GH-Solutions Pte Ltd Singapore ICT Solutions Provider Wed, 21 Feb 2018 22:26:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 GH-Solutions Pte Ltd 32 32 Intel ships update for newest Spectre-affected chips Wed, 21 Feb 2018 22:26:42 +0000

Intel has announced that the fix is out for its latest chips affected by Spectre, the memory-leakage flaw affecting practically all computing hardware. The patch is for the Skylake generation (late 2015) and newer, though most users will still have to wait for the code to be implemented by whoever manufactured their computer (specifically, their motherboard).

The various problems presented in January by security researchers have to be addressed by a mix of fixes at the application, OS, kernel and microarchitecture level. This patch is the latter, and it replaces an earlier one that was found to be unstable.

These aren’t superficial tweaks and they’re being made under pressure, so some hiccups are to be expected — but Intel is also a huge company that has had months of warning to get this right, so people may be frustrated by the less-than-optimal way the flaws have been addressed.

As before, there isn’t much you as a user can do except make sure that you are checking frequently to make sure your PC and applications are up to date — in addition, of course, to not running any strange code.

If you’re on an older chipset, like Sandy Bridge, you’ll have to wait a bit longer — your fix is still in beta. You don’t want to be their test machine.

Featured Image: Alice Bevan–McGregor/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

Humans sow seeds of destruction by abusing poor robot just trying to walk through a door Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:36:41 +0000

You may remember last week that Boston Dynamics’ latest robot, a trim and yellow Spot Mini, has learned to open doors. Seems like at this point you don’t want to anger them. They will find you. Or rather, they’ll find the company’s designated robot abuser and punish him for stopping poor robots from doing what they have been told to do. Soon Spot Mini will not be the one on a leash.

Of course this is necessary testing for when the robot actually has to navigate a busy environment and this kind of interference comes up, deliberate or accidental. A robot has to be able to bounce back, of course; if it freaks out when anything unexpected happens, it won’t be able to accomplish much.

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All the same, it’s excruciating to watch, at least for me. It’s just trying so hard and it doesn’t get angry at the man, even when its piece falls off!

Perhaps robots will be superhuman in patience as well as door-opening ability. Let’s hope so. I kicked a Spot Mini once at its creator’s invitation and if any machines are reading this, I’m sorry.

Featured Image: Boston Dynamics

Update for iOS and Macs negates text bomb that crashed devices Mon, 19 Feb 2018 21:32:31 +0000

Last week we reported a major bug in Apple operating systems that would cause them to crash from mere exposure to either of two specific Unicode symbols. Today Apple fixes this major text-handling issue with iOS version 11.2.6 and macOS version 10.13.3, both now available for download.

The issue, discovered by Aloha Browser in the course of normal development, has to do with poor handling of certain non-English characters. We replicated the behavior, basically an immediate hard crash, in a variety of apps on both iOS and macOS. The vulnerability is listed on MITRE under CVE-2018-4124. If you were curious.

Apple was informed of the bug and told TechCrunch last week that a fix was forthcoming — in fact, it was already fixed in a beta. But the production version patches just dropped in the last few minutes (iOS; macOS). Apple calls the magical characters a “maliciously crafted string” that led to “heap corruption.” It seems that macOS versions before 10.13.3 aren’t affected, so if you’re running an older OS, no worries.

The iOS patch also fixes “an issue where some third-party apps could fail to connect to external accessories,” which is welcome but unrelated to the text bomb.

You should be able to download both updates right now, and you should, or you’ll probably get pranked in the near future.

Technological solutions to technology’s problems feature in “How to Fix The Future” Mon, 19 Feb 2018 00:45:14 +0000

In this edition of Innovate 2018, Andrew Keen finds himself in the hot seat.

Keen, whose new book, “How to Fix the Future”, was published earlier this month, discusses a moment when it has suddenly become fashionable for tech luminaries to abandon utopianism in favor of its opposite.  The first generation of IPO winners have now become some of tech’s most vocal critic—conveniently of new products and services launched by a younger generation of entrepreneurs.

