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Put the internet back under your control with the FreedomBox

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Privacy is dead
Tonya Hall sits down with Amy Webb, professor at the NYU Stern School of Business and founder of the Future Today Institute, about the 2019 Tech Trends Report and its findings.

On today’s internet, most of us find ourselves locked into one service provider or the other. We find ourselves tied down to Apple, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft for our e-mail, social networking, calendering — you name it. It doesn’t have to be that way. The FreedomBox Foundation has just released its first commercially available FreedomBox: The Pioneer Edition FreedomBox Home Server Kit. With it, you — not some company — control over your internet-based services.

The Olimex Pioneer FreedomBox costs less than $100 and is powered by a single-board computer (SBC), the open source hardware-based Olimex A20-OLinuXino-LIME2 board. This SBC is powered by a 1GHz A20/T2 dual core Cortex-A7 processor and dual-core Mali 400 GPU. It also comes with a Gigabyte of RAM, a high-speed 32GB micro SD card for storage with the FreedomBox software pre-installed, two USB ports, SATA-drive support, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a backup battery.

Doesn’t sounds like much does it? But, here’s the thing: You don’t need much to run a personal server.

Sure, some of us have been running our own servers at home, the office, or at a hosting site for ages. I’m one of those people. But, it’s hard to do. What the FreedomBox brings to the table is the power to let almost anyone run their own server without being a Linux expert.

The supplied FreedomBox software is based on Debian Linux. It’s designed from the ground-up to make it as hard as possible for anyone to exploit your data. It does this by putting you in control of your own corner of the internet at home. Its simple user interface lets you host your own internet services with little expertise.

You can also just download the FreedomBox software and run it on your own SBC. The Foundation recommends using the Cubietruck, Cubieboard2, BeagleBone Black, A20 OLinuXino Lime2, A20 OLinuXino MICRO, and PC Engines APU. It will also run on most newer Raspberry Pi models.

Want an encrypted chat server to replace WhatsApp? It’s got that. A VoIP server? Sure. A personal website? Of course! Web-based file sharing à la Dropbox? You bet. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) server of your own? Yes, that’s essential for its mission.

The software stack isn’t perfect. This is still a work in progress. So, for example, it still doesn’t have a personal email server or federated social networking, such as GNU Social and Diaspora, to provide a privacy-respecting alternative to Facebook. That’s not because they won’t run on a FreedomBox; they will. What they haven’t been able to do yet is to make it easy enough for anyone to do and not someone with Linux sysadmin chops. That will come in time.

As the Foundation stated, “The word ‘Pioneer’ was included in the name of these kits in order to emphasize the leadership required to run a FreedomBox in 2019. Users will be pioneers both because they have the initiative to define this new frontier and because their feedback will make FreedomBox better for its next generation of users.”

To help you get up to speedm the FreedomBox community will be offering free technical support for owners of the Pioneer Edition FreedomBox servers on its support forum. The Foundation also welcomes new developers to help it perfect the FreedomBox platform. 

Why do this?  Eben Moglen, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, saw the mess we were heading toward almost 10 years ago: “Mr. Zuckerberg has attained an unenviable record: he has done more harm to the human race than anybody else his age.” That was before Facebook proved itself to be totally incompetent with security and sold off your data to Cambridge Analytica to scam 50 million US Facebook users with  personalized anti-Clinton and pro-Trump propaganda in the 2016 election.

It didn’t have to be that way. In an interview, Moglen told me this: “Concentration of technology is a surprising outcome of cheap hardware and free software. We could have had a world of peers. Instead, the net we built is the net we didn’t want. We’re in an age of surveillance with centralized control. We’re in a world, which encourages swiping, clicking, and flame throwing.”

With FreedomBox, “We can undo this. We can make it possible for ordinary people to provide internet services. You can have your own private messaging, services without a man in the middle watching your every move.” 

