6 tips for faster Apple iPhone charging

Apple will allegedly introduce a fast-charging system inside the box with every iPhone sold later this year. While we wait for this magical moment in iPhone history, I’ve put together six tips for faster charging using the technology you have.

What’s the rumor about iPhone charging?

Images purported to show a prototype of the new charging device began circulating this week. The illustrations (above) show the European version of the more powerful charging wall charger, which (it is alleged) delivers 18-Watts of power and hosts its own USB-C socket.

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Success at last!

This pilot fish changes jobs, moving from a small software company to a large state college -- and there's a bit of culture shock.

"It was summertime, which means daily thunderstorms in this part of the country," says fish. "Daily thunderstorms mean daily power interruptions. It didn't take long to discover that none of the computers in the IT department had battery backups.

"This surprised me, as the small company I'd come from had been using battery backups since the 1980s."

So fish asks around, finds out it's the hardware manager who's in charge of providing equipment and asks him for a UPS. "Sure," the guy says cheerfully, "it will just take a few days."

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Patch update: Monthly Rollup previews arrive for Win7, 8.1, along with updates for Win10 1607, 1703

We just got a smattering of patches that seem to be in the "Oh yeah, we forgot" bucket. Windows 7 and 8.1 received Previews (which you should never install, of course). Win10 1607 (out of support for Home and Pro on April 10) and 1703 got the usual laundry list of minor fixes.

I bet Win10 1709 and 1803 updates will be out soon.

Here's the roundup:

KB 4103713 - Win7 Monthly Rollup preview. Doesn't solve the network driver uninstallation bug, but does add a new "SMB1 access auditing on Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1." You have to turn on the auditing with a registry change.

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Why Linux apps on Chromebooks are a really big deal (really!)

It may have gotten lost in the shuffle of all the Android P news at Google's I/O conference last week, but fear not, dear friends: Chrome OS has definitely not been forgotten.

Google's been making steady progress in advancing its Chromebook operating system over the past several months, particularly around its efforts to further align Android and Chrome OS and turn Chromebooks into all-purpose productivity machines and Android tablet replacements. Practically every week, in fact, there's some new and noteworthy feature being added into the platform (something we've talked about a great deal in my weekly newsletter as of late).

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How Apple’s iPad, Swift and VoiceOver teach the blind to code

Throwback Thursday: Why comments were invented

Request comes to pilot fish to provide employee data for the company-wide address book. That's no big deal.

"Time to code: 60 minutes," fish reports. "Affected employees: 8,000."

Flash forward two years: Senior executives get new cell phones that should be able to import the company-wide address book. Problem: The phone numbers are formatted for human beings to use, not cell phones.

New request: Change address book format so cell phones can dial the phone numbers automatically.

"Time to code: 10 minutes to comment out old code and add new code," says fish. "Affected employees: 8,000. Employees who actually need this data: 10."

Now it's another eight months later: Senior execs decide they're bored with having the entire company directory on their cell phones.

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Lots of little Microsoft patches, but nothing for this month’s big bugs — and no Previews

Third Tuesday of the month and it’s time for bug fixes and Monthly Rollup Previews, right?

Well, no. May’s Third Tuesday brought a big bag of .Net Framework Previews, microcode patches for Win10 1803 and Server 2016, and a Win10 1803 upgrade nag, but no respite at all for the major problems introduced by this month’s earlier patches.

The .Net Framework Previews

Unless you’re testing your own .Net-based software to make sure it won’t explode next month, you don’t need to think about these. There’s the usual assortment of Previews for .Net Framework 2.0, 3.0, 3.5, 4.5.2, 4.6, 4.6.1, 4.6.2, 4.7 and 4.7.1 for all the usual versions of Windows and Server.

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Well, it's secure, all right...

This small IT consulting outfit gets a contract with a very, very big company -- which is a very big deal, says a pilot fish at the consultancy.

"On a daily basis, a large text data file needs to get loaded into a very fast database, and that information is used to deal or not deal with certain customers," fish explains. "And this all has to happen in real time."

The big client is very security conscious, and it won't let the consultancy download the data from the client's site. Instead, a third-party site is used, and access is through a secure connection with a totally inscrutable password.

