Discussing the business of smart things with Nanoleaf’s CEO

Discussing the business of smart things with Nanoleaf’s CEO

Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2022 by Jeff Safire

May 3, 2022

This year feels like a fraught one for the smart home. On one hand, there’s the promise of the Matter protocol arriving to help solve persistent interoperability challenges. On the other hand, we’re seeing a wave of companies shut their doors as they assess the landscape post-pandemic.

So it seemed like a good time to talk to Gimmy Chu, the CEO of Nanoleaf, a company that makes fancy, connected light panels, about the challenges and opportunities ahead for smart devices.

Shapes Hex Meditation

Nanoleaf lights already support some of the basics required by Matter, but until the certification is out, the company is waiting to release some new products. Image courtesy of Nanoleaf.

First up, get ready for commoditization. With the Matter protocol, Chu said we’re going to see cheap Matter-certified products flood the market. These products will have basic functionality as defined by the Matter standard, and will force existing smart home providers to up their game or fight for market share based on cost.

The good news from a consumer standpoint is that the Matter standard does enshrine basic security, so these low-cost devices are less likely to open gaping holes in your home network. Matter also provides for local control of basic devices, which means these products will work even if their parent company goes out of business.

As Chu noted, the smart home has been built on sand for years, always shifting, whereas with Matter the smart home will be built on rock, making these platforms more stable. This is a positive, but he also thinks that for consumers, Matter isn’t the flashy technology it’s being built up to be. “This is the rock and no one cares about the rock,” he said. “They care about what’s built on top of the rock.”

I tend to agree with him. Matter will make it easy to enable various devices to work together without worrying about which ecosystem the device is in. This will be helpful, but no longer as game-changing as it was when the Matter standard was announced. Especially since the bigger names in the smart home are moving from selling individual devices to packaging devices into services, such as security systems or elder-care monitoring products.

This article first published at STACEY ON IOT on May 3, 2022.

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Large hadron collider: A revamp that could revolutionise physics

Large hadron collider: A revamp that could revolutionise physics

Posted Monday, Apr 25, 2022 by Jeff Safire

By Pallab Ghosh, BBC News | Science

LHC Atlas closeupThe Atlas detector comprises 7,000 tonnes of metal, silicon, electronics, and wiring, intricately and precisely put together. It is now more powerful than ever.

Deep underground amidst the Alps, scientists are barely able to contain their excitement.

They whisper about discoveries that would radically alter our understanding of the Universe.
“I’ve been hunting for the fifth force for as long as I’ve been a particle physicist,” says Dr Sam Harper. “Maybe this is the year”.

For the past 20 years, Sam has been trying to find evidence of a fifth force of nature, with gravity, electromagnetism and two nuclear forces being the four that physicists already know about.

He’s pinning his hopes on a major revamp of the Large Hadron Collider. It’s the world’s most advanced particle accelerator – a vast machine that smashes atoms together to break them apart and discover what is inside them.
It’s been souped up even further in a three-year upgrade. Its instruments are more sensitive, allowing researchers to study the collision of particles from the inside of atoms in higher definition; its software has been enhanced so that it is able to take data at a rate of 30 million times each second; and its beams are narrower, which greatly increases the number of collisions.

What all this means is that there’s now the best chance ever of the LHC finding subatomic particles that are completely new to science. The hope is that it will make discoveries that will spark the biggest revolution in physics in a hundred years.

As well as believing that they may find a new, fifth force of nature, researchers hope to find evidence of an invisible substance that makes up most of the Universe called Dark Matter.

The pressure is on the researchers here to deliver. Many had expected the LHC to have found evidence of a new realm of physics by now.

The LHC is part of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, known as Cern, on the Swiss-French border, just outside Geneva. As one approaches, it seems an unremarkable complex – blocks of 1950s office buildings and dormitories, sprawling across a two and a half square mile site of manicured lawns and winding roads named after revered physicists.

This article first published at BBC News | Science on April 22, 2022.

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Writing may be on the wall for sharing Netflix accounts

Writing may be on the wall for sharing Netflix accounts

Posted Tuesday, Apr 19, 2022 by Jeff Safire

Netflix estimates that a huge amount of people watch the service thanks to account sharing

By Jay Peters @jaypeters Apr 19, 2022

Netflix logo

Netflix announced in March that it plans to crack down on password sharing, and in its first quarter earnings letter to shareholders (pdf), it gave a big clue as to why.

