We’re nearly one month into the pandemic that is responsible for millions of employees and students making the move to online work and learning. In that shift, no software has seen a rise in popularity as much a chat and video conferencing apps. As a matter of fact, Google Engineer Justin Uberti proposed that March 17th was very possibly the busiest day for video conferencing in history. The happy side of this story is that there is a bucket full of video meeting platforms out there that have allowed users to quickly and easily make this transition and do so at no cost. Many companies that offer chat software have gone so far as to up the features offered on their free tiers to make meetings more manageable and accessible. That’s especially important for students and consumers who are looking for alternatives for face-to-face meetups.
<!– –>If you have scrolled through Google News, Twitter, Facebook or any other site that “reports” current events, you have likely heard the name Zoom. The video meeting software company has seen an overnight explosion in its user-base thanks to its low barrier of entry, free plan and cross-platform capabilities. We at Chrome Unboxed have even shared a couple of articles on how to best use the chat software. According to a blog post from Zoom, their daily meeting numbers ballooned a whopping 2000% in March compared to December of 2019. More than 200 million free and paid meetings are taking place on a daily basis via Zoom. Sadly, we aren’t living in a perfect world and that truism applies just as much to software as it does anything.
As Zoom’s explosion in growth continues, so does a surmounting list of complaints against the chat software that range from exposed emails to unauthorized installations, stealing Windows credentials and let’s not forget about the absolutely horrid trend of “Zoombombing” that’s exposing our kids to garbage such as porn and uninvited chatroom guests with malicious intent. Now, I am not here to bash Zoom but the outlandish number of reports surrounding the security (or lack-there-of), privacy and grey areas surrounding Zoom’s ToS are enough to make me take pause before letting my kids hop on a video chat. I’ll save the rant for other bloggers but if you’d like to get an in-depth look at all of the questionable issues that Zoom is facing, The Verge’s Casey Newton penned a wonderful piece on the subject that points out exactly where Zoom went wrong and in Zoom’s defense, the CEO did just publish a massive blog post outlining a 90-day plan to improve the platform.
All that said, I am writing with the hopes of creating more awareness of some alternative tools that are available to users that present better security and a similar barrier to entry as Zoom. Both of these platforms have been around for a decade or more and offer cross-platform capability. Not only that, they come from companies that deal with enterprise-level security, (Which is what Zoom claimed they did but that wasn’t exactly true.) Here are two great alternatives to Zoom that will offer you a similar experience and allow you as many as 100 participants in a meeting and are completely free for most users.
<!– –>Haven’t heard that name in a while, have you? Yes, Microsoft’s messaging platform is alive and well and thank’s to the progressive web, you can use Skype on just about any device. With Skype’s “Meet Now” feature, you can even create a meeting and get your call up and running without an account or the need for your participants to log into anything. Simply create your meeting, share the link and users can join directly from the browser. On a Chromebook, you will get an error message that says Chrome OS can’t open the page. Dismiss the message and click Join as a guest. This room is fairly basic but you can share your screen which is mostly what users need right now. For more functionality, the host can sign up for a free Microsoft account and secure the chat by locking the room when all participants have arrived. Check out Skype at the link below. <!– –>
<!– –>A leader in enterprise network technology, Cisco Systems acquired WebEx in 2007 and since it has evolved into a powerful and versatile web conferencing platform. Currently, Cisco has opened the throttle on their freemium tier and users can connect to as many as 100 participants with no limits on meeting time. The free plan hosts a lot of other great features including cross-platform, browser-based meetings and call-in via VoIP.
- Up to 100 participants in each meeting (Up from 50)
- Meet as long as you want (Up from 40 min limit)
- Call-in for audio (in addition to existing VoIP capabilities)
- Unlimited number of meetings
- Desktop, application, file & whiteboard sharing options
- Video conferencing features
- Webex Teams collaboration features
- Mobile features
- Security features
- Online support
Cisco Webex<!– –>
The question was posed to me this morning, “would you used Zoom for a meeting today?” My answer is a hard no. That is not to say that I don’t believe that Zoom won’t get their house in order. I simply feel that there are better options available right now while they get their ducks in a row. Ask me again in three months and I have high hopes my answer will be different.
