Is mobile sensor-based authentication ready for the enterprise? Some big players think it might be.

An Arizona security company is working on an interesting approach to mobile authentication, one that leverages the exact angle a user holds the phone as a means of making replay attacks a lot more difficult. Aetna has been testing the method internally (according to the security company's CEO) and the company — Trusona — has announced about $18 million in funding, from Microsoft Ventures ($10 million) and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers ($8 million).

The Microsoft Ventures funding is interesting because one of the more popular mobile authentication methods today is Microsoft's Authenticator app. Is Redmond covering its bases, or does it see the Trusona effort as threatening to displace Authenticator, at least in the enterprise IT world?

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The EU's Android antitrust ruling overlooks 3 critical points

Is Google abusing its power as the gatekeeper to Android? Antitrust regulators in Europe seem to think so — but reading over their ruling, I can't help but be struck by some inconsistencies between their assessments and the realities of Google's mobile platform.

In case you've been napping for the past couple days, the European Union slapped Google with a $5 billion dollar fine as part of an antitrust investigation. The EU says Google is stifling competition by forcing phone makers to preinstall Chrome and Google Search on their Android devices as part of a broader package of Google services — and by preventing partners from developing devices based on unofficial "forks" of Android (spoons, thankfully, are still permitted). Google has already announced plans to appeal.

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Why two Apple HomePods really are better than one

Apple recently updated its HomePod software, introducing AirPlay 2 and support for stereo pairing. I’ve been using these features since they arrived, and this is what I think so far:

What are the improvements?

Apple’s iOS 11.4 update introduced HomePod 11.4, which brought two significant new features to HomePod systems: AirPlay 2 and stereo pairing support.

AirPlay 2

AirPlay 2 lets you control music playback around your home using Siri, HomePod and AirPlay 2 supporting speaker systems from third-party manufacturers. So long as all your systems are on the same Wi-Fi network, you get multi-room playback and controls.

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Throwback Thursday: How to guarantee business will grow

It's early 2005, and this pilot fish works for an online retailer -- and pays close attention to the chatter about website development.

Spring 2005:

Manager: "Do we need a database administrator for the new attribute key-value design?"

Software developer: "No, we won't ever need more than 10 attribute key-val pairs. The business will never get bigger than that. Besides, storing data in columns means it's contiguous on disk and one select will mean one read!"

Summer 2005:

Developer: "Hmm, why is the database so slow? I wonder if it's the 100 attribute key-value pairs. We now have 100 columns instead of 10, but that should be fine."

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Internet meets tornado. Guess who wins?

IT pilot fish living just outside a small rural town isn't exactly swimming in internet options: There's no broadband, and the local phone company won't supply DSL to fish's home.

"That left dial-up -- until I discovered WiMax, which allowed line-of-site connection via a directional antenna on the house roof pointed to a transmitter on the city water tower five miles away," says fish.

"This worked great, and with UPSes, all the PCs and network equipment were protected from the various power outages, power spikes and brownouts that came our way on a fairly regular basis."

But one night there's a not-so-regular occurrence: A tornado roars through and tears things up. After the storm, fish discovers that his power lines are down and the WiMax directional antenna has been relocated from the roof to a nearby tree limb.

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Stung by a festering pile of bugs on Patch Tuesday, MS releases 27 more patches

In what is becoming a common occurrence, Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday brought along so many bugs that they necessitated a remediation round. This month, unusually, it took only six days to get the exterminators out.

Since these fixes are aimed at four specific bugs introduced on Patch Tuesday, they don’t include the massive patches normally appearing on the second Patch Whateverday of the month. My guess is we’ll see at least one more big set of Windows patches before the month is out. Oh, boy.

Windows July patches, version 2

Yesterday, Monday, July 16, Microsoft released 27 new security patches for Windows, bringing the total number of patches so far this month up to 156. The new patches fall into six separate groups:

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Get ready for the next silly smartphone superlative

Smartphone marketing tends to revolve around superlatives — you know, words or phrases that suggest being the most something in all of the land.

The specific quality in question shifts pretty regularly (hey, you've gotta keep it fresh, right?). For a while, way back when, the boasting was all about having the phone with the most processing power. Since then, in no particular order, we've seen phone-makers focus on having the biggest, the smallest, the thinnest, the brightest, the most pixel-packing, and the least-bezel-showing devices. Oh, and don't forget megapixels. For the longest time, having the phone with the most megapixels was about as good as you could get in terms of ad-ready bragging rights.

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It's a Y2K miracle!

On the run-up to Y2K, this consultant pilot fish gets the job of making sure a state government department has all its patches and firmware up to date for the cutover.

"One of the sysadmins was more of a Lotus Notes admin and not really familiar with patching and firmware ugrades," says fish. "But he watched me as I patched a ton of Netware servers.

"One morning as I walked into the building I noticed him in the hallway, bouncing off the walls waiting for me to arrive.

"'You gotta help me,' he said. 'I upgraded the firmware on the Windows NT mail server and now it just blue screens!'

"I asked him if he upgraded the device drivers for the RAID controller too -- and just got that deer-in-the-headlights look of what's that for?

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IDG Contributor Network: Lawmakers investigate how AI in Apple, Google invade privacy

We all carry smartphones. It’s become one of the most important things we grab along with our keys and wallet when we walk out of our home in the morning. However, companies are going under the microscope with how they intrude on our privacy with these devices. It started with Facebook and Marc Zuckerberg in front of Congress. Now it’s Apple and Google. What’s next?