For example, Tesla’s Elon Musk says that advances in Artificial Intelligence present a “fundamental risk to the existence of civilization.”  Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff believes Facebook ought to be regulated like a tobacco company because social media has become (literally?) carcinogenic.  And Russian zillionaire George Soros last week called Google “a menace to society.”

Eschewing much of the over-the-top luddism that now fills the New York Times (“Silicon Valley is Not Your Friends”), the Guardian (“The Tech Insiders Who Fear a Smartphone Dystopia”), and other mainstream media outlets, Keen proffers practical solutions to a wide range of tech-related woes.  These include persistent public and private surveillance, labor displacement, and fake news.

From experiments in Estonia, Switzerland, Singapore, India and other digital outposts, Keen distills these five tools for fixing the future:

  • Increased regulation, particularly through antitrust law
  • New innovations designed to solve the unintended side-effects of earlier disruptors
  • Targeted philanthropy from tech’s leading moneymakers
  • Modern social safety nets for displaced workers and disenfranchised consumers
  • Educational systems geared for 21st century life

Engineering against all odds, or how NYC’s subway will get wireless in the tunnels Sat, 17 Feb 2018 22:24:05 +0000

Never ask a wireless engineer working on the NYC subway system “What can go wrong?” Flooding, ice, brake dust, and power outages relentlessly attack the network components. Rats — many, many rats — can eat power and fiber optic cables and bring down the whole system. Humans are no different, as their curiosity or malice strikes a blow against wireless hardware (literally and metaphorically).

Serverless software deployment to the cloud, this is not.

New York City officially got wireless service in every underground subway station a little more than a year ago, and I was curious what work went into the buildout of this system as well as how it will expand in the future.

That curiosity is part of a series of articles I’ve written on an observed pattern known as cost disease, the massively inflating costs of basic human services like health care, housing, infrastructure, and education. The United States spends trillions of dollars on each of these fields, massively outspending similar nations for little and often even negative gain.

Despite the importance of reining in costs, experts are befuddled at the underlying causes of cost disease amid a laundry list of potential factors, including complicated procurement processes, labor rules, underinvestment in software, productivity gains in affiliated fields, environmental regulations, and the list goes on.

I explored a bit about health care, and the skyrocketing costs in that field, despite the fact that few people in the industry understand those costs at all. Activity-based costing appears to be one potential solution there that startups are pursuing. I also looked at California High Speed Rail and the massively spiraling costs of that boondoggle, as well as some of the startups trying to improve efficiency in that category.

This past week, I explored the challenges of what appears at first glance to be a relatively simple problem: how do you get wireless service in New York City subway tunnels? Cellular technology is hardly novel, and transit systems throughout the world have been able to modernize in some cases more than a decade ago.

While riders may desperately want their YouTube videos underground, the real value of such a system is for the business operations of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the MTA, which operates the NYC subway among other commuter rail and bus systems). Ticketing systems, arrival time indicators, emergency services, and other critical services are all run through this wireless system.

There is in fact a startup working on the problem, Transit Wireless. The company was formed in 2005 to respond to a request for proposals from the MTA and filled with veteran telecom executives. The authority rewarded the contract to Transit Wireless, which now holds a 27-year license to operate cellular service in the subway system.

William Bayne, the CEO of the company, explained that an important component of the contract was that the company couldn’t rely on taxpayer funding. “Our license requires us to design, build, own, operate, and finance the network,” he said. Transit Wireless raised its own equity capital to cover the costs of deploying the system, and generates revenues as the service provider over the life of the license. In fact, MTA receives a stream of revenue from Transit Wireless as well.

The company faced a number of challenges in building out the system. The first challenge was that the installation could not disrupt transit customers. Bayne said, “We had to figure out how to deploy network and equipment while minimizing disruption of the transit system itself.” That meant working overnight when labor costs are higher, and also placed the company at the mercy of the MTA’s maintenance windows to install network equipment.

