Thiel’s chief of staff tapped as White House deputy CTO

Peter Thiel has been at Donald Trump’s side since the Republican National Convention, guiding the then-candidate on technology policy and brokering a meeting between him and top tech executives. Now Thiel has secured a place for one of his top aides in Trump’s White House — Michael Kratsios, formerly chief of staff at Thiel Capital, will step into the role of deputy chief technology officer.

The appointment, first reported by Politico Pro and confirmed by TechCrunch, seems like a natural progression of Kratsios’ work alongside Thiel on the transition team.

Prior to his work at Thiel Capital, Kratsios was the chief financial officer of Clarium Capital Management, another fund company founded by Thiel. Kratsios did not respond to a request for comment from TechCrunch, but describes himself on his personal website as passionate about technology and politics. At Princeton, Kratsios conducted thesis research into the links between Greece’s economic performance and its citizens’ voting patterns. His thesis discusses the relationship between economic conditions and “incumbent vote share,” a model fashioned after voting patterns in the United States. Kratsios also took an interest in partisan bias and studied how it changed voters’ perceptions of the economy.

The deputy CTO role was last held by Alexander Macgillivray, a former general counsel at Twitter. The role of White House chief technology officer, previously held by former Googler Megan Smith, has yet to be filled. The CTO works with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on a broad mandate of issues involving data, innovation and technology policy.

 It’s interesting to see the deputy CTO role filled by someone with experience in venture capital — the Obama administration tended to select technologists from public companies with large user bases, perhaps with the idea that experience serving diverse users would translate well to serving the American people. Fewer people have access to venture capital than have access to Google, so there’s a naturally smaller set of experiences to draw on.

Macgillivray discussed the work that would be left over for the Trump administration in an interview with TechCrunch last September, including enhancing cybersecurity, improving access to data and addressing inequality in tech. “All of it is stuff we’re rushing to get done. Everything from cybersecurity to making sure we’re tackling inequality, that we’re working on some of the interesting long-term things, like artificial intelligence,” Macgillivray said.

U.S. consumers now spend 5 hours per day on mobile devices

The time U.S. users are spending in mobile apps is continuing to grow; according to new data released this week by analytics firm Flurry, we’re up to 5 hours per day on our mobile devices. This follows on news from January that said the time spent in mobile apps had increased 69 percent year-over-year.

Five hours per day is a 20 percent increase compared with the fourth quarter of 2015, and seems to come at the expense of mobile browser usage, which has dropped significantly over the years.

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Browser share on mobile is now at 8 percent, down from 9 percent in Q4 2015, 14 percent in Q1 2014 and 20 percent back in Q1 2013.

The shift into apps can be attributed to many other factors, as well — increased selection in the app stores, better and more available Wi-Fi and mobile broadband and the rise in messaging apps, which sees apps taking over typical phone functions like texting and phone calls, among several other factors.

But as Flurry has noted in the past, apps have grown more popular than watching TV — something that speaks to users’ interest in apps for more than just utility.

In fall 2015, the firm found that U.S. users were spending more time using apps than watching our big TV screens in the living room. The indication here is that apps are sucking up more of our “downtime” where we would have otherwise been passively engaged with television programming. Plus, we’re turning to apps to serve as our means of “watching TV” in many cases, thanks to the availability of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu and others.

In fact, media and entertainment apps today account for 15 percent of the time we’re spending in apps these days.

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Flurry also says that U.S. users are spending more than half their time (51 percent) in social media, messaging and media and entertainment applications — including those like Snapchat, which now accounts for 2 percent of users’ daily time spent in apps.

Snapchat still has a way to go to challenge social networking behemoth Facebook, however, which commands a 19 percent share thanks to its related properties, WhatsApp and Instagram. However, Snapchat is closing in on YouTube, which has a 3 percent share, Flurry found.

Meanwhile, the remaining “Messaging/Social” category accounts for 12 percent of time spent in apps, the report says.

All this engagement is coming at the expense of another popular app category, as well: games.