First, it’s increasingly clear that the pace of growth into our underlying addressable market (broadband homes) is partly dependent on factors we don’t directly control, like the uptake of connected TVs (since the majority of our viewing is on TVs), the adoption of on-demand entertainment, and data costs. We believe these factors will keep improving over time, so that all broadband households will be potential Netflix customers. Second, in addition to our 222m paying households, we estimate that Netflix is being shared with over 100m additional households, including over 30m in the UCAN region. Account sharing as a percentage of our paying membership hasn’t changed much over the years, but, coupled with the first factor, means it’s harder to grow membership in many markets – an issue that was obscured by our COVID growth.

Netflix has 222 million “paying households,” but it estimates the service is shared with over 100 million “additional households,” 30 million of which are in the US and Canada. That indicates there is a massive swath of people who aren’t paying Netflix directly for the ability to stream their favorite shows.

“We’re working on how to monetize sharing,” Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings said in a video regarding this quarter’s earnings. “You know, we’ve been thinking about that for a couple years. But you know, when we were growing fast, it wasn’t the high priority to work on. And now we’re working super hard on it. Remember, these are over 100 million households that already are choosing to view Netflix. They love the service. We’ve just gotta get paid in some degree for them.”

This article first published at The Verge on March 29, 2022.

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A hacker stole $625 million from the blockchain behind NFT game Axie Infinity

A hacker stole $625 million from the blockchain behind NFT game Axie Infinity

Posted Wednesday, Apr 13, 2022 by Jeff Safire

One of the largest ‘decentralized finance’ hacks yet

By Adi Robertson and Corin Faife Mar 29, 2022

Axie Infinity game

Roughly $625 million worth of cryptocurrency has been stolen from Ronin, the blockchain underlying popular crypto game Axie Infinity. Ronin and Axie Infinity operator Sky Mavis revealed the breach on Tuesday and froze transactions on the Ronin bridge, which allows depositing and withdrawing funds from the company’s blockchain.

Sky Mavis says it’s working with law enforcement to recover 173,600 Ethereum (currently worth around $600 million) and 25.5 million USDC (a cryptocurrency pegged to the US dollar) from the culprit, who withdrew it from the network on March 23rd. The attack focused on the bridge to Sky Mavis’ Ronin blockchain, an intermediary between Axie Infinity and other cryptocurrency blockchains like Ethereum. Users could deposit Ethereum or USDC to Ronin, then purchase non-fungible token items or in-game currency, or they could sell their in-game assets and withdraw the money.

According to Sky Mavis, an attacker used hacked private security keys to compromise the network nodes that validate transfers to and from the Ronin blockchain. That let the attacker quietly withdraw large quantities of Ethereum and USDC. The transfer was discovered today — nearly a week later — when another user attempted to withdraw 5,000 Ethereum through the bridge.

This article first published at The Verge on March 29, 2022.

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Celebrating Two Tech Pioneers: John Roach and Stephen Wilhite

Celebrating Two Tech Pioneers: John Roach and Stephen Wilhite

Posted Wednesday, Apr 6, 2022 by

Nick deCourville

Willhite and Roach

This week the tech world lost two huge visionaries in the industry. John Roach, who helped pioneer the personal computer, and Stephen Wilhite, inventor of the animated GIF, have both passed away.

Remembering John Roach

Born John Vinson Roach II in November of 1938, his family was in the meat market industry until World War II rationing forced the store to close. After graduating with a business degree from Texas Christian University in 1961, Roach worked for two years at a naval base in Hawaii, before return to university and obtaining his masters in business administration.

Roach was hired by the Tandy Corporation in 1967. Originally founded as a leather goods company, many would know it by its future branding, RadioShack. Roach was essential in moving the company toward the computer market.

Reinventing the Computer

During this time, computers were not sold how they are today. Meant more for hobbyists, computers were sold disassembled, leaving it up to the user to put the computer together. However, it was Roach who correctly assumed customers would want a device that did not need assembly.

