Chrome's anonym-ish incognito mode

Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2018 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: chrome, google, incognito, obvious

To cut straight to the chase, if you are browsing anonymously and log into one of your accounts, you are no longer anonymous; a seemingly obvious fact which is making headlines today.  A Google rep feels this is being pushed by Oracle who are hoping to turn public opinion against Google, though how that would affect their ongoing legal battles is unclear.  The timing is rather unfortunate as the publics opinion of Google plummeted after being reminded that Google Maps always knows where you are if you have it installed. 

The Inquirer does remind us what is worth getting upset about; Google's unsubstantiated claim that they offer tools to prevent their products from tracking you and a way to delete your entire history. 

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"A researcher from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee found that although the data collected appears to be anonymised, in reality, Google can retroactively identify it from the usernames and other account data used during the session."

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Source: The Inquirer

Mozilla, Opera, and Google Pull Malicious Extension

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2018 - 09:12 PM |
Tagged: Opera, mozilla, google, firefox, chrome

I don’t think this should surprise anyone, but it’s good to report on none-the-less. There was a popular browser extension, called Stylish, that allowed users to customize the pages that they visit, and share those customizations with their friends. It’s a cool concept, but it was later sold to another company. That new owner changed the extension to monitor its users.

Mozilla, Opera, and Google slapped it across the jaw with a banhammer.

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If you go to Mozilla’s Firefox Add-ons site, Opera's Add-ons site, or Google’s Chrome Web Store, you will get a 404. If you already installed the extension, it will be removed from your browser. As such, you probably don’t need to worry about it, because the browser vendors went DEFCON 1 on it.

But just in case you haven’t yet got the kill signal (because you’re behind a limited VPN or something) be sure to remove “Stylish” from your browser.

This also raises the point about curated app stores: review isn't perfect. Sometimes malicious software can go unnoticed for years. It's best not to get too complacent.

Source: Sophos

Matt Pharr Returns to NVIDIA by Joining NVIDIA Research

Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2018 - 08:43 PM |
Tagged: pixar, nvidia, matt pharr, Intel, google

NVIDIA Research has another industry veteran working for them: Matt Pharr.

According to his blog post on the topic, he will be working on some balance of ray tracing, neural-networks, and how they can work together for computer graphics.

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Moving on to Green... er... pastures.

Matt Pharr has been in the industry for quite some time. In the 90s, he worked at Pixar on A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2. He then co-founded a company that made rendering software, which was bought by NVIDIA and eventually lead to Gelato. From there, he founded another company, Neoptica, which was acquired by Intel. While there, he worked alongside the Larabee team. He then joined Google in 2013, which has been his employer for the last five years.

He has been partially credited with physically based rendering, which is a way of defining computer-generated materials that is lighting independent. This allows artists to create content once and use it across multiple scenes, be it indoor or outdoor, light or dark.

We’re at an interesting point in time. We’re beginning to see hardware that can reasonably shoot rays into an environment to augment the data that rasterization provides us. At the same time, we’re also seeing the rise of neural networks that can hallucinate convincing, but physically inaccurate effects relatively cheaply. Graphics isn’t just evolving forward, it’s mixing laterally, too. There’s room for engines and technologies to behave wildly different from everyone else.

Google versus the law of unintended consequences

Subject: General Tech | May 16, 2018 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: google, alphabet, chrome, ads

Killing off autoplaying adverts in Chrome is a wonderful thing and has brought peace and quiet to many a browsing session, unless you are someone who likes to play games in your browser.  It seems some games are not functioning properly, even after being whitelisted and so in the new version Google will be rolling back that change to give devs time to change how their games work.  This likely means a fair amount of games are about to be abandoned as Google does not intend to change how their block works but are instead putting the onus on the devs to change the code on their free to play games.  The Inquirer links to the Chromium blog so you can get the news straight from the horse's mouth.

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"GOOGLE HAS been forced to roll back its new autoplay policy for web video in Chrome after it became apparent that it was borking legitimate content."

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Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #499 - Onyx Boox, BitFenix, and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 10, 2018 - 04:35 PM |
Tagged: podcast, velocity micro, qualcomm, Portal, Onyx Boox, nvidia, Netflix, microsoft, linux, K63, Intel, hyperx, google, evga, corsair, coolermaster, ChromeOS, bitfenix, arm, amd, 4k, video

PC Perspective Podcast #499 - 05/10/18

Join us this week for discussion on Onyx Boox, a slick BitFenix case, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Ken Addison,

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:01:13

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
    1. 0:47:40 Jeremy:Building a Ryzen on a budget eh?
    2. 0:50:10 Josh:I have issues.   We know
    3. 0:52:20 Allyn: System monitoring Gadgets. On Windows 10. Good ones.
  4. Closing/outro
 
Source:

Cats and dogs living together, Linux on Chromium, mass hysteria ...

Subject: General Tech | May 9, 2018 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: liunx, Chromebook, google, pixelbook

First we find out that Microsoft's best selling server is running on Linux and now you will be able to run Debian flavoured Linux apps such as Linux terminal, Git, Sublime, Vim and Android Studio on the Pixelbook.  This should help bridge the gap between Chromium and its far more popular and capable sibling, Android.  According to The Inquirer, Google expects this to be a seamless integration without requiring extra steps to launch the apps.  Perhaps one day we will see these two OSes start to combine as both Microsoft and Google seem to have noticed the unpopularity of skinny versions of their operating systems.