We can, in short, rebuild the internet so that we, and not multi-billion dollar companies, are in charge.

I like this plan.

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2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8 Convertible Review – Heritage only goes so far

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Heritage can be a lodestar or it can be a crippling anchor holding you back, and few cars illustrate that quite so well as the Corvette. America’s homegrown sports car star has the history, sure, but it’s fair to say that in its last few generations it’s felt more “quarterback gone to seed” than all-out contender. The 2020 Corvette Stingray changes that.

Chevrolet didn’t set itself a small challenge there, either. Mid-engined for the first time, more capable of directly competing with the Porsche 911 that Corvette fans always used to say their car rivaled, and to which the rest of us politely nodded and smiled and hoped they’d change the subject. It couldn’t just be a big engine and a comparatively small price any more.

The result is a performance car that feels shaped by both demands for speed and practicality; built to a price and with hints of racing game and “show it off in the parking lot” whiz-bang gimmickry. Cold, hard pragmatism butting up against that omnipresent recognition that a Corvette has to feel like a Corvette else, really, what’s the point?

That’s a lot of directions to be pulled in, and it could’ve left the Corvette C8 a deep disappointment. The fact that it isn’t, well, that’s something of a surprise.

Style-wise, it’s one of those cars which is far more successful in person than on the screen. Sure, it feels like Chevrolet’s designers have spread their inspiration net wide, and there are some angles where the C8 is a little ungainly. The rear decklid is particularly exaggerated – though in this convertible form it hides a trick folding metal roof as well as a fairly sizable trunk – while the vents just aft of the doors look more ungainly the longer you look at them and the rear is somewhat busy. I wouldn’t have chosen “Accelerate Yellow” paint, either; the Corvette doesn’t need to do quite so much work to stand out.

Pricing kicks off at $66,400 (plus $1,095 destination) for the drop-top, though it’s hard to imagine most C8 buyers stopping there. The standard car isn’t poorly equipped, but the $11,450 3LT package upgrades the infotainment, adds a Bose audio system, a head-up display, GT2 bucket seats with heating, ventilation, and power bolsters, the Performance Data Recorder that now captures both 1080p footage from the track and everyday video of your trip to Costco. It also throws in a front curb-view camera – its view summoned with a mercifully easy to locate button – and must-haves like blind spot warnings and rear cross traffic alerts.

I say “must haves” because rear visibility is fairly dire, and side visibility isn’t all that grand either. The rear spoiler that comes as part of the $5,000 Z51 Performance Package doesn’t help with sight-lines but it sure looks good. The rest of the package is more focused on speed, with special suspension, brakes, an electronic limited slip differential, high-performance tires, a special exhaust and rear axle ratio, and a heavy-duty cooling system.

$1,895 adds Magnetic Ride Control, and it’s an option every Corvette buyer should check off. Chevrolet’s trick dampers can adjust the viscosity of the fluid inside, crisping things up for coccyx-punishing firmness or mellowing out for long-distance cruising. It’s suspension witchcraft and more than worth the money, as is the $1,495 front lift system which can either be triggered manually or programmed to automatically raise the nose for the same tricky incline every time.

What every Corvette Stingray has at the moment is the same LT2 6.2-liter V8 engine, good for 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. The Z51 package nudges those up to 495 hp and 470 lb-ft, and trims the 0-60 mph time to 2.9 seconds. There’s no manual option – that’s part of Chevy’s aforementioned pragmatism, blaming traditionally low sales of stick shifts even if purists say they’re non-negotiable – only an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters.

The engine’s in the middle, and it’s the rear wheels that are driven. There’s been plenty of chatter about AWD and hybrid options, but for the moment the C8 is keeping things simple. Simple and effective, mind.

It goes fast, of course. In a straight line, the Stingray leaps ahead like a beast scalded, monstrously quick and with a soundtrack to match. I’m not typically a convertible fan, but the drop-top C8 allows you to lower the rear glass window independently, letting in more of the V8 howl.

