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Challo pushes enterprise collaboration across company walls

One of the big weaknesses of many enterprise collaboration solutions is that they aren’t always good at letting employees work with external parties. That’s a problem one of the latest entrants to the space tries to solve.

Collaboration without walls 

Like many such solutions, Challo is a feature-rich cloud-based enterprise-class collaboration tool.

What’s interesting is that this has been built to deliver all the collaboration tools you’d expect, along with externally facing tools and enterprise-class security.

In other words, it makes it easier for teams across multiple organizations to collaborate together. It also respects security policies across all parties.

The basic features are what you’d expect from any collaboration tool. Team messaging, voice and video meetings, content sharing and management and application integration.

It supports Slack and Microsoft Teams and has an automated Virtual Assistant which can do things like sharing event dates or relevant documents with meeting participants.

What happens in meeting room

Challo’s use of virtual online and persistent workspaces is what makes it so useful. These virtual rooms let all parties share data and provide access to the relevant tools, which is good, but the persistence means project details and shared resources are available for the duration of the project.

This solves that problem in which documents, screen grabs and other shared data subsequently gets stored on insecure devices or shared via insecure means.

Challo uses security and compliance technologies designed to support seamless multi-company collaboration. Administrators can set granular policies that let some parties receive but not send data or limiting messaging facilities, for example.

Built-in security and compliance

“Every interaction with the company data is controlled by a fine-grained security model that allows administrators and users to ensure that only the smallest needed set of data is ever provided and that the data is only provided in a manner appropriate to enterprise policy,” explained Kevin Glass, Cafe X CTO (developer of Challo).

This focus on security compliance makes it useful solution for highly regulated industries, such as legal, financial and accountancy, for example.

In layman’s terms, this makes it easy for an enterprise to prove what users could and could not access, which matters in highly regulated environments. At the same time, people involved in a meeting get useful tools such as the ability to capture and record sessions, transcripts and so on.

[Also read: 6 great apps for the iOS mobile enterprise]

The solution also handles permissioning behind the scenes, so a collaborator can share an item and the system itself will assign access privileges to whoever else is there – and will respect any existing company security policy as it does.

Collaboration where you are

Today’s enterprise culture is based on multiple platforms. Macs, PCs, iPhones, iPads all work together to get things done.

Wearable devices are also seeing use, and Challo will implement support for Apple Watch (and CarPlay) in future, the company said. They are also developing Webinar support using Apple’s HTTP Live Streaming technologies.

Future evolutions may include beacon-based presence indicators, said Glass: “iBeacon has a lot of potential for enterprise meeting rooms: Being able to walk in and have your iPhone app transfer the meeting,” he said.

Enterprise collaboration is a crowded market with plenty of solutions to choose between, but Challo appears uniquely built to facilitate different companies using these technologies to work together and is probably a sign of new layers of application-based interoperability to come.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Microsoft pushes, then yanks, rogue kinda-security patch KB 4523786, ostensibly for Autopilot

Let’s put this in perspective.

Microsoft warned us at the beginning of the Win10 onslaught four-plus years ago that it wouldn’t dole out patches one by one. Except for emergency security fixes, patches would be released as part of cumulative updates. Over the years, that promise has evolved into a common pace of two cumulative updates per month: the first on Patch Tuesday, and a second “optional, non-security” cumulative update sometime later in the month.

It’s one of the ways “Windows as a service” is a service, doncha know.

Last month we were treated to an unholy pileup of Windows security patches as Microsoft released, then re-released, then finally pushed a fix to the Internet Explorer zero-day vulnerability known as CVE-2019-1367. Of course, nobody’s seen any widespread exploits attributable to that security hole, but the bugs — three different sets of them, corresponding to the three botched out-of-band patches — were breathtaking.

This month, it looks like we’re headed in a similar direction.

Yesterday, Microsoft released an odd patch for Win10 version 1903 that’s supposed to be a “Cumulative update for Autopilot in Windows 10 version 1903: October 22, 2019.” Whether it’s a security patch or a non-security patch is debatable. But there are all sorts of problems:

  • It’s a standalone patch, KB 4523786. It isn’t part of a Windows cumulative update, security or non-security.
  • It’s supposed to be a cumulative update for Autopilot, but I’ll be hanged if I can find any earlier cumulative update for Autopilot. First of its lineage, no doubt, although poster Pejole2165 on Tenforums has found vestiges of earlier updates.
  • It’s for Autopilot (here’s a description; don’t worry, I had to look it up, too), which “is a zero-touch, self-service Windows deployment platform introduced with Windows 10, version 1703.” In other words, Autopilot (apparently?) only runs on domain-connected Win10 1903 computers. But the patch was installed on machines that had never seen Autopilot.
  • More than that, the patch was pushed on Win10 1903 Home machines — which can never be part of a domain.