After the recent eye opening and jaw dropping testimony from Marc Zuckerberg and Facebook lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are finally getting more interested in how companies take, use and abuse our privacy in order to grow.

Now this investigation is spreading to smartphone makers Apple and Google with their iPhone, Android smartphones and Gmail. Who’s next? AI like what we use in Amazon Alexa and Google Home are one of the hottest new technologies and areas of growth. They are always listening to every word we say.

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How to use Apple Maps more effectively

While we wait for Apple to implement its promised deep changes to Maps, here is how to use a few of the lesser-known features in the company’s navigation software.

Take control of Maps

I’m going to skip the basic stuff about using Maps. In this short guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Scroll Maps the easy way
  • Find and add pit stops to an existing route
  • Export a Map as a PDF
  • Find the car
  • Understand what Apple Watch is trying to tell you

There are lots of other Maps features. Take a look here and here for other ideas.

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The show must go on!

It's far away and long ago -- so long ago, in fact, that there are still IT trade shows where vendors can show off their wares, says a pilot fish working at just such a show.

"I was on hand to set up a demo machine," fish says. "The equipment arrived at a loading dock on one floor, but needed placement on a mezzanine area half a flight of stairs down.

"The person in charge of the demo was anxious to load the software and ensure everything was ready. But after moving some of the equipment down a ramp, the folks responsible for moving the 19-inch racks disappeared and were nowhere to be found...for a long time.

"A marketing guy returned from his liquid lunch, and conspired with me -- I was, somewhat sadly, naive -- to make the exhibitor happier by moving a rack down to the mezzanine.

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Surface Pro 2 owners wonder: Will Microsoft ship TPM firmware that works?

If you have a Surface Pro 2, you’re in for yet another runaround. This time, the controversy surrounds the SP2’s TPM chip – the chip that controls access to BitLocker and some other disk encryption technology.

The SP2 shipped with an older, less-secure version of the TPM firmware. If your machine has an older version of the TPM firmware, you see a Win10 Defender warning like the one in this screenshot.

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Microsoft yanks buggy Office 2016 patch KB 4018385, republishes all of this month’s patch downloads

As I reported yesterday, the July 2018 Windows and Office patches teem with bugs. We’re just beginning to see the fallout.

The July 3 non-security Office 2016 patch KB 4018385 is officially yanked. If you don’t recall KB 4018385 — a small patch in a sea of Office fixes — the original KB article describes it thusly:

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Adobe has killed the ‘iPad is not productive’ story

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say “iPads are not productive” I’d have a lot more dollars. And they’d still be wrong. Adobe next year will kill that myth completely, as it brings Photoshop and then its other creative apps across to Apple’s pro tablet, a report claims.

Get things done with an iPad

Adobe apparently plans to introduce Photoshop for iPads in 2019, the story claims.

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How to win friends and influence people, eventually

It's New Year's Eve, and this consultant pilot fish gets a call from a VP at a big customer site on the other side of the continent.

"The caller explains with considerable animation that he and his fellow execs decided at the office celebration to send the IT operations staff home and start the year-end processing themselves," says fish.

"Things are not going well, and they expect me to talk them out of their dilemmas, as the year-end processing is super critical."

That must have been some serious celebrating, fish thinks. And after a bit of conversation with the VP, his fears are confirmed: With these execs in this condition, the likelihood of walking them through the process is vanishingly small.

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How to get Android-P-like features on any phone right now

Android P is almost ready for primetime, with likely just a month or two left until its official release. Let's be honest, though: Unless you have one of Google's Pixel phones, there's a decent chance you'll be waiting a while for the software to show up on your device. And even when it does get there, some of P's most prominent features might not be available to you.

But hey, this is Android, right? Developers have tons of freedom to tweak the system interface and change the way things work. So — yup, you guessed it, Mabel — with the right set of tools, you can get some incredibly useful Android-P-like features on any phone today. In fact, you can get features that act like their Android P equivalents but crank up the productivity potential even further, with extra options and opportunities for customization.

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Patch Tuesday problems abound, Server 2016 crashes, and a .Net patch goes down in flames

You know it’s going to be an Alice in Wonderland month when some sites report that Microsoft plugged 54 vulnerabilities on Patch Tuesday, while others report 53. Fact is, patching has become so brutal — and so banal — that there’s no consensus on counting, much less on what’s good and bad.

Suffice to say that, once again this month, there was a huge number of security patches (129 individual patches, according to the Microsoft Update Catalog), with no pressing security fixes unless you’re using the Edge browser or Internet Explorer. Microsoft changed Win10 version 1803 to “Semi-Annual Channel,” but the term now means less than it ever has before. If that’s possible.

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8 things we learned about Apple Car this week

Legal action and recruitment mean we’ve learned a lot about the Apple Car this week, and it seems the technology it is developing is also being deployed across the company’s wider ecosystem. Here’s a few things we learned this month:

Apple has thousands working on a car

Apple has already confirmed it is working on a car. We’ve heard rumors that it has a huge team working on developing some kind of vehicle. We know now those claims to be true because charges made against former Apple engineer Xiaolang Zhang reveal the company has at least 5,000 employees authorized to access data on its autonomous driving efforts.

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Throwback Thursday: Hey mister, got the time?

This law-enforcement agency stores its mainframe data with time stamps on every record. That can be important, especially in court cases, says a database admin pilot fish there.

"In my role as a DBA, I have the chance to educate the rest of the IT staff," fish says. "I was showing some programmers how easy it is to use the 'time zone' information available from the operating system."

