Current and Future Trends Archive

Intel to offer integrated graphics fit for newer video games

Article

Intel Xe graphics strategy slide courtesy of Intel Corporation

Intel’s GPU strategy is rooted in Xe, a single architecture that can scale from teraflops to petaflops. At Architecture Day in August 2020, Intel Chief Architect Raja Koduri, Intel fellows and architects provided details on the progress Intel is making. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Intel’s Xe Graphics Might Mean You No Longer Need a Separate Graphics Card to Play Games | Gizmodo Australia

Intel Xe Graphics: Release Date, Specs, Everything We Know | Tom’s Hardware

From the horse’s mouth

Intel

Intel Delivers Advances Across 6 Pillars of Technology, Powering Our Leadership Product Roadmap (Press Release)

My Comments

When one thinks of Intel’s graphics processor technology, they often think of the integrated graphics processors that use system RAM memory to “paint” the images you see on the screen. Typically these graphics processors are not considered as great as dedicated graphics processors of the like NVIDIA or AMD offer which use their own display memory.

Such processors are often associated with everyday business and personal computing needs like Web browsing, office productivity applications or consuming video content. They could be useful for basic photo editing or playing casual or “retro” games that aren’t graphically demanding, but wouldn’t do well with high-demand tasks like advanced photo/video editing or today’s video-game blockbusters.

Integrated graphics technology is typically preferred for use within laptops, tablets and 2-in-1s as an everyday graphics option for tasks like word-processing, Web surfing, basic video playback and the like. This is  especially because these computers need to run in a power-efficient and thermal-efficient manner, due to them being designed for portability and to be run on battery power. Let’s not forget that laptops with discrete graphics also implement integrated graphics for use as a power-efficient “lean-burn” option.

This same graphics technology also appeals to low-profile desktop computers including some “all-in-ones” and “next unit of computing” systems due to the chipsets yielding less heat and allowing for the compact design.

But typically most regular computers running desktop operating systems are nowadays specified with at least 8Gb of system RAM memory, if not 16Gb. Here, it may be inconsequential about the amount of memory used by the integrated graphics for some graphics tasks using the computer’s own screen. Let’s not forget that the Full HD (1080p) screen resolution is often recommended for a laptop’s integrated screen due to it being a power-efficient specification.

Intel has defined its new Xe graphics infrastructure platform that will be part of the Tiger Lake computing platform to be more capable than this. These GPU chips will maintain the same physical die size as prior Intel integrated graphics chips so as to avoid the need to reengineer computer designs when a silicon refresh to Tiger Lake is needed.

The more powerful Intel Xe variants will be offered with more powerful Tiger Lake CPUs. It will be similar to the current-issue Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics processors, and will be pitched for content creators. But I would say that these will simply appear in products similar to the former “multimedia laptops” that have increased multimedia performance.

One of the design goals for the Intel Xe LP (low power / low performance) integrated GPUs, especially the higher-performance variants is to play a graphically-rich AAA action game at Full HD resolution with a good frame rate. Being able to play such a game at Full HD that way would cater towards the preference for Full HD displays within 13”-15” laptops and similar portable computers due to this display specification being more power efficient than 4K UHD displays for that screen-size range.

A question I would raise is whether the frame rate would approach the standard of 60 Hz or how much of a power load this places on the computer’s batteries. As well, one would also need to know how much of the game’s “eye-candy” is being enabled during play on an Intel Xe LP integrated graphics setup.

Intel Xe-HP graphics chipset presentation slide courtesy of Intel Corporation

Xe-HP is the industry’s first multitiled, highly scalable, high-performance architecture, providing data center-class, rack-level media performance, GPU scalability and AI optimization. It covers a dynamic range of compute from one tile to two and four tiles, functioning like a multicore GPU. At Architecture Day in August 2020, Intel Chief Architect Raja Koduri, Intel fellows and architects provided details on the progress Intel is making. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Intel will also intend to offer a dedicated graphics processor in the form of the Xe HP chipset codenamed DG1. It will be their first dedicated GPU that Intel has offered since 1998-2000 with a graphics card that they partnered for use with Pentium III and Celeron CPUs. This GPU will be capable of doing ray-tracing amongst other high-end gaming activities and it could be interesting to see how this chipset stands up to AMD or NVIDIA performance gaming GPUs.