And on the first day, everything works fine. The big client puts the data on the site and fish's company downloads the data, then keeps checking back periodically to see if anything has been added or changed.

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10 annoying things about Android P (that'll hopefully be fixed soon)

All right, gang: The honeymoon's officially over. We've oohed. We've ahhed. We've talked about Android P's most noteworthy productivity features. Now it's time to step back, get real, and talk about some of the software's less impressive elements — because the truth is, for all of its positives, Android P has an awful lot of, well, awful stuff.

Now, let's be clear: Perspective here is critical. This is only the first public beta of the Android P release, so these sorts of rough edges are absolutely to be expected. We'll hold onto hope that Google will iron out the kinks and get all these details fixed up and figured out by the time the final Android P software rolls around later this summer. Otherwise, we might find ourselves feeling a bit of Lollipop déjà vu.

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Location-based services move beyond mobile and into enterprise apps

GPS has been with us for many years, and this is what most consumers think about when they hear the term location-based services (LBS). While the satellite-based routing capability needed to help us get directions will remain an important capability for the foreseeable future, location-based services is morphing into something that is well beyond what the original creators envisioned.

Indeed, as we progress to a more autonomous world, the future will be driven by a required knowledge of location, both internally and externally to our immediate environment. This includes in-building and other enclosed spaces, something GPS is not capable of providing. Further, location will be used as a filter for providing many forms of additional related data. Knowing what’s around us is the only way we can operate autonomous “things” as well as mobile devices doing real work. Finally, the notion of what is a map is changing dramatically as high-resolution images, environmental factors, and augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) capability make their way into location-enabled apps.

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10 Apple accessibility solutions everyone should know

Apple is putting its weight behind Global Accessibility Awareness Day, taking the opportunity to point to its decades-long record in developing software solutions that make its hardware usable by everybody.

Tim Cook’s commitment to making products accessible to everyone

Earlier this year, Apple said:

“One in seven people around the world has some form of disability, whether that be a physical disability involving vision, hearing, or loss of physical motor skills, or a more hidden, invisible disability.”

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Smarter than you thought

Systems analyst pilot fish and his longtime programming partner are joined by a new hire, and it's soon clear that she has little grasp of systems -- but she does know how to throw lots of jargon around at managers.

"That insured that she was included in many meetings, which kept her too busy to program," sighs fish. "Because of this she soon became our manager.

"One day she called for a meeting, and my co-worker and I knew something was up due to her deer-in-the-headlights look. It turned out she had committed to design a system in six months that would track a product from when it was made to delivery to a customer.

"After she described it, my co-worker and I explained there was no way that could be done in so short a time. She frantically said we needed to put something together to demonstrate next week. Couldn't we just throw a web page together and hook up a database or something?!?

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IDG Contributor Network: Why Verizon is funding a wireless competitor, Visible

The wireless industry has grown and changed so much over the last few decades. In the last few years, major wireless brands AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile and Sprint have introduced or acquired several other brands like Cricket, MetroPCS, Boost, Virgin Mobile and more. They have focused on winning and growing in different slices of the wireless pie, and it’s working.

Verizon and Verizon Wireless has been quiet in this space. They tend to take a different route. They are the highest priced wireless service and it looked like things would remain that way. However, now they are doing a deal with Visible that changes all that.

I tend to worry about companies when they let the change wave go on without them. I don’t want the growth wave to pass them by and leave them behind like it did with companies like Blackberry, Nokia and Motorola. Leaders who missed the next change wave and now are struggling.

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5 Mac Terminal tips you’ll want to use

Apple’s Terminal application is supremely powerful on your Mac, and while you should be wary when using it, you can benefit from some super-useful Mac tricks if you do.

What is Terminal?

The Terminal application can be understood as a text-based user interface with which to control your Mac using command line tools. These are very powerful, and they enable you to change lots of the ways your Mac usually behaves.

Be warned

Terminal is unforgiving. You don’t need to fear it, but you should be very, very careful to use precisely the right code when entering instructions for your Mac — particularly if using any command including the word "sudo".

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Win10 version 1803 incompatible with Toshiba solid state drives, too

It now appears as if Microsoft didn’t test the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, version 1803, with its own Surface Pro (2017) laptops, with any machines that use Intel SSD 600p or SSD Pro 6000p drives, or with any machines that contain Toshiba XG4, XG5, or BG3 series solid state drives (SSDs).