Games are still the money-maker for developers and the app platforms, even though their use is dropping. For example, Apple said that New Year’s Day 2017 was the biggest App Store day ever, with $240 million in purchases.

But the category has seen a decline for the second year in a row, and now accounts for 11 percent of time spent in apps, noted Flurry.

With the increased time users spend in apps, the advertising landscape is being affected, too. Apps can now attract TV ad dollars — and they’re even going after TV subscribers thanks to new services like DirecTV Now, Sling TV, YouTube TV and others. Flurry says it believes these entries will have an impact on time spent in the days ahead, and will “siphon even more minutes from TV.”

Clenbuterol Effects: Does it Magically Melt Away Fat or Not?

Are you wondering about the results of clen? Great results can be seen with the use of Clen when combined with a good workout routine and a healthy diet. No one can just relax thinking that Clen will do the job of burning fat. Only when you exercise, the fats stores in fat cells turn into triglycerides which can be eliminated by Clen. Else, the food intake will convert into energy and fat and will be stored in fat cells. Hence, great results can’t be seen.

Image result for Clenbuterol Effects: Does it Magically Melt Away Fat or Not?

Be informed that there are side effects of using Clen for weight loss. There’s no doubt that this drug gets rapid weight loss, but the long term side effects of Clen make people think about it’s use and many use it for a short term only. Using it for a short term and in appropriate doses will result in quick weight loss and later on, in order to keep up with the lost weight, you would need to change your lifestyle and incorporate healthy living along with regular exercise.

Clen has a side effect of heart palpitations. Hence, many body builders do not consider doing cardio exercises while taking Clen.

How does it work: a knowhow

Clenbuterol works on the Central nervous System to slightly increase the body’s internal temperature which increases the metabolism rate and hence results in maximum fat burn.

Clen stimulates beta-2 receptors which are the ones that interact with fat cells. And upon stimulating them, cells begin the lipolysis process which is to free the fatty acids and release them in the bloodstream. This results in eliminating triglycerides which cause the increase in size of cells that store fats. That is the reason for tremendous fat burns seen.

Why is it famous for fat loss?

  1. It’s unique ability to preserve and increase the lean mass in the body that makes it the favorite among body builders.
  2. To add more, one needs very little efforts with Clen to shed away those extra calories. Hence, it is very popular and increasingly accepted by many Hollywood actors.

What are the side effects?

The abuse of any drug will cause side effects. The same is the case with Clen. But the good thing is that these are short termed and can be minimized by following a safe dose and including a lot of water intake. So, here are some side effects:

  • dizziness,
  • heart palpitations,
  • anxiety, overheating,
  • heart problems,
  • raising blood pressure,
  • muscular tremors/cramps,
  • increased appetite and
  • Abnormal sweating.

Should you be taking Clen?

The results are great and the side effects can be minimized. So, is it advisable to start a Clen cycle for weight loss?

Do contact your doctor before starting the dose and do get yourself checked on a regular basis to avoid severe side effects. You also need to have a proper diet and exercise to put you in healthy calorie deficit and help your body to burn it by using Clen.

Ron Gilbert on recapturing point-and-click’s charm with Thimbleweed Park

‘Charm’ is an elusive quality. What might seem quirky or off-beat in one context can so often slip into the realms of superficial cute-ness.

It can be tempting to try to make characters light-hearted and whimsical, but try too hard and it can feel as though those characters are designed for children, rather than having that cross-generational appeal that true charm guarantees.

LucasArts’ adventure games of the 90s are the good kind of charming. Monkey Island remains one of the funniest games ever made, and the likes of Day of the Tentacle, Maniac Mansion and Grim Fandango remain infinitely playable despite their now-dated mechanics and graphical style.

That these games were good can be put down to a combination of good writing and excellent puzzles; but their charm is much harder to quantify.

Exploring the park

It’s almost reassuring, then, that Ron Gilbert, a pioneer of the genre and the man responsible for such games as The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle is returning to the genre’s roots, rather than trying to recapture the same charm with a more modern game.