Even more challenging was securing the right equipment. The NYC subway “is a 110-year-old system with low ceilings and lots of water, and it wasn’t designed to embrace a lot of electronics,” Bayne said. Wireless equipment “had to withstand all of these changes in environmental conditions: cold, heat, water, brake dust. Everything had to be passively cooled and fully-enclosed so it didn’t ingest any of the environment into the equipment.” That specialized, “mil-spec” equipment doesn’t come cheap.

As with the story of any infrastructure, particularly in New York, rolling out wireless connectivity to 282 active underground stations was anything but cheap. The final cost of the rollout was north of $300 million for Transit Wireless, a dramatic increase from early estimates which said that the project would cost “up to $200 million.” As a private entity spending private dollars, the company obviously had enormous incentives to hold down costs.

Perhaps more importantly for riders and the MTA itself, the timeline of the project ended up dragging. The first six stations in the system began offering wireless services in September 2011, about six years after the original contract signing. In the MTA’s announcement, the remainder of the rollout was expected to happen “within four years,” but another six years would actually pass before all remaining underground stations got service around New Year’s Day 2017. In all, it took about twelve years from contract signing to project completion.

While the costs and time required to build out the network were significant, Transit Wireless believes that the infrastructure it has built will stand the test of time. It designed the system to be “future-proof” by installing a fiber optic backbone with significantly more capacity than needed to handle whatever new technology might come, such as 5G wireless services. It also built a series of five data centers that act as data infrastructure hubs for the subway system, potentially lowering the cost of offering new services in the future.

The company, whose network spans much of New York City, hopes to be a core provider of smart city services in the future. Bayne envisions a world where real-time information about transit systems could be fused together, giving consumers access to smart transportation solutions — think connecting Uber and Lyft to smart bikes, parking meters, and the subway system to create a seamless, adaptive transportation system.

In addition to the smart city initiatives, Transit Wireless obviously is eyeing the tunnels as one of the most important infrastructure challenges going forward. Given the age of the tunnel construction, they are much narrower than the engineering standards used today for modern transit systems. In some cases, installed equipment has to fit within just a handful of inches of space lest a moving train rip the equipment right off the wall. “We have to be extremely precise on how we deploy equipment in there to be very precise to stay within those clearance envelopes,” Bayne said.

Currently, the company is offering a pilot demonstration of tunnel service on the shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central Station, which launched in December.

The lessons of the rollout are ultimately a question of desires from transit customers (who also happen to be voters) — how badly do we want new infrastructure, and how much are we willing to be inconvenienced to get it? We can’t have nice things today and also want no schedule changes in a system that operates 24/7 every day of the year. Unless we as transit riders say loudly and clearly “inconvenience me today for a better tomorrow,” keep expecting the same compromises to happen.

Featured Image: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

Visa confirms Coinbase wasn’t at fault for overcharging users Sat, 17 Feb 2018 02:30:48 +0000

Yesterday, we wrote that Coinbase customers were being charged multiple times for past transactions.

While some speculated that the erroneous withdraws were down to a Coinbase engineering issue, Coinbase issued a statement saying it wasn’t liable for the duplicate charges. The blame, instead, rested with Visa for the way it handled a migration of merchant categories for cryptocurrencies, Coinbase said.

While you can read my post yesterday for an in-depth description of what happened, the basic gist is that Visa refunded and recharged (under a different merchant category) a month of old transactions. Many users saw the recharge come through before the refund processed, making it look like they were double charged. Honestly, the issue was likely exacerbated by existing payment rails — it’s normal for refunds to take multiple days to show up on credit and debit statements.

But here’s where it gets weird — this morning Visa issued a statement to some publications shifting the blame back to Coinbase, telling TNW that “Visa has not made any systems changes that would result in the duplicate transactions cardholders are reporting.” We are also not aware of any other merchants who are experiencing this issue.”