Fish tells the crowd that the time-zone setting shows hours and minutes offset from UTC -- what used to be called Greenwich Mean Time.

Hours and minutes? Yes, fish explains, there are places where the official local time is shifted by an extra half-hour or even 45 minutes.

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IDG Contributor Network: Microsoft Surface Go: rethinking the millennial laptop/tablet and creating an IT bridge product

This week Microsoft (disclosure: Microsoft is a client of the author) announced the Microsoft Surface Go. This is an original iPad sized Surface product with a base price of just under $400 that uses a Pentium processor and has 9 hours of battery life. While the iPad is clearly the competitive target, particularly in education, you can also see it as a hedge against the Chromebook which has been making inroads in education and in a lot of trials, but few (if any yet) successful deployments in the enterprise market. 

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Why Microsoft's Surface Go is no 'iPad-killer'

I hoped the "iPad-killer" meme had finally kicked the bucket, but I was wrong: the hype is back around Microsoft’s overpriced and underpowered Surface Go. I’ve not used a Surface Go yet (Microsoft could change that), but reports that it’s about to kill the iPad are over-exaggerated. Here’s why:

It’s not an iPad Pro

Let’s get something out of the way. Surface Go does not compete with the iPad Pro on any metric that matters: It holds a slower processor, offers nothing like the performance, lacks battery life, and doesn’t even have the same high-resolution display.

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How to be efficient and cost effective (or not)

It's the mid-1990s, and this big corporation is working on a major development project to replace most of its critical systems, says a Unix admin pilot fish working there.

"A major contracting firm was hired to design the development environment and help with development," fish says. "The contractor recommended against purchasing a large Unix machine for development, and suggested purchasing numerous Unix workstations instead.

"By their account, each workstation could support four developers working simultaneously, and machines could be purchased as needed as more developers were brought on board. This would be the most efficient and cost-effective solution, according to them."

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Android P's biggest shift may be one of philosophy

As we enter the final phase in the countdown to Android P's public release, an intriguing new twist is becoming increasingly apparent: More than any Android release before it, Android P is first and foremost about Google's Android phones.

That, my friends — to put it lightly — is a pretty seismic shift.

We first got a whiff of this new reality back at the Google I/O developers' conference in May, when Google Engineering VP Dave Burke made the following disclaimer ahead of unveiling some of Android P's most prominent changes:

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Apple’s App Store: 10 years to change the world

Digital transformation. Artificial intelligence. The Internet of Things. The mobile workforce. Even photo libraries capable of gathering themselves into their own collections, productivity and team management enhancements via a mobile device. All of these profound changes came into effect thanks to three things:

Apple, the iPhone, and the App Store

Think what was on the big stage when Apple CEO Steve Jobs presented the first iPhone keynote. The best available device at that time was (in my opinion) the Palm Treo. 

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Really, it'll be easier that way

VP comes to this pilot fish's office with a new mobile phone -- and a problem.

"She said, 'The email won't work,'" fish reports. "We went through the configuration for her email. Everything looked correct. I had her retype her email password and had her try connecting again. Still no luck.

"I then sent her to an area where I knew the wireless signal was very strong and asked her to try again.

"After a few minutes I went to check on her. 'Email is still not working,' she said.

"Let me have a look, I said.

"The first thing I noticed was that she was not connected to the Wi-Fi. Um, you're not connected to the Wi-Fi, I said.

"She replied, 'Why would I need to do that?'

To read this article in full, please click here

 

Why two Apple HomePods really are better than one

Apple recently updated its HomePod software, introducing AirPlay 2 and support for stereo pairing. I’ve been using these features since they arrived, and this is what I think so far:

What are the improvements?

Apple’s iOS 11.4 update introduced HomePod 11.4, which brought two significant new features to HomePod systems: AirPlay 2 and stereo pairing support.

AirPlay 2

AirPlay 2 lets you control music playback around your home using Siri, HomePod and AirPlay 2 supporting speaker systems from third-party manufacturers. So long as all your systems are on the same Wi-Fi network, you get multi-room playback and controls.

To read this article in full, please click here

Review: The BlackBerry KEY2 gets things done

“You’re reviewing a BlackBerry?” my 16-year-old asked, incredulously. “What is this — the 1980s?”

First of all, kid, you need to check your timeline: BlackBerries first came out in the ‘90s, not the ‘80s. Second of all, well, yeah. Point taken. This is not a phone for teenagers. This is a phone for Getting Stuff Done.

BlackBerries are not cool. They may actually be the definition of anti-cool, although the company would vastly prefer the word “iconic.” When the folks from BlackBerry and TCL (the Chinese company that actually builds the device) debuted the phone for the press a few weeks ago, scarcely a sentence was uttered that didn’t include some form of the word “icon.”

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(Insider Story)

Useful R functions you might not know

Almost every R user knows about popular packages like dplyr and ggplot2. But with 10,000+ packages on CRAN and yet more on GitHub, it's not always easy to unearth libraries with great R functions. One of the best way to find cool, new-to-you R code is to see what other useRs have discovered. So, I'm sharing a few of my discoveries -- and hope you'll share some of yours in return (contact info below).

Choose a ColorBrewer palette from an interactive app. Need a color scheme for a map or app? ColorBrewer is well known as a source for pre-configured palettes, and the RColorBrewer package imports those into R. But it's not always easy to remember what's available. The tmaptools package's palette_explorer creates an interactive application that shows you the possibilities.