You can draw your own conclusions about the advisability of installing Windows 10 1803.

Late last week, “Microsoft Agent” Lonnie_L posted on the Microsoft Answers Forum:

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And thanks so much for your input, boss!

It's 1999, and in this IT department the big crisis isn't Y2k, says a pilot fish there -- it's the Melissa virus.

"We were infected, and we were all called into the Emergency Operations Center to devise a strategy to determine the extent of infection and how to mitigate the effects," fish says.

"The server admins were coming up with methods to clean up any servers that were affected. The desktop group was trying to figure out how many desktops were infected. We in the network group were trying to come up with a way to block traffic from the virus, both inbound and outbound, at the firewalls.

"Everything was moving as well as could be expected, but we had to give an update to senior leadership on progress.

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Microsoft finally stops screwing Surface Pro 4 owners with flickergate

Microsoft's new move to put PR groups inside its operating divisions is paying off. We're now seeing the worst news shuffled out the door on Friday nights. This week's instance addresses a years-long fight by afflicted Surface Pro 4 users to get Microsoft to admit it has a problem, and to provide redress.

Flickergate, you may recall, involves the propensity of some Surface Pro 4 machines to flicker violently. You can see the shake — dating to March 6, 2016, mind you — in a YouTube video posted by Dmitriy1986.

I've written about the flicker, and Microsoft's abhorrent treatment of its customers, on April 4, 2017, Aug. 1, 2017, Nov. 13, 2017, Feb. 7, 2018, and Mar. 21, 2018.

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Two more evolving threats: JavaScript in Excel and payment processing in Outlook

Once upon a time – dating back to the first “Concept” macro virus in Word – the Office folks were wary of new features that had possible security implications. But in the past few weeks, we’ve been introduced to two new features that have “Kick Me” written all over them.

First, JavaScript in Excel. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Last December, Microsoft published a Dev Center article that talked about using the new Excel JavaScript API to create add-ins for Excel 2016.

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Great R packages for data import, wrangling and visualization

One of the great things about R is the thousands of packages users have written to solve specific problems in various disciplines -- analyzing everything from weather or financial data to the human genome -- not to mention analyzing computer security-breach data.

Some tasks are common to almost all users, though, regardless of subject area: data import, data wrangling and data visualization. The table below show my favorite go-to packages for one of these three tasks (plus a few miscellaneous ones tossed in). The package names in the table are clickable if you want more information. To find out more about a package once you've installed it, type help(package = "packagename") in your R console (of course substituting the actual package name ).

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Surface Pro (2017) owners hitting Win10 1803 update blue screens. Now we know why.

As Win10 version 1803 rattles through the unpaid beta-testing phase, it’s snagged another victim — Intel’s aging SSD6 solid-state drives. Both Microsoft and Intel now admit that running Win10 version 1803 on Intel 600p or Pro 6000p is a recipe for disaster.

Some Surface Pro (2017) models ship with “bad” Intel SSD Pro 6000p drives. Customers are complaining about freezes with Win10 version 1803 — and the Microsoft support folks don’t have a clue what’s causing the problem. Now we know.

Here’s how the drama unfolded.

Win10 version 1803 has been in beta testing for centuries, in internet time. The “final” version, build 17134.1, entered the Windows Insider Fast ring almost a month ago, on April 16. In a jumble of mixed-up build numbers, Win10 version 1803 has been officially pushed since April 30. Why did it take so long to figure out that the 600p and Pro 6000p cause problems?

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Apple Pay: ‘Hey, Siri, get me a Goldman Sachs mortgage’

IDG Contributor Network: HoloLens and anticipating the next big smartphone/PC-converged solution

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the market is getting ready to pivot to the next big computing experience. I’m convinced we don’t need two or three separate computing devices that increasingly do the same things.

PCs, smartphones and tablets all can be used for games, productivity applications and communications. At the same time, we’re increasingly getting into trouble using our smartphones inappropriately, which has resulted in laws restricting their use while doing other things – like driving.   