His latest game, Thimbleweed Park, follows two detectives as they attempt to solve a murder by exploring a Twin Peak’s-esque town, and utilises a pixel-based 2D art style and the same point-and-click interface that will be familiar to anyone who’s played a classic LucasFilm adventure game.

Left-clicking within the environment causes your active character to move, and you can interact with the environment by choosing from a selection of nine verbs, including such classics as ‘use’, ‘look’ and ‘talk’.

So far, so 90s, but the real pleasure in Thimbleweed’s interface is how it streamlines this process. Characters will run if you double-click in the environment, or automatically walk through a door if you choose to open it.

Gilbert explains: “When you open a door, 99% of the time you’re going to walk through it … we want to build a game that’s how you remember those old games being, you remember that old stuff happening but it wasn’t. Walking through doors in Monkey Island was incredibly frustrating, because everything was just ‘open door’ and ‘use door’ and ‘walk through door’, and it was all this laborious clicking to get through stuff.”

The result is that the game’s combination of pixel art and point-and-click interface appear as you remember them, but in reality they function with a modern elegance.

These contemporary design touches mean the game doesn’t feel the need to include a hint system like the recent Monkey Island remasters. “Being about to design something from scratch, with an understanding that we have this slightly more modern or older audience with kids and families, has just caused us to file all the rough edges off of the puzzle-solving,” Gilbert says.

But don’t confuse filing off “all the rough edges” with “making the game easy”. Clearer objectives and characters that repeat key plot details are common tactics employed throughout the course of the segments of the game we’ve played, and this allows the puzzles to remain hard without becoming frustrating.

There’s even a harder difficulty mode included with the game that adds extra stages to the puzzle-solving for those who want a more involved experience.

A laid-back beginning

Although we were assured that harder puzzles are present in the game, the game’s early section that we played was a relaxing affair.

The demo opens with our two detectives, Angela Ray and Antonio Reyes, standing over a decomposing body (or ‘pixelating’ as the characters refer to it). They head into town in search of clues, and, after a brief interlude spent discussing the merits of adventure games with a couple of life-sized pigeons, start to become acquainted with the town’s wide cast of characters.

Before long we’re delving into the family back story of one of the Thimbleweed Park’s residents, playing through a flashback segment as a young girl who dreams of becoming a video game designer and escaping the town.

Every character we encounter feels like they have a similar depth to their back story, resulting in an environment that’s populated with characters rather than movie extras or cardboard cut-outs.

We only meet them for a moment, but the owners of the town’s diner appear especially interesting. “If you talk to them you realise there’s something weird going on in this diner with these two people,” Gilbert teases. “You start to piece together what their whole story is and why they’re in the town.”

A videogamey video game

The language of video games is baked into the soul of Thimbleweed park. Whether it’s that video game designer subplot, or referring to a decomposing corpse, the game is proud of what it is – a traditional video game.

But as much as it’s a celebration of the genre, this meta-humor is ultimately present because Gilbert finds it funny. “As a vehicle for humor, I’ve always liked fourth-walling,” he says. “My favorite comedy movie of all time is Blazing Saddles. That’s a movie that starts out very normally, but … then the end of the movie just comes off the rails. I just love that the movie does that.”

Thimbleweed Park is charming and well written, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time we’ve spent with it so far. Although the humor is often gently amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny, this feels in keeping with the sedate pace of the whole experience.

If you’ve loved Ron Gilbert’s work in the past then Thimbleweed Park is an easy game to recommend based on the time we’ve spent with it – and from the sounds of things, Gilbert is nowhere near done with the genre.

“I think the point-and-click genre is like book or film,” he says. “There’s an infinite number of stories that you can tell … and I think the point-and-click is just a vehicle for storytelling.”

“My dream is that Thimbleweed Park does very well, and I spend the rest of my life making a million units of point-and-click games.”

And we can’t help but dream along with him.

The best Linux distros: 7 versions of Linux we recommend

Think Macs are a rip-off and Windows 10 doesn’t respect your privacy? Maybe it’s high time you take Linux for a spin. If you’ve never used Linux and cower at the sound of “open-source” software, fret not, as this guide will aid you in your quest to find the best Linux distro to date.

