Jan 9, 2018 - Apple isn’t immune to Meltdown and Spectre, the major bugs in basic computing architecture that were announced yesterday to widespread amazement and horror. In an announcement, the company said that “all Mac systems and iOS devices are affected,” which sounds right, but that mitigations are either already in place or on the way.
If you’re still not clear on the whole debacle, I went into detail on it yesterday. Basically, a couple of tricks processors have been using for decades turn out to have a couple extremely serious vulnerabilities and could be used to reveal all kinds of protected data to malicious actors.
Fortunately, as Apple puts it, “there are no known exploits impacting customers at this time.” But you better believe it won’t stay that way for long. To prevent being the lucky first victim (that we know of) of one of the most serious security issues of the decade, please do check if your devices are up to date.
For some devices, it was handled a while ago: “Apple released mitigations for Meltdown in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2.” Apple Watch is safe, since Meltdown is a problem with Intel processors and it doesn’t have any. Although reports have warned of performance hits, Apple says it has observed “no measurable reduction” in benchmark scores.
For Spectre, which is a trickier beast both to take advantage of and to fix, patches are forthcoming. “Apple will release an update for Safari on macOS and iOS in the coming days to mitigate these exploit techniques.”
If you’re wondering why people keep saying “mitigate” instead of “fix” or “counteract” or something, it’s because Meltdown and Spectre take advantage of computing practices so basic that avoiding them is extremely difficult and complex. And new variants of attacks may very well circumvent the protections companies have put together during the last few months during which the exploits were kept secret. The mitigations and patches will probably multiply.
In the meantime, since the exploits seem to only apply to code running natively on your machine, Apple’s advice is “downloading software only from trusted sources such as the App Store.” Nice try, Apple! I’d rather face an existential threat to computing than use the Mac App Store
Dec 15, 2017 _ Why Hermpac chose Flow Software for EDI… When its trading partners requested electronically-submitted invoices, building supplies manufacturer Herman Pacific looked to Flow Software to provide the necessary integration. In a low-touch solution, the company now seamlessly interfaces with the various enterprise resource planning systems used by its major vendors, with the efficiency and performance advantages it enjoys also extending to its partners.
Herman Pacific – or Hermpac – is New Zealand’s leading manufacturer and supplier of specialty timber products. Established in in 1974 with a simple promise, ‘quality first and second to none’, the privately and 100 percent locally owned company operates out of a 9-acre facility in Silverdale, north of Auckland, with further sales and warehousing facilities in both Wellington and Christchurch. In addition to its flagship Western Red Cedar timber, Hermpac offers over 15 different hardwood and softwood options, matched with a range of solutions from the ground up: flooring, decking, weatherboard, cladding, mouldings and paneling.
| Situation With the march of time, the old methods of handling business administration are replaced with the new. Greg Crawford, Hermpac’s group accountant, explains that the major merchants with which the company works, updated their policies to require all invoices to be submitted electronically. “Previously, we were sending invoices by printing and posting them. This is a business process which we are increasingly seeing digitised for very good reasons, as it reduces errors, lowers costs and results in a much faster delivery of the paperwork,” he notes.
The merchants to which he refers are the large retailers and trade suppliers of building supplies across New Zealand such as Placemakers, ITM, Carters, Mitre10 and Bunnings. “Using the postal system is increasingly inefficient and the time taken for processing on our side and that of the customer isn’t good enough. All our major merchants want a similar sort of thing, with invoices going directly into Accounts Payable and lining up with order processing. It means they don’t need people keying in information and it reduces the chances of mistakes.”
| Solution While a point-to-point integration doesn’t present any major challenges, the picture does get more complex when considering the multiple ERP systems in use by various customers, says Crawford. “Each of our major merchants uses a different system and we need to integrate with all of them,” he points out.
However, he says with Flow Software’s experience, addressing each integration has proven a surprisingly simple, low-touch task.
He explains a typical integration: “We get a Message Information Guide (MIG) pack from the merchant which details their requirements – and Flow generally already has that anyway. We pass over the contact details of the merchant as well as the people who support our Dynamics SL ERP [Adaptable Consulting].”
Flow’s technical people installed their middleware software at Hermpac, and within Dynamics SL, Adaptable created several views which were accessed by Flow’s technicians. “Those views come from our SQL database and are dumped into the Flow server, which checks every 10 minutes or so for invoices which are then sent to our customer by EDI.”