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Review: Windows 10 April 2018 Update shows promise, but ultimately disappoints

Apple’s 2018 iPad, a review

I use my 9.7-inch iPad Pro a lot, so when Apple introduced its entry-level 2018 iPad with Apple Pencil support, I knew I had to try it out. I’ve been using the new model this month, and I wanted to share the biggest thing I’ve noticed about it, which is:

Nothing

“Nothing, Jonny, really?”

You heard me right. I have been using the 2018 iPad to do everything I usually use the Pro for: taking notes, writing stories, working on images, sketching, communications, research, watching movies, listening to Apple Music, even playing my favorite game (which is still Rome: Total War, for some reason).

I’ve noticed nothing.

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Microsoft PowerPoint vs. Google Slides: Which works better for business?

If you’re going to give business presentations, odds are you’ll be choosing between Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides, the two best-known presentation applications. They’re both solid, useful tools — and both have changed a great deal over the years. Given all their changes, you may want to reconsider what you’re using today.

To help you choose, I put them through their paces by building a presentation that many business professionals might create: announcing a new product or service line. In each program I started by looking for suitable templates, then created a new presentation; added slides; juiced them up with graphics, video and animations; collaborated with others on it; and finally, gave presentation itself.

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(Insider Story)

Review: Samsung's new Galaxy S9 phones make excellence routine

Let’s face it: the changes you’re going to see in smartphones every year are pretty incremental. With some significant exceptions (I’m looking at you, user interface of the iPhone X), today’s phones aren’t all that much different than the phones of three years ago. Faster, yes, More memory, sure. Better cameras, absolutely. Smaller bezels, it’s true.

But different? Well, no. Not really.

The two most significant changes are the rise of “plus” or XL supersized models and watertightness. The latter is a terrific feature, and one that’s saved me thousands of dollars. But as much as I like a lot of screen real estate, I still have trouble wrapping my head (and hands) around today’s plus-sized phones.

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Which project management software solution would be best for you?

Recently IT Central Station produced a new report on what real users think of the various project management tools out there. This includes an overview of the best solutions and a summary of the top 10 vendors.

“Perfect for keeping track of large amounts of bugs, tasks queries and releases for fixes. The SaaS does the job it is supposed to: helps you keep track of your projects,” reads one review of a popular solution.

“I would love if it allowed for tasks to have the start/end date separate from the time required,” reads less positive feedback for a different solution.

Based on between 43,832 and 808 comparisons—dependent on product—this report provides independent, unbiased feedback on the most popular project management solutions available in the marketplace now.

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(Insider Story)

Review: The iPhone X is the best phone for business, period.

Ten years ago, the original iPhone ushered in a new world for mobile computing and sparked the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement at work. Soon after it arrived, iPhones were showing up everywhere in the office, forcing companies to quickly scramble to figure out how to manage them.

iPhone X Michael DeAgonia

The iPhone X, with its distinctive "notch" at the top and the inky blacks of an OLED display.

That sleek (and deceptively simple) device not only debuted a new touchscreen that would radically change how people interact with technology, it also shook up carrier control, set a new target for Apple’s competitors to aim for and created a platform for countless mobile app developers. Oh, and it eventually gave birth to a highly successful tablet boom with the iPad.

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OneNote vs. Evernote: A personal take on two great note-taking apps

Review: Google’s Pixel 2 phone is the smart (and safe) choice for biz

One of the great attractions of Google’s Pixel phones is that they are almost iPhone-like in concept: The same company is in full control of the hardware, software and ecosystem. And, often, a new phone is accompanied by a new release of the Android operating system, with the promise that it will get prompt OS updates for at least the next few generations. With other phone manufacturers typically taking weeks or months to roll out Android updates, the Pixel’s first-in-line status for new features and security fixes makes it an attractive choice for the enterprise.

The just-released Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL from Google showcase the brand new Android 8.0 (Oreo) operating system in what could reasonably be called a reference design, with hardly any carrier cruft or manufacturer UI overlay. The hardware is unmistakably made by HTC, as were the earlier Pixels, and if the $1.1 billion that Google splashed out to hire a bunch of HTC engineers means that we can expect more phones like these, it would be money well spent.

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Review: Windows 10 Fall Creators Update from A to Zzzzzzzz

After six months of waiting, the next major upgrade to Windows 10 is almost here. Known as the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, it will begin rolling out to the public on October 17.

The upgrade touches countless parts of the operating system, from OneDrive file storage to Cortana, the Edge browser, security and more. I’ve been tracking its progress for the last half year and putting it to the test with serious use in the last several weeks. Here’s a deep-dive, hands-on look at what’s new. (IT pros: Don't miss the "What IT needs to know about the Fall Creators Update" section.)

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My first week with Apple Watch Series 3

I’ve been using Apple Watch since the first version shipped.

I’ve grown so accustomed to using one that some of the things you might like about owning one yourself have become so much part of my daily life that I neglect to mention them here.

That’s the thing about Apple Watch — it weaves itself so intimately inside your daily experience that you begin to use it unconsciously. Just like a watch.

I use the device’s health, Activity, heart and fitness tracking features. I use it for Apple Pay, Maps, Siri questions, Messages, and (of course) for checking the time.

When it comes to third-party apps, I find things like local information, foreign translation and travel-related apps the most useful.