Featured image credit: DreamsTime
Spaced desks, one-way halls, voice technology — your post-COVID-19 office will look much different – National Post
We may never go back (and what that means) is a collection of Post stories looking at the how the pandemic has changed the view of the office.
As Canadians gear up to return to work, employers are putting into place a wide range of safety protocols to protect their workplaces from the threat of COVID-19.
As a result, offices in a post-pandemic world could look very different from before, experts say. And they might stay that way.
“There’s going to be a forced evolution at the office,” said Evan Hardie, who researches the future of work at Canadian workplaces.
Returning employees could see a host of changes, including spaced desks, personal lockers, voice-automated technology, staged areas for elevators and one-way hallways, Hardie said. They may also have to follow new protocols such as varying shifts, cleaning surfaces after usage, and wearing PPE to the office.
Some employees may never return to the office again, Hardie said, as companies who have been forced to develop technology for remote work during the pandemic may not be able to afford the new cost of renovating their spaces.
Yet all this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the traditional office tower, according to Lisa Fulford-Roy, vice president with Toronto commercial real estate giant CBRE. “I think this is going to shine a lens on how can we be smarter about the spaces we’re creating for people to occupy safely and healthily and productively,” she said.
According to experts, the biggest challenge for firms will be having to redesign spaces that have been in place for decades, to allow for physical and social distancing rules.
Since the last economic downturn, companies have been following an open office trend, where “essentially everybody’s sitting really close to each other,” Hardie said, to allow for more communication. “I think we’re going to see a change there, where you’re going to have employees spaced out, they won’t maybe be facing each other in the office too.”
To maintain physical distancing rules, companies are considering spaced desks, one-way hallways, and the reconfiguration of common areas like kitchens, utility rooms and staging areas for elevators. Gensler, an American architecture firm, has released ‘ReRun,’ a tool which reconfigures your office’s existing floor plan to optimize physical distancing conditions, using computer algorithms.
Under new set-ups, workers may also be asked to come into the office at different times and bring their own equipment.
“Keyboards, mice, headsets, those things are going to be personal accessories now,” said Hardie. “So you’ll have either a locker at the office that you can lock yourself or you’re hauling it back and forth every day.”
Many workplaces could follow in the path of major tech companies and restructure their work environments from headquarters to hubs. “Rather than having a head office where the majority of their workforce is in one central location, firms may opt for regional hubs,” Hardie said.
Christian Paquette, a labour employment lawyer, said he’s gotten many questions from companies. These range from how to implement policies on shared rooms, to the nitty gritty details around personal garbage bins, ventilation systems, eating utensils, and desired cubicle heights.
“I think, ironically, one challenge for employers might be that some may not have sufficient space anymore because of social distancing,” he said. “They may need to find more space in some cases, or put an emphasis on some parts of their workspaces and less on others.”
At the beginning of May, Paquette and a colleague released a list of key guidelines for employers looking to incorporate COVID-19 requirements into their work policies.
“There needs to be clear lines of communication,” said Paquette. The article recommended that employers form a “dedicated, multi-disciplinary team” to monitor the workplace reopening and conduct risk assessments; create a contingency plan in case of a shutdown; and open a communication channel keeping employees informed of the measures being put in place and any changes thereafter.
Employers also need to develop a procedure to address attendance issues and work refusals, such as those for “employees who are afraid to return or may face special circumstances” such as compromised immunity or child or elder care obligations.
Mohammad Abdoli-Eramaki, who teaches occupation health and safety at Ryerson University, emphasized the need for a system that monitors individuals, to identify those at risk of spreading the virus.
“The issue with COVID-19 is that it’s not identifiable,” he said, which in turn makes it difficult to determine certain hot spots in a workplace where exposure to the virus is increased. Ergo, “there should be a system in place where (the individual) monitors (themselves) … and if (they) don’t follow the policy, someone else does (monitor them).”
Paquette said it ultimately comes down to the level of risk each employer faces.
“For instance, (if) you have a proven outbreak in a work environment, that may justify different measures than an office space where people are not in close quarters (and) where other types of measures can really be put in place that are much less intrusive, like social distancing and self-reporting,” he said.
The pandemic has forced several workplaces to hastily upgrade and/or invest in technology to allow for people working remotely. On one hand, for those coming back to the office, employers might continue to make investments to keep the office accessible and safe, such as voice and automation technology.
