Surface Pro 4 firmware update blamed for touchscreen and pen malfunctions

Microsoft’s Surface folks have been on a mission lately, replacing almost all of the firmware and drivers in almost all of the recent Surface machines. It’s as if, golly, somebody finally figured out that the enormous number of Surface bugs have their root in something buried deep inside.

The jury’s still out on the efficacy of most of those firmware/driver updates, but a problem has, uh, surfaced specifically with the Surface Pro 4 firmware/driver updates released on July 26.

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The fascinatingly familiar march of the smart speaker market

Tell me if this sounds familiar: A big company gets a head start on a new type of tech product. It manages to gain a lot of momentum and market share in those early months and wins over countless headlines of "owning" the market and being an unstoppable force.

Then, Google moseys along into the arena. It's a latecomer to the game and an underdog to start — but it has a not-so-secret weapon no other player can match: an underlying ecosystem and army of high-profile partners. Those partners will soon create their own products for Google's platform and push its standard ever further into the world.

Despite some initial skepticism, then, Google ends up dominating the dojo and becoming the largest player in that market — by a long shot. Everyone else ends up being a niche (if potentially still quite relevant and profitable) player in comparison.

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The easy way to use Windows on a Mac just got better

But isn't breaking things what the QA people DO?

It's the 1990s, and this small startup needs to get online on a tiny budget -- which means a pilot fish there has to cobble together a Linux server from leftover parts.

"Things were working swimmingly for the first few weeks," says fish. "The server ran our corporate email and served up a simple web site.

"But suddenly it developed a bad case of the 'bouncies.' Someone would complain that the server was down, I'd verify and reboot. This happened multiple times in the same morning, and each time I left my desk and walked through the QA department to the corner of the open office where we stashed the 'server farm,' where potential investors could marvel at the blinky lights.

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The Intern

Pilot fish's company brings in a new student intern to work in IT, and it seems like he should be a perfect fit -- but it's not quite working out.

"He had great grades at a top institution, but he struggled mightily," says fish. "He did not have a bad attitude, but he just couldn't pick up our technology.

"He had done well at everything he had ever tried, at least according to him. He came from a very successful family, and he just could not get how things could be so difficult.

"I put in extra time, because it seemed like it was my fault -- like I wasn't explaining things so he could understand them. In the end, we gave him an A for effort and sent him back to school.

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Mojave: How to make Automator shortcuts for MBP Touch Bar

Apple’s macOS Mojave introduces a rather cool new feature: You can add Automator actions to your MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar. Here is how to do it.

Why does this matter?

If you use a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar you’ve probably wondered if there is any way to make the tools provided there even more useful to your particular needs.

The introduction of support for self-generated Automator actions is Apple’s response to this, as it means you can populate your Touch Bar with single-button commands to get some of your most repetitive tasks done with a single button-click.

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IDG Contributor Network: Advice to Google: Stop invading wireless privacy with location history

Over the last several years many have been warning about the invasion of privacy that some companies seem to do without notifying users. Just last week, we learned Google Location History on Android devices and on the iPhone app, track and store your location information. They do this even if you turn it off in settings. This gets many very angry. Users say, who does Google think they are?

In fact, Google is not alone, and invasion of privacy is not new. This is a wide-spread and growing problem on a wide variety of devices and services like smartphones, cars with navigation systems, AI devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo or Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Samsung Bixby and almost anything connected to the Internet.

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Google and banks are being less than truthful about customer tracking

There are good and bad reasons to track people's movements, but the best way to scream to users that you're spying on them is to lie about or not reveal what you're doing. Corporate developers, if you're not guilty of bad conduct, why are you trying to so hard to hide it?

This comes to mind after two unrelated news stories cropped up this week.

The Associated Press reported that Google kept tracking consumers after they had selected a privacy option that supposedly blocked the tracking. Only days after that AP report did Google quietly change its help page, from claiming “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored" to “This setting does not affect other location services on your device” and “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”

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2 undocumented patches from Microsoft may solve the 1803 TLS 1.2 blocking problem

Microsoft’s KB 4458166, released on Tuesday, explains that the push to Win10 version 1803 has been halted for machines running .Net applications that use the TLS 1.2 security protocol. Presumably, effective Tuesday, if you have a Win10 1709 or 1703 machine that’s running one of those programs (including, notably, QuickBooks Desktop), Microsoft won’t try to push 1803 on it.

