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The UniFi Dream Machine router is a great entry point for networking nerds

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A few weeks ago, Ubiquiti unveiled the UniFi Dream Machine, an all-in-one networking device that combines a router, a switch with four Ethernet ports and a Wi-Fi access point for $299. It has what Ubiquiti calls an integrated cloud key that lets you control your network.

I’ve been using the UniFi Dream Machine on my home network for the past couple of weeks, so consider this a review of the device.

Ubiquiti is a well-known networking brand. Most people are familiar with the company’s access points — those rounded antennas that you can find around schools, companies and public spaces.

But the upfront investment has always been a bit steep for personal use cases and even small companies. The UniFi Dream Machine sits perfectly in between professional gears and consumer devices. It represents a huge upgrade is you’re using the router with Wi-Fi capabilities provided by your internet service provider.

Rebundling UniFi devices

Ubiquiti has a range of routers under the AmpliFi brand for consumers who are looking for a plug-and-play solution. The company recently announced a new device with great specifications if you don’t want to mess around with networking settings.

But if you’re reading this, chances are you know that UniFi products offer some customizations that you think are lacking in consumer products.

Switching from an all-in-one networking device to a UniFi system has always been a bit complicated. The company has broken down the networking stack into different devices to offer you more control.

It means that you have to buy a Security Gateway (a router, the “brain” of the network), a switch (just like a power strip, but for Ethernet ports) and an access point (a Wi-Fi antenna). On top of that, a UniFi cloud key is an essential buy if you want to manage your network with the company’s controller software.

If you’re committed to the UniFi ecosystem, you get a great experience. You can manage each Ethernet port on your switch individually, you can control Wi-Fi settings from anywhere in the world and many, many more things. Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson fell down the UniFi rabbit hole and wrote a great story about his experience running professional networking gears at home.

The UniFi Dream Machine takes a different approach. It rebundles all the separate pieces that make a UniFi network come to life. You can buy the $300 UniFi Dream Machine and control every little detail of your network.

Specifications

A few words on the specifications of the UniFi Dream Machine. The pill-shaped device has an integrated security gateway, which lets you run a DHCP server, create firewall policies, take advantage of multiple VLANs and more.

In addition to the WAN port to connect your device to the internet, there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports. As for Wi-Fi, the Dream Machine supports 802.11ac Wave 2 (“Wi-Fi 5”) with a 4×4 MU-MIMO antenna — no Wi-Fi 6 unfortunately.

Behind the scene, the device uses a 1.7GHz ARM Cortex-A57 processor. It has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage and consumes up to 26W.

Using the Dream Machine

Setting up the UniFi Dream Machine is a great experience. Ideally, you want to plug an Ethernet cable in your ISP-provided router and put it in bridge mode. This way, it’ll act as a dumb modem and let the UniFi Dream Machine do all the hard work.

After downloading the mobile app and turning on the UniFi Dream Machine, you get a popup that mimics the pairing popup of the AirPods. You can then control your network from that mobile app or use a web browser on your computer.

This is when it gets interesting.

UniFi’s controller software usually lists all the UniFi devices currently running on your network. With the UniFi Dream Machine, you get a single device. But if you expand that device, you can see a list of three separate UniFi components — a gateway, a switch and an AP.

As expected, you can control every little detail of your network. Once again, this isn’t for everyone and you will have to learn a lot of things about networking in order to optimize your setup. But if you’re a digital tinkerer, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The UniFi Dream Machine acts as the DHCP server in my home. I have renamed my devices and assigned fixed IPs to all my device in order to find them more easily. You can see in real time the network they’re using and if they’re getting a good Wi-Fi signal.

I have also configured Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 public DNS at the network level.

There are a ton of possibilities if you care about security. I created a guest Wi-Fi network that only lets my friends access the internet. They can browse Twitter and stream Netflix shows without any issue, but they can’t access my computers on the local network.

I also created another Wi-Fi network for IoT devices, such as connected speakers, a printer and a robot vacuum. Connected devices don’t get a lot of security patches and have more vulnerabilities than a computer or a smartphone that you keep up-to-date. I assigned a different VLAN to this Wi-Fi network. VLANs let you create a partitioned network with different sets of rules.

