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We put the paper back into a ChromeOS paperless office



Enlarge / A little less than $350 buys you a solid color laser printer, scanner, and fax machine that works flawlessly with Android and ChromeOS devices.

Jim Salter

With social distancing and isolation, many of us are having to find ways to do more with less—in terms of equipment and technical support, as much as anything else. Today, we’re going to take a look at one success story in a less-traveled but suddenly very relevant workflow—scanning and printing with a ChromeOS device.

Enter the Chromebox

Chromeboxes are just like the Chromebooks that American schools have almost unanimously adopted as student computers. They’re simple, low-powered devices that run ChromeOS—which doesn’t look much like an “operating system” at all to the user. The only difference is that, while a Chromebook is a laptop form factor, a Chromebox is a tiny standalone PC which can be bolted right to the back of a standard monitor.

For people who do most of their work online, ChromeOS devices are great—they’re inexpensive, they cold boot in seconds, and they manage all of their own software updates. They’re also nearly impossible to get infested with malware. The worst “malware” problems I’ve ever seen on a ChromeOS device are spammy browser notifications, caused by a user clicking “allow” when some ad banner requests the privilege.

Trying to figure out how to print—and scan—from a ChromeOS device is a little more difficult to figure out. But if you’re careful with your purchases, it can be done—and it works quite well.

Bringing paper back into the paperless office

Like most Arsians, I tend to be the de facto tech support person in my family. So when my father-in-law kept having problems with malware and confusing sets of applications and drivers on his Windows computer several years ago, I asked him a few questions about what he did with his PC.

After hearing all he wanted to do was get online and edit the occasional Word document, I set him up with a Chromebox bolted to a 24″ monitor. The Chromebox seemed to be a great success—there weren’t any more malware problems, and my father-in-law took to the G Suite office functionality built into ChromeOS without a problem.

What I didn’t realize—because I failed to sufficiently explore the problem space!—is that, while he mostly just wanted to “get online,” my father-in-law still had some occasional legacy business needs. Although he’s officially retired, he still keeps busy with the occasional contract—and rather than bother me when plugging his old printer into the Chromebox didn’t work, he just started going to Staples to print and scan documents there.

Eventually, my wife found out about the Staples trips—and told me we needed to get an all-in-one printer, scanner, and fax machine for the Chromebox.

Adding hardware to a driverless system

ChromeOS devices very deliberately eschew the normal hardware ecosystem—you can’t just buy any random thing from the store, plug it in, and expect to stick in a CD-ROM (or download a driver) and make it work. So the key to finding my father-in-law a workable system was going to be direct integration with Google cloud services—not the Chromebox itself.

I knew that many printers would support Google Cloud Print, which would in turn make printing possible from either ChromeOS or Android devices. The ugly question revolved around scanning. Typically when setting up network scanners, they either scan to SMB—shared Windows folders—or to email.

Scanning to SMB was definitely going to be out for a Chromebox, and email didn’t sound like much fun either—Google has made Gmail accounts notoriously difficult and unreliable for simple SMTP services to access, and I more than half-expected I’d need to set up a “relay” account on a Postfix server running in a VM, so that the scanner could send emails to the Gmail account by way of the Postfix server in the middle.

Happily, it turned out to be a much simpler proposition than that—several of Brother’s all-in-one MFC devices support scanning directly to a Google Drive account. No email, no SMTP relay, just put in your credentials and go—and have the images show up exactly where a ChromeOS user will be looking for them in the first place!

Brother MFC-L3710CW to the rescue

After a little more careful questioning, we determined that a color printer was also in order, not just black and white. Brother has two under-$500 laser printers that fit all of our needs—the $330 MFC-L3710CW, and the $370 MFC-L3770CDW.

Normally, I’d strongly prefer the MFC-L3770CDW. The extra $40 or so buys you faster printing, an automatic duplexer, and a wired Ethernet jack. The Ethernet jack wouldn’t help in this case, since the router wasn’t in my father-in-law’s office, and he wasn’t going to move it, and we weren’t going to run cable.

Adding insult to injury, the MFC-L3770CDW was out of stock on the day I was shopping—so I sighed, ordered the cheaper model, and called it a day.

If you don’t want an All-In-One device

If you end up preferring a standalone printer, any device offering Cloud Print support will do—and those are much easier to search for. You can take care of occasional scanning needs surprisingly easily and well with a smartphone and the Adobe Scan app, which is available for free in both Android and iOS app stores.