A distro, or distribution, is tech-talk for the way in which the Linux operating system is packaged. Each distro is differentiated by its default interface, i.e. the way it looks, catalog of stock applications and even repositories, the library of apps officially supported by the specific “brand” of Linux.

  • These 13 Linux distros are both weird and wonderful

If you prefer the classic Linux experience of using terminal commands to navigate the OS, it’s still an option. However, you can also install an ultra-accessible distro that resembles Windows and macOS , minus the demanding system requirements.

Here, we’ve gathered seven of the best Linux distros to cover all of your common needs. From those boasting two-factor authentication support to those that are lightweight and compatible with your 10-year-old laptop, each is free and readily available to install.

If you’re after a distro that gets you as far away from the image of a nerdy hacker type bashing away at a terminal interface as possible, Elementary OS is what you need. It’s probably the most attractive distro around, with a style similar to that of Mac OS X. Elementary OS’s desktop environment is known as Pantheon, providing the tasty Apple sauce.

The latest version is called Loki, and as well as being that bit prettier and neater than Freya, the “2015” edition, it has its own application installer UI called App Center. It’s a delightfully simple way to install apps outside the terminal, which is handy as not much comes installed as standard.

The look is the main draw here, but Elementary OS also features the Epiphany browser, the Geary email client and a few basic ‘tool’ apps. This is a distro you’ll have to fill out a bit, but it isn’t half elegant.

Linux Mint is a great ‘default’ distro for new Linux users, as it comes with a lot of the software you’ll need when switching from OS X or Windows. We’re talking about packages like LibreOffice, the office suite that many, or most, Linux fans use.

You can download four main starter flavours of Mint 18, each of which uses a different desktop environment, the top-most layer of the interface. Cinnamon is the most popular at the moment, but our purely personal pick of the bunch at the moment is KDE. Pour scorn in the comments if you must. For those new to Linux, these

The other desktop environments you can download as part of the installer include MATE and Xfce. All offer a good deal of customisation so the best policy is to have a try of a few and see which fits best. For those newer to Linux, these desktop environment change the look and layout of the basic Linux interface and its Start menu. You don’t get that with Windows.

If you’re willing to try a slightly less friendly distro, Arch Linux is one of the most popular choices around. It’s a fairly light package, leaving you to customise your build using the terminal and typed-out installer commands.

This used to be standard procedure for Linux, but you can now side-step this lvl 1 techie part if you like, with a more hand-holding distro.

There’s even such a version of Arch Linux, called Antergos. This comes with more drivers, more applications and a bunch of desktop environments to let you change the look of the system. Its aim is to get you up and running with all the basics right from the initial install, but it’s still Arch Linux underneath.

The hardcore crowd may turn their noses up at packages like Antergos, but when it saves those newer to Linux hours of potentially frustrating fiddling about, we’re all for it. Another accessible take on Arch worth checking out is Manjaro. It’s similar to Antergos but uses its own software repositories.

An elder statesman of the Linux distort world, Ubuntu is one of the lead flavours of Linux, and a good starting point for Linux novices. As with most obscenely popular pieces of software, it’s not just made for the Linux obsessives.

At the time of writing we’re up to Ubuntu 16.04.01, an LTS (long term support) release that guarantees five years of security and general maintenance updates so you can be sure you’re not left with a rotting corpse at the centre of your system.

As standard it uses the Unity interface, which is perhaps one of the less familiar looks for Linux if you’re used to Windows or OS X. However, there are loads of easy-to-understand alternative packages available right from the Ubuntu website.

These include versions with the LXDE, MATE, XFCE and GNOME desktop environment skins as well as Ubuntu Studio for creative types and Mythbuntu, designed for home theatre PCs. Sadly Mythbuntu’s creators announced in November 2016 that it will no longer be able to support the distro. Don’t get angry: devs are normal people too, remember.

Most of our favourite Linux distros are suitable for use as alternatives to Windows or OS X. Tails is quite different, though.