I applied firewall rules to this VLAN so that I can control the devices from my personal devices, but they can’t initiate requests to my devices on their own. This is overkill for most people, but it’s fun that you can do that from UniFi’s controller. More details here.

When it comes to Wi-Fi, everything is customizable and performances have been stellar. I live in a small apartment, but the balcony has always been an issue. I often work from the balcony, and I’ve been using a cheap Wi-Fi extender that I found in a box of gadgets and cables.

I unplugged the Wi-Fi extender and tried to connect to the UniFi Dream Machine. I get better performance, even if I reduce Wi-Fi transmit power to medium.

These are just a few examples of things you can do with the UniFi Dream Machine. I feel like I’m still underusing the device (you can connect via SSH and control everything from the terminal), but I wouldn’t consider going back to an entry-level router with Wi-Fi capabilities.

Targeting prosumers

The UniFi Dream Machine is the networking device I didn’t know I wanted. I’ll never have hundreds of Wi-Fi devices connected to my home network. I don’t need a dozen Ethernet ports. And yet, I want to be in control of my network. If you miss Apple’s AirPort Extreme or if you’re a networking nerd, you should consider the UniFi Dream Machine.

Small businesses and shops often make some poor decisions at the beginning of the company. A cheap Wi-Fi router on Amazon doesn’t cut it when your business scales. The Dream Machine can be a good entry point as you’ll be able to build upon that base device.

But if you think you have bigger needs, don’t try to run a big network from a UniFi Dream Machine. Ubiquiti sells some great rackable devices that will give you a lot more flexibility. The UniFi Dream Machine is a constrained machine after all. That’s what makes it both not good enough for enterprise customers and great for prosumers.

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Jury deliberates for 45 minutes before handing Elon Musk victory in ‘pedo guy’ defamation trial

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Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk gained a stunning legal victory on Friday as a federal court jury swiftly rejected the US$190 million defamation claim brought by a British cave explorer who Musk had branded a “pedo guy” on Twitter.

The unanimous verdict by a jury of five women and three men was returned after about 45 minutes of deliberation on the fourth day of Musk’s trial, which was closely watched by legal experts because it is believed to be the first major defamation lawsuit by a private individual to go to trial over tweets.

READ MORE: Defamation trial over Elon Musk’s ‘pedo guy’ tweet begins

Musk, 48, who had testified during the first two days of the trial in his own defence and returned to court on Friday to hear closing arguments from the two sides, exited the courtroom after the verdict and said: “My faith in humanity is restored.”

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Outside the courthouse, cave explorer Vernon Unsworth told a throng of reporters he was resigned to his defeat. “I accept the jury’s verdict, take it on the chin and get on with my life.”

British cave diver Vernon Unsworth attends closing arguments of his defamation trial against Elon Musk in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 6, 2019.
British cave diver Vernon Unsworth attends closing arguments of his defamation trial against Elon Musk in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Mona Shafer Edwards

The case stems from a public quarrel between Musk and Unsworth, who gained fame for his leading role in coordinating the successful rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand in July 2018.

Tesla Cybertruck’s ‘armour glass’ windows smash during demo

Tesla Cybertruck’s ‘armour glass’ windows smash during demo

Unsworth, 64, had chided Musk in a CNN interview for delivering a mini-submarine, which was never used, to the site of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system. Unsworth called Musk’s intervention a “P.R.” stunt and said the high-tech entrepreneur should “stick his submarine where it hurts.”

Musk responded two days later on Twitter with three posts that became the basis of the defamation case. The first questioned Unsworth’s role in the rescue, while the second said, “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it,” using a slang term of pedophile.

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The third tweet, in reply to a follower who asked Musk about the second tweet, said, “Bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.”

READ MORE: Smashing success? After cybertruck demo, Elon Musk says Tesla has received 146K orders

In closing arguments on Friday, Unsworth’s lead attorney, L. Lin Wood, summed up his case by castigating Musk as a “billionaire bully” who had “dropped a nuclear bomb” on Unsworth in his Twitter blast.

Wood said Musk’s “pedo guy” remark was a slur that would overshadow Unsworth’s relationships and job prospects for years to come and urged jurors to teach the Tesla chief executive and SpaceX founder a lesson by awarding Unsworth $190 million, including $150 million in punitive damages.