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We need to talk about Steve Jobs

I’m angry about it, really. The treatment around Steve Jobs, in books, in movies and on TV seems to depict him as part-genius, part-ogre, and seldom looks at him as Steve Jobs: Human.

Who benefits from that?

I can’t help but wonder who gains from such diluted biography. People can’t solve big problems if the culture they work in means they’ll be fried to a crisp for making a mistake.

That’s why people put money into Jobs or Musk.

Companies that work together well grow while those with inadequate management inevitably shrink.

I spoke at length with Apple VP education John Couch this week. We discussed many of the concepts in his highly recommended book Rewiring Education, which I’ll be returning to soon.

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Just think of 6 a.m. as Beta Time

This pilot fish is writing mainframe software for a large defense contractor, and he's discovered a way to become a lot more efficient: arrive at work at 6 a.m.

"The traffic is light at that hour, and I get a couple of hours of work in without much interruption," says fish. "It also means I get to find what changes the computer center -- which is at a different location -- has made overnight.

"One morning I sat down, fired up the PC that's my terminal and started to work. But the editor was acting very strangely, so I called a system guy I know to find out what was going on.

Fish: Fred, what did you do the editor last night?

Fred: "We made some minor changes, but there were no changes visible to the user."

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IDG Contributor Network: NVIDIA RTX cards suggest an interesting sea change in workstation strategy

Workstations represent what I think is the strongest personal technology implementation in the PC space, albeit at the high end. What I’m talking about is the almost laser-like focus workstation vendors have on workstation users. This is largely something we lost in the general corporate PC space that I think was a good part of the cause in the general PC space, the vendors focused excessively on IT (which focused them on price, cookie cutter boring designs, and excessively long model runs) rather than user needs. In the workstation space no one seemed to lose track of the people that used the products but, as focused as these vendors were workstations started to look pretty similar even though the people that used them have vastly different jobs.

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Android 9 answers: 20 fast fixes for common Pie problems

So you've got Pie — Google's Android 9 Pie software, that is (though if you've also got pastry, hey, kudos to you). Maybe you've read about some of Pie's noteworthy features but can't get them all working on your phone. Maybe they are working, and you're just less than thrilled with what they do. Or maybe amidst all of Pie's new layers, you can't figure out where an old favorite feature went.

In the days since Pie's arrival, I've heard it all — and it's no surprise: Android 9 brings about some of the most significant changes we've seen to Android in years, and not all of its adjustments are immediately obvious or easy to follow. Whatever your issue, though, there's almost certainly an answer.

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Why Apple’s AR glasses will transform your enterprise

Apple is working to develop augmented reality (AR) glasses. It has been working on these for years and is now expected to introduce them as soon as 2020. What use will they be?

Apple: The next generation

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says these things will usher in “next-generation revolutionary UI,” likely referring to prevailing wisdom that says sophisticated virtual reality (VR) experiences will be controlled by a combination of speech, gesture, movement, and touch-based commands. Motion sensors will be activated by what you do with your arms, for example.

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Throwback Thursday: How did...er, DIDN'T he do that?

It's 1977, and this network analyst pilot fish is working at a newly constructed data center -- one with a big fence.

"The company had just gotten a new sense of needing physical security, so they had included a new, state-of-the-art security system," says fish.

"It had electronic locks at a handful of doors in the building, a 10-foot-high fence with a motorized gate, and key-card reader stations by each of the locked doors and the gate."

One day, company needs to bring a new communications line up between the data center and an office 10 miles away. Fish's team leader decides the best way to do this without disrupting the users is to have fish go to the remote office at 4:30 a.m., while his team leader goes to the data center.

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Patch Tuesday fallout: Bad docs, but so far no major problems

Microsoft may have fixed July’s horrible, no good, very bad patches. Although the initial documentation for this month’s patches included warnings about many of the bugs that persisted from July, it ends up that the docs were wrong, and most of the known problems seem to be fixed.

As of early Reboot Wednesday morning, the patches seem to be behaving themselves. Of course, it frequently takes days or even weeks for bugs to appear, so you’d be well advised to avoid jumping into the unpaid battle zone for now.

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How Apple could redesign money

Like most big corporations, Apple’s financial statements always warn that currency fluctuation poses risks to its business performance — but it could mitigate such risk, perhaps with its own virtual money.

More stable than currency

The problem with currency decline is that it impacts prices and revenues and can impact a company’s projected performance.

A Decluttr survey last year revealed that iPhones hold value longer than other smartphone brands. (At a stretch, you could argue that this makes them a more stable financial investment than some currencies.)

