.

A new bill, the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017, would exempt more security research from the CFAA as part of a larger tightening of security standards for internet-connected devices in government use. But this law’s vagaries have survived years of talk about reforming it.

Will another round of data-breach headlines change that? We’ll probably find out soon enough, Vickery said. While consumers are now better educated about the scope of the problem, companies keep making the same mistakes.

“I think things have gotten better in the past couple of years as far as awareness goes,” Vickery said. “But the number of breaches happening hasn’t decreased at all.”

More from Rob:

Email Rob at rob@robpegoraro.com; follow him on Twitter at @robpegoraro.

 

Article source: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/companies-leave-data-online-without-knowledge-155722478.html