Adobe Scan allows you to take photos of paper documents at nearly any angle and skew—making it easy to avoid casting shadows. The app automatically detects the paper’s edges and near-instantly transforms the raw photo into a clean scan that looks like it was taken with a real photocopier.

In addition to single-page scans, the app allows up to 25 pages to be assembled into a single PDF. PDFs created by Adobe Scan can then be accessed via an Adobe Cloud account or downloaded or emailed directly via the phone itself.

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Eufy’s “local storage” cameras can be streamed from anywhere, unencrypted



Enlarge / Eufy’s camera footage is stored locally, but with the right URL, you can also watch it from anywhere, unencrypted. It’s complicated.

When security researchers found that Eufy’s supposedly cloud-free cameras were uploading thumbnails with facial data to cloud servers, Eufy’s response was that it was a misunderstanding, a failure to disclose an aspect of its mobile notification system to customers.

It seems there’s more understanding now, and it’s not good.

Eufy didn’t respond to other claims from security researcher Paul Moore and others, including that one could stream the feed from a Eufy camera in VLC Media Player, if you had the right URL. Last night, The Verge, working with the security researcher “Wasabi” who first tweeted the problem, confirmed it could access Eufy camera streams, encryption-free, through a Eufy server URL.

This makes Eufy’s privacy promises of footage that “never leaves the safety of your home,” is end-to-end encrypted, and only sent “straight to your phone” highly misleading, if not outright dubious. It also contradicts an Anker/Eufy senior PR manager who told The Verge that “it is not possible” to watch footage using a third-party tool like VLC.

The Verge notes some caveats, similar to those that applied to the cloud-hosted thumbnail. Chiefly, you would typically need a username and password to reveal and access the encryption-free URL of a stream. “Typically,” that is, because the camera-feed URL appears to be a relatively simple scheme involving the camera serial number in Base64, a Unix timestamp, a token that The Verge says is not validated by Eufy’s servers, and a four-digit hex value. Eufy’s serial numbers are typically 16 digits long, but they are also printed on some boxes and could be obtained in other places.

We’ve reached out to Eufy and Wasabi and will update this post with any further information. Researcher Paul Moore, who initially raised concerns with Eufy’s cloud access, tweeted on November 28 that he had “a lengthy discussion with [Eufy’s] legal department” and would not comment further until he could provide an update.

Vulnerability discovery is far more of a norm than an exception in the smart home and home security fields. Ring, Nest, Samsung, the corporate meeting cam Owl—if it has a lens, and it connects to Wi-Fi, you can expect a flaw to show up at some point, and headlines to go with it. Most of these flaws are limited in scope, complicated for a malicious entity to act upon, and, with responsible disclosure and a swift response, will ultimately make the devices and systems stronger.

Eufy, in this instance, is not looking like the typical cloud security company with a typical vulnerability. An entire page of privacy promises, including some valid and notably good moves, has been made largely irrelevant within a week’s time.

You could argue that anyone who wants to be notified of camera incidents on their phone should expect some cloud servers to be involved. You might give Eufy the benefit of the doubt, that the cloud servers you can access with the right URL are simply a waypoint for streams that have to leave the home network eventually under an account password lock.

But it has to be particularly painful for customers who bought Eufy’s products under the auspices of having their footage stored locally, safely, and differently from those other cloud-based firms only to see Eufy struggle to explain its own cloud reliance to one of the largest tech news outlets.

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Pixel 7a rumors show similar design, big tech upgrades



Enlarge / Yep, that’s what I thought it would look like.

OnLeaks and Smartprix

The design of the Pixel 7a does not seem like it will contain many surprises. OnLeaks has a fresh render for Google’s next mid-range phone, and it looks like a mini Pixel 7. Usually, these renders are based on CAD information passed out to accessory manufacturers, so the sizes and shapes are usually accurate, but things like the colors and materials are up for interpretation.

If rumors are true, this will be Google’s fourth phone to keep the camera-bar design going. The Pixel 6 and 6a camera bar had a clear glass or plastic covering around the camera lenses, while the Pixel 7 switched to an opaque, solid aluminum camera bar. Google likes these phones to look the same, so it’s a safe bet the Pixel 7a will also get a solid camera bar. Whether that’s aluminum or some other material is still up for interpretation. The front is also predictable and looks just like the Pixel 6a, with a flat screen and what the report calls “thick bezels.”