It’s a distro whose aim is solely to keep the identity of the user completely opaque. Even Edward Snowden used it.

It routes its traffic through Tor, designed to avoid your outward-bound data from being intercepted and analysed. Underneath all the security measures, it’s based on Debian so doesn’t feel like you’re using a system made of tin foil and paranoia too.

Tails isn’t for everyone, but does give you some peace of mind if all the worrying privacy bills being passed at the moment weigh heavily on your mind.

Here’s another Linux distro that is a little different from most. CentOS 7 a community offshoot of the Enterprise version of Red Hat Linux, and its focus is on stability rather than constant updates. The support of releases is massive too, spanning 10 years from initial release.

The idea is to make CentOS super reliable. For that reason, it’s a great choice for a server, if not quite so hot for someone looking for a new OS for the desktop or laptop they’ll use day-to-day. This is a ‘slow and steady’ take on Linux.

Want something to run on a home or small business server? CentOS is great. But most of you will want to consider one of the other picks in this feature.

If you want a home music recording studio or a video production workstation without spending the thousands of pounds involved with industry standard software, download KX Studio.

This is a distro designed for audio and video production, a sort-of freebie alternative to Pro Tools. Support for audio plug-ins and MIDI input is inbuilt and a virtual patch bay comes pre-installed.

Its repositories also include a few digital audio sequencers, and its main strength is in audio recording. It’s more intimidating than the similarly creative-driven Ubuntu Studio because of the sheer technical nature of its components, but if you’re willing to put some work into getting your head around it, this is a very useful distro.

Caavo wants to cure streaming video headaches by unifying your set-top boxes

One of the greatest pains in the life of a cord cutter is you can’t get all the premium video services you want in a single box. For example, if you’re invested in the Apple TV ecosystem but also want to watch The Grand Tour with your Amazon Prime subscription, you’re out of luck—Amazon’s video service is not on Apple TV.caavo

A new start-up named Caavo thinks it has a solution for all your set-top box woes… and it’s another set-top box. Well, that’s a little unfair. It’s really a fancier, more intelligent video input switcher, but even that doesn’t quite capture what the $400—yes, $400—Caavo aims to do.

The box made its debut at the Recode conference, as first reported by The Verge. The Caavo features enough HDMI ports to connect almost every set-top gizmo that even the most exuberant A/V fan would have. (The box will work with a wide range of set-top boxes and sticks including Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku, cable boxes, game consoles, and Blu-ray players.) Then the box’s software deep-links to the content inside each of those individually connected boxes, and pulls them all together in Caavo’s basic interface.

The end result: You can access iTunes movies and Amazon Video from the same screen. You still have to have the original boxes, but instead of switching between HDMI ports, Caavo puts all your inputs onto one screen, controlled by a single remote.

The box itself offers eight HDMI ports, two USB ports, an ethernet jack, and a 3.5mm jack for an IR extension cable. The footprint is fairly large at 16 inches wide, and the Caavo weighs in at four pounds. It features a steel bottom for stability and a wood top in either bamboo, mahogany, and tiger wood.

Caavo will have an Alexa skill allowing you to control the device from your Amazon smart speaker, and will also ship with its own voice control-enabled remote.

Caavo is a somewhat simple but effective idea for anyone with a growing set-top box collection. It’s not clear, however, what set-top box makers will think of it. The major technology companies are currently battling it out to dominate the living room with their various set-top boxes, services, and HDMI sticks. They may not take kindly to a third party that effectively turns each set-top box into a white label service.

Then again, the set-top box makers may not be too concerned about Caavo at first as this is definitely going to be a niche product. Again, when it ships this fall Caavo will be priced at $400. Caavo told The Verge its price is “premium but approachable” for those motivated to get a single TV experience from a multitude of set-top boxes.

This story, “Caavo wants to cure streaming video headaches by unifying your set-top boxes” was originally published by TechHive.