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Data conversion? What could be easier?

This small IT service provider has two new customers about a hundred miles apart -- and a serious barrier to serving one of them, reports a pilot fish working there.

"One of the customers had a cartridge tape unit attached to their existing system, but we couldn't read those cartridges," fish says. "The other customer had a system with both a cartridge tape drive and an open-reel drive that handled tapes our system could read."

Fish knows it should be possible to use the second customer's data center as a conversion facility to move data between cartridges and reels for the first customer -- at least in theory.

Second customer is willing to give that arrangement a try. First customer creates a cartridge tape for a trial data-conversion test, and fish picks it up and drives to the second customer's data center.

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A hidden Android Pie security setting everyone should enable

Google's new Android 9 Pie release has plenty of fresh features and interface changes, but one of the software's most significant security improvements has managed to stay mostly off the radar.

In addition to all of the oft-discussed privacy and security enhancements, y'see, Pie has an out-of-sight and semi-advanced option. It's not something you'd use every day — or often at all, really — but if the right sort of occasion ever comes along, you'll be glad you have it enabled.

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How Apple’s AI imaging vision may save lives

BrandPost: Do Right by Your Data Center with SSD Technology

Companies have long relied on solid-state drive (SSD) technology to power their data centers. But not all SSD tools are built equal. Many of today’s off-the-shelf and client-grade solutions can fail, just when it matters most.

That’s a problem. Not only do organizations rely on data center servers to keep critical systems up and running, but they can be an important source of revenue, especially for cloud services providers.

The high cost of failure

Then there are the considerable costs of data center server failures: According to an ITIC survey, 81% of respondents indicated that a single hour of downtime cost their business over $300,000. And a staggering one-third or 33% of enterprises estimate an hour of downtime to cost $1 million to over $5 million. Not to mention the psychological and productivity toll an outage can take on IT teams.

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BrandPost: An SSD Designed for Greater TOC

For content delivery networks to generate more revenue, they need to deliver more content. However, storing this additional data can be costly.

Enter solid-state drive (SSD) technology. Once financially out-of-reach for many organizations, today’s SSD solutions are built for data center usage – at a Client PC price.

Yet many organizations continue to base their storage investment decisions on a single metric – cost per gigabyte. That’s a mistake. Today’s organizations must look beyond cost per gigabyte and examine the numerous advantages SSDs offer over hard disk drives (HDDs). A better measure is Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), which factors in all capital and operating expenses.

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Hey, he DID ask!

Computer reseller pilot fish gets a call one morning from the IT director at a nearby public school system. The problem: Every PC in one school's computer lab has gone silent.

"In the lab, the students could listen to a specific application," says fish. "All the desktop computers fed into external speakers. There was no sound coming from the speakers.

"I asked the IT director if he'd checked all the connections. He assured me he had.

"I made the 45-minute trip to the school, and he showed me the problem. I noticed that all of the external speakers were getting their power from some daisy-chained power strips. I also noticed that the first one was turned off.

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IDG Contributor Network: Microsoft Surface GO and Fire HD 10 fit together in the same bag

I’m a huge Fire user, I have a fleet of the things and virtually every model they make.  The one I carry the most is the 10-inch Fire HD because it is best for videos, I don’t have to flip the pages as much when reading, and it does a better job, in my opinion, than the smaller devices with web pages particularly those with forms. The new Microsoft Surface GO is in the same size class and I’ve been messing with it a bit. It stands out as being even better with web pages, it runs full Office, and it has a far better keyboard solution but the apps for movies and books aren’t as good as the Fire’s.

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IDG Contributor Network: T-Mobile low priced unlimited wireless plan is what many users want

Thank you to T-Mobile for getting it. They finally understand the fact that not every customer wants every bell and whistle connected to their unlimited plan. Many don’t watch Netflix on their mobile devices. Many don’t travel internationally. And this slice of the customer pie doesn’t want to pay for those features. They want to save as much as possible.

The customer who simply wanted unlimited wireless at a low cost was never the focus of many providers. That is changing thanks to two carriers, AT&T Mobility and now T-Mobile.

This new, lower cost unlimited wireless data plan from T-Mobile understands what many users want. Many wireless companies have been working more services into their plans, so they can charge more.

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Apple's VP of education writes on the future of teaching

There’s a pressing need to improve the traditional education system, bringing transformative technologies and teaching practices into play to boost active learning and create a framework that supports life-long education, argues Apple's vice president of education, John Couch, in his latest book.