The Intel Xe HP graphics platform will primarily be pitched at data center and server applications. But Intel is intending to offer a “client-computing” variant of this high-performance graphics platform as the Xe HPG. Here, this will be pitched at enthusiasts and gamers who value performance. But I am not sure what form factors this will appear in, be it a mobile dedicated GPU for performance-focused laptops and “all-in-ones” or small external graphics modules, or as a desktop expansion card for that gaming rig or “card-cage” external graphics module.

But Intel would need to offer this GPU not just as a “contract install” unit for computer builders to supply on a line-fit basis, but offer it through the “build-it-yourself” / computer-aftermarket sectors that serve hobbyist “gaming-rig” builders and the external graphics module sector. This sector is where NVIDIA and AMD are dominating within.

The accompanying software will implement adaptive graphics optimisation approaches including “there-and-then” performance tuning in order to cater towards new high-performance software needs. This would be seen as avoiding the need to update graphics driver software to run the latest games.

It could be seen as an attempt by Intel to cover the spread between entry-level graphics performance and mid-tier graphics performance. This could be a chance for Intel to make a mark for themselves when it comes to all-Intel computers pitched for everyday or modest computing expectations.

I also see Intel’s Xe graphics processor products as a way for them to be a significant third force when it comes to higher-performance “client computer” graphics processing technology. This is with NVIDA and AMD working on newer graphics silicon platforms and could definitely “liven up” the market there.

But it could lead to one or two of these companies placing a lot of effort on the high-end graphics technology space including offering such technology to the aftermarket. This is while one or two maintain an effort towards supplying entry-level and mid-tier graphics solutions primarily as original-equipment specification or modest aftermarket options.

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Zoom now extends to popular smart-display platforms

Articles

Zoom (MacOS) multi-party video conference screenshot

Zoom video conferences will soon be able to take place on smart displays

Zoom Meetings Coming Soon to Smart Displays | Droid Life

Zoom video calls come to smart displays from Google, Amazon, and Facebook | Android Authority

Zoom expands to every major smart display as coronavirus keeps us home | CNet

From the borse’s mouth

Zoom

Zoom Expands to Smart Displays at Home (Blog Post)

My Comments

Amazon Echo Show in kitchen press picture courtesy of Amazon

.. like the Amazon Echo Show

The COVID-19 coronavirus plague is increasing our use of Zoom as a multiparty videoconferencing platform especially for social and community purposes. This is thanks to measures in place to encourage social distancing and reduce travel to curb the spread of this virus. Zoom’s trademark for this service even ended up as a generic trademark word for a any multiparty videoconference just like one often referred to a common ballpoint pen as a biro.

But Zoom is primarily offered on most regular-computer and mobile-device platforms like Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. This is because these devices have integrated or accessory Webcams supported by their operating system and can take on software from third-party developers.

JBL Link VIew Press image courtesy of Harman International

… or Google-Assistant devices like this JBL Link View smart display

Recently Zoom tried out the idea of a dedicated videoconferencing appliance in the form of a 27” group videophone that can also be a display screen for a computer, TV set-top box or similar video peripheral. It is similar to previous efforts by smart-TV and video-peripheral vendors to provide Skype support if the device is equipped with an expensive accessory Webcam offered by the manufacturer.

But Zoom took a better step to partner with Google, Amazon and Facebook to integrate their platform in to the Amazon Echo Show smart displays, Facebook Portal smart display and smart displays running the Google Assistant (Home) platform. Here, these devices have the hardware that is needed to make or take videocalls i.e. a camera, microphone, screen and speakers. As well, the three vendors are more supportive of programming these devices to take on additional functionality.

These devices have some sort of videophone functionality built in to them through support for some other videoconference platforms: Skype and Amazon’s IP-telephony platform in the case of Amazon’s Echo Show devices; Google’s Duo and Meet in the case of Google-powered devices; and Facebook Messenger with its Rooms function as well as GoToMeeting, BlueJeans and WebEx in the case of the Facebook Portal. The addition of Zoom doesn’t displace the platform vendor’s own products or products the vendor has already licensed from other partners. As well, it recognises that different people and organisations tend to prefer working with particular videoconference platforms over others.