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Review: 3 digital whiteboard displays for business collaboration

Whether your business team is designing a next-gen widget or developing an online campaign, you need a place to get together, brainstorm and map out a strategy. In years past, a dry-erase whiteboard was typically where such ideas were recorded, with some obvious drawbacks. For starters, somebody had to capture all those great ideas from the whiteboard before it got erased. Worse, remote meeting attendees couldn’t see the on-board action.

people using Google Jamboard interactive display Google

Today, however, such collaboration can be done with a special large display that users can present from, write on and share with meeting participants halfway around the world. With a laptop or mobile device connected wirelessly or via video cable, the touch-sensitive display acts as a giant tablet where participants can interact with each other and an array of digital materials — and easily save the results to turn into action items.

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(Insider Story)

Learn the coolest new features of Android's Oreo

From notifications to picture-in-picture mode, walk step by step through the new features of Android's latest update with Computerworld blogger and Android expert JR Raphael.

WifiInfoView is a great Wi-Fi utility for Windows

The other day, I was at a coffee shop where the Wi-Fi seemed slow. I didn't run actual speed tests, as that would have just added to the network load. Instead, I fired up the excellent WifiInfoView program from Nir Sofer.

Windows, like many operating systems, provides a pathetic amount of Wi-Fi information. Without sufficient technical data, we are left to guess at the root cause of slow Wi-Fi. WifiInfoView is the motherload of techie information about your Wi-Fi environment. I ran the program just to check on the signal strength, but I learned much more.

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Review: 4 online backup services keep your data safe

In the 15 years that I’ve been running a small company, I have survived several malware attacks. The only thing that kept me in business was a reliable backup of my data.

When it comes to my data (if not my pants), I’m a belt and suspenders kind of person: In addition to periodically copying my two key work folders onto an external hard drive, my system automatically backs up my computer’s contents to an encrypted cloud-based backup service at 1 o’clock every morning.

If I’m attacked or my main computer goes south, I won’t lose my company’s 40.9GB of data, even if some catastrophe destroys both the computer and the external hard drive. More than once, I have used the backups to save my digital bacon by retrieving a deleted file, and the online backup has the added convenience of letting me use just about any connected device to access a document and show it to a client during a remote meeting.

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Review: Asus VivoBook W202 with Windows 10 S

When Microsoft announced its new Windows 10 S operating system in May, the company put security front and center. To keep rogue programs from entering an organization’s digital ecosystem, the OS runs all software in a protected container and allows only apps that have been vetted by the Microsoft Windows Store and comply with Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP) standards to be installed.

Although Microsoft pitched Windows 10 S as an OS for the education market (think of it as Microsoft’s answer to Google’s Chrome OS), IT leaders and analysts immediately saw its locked-down nature as promising for business as well. The value-add for companies is lower-priced systems that operate in the familiar Windows environment while restricting the software an employee can load.

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(Insider Story)

Windows users just got yet another reason to get a Mac

PC users looking to upgrade to a secure and modern OS may want to take another look at the MacBook Pro, as you can now use its Touch Bar with some of the most widely used Windows applications.

Keeping Parallel

Parallels Desktop 13 launched this week. The software makes it really easy for any Mac user to run Windows on their Mac, it even downloads a copy of Windows 10 for you (though you will need to purchase the OS from Microsoft).

To read this article in full, please click here

From SharePoint to Yammer: What’s the best social software?

The best thing is “the ease at which any employee can curate content and the ease in which people can discover meaningful and important information to get their job done,” wrote one user about a popular enterprise software solution listed in this independent report from IT Central Station.

While another user suggested: “The improvements could be more flexibility to manage files and to have a sync file area more intuitive and which respects the characteristics of other similar solutions.”

This unbiased overview lists the top five social software solution according to users’ top ratings. It also provides in-depth profiles on the top 10 vendors).

To read this article in full, please click here

(Insider Story)

Microsoft Excel vs. Google Sheets: Which works better for business?

Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are the two best-known spreadsheet applications available today. Both are polished and very useful — so much so that it’s easy to cling to the application you’re currently using without learning how the other has improved over the years. If you (or your business) chose one spreadsheet app and rejected the other years ago, there may be good reasons to reconsider.

To find out where Excel and Google Sheets stand today, both individually and compared to each other, I tested them by trying out the most common tasks users perform, including starting a new spreadsheet, inputting data and formulas, formatting cells, creating charts, adding extras such as links to external data sources, and collaborating with others.

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(Insider Story)

Review: How SharePoint, Confluence, IBM Connections and Yammer compare

Web-based tech can help companies in a variety of ways: agile information sharing, tighter integration and better productivity. It can also save time, improve collaboration and even lead to greater transparency.

For IT, DevOps and business professionals, the ROI from enterprise social software often comes from the analytics capabilities, which can uncover actionable data that's both accessible and easily integrated into corporate systems.

Microsoft SharePoint, Atlassian Confluence, IBM Connections and Microsoft Yammer all fit the bill in some ways. But is one better than the others?

At IT Central Station, users who have evaluated and shared feedback on enterprise social software discuss how the solutions they use deliver these requirements.

To read this article in full, please click here

(Insider Story)

Testing an AmpliFi mesh point as a Wi-Fi extender

When mesh router systems started appearing last year, I purchased a Ubiquiti AmpliFi system for someone whose house was a worst case Wi-Fi scenario. The internet entered the home in the basement on the south side of the house, while the bedrooms are on the second floor in the north side.

I liked the AmpliFi line, sight unseen, because unlike most other mesh systems, it did not require you to register with Ubiquiti and it did not phone home with who knows what data about your network. Still, in October of last year, I griped that the AmpliFi mesh system lacked remote control. This is no longer true. 