But now it seems that the payment giant has revised its stance, and clarified that it wasn’t Coinbase’s fault.

The following is a joint statement from Visa and Worldpay, which is Coinbase’s payment processor partner. While Coinbase initially distributed the statement on its own blog, we’ve also received the statement directly from Visa.

Over the last two days, some customers who used a credit or debit card at Coinbase may have seen duplicate transactions posted to their cardholder accounts.

This issue was not caused by Coinbase.

Worldpay and Coinbase have been working with Visa and Visa issuing banks to ensure that the duplicate transactions have been reversed and appropriate credits have been posted to cardholder accounts. All reversal transactions have now been issued, and should appear on customers’ credit card and debit card accounts within the next few days. We believe the majority of these reversals have already posted to accounts. If you continue to have problems with your credit or debit card account after this reversal period, including issues relating to card fees or charges, we encourage you to contact your card issuing bank.

We deeply regret any inconvenience this may have caused customers.

While the statement doesn’t give a ton of clarity on the issue, it seems to absolve Coinbase of any blame, which is a win for the startup considering it’s been trying to prove to the world that its engineering and customer service teams can stand up to the challenge of maintaining a reliable financial platform.

Indeed, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong hit out at media reports that initially placed the blame for the snafu on Coinbase.

The startup — is valued at $1.6 billion after raising $100 million last year — has endured some challenging periods as it continues to scale its service to accommodate its 10 million-plus registered customers.

Issues over the past year have included muddling prices on, a flash crash, and a general struggle to keep up as cryptocurrencies boomed in 2017. In December, Coinbase launched an internal investigation into suggestions that company insiders profited from knowledge of impending support for Bitcoin Cash.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency.

Jon Russell contributed to this story. He also owns a small amount of cryptocurrency.

Featured Image: Håkan Dahlström Photography/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

This autonomous 3D scanner figures out where it needs to look Fri, 16 Feb 2018 00:09:57 +0000

If you need to make a 3D model of an object, there are plenty of ways to do so, but most of them are only automated to the extent that they know how to spin in circles around that object and put together a mesh. This new system from Fraunhofer does it more intelligently, getting a basic idea of the object to be scanned and planning out what motions will let it do so efficiently and comprehensively.

It takes what can be a time-consuming step out of the process in which a scan is complete and the user has to inspect it, find where it falls short (an overhanging part occluding another, for instance, or an area of greater complexity that requires closer scrutiny) and customize a new scan to make up for these lacks. Alternatively, the scanner might already have to have a 3D model loaded in order to recognize what it’s looking at and know where to focus.

Fraunhofer’s project, led by Pedro Santos at the Institute for Computer Graphics Research, aims to get it right the first time by having the system evaluate its own imagery as it goes and plan its next move.

“The special thing about our system is that it scans components autonomously and in real time,” he said in a news release. It’s able to “measure any component, irrespective of its design — and you don’t have to teach it.”

This could help in creating one-off duplicates of parts the system has never seen before, like a custom-made lamp or container, or a replacement for a vintage car’s door or engine.

If you happen to be in Hanover in April, drop by Hannover Messe and try it out for yourself.

Featured Image: Fraunhofer

Senator calls on Tinder to fix a security flaw that lets randos snoop through your dates Thu, 15 Feb 2018 03:09:17 +0000

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is nervous about Tinder. He may not be swiping on the service this Valentine’s Day, but with a new letter demanding that Tinder resolve some security issues, Wyden is looking out for everyone who is.

Last month, a security report surfaced what it deemed “disturbing vulnerabilities” in the dating app. Wyden’s letter cites the research, demanding a fix for a security loophole that allows would-be attackers to view nearly everything about a user’s Tinder experience via an attack over unsecured wifi.

“Tinder can easily enhance privacy to its users by encrypting all data transmitted between its app and servers, and padding sensitive information to thwart snooping,” Wyden writes.

