ITy Bytes 15 May includes

  • Sonos gets vocal with Google Assistant;
  • Amazon Alexa gets Apple Music;
  • Telstra TV box now ISP agnostic;
  • Telstra loyalty program;
  • Bitdefender finds more security flaws in Intel x86 processors;
  • Samsung launches Apple TV for select 2018 and 2019 Smart TVs;

ITy Bytes 15 May

Sonos gets vocal with Google Assistant

Everyone loves Sonos speakers but for a very, very long time it has been stuck with Amazon Alexa voice assistant which we know in Australia has a very, very low take-up. The software update is said to allow concurrent use of the two voice assistants. It won’t be in Australia until July.

We know for sure that it will support Sonos One and Beam and we presume older Sonos products without far-field mics can be controlled via a Google Assistant speaker. From what we can tell it should perform the full range of Google Assistant speaker tasks including smart home commands and manage tasks and plans. We are not sure if it supports a mixed brand multi-room speaker environment.

This also means a mixed streaming/casting environment with Apple Airplay 2 and Chromecast (not Amazon Fire TV) and access to its the 70+ music streaming sources that are missing from current voice assistants.

ITy Bytes 15 May

Patrick Spence, Sonos CEO, said,

“We value freedom of choice, empowering listeners to choose what they want to listen to and how they want to control it. Adding voice, now with the Google Assistant, has made that control even easier.”

This move will ensure Sonos is at the top of the voice assistant heap offering the widest range of streaming sources and pretty damned good speakers.

Amazon Alexa gets Apple Music

Apple Music subscribers can now access Apple Music’s 50 million songs on Amazon Alexa enabled speakers.

You need an Apple Music subscription and install the skill from the Amazon Skills store. We are not sure it supports your custom Apple Music playlists (as it does not with Spotify) but it does support Apple Music Editors suggested playlists.

ITy Bytes 15 May

Telstra 4K TV box now ISP agnostic

Telstra no longer locks its TV streaming box to its BigPond broadband. If you are a Telstra customer (pay for a Telstra service), you can buy the Roku based streaming box for $216 outright and use another ISP. This gives you access to catchup TV like iView, 7Plus, TenPlay, SBS on Demand, and 9 Now.

It also has paid subscription services like Foxtel Now, Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime, various sports channels like Kayo and more.

Telstra TV now supports up to 4K content and includes a DBT Tuner, Dolby 7.1 support, Wi-Fi AC dual band or Ethernet, and connects to the TV via HDMI 2.0. It is Google Assistant compatible.

Most modern 4K TVs have a range of the above ‘clients’ so you may not need one, but it can add smart features to an older TV.

It delivers all services (apart from free-to-air TV) via the internet so ideally, you will have NBN50 or better for 4K streaming and 60-minutes of 4K content can consume up to 90GB. So, it is really only viable with an unlimited NBN plan.

GadgetGuy is reviewing one now.

ITy Bytes 15 May

Telstra loyalty program – is that an oxymoron?

Telstra Plus is a loyalty program that earns points for what you spend with Telstra. The problem is that its points are infinitesimal – a $45 Google Home mini speaker needs 14,000 points or $1,400 spend – that is a reward of .321428571%. There are bonus points for joining before 30 June. The rewards store is not yet open.

OK, I admit to having a current Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman complaint about Telstra and NBloodyN, so I am not feeling its ‘love’ at the moment. Telstra loyalty – it should be Telstra loyalty to its long-term customers.

All personal Telstra torment aside I don’t see any downside in joining apart from its somewhat haughty action, “When you first join the program you will be opted in to marketing. You can later selectively unsubscribe from marketing channels through My Account Personal Details, but you may miss out on special offers and promotions.”

And Telstra will collect and use your data in accordance with Telstra’s Privacy Statement.

Bitdefender finds more security flaws in Intel x86 processors

Bitdefender says the new Spectre-like vulnerability can be used by motivated hackers to leak privileged information data from an area of the memory that hardware safeguards deem off-limits. This flaw can be weaponised in highly targeted attacks that would normally require system-wide privileges or a complete subversion of the operating system.

Additionally, it has an extremely large impact on cloud service providers and multi-tenant environments, as a potentially bad neighbour can leverage this flaw to read data belonging to other users.

The flaw requires access via a logged-in account. Intel has been informed and is working on microcode patches.

There is nothing an end-user can do at this time – just wait for patches. It is a concern to large scale enterprise and cloud server farms.

Samsung launches Apple TV for select 2018 and 2019 Smart TVs.

Samsung Australia has released the new Apple TV App and AirPlay2 compatibility for all 2019 Samsung Smart TVs and select 2018 TV models.

Download the Apple TV app from the Samsung App store and AirPlay2 is via a firmware update. This allows access to Apple content and casting from an iOS device. It is a competitor for an Apple TV box.

ITy Bytes 15 May
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Jeremy Senior, Head of Consumer Electronics Samsung Australia said,

“The Samsung Smart TV platform continues to evolve, and we want all our customers to be able to enjoy their favourite content through their preferred apps and devices. We’re delighted to be the first TV manufacturer in Australian to offer customers access to the new Apple TV App and AirPlay2.”