Rewiring Education

Couch's Rewiring Education is a passionate criticism of many of the less-efficient aspects of current U.S. education policy. It looks at why the status quo fails so many students and how the manner in which they are taught in U.S. classrooms needs to improve in order to facilitate active, life-long learning.

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Review: 6 data recovery tools for USB flash drives and more

As USB thumb drives and memory cards have grown larger and cheaper over the years, it's become easier to trust more data to them. Cloud storage services notwithstanding, flash drives have remained a common way to store data and transport files from one computer to another — and it's all too easy to accidentally erase data from one or have it hiccup on you.

That’s where file recovery tools come in; they restore deleted files from hard drives and other storage devices. For this roundup, we tested how effectively six tools recover data from USB flash drives.

Most data recovery tools work similarly: Through their interfaces, you select the storage device (flash drive, hard drive, SSD, memory card) from which your files went missing. Then you pick another storage device (such as your computer’s own hard drive or SSD) where the recovery tool will save your recovered files to.

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(Insider Story)

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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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).

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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)

 

What Vitalik Buterin’s tweetstorm means for the future Ethereum blockchain

It took 75 tweets, but Ethereum blockchain founder Vitalik Buterin has clarified the roadmap for implementing a new consensus mechanism that promises to greatly increase the speed with which new entries can be added to the distributed electronic ledger technology.

Buterin devoted most of the tweets to explaining the history of Ethereum developer efforts to create a Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism that would streamline the process while also combating nefarious attacks to control blockchain content.

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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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Surface Pro 4 firmware update blamed for touchscreen and pen malfunctions

Microsoft’s Surface folks have been on a mission lately, replacing almost all of the firmware and drivers in almost all of the recent Surface machines. It’s as if, golly, somebody finally figured out that the enormous number of Surface bugs have their root in something buried deep inside.

The jury’s still out on the efficacy of most of those firmware/driver updates, but a problem has, uh, surfaced specifically with the Surface Pro 4 firmware/driver updates released on July 26.

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The fascinatingly familiar march of the smart speaker market

Tell me if this sounds familiar: A big company gets a head start on a new type of tech product. It manages to gain a lot of momentum and market share in those early months and wins over countless headlines of "owning" the market and being an unstoppable force.

Then, Google moseys along into the arena. It's a latecomer to the game and an underdog to start — but it has a not-so-secret weapon no other player can match: an underlying ecosystem and army of high-profile partners. Those partners will soon create their own products for Google's platform and push its standard ever further into the world.

Despite some initial skepticism, then, Google ends up dominating the dojo and becoming the largest player in that market — by a long shot. Everyone else ends up being a niche (if potentially still quite relevant and profitable) player in comparison.

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The easy way to use Windows on a Mac just got better

But isn't breaking things what the QA people DO?

It's the 1990s, and this small startup needs to get online on a tiny budget -- which means a pilot fish there has to cobble together a Linux server from leftover parts.

"Things were working swimmingly for the first few weeks," says fish. "The server ran our corporate email and served up a simple web site.

"But suddenly it developed a bad case of the 'bouncies.' Someone would complain that the server was down, I'd verify and reboot. This happened multiple times in the same morning, and each time I left my desk and walked through the QA department to the corner of the open office where we stashed the 'server farm,' where potential investors could marvel at the blinky lights.

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How to back up Android devices: The complete guide

'Twas a time not so long ago when backing up an Android phone was a massive, migraine-inducing undertaking.

It's true: A mere matter of years back in our mobile device saga, a proper Android backup required physical computer connections, complicated third-party software and more than a few adult beverages.

But my, what a difference a few years makes. These days, backing up an Android device and keeping your data synced takes little to no actual effort. Most of the work happens seamlessly and automatically, behind the scenes — either without any involvement on your behalf or with a one-time opt-in when you first set your phone up. And restoring your data is typically as simple as signing into a device and letting Google's systems work their magic.

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The Intern

Pilot fish's company brings in a new student intern to work in IT, and it seems like he should be a perfect fit -- but it's not quite working out.

"He had great grades at a top institution, but he struggled mightily," says fish. "He did not have a bad attitude, but he just couldn't pick up our technology.

"He had done well at everything he had ever tried, at least according to him. He came from a very successful family, and he just could not get how things could be so difficult.

"I put in extra time, because it seemed like it was my fault -- like I wasn't explaining things so he could understand them. In the end, we gave him an A for effort and sent him back to school.