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Slack vs. Yammer: Which is the best?

Slack may attract zealots but it is by no means the only workplace collaboration tool out there. There is the recently launched Microsoft teams, for example, or Flock (its CEO recently told us recently he was “stumped” by Slack’s success) and, of course, Yammer.

In fact, Cal Henderson told IDG Connect in an interview this year that: “the existence of competitors is good in a number of ways.” When we started, we were convincing customers to switch to a whole new category, now the rise in players in the space “validates the whole category,” he said.

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(Insider Story)

Review: In Office 2016 for Windows, collaboration takes center stage

If Microsoft were to have a motto for Office 2016, it could well be the old coaching adage "There is no 'I' in "team." The suite offers considerable collaborative and teamwork features that turn Office from a tool for a single person into one that helps people work together.

If you work by yourself and will use Office as a standalone product, you'll find far fewer changes from Office 2013. That's not necessarily a bad thing – Office is already so stacked with features that adding new ones just for the sake of it could harm rather than help its usability.

How successful has Microsoft been in adding collaboration features? And how useful are the handful of non-collaborative features added to the core of Office? That's what I'll cover in the rest of this review.

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Why Windows 7 updates are getting bigger

Windows 7's security rollups, the most comprehensive of the fixes it pushes out each Patch Tuesday, have doubled in size since Microsoft revamped the veteran operating system's update regimen in 2016.

According to Microsoft's own data, what it calls the "Security Quality Monthly Rollup" (rollup from here on) grew by more than 90% from the first to the twenty-first update. From its October 2016 inception, the x86 version of the update increased from 72MB to 137.5MB, a 91% jump. Meanwhile, the always-larger 64-bit version went from an initial 119.4MB to 227.5MB, also representing a 91% increase.

The swelling security updates were not, in themselves, a surprise. Last year, when Microsoft announced huge changes to how it services Windows 7, it admitted that rollups would put on the pounds. "The Rollups will start out small, but we expect that these will grow over time," Nathan Mercer, a Microsoft product marketing manager, said at the time. Mercer's explanation: "A Monthly Rollup in October will include all updates for October, while November will include October and November updates, and so on."

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Is mobile sensor-based authentication ready for the enterprise? Some big players think it might be.

An Arizona security company is working on an interesting approach to mobile authentication, one that leverages the exact angle a user holds the phone as a means of making replay attacks a lot more difficult. Aetna has been testing the method internally (according to the security company's CEO) and the company — Trusona — has announced about $18 million in funding, from Microsoft Ventures ($10 million) and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers ($8 million).

The Microsoft Ventures funding is interesting because one of the more popular mobile authentication methods today is Microsoft's Authenticator app. Is Redmond covering its bases, or does it see the Trusona effort as threatening to displace Authenticator, at least in the enterprise IT world?

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The EU's Android antitrust ruling overlooks 3 critical points

Is Google abusing its power as the gatekeeper to Android? Antitrust regulators in Europe seem to think so — but reading over their ruling, I can't help but be struck by some inconsistencies between their assessments and the realities of Google's mobile platform.

In case you've been napping for the past couple days, the European Union slapped Google with a $5 billion dollar fine as part of an antitrust investigation. The EU says Google is stifling competition by forcing phone makers to preinstall Chrome and Google Search on their Android devices as part of a broader package of Google services — and by preventing partners from developing devices based on unofficial "forks" of Android (spoons, thankfully, are still permitted). Google has already announced plans to appeal.

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Why two Apple HomePods really are better than one

Apple recently updated its HomePod software, introducing AirPlay 2 and support for stereo pairing. I’ve been using these features since they arrived, and this is what I think so far:

What are the improvements?

Apple’s iOS 11.4 update introduced HomePod 11.4, which brought two significant new features to HomePod systems: AirPlay 2 and stereo pairing support.

AirPlay 2

AirPlay 2 lets you control music playback around your home using Siri, HomePod and AirPlay 2 supporting speaker systems from third-party manufacturers. So long as all your systems are on the same Wi-Fi network, you get multi-room playback and controls.

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The next corporate collaboration tool: Podcasts?

Interest in podcasts has grown in recent years: 44% of people in the U.S. have listened to a podcast at some point, according to Edison Research, while 26% do so at least once a month now.

But while podcasts may be gaining ground in the car or at home, the streaming technology has made only limited inroads at work – so far.

Nevertheless, some companies see new potential for audio streaming as a means of delivering on-demand content to staffer, particularly for firms with a large number of remote and mobile workers.

With that kind of interest in mind, enterprise video streaming provider uStudio recently launched a podcast delivery platform that adds the necessary admin controls, business application integrations, security features and usage analytics expected by business leaders and IT departments. (Similar solutions are also offered by podcast hosting providers such as Podbean and Blubrry.)

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Throwback Thursday: How to guarantee business will grow

It's early 2005, and this pilot fish works for an online retailer -- and pays close attention to the chatter about website development.

Spring 2005:

Manager: "Do we need a database administrator for the new attribute key-value design?"

Software developer: "No, we won't ever need more than 10 attribute key-val pairs. The business will never get bigger than that. Besides, storing data in columns means it's contiguous on disk and one select will mean one read!"

Summer 2005:

Developer: "Hmm, why is the database so slow? I wonder if it's the 100 attribute key-value pairs. We now have 100 columns instead of 10, but that should be fine."