Six drive modes span inclement weather through to full-on track use, and there are all manner of traction settings to tinker with if you dig through the menus. The sluggish drive mode dial isn’t really set up for fast spinning through to take advantage of an unexpectedly rewarding road, mind; better to stab the “Z” button on the wheel, which you can preconfigure with your pick of the settings.

Speaking of the wheel, Chevrolet’s decision to fit a weirdly rectangular one with droopy-jowl spokes feels like another of those misguided gaming-inspired decisions. It’s thick-rimmed and – in 3LT form – heated, while $595 gives it a sueded microfiber wrap that’s going to one day be a time capsule of every greasy palm that gripped it. Does the shape help? Probably not.

The Corvette C8 does, at least, respond well to it. Indeed cornering is one of the Chevy’s key charms, even with some sensible understeer dialed in from the factory. There’s a predictable linearity to it, combined with a sharpness of turn-in that leaves things feeling just plain playful. Factor in ridiculous levels of grip and little in the way of body roll, and it becomes abundantly clear that this thing was tuned for fun.

The same can be said for the gearbox. Sure, it’s a little lacking in slush at low speeds, but I’ll stomach the jerkiness there in return for the snappy response to the paddles (or, if you’re feeling lazy, eager willingness to downshift when you push on in auto mode). Switch to Tour, meanwhile, and the engine/transmission/dampers combo is unexpectedly refined. This needn’t be just your weekend plaything.

There’s room for two inside, though things feel snug. Part of that is pure dimensions, and part of that is Chevrolet’s packaging. The high center console – particularly the long ski-slope of HVAC buttons cascading confusingly down between driver and passenger – could easily leave larger occupants feeling claustrophobic.

All C8’s get an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen within easy reach, and a 12-inch driver display with different gauge displays depending on which mode you’re in. It feels, frankly, light years ahead of the old Corvette, though you’ll need the 2021 model year car to get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rather than their wired counterparts.

What stands out, though, is just how much the C8 feels focused on the pleasure of actually driving. For all the new platform, and the fancier tech, and the slick hard-top convertible roof, that 6.2-liter V8 is the star here. When you’re cruising, it’s burbling happily; push harder, and it serenades you like only an eight-cylinder can, while still delivering the urgency that rivals have turned to smaller, turbocharged engines to deliver.

It’s fun that’s contagious, too. Few cars I’ve been in recently have turned so many heads, and prompted so many questions, as the Corvette C8. People love this car, and it feels like everyone has a ‘Vette story of their own to share in turn.

Factor in time for those conversations, then, and for being more watchful than you might expect in a modern vehicle. Chevy doesn’t offer adaptive cruise control, nor lane-keeping assistance, and there’s no automatic emergency braking. Rear cross-traffic alerts were added for the MY21 C8.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Verdict

Not having grown up in the US, sometimes the charms of Americana are lost on me. The old Corvette was a good example of that: I knew people loved it, I just could never quite figure out why. The good news is the Corvette C8 isn’t just playing to the home crowd.

Maybe it’s the personality it brings to the table, or the usability. Some sports cars leave you wary of their power or temperament, but like anything with a Chevrolet badge on the hood, the Corvette doesn’t demand blood sacrifice in order to get the job done.

Value is subjective, of course. No, this particular $93,660 Corvette isn’t cheap but, given the sort of cars it competes so strongly with, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t punch above its weight. I’d keep the Z51 package and the MagneRide, and maybe compromise on the 2LT trim to keep the overall sticker down, but even if you maxed it out and made the dealer’s day you’re still well under the 911 and even McLaren Sport Series I think the ‘Vette can spar with.

History, and heritage, can be great. At their best they set expectations, just as long as you avoid falling into the same old ruts as before. While what’s new about the Corvette C8 is special, then, it’s how Chevrolet maintains its old values like attainability and everyday usability that really makes this car shine.

