Monday tech roundupAugust is the month of holidays but last week saw one of the top tech companies going on shutdown for three days and then into mitosis to re-emerge as two separate companies. Also last week, Google unveiled its new sexy router, Dick Bussiere talked about the dangers of IoT and Amazon declared war on Flash vulnerabilities.

Google debuts Wi-Fi router, aims to support IoT

Google last week rolled out a new router it claims is faster and far easier to use, a welcome bit of news to anyone who has struggled with wireless routers and the other arcane things we have to sometimes do to manage it. The new $200 OnHub is designed to not only work better but look better too, so much so that you’ll be proud to display it according to Google..

The router includes 13 internal antennas and its built-in software tries to find the fastest Wi-Fi connection available (hopefully not your neighbor’s).

Plus you can manage through your smartphone. Besides being more intuitive, the smartphone app lets you manage your bandwidth and test the performance of the network. If you have multiple devices hitting the Wi-Fi (and who doesn’t), you can determine how much bandwidth each device gets so if you’re streaming from your TV and downloading elsewhere you can give priority to the streaming.

This router, some analysts say, supports new Internet of Things (IoT) standards, and by getting the device in millions of homes, Google can more easily sell its IoT-based home automation tools.

A novel definition of IoT means new fears

I’ve written a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT) and my definition was always new IP-enabled devices that have discrete functions, such as sensors, smart appliances, tracking devices, etc. Network architect Dick Bussiere also includes older unsupported systems that no longer get patched – that is, legacy systems. However machines with end user-focused interfaces, PCs and smartphones, do not fit Bussiere’s IoT definition.

Bussiere sees dangers in both the legacy side of things as well as the newer devices that fit my mold.

One such legacy IoT device that disturbed Bussiere was a Windows 2000 server that was managing parts of a power station network, he told ZDNet.

“What’s your definition of a thing? My definition of a thing is any computing platform that has a non-traditional interface with respect to a human being,” Bussiere told ZDNet. “A thing is probably something that you’re going to want to set and forget, but this thing can communicate with other entities in an intelligent way to accomplish an objective — monitoring something, switching lights off and on, whatever you want to do.”

The set it and forget part is the real problem. Sometimes these machines can operate for decades, with very little attention. That means no updates or patches. This is simply unacceptable because if these ‘things’ aren’t being properly maintained, they won’t even probably be tested from a security perspective, argues Bussiere. “There needs to be a standardized way of ensuring that this internet-attached appliance that you’re putting some place on your network meets certain baseline levels of security. I think that has to happen as an industry.”

Amazon puts Flash in the frying pan

Flash is facing some serious backlash. It has had an enormous number of security holes, and an almost equal number of patches. For me, the biggest problem is incessant crashing. No matter which of my PCs I use or whichever browser I use, Flash is the demolition derby of software, a total crashfest.

Amazon now says it will no longer allow any ads to run on its network using Flash and this is a powerful move. What it means is that more ads and more video will become Flash free, and this will hopefully mean our machines will be safer and more stable as a result.

“Beginning September 1, 2015, Amazon no longer accepts Flash ads on Amazon.com, AAP, and various IAB standard placements across owned and operated domains.” Amazon said in a statement. “This is driven by recent browser setting updates from Google Chrome, and existing browser settings from Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari, that limits Flash content displayed on web pages. This change ensures customers continue to have a positive, consistent experience across Amazon and its affiliates, and that ads displayed across the site function properly for optimal performance.”

Amazon aren’t alone in their quest to put an end to Flash. The guys over at Facebook aren’t its biggest fans, and browser players Mozilla and Google all came out with scathing comments after the Hacking Team hack exposed one huge vulnerability.

Bye bye HP, hello HP(s)

HP became huge by buying up companies such as Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) and Compaq in particular. Now the company is doing the opposite. It is splitting into two!

The company actually shut down for three days to prepare for the change. Most of us will barely notice, as both companies will still use the HP prefix – one will be called HP, Inc. and the other HP Enterprise.

The new organizational structure is effective November 1, but with the three days of prep work, these two new entities are already operating largely independently with separate IT and operations.

HP, Inc. is aimed at consumers and businesses and sells printers and PCs while HP Enterprise will be all about networking, storage, services and of course servers.