Roach’s team thus developed the TRS-80. An abbreviation of Tandy Radio Shack, the original prototype was a hodge-podge consisting of an RCA monitor, a keyboard and a video cassette monitor. Featuring a whopping 4KB of DRAM and Zlog Z80 1.774 MHz CPU, the computer would eventually go on to sell over 2.4 million units across all models. An original TRS-80 now sits in the Smithsonian.

Without John Roach, it may be possible you would be assembling your own MacBook by hand.

Roach became RadioShack’s Executive Vice President in 1978, after the death of Mr. Tandy. By 1980, Roach would become the chief operating officer. In the 1990’s, Roach returned to to Texas Christian University Center, where he became chairman. He helped the University double its endowment to more than $1 billion, built a technology center and was active in Fort Worth’s civil and cultural life. The university named several colleges in his honor.

The cause of Roach’s death is unknown; he was 83. His wife, Jean Roach, made the announcement.

Celebrating Stephen Wilhite

Steve Wilhite, inventor of the GIF, passed away from COVID complications at the age of 74. Wilhite surrounded himself with family during his passing.

While working at CompuServe, Wilhite introduced the world to graphic interchange format (GIF) on June 15, 1987. The image file type came at a time when Internet technology forced lower file sizes due to slow speeds. The format not only allowed for smooth animation with 256 colors, the lossless data compression allowed the image format to become a mainstay on the internet.

One of the most important file types on the internet, the animated gif helped shape the internet as we know it today. At the same time, one of the most famous things to note about the format would be the controversy around its pronunciation. For years, it has been debated whether or not ‘gif’ is pronounced with a hard or soft ‘g.’ In a rare interview with The New York Times, Wilhite stated, “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.” In 2013, Wilhite received a Webby Award for his contributions to the internet. He made sure to cheekily double down on the pronunciation of gif during his acceptance speech.

After developing the gif, Wilhite continued to work for CompuServe, and former colleagues stated that he made several important contributions.

Wilhite contracted COVID-19 on March 1. Reports say that the virus came on suddenly, and he immediately began experiencing symptoms. Leaving his home in Milford, Ohio, he entered intensive care. He passed away shortly after his admission to the hospital.

It cannot be stressed enough the impact these two men had on the computing industry. Roach reinvented the computer in a way that has not been replicated since. The impact Wilhite has had on the internet will no doubt preserve his legacy.

As you browse the web today, take time to reflect on those who helped pave the way.

This article first published at The Mac Observer on March 24, 2022.

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This Seemingly Normal Lightning Cable Will Leak Everything You Type

This Seemingly Normal Lightning Cable Will Leak Everything You Type

Posted Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021 by Jeff Safire

By Joseph Cox, Vice
September 2, 2021

OMG cable leaks data

It looks like a Lightning cable, it works like a Lightning cable, and I can use it to connect my keyboard to my Mac. But it is actually a malicious cable that can record everything I type, including passwords, and wirelessly send that data to a hacker who could be more than a mile away.

This is the new version of a series of penetration testing tools made by the security researcher known as MG. MG previously demoed an earlier version of the cables for Motherboard at the DEF CON hacking conference in 2019. Shortly after that, MG said he had successfully moved the cables into mass production, and cybersecurity vendor Hak5 started selling the cables.

But the more recent cables come in new physical variations, including Lightning to USB-C, and include more capabilities for hackers to play with.

“There were people who said that Type C cables were safe from this type of implant because there isn’t enough space. So, clearly, I had to prove that wrong. :),” MG told Motherboard in an online chat.

The OMG Cables, as they’re called, work by creating a Wi-Fi hotspot itself that a hacker can connect to from their own device. From here, an interface in an ordinary web browser lets the hacker start recording keystrokes. The malicious implant itself takes up around half the length of the plastic shell, MG said.

Read more →

This article originally appeared at venturebeat.com on Sep 7, 2021


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Salesforce’s CodeT5 system can understand and generate code

Salesforce’s CodeT5 system can understand and generate code

Posted Tuesday, Sep 14, 2021 by Jeff Safire

By Kyle Wiggers       Sep 7, 2021

Salesforce CodeT5Image Credit: VeniThePooh via Getty

AI-powered coding tools, which generate code using machine learning algorithms, have attracted increasing attention over the last decade. In theory, systems like OpenAI’s Codex could reduce the time people spend writing software as well as computational and operational costs. But existing systems have major limitations, leading to undesirable results like errors.

