Microsoft says Skype audio is now reviewed in ‘secure facilities’ after a worrying report - Which highlights again centralised services can be intercepted

Date Published: Sat, 11 Jan 2020 11:23:29 +0200

Microsoft says Skype calls are now transcribed in “secure facilities in a small number of countries,” following a new report in The Guardian about the company’s use of contractors in China to listen to some calls to make sure the company’s transcription software is working properly. The company confirmed to The Verge that China is not currently one of the countries where transcription takes place.

A former contractor who lived in Beijing told The Guardian that he transcribed Skype calls with little cybersecurity protection from potential state interference. The unidentified former contractor told The Guardian that he reviewed thousands of audio recordings from Skype and Cortana on his personal laptop from his home in Beijing over a two-year period.

Don't think because you see a green padlock on the browser bar that your communications are secure and private... often that padlock is just the connection to a centralised service (Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, etc) and is not a direct (peer-to-peer) connect to the end person you are communicating with. Which means the service/organisation in the middle can intercept the communications (for law enforcement, transcription services adverts, spell checking, selling data, or whatever).

You want to look for peer-to-peer services where you are able to provide your own encryption key and use 2nd factor means to verify the end user. There are services like Jami, Jitsi, etc that allow you to do this are free.

See https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/10/21059947/skype-audio-secure-privacy-microsoft-apple-google-amazon-china-contractors

#privacy #technology #communications
#^Microsoft says Skype audio is now reviewed in ‘secure facilities’ after a worrying report

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Microsoft says it has moved the location of its audio review programs outside of China

Finish Your Next Book in 15 Minutes with BookNotes - Currently 90% Off At $29 For A Lifetime Subscription

Date Published: Sat, 11 Jan 2020 11:14:47 +0200

It's no coincidence that some of the world's most successful businesspeople make a point of reading as much as they can, but most of us simply don't have the time to power through entire books on a regular basis. Designed for busy people who want to stay informed on the go, this subscription will help you accelerate your learning through concise summaries of popular and important books.

BookNotes makes it easy to gain key insights from over 1,000 best-selling books in just 15 minutes, and a lifetime subscription is available for 90% off at just $29.

Not sure if skipping all the fluff and the background is a good idea but for those who are very busy they probably never get to reading at all and then lose out on a lot of knowledge. One just hopes the "lifetime" subscription just entail this service going out of business...

See https://www.androidcentral.com/finish-your-next-book-15-minutes-booknotes

#reading #knowledge
#^Finish Your Next Book in 15 Minutes with BookNotes

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It's no coincidence that some of the world's most successful businesspeople make a point of reading as much as they can, but most of us simply don't have the time to power through entire books on a regular basis. BookNotes makes it easy to gain key insights from over 1,000 best-selling books in just 15 minutes, and a lifetime subscription is available for 90% off at just $29. Designed...

My first impressions of the SKYRC MC3000 Universal Battery Charger and Analyser

Date Published: Fri, 10 Jan 2020 20:13:41 +0200

I have been evaluating getting a good universal battery charger that also does refreshing and analysing. The reason is that if rechargeable batteries are well serviced they are good for 1,000 recharges (Eneloops for 2,100) and this is very economical if you consider they cost only about 3x the price of single use alkalines.

I was very close to buying the Powerex C9000 which would have done all I needed, but I noticed this SKYRC that had the addition of firmware upgrades (future proof), Bluetooth, and a PC link. It was double the price but I did not want to upgrade again a year later, so I bit the bullet.

After two days I can say I'm quite impressed and the charger does all it said it would do apart from a few minor quirks:
1. I don't see the on-device diagram drawing view at all (but I can get better than that off the PC app).
2. PC works fine with Windows but the USB port is just not visible on Linux or Virtualbox Windows (more time on this and I may get it to work as I see there is a 3rd party DataExport app that works on three OSs indicating this should work).
3. By default, a battery refresh cuts off after 2 hours (not long enough) or at the stated capacity you have set. So you at least want to disable the time cut-out otherwise the refresh won't complete and you'll need to restart.
4. At one point my phone would not connect via Bluetooth but the fault was with the phone - it worked after I rebooted the phone. Bluetooth LED stays off, and lights up only when phone connects to it. Bluetooth does not work if the PC link is active.

You can view all the photos with comments at https://photos.gadgeteer.co.za/index.php?/category/skyrcbatterycharger

#technology #environment #batterycharger
#^My Technology and Gadgets / SKYRC MC3000 Battery Charger and Analyser

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YouCam Beauty Advisor for iOS and Android - live 3D face AR make-up before snapping photos

Date Published: Fri, 10 Jan 2020 18:48:56 +0200

From CES 2020: Celebrity looks have long-inspired the makeup on our faces. But a new tool from YouCam, a smart cosmetics company, will actually help you see if you can pull those looks off. YouCam's Beauty Advisor tool scans your face. It then surfaces celebrity make-up looks — like the latest baby pout from Ariana Grande or Rihanna smokey eye — that it determines might look good on your face. You select the look that intrigues you, and then it applies it in a way that actually looks realistic and accurate (not like a sticker someone just slapped your face).