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Windows 10 update (and retirement) calendar: Mark these dates

Microsoft's shift to Windows-as-a-service (WaaS) for Windows 10 crafted a repetitive, predictable schedule of version release and support expiration dates for Windows 10.

Although consumers can essentially ignore any schedule — Microsoft decides when their devices are upgraded — business customers and their IT personnel should be marking the calendar with the important upcoming events.

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Mojave: How to make Automator shortcuts for MBP Touch Bar

Apple’s macOS Mojave introduces a rather cool new feature: You can add Automator actions to your MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar. Here is how to do it.

Why does this matter?

If you use a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar you’ve probably wondered if there is any way to make the tools provided there even more useful to your particular needs.

The introduction of support for self-generated Automator actions is Apple’s response to this, as it means you can populate your Touch Bar with single-button commands to get some of your most repetitive tasks done with a single button-click.

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SAP pilots blockchain-based supply chain tracker

SAP is working with more than two dozen produce, pharmaceutical, tech and shipping companies on an automated blockchain-based supply chain tracking system that it believes will bolster visibility and ensure the authenticity of goods such as food and drugs.

The software giant is piloting its SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain with 16 farm-to-consumer produce suppliers such as Maple Leaf Foods, Johnsonville, Naturipe Farms, Tate & Lyle and Natura. SAP’s blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) provides an abstraction layer that supports open standards, offers built-in integration with SAP applications.

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Google and banks are being less than truthful about customer tracking

There are good and bad reasons to track people's movements, but the best way to scream to users that you're spying on them is to lie about or not reveal what you're doing. Corporate developers, if you're not guilty of bad conduct, why are you trying to so hard to hide it?

This comes to mind after two unrelated news stories cropped up this week.

The Associated Press reported that Google kept tracking consumers after they had selected a privacy option that supposedly blocked the tracking. Only days after that AP report did Google quietly change its help page, from claiming “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored" to “This setting does not affect other location services on your device” and “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”

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Can the police search your phone?

Can the police search your phone?

The answer to that question is getting complicated.

But it’s an important thing to know. The reason is that your phone, and the phones of every employee at your company, almost certainly contain company secrets — or provide access to those secrets.

Phones can provide access to passwords, contact lists, emails, phone call metadata, photos, spreadsheets and other company documents, location histories, photos and much more.

Proprietary data — including information that would enable systematic hacking of company servers for sabotage, industrial espionage and worse — is protected from legal exposure by a complex set of well-understood laws and norms in the United States. But that same data is accessible from company phones.

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2 undocumented patches from Microsoft may solve the 1803 TLS 1.2 blocking problem

Microsoft’s KB 4458166, released on Tuesday, explains that the push to Win10 version 1803 has been halted for machines running .Net applications that use the TLS 1.2 security protocol. Presumably, effective Tuesday, if you have a Win10 1709 or 1703 machine that’s running one of those programs (including, notably, QuickBooks Desktop), Microsoft won’t try to push 1803 on it.

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IBM, Maersk launch blockchain-based shipping platform with 94 early adopters

After launching a proof of concept earlier this year, IBM and Maersk have unveiled TradeLens, the production version of an electronic ledger for tracking global shipments; the companies say they have 94 participants piloting the system, including more than 20 port and terminal operators.

The jointly developed electronic shipping ledger records details of cargo shipments as they leave their origin, arrive in ports, are shipped overseas and eventually received.

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We need to talk about Steve Jobs

I’m angry about it, really. The treatment around Steve Jobs, in books, in movies and on TV seems to depict him as part-genius, part-ogre, and seldom looks at him as Steve Jobs: Human.

Who benefits from that?

I can’t help but wonder who gains from such diluted biography. People can’t solve big problems if the culture they work in means they’ll be fried to a crisp for making a mistake.

That’s why people put money into Jobs or Musk.

Companies that work together well grow while those with inadequate management inevitably shrink.

I spoke at length with Apple VP education John Couch this week. We discussed many of the concepts in his highly recommended book Rewiring Education, which I’ll be returning to soon.

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Just think of 6 a.m. as Beta Time

This pilot fish is writing mainframe software for a large defense contractor, and he's discovered a way to become a lot more efficient: arrive at work at 6 a.m.

"The traffic is light at that hour, and I get a couple of hours of work in without much interruption," says fish. "It also means I get to find what changes the computer center -- which is at a different location -- has made overnight.

"One morning I sat down, fired up the PC that's my terminal and started to work. But the editor was acting very strangely, so I called a system guy I know to find out what was going on.

Fish: Fred, what did you do the editor last night?