SEC goes after Elon Musk over another tweet

SEC goes after Elon Musk over another tweet

Two days earlier, under questioning on the witness stand, Musk had estimated his net worth at $20 billion.

But the jury was apparently swayed by the arguments put forth by Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, who said the tweets in question arose from an argument between two men and amounted to an off-hand insult that no one could be expected to take seriously.

READ MORE: Elon Musk faces trial for ‘pedo’ insult after dismissal attempt fails

“In arguments you insult people,” he said. “There is no bomb. No bomb went off.”

Spiro also said Unsworth failed to demonstrate that he suffered any harm from Musk’s comments, which the South African-born businessman apologized for in court earlier in the week.

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© 2019 Reuters

Source: Global News

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Uber weighs next steps after report showed more than 3,000 sex assaults during U.S. rides in 2018

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A day after Uber revealed that more than 3,000 riders and drivers were sexually assaulted last year while using its U.S. service, attention is turning to what’s next for the ride-hailing giant and whether its plans to improve safety go far enough.

Uber’s report was hailed by victims’ rights organizations for taking a step that other companies have so far been unwilling to match. But it’s unclear whether the transparency will help rebuild trust or backfire by showing customers how deep Uber’s safety problems go.

READ MORE: Uber reports more than 3,000 sexual assaults during U.S. rides in 2018

In the safety report, Uber said 464 people were raped while using its U.S. services in 2017 and 2018. Almost all of them — 99.4 per cent — were riders. It’s difficult to compare those statistics to other modes of transportation, because U.S. taxi companies and transit agencies generally do not collect similar national data.

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Even so, many said the report shows Uber has work to do.

“This is a major crisis situation that they’re going to have to deal with because the brand’s built on safety, and even though some could try to say it’s a small number, it’s still way too high — it’s higher than zero — and I think that shows a gap in their screening process,” said Dan Ives, managing director of Wedbush Securities.

The revelations give “meat on the bones” to regulators, including those in London who chose not to renew Uber’s license over safety issues, he said.

Uber investigating after Toronto woman left stranded ‘in middle of nowhere’ during Calgary snowstorm

Uber investigating after Toronto woman left stranded ‘in middle of nowhere’ during Calgary snowstorm

Uber has been working to improve safety over the last two years, rolling out features including an in-app emergency button, a ride-check feature that detects unexpected stops or crashes and the ability for riders or drivers to share their location with loved ones during a ride. The company outlined additional safety steps it will take in the report.

On Monday, Uber plans to launch in seven cities a feature to give riders a four-digit number that they can use to verify that they are getting into the right car. Next year, it plans to launch a survivor support hotline staffed by RAINN, a sexual violence organization, and to provide sexual misconduct education for drivers. The hotline may encourage more victims to report attacks.

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The report only covers Uber’s U.S. operations. The U.S. and Canada brought in 63 per cent of Uber’s revenue last quarter. Lyft said it would release its own safety report, but it has not indicated when.

READ MORE: Ridesharing companies worried about mounting municipal business licences in B.C.

Critics say Uber should be doing more, particularly with background checks, to weed out potentially dangerous drivers. Unlike many taxi companies, Uber and its main U.S. rival, Lyft, do not check drivers’ fingerprints against a national database.

The gold standard for background checks is fingerprinting “because someone can easily fake a Social Security number,” said Dominique Penson, an attorney who has represented sexual assault victims. “You can’t fake a fingerprint. And if somebody has been convicted of a crime anywhere in the United States, that will appear in a national database, and when you run that fingerprint, you’ll know.”

Uber says the FBI has acknowledged its database is incomplete and does not always include a final disposition. The company’s process includes a motor vehicle screening, a criminal background check and ongoing notifications about any new offences.

Quebec taxi drivers worry new legislation will leave them out in the cold

Quebec taxi drivers worry new legislation will leave them out in the cold

An added fingerprint check could add precious time to the driver-approval process at a time when both Uber and Lyft are fiercely competing for market share.

Dashboard cameras also could help by recording incidents and serving as a deterrent for bad behaviour, said Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and online community for drivers. Campbell encourages drivers to get cameras, but the ride-hailing companies have not encouraged the practice.

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“Even if you have dashcam footage, it’s hard to get Uber and Lyft to actually look at the footage,” Campbell said.