It’s getting closer to a time when we’ll move to a converged solution that will both do all we do on our smartphones, PCs and tablets, and allow us to use the technology more safely. I was at Microsoft Build this month [disclosure: Microsoft is a client of the author], and I’m increasingly convinced their HoloLens could evolve into this converged platform replacement for our personal technology needs.

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Clean, redefined

IT support pilot fish gets an instant message from one of the company's front-line techs, who has a customer on the line wanting to know how to clean his flash drive.

"This tech -- let's just say he wasn't hired for his knowledge and experience in our subject matter," says fish. "He concluded that, after years of cleaning his tape drive, then his DVD-RW drive, the customer now had flash drives for backup of his server, and wanted to know how to clean them properly.

"Actually, the person on the phone wanted to know how to erase or format a flash drive. But our tech, as he often does, misunderstood the customer and thought he needed to physically clean the drive of dirt.

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Patch Tuesday problems, fixes — but no cause for immediate alarm

Results are starting to roll in about this month’s Patch Tuesday, and it’s quite a mixed bag. For those of you struggling with the new Windows 10 April 2018 Update, version 1803, there’s good news and bad news. The hand wringing about a new VBScript zero-day, thanks to our good old friend baked-in Internet Explorer, looks overblown for now. And if you can’t get RDP working because of “An authentication error has occurred” messages, you missed the memo.

Windows 10 version 1803

First, the good news. As I anticipated earlier this week, this month’s cumulative update for 1803 is a must-have, warts and all. The new build 17134.48 replaces the old 17134.1 (which went to those who installed 1803 directly or fell into the seeker trap) and the old 17134.5 (for those upgrading with the Windows Insider builds). As Susan Bradley explains, 17134.48 claims to fix both the Chrome and Cortana freeze, as well as a major VPN bug.

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9 new Android P features that'll make you more productive

That wacky new gesture navigation system may be Android P's most attention-grabbing element — for better or maybe for worse — but the latest version of Google's operating system also has its share of small yet significant changes.

And you know what? Those seemingly subtle touches are often the ones that end up bringing the most meaningful improvements to our day-to-day lives.

To wit: The nine new Android P features described below won't all command attention. They won't all appear in ads or atop reviews. Some of them might not even be noticed by average users, at least not in any overt sense.

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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).

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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).

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(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.

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(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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MDM comparison: VMware AirWatch vs. IBM Maas360

The mobile device management (MDM) market is crowded, giving companies numerous options for locking down both devices and data. But picking out the best solution isn't always an obvious choice.

Given the variety of MDM solutions available to enterprise companies, how do VMware AirWatch and IBM MaaS360 compare? What insights can real users share about their MDM experiences? Which features really matter, and how can companies evaluate which tool is best suited to meet their enterprise mobility needs?

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(Insider Story)

Toshiba Portege X30 review: The clamshell strikes back

Sleek tablets and 2-in-1s get all the attention these days, but they still take a back seat to traditional clamshell laptops for outfitting business employees. Take Toshiba’s flagship Portégé X30 (technically called the X30-D), which combines peak performance with all the amenities that a traveling executive could want in a lightweight fold-open package.

I tested a souped-up X30 that costs $2,109 and includes just about every option available, from the high-performance Core i7 7600U processor that runs between 2.8GHz and 3.9GHz to its 16GB of RAM and 256GB solid state storage system. It also includes a 13.3-in. touchscreen that supports 1920 x 1080 resolution. (Toshiba doesn’t offer an X30 model with a 4K display.)

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Easy mobile security the Faraday way

Have you heard about those special bags, cases and wallets that protect your electronics from hack attacks?

It’s a signal-blocking container, basically a tinfoil hat for your gadget.

Tinfoil hats are associated with conspiracy theorists concerned about secret government mind-control programs. But when it comes to your wireless gadgets, they really are out to get you.

For example: It’s not a conspiracy theory to believe that companies you’ve never heard of are tracking your location.

In the past two weeks, we’ve learned that a company called Securus Technologies sold the real-time location data of millions of people. It got this data from another company called LocationSmart, which itself was buying the data from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

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What is blockchain? The most disruptive tech in decades

Blockchain is poised to change IT in much the same way open-source software did a quarter of a century ago. And in the same way that Linux took more than a decade to become a cornerstone in modern application development, Blockchain will take years to become a lower cost, more efficient way to share information between open and private networks.