Susan Bradley raised the alarm yesterday afternoon in her Patch Lady column on AskWoody:

On a standalone PC that’s never seen Windows autopilot I am getting KB4523786 pushed out if I click on check for updates. And I have never installed autopilot here. (proving once again NEVER ever click on check for updates). Thank You Michael M for reporting this … as I’m pretty sure this is a detection error. Hang loose and don’t install it.

Which prompted this response from a very knowledgeable, but anonymous, poster:

This patch is for the underlying TPM chip in computers with dedicated TPM chips and not the actual Windows Autopilot itself.

That clears up part of the mystery: This way-way-out-of-band patch was intended for Win10 1903 machines with TPM chips (Chris Hoffman has an excellent overview of TPM on How-To Geek). Most PCs shipped in the past decade have TPM chips. 

That said, there’s no official documentation — so it’s entirely possible that machines without TPM chips got the update pushed, too. (Martin Brinkmann at ghacks has details on how to tell if you have a TPM chip.)

So if you’re running Win10 version 1903 (Home or Pro) on a fairly recent PC, and you clicked “Check for updates” late yesterday afternoon or evening Redmond time, you probably got KB 4523786. Lucky you.

Of course, the KB 4523786 Knowledge Base article denies all responsibility:

This update is available through Windows Update. When an organization registers or configures a device for Windows Autopilot deployment, the device setup automatically updates Windows Autopilot to the latest version.

Note Windows Autopilot update is not installed on Windows 10 Pro or a later version when the device is not registered or configured for Windows Autopilot deployment. Windows Autopilot update is never offered to Windows 10 Home.

Which is not only inaccurate, it’s silly.

As best I can tell, there’s been no official announcement as of early on Friday morning, but it looks like Microsoft yanked the patch. I’m seeing many reports of people uninstalling the patch, clicking Check for updates, and not being pushed a replacement. I also don’t see KB 4523786 being offered on any of my test machines, early Friday morning.

Another anonymous poster confirms:

Yes, they did indeed [yank the patch]. Nobody who uninstalled it, got it offered back again. Mistakes can happen, but why don’t they communicate this, at least via Twitter? That’s what makes people angry, right?

Tell me again how Windows patching is getting better?

Raise a glass to the perplexed over on AskWoody.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Following Mozilla’s lead, Microsoft pushes Edge onto anti-tracking bandwagon

Microsoft is the latest browser also-ran to tackle Google’s leader, Chrome, by introducing anti-tracking expertise to Edge.

Calling the feature “tracking prevention,” Microsoft described it in terms much like those used by rivals Mozilla and Apple, which have cookie blockers in place in their browsers, Firefox and Safari. “Tracking prevention is designed to protect you from being tracked by websites that you aren’t accessing directly,” wrote Brandon Maslen, senior software engineer, and Ryan Cropp, software engineer, in a June 27 post to a company blog.

Because Microsoft’s just started to show its anti-tracking talents to users, it’s hidden them behind an option flag; in Edge, it’s reached by typing edge://flags in the address bar. (Edge’s Chromium roots show here; the chrome://flags command has been long known to hard-core Chrome users.) Once the user has selected “Enabled” as the setting for the “Microsoft Edge tracking prevention” option, then relaunched the browser, Edge will begin stymying trackers.

edge canary tracking prevention Microsoft

Microsoft has hidden the new tracking prevention ‘on’ switch on the edge://flags option page; users must change the setting to ‘Enable’ and relaunch the browser.

Additional settings appear in Edge’s Settings that let users dial up or dial down tracker blocking’s aggressiveness.

Only the Windows version of the “Canary” build – the roughest, least reliable of the eventual four channels Microsoft will maintain – currently contains tracking prevention. The macOS Canary build will have the feature shortly; next up, certainly the Windows 10 and macOS Dev builds. Because the “full-Chromium” Edge – the browser Microsoft is re-creating this year based on the Chromium open-source project – also runs on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, the blocking will eventually come to those OSes, as well.

edge canary tracking prevention 2 Microsoft

In the Settings pane, users can tell Edge how tough to get on trackers. Computerworld set it to ‘Strict’ and encountered few problems.

It’s unclear how long it will take Microsoft to flesh out Edge’s tracking prevention. Microsoft’s Maslen and Cropp made it sound as if the effort were just beginning. “We’ll use your feedback on this experimental feature in the Canary and Dev channels to understand potential impact to web compatibility and iterate on the experience to be helpful and easy to use,” they said.

That makes sense. For example, Mozilla, whose Firefox arguably boasts the most comprehensive anti-tracking scheme, spent years working on the defensive technology, first restricting it to the browser’s privacy mode then cautiously integrating it with the browser as a whole. The deliberate work was necessary, Mozilla said, because tracking blockers have a habit of “breaking” sites. It was only earlier this month, in fact, that Mozilla felt comfortable enough with the feature to turn it on by default.

It may not have been a coincidence that Microsoft touted tracking prevention not long after Mozilla switched on its Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP). The privacy feature has been one of Mozilla’s biggest selling points for Firefox, and the message has made an impression: The Washington Post last week said Chrome “looks a lot like surveillance software” because it doesn’t try to stem tracking, and recommended Firefox as the browser best able to block trackers.