Getting it done, Crawford again notes, took very little effort aside from coordination between Flow and Adaptable Consulting. “And there was already a working relationship there – so engaging with a trusted partner with a proven track record really made this easy, with basically the same process for every one of our customers which wanted invoice integration.”
He has praise for the flexibility of Flow’s integration and the lateral thinking of its people; one customer required a feed of electronic purchase orders into Hermpac’s systems before invoices could be sent the other way. But there was a problem, as Crawford explains: “We didn’t want the PO going directly into our systems, as when we are supplying specialty timber solutions, it has to be carefully checked to be sure the right product is selected. If it is wrong, it must be corrected, cancelled and resent, creating an administrative overhead.”
Flow created a workaround, which saw the incoming POs captured and held, allowing for evaluation, before continuing the process. To the merchant, the process is seamless, while for Hermpac, there is no need to worry about incorrectly specified orders going into its systems.
| Results Integrating with its trading partners, say Crawford, has gone off without a hitch. “For each EDI implementation, Flow asks for sample orders, sets them up as tests in the system and works with the recipients. When all parties are happy with the testing, we get an OK, go live and we haven’t had an issue.”
With the first such go live in February 2016, and a further three merchants since the original integration and a fifth being added at present, he says Hermpac has had ample opportunity to test the reliability and durability of the Flow integrations.
Electronic integration, Crawford says, dramatically accelerates invoice processing while eliminating the costs of printing, paper and postage. “Customers get their invoices a lot quicker. We save time and money. And it is more reliable.”
Which isn’t to say all Hermpac’s customers are receiving EDI invoices. Some prefer an emailed PDF document, while others still prefer snail mail. He says the company’s systems are set up to provide options for the preferred mechanism of information exchange depending on individual requirements.
Asked if he would go through the process of invoice EDI again, Crawford has no hesitation. “If it was with Flow I would. They have the expertise, they understand this well and they made it work without any headaches or issues. And their lateral thinking is of great value.”
Dec 8, 2017 - Figures released today show that Kiwis lost over $1.1 million to cyber security issues in the third quarter of 2017. This brings the total financial loss to New Zealanders from cyber security issues reported to CERT NZ to over $1.9 million since April. CERT NZ’s latest quarterly report was released today and shows that security threats continue to impact New Zealanders and their businesses.
“CERT NZ was launched in April 2017 to take reports from all New Zealanders about how they have been affected by cyber security incidents, so we can help them recover,” says Rob Pope, Director CERT NZ. “The reports we received in the quarter to 30 September show that our relative geographic isolation is no barrier to being affected by these threats.”
“Between 1 July and 30 September, CERT NZ received 390 incident reports of which the vast majority, 297, were responded to by CERT NZ.”
In this reporting period, CERT NZ has seen an increase in targeted invoice scams affecting both individuals and businesses around New Zealand. “As we noted in our previous report, targeted attacks are on the rise. In this quarter we’re seen an increase in invoice scams impacting New Zealand businesses through a range of means.
“We’ve also seen a marked decrease in ransomware reports following the global ransomware attacks that we saw earlier this year, with these reports dropping by over 50%.”
Mr Pope encourages all New Zealanders affected by cyber security issues to report them to CERT NZ, “Our team is here to help people who have been affected by cyber security issues by giving them advice and assistance on how to avoid and overcome them. The more reports we receive, the more information we can share with New Zealanders to help them protect themselves”
If you or your organisation experiences a cyber security threat – or if you suspect you may have been exposed to one – contact CERT NZ any time or call 0800 CERT NZ, Monday to Friday, 7am – 7pm.
| A Beehive release - MBIE || December 8, 2017 |||
Nov 21, 2017 - Soul Machines says the humanised AVA will enable customers to get answers to questions direct them to content and enable them to complete transactions. Soul Machines, a spinout from the University of Auckland Bioengineering Institute, is developing digital human interface to Autodesk’s customer assistance chatbot, the Autodesk Virtual Agent, AVA.
Soul Machines says the humanised AVA will enable customers to get answers to questions direct them to content and enable them to complete transactions.
“Soul Machines is advancing AVA’s capabilities, with a digital human face and persona that it literally brings AVA to life using [our] world leading Human Computing Engine (HCE),” the company said.