“The ability to not have to touch everything in the office, to have technology that steps in, either through automation or through your voice, allows you to take your hands off a lot of things that you would have been touching in the past,” said Hardie. Companies looking to track employee movements could do so via keycard access, or by using technology that produces heat maps and monitors social distancing.
On the other hand, companies who have already invested in technology that supports remote work may find the additional investments too costly. “They may well say, okay we’ve made this major investment on ramping everybody up for home office, so maybe we’ll wait until we figure out a good plan of attack for the actual office itself’,” explained Hardie.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE OFFICE
For employers who have successfully adapted to working from home during the pandemic, there may no longer be a need for an office anymore, said Allison Cowan, director of capital of the Conference Board of Canada.
“They are seeing advantages in the long term, such as real estate savings, benefits from commuting, benefits for employee heath,” she said. Several large companies such as Twitter and Open Text have already asked staff to continue working remotely indefinitely, while others like BMO have confirmed they are looking into hybrid schemes that would combine the office with remote work opportunities.
For some companies, that might mean rethinking their current spaces, for others it might mean letting go of their leases entirely and opting for flexible alternatives, i.e., rentable co-working spaces.
Kevin Penstock is the CEO of The Profile, a Vancouver company that offers rental co-working spaces. He said he’s been receiving a lot of calls. “There’s no question (that demand for these spaces will go up),” he said. “People are going to try and figure out how to get all their staff in their offices downtown, half the people will be stuck at home, these companies are going to need this type of select space.”
Penstock has rolled out a multi-phased plan for the reopening of his spaces, which includes modified shared spaces (two-person tables instead of five), the phased return of members, physical distancing signage, health screenings and a new cleaning regimen.
The challenge, he said, will be catering to demand despite the limits on the number of people per shared space, as well as monitoring those who flout the rules. “We can ask people to start doing some shift work,” he said. “Then we’re going to have to start sharing the space in a way that’s a bit different than we’re used to.”
However, while the demand for traditional offices may go down, it won’t entirely disappear, according to Fulford-Roy of CBRE. That’s because people miss the social element that comes with working at an office.
“There may be subsets of employees or departments where (working remotely) might be suitable”, she said. “But I think, for the most part, we’re missing our colleagues, we’re missing the interaction.”
“It’s going to be less about changing the landscape of engagement and productivity. (Instead) it’s going to be a lens of how do we do that safely?”
Uninstall these shady media editing Android apps right away to stop your data from being misused – Digital Information World
Even though the world is moving towards the digital platforms in all aspects but the growth of digitalization also brings the risk of data breach and violations. There’s nothing scares more than your personal information being used without your consent and it’s not the first time Android app developers abused the permission granted by users.
Recent discovery by VPNpro reveals a new spyware app with over 100 million downloads on Google Play Store and the developer of this spyware app has some other shady apps with more than 50 million installs in the Play store.
According to the report by VPNpro, the developer of these apps masked the origins and technical abuses behind so many apps on Play Store.
Google has a history of pulling out the networks of apps that abuse the user permissions once installed. However, evaluating the right permission types for a developer or app is still a tricky job. And this is where some app creators try to play their dirty games by taking advantage of Android data permissions.
Even though Google always encourages developers to follow its guidelines but the abuse of user permissions should never be taken for granted as it puts millions of users at risk.
The developer blamed of spyware is Hangzhou-based QuVideoInc with its very popular app named VivaVideo. This free video editing app has more than 100 million installs on Play Store.
According to the reports by VPNpro, QuVideo has its three apps available on the Play Store and also on the Apple’s App Store but the violations of permission on iOS devices can’t happen so easily.
To operate, Viva Video asks a variety of permissions which include the ability of the app to write/read to external drives and user’s specific GPS location. This permission of GPS enables the app to send the location data of users up to 14,000 times in a day even if the app is not being used.
According to VPNpro, these types of apps have Trojans hidden inside the apps which can steal bank information of users without them even knowing it at all.
The report by VPNpro mapped out more than six apps by the same developer that needs to be used with caution and after analyzing these apps have more than 157 million installs on Google Play Store and the numbers of these apps are huge.