But the hype around this seemingly new, secure electronic ledger is real. In essence, blockchain represents a new paradigm for the way information is shared and tech vendors and companies are rushing to figure out how they can use the distributed ledger technology to save time and admin costs. Numerous companies in 2017 began rolling out pilot programs and real-world projects across a variety of industries - everything from financial services to healthcare to mobile payments and even global shipping.

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Windows 10 Redstone: A guide to the builds

Microsoft never sleeps. Even before the Windows 10 April 2018 Update (version 1803) started to roll out, the company began work on the next major update to Windows 10, code-named Redstone 5 and due to be released this autumn. As it did with the April 2018 Update, Microsoft has been releasing a series of public preview builds to members of Microsoft's Insider Program.

What follows is a list of every preview build of Redstone 5, starting with the most recent. For each build, we've included the date of its release, a summary of what’s in the build and a link to Microsoft's announcement about it. After that you’ll find summaries of all the preview builds that led up to the Windows 10 April 2018 Update (Redstone 4), the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (Redstone 3) and the Windows 10 Creators Update (Redstone 2).

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Tech Talk: As GDPR looms, companies rush to comply

For many companies, GDPR has become a four-letter acronym.

The European Union's new General Data Protection Rule – which applies to virtually any kind of data that can be used to identify a person – goes into effect May 25. And companies around the world are rushing to make sure they're in compliance, or at least can demonstrate that they're hard at work trying to meet the EU demands.

GDPR is designed to protect personal privacy, (hopefully) make companies more secure from data breaches and force them to get their collective hands around all the data they collect, use and distribute. 

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Android apps: Best of the best

Trying to find the right app for any given area on Android is a lot like trying to order dinner at a restaurant with way too many options on the menu. How can you possibly find the right choice in such a crowded lineup? With the Google Play Store now boasting somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 gazillion titles (last I checked), it's no simple task to figure out which apps rise above the rest and provide the best possible experiences.

That's why I decided to step in and help. I've been covering Android from the start and have seen more than my fair share of incredible and not so incredible apps. From interface design to practical value, I know what to look for and how to separate the ordinary from the extraordinary. And taking the time to truly explore the full menu of options and find the cream of the crop is quite literally my job.

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Tech Talk: Prepping for GDPR

CSO's Michael Nadeau and Steve Ragan join Computerworld's Ken Mingis and IDG Communications' Mark Lewis to look at what the new EU privacy rules means. They offer insights on how companies can prepare – and what happens if they don't.

6 tips for faster Apple iPhone charging

Apple will allegedly introduce a fast-charging system inside the box with every iPhone sold later this year. While we wait for this magical moment in iPhone history, I’ve put together six tips for faster charging using the technology you have.

What’s the rumor about iPhone charging?

Images purported to show a prototype of the new charging device began circulating this week. The illustrations (above) show the European version of the more powerful charging wall charger, which (it is alleged) delivers 18-Watts of power and hosts its own USB-C socket.

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Success at last!

This pilot fish changes jobs, moving from a small software company to a large state college -- and there's a bit of culture shock.

"It was summertime, which means daily thunderstorms in this part of the country," says fish. "Daily thunderstorms mean daily power interruptions. It didn't take long to discover that none of the computers in the IT department had battery backups.

"This surprised me, as the small company I'd come from had been using battery backups since the 1980s."

So fish asks around, finds out it's the hardware manager who's in charge of providing equipment and asks him for a UPS. "Sure," the guy says cheerfully, "it will just take a few days."

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Patch update: Monthly Rollup previews arrive for Win7, 8.1, along with updates for Win10 1607, 1703

We just got a smattering of patches that seem to be in the "Oh yeah, we forgot" bucket. Windows 7 and 8.1 received Previews (which you should never install, of course). Win10 1607 (out of support for Home and Pro on April 10) and 1703 got the usual laundry list of minor fixes.

I bet Win10 1709 and 1803 updates will be out soon.

Here's the roundup:

KB 4103713 - Win7 Monthly Rollup preview. Doesn't solve the network driver uninstallation bug, but does add a new "SMB1 access auditing on Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1." You have to turn on the auditing with a registry change.

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Why Linux apps on Chromebooks are a really big deal (really!)