However to take full advantage of humanoid AVA, Autodesk customers wil need to turn on the video on the phone or computer so AVA can see them,
HCE is described as a virtual nervous system that combines neural networks and biologically inspired models of the human brain that will give AVA “the ability to see and hear as well as sensory systems that enable to recognise and respond emotionally in an incredibly human like way.”
Soul Machines’ CBO Greg Cross said: “Talking to one of our digital humans means you will get the same sort of social responses and non-verbal communication cues as if you were sitting face to face across a table from a real person. It means our customers can deliver highly personalised brand accretive experiences in a way they have not been able to afford to do up till now.”
CEO of Soul Machines Dr Mark Sagar said “[Ava] has a virtual nervous system and all kinds of sensory capabilities so she can respond to the user’s behaviour in real time to facilitate the communication.”
The move, announced Autodesk University, Autodesk’s annual conference in Las Vegas, follows Soul Machines’ announcement in March 2017 that it had developed for the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme, an online virtual assistant for Australia’s disabled community who “can understand thousands of questions put to her in plain English and respond with clear and simple replies.”
Both Nadia and AVA have been developed from Soul Machines’ Baby-X, billed as “an intelligent, emotionally responsive virtual toddler” created by Sagar and his team in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and which drew worldwide attention when it was released in 2013, leading to the launch of Soul Machines, in November 2016.
This YouTube video says that Air New Zealand is also looking at using Soul Machines’ virtual humans for customer service, and it shows just how human they are.
16 Nov 2017 - Mozilla's latest browser — Firefox Quantum — is lightning fast, sleek, and ready to handle all six zillion of your tabs after almost two months in beta. Nick Nguyen, Firefox's vice president of product, told Mashable his biggest fear: Will the Internet full of Google Chrome-enthusiasts give it a chance?
"My biggest fear is that people won't try it," he said. "It's like any release — you do this to make people's lives better. If people aren't using your product, you don't have an opportunity to do that."
And the folks at Firefox have big plans. Nguyen won't rest until Quantum overtakes Google Chrome to become the average internet user's primary browser. "Today, people use Firefox as their secondary browser," he told Mashable. "We think it's good enough to be your first browser."
14 Nov 2017 -The New Autodesk Connect and Construct Exchange partner program tames construction app chaos. LAS VEGAS, Nov. 13, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- At its 25th annual flagship user conference, Autodesk University, Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) previewed its next generation BIM 360 platform, a seamless cloud service connecting the entire construction project lifecycle. Autodesk also launched the "Connect and Construct Exchange," a new BIM 360 integration partner program designed to bring third-party software applications and data into the BIM 360 construction workflow. The Connect and Construct Exchange launched with more than 50 inaugural BIM 360 integrators.
The next generation of BIM 360, built on the Autodesk Forge platform, supports informed decision-making throughout the construction project lifecycle by centralizing all project data in a single place. Autodesk Forge is a connected developer cloud platform which enables customers and partners to create customized, scalable solutions for engineering, construction and manufacturing challenges. BIM 360 connects project stakeholders and workflows at all stages of the building lifecycle – from design to construction to operations, from the field to the office and back. BIM 360 removes the uncertainty that plagues construction projects of all sizes by pairing its project management tools and database with machine learning analytics and insights. The result is closer collaboration among project teams, greater transparency about changes, and improved data continuity that translates into increased profitability.
"Construction projects are growing more complex, but Autodesk meets that challenge head-on with BIM 360, making construction work safer, simpler, and connected," said Andrew Anagnost, president and CEO, Autodesk. "With the confusion of an ever-increasing number of construction apps across the industry, the option to manage all project data in a single cloud platform results in more predictable building project outcomes."
Developed with Autodesk Construction Industry Customers The new BIM 360 platform is a result of collaboration between Autodesk and 500 construction professionals from 100 organizations who informed the company's software development process. Autodesk BIM 360 solutions presently house almost four million models, and BIM 360 customers have logged approximately 200 million field observations.
"Autodesk made it a priority to work in lock-step with construction professionals to build the BIM 360 platform, which has resulted in a game-changing project management service," said Andy Leek, director, Virtual Design and Construction at PARIC, a St. Louis, Missouri based construction services firm. "Construction software is so fragmented with endless vendors claiming to offer the best mousetrap for each particular process. PARIC is trying to solve all of our problems as seamlessly as possible, and Autodesk BIM 360 could ultimately be our backbone to connect everyone from design to ownership in one place."