In search of a better approach, researchers at Salesforce open-sourced a machine learning system called CodeT5, which can understand and generate code in real time. The team claims that CodeT5 achieves state-of-the-art performance on coding tasks including code defect detection, which predicts whether code is vulnerable to exploits, and clone detection, which predicts whether two code snippets have the same functionality.

Novel design

As the Salesforce researchers explain in a blog post and paper, existing AI-powered coding tools often rely on model architectures “suboptimal” for generation and understanding tasks. They adapt conventional natural language processing pretraining techniques to source code, ignoring the structural information in programming language that’s important to comprehending the code’s semantics.

By contrast, CodeT5 incorporates code-specific knowledge, taking code and its accompanying comments to endow the model with better code understanding. As a kind of guidepost, the model draws on both the documentation and developer-assigned identifiers in codebases (e.g., “binarySearch”) that make code more understandable while preserving its semantics.

CodeT5 builds on Google’s T5 (Text-to-Text Transfer Transformer) framework, which was first detailed in a paper published in 2020. It reframes natural language processing tasks into a unified text-to-text-format, where the input and output data are always strings of text — allowing the same model to be applied to virtually any natural language processing task.

Read more →

This article originally appeared at venturebeat.com on Sep 7, 2021


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SpaceX cleared for historic civilian launch next week

SpaceX cleared for historic civilian launch next week

Posted Tuesday, Sep 7, 2021 by Jeff Safire

By Patrick Reilly       September 5, 2021

SpaceX is set to launch its first-ever all-civilian crew to space next week on a three-day journey around the Earth that will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Four private citizens will be tucked inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft when it’s launched into space by Falcon 9 on Sept. 15 as part of the mission dubbed Inspiration4.

“#Inspiration4 and @SpaceX have completed our flight readiness review and remain on track for launch!” Inspiration4 tweeted Friday.

The blastoff will take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida sometime within a five-hour window to be determined three days before the launch, based on weather conditions.

The Dragon capsule is aiming for an altitude of 335 miles — about 75 miles higher than the International Space Station and on a level with the Hubble Space Telescope.

The soon-to-be-astronauts — Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski and Dr. Sian Proctor — are expected to arrive in the Sunshine State on Thursday to begin flight preparations following months of intense training since the team was announced in March.

SpaceX Insp4 Civilians

Their preparation has involved “centrifuge training, Dragon simulations, observations of other SpaceX launch operations, Zero-G plane training, altitude training and additional classroom, simulation and medical testing,” Inspiration4 said in a press release.

The mission will be commanded by Isaacman, 38, the founder and CEO of credit card processing company Shift4 Payments and an accomplished jet pilot. Isaacman has not revealed how much he is paying for the flight but has donated $100 million to St. Jude’s.

He has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion, according to Forbes.

Isaacman donated two of the seats on the mission, reserving one for “a St. Jude ambassador with direct ties to the mission.”

In March, he announced his crew, including Arceneaux, 29, who battled bone cancer as a child at St. Jude’s and was hired by the the hospital last spring. She will serve as the crew’s medical officer. The mission will make her the youngest American in space — beating NASA record-holder Sally Ride by over two years.

“My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel,” Arceneaux told the Associated Press in February. “It made me tough, and then also I think it really taught me to expect the unexpected and go along for the ride.”

Proctor, 51, is a community college educator in Tempe, Arizona. She nabbed her ticket to space by winning a contest held by Isaacman’s Shift4Shop eCommerce platform that sought inspirational entrepreneurs worthy of being “elevated to the stars.” Proctor is an analog astronaut whose father worked at the NASA tracking station during the Apollo missions.

SpaceX Insp4 Cupola

The second of Isaacman’s donated seats went to Sembroski, 41, a former Air Force missileman from Everett, Washington.

Sembroski’s friend initially won the sweepstakes that raked in more than 72,000 donations totaling $13 million to St. Jude’s, according to Space.com. But Sembroski was tapped to replace his pal, who declined to fly for personal reasons.