The Zoom software is engineered to take advantage of what the platforms offer including tying in with the platform’s native calendar function if you have linked your calendar to it, or joining a videoconference at your voice command. In the case of the Facebook device, you can tap the screen to join a meeting. All classes of Zoom account can be bound to these devices so you can use the account paid for by your work or school or a personal one you set up for free for social use.

This function will start to appear on most Facebook Portal devices in September then roll out across all the other smart-display platforms over October and November.

But why allow Zoom and similar videoconferences on a smart display or similar appliance? One reason is to have one device dedicated to the videoconference while you use another device to take notes or read supporting material for business, education or religion use cases. It may also be about the desire for an “appliance-simple” approach for making and taking videocalls, something that may be desired for older users who may find the process of creating or joining a multiparty videoconference daunting. As well, there is the encouragement to use an endpoint device that fits in with where it will be used such as the small smart displays that are typically installed in a kitchen or similar room.

What need to eventually happen is for Zoom and similar multiparty videoconferencing platforms to be part of connected-TV / set-top box platforms typically used for viewing Netflix or similar video-on-demand services on the big-screen TV. This is as long as the TV or set-top box can work with an accessory Webcam. As well, the device has to support multiple videoconferencing platforms, especially the common ones; while each platform has to offer a user interface suitable for 10-foot “lean-back” operation.

Here, such implementations, when done right, can be about the use of a big-screen TV as a group videophone for situations where the whole household participates in a videoconference like the many Zoom-based family or community video “catch-ups”.

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Colour e-ink displays now appear as an e-reader product

Article PocketBook Color e-reader press image courtesy of Pocketbook

Pocketbook Color eReader Hands on Review | Good EReader

Pocketbook Color: eBook-Reader bekennt Farbe (Pocketbook Color: eBook reader shows its colours) | Computer Bild (German Language / Deutsche Sprache)

From the horse’s mouth

PocketBook

PocketBook Color – the Swiss brand will release a new e-reader with color screen (Press Release)

PocketBook Color (Product Page)

Video – Click or tap to play on YouTube

My Comments

An e-book reader available on the European market is existing as a commercially-available example of a colour e-ink display.

E-ink is a display technology that works in a similar manner to ink on paper and uses existing light. It only consumes power every time the display is refreshed thus making it more power-efficient. It also works well in bright sunlight due to it not being dependent on a light source that can be easily “washed out” by the sun. Its main application has been handheld e-book readers but it has been limited to black-and-white display.

There has been work taking place to have e-ink displays capable of displaying in colour. It has come through in the form of the E-Ink Kaleido colour display which uses the same e-ink technology.

This has manifested in the Pocketbook Color which is an e-reader that has a colour e-ink display.

This EUR€199 device uses a 6” e-ink touch screen capable of displaying 4096 colours, with a resolution of 1072×1448. There is also LED lighting so you can use this device in darker settings. For audio, it can handle AAC, Ogg Vorbis and MP3 files, which can be played through earphones or a Bluetooth-connected audio device.

It has 16Gb of internal storage and can use SDHC memory cards, not sure what size, with a maximum capacity of 32Gb. This handheld device weighs in at 160 grams, something that would be acceptable for that class of device.

For e-book readers, the colour display may be seen as legitimate for visual novels or books that have colour photos or illustrations. Businesses may see it appealing for distributing brochures and catalogues in an electronic format for offline reading. As well, where colour is used to differentiate or highlight text in a book the colour e-reader will come in to its own here. A classic example of this is are the “red-letter” Bibles where the words of Jesus Christ are written in red.

But I also see the idea of a colour e-ink display appealing to other applications like colour digital signage in use cases where battery power is preferred. Examples of these would include outdoors use or freestanding signs. Or it could be about working towards making e-ink as a viable display alternative for laptops, tablets and smartphones where power efficiency is desired.