Connect and Construct Exchange BIM 360 connects fragmented workflows across preconstruction, execution, fabrication, installation, and facility management. The new Autodesk Connect and Construct Exchange launched today adds value for each of these phases of construction with an inaugural group of more than 50 BIM 360 integration partners of which more than 40 are now available on the exchange. The exchange's goals are to showcase, catalogue and generate awareness for all applications and integrations to the next-generation BIM 360 platform so customers and partners have a broad choice of solutions to enhance and extend their workflow to better meet their unique construction needs.
"Rhumbix enables construction teams to manage timekeeping, quantity tracking, and other critical tasks from the palm of a hand with just two taps on a mobile device," said Zach Scheel, CEO, Rhumbix. "Our seamless integration with BIM 360 ensures that everything on the job site is tracked and communicated back to the home office and field trailer."
Rhumbix modernizes construction field operations, helping builders go paperless in the field and improving how they measure and manage labor productivity to be more profitable.
Availability Available immediately. Learn more about Autodesk's next generation BIM 360 platform preview. Visit Connect and Construct Exchange for more information on Autodesk BIM 360 integration partners.
New Zealand CADPRO Systems is New Zealand’s leading supplier of professional Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology an an approved provider on the Autodesk Services Marketplace. They specialise in providing Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology to architects, engineers, contractors and owner/operators in the Architecture, Engineering & Construction markets, as well as Digital Prototyping solutions for Engineers & Manufacturers.
New Zealand software innovator CS-VUE has enhanced an environmental compliance management system for one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects – the NZ Transport Agency’s $709.5m motorway from Pūhoi to Warkworth. It is the first stage of the Ara Tūhono – Pūhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance.
It’s a long way from where it all began. In 2004 the software start-up business was created to help the former Auckland City Council better manage its stormwater consents.
CS-VUE has since grown in staff, clients and turnover. In recent years, work includes providing software to manage the New Zealand Transport Agency’s operational network and capital project consents. Roads of National Significance projects can involve hundreds of consents across multiple teams and construction areas, with work often staged.
The Transport Agency says prior to using CS-VUE’s software to help manage their consent conditions and compliance, they relied on a range of spreadsheet-type systems that differed from contract to contract.
When the Transport Agency’s second Public Private Partnership (PPP) Pūhoi to Warkworth was in the procurement phase, CS-VUE General Manager Wayne Fisher got a phone call.
“I recall they wanted us to design some enhancements to the software and quickly,” he laughs. “We were thrilled for the call up. It was scoped, designed and built in time for the award of the contract to Northern Express Group (NX2).”
Mr Fisher says with construction underway, their software module is now doing its job and will continue to well after the four-lane motorway opens because many of the consents are ongoing, as is monitoring and compliance.
Known as their ‘Two Step Sign Off’ module, CS-VUE has built in extra capability and better data exchange to effectively allow “two-way conversations” between the consent holder and its contractors and the regulator, Auckland Council.
“Normally a consent holder would rely solely on its contractors to ensure every consent was being monitored and complied with. Our module gives the Transport Agency direct oversight and Auckland Council instant access to the status of consents with the ability to directly sign them off.”
Graham Jones, Senior Monitoring Officer at Auckland Council’s Resource Consents department says: “To the best of my knowledge this is the first time the regulator has shared a common platform with both the consent holder, the NZ Transport Agency and the contractor, NX2. All parties having access to common software allows us all to be on the same page at any instant in time on the status of conditions. As a project team, it allows us to work in a more collaborative manner.”
Tom Newson, NZTA’s Principal Project Manager, says: “As a PPP, the Pūhoi to Warkworth conditions require input and oversight from the three key parties during construction and once in service to ensure compliance and management of the outcomes-based consents set by the Board of Inquiry in 2014. CS-VUE’s new system provides all parties with quick access and a single source of truth via a two-step validation process with Auckland Council. We’re using it as a pilot with a view to using the same CS-VUE application on other large roading infrastructure projects, such as East West Link and the Northern Corridor improvements.”
Mr Fisher says with the 18.5km motorway scheduled to open by 2022, having a cloud-based environmental compliance management system that each party can access 24/7 not only means greater transparency, which helps to avoid any breaches and saves time.”