YouCam Perfect provides 14 real-time skin beautification effects for instantly beautiful selfies. Whether you want a glamorous or naturally beautiful look, you can apply and see the effects before taking your selfie! Also has frames, collages, scene templates, text bubbles, overlays, adjust body proportions, hair dye, and you can edit multiple faces in a photo... because its all fake today even if its not news.

See https://www.perfectcorp.com/consumer/apps/ycp

#technology #AI #beauty

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KDE Plasma Welcomes Windows 7 Refugees to the Linux Side - No Ads, No Product Codes, No Forced Reboots, No Cost

Date Published: Fri, 10 Jan 2020 18:37:23 +0200

The KDE Community wants Windows 7 users to migrate to the Plasma desktop environment after Microsoft's 10-year-old OS will reach end of support next week and stops receiving security and bug fixes.

"The specific end of support day for Windows 7 will be January 14, 2020," Microsoft says. "After that, technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update that help protect your PC will no longer be available for the product."

Since Windows 7 will no longer receive bug fixes and security updates, and will leave its users exposed to attacks devised to exploit new vulnerabilities, The KDE Community says that it wants to help them migrate to one of the 25 Linux distributions offering support for Plasma.

"Instead of migrating to Windows 10 and putting up with hours of updates, intrusions on your privacy and annoying ads built into your apps, install a Linux operating system with Plasma," KDE says. "In 30 minutes you will be up and running and you will have all the security and stability of a Linux system, with all the features and ease of use of Plasma."

KDE has been my desktop of choice on Ubuntu (Kubuntu), then Linux Mint, and finally on Manjaro Linux. With Manjaro I get seamless and continuous updates year after year (no warnings about end of support). KDE is one of the most customisable desktops for Linux and comes ready to use across various Linux distros.

Watch the new KDE promo video at https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/linux/kde-plasma-welcomes-windows-7-refugees-to-the-linux-side/

#windows7 #linux #KDE
#^KDE Plasma Welcomes Windows 7 Refugees to the Linux Side

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The KDE Community wants Windows 7 users to migrate to the Plasma desktop environment after Microsoft's 10-year-old OS will reach end of support next week and stops receiving security and bug fixes.

A video review of two 32A EV home chargers available on Aliexpress (Zencar and Khons)

Date Published: Thu, 9 Jan 2020 15:52:28 +0200

An electrician's look at two cheap 32 Amp 7kW EV charger ( EVSE) units from Aliexpress. Both cost around US$330 (GBP260). These are typical chargers that someone may fit at home providing 32A charge capability. The 10A charger provided by Hyundai (in this video) is designed to fit only on a standard home wall plug (hence limited to 10A) whilst these 32A chargers require a special plug fitted at home.

It is useful to know what these chargers offer and how they perform before making an online purchase decision.

Watch at https://youtu.be/jT8IsAd9ea0

#environment #EV

#^Aliexpress 32A (7kW) portable EV chargers ( EVSE ) Zencar, Khons

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A look at two cheap 32 amp /7kW EV charger ( EVSE) units from Aliexpress. Both cost around US$330 (GBP260). You may or may not get charged import duty/VAT - ...

My solar installation saved me 57% (or R797) off my total R1,397 (US$97) electricity bill in Dec 2019

Date Published: Thu, 9 Jan 2020 13:42:08 +0200

My solar PV system handles everything except the hot water cylinder. Solar system reported a total cost usage of R1,090 for Dee 2019 of which R797 was produced by sunshine. The remaining R293 was supplied by the grid (after batteries stop at about 2am at 65% capacity). We still buy around R600pm for total grid use so R600-R293 says my hot water cylinder is using around R307 per month (hot water cylinder is set to 37C max and only comes on when we need to use it).

Obviously Winter is going to provide a bit less sunshine, so I'll do another such exercise around mid-Winter.

The advantages though of the system in South Africa are not only cost saving but also continuous power throughout load shedding periods - even at Stage 6 we never once ran out of power from the solar PV system (the 65% threshold for use allows a large safety margin for any load shedding during hours of darkness or low sun). The system also acts as a giant UPS for my computers and Internet equipment protecting them from any surges on the grid. And of course that is less environmental impact, and leaves a bit more juice available for our struggling power utility to give to others.