Fred: "We made some minor changes, but there were no changes visible to the user."

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How to protect your privacy in Windows 10

There has been some concern that Windows 10 gathers too much private information from users. Whether you think Microsoft's operating system crosses the privacy line or just want to make sure you protect as much of your personal life as possible, we're here to help. Here's how to protect your privacy in just a few minutes.

Note: This story has been updated for the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, a.k.a. version 1803. If you have an earlier release of Windows 10, some things may be different.

Turn off ad tracking

At the top of many people's privacy concerns is what data is being gathered about them as they browse the web. That information creates a profile of a person's interests that is used by a variety of companies to target ads. Windows 10 does this with the use of an advertising ID. The ID doesn't just gather information about you when you browse the web, but also when you use Windows 10 apps.

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Android 9 answers: 20 fast fixes for common Pie problems

So you've got Pie — Google's Android 9 Pie software, that is (though if you've also got pastry, hey, kudos to you). Maybe you've read about some of Pie's noteworthy features but can't get them all working on your phone. Maybe they are working, and you're just less than thrilled with what they do. Or maybe amidst all of Pie's new layers, you can't figure out where an old favorite feature went.

In the days since Pie's arrival, I've heard it all — and it's no surprise: Android 9 brings about some of the most significant changes we've seen to Android in years, and not all of its adjustments are immediately obvious or easy to follow. Whatever your issue, though, there's almost certainly an answer.

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Zoho One adds AI and analytics upgrades at its one-year mark

Zoho has unveiled a range of updates to Zoho One, its all-in-one cloud app suite, with new analytics capabilities and access to its Zia AI assistant.

Billing itself as “the operating system for business.” Zoho One launched in July 2017; it bundles more than 40 of Zoho’s apps, spanning CRM, HR, business analytics, office productivity tools and others. Subscriptions start at $30 a month per employee.

The Indian company has added a variety of new features to Zoho One since its launch. Its Slack-like team chat tool, Cliq, unveiled last September, was followed by Zoho Flow, a no-code, automated workflow automation platform, which rolled out earlier this year. The company’s  Sprints project management and PageSense website testing tool are also included in the packaged offering.

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Why Apple’s AR glasses will transform your enterprise

Apple is working to develop augmented reality (AR) glasses. It has been working on these for years and is now expected to introduce them as soon as 2020. What use will they be?

Apple: The next generation

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says these things will usher in “next-generation revolutionary UI,” likely referring to prevailing wisdom that says sophisticated virtual reality (VR) experiences will be controlled by a combination of speech, gesture, movement, and touch-based commands. Motion sensors will be activated by what you do with your arms, for example.

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How to get the most from Microsoft Intune

Microsoft's Intune, launched in 2011 and augmented with mobile management capabilities the following year, is part of Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite — a bundle that includes Azure Active Directory and Office 365. At the most basic level, Intune delivers enterprise mobility management (EMM) capabilities in a cloud-based format.

In many ways, Intune is similar to other EMM offerings from the likes of VMware's AirWatch, MobileIron Cloud and IBM's Maas360. Like other companies, Microsoft relies largely on the innate EMM and mobile device management (MDM) capabilities already part of the mobile operating systems it supports — primarily iOS and Android (though it can manage desktop platforms like Windows 10 and macOS; more about that later). These capabilities largely create an even playing field for EMM vendors because the same set of security and management options are available consistently.

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(Insider Story)

Throwback Thursday: How did...er, DIDN'T he do that?

It's 1977, and this network analyst pilot fish is working at a newly constructed data center -- one with a big fence.

"The company had just gotten a new sense of needing physical security, so they had included a new, state-of-the-art security system," says fish.

"It had electronic locks at a handful of doors in the building, a 10-foot-high fence with a motorized gate, and key-card reader stations by each of the locked doors and the gate."

One day, company needs to bring a new communications line up between the data center and an office 10 miles away. Fish's team leader decides the best way to do this without disrupting the users is to have fish go to the remote office at 4:30 a.m., while his team leader goes to the data center.

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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 this 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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U.S. Treasury: Regulators should back off FinTech, allow innovation

The Treasury Department recently released a report urging state and federal regulators to revamp outdated statutes and support technological innovations such as AI, machine learning and blockchain that could make the U.S. financial system more nimble and competitive.

The 222-page report, commissioned by the Trump Administration 18 months ago, focused on non-bank financial services firms, such as credit lending, servicing organizations and payments networks, as well as fintech companies – tech vendors focused on innovation.

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