Both the Dragon crew capsule and the reusable Falcon 9 rocket have flown before, according to Space.com. A backup launch date is set for Sept. 16.

The crew will orbit the Earth for three days before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Inspiration4’s goal is to inspire humanity to support St. Jude here on earth while also seeing new possibilities for human spaceflight,” Isaacman said in March. “Each of these outstanding crew members embodies the best of humanity, and I am humbled to lead them on this historic and purposeful mission and the adventure of a lifetime.”

Last month, SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, sent a shipment of ants, avocados and a human-sized robotic arm to the seven astronauts at the International Space Station.

This article originally appeared at nypost.com on Sep 5, 2021.


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Linux Foundation, DARPA collaborate on open source for 5G

Linux Foundation, DARPA collaborate on open source for 5G

Posted Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021 by Jeff Safire

by Monica Alleven | Feb 17, 2021 | Fierce Wireless

Networking graphic

The first project under the US GOV OPS umbrella will be the Open Programmable Secure- 5G (OPS-5G) program, currently being formed with the help of DARPA, the U.S. Navy and others.(Pixabay)

The Linux Foundation has signed an agreement with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to establish an open source project for the U.S. government.

The agreement calls for the Linux Foundation and DARPA to work together in the areas of 5G, edge, artificial intelligence, standards, programmability and IoT, among other technologies.

According to a press release, the project will launch as a standard open source project with neutral governance and a charter similar to other projects within the Linux Foundation. It’s also leveraging existing network open source projects and community efforts in the form of SDN/NFV, disaggregation and cloud native.

“DARPA’s use of open source software in the Open Programmable Secure 5G (OPS-5G) program leverages transparency, portability and open access inherent in this distribution model,” said Jonathan Smith, DARPA Information Innovation Office Program Manager, in a statement. “Transparency enables advanced software tools and systems to be applied to the code base, while portability and open access will result in decoupling hardware and software ecosystems, enabling innovations by more entities across more technology areas.”

This article first appeared on FierceWireless.com on Feb 17, 2021.


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Zoom to lift 40-minute meeting limit on Thanksgiving for longer family hangouts

Zoom to lift 40-minute meeting limit on Thanksgiving for longer family hangouts

Posted Friday, Nov 13, 2020 by Jeff Safire

As COVID-19 makes it difficult and risky to travel

By Nick Statt, The Verge

Zoom said earlier this week it would lift its standard 40-minute limit on free video chats for Thanksgiving Day to make it easier to spend time with friends and family virtually on the US holiday. Given spikes in COVID-19 cases nationwide and various new and existing restrictions on interstate travel, this year’s Thanksgiving will be an unprecedented affair likely involving a mix of in-person and virtual hangouts using videoconferencing software like Zoom.

The 40-minute limit has been one of the key restrictions of Zoom’s Basic plan throughout the pandemic, often forcing groups to restart a chat after the time limit is up and causing a fair amount of friction in keeping a conversation or virtual gathering going. Many of Zoom’s competitors have imposed similar restrictions, including Google Meet (60-minute limit) and Cisco Webex (50-minute limit), and all providers charge extra for enterprise-grade plans that remove the limit and expand the number of participants allowed.

But Zoom, which emerged as the face of the videoconferencing boom the pandemic created earlier this year, stands to benefit if it removes this limit, even just for a day, on a high-traffic holiday like Thanksgiving. That way, it can become a destination for virtual celebrations and further establish its platform as a way to connect with others during the pandemic.

It’s only a temporary removal of the 40-minute restriction, lasting from midnight on Thanksgiving Day (November 26th) to 6AM ET on November 27th. But the fact that Zoom is doing this at all — and that it will likely go a long way in helping users employ video chatting as a substitute for a traditional family gathering — speaks volumes about the bizarre and uncharted territory we’re entering this holiday season as COVID-19 continues to rage in the US.

It’s also a good reminder that, given the grim coronavirus forecasts from health experts and the current surges in positive results in virtually every state in the US, it’s a better idea to rely on technology to fill the gap than it is to take the risk of traveling during riskier times of the year like Thanksgiving.

This article appeared first at The Verge on Nov 13, 2020.


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