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Microsoft to dump Windows 10's smaller delta updates

Microsoft will stop serving one of three types of Windows 10 updates, contending that the updates have been superseded by an even small and more efficient format.

Delta updates are due to disappear early next year, Microsoft said, with their demise effective Feb. 12, 2019, that month's Patch Tuesday. Two formats will then remain: Full updates and express updates.

Delta updates are those that include only the components that have changed since the previous month's update. Because delta updates include the full component that changed - say, the Notepad application - not only the individual files that make up the component, they are larger than express updates, which deliver only changed files. The bottom line, and what enterprise IT is most interested in, is that express updates are smaller than delta updates, which are in turn smaller than full updates.

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Mingis on Tech: The blockchain evolution moves from services...to smartphones?

If 2017 was the year many tech firms suddenly looked around and realized they needed to be part of the blockchain craze, this is the year companies in a variety of industries have begun actively experimenting with the distributed ledger technology.

Helping to make that possible – especially for firms with no experience in building out blockchain systems themselves – are IT vendors like IBM, Microsoft, HPE and Amazon Web Services. They now offer blockchain-as-a-service.

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Mingis on Tech: The blockchain evolution, from services...to smartphones

Oracle joins other major tech vendors by rolling out its blockchain-as-a-service offering, and two smartphone makers plan to include the technology in new devices this year. Get the latest on the blockchain craze.

Google faces $5B fine over Android browser and search engine ties

Google has been ordered to pay a $5.05 billion fine and stop forcing Android smartphone makers to install its search engine and browser on their phones. That decision was handed down by the European Union's antitrust authority on Wednesday.

The ruling could open the way for smartphone makers to offer more choice, with devices running different versions of Android, or offering alternative browsers or search engines out of the box.

The European Commission found that Google has abused its dominant market position in three ways: tying access to the Play store to installation of Google Search and Google Chrome; paying phone makers and network operators to exclusively install Google Search, and preventing manufacturers from making devices running forks of Android.

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Internet meets tornado. Guess who wins?

IT pilot fish living just outside a small rural town isn't exactly swimming in internet options: There's no broadband, and the local phone company won't supply DSL to fish's home.

"That left dial-up -- until I discovered WiMax, which allowed line-of-site connection via a directional antenna on the house roof pointed to a transmitter on the city water tower five miles away," says fish.

"This worked great, and with UPSes, all the PCs and network equipment were protected from the various power outages, power spikes and brownouts that came our way on a fairly regular basis."

But one night there's a not-so-regular occurrence: A tornado roars through and tears things up. After the storm, fish discovers that his power lines are down and the WiMax directional antenna has been relocated from the roof to a nearby tree limb.

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What is a business analyst? A key role for business-IT efficiency

Business analyst help guide businesses in improving processes, products, services and software through data analysis. These agile workers straddle the line between IT and the business to help bridge the gap and improve efficiency.

How to handle Windows 10 updates

Confused about how updates work in Windows 10? Join the club. In this latest version of its operating system, Microsoft has transformed what was once a straightforward procedure into a seemingly complicated process that varies according to whether you have Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro or an enterprise or education edition. As a result, there have been lots of misperceptions about how Windows 10 Update works, and how to best use it.

Windows 10 update settings IDG

You can check for new updates in Settings.

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(Insider Story)

Microsoft lures Windows 2008 users to cloud with offer of extra support

Microsoft is dangling three years of additional support in front of customers running Windows Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 if they move the servers' workloads to Redmond's cloud-based Azure.

SQL Server 2008 -- and its follow-up, SQL Server 2008 R2 -- exit support July 9, 2019, or less than a year from now. Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will be retired from support about six months later, on Jan. 14, 2020. After those dates, the server software will not receive security updates, leaving them vulnerable to attack by hackers exploiting unpatched security flaws.

In an effort to entice customers to move to the cloud, Microsoft last week said it will provide three additional years of support to Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 when those systems' workloads are migrated to Azure virtual machines or Azure SQL Database Managed Instance, respectively. (The latter is a new service set to debut in the fourth quarter.) Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 workloads transferred to Azure will receive fixes for vulnerabilities rated "Critical" or "Important," until January 2023; SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will get the patches for bugs designated as "Critical," with the end of extra support coming in July 2022.

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Windows 10: A guide to the updates

The launch of a big Microsoft Windows 10 update like the April 2018 Update isn’t the end of a process — it’s really just the beginning. As soon as a major update is released, Microsoft quickly gets to work on improving it by fixing bugs, releasing security patches, and occasionally adding new features.

Here we’ve summarized what you need to know about every Windows 10 update being released to the public. First come updates to the currently shipping version of Windows 10 — version 1803, known as the April 2018 Update — with the most recent updates on top. (Note that the April 2018 Update is on a phased rollout, so you may not have received it yet.) Below that are updates to version 1709, known as the Fall Creators Update, and below that updates to version 1703, known as the Creators Update. For each build, we’ve included the date of its initial release and a link to Microsoft’s announcement about it.

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Stung by a festering pile of bugs on Patch Tuesday, MS releases 27 more patches

In what is becoming a common occurrence, Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday brought along so many bugs that they necessitated a remediation round. This month, unusually, it took only six days to get the exterminators out.

Since these fixes are aimed at four specific bugs introduced on Patch Tuesday, they don’t include the massive patches normally appearing on the second Patch Whateverday of the month. My guess is we’ll see at least one more big set of Windows patches before the month is out. Oh, boy.