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Study confirms content-recommendation engines can further personal biases

YouTube recommendation list

Content recommendation engines on the likes of YouTube can easily lead viewers down a content rabbit hole if they are not careful

Article

This website lets you see how conspiracy theorists fall down the YouTube rabbit hole | Mashable

My Comments

Increasingly a lot of online services, be they social media services, news-aggregation portals, video streaming services and the like, are using algorithms to facilitate the exposure of undiscovered content to their users. It is part of their vision to effectively create a customised user experience for each person who uses these services and is part of an Internet-driven concept of “mass customisation”.

Those of you who use Netflix may find that your newsletter that they send you has movie recommendations that are based on what you are watching. You will also see on the Netflix screen a “recommendations” playlist with movies that are similar to what you have been watching through that service.

A very common example of this is YouTube with its recommended-content lists such as what to view next or what channels to subscribe to. Here a lot of the content that is viewed on YouTube is the result of viewers using the service’s personalised content recommendations.

The issue being raised regarding these algorithms is how they can perpetuate a personal “thought bubble”. It is even though there is other material available on the online service that may not mesh with that “bubble”. Typically this is through surfacing content that amplifies what the viewer has seen previously and can pander to their own biases.

An online experiment created by a Web developer and funded by the Mozilla Foundation explores this concept further in context with YouTube. This experiment, called “TheirTube”, emulates the YouTube content-discovery and viewing habits of six different personalities like conspiracists, conservative thinkers and climate deniers when they view content related to their chosen subjects.

Here, it shows up what is recommended in relationship to content to view next or channels to subscribe to for these different personalities and shows how the content recommendation engine can be used to underscore or amplify particular viewpoints.

It is a common problem associated with the artificial-intelligence / machine-learning approach associated with content recommendation that these services use. This is due to the end-user “seeding” the algorithms with the content that they actually interact with or the logical content sources they actually follow. Here, the attributes associated with the content effectively determine the “rules” the algorithm works on.

If you are trying to maintain some sort of critical thinking and use content services like YouTube for informational content, you may have to rely less on the content-recommendation engine that they use for finding new content. You may find it useful to manually seek out content with a contrasting viewpoint to avoid the creation of a “thought bubble”.

As well, if you follow the online-service’s recommendations in addition to running contrasting content through the online service, you may be in a position to make the content recommendation engine bring up varied content.

The idea of content recommendation engines that are based on what you choose can allow us to be easily cocooned in a content bubble that perpetuates personal biases.

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WhatsApp to allow users to search the Web regarding content in their messages

WhatsApp Search The Web infographic courtesy of WhatsApp

WhatsApp to allow you to search the Web for text related to viral messages posted on that instant messaging app

Article

WhatsApp Pilots ‘Search the Web’ Tool for Fact-Checking Forwarded Messages | Gizmodo Australia

From the horse’s mouth

WhatsApp

Search The Web (blog post)

My Comments

WhatsApp is taking action to highlight the fact that fake news and disinformation don’t just get passed through the Social Web. Here, they are highlighting the use of instant messaging and, to some extent, email as a vector for this kind of traffic which has been as old as the World Wide Web.

They have improved on their previous efforts regarding this kind of traffic initially by using a “double-arrow” icon on the left of messages that have been forwarded five or more times.

But now they are trialling an option to allow users to Google the contents of a forwarded message to check their veracity. One of the ways to check a news item’s veracity is whether one or more news publishers or broadcasters that you trust are covering this story and what kind of light they are shining on it.

Here, the function manifests as a magnifying-glass icon that conditionally appears near forwarded messages. If you click or tap on this icon, you start a browser session that shows the results of a pre-constructed Google-search Weblink created by WhatsApp. It avoids the need to copy then paste the contents of a forwarded message from WhatsApp to your favourite browser running your favourite search engine or to the Google app’s search box. This is something that can be very difficult with mobile devices.

But does this function break end-to-end encryption that WhatsApp implements for the conversations? No, because it works on the cleartext that you see on your screen and is simply creating the specially-crafted Google-search Weblink that is passed to whatever software handles Weblinks by default.

An initial pilot run is being made available in Italy, Brazil, Ireland (Eire), UK, Mexico, Spain and the USA. It will be part of the iOS and Android native clients and the messaging service’s Web client.