The following are the six apps by the same developer:
- Tempo – Music Video Editor with Effects
- SlidePlus – Photo Slideshow Maker
- VivaCut – Pro Video Editor APP
- VidStatus – Status Videos & Status Downloader
- VivaVideo PRO Video Editor HD
Until Google takes strict action against permission abuse, the users should stop using such apps to secure themselves from being a victim of such abuse but it is completely up to the users to decide if they want these malicious apps installed on their phones or not.
The only way to be secure from being a victim is by paying attention to the permissions you’re allowing to these apps and if any permission seems out of ordinary the best solution is to uninstall the app from your phone.
New PS4 games must also run on PlayStation 5 from July, Sony tells devs – Eurogamer.net
Sony has told PlayStation 4 game developers that any new titles submitted for certification must also be compatible with PlayStation 5, beginning 13th July.
This means all PS4 games received by Sony for testing after the middle of that month are technically forwards compatible – playable on Sony’s next-gen console – though it is up to each game’s developer to ensure this is the case.
Developer documentation – released on PlayStation’s internal Partner website and seen by Eurogamer – details an option developers must check to state their game has been tested for compatibility with PS5 hardware. This option was added at the end of April in a new version of Sony’s PS4 software developer kit.
Sony has told developers it will contact them individually with details on how to test PS5 compatibility, in the order of their various projects’ release.
Further documentation sheds light on what “compatibility” means. A game will be deemed compatible with PlayStation 5 only if its submission code runs without issues on Sony’s next-gen machine, and provides the same features on PS5 as it does on PS4.
So, for example, a developer couldn’t flag their game as PS5 compatible but not provide support for a certain mode on next-gen hardware.
These developer notes also detail Sony’s rules for patches to existing games and remasters of previously-released titles.
If a game was originally submitted to Sony before 13th July 2020, any new patch or remaster after that date would not require PS5 compatibility, but it would be “strongly recommended”.
If a game was originally submitted to Sony after 13th July 2020, any future patch or remaster to that game would need to keep PS5 compatibility. Once a game is PS5 compatible, it must stay so.
It’s worth emphasising that all of this applies to games submitted to Sony after 13th July, which is not the same as anything released after that date. Submissions are generally made well in advance of release to ensure Sony’s certification team can approve the game in time.
For example, Sony’s own Ghost of Tshushima is released on 17th July but will have entered certification prior to the 13th July cut-off. It will not specifically need to be PlayStation 5 forwards-compatible. However, as one of PlayStation 4’s remaining flagship titles, it is certain to be supported on PlayStation 5 (and indeed, Eurogamer has separately heard this will be the case, alongside fellow upcoming exclusive The Last of Us 2).
But it’s worth noting that while approved software has the technical capability to work across generations, Sony is yet to go into detail on how it will handle this in reality.
Many third-party publishers have already confirmed they will support Microsoft’s Smart Delivery method for cross-gen ownership on Xbox, designed to serve the best version of a game for the platform you are playing on. Ubisoft will use this to provide cross-gen ownership of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, as will CD Projekt Red with Cyberpunk 2077. (EA, meanwhile, has decided some of its games will have a limited-time “upgrade” window.)
As for previously-released games, Microsoft stated its intention a year ago to have Xbox One’s entire (non-Kinect) back catalogue working at the Series X launch, as well as all games from its existing Xbox 360 and original Xbox backwards compatibility program. And, as Microsoft revealed to Digital Foundry in March, it will provide this with improvements – such as the addition of HDR – automatically applied.
PlayStation is also working to ensure PS4 games run on PS5, though it previously said it would pass “issues which need adjustment” to developers to handle.
“We’re expecting backward compatible titles will run at a boosted frequency on PS5 so that they can benefit from higher or more stable frame rates and potentially higher resolutions. We’re currently evaluating games on a title-by-title basis to spot any issues that need adjustment from the original software developers,” PlayStation wrote back in March. “In his presentation, Mark Cerny provided a snapshot into the Top 100 most-played PS4 titles, demonstrating how well our backward compatibility efforts are going. We have already tested hundreds of titles and are preparing to test thousands more as we move toward launch. We will provide updates on backward compatibility, along with much more PS5 news, in the months ahead. Stay tuned!”
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