A privacy-focused browser developer just bought Ghostery

Cliqz, the German developer of the privacy-focused browser of the same name, has acquired the tracker-blocking browser extension Ghostery and its development team from its creator, Evidon.cliqz acquires ghostery

Partly owned by Mozilla, Cliqz will combine Ghostery’s technology with similar functions in its browser, but plans to continue development of the extension for other browsers too, it said Wednesday.

The sale will resolve an apparent conflict of interest for Evidon, which on the one hand provided the Ghostery extension to enhance privacy, and on the other sold aggregate information to businesses regarding which trackers users blocked. It will still obtain that aggregate information from Cliqz, but one step removed.

Sharing of aggregate data and the creation of user accounts are optional features of the extension.

The Ghostery antitracking tool has about 10 million active users worldwide, the companies said. One advantage of the acquisition that Cliqz touted is that it is based in Germany, a country with some of the strictest privacy laws in the world, which it said should provide better privacy protection for any data the company holds about its users.

While Cliqz sets about integrating Ghostery’s functions into its browser, it recommends adding the Ghostery extension to the Cliqz browser, or using the Ghostery and Cliqz extensions for Mozilla’s Firefox together. Cliqz offers beta versions of its browser for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS. The Ghostery extension is available for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera, with some functions available in mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Intel now supports Vulkan on Windows 10 PCs

Intel is bringing more options to improve gaming and virtual reality experiences on Windows PCs with official support for Vulkan APIs Intel has announced support for Vulkan APIs.

Vulkan is similar to DirectX 12 and can be used for many applications, but it is most relevant to visual applications like games.

Games and VR applications written in Vulkan will work with GPUs integrated into Intel’s 7th Generation chips code-named Kaby Lake and 6th Generation chips code-named Skylake. It will also support the Intel HD Graphics 505 GPU in Pentium chips code-named Apollo Lake.

The support could open the door for Vulkan applications to work on Windows-based virtual reality headsets.

Later this year, PC makers like Lenovo, Dell, and HP are expected to release headsets that attach to Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft will launch VR development kits with tethered headsets at the Game Developers Conference, which starts on Feb. 27 in San Francisco.

Intel has ramped up graphics capabilities of its integrated Kaby Lake GPUs, making it capable of 4K graphics. Vulkan will exploit the new features for a better gaming experience.

It’s already possible to run Vulkan games on Windows PCs via drivers provided by Nvidia and AMD, which sell discrete GPUs. But Intel’s support for Vulkan is now official, and the previous beta drivers were considered highly unstable.

Most Windows games today run on closed-source DirectX 12 technology. The open-source Vulkan has many similar features — it takes full advantage of the latest GPUs and CPUs for better graphics. It also uses fewer system resources and can generate images faster.

It’s also easier to port games from DX12 to Vulkan, which succeeds the older OpenGL set of APIs. Porting games from DirectX to OpenGL was considered time-consuming.

Some premium smartphones like Samsung’s Galaxy S7 also support Vulkan. Games running Vulkan use fewer system resources and preserve battery life in laptops and mobile devices. Vulkan is already seen as a future for gaming on Linux PCs and Steam Machines.

Researcher develops ransomware attack that targets water supply

A security researcher is showing that it’s not hard to hold industrial control systems for ransom. He’s experimented with a simulated water treatment system based on actual programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and documented how these can be hacked.screen shot 2017 02 13 at 5.45.40 pm

David Formby, a PhD student at Georgia Institute of Technology, conducted his experiment to warn the industry about the danger of poorly-secured PLCs. These small dedicated computers can be used to control important factory processes or utilities, but are sometimes connected to the internet.

For instance, Formby found that 1,500 of these industrial PLCs are accessible online, he said while speaking at the RSA cybersecurity conference on Monday. It’s not hard to imagine a hacker trying to exploit these exposed PLCs, he added. Cybercriminals have been infecting businesses across the world with ransomware, a form of malware that can hold data hostage in exchange for bitcoin.

For a hacker, holding an industrial control system hostage can also be lucrative, and far more devastating for the victim.