#environment #victronenergy #solarPV

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More info on how SpaceX's Starlink satellites will operate for under served areas on Earth... and even to Mars

Date Published: Wed, 8 Jan 2020 21:37:25 +0200

Starlink is a satellite constellation being constructed by American company SpaceX to provide satellite Internet access. The constellation will consist of thousands of mass-produced small satellites, working in combination with ground transceivers.

SpaceX intends to provide broadband internet connectivity to under served areas of the planet, as well as provide competitively priced service to urban areas. The company has stated that the positive cashflow from selling satellite internet services would be necessary to fund their Mars plans. The satellites will be mass-produced, at a much lower cost per unit of capability than existing satellites. Musk said, "We’re going to try and do for satellites what we’ve done for rockets.

Internet traffic via a geostationary satellite has a minimum theoretical round-trip latency of at least 477 ms (between user and ground gateway), but in practice, current satellites have latencies of 600 ms or more. Starlink satellites would orbit at ​1⁄30 to ​1⁄105 of the height of geostationary orbits, and thus offer more practical Earth-to-sat latencies of around 25 to 35 ms, comparable to existing cable and fiber networks. The system will use a peer-to-peer protocol claimed to be "simpler than IPv6", it will also incorporate end-to-end encryption natively.

The system will not compete with the Iridium satellite constellation, which is designed to link directly to handsets. Instead, it will be linked to flat user terminals the size of a pizza box, which will have phased array antennas and track the satellites. The terminals can be mounted anywhere, as long as they can see the sky.

Expected life of the satellites is around 5 years and the newest ones will quickly burn in Earth's atmosphere at the end of each satellite's lifecycle. The large number of planned satellites have been met with criticism from the astronomical community. Astronomers claim that the number of visible satellites will outnumber visible stars, and that their brightness in both optical and radio wavelengths will severely impact scientific observations. The most recent launch in January 2020 though has experimented with darker colour to minimise reflection of light.

Extracted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlink_(satellite_constellation)

#technology #starlink #satellites

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Bluetooth will support hearing aids, sharing, and a better audio codec - It's always getting better 'next year'

Date Published: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 22:07:52 +0200

Now that most smartphones don’t have headphone jacks, there’s no shortage of complaints about Bluetooth. This year at CES, the industry group in charge of defining the standard, the Bluetooth SIG, is introducing new features that should address some of them. Later this year, it will finalize new support for Bluetooth LE Audio, which is an umbrella term for a bunch of new features for Bluetooth devices.

The new features include higher-quality audio, hearing aid support, broadcasting to many people, and working better with wireless earbuds. Unfortunately, as is the way with all industry specs, it will take some time for these features to make their way into consumer products. The old joke that “Bluetooth will be better next year” still holds true.

Bluetooth is being used more and more for new devices and it seriously does need improvement. I find it sometimes not pairing with devices I had paired before and every now and again I see my Fitbit is not paired which needs a reboot of my phone (problem clearly on the phone side).

See https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/6/21050631/bluetooth-hearing-aids-sharing-audio-le-lc3-codec-ces-2020

#technology #bluetooth
#^Bluetooth will support hearing aids, sharing, and a better audio codec

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It’s catching up to Apple and Qualcomm.

For tech-weary Midwest farmers, 40-year-old tractors now a hot commodity - Older razors are better, Non-processed foods are better, see a Pattern?

Date Published: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 18:50:51 +0200

“This is still a really good tractor,” said Folland, who owns two other tractors built before 1982. “They cost a fraction of the price, and then the operating costs are much less because they’re so much easier to fix,” he said. Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days — and it’s not because they’re antiques.

Cost-conscious farmers are looking for bargains, and tractors from that era are well-built and totally functional, and aren’t as complicated or expensive to repair as more recent models that run on sophisticated software.

Ironically too:
1. Older safety razors are way cheaper to operate and better for the skin.
2. Plain old cooking real food is way better than processed food which has contributed to obesity.
3. Old printed photos and documents survive 200+ years and can still be found and read.
4. Older electric cars (pre-dating petrol and diesel) now make a come back as a "new" thing.

I'm not saying everything retro without fail is better but there is a distinct marketing pattern emerging today with industry wanting us to buy the next "best" thing except its not always better. In the interests of "modernisation" we just stumble along blindly and spend. Digital is convenient but does not always triumph analogue (even ham radio has lots of different digital modes vs the trusty all accessible analogue modes).

See http://www.startribune.com/for-tech-weary-midwest-farmers-40-year-old-tractors-now-a-hot-commodity/566737082/

#technology #retro
#^For tech-weary Midwest farmers, 40-year-old tractors now a hot commodity

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Tractors built in 1980 or earlier cause bidding wars at auctions.

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