It may have gotten lost in the shuffle of all the Android P news at Google's I/O conference last week, but fear not, dear friends: Chrome OS has definitely not been forgotten.

Google's been making steady progress in advancing its Chromebook operating system over the past several months, particularly around its efforts to further align Android and Chrome OS and turn Chromebooks into all-purpose productivity machines and Android tablet replacements. Practically every week, in fact, there's some new and noteworthy feature being added into the platform (something we've talked about a great deal in my weekly newsletter as of late).

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How Apple’s iPad, Swift and VoiceOver teach the blind to code

Microsoft's Surface Hub 2 puts Teams collaboration at its core

Microsoft has unveiled its updated Surface Hub digital whiteboard, improving collaboration capabilities with software and hardware features.

The Surface Hub 2 - set to launch in 2019 - features a 4K, 50.5-in. multi-touch display and contains 4K cameras that rotate with the devices, integrated speakers and far-field microphones. The modular design allows for up to four Surface Hub 2 screens to be connected in portrait or landscape view, while rolling stands allow individual screens to be moved around office spaces.

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Solving a blockchain conundrum: Biometrics could recover lost encryption keys

Blockchain could one day solve the online privacy problem by encrypting or scrambling personally identifiable information and issuing each person a random string of bits – a private key – created explicitly for unscrambling their data.

The person holding the blockchain private key could issue various public keys controlling who has access to the personal data on the blockchain. So, for instance, if a car rental agency needed to verify you have a driver's license, you could use a public key to give them access to that information. You could later revoke access to that information.

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Throwback Thursday: Why comments were invented

Request comes to pilot fish to provide employee data for the company-wide address book. That's no big deal.

"Time to code: 60 minutes," fish reports. "Affected employees: 8,000."

Flash forward two years: Senior executives get new cell phones that should be able to import the company-wide address book. Problem: The phone numbers are formatted for human beings to use, not cell phones.

New request: Change address book format so cell phones can dial the phone numbers automatically.

"Time to code: 10 minutes to comment out old code and add new code," says fish. "Affected employees: 8,000. Employees who actually need this data: 10."

Now it's another eight months later: Senior execs decide they're bored with having the entire company directory on their cell phones.

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Lots of little Microsoft patches, but nothing for this month’s big bugs — and no Previews

Third Tuesday of the month and it’s time for bug fixes and Monthly Rollup Previews, right?

Well, no. May’s Third Tuesday brought a big bag of .Net Framework Previews, microcode patches for Win10 1803 and Server 2016, and a Win10 1803 upgrade nag, but no respite at all for the major problems introduced by this month’s earlier patches.

The .Net Framework Previews

Unless you’re testing your own .Net-based software to make sure it won’t explode next month, you don’t need to think about these. There’s the usual assortment of Previews for .Net Framework 2.0, 3.0, 3.5, 4.5.2, 4.6, 4.6.1, 4.6.2, 4.7 and 4.7.1 for all the usual versions of Windows and Server.

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What an Apple phishing attack looks like | Salted Hash Ep 32

How can you tell the difference between a legitimate email and a phishing attack? Host Steve Ragan shows what an Apple phishing attack looks like, screen by screen, showing the difference between the real and the fake.

FAQ: How Edge's Application Guard and isolated browsing work

Microsoft two weeks ago quietly added a security feature to Windows 10 Pro that initially was available only in the operating system's most expensive edition.

Dubbed Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) - and linked to Windows 10's default browser, Edge - the anti-malware, anti-exploit technology was designed to make the Web a safer place for employees, an important goal in times when ransomware runs rampant and hackers pinch customer or worker credentials, or personal information, with near impunity.

"Now, like Windows 10 Enterprise users, Windows 10 Pro users can navigate the Internet in Application Guard knowing their systems are safe from common web-based attacks," Jason Silves, a program manager at Microsoft, wrote in an online post when the feature began beta testing late last year.

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(Insider Story)

Well, it's secure, all right...

This small IT consulting outfit gets a contract with a very, very big company -- which is a very big deal, says a pilot fish at the consultancy.

"On a daily basis, a large text data file needs to get loaded into a very fast database, and that information is used to deal or not deal with certain customers," fish explains. "And this all has to happen in real time."