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"In the case of the Google Pixelbook, that means the arrival of Linux app capabilities in preview from today, with other Chromebooks expected to get a rollout soon, according to VentureBeat."

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Source: The Inquirer

Why won't anyone believe there really are subliminal messages corrupting young digital assistants?

Subject: General Tech | January 31, 2018 - 01:04 PM |
Tagged: siri, security, google, Alexa

Some of us are old enough to remember when certain parties were convinced there were subliminal messages in the music which kids listened to which they creatively blamed for a wide variety of behaviour.  This belief turned out to be as ridiculous as it sounds, though that doesn't stop it from recurring every couple of generations.  There is a somewhat similar and very real issue which The Register talks about here; using a deep neural net they were able to modify songs in such a way that digital assistants such as Echo, Siri and others would hear and execute a command while the humans in the room would only hear a slight distortion in the audio.  This particular method is much harder to protect against than the previously discovered vulnerability which was ultrasonic commands which a microphone could pick up but was well beyond the range of human hearing. 

You do need to reverse engineer the audio processing software of the digital assistant before you will be able to craft your hidden commands, however once that is done this is a very effective attack.

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"The researchers tested a variety of in-song commands delivered directly to Kaldi as audio recordings, such as: "Okay Google, read mail" and "Echo, open the front door." The success rate of these was 100 per cent."

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Source: The Register

Google's 'free' Spectre patch

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2018 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: google, spectre, retpoline, security

Google have released their own patch for the second Spectre vulnerability and claim that there is no noticeable performance hit after installation.  The patch isolates indirect branches from speculative execution, similar in effect to what the Microsoft patch does but without the extra trampoline overhead.  Intel responded to The Inquirer's contact and confirmed Google's patch is both effective and more efficient than the patch currently being distributed but do mention there is a microcode update which must also be installed for the patch to be fully effective.  This is good news for those who use Google and hint at updated patches for Spectre which might mitigate any performance hits it causes.

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"The fix, called 'Retpoline' uses software patches rather than disabling the affected CPU features, which Google claims resulted "in no performance degradation across the different mitigation techniques they have developed."

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Source: The Inquirer

(Rumor?) Android Parallel Tasks Expected in Chrome OS

Subject: General Tech | December 31, 2017 - 11:24 PM |
Tagged: google, ChromeOS, chrome os

As far as I can tell, this feature has not been confirmed by Google, and everyone cites Chrome Unboxed rather than testing on their own Chromebooks. That said, Chrome Unboxed has a video of the feature in action, and I don’t have a Chromebook of my own, so I’ll just label this as a rumor even though I’m confident that it is true.

The feature? Android apps will soon be able to run in the background on Chrome OS. It is apparently possible using the beta channel Chrome OS 64, but that doesn’t mean it will land in Chrome OS 64 stable. This pushes Android (the app platform) significantly closer to a desktop-style platform, albeit when hitching a ride on Chrome OS.

I’m curious how much control will be given to Android developers, though. It seems like Google would want apps to do things like reduce their workloads when unfocused. If so, would they bring this feature to Android proper? Or would it be a Chrome OS-specific feature that developers need to specifically target?

Either way, it looks like Google is working on it.

Just Picked Up: Google Wifi x4

Subject: Networking | December 28, 2017 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: just delivered, google wifi, google

While our house isn’t particularly large, there were quite a few wireless dead zones with our previous setup. For several months now, we’ve been patching it with a Linksys wireless extender that we move around the house to extend the network in a single direction. That had a few drawbacks, and the signal wasn’t too strong to begin with, but it worked okay.

google-2017-wifi-01.jpg

Out with the old, and in with the new.
4x Google Wifi routers + 1x Cisco 8-port Gigabit switch

I’ve now picked up a three-pack and a one-pack of Google Wifi devices, after having it recommended to me by some coworkers in my software development job (and a Boxing Week sale at BestBuy Canada). The internet comes in from the basement, so I figured that one on each floor (roughly in a vertical line) and a fourth near the deck (with rough line of sight to the middle one) would provide optimal coverage. Each Google Wifi device can only drive a single wired device, so I opened a Cisco gigabit switch that I purchased several years ago to increase that to seven.

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Setup was quite easy – just plug the first one in and follow the directions on the Google Wifi app. One step will ask you how many more hotspots you have, excluding the one connected to the internet modem. I answered three, so it asked me to set them up one at a time. I needed to scan the QR code on the first of the three pack, and the QR code on the fourth (which came from the one-pack).

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Yeah, I totally need to clean up these wires...
... some day.

When it was all done, everything had internet except the wired devices; that was automatically resolved by the Windows networking troubleshooter, though, so it wasn’t really a problem. Now, as I walk around the house, I see the Wi-Fi drop for an instant (seems like literally a second or two) and reconnect as it chooses a new access point. I suppose this could be annoying if you’re on a Skype chat and walking from room-to-room. The wired devices are getting the full 125/10 that my internet provides, so that’s good.

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One interesting note is that, while I have the option to prioritize devices using my phone, there doesn’t seem to be a “permanently prioritize this device until further notice” option. All I can select is one hour, two hours, or four hours. Seems like an odd omission, but I almost never use prioritization in real-world scenarios anyway.

Source: Google