WhatsApp could evolve this function further by allowing the user to use different search engines like Bing or DuckDuckGo. But they would have to know of any platform-specific syntax requirements for each of these platforms and it may be a feature that would have to be rolled out in a piecemeal fashion.

They could offer the “search the Web” function as something that can be done for any message, rather than only for forwarded messages. I see it as being relevant for people who use the group-chatting functionality that WhatsApp offers because people can use a group chat as a place to post that rant that has a link to a Web resource of question. Or you may have a relative or friend who simply posts questionable information as part of their conversation with you.

At least WhatsApp are adding features to their chat platform’s client software to make it easer to put the brakes on disinformation spreading through it. This could he something that could be investigated by other instant-messaging platforms including SMS/MMS text clients.

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Microsoft to allow Android apps to run with Windows

Computer - smartphone interlink concept

You can soon run your Android phone’s apps on your Windows computer but they will run in place on the smartphone with your Windows computer being the user interface

Article

Soon launch Android apps on Windows 10 PC via Your Phone app, as Samsung & Microsoft collaborate | Windows Central

Microsoft Your Phone’s Android apps access feature will be available for all Android smartphones eventually | Windows Central

My Comments

Most desktop-operating-system vendors and other third parties are implementing software that interlinks mobile-platform devices, especially smartphones, with your regular desktop or laptop computer.

It is capitalising on the fact that the user interface and software that a regular computer running a desktop operating system has is more capable for making your work presentable, compared to what a smartphone or mobile-platform tablet offers. But your smartphone or mobile-platform tablet can earn its keep for acquiring content for your magnum opus like taking notes, taking quick photos or browsing the Web for material.

This is typically to allow you to gain access to your mobile device’s data or use your mobile device’s native communications ability from your regular computer’s screen and keyboard. Some of these platforms may even allow you to start viewing a Website on one device then continue viewing it on the other device; or even implement a cross-device “clipboard” so you can copy something you saw on your mobile device then paste it in to something you are editing on your regular computer.

But Microsoft have taken this concept further by working on the “Your Phone” interlink software to allow you to run software installed on your Android smartphone from your Windows 10 regular computer. For example, you could effectively manage your Instagram presence using your Android smartphone’s Instagram client but working it with your Windows laptop’s screen and keyboard. Or you could kill time during a long process on your Windows computer by running a “guilty-pleasure” casual game that you normally play on your Android phone but have its user interface happening on the regular computer.

Effectively, this arrangement runs the software on your Android phone but has your Windows-based computer acting as a “terminal” that is providing input and output for that phone.  It is based on Microsoft’s experience with Remote Desktop Protocol a.k.a Terminal Services which allows one Windows computer to effectively control another Windows computer.

Some questions may come about like transferring files between your computer’s Windows file system and your smartphone’s Android file system for uploading to the app, something that will be considered important for Instagram users who upload video content.

When this function is released as part of the next major feature update for Windows 10, it will initially be able to only work with some Samsung devices. But Microsoft will intend to have it fully available across all of the Android-based devices that can run the “Your Phone” Windows interconnector software.

Here, Microsoft is underscoring the idea of allowing “open-platform” mobile-computing and regular-computing devices to interlink with each other no matter the operating system. This is even to the extent of running mobile-platform apps “in place” on the mobile device.

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A call to attention now exists regarding videoconferencing platform security

Article

Zoom (MacOS) multi-party video conference screenshot

A call to action is now taking place regarding the data security and user privacy of video conferencing platforms

Privacy watchdogs urge videoconferencing services to boost privacy protections | We Live Security

From the horse’s mouth

Officer Of The Privacy Commissioner Of Canada

Joint statement on global privacy expectations of Video Teleconferencing companies (English / Français)

Press Release (English, Français)

Office Of The Australian Information Commissioner

Global privacy expectations of video teleconference providers – with open letter

Federal Data Protection And Information Commissioner (Switzerland)

Audio And Video Conferencing Systems – Privacy Resource factsheet (English, Français, Deutsch, Italiano)

Open Letter (PDF)

Information Commissioner’s Office (United Kingdom)

Global privacy expectations of video teleconference providers

Open Letter (PDF)

My Comments

Thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus plague, we are making increased use of various videoconferencing platforms for our work, education, healthcare, religious and social reasons.