CS-VUE is proud of its role with the Pūhoi to Warkworth PPP, which will ultimately help in the Northern Express Group’s construction, management and maintenance of the motorway for the five-year construction and its further 25-year operational period.
“The Transport Agency is a massive government agency with a huge work programme. They’re also champions of innovation. As a New Zealand-owned and operated software business, we’re delighted to be working alongside them on a daily basis. It just goes to show there is room for local products and suppliers if they can deliver and keep up.”
Mr Newson says the Pūhoi to Warkworth outcome-based RMA conditions provide greater flexibility to the contractor in both design and construction than most other Transport Agency projects. It also requires vigilance from a compliance standpoint.
CS-VUE is also working with about 20 percent of the country’s district and city councils ensuring they keep on top of their often complex and lengthy consents granted by regional councils. For Auckland Council, CS-VUE manages its stormwater and contaminated land sites.
“Our clients have achieved great results around improving information accuracy and auditability. We provide tools to achieve better business analytics and we can reduce an organisation’s annual operating costs.
Board directors prick up their ears when we talk about improvements to governance, risk and compliance. While helping to keep the rates down seems to resonate with council procurement managers. Our products actually offer many tangible advantages.”
He says public and private entities also respond positively to the concept of resilience and keeping critical information safe from the likes of earthquakes, floods or fires. CS-VUE achieves this as its software is entirely cloud-based, putting everything in one place for easy management, and no capital expenditure on hardware is required.
CS-VUE also manages and tracks resource consents for big infrastructure players and heavy industry. Most consents being managed are around air discharge, water, land use, and trade waste, or consents issued by NZ Petroleum & Minerals for extraction. Sectors include oil and gas, quarrying, mining, and some of the country’s key ports. While clients include GBC Winstone, Bathurst Resources, Fulton Hogan, Landcorp, NZ Defence Force, KiwiRail, BP and Shell. Large packaging company, PACT, is among its Australian clients.
And it’s not just about delivering up-to-the-minute environmental balance sheets. Since the Health and Safety At Work Act came into force in April last year, CS-VUE has designed and implemented software to help businesses and organisations better manage and mitigate risks in the workplace.
“Over the past 13 years in software we’ve learnt you can have all the marketing, management and techno speak you want, but what really defines whether you succeed or not is the quality of your software developers and CS-VUE has an exceptional team.
“We work really hard to keep ahead of change and continuously improve. That is how we’ve secured great clients and big projects,” says Wayne Fisher.
Quintiq, a Dassault Systèmes brand and global leader in supply chain planning and optimisation (SCP&O), announced today that its software has gone live at KiwiRail after a 9-week implementation period. Quintiq’s software will enhance workforce planning and rostering at the leading New Zealand transport industry employer. With 3,400 staff in multiple locations across the country, the state-owned rail service is dedicated to building a high performance culture and maintaining excellent human resource standards.
The Quintiq planning solution will support KiwiRail’s workforce optimisation goals by equipping planners with the tools they need to make informed decisions in workforce planning and scheduling, as well as comply with occupational health and safety practices and processes. The solution will enable managers to proactively manage their teams and empower them to make customer-centric decisions that will improve service reliability and punctuality.
Quintiq delivers cutting-edge rail crew planning and optimisation technology to some of the world’s biggest names and innovators in freight and passenger rail. These include DB Cargo, Green Cargo, Transport for London, Queensland Rail, and NTV, Italy’s first high-speed rail network. Quintiq’s latest rail customer in the Australia and New Zealand region is Sydney Trains, which operates 2,885 timetabled services and over one million customer journeys each day in the greater Sydney suburban area.
“It is exciting to be selected by KiwiRail as it cements our position as the leader in rail crew optimisation in the Australian and New Zealand market,” said Rob van Egmond, CEO Quintiq, Dassault Systèmes. “Together with KiwiRail, we will create a highly efficient and employee-centric workforce planning and rostering system that will improve employee and customer satisfaction.”
KiwiRail is the largest rail transport operator in New Zealand, operating 800 freight services per week across the country. It moves around 4.5b net tonne kilometres of freight a year.
Ed Overy, KiwiRail CIO, said: “Quintiq offers us an innovative technology that will support our planners in managing the unique constraints for our freight business. We stand by our customer promise that we will deliver. The technology will enhance our capabilities in planning and rostering, thus ensuring that we live up to that promise.”