Amazon’s support for the Matter smart home platform is coming into focus. Previously known as Project Chip (Connected Home over IP), Matter comes from the Connectivity Standards Alliance, a group made up of device manufacturers like Amazon, Google, Apple and Samsung. It’s meant to standardize voice assistant support across multiple devices, as well as to make it easier to connect smart home gadgets to your home network. During its Alexa Live developer presentation, Amazon said that practically every plug-in Echo speaker will support Matter, save for the first-generation Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Tap, The Verge reports.
It’s unclear when the Echo support will actually arrive, but at this point we’re expecting Matter devices to launch later this year. Google has already declared strong commitment for the platform — so much so that we’ve speculated it could help unite the fragmented smart home ecosystem. Google devices supporting the Thread standard, like the Nest Wi-Fi and Nest Hub Max, will also work as Matter connection points (AKA hubs). But as The Verge notes, it’s unclear if any Echo devices will work as Matter hubs.
“The Matter mark will serve as a seal of approval, taking the guesswork out of the purchasing process and allowing businesses and consumers alike to choose from a wider array of brands to create secure and connected homes and buildings,” the CSA said in May after the Matter rebrand.
August 2021 Android security update rolls out to supported Pixel phones – XDA Developers
Google consistently publishes a new Android Security Bulletin on the first Monday of every month, and they’ve done so for nearly every month in the last few years. Thus, it’s no surprise that today, Google published the Android Security Bulletin for August 2021, though the company did have one big surprise for us that’s separate from its monthly Android security update.
August 2021 Security Update Bulletin
You can view the Android Security Bulletin for the month of August 2021 here, but as always, don’t expect to find detailed write-ups of every patched vulnerability. The latest Android security update fixes numerous bugs ranging in severity from high to critical, with many of the bugs affecting closed-source vendor components from Qualcomm, MediaTek, and others. Devices running patch level 2021-08-01 do not contain fixes for these closed-source vendor components, but those devices running patch level 2021-08-05 do. For more information on how the monthly Android security update process works, we recommend reading our explainer available here.
Pixel Update Bulletin/Functional Update
In addition to patching the vulnerabilities affecting all Android devices, the August 2021 Android security update also patches a few issues exclusively affecting Google’s own Pixel phones. These are documented in the Pixel Update Bulletin for the month of August 2021, which can be viewed here.
Today’s update doesn’t bring the Android 12 codebase to Pixel phones, but we can expect that next month’s update will be the big one. The update rolling out to supported Pixel phones today will feature the 2021-08-05 patch level and has the following build number:
Pixel 3 (XL): RQ3A.210805.001.A1
Pixel 3a (XL): RQ3A.210805.001.A1
Pixel 4 (XL): RQ3A.210805.001.A1
Pixel 4a: RQ3A.210805.001.A1
Pixel 4a (5G): RQ3A.210805.001.A1
Pixel 5: RQ3A.210805.001.A1
Besides the security issues mentioned in the Pixel Update Bulletin, the August 2021 update also includes a fix to prevent the accidental triggering of the Google Assistant.
The August 2021 Android security update is rolling out now for all supported Pixel phones, but you can skip the wait by sideloading the OTA file or flashing the latest factory image.
If you own another device, you’ll have to wait for your device OEM or carrier to roll out the update. That could take days or weeks depending on the OEM, though some like Samsung have already begun to roll out the update.
Forget The MacBook Pro, Apple Has Something Bigger Planned – Forbes
Apple’s MacBook laptops are on a tear, with record sales announced in the recent earnings call. The move to its own ARM-based processor has unlocked a flurry of purchases. But if you’re thinking of buying a MacBook Pro, you might want to look at what Apple has planned for the next step before getting out your wallet.
Putting aside the apparent design flaw that has users of the 2020 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air update reporting spontaneous display cracks, there are some significant reasons to hold off on buying a new MacBook Pro, no matter the special offers and back to school bundles that are no doubt on their way.
The first is to realise that, for all of the inclusion of the Apple Silicon processor, the current MacBook Pro M1 laptops are the low-end laptops. Just as with the recent Intel MacBook Pros, the line has a clear division between ‘top-end’ and ‘low-end’ specs. The Pro laptops that went on sale at the end of last year are squarely in the ‘low-end’ of the market.
If you’re looking for the ‘high-end’ models, they are still to be launched. The nebulous “in the next few months” is suggested by many, which puts them in the traditional late October slot Tim Cook’s team have become fond of for the laptop launches.
Then there’s the design. The current MacBook Pro is using a design that, while current, is expected to be depreciated with the launch of the new laptops. The first Apple Silicon machines maintained exactly the same look and feel on the outside, no doubt to help consumers stay comfortable with the brand as the architecture change took place under the keyboard.
Now Apple has the chance to bring new design trends to the platform, to rework the bezels, the keyboard, the trackpad, the external dimensions, and no doubt try and make it all a little bit thinner.
Of course that’s not the biggest visual change. More than the new design, the next MacBook Pro discussions are going to be about the screen. The switch to miniLED should offer more vivid colours, deeper blacks, and all with lower power consumption. The smaller (and more popular) MacBook is expected to bump the screen size up to 14 inches – which likely means much smaller bezels as part of the new design discussed above.
Finally of course is the processor. Befitting the status as the ‘top-end’ MacBook Pro machines, the new macOS laptops will ship with an uprated M1 processor; the presumptively-named M1X should feature more cores to offer more processing and graphical power.