This has been facilitated through the use of applications like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and HouseParty. It also includes “over-the-top” text-chat and Internet-telephony apps like Apple’s Facetime, Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber for this kind of communication, thanks to them opening up or having established multi-party audio/video conferencing or “party-line” communications facilities.

Security issues have been raised by various experts in the field about these platforms with some finding that there are platforms that aren’t fit for purpose in today’s use cases thanks to gaping holes in the platform’s security and privacy setup. In some cases, the software hasn’t been maintained in a manner as to prevent security risks taking place.

As well, there have been some high-profile “Zoombombing” attacks on video conferences in recent times. This is where inappropriate, usually pornographic, images have been thrown up in to these video conferences to embarrass the participants with one of these occurring during a court hearing and one disrupting an Australian open forum about reenergising tourism.

This has led to the public data-protection and privacy authorities in Australia, Canada, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Switzerland and the United Kingdom writing an open letter to Microsoft, Cisco, Zoom, HouseParty and Google addressing these issues. I also see this relevant to any company who is running a text-based “chat” or similar service that offers group-chatting or party-line functionality or adapts their IP-based one-to-one audio/video telephony platform for multi-party calls.

Some of these issues are very similar to what has been raised over the last 10 years thanks to an increase in our use of online services and cloud computing in our daily lives.This included data security under a highly-mobile computing environment with a heterogeny of computing devices and online services; along with the issue of data sovereignty in a globalised business world.

One of the key issues is data security. This is about having proper data-security safeguards in place such as end-to-end encryption for communications traffic; improved access control like strong passwords, two-factor authentication or modern device-based authentication approaches like device PINs and biometrics.

There will also be the requirement to factor in handling of sensitive data like telehealth appointments between medical/allied-health specialists and their patients. Similarly data security in the context of videoconferencing will also encompass the management of a platform’s abilities to share files, Weblinks, secondary screens and other media beyond the video-audio feed.

As well, a “secure by design and default” approach should prohibit the ability to share resources including screenviews unless the person managing the videoconference gives the go-ahead for the person offering the resource. If there is a resource-preview mechanism, the previews should only be available to the person in charge of the video conference.

Another key issue is user privacy including business confidentiality. There will be a requirement for a videoconferencing platform to have “privacy by design and default”. It is similar to the core data-security operating principle of least privilege. It encompasses strong default access controls along with features like announcing new participants when they join a multi-party video conference; use of waiting rooms, muting the microphone and camera when you join a video conference with you having to deliberately enable them to have your voice and video part of the conference; an option to blur out backgrounds or use substitute backgrounds; use of substitute still images like account avatars in lieu of a video feed when the camera is muted; and the like.

There will also be a requirement to allow businesses to comply with user-privacy obligations like enabling them to seek users’ express consent before participating. It also includes a requirement for the platform to minimise the capture of data to what is necessary to provide the service. That may include things like limiting unnecessary synchronsing of contact lists for example.

Another issue is for the platforms to to “know their audience” or know what kind of users are using their platform. This is for them to properly provide these services in a privacy-focused way. It applies especially to use of the platform by children and vulnerable user groups; or where the platform is being used in a sensitive use setting like education, health or religion.

As well it encompasses where a videoconferencing platform is used or has its data handled within a jurisdiction that doesn’t respect fundamental human rights and civil liberties. This risk will increase more as countries succumb to populist rule and strongman politics and they forget the idea of these rights. In this case, participants face an increased exposure to various risks associated with these jurisdictions especially if the conversation is about a controversial topic or activity or they are a member of a people group targeted by the oppressive regime.

Another issue being raised is transparency and fairness. Here this is about what data is being collected by the platform, how it is being used, whom it is shared with including the jurisdictions they are based in along with why it is being collected. It doesn’t matter whether it is important or not. The transparency about data use within the platform also affects what happens whenever the platform is evolved and the kind of impact any change would have.

The last point is to provide each of the end-users effective control over their experience with the videoconferencing platforms. Here, an organisation or user group may determine that a particular videoconferencing platform like Zoom or Skype is the order of the day for their needs. But the users need to be able to know whether location data is being collected or whether the videoconference is tracking their engagement, or whether it is being recorded or transcribed.