“He (the hacker) can threaten to permanently damage this really sensitive equipment,” Formby said. “For example, a power grid transformer can take months to repair.”

Ideally, industrial PLCs should be “air-gapped” or segregated from the internet. But often times, they’re connected to other computers that are frequently online. Or they’re accessible from a third-party vendor, who’s been hired to maintain them over the internet, Formby said.

In addition, these PLCs are often old, and weren’t built with online security features in mind. For instance, there’s nothing to protect them from brute-force password attacks or to prevent the use of weak passwords, Formby said.

To demonstrate the risks, Formby designed a simulated water treatment plant, built with actual industrial PLCs that will control the flow of water and chlorine into a storage tank (a YouTube video can be found here).

In a month’s time he developed a ransomware-like attack to control the PLCs to fill the storage tank with too much chlorine, making the water mix dangerous to drink. Formby also managed to fool the surrounding sensors into thinking that clean water was actually inside the tank.

A hacker wanting to blackmail a water utility could take a same approach, and threaten to taint the water supply unless paid a ransom, he warned.

Real-world water treatment systems are more sophisticated than the generic one he designed, Formby said. However, poorly-secured PLCs are being used across every industry, including in oil and gas plants and manufacturing.

Most of these PLCs he found that were accessible online are located in the U.S., but many others were found in India and China, he said.

Formby recommends that industrial operators make sure they understand which systems connect to the internet, and who has control over them. He’s also set up a company designed to help operators monitor for any malicious activity over their industrial control systems.

Amazon Chime goes after WebEx, Skype for Business and more

Companies looking for a new video- and teleconferencing system have a fresh face to turn to in the market: Amazon Web Services.aws logo stock reinvent

On Monday, the public cloud provider announced the launch of Amazon Chime, a new service that’s designed to compete with the likes of WebEx, Skype for Business and GoToMeeting. It’s a powerful swing at some very entrenched enterprise software players by the public cloud provider.

AWS launched the service with native applications for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android. Chime’s infrastructure is based in the U.S., but Gene Farrell, AWS’s vice president of enterprise applications, said that the service can be accessed worldwide.

One of Chime’s interesting features is a visual roster of meeting participants that includes information about any people who have distracting background noise interrupting the call. In a meeting without a moderator, any user can choose to mute one of their fellow participants so that the rest on the call don’t have to listen to a barking dog or the sound of typing.

People who get muted in that way will get notified that their mic has been blocked, and can choose to unmute themselves whenever they want to.

In addition, users can call into a Chime conference call using a regular phone number, in the event they can’t access the service’s app for one reason or another. In the future, Farrell said that AWS also plans to add support for person to person calls over a traditional telephone network.

Chime is part of AWS’s portfolio of applications focused on helping business users with their work. That set of services started with the company’s WorkSpaces cloud virtual desktop as a service offering, and now includes AWS’s WorkDocs office suite, WorkMail email service and QuickSight business intelligence service.

The service will be available in three pricing tiers. Basic offers users one-on-one voice and video calls, plus group chat capabilities. Plus costs US$2.50 per user per month, and adds support for screen sharing and integration with identity management systems through SAML and Active Directory.

Pro costs $15 per user per month, and lets users do all of the above, plus host meetings with up to 100 participants. Users at the other two pricing tiers can join conferences set up by Pro users, so companies can mix and match licenses to minimize Chime’s cost.

Amazon offers a free trial of all the Pro features for 30 days. After that expires, customers can choose to keep using the Basic tier, or pay for more advanced functionality. Farrell said that Chime could reduce a company’s unified communications bill by up to 70 percent.

Companies with existing in-room conferencing systems made by companies like Polycom and Crestron will be able to set those devices up to integrate with Chime.

To help with adoption, AWS is working with Level 3 Communications and Vonage. Level 3 will market Chime to its enterprise customers, while Vonage will work with small businesses. Both offerings will be available in the second quarter of this year.

Amazon has already been testing Chime with a handful of customers, including fashion retailer Brooks Brothers. The company, which was founded in 1818, has rolled out Chime to 90 percent of its corporate staff.