Elsewhere in the Pixel rumor mill, big upgrades are expected for the Pixel 7a. Android researcher Kuba Wojciechowski has been tracking the Pixel 7a (codenamed “Lynx” and “Pixel 22 Mid-range”) via the Android codebase, which reveals additions like (slow) 5 W wireless charging and the same Samsung GN1 main camera as what’s in the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, along with a Sony IMX787 for the wide-angle sensor. The new sensors would be a big camera upgrade. Currently, the Pixel 6a’s main camera is the venerable Sony IMX363, a sensor that Google has been using (with one minor revision) since the Pixel 2. A fresh set of sensors would make sense, given that the IMX363 is around six years old now.

You might ask, “Well, won’t flagship cameras cannibalize the bigger Pixel sales?” and we’ll say that Google has never seemed to care about that. The Pixel 6a has the same SoC as the Pixel 6 and really seems to strive to be a third flagship next to the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Running a similar camera loadout would fit that strategy. Cannibalization might matter for companies with big, established businesses, but Google might just want to grab at whatever sales it can get at this point.

Wojciechowski’s code hunting also says the Pixel 7a will sport a 90 Hz, 1080p Samsung display, which would also be a huge improvement over the 60 Hz Pixel 6a. All of this at the 6a’s current $449 price might sound like a lot, but the Pixel 7 recently shipped in India, and if Google wants to be competitive there, this still isn’t good enough. In India, it’s normal for phones in this price range to have 120 Hz displays and flagship specs. In the US, though, this phone at Pixel 6a prices would be a killer deal.

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Elon Musk appears to reconcile with Apple after Twitter tirade



Elon Musk said he had a “good conversation” with Apple chief executive Tim Cook and “resolved the misunderstanding” about his claim that Twitter could be removed from the App Store, just days after the world’s richest man unleashed a tirade against the most valuable tech company.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Musk said that “Tim was clear that Apple never considered” potentially removing Twitter from the App Store, describing it as a “misunderstanding.”

Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion last month, also thanked Cook for “taking me round Apple’s beautiful HQ,” and posted a video from Apple Park.

The volte-face comes after the billionaire entrepreneur on Monday accused Apple of threatening to “withhold Twitter from its App Store” without explaining why, and criticized the iPhone maker for curbing advertising on the platform, writing: “Do they hate free speech in America?”

The Tesla and SpaceX chief executive also raised concerns about Apple’s “in-app purchase” policy, which gives it a 15-30 percent cut of digital purchases made on the iPhone, and claims that the company abuses its market power.

Musk has previously outlined plans to shift Twitter away from relying on advertising revenues—in which Apple takes no cut—towards more subscription revenues, from which Apple would take a slice.

Apple declined to comment.

The apparent reconciliation comes amid growing concern among some nonprofits and regulators about Musk’s relaxation of Twitter’s content moderation policing. Musk, a self-declared “free speech absolutist,” is reversing most permanent bans on the platform and allowing all speech as long as it is legal, although “negative/hate speech” will not be boosted in users’ feeds.

The approach has prompted dozens of large brands to pull spending from the platform over fears their advertising may run alongside toxic content.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Twitter said none of its policies had changed and that its trust and safety team remained “strong and well-resourced.”

Apple maintains guidelines requiring social media apps to “block abusive users,” allow users to “report offensive content” and to filter “objectionable material from being posted.”

When Apple expelled Parler, a Twitter rival used by rightwing extremists, Apple said it had “not upheld its commitment to moderate and remove harmful or dangerous content encouraging violence and illegal activity.”

Although the feud appears to be over for now, Musk’s tweets were a catalyst for renewed criticism of Apple that could prove damaging, as antitrust regulators and app developers voice concerns over its rules and the role it plays as “gatekeeper” by deciding what content is allowed on more than 1 billion phones worldwide.

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, warned Apple that removing Twitter from the App Store would be viewed as a “raw exercise of monopolistic power” and “would merit a response from the United States Congress.”

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook parent Meta, was also critical of Apple’s market power during an interview at The New York Times’s Dealbook summit on Wednesday, saying: “I do think Apple has sort of singled themselves out as the only company that is trying to control, unilaterally, what apps get on the [Apple] device and I don’t think that’s a sustainable or a good place to be.”

Apple has been dealing with criticism of the App Store for years. Epic Games, the maker of popular mobile game Fortnite, sued Apple in 2020 but only won on one of the 10 counts. Epic and Apple have both appealed against the decision.

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