I would add to this letter the issue of the platform’s user-friendliness from provisioning new users through all stages of establishing and managing a videoconference. This is of concern with videoconference platforms being used by young children or older-generation people who have had limited exposure to newer technologies. It also includes efforts to make the platform accessible to all abilities.

This is relevant to the security and user privacy of a videoconferencing platform due to simplifying the ability for the videoconference hosts and participants to maintain effective control of their experience. Here, if a platform’s user interface is difficult to use safely. videoconference hosts and participants will end up opting for insecure setups this making themselves vulnerable.

For example, consistent and less-confusing function icons or colours would be required for the software’s controls; along with proper standardised  “mapping” of controls on hardware devices to particular functions. Or there could be a user-interface option that always exposes the essential call-management controls at the bottom of the user’s screen during a videocall.

This issue has come to my mind due to regularly participating in a Skype videoconference session with my church’s Bible-study group. Most of the members of that group were of older generations who weren’t necessarily technology-literate. Here, I have had to explain what icons to click or tap on to enable the camera or microphone during the videoconference and even was starting it earlier to “walk” participants through using Skype. Here, it would be about calling out buttons on the screen that have particular icons for particular functions like enabling the camera or microphone or selecting the front or back camera on their device.

At least the public-service efforts have come about to raise the consistent security and privacy problems associated with the increased use of videoconferencing software.

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Nearby Share to be coming very shortly to an Android device near you

Articles

Transfer data between two smartphones

Wirelessly transferring data between two devices in the same space – now for Android

Google Officially Launches Nearby Sharing | DroidLife

Android’s ‘Nearby Share’ file sharing feature is finally launching | The Verge

From the horse’s mouth

Google

Instantly share files with people around you with Nearby Share (Blog Post)

Support Page

Video – Tap or click to play on YouTube

My Comments

Google has been doing work on its own across-the-room data-transfer technology, now known as Nearby Share. It is the Android platform’s answer to Apple’s AirDrop feature that many iOS users are using to “beam” photos to other users.

There have been previous attempts on the Android platform to offer this feature like Bluetooth Object Push Profile and NFC-based technologies like Android Beam.

But this will work in a true-wireless approach with support for Bluetooth, WebRTC and peer-to-peer Wi-Fi technologies. That means it isn’t dependent on a functioning Internet connection for it to run.

Your Android phone or tablet will need to have Android 6.0 or newer and the functionality will be delivered as part of the Google Play Services update. This means that it is updated independently of the operating system codebase, thus answering the problem associated with a lot of Android devices where manufacturers and carriers won’t support the device two years after it is launched.

This feature will have privacy-focused options like anonymous transfer and the ability for users to limit their discovery to only their contacts or only to selected contacts. As well, recipients don’t see the actual material about to be transferred so they don’t get shocked by someone pushing out unwanted material.

A good approach to handling AirDrop, Google Nearby Share and similar across-the-room data-transfer setups in a safe manner is to keep your devices undiscoverable to others. Then, when you have confirmed face-to-face that you are intending to use this function, then you make your device discoverable in order to receive the content.

It is available for ChromeOS but will be arriving as part of other platform primarily through software that Google develops for that platform. But there needs to be further work on having true federation for these across-the-room data-transfer protocols in a manner that doesn’t necessitate the installation of extra application software.

For Android users, Google Nearby Share is a step in the right direction to having across-the-room data transfer happening on that platform.

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AVM moves towards value-priced Wi-Fi 6 with the FritzBox 7530 AX

Article – German Language / Deutsche Sprache

AVM FritzBox 7530 press image courtesy of AVM GmBH

AVM to launch the Wi-Fi 6 version of the FritzBox 7530 modem router in Germany as the FritzBox 7530 AX – an affordable Wi-Fi 6 option

AVM Fritz!Box 7530 AX kann vorbestellt werden | Caschy’s Blog

Das ist die neue AVM Fritz!Box 7530 AX | Caschy’s Blog

My Comments

This year is being the year where some home-network hardware manufacturers are offering Wi-Fi routers equipped with Wi-Fi 6 to the mainstream user segment. This includes some of these devices being offered either at an affordable price or as carrier-supplied equipment when you sign up to Internet service. As well some of the devices being offered are infact modem routers that have an integrated modem for the broadband service.