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Volvo created the “ultimate driving simulator” using the latest gaming tech

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Engineers at Volvo have created what they call the ultimate driving simulator. The driving simulator wasn’t created for fun. Rather it was created to help them improve vehicle safety and autonomous driving technology. Volvo has a very long history of vehicle safety innovations.

The new ultimate driving simulator provides Volvo with groundbreaking mixed-reality simulation. The set up has a moving driving seat, steering wheel with haptic feedback, and a virtual reality headset. Volvo engineers say the driving simulator makes it hard to tell reality from simulation, which was precisely the point of building it.

The technology behind the driving simulator uses the real-time 3D development platform Unity and tech from a virtual and mixed reality company called Varjo. The simulator involves driving a real car on real roads combining life-like high definition 3D graphics with an augmented reality headset and a full-body Teslasuit providing feedback from a virtual world and monitoring bodily reactions.

The software and hardware allow Volvo engineers to simulate fewer traffic scenarios on a real test track while using a real car in complete safety. The system allows the engineers to gain important insights on the interaction between drivers and the vehicle to develop new safety, driver assistance, and autonomous driving features.

Test drivers can be exposed to imagined active safety and driver assistance features, upcoming autonomous drive user interfaces, future car models, and many other scenarios. The system can be used on a real test track road or in the test lab with fully customizable scenarios of endless variety. Volvo recently demonstrated its ultimate driving simulator, and the video can be seen above. Engineers note that when developing safety systems for vehicles, testing is critical, but testing the systems in the real world can be dangerous, time-consuming, and expensive. Moving the testing to the virtual world saves significant time and money.

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2022 Genesis GV70 will debut with innovative biometrics and rear-seat detection technology

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It seems the 2022 Genesis GV70 will offer more than just unprecedented luxury and good looks. According to the Korean Car Blog, the newest GV70 will feature an in-vehicle fingerprint-activated biometrics system and a new rear-seat detection radar sensor.

The Santa Fe SUV was among the first Hyundai vehicles to get in-vehicle fingerprint scanners, but the new system in the Genesis GV70 can do more than open the door or start the engine. The fingerprint sensor is located under the Start/Stop button and allows you to pay for fuel and parking via Genesis CarPay, and you can do it all without repeatedly entering confusing passwords.

It also functions in Valet Mode by hiding your phonebook and home address from the infotainment display. And since your biometric data is linked to the vehicle’s settings, you can open the door using the Genesis Connected App and start the engine using fingerprint recognition, all without using a smart key.

Also, touching the fingerprint sensor restores all customer information for the driver’s seat position, steering wheel orientation, latest navigation data, and the infotainment volume – all of which are stored with your fingerprint data.

The newest Genesis GV70 will also come with a sophisticated rear-seat detection system. This technology is nothing new. But again, Genesis is taking it further by utilizing a ceiling-mounted, ultra-sensitive radar sensor in place of a conventional ultrasonic sensor.

According to Genesis, the new radar sensor is more sensitive and more accurate in detecting subtle movements. It’s so keen, in fact, that Genesis claims it can detect the beating heart of a sleeping infant in the back seat.

The powerful sensor can read through non-metallic materials like blankets, clothes, seats, and even dog crates to detect your pets. The newest GV70 luxury crossover will be the first to get this innovative rear-seat reminder technology, while other Hyundai vehicles are expected to soon inherit this new tech.

The 2022 GV70 is the second SUV from Genesis after launching the GV80 this year. Based on the G70 sport-luxury sedan, the GV70 is the purest interpretation of the brand’s ‘Athletic Elegance’ design idiom.

The powertrain specifics are still forthcoming, but we’re expecting the new GV70 to have standard FWD and optional AWD with either a 2.5-liter turbo-four or a twin-turbo V6 motor. It will first go on sale in South Korea by this December, while the first U.S. deliveries arrive by mid-2021.

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