A new refreshed design; a clearer and improved display; and a little bit more processing power. All that for waiting a few months. Why would you by a new MacBook Pro now when Apple has something better around the corner?
Activision Blizzard lawsuit: Everything you need to know – CNET
Activision Blizzard, the company behind some of the biggest franchises in all of gaming, has been rocked by an explosive lawsuit. The gaming giant is being sued by the state of California, which accuses it of workplace discrimination against its female workforce.
The suit, filed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, argues that the company has a “frat boy” workplace culture and alleges several alarming incidents of discrimination and harassment.
The suit didn’t take long to make an impact. Many employees have spoken out in support of the claims, over 2,000 have signed an open letter calling for action by the company, and a. After initially rejecting many of the DFEH’s allegations, Activision Blizzard has said it’ll launch a full probe — and its games will be changed to reflect values of diversity and inclusion.
Activision Blizzard is one of the biggest gaming companies in the world. It owns Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Crash Bandicoot and many more hugely popular franchises and last year recorded $2.2 billion in profit. Here’s everything you need to know about this colossal lawsuit.
What is Activision Blizzard accused of?
The DFEH’s suit accuses Activision Blizzard of workplace discrimination. It alleges women are compensated unfairly — paid less for the same job, scrutinized more heavily than their male peers — and subject to considerable harassment. The agency called Activision Blizzard a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination,” in which women are subject to regular sexual advances by (often high-ranking) men who largely go unpunished.
Illustrative of the claims DFEH is making against Activision is an office ritual referred to as “cube crawls,” in which men allegedly drink “copious” amounts of alcohol, crawl through the office cubicles and engage in “inappropriate behavior” including groping. The lawsuit describes incidents including allegations that a female employee died by suicide during a business trip as a result of a toxic relationship with a supervisor.
“Women and girls now make up almost half of gamers in America, but the gaming industry continues to cater to men,” the suit reads. “Activision-Blizzard’s double-digit percentage growth, 10-figure annual revenues and recent diversity marketing campaigns have unfortunately changed little.”
And then employees reacted?
After DFEH filed its suit, Activision Blizzard responded with a lengthy statement that said the department had filed a rushed, inaccurate report with “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of [Activision Blizzard’s] past.” In an email sent to staff, published by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, vice president of corporate affairs Frances Townsend said the site presented “a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories — some from more than a month ago.”
These statements evidently didn’t satisfy employees, neither current nor former. Over 2,000 of them signed an open letter to Activision Blizzard leadership in which they criticized the company’s response. (Activision Blizzard currently has around 10,000 employees.)
“To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership,” the open letter reads, according to Bloomberg. “To claim this is a ‘truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit’ while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse is simply unacceptable.”
The letter signed by employees made three demands. First, that the company issue statements that acknowledge the severity of the allegations. Second, that Townsend resign from her role as executive sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network. Third, that Activision Blizzard’s executive leadership collaborate with employees to ensure a safe workspace to “speak out and come forward.”
How did Activision Blizzard respond?
After Activision Blizzard’s first statement, along with the one made by Townsend, was so thoroughly rejected by employees, the company appears to be taking the suit more seriously. Last Tuesday the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, issued a letter addressing the suit, and the concerns of employees.
“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf,” it reads. “We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.”
Kotick announced that a law firm, WilmerHale, will be hired to evaluate the company’s “policies and procedures.”
Beyond the probe, Kotick outlined several changes that would be made effective immediately. The company would be investigating “each and every claim” of discrimination and harassment being made, and will host listening sessions to collaborate with employees on how to improve the workplace culture. Activision Blizzard will also be “evaluating managers and leaders” across the company and making personnel changes as appropriate. Finally, changes will be made to in-game content.
“We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content,” Kotick wrote.
What about the walkout?
Alongside the open letter signed by over 2,000 employees, workers at the company planned a strike last Wednesday morning. Seeking now to be more collaborative with aggrieved workers, Activision Blizzard sent an email to staff saying they would get paid time off for attending the protest.
Hundreds of employees took up the offer, as they set up a picket line outside of Activision Blizzard’s Irvine, California headquarters. Employees held signs that read “every voice matters”, “fight bad guys in game, fight bad guys IRL” and “nerf male priviledge.” (When developers weaken characters in games like Overwatch it’s known as “nerfing” them.)
Over 350 employees took up the offer, reports The Washington Post. The walkout participants acknowledged Kotick’s letter, but had four additional demands, as seen in the tweet above. These include greater pay transparency and employee participation in hiring and promotion policies.
What has the industry reaction been?
On Aug. 30 Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take-Two Interactive, the studio behind Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, assured investors that his company wouldn’t tolerate a workplace environment like the one allegedly seen within Activision Blizzard.
“We will not tolerate harassment or discrimination or bad behavior of any kind. We never have,” he said. “Is there more we can do? I’m certain there is. Do we feel like we’re in a pretty good place? We’re grateful that we do feel that way right now.”
Zelnick is the latest industry figure to weigh in on the lawsuit.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure this type of behavior is not tolerated at Bungie at any level,” developer Bungie, owned by Activision Blizzard, tweeted, “and that we never excuse it or sweep it under the rug. While the accounts in this week’s news are difficult to read, we hope they will lead to justice, awareness, and accountability.”
Chris Metzen, a co-creator of Blizzard franchise Diablo who left the company in 2016, said: “We failed, and I’m sorry… to all of you at Blizzard — those of you I know and those of you whom I’ve never met — I offer you my very deepest apologies for the part I played in a culture that fostered harassment, inequality, and indifference.”
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