As the security firm Checkmarx explains:

“The vulnerabilities, found in both the app’s Android and iOS versions, allow an attacker using the same network as the user to monitor the user’s every move on the app. It is also possible for an attacker to take control over the profile pictures the user sees, swapping them for inappropriate content, rogue advertising or other type of malicious content (as demonstrated in the research).”

The report notes that stolen credentials are unlikely, but the vulnerability is a recipe for blackmail. TechCrunch reached out to Tinder for comment on Sen. Wyden’s letter and its plans to fix its security concerns but the company has not responded.

“Americans expect their personal information to remain private online,” Wyden writes. “To that end, I urge Tinder to address these security lapses, and by doing so, to swipe right on user privacy and security.”

Outbrain is launching a product allowing publishers to recommend content on each other’s platform Wed, 14 Feb 2018 01:16:41 +0000

Outbrain, the network known for distributing garbage clickbait articles and ads on sites across the internet, is now going to offer a premium product that ensures that the articles recommended to folks at the bottom of their screens will be less garbage.

Onstage at the Code Media conference, Outbrain chief executive Yaron Galai announced Sphere, a premium exclusive publisher-to-publisher audience network.

The company is launching the network with premiere web sites like CNN, Getty, Time and Meredith to begin with… and will get other quality publishers up on this network over time, Galal said.

The content, Galal emphasized, would be “editorial only”.

The new product, known as Sphere, is an invitation-only network where publishers share each other’s content amongst the closed group. The company is pitching that by joining up with the Sphere network publishers will provide users with top-quality editorial content from around the best sites on the web — outside of their own content.

All this is to drive more engagement with users and steer them away from the advertising vacuums known as Facebook and Google.

The Sphere tool will reward engagement by financially incentivizing longer visits on site. Through Sphere, Outbrain will use a different algorithm to drive deeper engagement, the company said.

Featured Image: anttohoho/Getty Images

Foxconn is working with RED to make cheaper and smaller 8K cameras Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:22:19 +0000

Foxconn, AKA Hon Hai Precision Industry, AKA the company that made your iPhone, is working with digital cinema pioneer RED to create affordable 8K cameras, the company announced. Chairman Terry Gou told reporters in Taipei, the Nikkei’s among them, that the goal is to reduce both the price and the size of such camera systems by two-thirds.

Considering you can shoot 4K on the tiny sensor of a mobile phone these days, it’s not actually much of a surprise that small-factor 8K is a focus for a major hardware manufacturer. Pretty soon it’ll be a standard feature on flagship phones.

Of course, Gou said nothing to suggest that the image quality would be worth it. A sensor that records at that resolution may be an integral part of an 8K system, but there’s much more to it than that. For one thing, to capture a decent image, you’ll need some serious glass in front of it — lenses for consumer-level products simply aren’t made with the kind of precision necessary for that level of detail. Cinema glass is five figures to start.

Honestly that’s just the start. In addition to the glass, you’ll need a very fast, effective image processor and a whole lot of storage — even compressed, an 8K video may be 10 to 20 times larger than a 1080p one. Then you’ll need to color and edit… and after all that, most people will be unable to tell the difference between it and normal HD.

But digital cinema is more than people taking videos of their friends doing karaoke. More and cheaper cameras shooting reasonably good footage at 8K is great news for directors who want multiple angles, VFX artists who always want more pixels, operators whose backs are breaking from carrying heavy 8K gear and producers who need to keep costs low. Sometimes two decent cameras are better than one great one (but not always).

RED has straddled that line, with gear generally too expensive for people who aren’t actually filmmakers (think $15-30,000), but often considerably cheaper than competition from the likes of Arri and Panavision (think higher). Apparently the two are in talks to create a joint venture or partnership to produce these theoretical cameras, as part of an effort by Foxconn to differentiate its holdings a bit.

I’ve contacted RED for more info and will update this post if I hear back.

Featured Image: RED