Windows July patches, version 2

Yesterday, Monday, July 16, Microsoft released 27 new security patches for Windows, bringing the total number of patches so far this month up to 156. The new patches fall into six separate groups:

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Get ready for the next silly smartphone superlative

Smartphone marketing tends to revolve around superlatives — you know, words or phrases that suggest being the most something in all of the land.

The specific quality in question shifts pretty regularly (hey, you've gotta keep it fresh, right?). For a while, way back when, the boasting was all about having the phone with the most processing power. Since then, in no particular order, we've seen phone-makers focus on having the biggest, the smallest, the thinnest, the brightest, the most pixel-packing, and the least-bezel-showing devices. Oh, and don't forget megapixels. For the longest time, having the phone with the most megapixels was about as good as you could get in terms of ad-ready bragging rights.

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Oracle rolls out its own blockchain service

Oracle wants in on the blockchain-as-a-service game, too.

The company on Monday announced the availability of a fully-managed blockchain service over which businesses can automate processes over an immutable electronic ledger, such as tracking goods in a supply chain or handling customer financial transactions.

Blockchain-as-a-service {BaaS) offerings have grown over the past three years, enabling businesses to launch proof-of-concepts to test the distributed ledger technology without the capital costs required by an internal deployment. Other BaaS providers include IBM, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, SAP and Amazon Web Services.

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It's a Y2K miracle!

On the run-up to Y2K, this consultant pilot fish gets the job of making sure a state government department has all its patches and firmware up to date for the cutover.

"One of the sysadmins was more of a Lotus Notes admin and not really familiar with patching and firmware ugrades," says fish. "But he watched me as I patched a ton of Netware servers.

"One morning as I walked into the building I noticed him in the hallway, bouncing off the walls waiting for me to arrive.

"'You gotta help me,' he said. 'I upgraded the firmware on the Windows NT mail server and now it just blue screens!'

"I asked him if he upgraded the device drivers for the RAID controller too -- and just got that deer-in-the-headlights look of what's that for?

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Enterprise PC-buying spree spurs first shipment climb in six years

Shipments of traditional personal computers during the second quarter of 2018 grew by nearly 3% year over year, the largest increase since 2012, research firm IDC said last week.

According to IDC, computer makers shipped approximately 62.3 million systems in the June quarter. Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple and Acer were the top five OEMs (original equipment manufacturers); their shipments represented 78% of the total.

Rival research company Gartner pegged second-quarter growth at 1.4% and pointed out that it was the first year-over-year increase in 25 quarters. Gartner said that total shipments in the June quarter reached 62.1 million, with the same top five OEMs accounting for 74% of the global number.

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How to use Apple Maps more effectively

While we wait for Apple to implement its promised deep changes to Maps, here is how to use a few of the lesser-known features in the company’s navigation software.

Take control of Maps

I’m going to skip the basic stuff about using Maps. In this short guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Scroll Maps the easy way
  • Find and add pit stops to an existing route
  • Export a Map as a PDF
  • Find the car
  • Understand what Apple Watch is trying to tell you

There are lots of other Maps features. Take a look here and here for other ideas.

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The show must go on!

It's far away and long ago -- so long ago, in fact, that there are still IT trade shows where vendors can show off their wares, says a pilot fish working at just such a show.

"I was on hand to set up a demo machine," fish says. "The equipment arrived at a loading dock on one floor, but needed placement on a mezzanine area half a flight of stairs down.

"The person in charge of the demo was anxious to load the software and ensure everything was ready. But after moving some of the equipment down a ramp, the folks responsible for moving the 19-inch racks disappeared and were nowhere to be found...for a long time.

"A marketing guy returned from his liquid lunch, and conspired with me -- I was, somewhat sadly, naive -- to make the exhibitor happier by moving a rack down to the mezzanine.

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6 efficiency-enhancing Android apps

Your phone is now essentially your personal assistant — and like any aide, it needs the right set of tools to do its job effectively.

The good news? As an Android user, you've got no shortage of efficiency-enhancing options. Unlike other mobile platforms, Android affords you the opportunity to customize and control the core user interface to make it better suited to your needs. And while the more advanced UI-adjusting tools tend to be targeted at the power-user crowd, you don't have to be a card-carrying geek to take advantage of what they offer.

Behold: six innovative apps that'll empower your favorite high-tech helper and allow it to reach its full productivity potential.

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Why your smartphone needs 5 cameras

Who knew that the camera in your phone would turn out to be the most popular, useful and important technology in your life?

The human race will take 1.3 trillion photos this year, according to Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends. Smartphones will be used for 87% of them.

Most of these pictures are useless and frivolous — not only selfies, but bad selfies that will never even be posted. Don’t even get me started about videos. Smartphone cameras are responsible for the biggest waste of storage space in history.

But a huge number of these photos are valuable for business or professional uses.

Businesspeople of all kinds are increasingly using smartphone cameras as all-purpose sensors for harvesting data from the environment, augmented reality, quick data entry and far more.

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Chat happens: Your guide to 11 group-chat services

Everyone knows the secret to success — personal and business alike — is good communication. But in what form? If you're trying to communicate with a group in real time, you're no doubt familiar with the old standby: conference calls. You know: those mind-numbing phone meetings in which talkers overlap, voice quality is terrible, half the people aren't paying attention and somebody's dog barks intermittently throughout the call.

But what's the alternative? Consider an old (very old) standby: instant messaging. Except nobody calls it that anymore; now it's group chat. These virtual meeting rooms are focused on text-based communication — and often vastly preferable to conference calls.

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(Insider Story)