Now AVM has joined the party by offering the FritzBox 7530 AX home Internet gateway router initially to the German market. This unit, which will retail there from 1 September for approximately EUR€169 is based on the FritzBox 7530 modem-router family.

But its Wi-Fi access point is compliant to Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax) wireless-networking standards and uses a 2-stream approach for each waveband. This means it will offer 1200Mb/s data transfer speed on the 5GHz waveband and 600Mb/s on the legacy 2.4GHz waveband. It has a VDSL modem along with the ability to have one of the four Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports as a WAN (Internet service) port for fibre-optic connectivity.

There is VoIP capability with a built-in analogue telephony adaptor for legacy handsets along with a DECT base station for DECT cordless handsets. It supports DECT-ULE-based home automation with a primary intention to work with AVM’s DECT-ULE home-automation devices, namely their smart plugs and thermostatic radiator valves.

Of course, there will be the secure reliable home-network expectations that AVM is know for. This includes keeping these devices automatically updated with the latest firmware, something that was considered out of the ordinary for this class of device.

What is being highlighted is the idea of more companies providing Wi-Fi 6 as part of a commodity-priced home-network router, which will lead to this wireless-network technology becoming more ubiquitous.

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Alfaview brings forth a German competitor to the world of videoconferencing

Article – German Language / Deutsche Sprache

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Germany now yields its own videoconferencing platform

Alfaview: Sichere Videochat-Software aus Deutschland (Alfaview : Secure Videochat Software from Germany) | Computer Bild

From the horse’s mouth

Alfaview

Home Page (English / Deutsch)

My Comments

A German company has fielded a videoconferencing packaging which is Europe’s answer to what Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams is about. This is part of a variety of efforts by European governments and businesses to create credible mainstream IT service alternatives to what the USA and China are offering while respecting European values. One example is efforts by Germany to create a public data-processing cloud that is within that country’s borders as part of leading an effort towards a Europe-wide public cloud.

Alfaview screenshot press image of Alfaview

This is in the form of Alfaview which provides a Zoom-style experience

This company, Alfatraining Bildungszentrum GmbH which is based in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württenburg, Germany, has released the Alfaview video-conferencing platform. Here, this platform places privacy and European sovereignty first in the way it is engineered.

The Alfaview platform’s servers are based in Germany and the company heavily underscores the spirit of European values especially with the GDPR directive. Videoconferencing data is encrypted using TLS/AES256 protocols during conversations. But they can allow the use of non-German services as long as they are in the EU, again underscoring European values. There will also be the ability for people to join the platform from all over the world, thus avoiding a problem with European technologies and services where they have limited useability from areas beyond Europe.

As well, it answers the weaknesses that are associated with the videoconferencing establishment when it comes to offering this kind of service for consumers and small businesses. This encompasses Zoom not being all that secure, Microsoft not maintaining Skype and focusing the Teams videoconferencing package just for big business. As well, Facebook who has come on the bandwagon with Messenger Rooms is not all that respected when it comes to security and privacy.

Alfaview runs natively on Windows, MacOS, Linux (Debian package), iOS and will soon be ported for Android. But they could simply reuse the Linux package as a code base for reaching out to ChromeOS and Android platforms. As well, I am not sure if the iOS version is optimised for the iPads which is something I consider of importance for mobile platforms that have tablet devices because these devices have a strong appeal to multi-party video conferences.

There is a free package for individuals and families to use which provides for one room that has 50 participants. As well, Alfaview has a Free Plus package pitched towards the education and non-profit sector. Here, this one has most of the features that the corporate package has like 40 rooms per account with 50 participants. There is also the ability to run 10 concurrent breakout groups per room.

This is in conjunction to various paid plans for ordinary businesses to buy in to for their videoconferencing needs. Alfaview even provides the ability to offer the software in a “white-label” form for companies to brand themselves.

But what I see of the Alfaview approach is that the Europeans are offering a Zoom-style service respecting their values and competing with what the Silicon Valley establishment are offering.

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