“Having the world’s biggest advertising company make the most popular web browser was about as smart as letting kids run a candy shop,” asserted Geoffrey Fowler, the newspaper’s technology columnist. “It made me decide to ditch Chrome for a new version of nonprofit Mozilla’s Firefox, which has default privacy protections.”

Microsoft would want to be on the anti-Chrome side of this fight, seeing as how its browsers’ influence, like that of Firefox’s, has been greatly undermined by Google. Edge isn’t going to grow much by stealing share from Firefox – Mozilla’s browser has under 10% by the last measurement – but has to convince Chrome users on Windows to return to a Redmond-made application.

Speaking of Chrome, Edge’s tracking prevention can also be seen as Microsoft’s loudest-yet statement of independence. Although Microsoft is now beholden to the Chromium project for its underlying technologies (and Google essentially runs Chromium), the company has hinted that it would not mimic Chromium/Chrome in all respects. Staking out a position that Google is unlikely to wholeheartedly adopt is one way to demonstrate that Edge is not just Chrome with a different name.

The Windows 10 Canary build of Edge can be downloaded from Microsoft’s website.

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Airbus deploys Microsoft’s HoloLens, pushes mixed reality plans further

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has deployed Microsoft’s mixed reality (MR) Hololens devices in a bid to speed production and improve training for new staff. Airbus is also teaming up with Microsoft to sell MR apps to other businesses in the airline industry.

The Netherlands-based company, which competes with the likes of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, aims to build 20,000 aircraft over the next two decades. 

Airbus has been an advocate of virtual, augmented and mixed reality for some time, and has worked with Microsoft on related projects for four years, including trials and deployments of its HoloLens hardware and software. 

Airbus has identified more than 300 potential use cases for MR across its business, such as remote staff training that doesn’t tie up expensive equipment. MR systems can also boost frontl-ine worker productivity at Airbus with hands-free access to information, such as instructions or diagrams overlaid on physical machinery, cutting manufacturing time by a third. 

The company also said design processes are 80% quicker because designs can be tested in 3D before manufacturing.

“Mixed reality can help us to increase quality, safety and security” Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice president of engineering at Airbus, said in a blog post Monday. “The level of human error is significantly reduced, and in aerospace, increased quality is increased safety – and needless to say, security goes with that.”

Microsoft unveiled its HoloLens 2 device earlier this year, touting a slimmer and more powerful device that, like its predecessor, is aimed at business. A release date for that upgraded hardware was yet to be announced.

Airbus did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the scale of the Hololens deployment. The company has been using the first-generation devices and has already created apps for the coming Hololens 2 upgrade.

MR, VR and AR see traction in manufacturing

Aerospace and manufacturing industries have emerged as one of the primary areas XR technologies are gaing traction traction. 

“I am already seeing significant adoption of XR for the aerospace industry because of the cost of the components and the difficulty and cost of training,” said Anshel Sag, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “By bringing these barriers down and reducing cost, these technologies are quickly being implemented in many different engineering applications, including aerospace.”

HoloLens devices could offer greater insight into the progress of manufacturing within Airbus, he said. 

“I believe it will be absolutely crucial to the company’s front-line workers because now the company will have real-time data about where in the manufacturing process each part of the plane is at, as opposed to at the end of the day when the workers finish their jobs,” he said. 

“Additionally, much of the documentation that workers need to follow while building Airbus aerospace products will always be right in front of them, hands-free. 

“While I don’t see this being as important to a highly experienced and skilled worker, I do believe it will help get new workers onboard more quickly and as they move from project to project to quickly adjust to changes without any errors.”

An ongoing partnership with Microsoft

Airbus has worked with Microsoft to create HoloLens 2 applications targeted at customers in the aerospace industry. The first – initially designed in cooperation with Japan Airlines in 2017 – creates a 3D environment to aid training of airline maintenance operators and cabin crews. 

Airbus will also launch a “collaborative map solution” to virtually connect defense and aerospace personnel to plan and prepare for missions. 

Microsoft has a small number of applications for use with HoloLens 2, such as Dynamics Remote Assist, Guides and Layouts and has partnered with other companies such as PTC and Philips to create more specialized applications for the device.

“Microsoft knows that they are not experts in the aerospace industry, but they know Airbus is” said Sag. “I could easily foresee this becoming a tool for every Airbus customer as a way to speed up maintenance of their plans as well as reduce the cost of training new mechanics.

“Since Airbus is in the business of selling aircraft, they can offer HoloLens 2 as a way to save their customers money and time because, in theory, the entire plane is already integrated into Airbus’ databases and can easily be accessed and viewed in the Hololens.”

Last year, Microsoft announced a $480 million deal that could see up to 100,000 adapted HoloLens 2 headsets deployed to troops for training and combat.

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