The big client is very security conscious, and it won't let the consultancy download the data from the client's site. Instead, a third-party site is used, and access is through a secure connection with a totally inscrutable password.

And on the first day, everything works fine. The big client puts the data on the site and fish's company downloads the data, then keeps checking back periodically to see if anything has been added or changed.

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Office 365: A guide to the updates

Office 365 subscribers always have the latest version of Microsoft Office — currently Office 2016. They also get more frequent software updates than those who have purchased Office 2016 without a subscription, which means subscribers have access to the latest features, security patches and bug fixes. But it can be hard to keep track of the changes in each update and know when they’re available. We’re doing for you, so you don’t have to.

Following are key updates to Office 365 for Windows since Office 2016 was released in September 2015 — all the 2017 updates and the most important ones from 2016 and late 2015, with the latest releases shown first. We’ll add info about new updates as they’re rolled out.

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10 annoying things about Android P (that'll hopefully be fixed soon)

All right, gang: The honeymoon's officially over. We've oohed. We've ahhed. We've talked about Android P's most noteworthy productivity features. Now it's time to step back, get real, and talk about some of the software's less impressive elements — because the truth is, for all of its positives, Android P has an awful lot of, well, awful stuff.

Now, let's be clear: Perspective here is critical. This is only the first public beta of the Android P release, so these sorts of rough edges are absolutely to be expected. We'll hold onto hope that Google will iron out the kinks and get all these details fixed up and figured out by the time the final Android P software rolls around later this summer. Otherwise, we might find ourselves feeling a bit of Lollipop déjà vu.

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Location-based services move beyond mobile and into enterprise apps

GPS has been with us for many years, and this is what most consumers think about when they hear the term location-based services (LBS). While the satellite-based routing capability needed to help us get directions will remain an important capability for the foreseeable future, location-based services is morphing into something that is well beyond what the original creators envisioned.

Indeed, as we progress to a more autonomous world, the future will be driven by a required knowledge of location, both internally and externally to our immediate environment. This includes in-building and other enclosed spaces, something GPS is not capable of providing. Further, location will be used as a filter for providing many forms of additional related data. Knowing what’s around us is the only way we can operate autonomous “things” as well as mobile devices doing real work. Finally, the notion of what is a map is changing dramatically as high-resolution images, environmental factors, and augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) capability make their way into location-enabled apps.

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Get a hands-on, inside look at the dark web | Salted Hash Ep 25

Reporting from RSA 2018, host Steve Ragan helps dispel the hype and confusion surrounding the dark web, as he talks with Alon Arvatz, co-founder at IntSights.

10 Apple accessibility solutions everyone should know

Apple is putting its weight behind Global Accessibility Awareness Day, taking the opportunity to point to its decades-long record in developing software solutions that make its hardware usable by everybody.

Tim Cook’s commitment to making products accessible to everyone

Earlier this year, Apple said:

“One in seven people around the world has some form of disability, whether that be a physical disability involving vision, hearing, or loss of physical motor skills, or a more hidden, invisible disability.”

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The best places to find Windows 10 ISOs

Installing and repairing Windows operating systems requires access to known, good, working and virus-free installation and supporting files. Typically, these collections can run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of items, and are organized within a complex hierarchy of file directories (folders, in Windows-speak).

That probably explains why the ISO format, originally developed to capture the contents of an entire optical disc (such as a CD, DVD or even Blu-ray disc), makes such a good container for something as big and complicated as Windows. When you go looking for a Windows download for installation or repair nowadays, it’s quite likely that what you’ll find is best described as a “Windows ISO.”

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(Insider Story)

Smarter than you thought

Systems analyst pilot fish and his longtime programming partner are joined by a new hire, and it's soon clear that she has little grasp of systems -- but she does know how to throw lots of jargon around at managers.

"That insured that she was included in many meetings, which kept her too busy to program," sighs fish. "Because of this she soon became our manager.

"One day she called for a meeting, and my co-worker and I knew something was up due to her deer-in-the-headlights look. It turned out she had committed to design a system in six months that would track a product from when it was made to delivery to a customer.

"After she described it, my co-worker and I explained there was no way that could be done in so short a time. She frantically said we needed to put something together to demonstrate next week. Couldn't we just throw a web page together and hook up a database or something?!?

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