READ MORE: Vancouver loses what little ridesharing it had as Kater suspends service

Last month, Uber announced it would allow passengers and drivers in Brazil and Mexico to record audio of their rides.

A U.S. House committee is looking at legislation that could reduce the number of sex assaults involving ride-hailing passengers and drivers, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Friday.

The committee has discussed requiring fingerprint background checks, camera monitoring and front license plates for ride-hailing cars in states that don’t have them. This would help prevent fake ride-hailing drivers from picking up passengers by making it easier for passengers to check plate numbers against the ones provided by Uber and Lyft, DeFazio said.

Former Google engineer now Uber employee charged with tech theft

Former Google engineer now Uber employee charged with tech theft

In Eugene, Oregon, fingerprint checks earlier this year by the local police department found about two dozen Uber and Lyft drivers had criminal records that were missed in the companies’ checks, DeFazio said. One was a convicted murderer, while another was a registered sex offender, according to The Register-Guard newspaper. The city stopped the people from driving for the companies.

There may be limits on what federal legislators can do. Ride-hailing companies could be regulated federally because they conduct interstate commerce, but that is new legal territory, he said.

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Still, he applauded Uber’s report, saying the company had done more than any of its competitors “by just reporting,” DeFazio said. “There’s more to be done, for sure.”

The report raised alarm among some riders.

READ MORE: Uber stripped of licence in London, U.K. over safety ‘failures’

“I think I’ve taken it a little bit for granted, the fact that the app already tracks who I am and where I’m at,” said Mary Yao, 28, an MBA student at U.C. Berkeley. “I think I’ll be more conscientious next time I climb into a car to not always be on my phone. So it has made me raise my awareness a little bit.”

Bryant Greening, an attorney and co-founder of LegalRideshare, a Chicago law firm that specializes in ride-sharing cases, noted that more than 40% per cent of the reported sexual assaults, which include incidents less serious than rape, were against drivers, who also are at risk.

“There’s no more dangerous place to be than in a moving car with a stranger,” Greening said. “You are really vulnerable without a clear path to escape. So this system, rideshare, needs to be made safe for everybody who is in that car.”

Uber in Vancouver

Uber in Vancouver

© 2019 The Canadian Press

Source: Global News

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In a first, Amazon launches a battery-powered portable Echo speaker in India

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After launching nearly a dozen Echo speaker models in India in two years, Amazon said on Wednesday it is adding a new variant to the mix that addresses one of the most requested features from customers in the nation: Portability.

The e-commerce giant today unveiled the Echo Input Portable Smart Speaker Edition, a new variant in the lineup that includes a built-in battery. The 4,800mAh enclosed battery will offer up to 10 hours of continuous music playing or up to 11 hours of stand-by life, the company said.

“Portability has been one of the most requested features in India,” said Miriam Daniel, VP of Alexa Devices. “You want to be able to carry Alexa with you from room to room within your homes. So we have designed something just for you.”

The company said the Echo Input Portable Smart Speaker Edition (which remains a mouthful) shares the same “architect” as the Echo Input, a device it launched last year that does not feature a speaker.

The battery-powered Echo model, designed exclusively for India, is priced at 5,999 Indian rupees ($84). Users can currently purchase it at an introductory price of 4,999 Indian rupees ($70) and the device will begin shipping on December 18.

Other than the built-in battery pack, the new speaker model offers an identical set of features — access to some 30,000 Alexa skills, compatibility with a range of home devices, of course, support for Alexa voice assistant — as other Echo variants. (The new model additionally carries an array of four LEDs that light up when a user taps the power button to show battery level.)

Amazon has never disclosed how many Echo speakers it has sold in India, but it has noted that the country is one of its most important markets. At a conference in September, Rohit Prasad, VP and head scientist of Alexa AI at Amazon, said the “adoption of Alexa in India has been phenomenal.”

The e-commerce giant, which has invested north of $5 billion in India, is among many international firms that are currently betting to turn the nation of 1.3 billion people into one of their biggest markets. Winning that market means customizing many of their products and services to align with local conditions in the nation. In September, Amazon announced Alexa was adding support for Hindi language to broaden its appeal in the nation.

Amazon executives said they intend to bring this new speaker to other markets eventually.

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