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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The summer 2018 iPhone refresh speculation round-up

Apple’s smartphones are the best-selling mobile device models in the world, particularly among enterprise users, so what should we expect when the company announces new models this season?

Faster processors

Apple’s existing iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X models are reportedly faster than Samsung’s latest Galaxy range, and this advantage grows once again this year with the company expected to put a new 7-nanometer chip inside iPhones. TSMC began mass production of these back in April. Apple’s smartphone speed advantage is becoming so significant that the company recently ran a TV ad (Unleash) to celebrate it. The new models should boast up to 4GB RAM.

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Patch Tuesday’s coming: Block Windows Update and pray we don’t get fooled again

July 2018 patches for both Windows and Office brought bugs and bugs of bugs — many of which haven’t been solved, even now. We have even reached the unprecedented stage where the .NET team openly warned people against installing buggy updates, and the Monthly Rollup previews got shoved down the Automatic Update chute to fix bugs in the primary Monthly Rollup.

July was more galling than most months because the patches caused widespread problems for many, while plugging security holes for exactly zero widespread infections.

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Why IT contractors get gray

It's back in the days when hardware is a lot easier to customize, and this pilot fish's company sends him to a customer site far from home to deal with what's supposed to be a routine issue.

"It's a university, and the managers are friendly and grateful for service," says fish. "They get downright solicitous explaining how their terminal controller doesn't quite do what they need.

"Surely someone as skilled as I am can figure out a way to make it do what they want, or knows someone who can, they say.

"I'm young and not yet suspicious, so I look at the schematics and allow that I see a way that looks promising.

"Less than two hours later, the controller does what they asked for. As I'm packing my bags, one of the customer's smiling managers remarks, 'Now we'll be able to monitor patients on the operating table.'

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Is Intel building a new version of its Coffee Lake chipset just for Win7?

AirPods aren't just for hipsters, they're also for the enterprise

I’m seeing AirPods in everyday use increasingly often, and it’s got me thinking about the business case of using these things in the enterprise.

What do AirPods do?

Apple’s AirPods are white wireless earbuds that let you play music, communicate, get information and ask Siri for help.

They aren’t (yet) independent devices and must sync with an iPhone or LTE-enabled Apple Watch to deliver all their features.

AirPods have a reputation for delivering good quality for a wireless device, and users also like that when they wear the things they retain some awareness of what’s happening nearby – essential in some parts of the city.

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A word to the wise: Skip Microsoft’s July patches

On July 9, I recommended that you disable Windows Automatic Update and wait to see if the July Microsoft patches brought more mayhem than relief. With the August patches just a few days away, it’s time to put a nail in the July coffin. I strongly recommend that you not install any of the July patches, and pray that Microsoft treats us better in August.

It’s been a tumultuous month.

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Just another day in the IT life

IT pilot fish is tapped to go to a customer site in New York City, and the trip is already off to a fine start when fish learns how he'll be getting there: in a private plane.

"It happened that a VP was flying there on a company plane, so I hitched a ride," says fish. "The seat beside the pilot beats the usual coach seat!

"We landed across the river in New Jersey and took a helicopter to Manhattan. The VP got into a limo, and I took the subway to the customer site."

Fish arrives and is introduced to the consultant he'll be working with, who turns out to be a sometime colonel in the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. OK, that's different, fish thinks.

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Mac and iOS: How to unlock productivity using tags

Enterprise or consumer, one of the most effective ways to become more productive with what you are doing is to tag your files. Tags make it so very much easier to find what you need and combine different items into ongoing project files.

What are tags?

Tags are a useful way to categorize your files. They are color-coded and can be named and assigned to help identify files that belong to particular projects. What makes these useful is that you can assign multiple tags to items, which means a single file can be included within multiple projects when searched for using tags.

Tags are available on both Macs and iOS devices (the latter via the Files app). If you sync items using your Apple ID and iCloud, then you will find that tags given to items on a Mac are visible on your iOS device and vice versa.

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Android Pie and Project Treble: Assessing Google's grand upgrade fix

If you've read this column for long, you know I tend to be the skeptical sort — especially when it comes to talk of fixes for Android's long-standing upgrade problem.

The reason is simple: I've tracked Android upgrades closely from the start, and I've seen numerous attempts to get device-makers to step up their game. There was the short-lived Android Update Alliance, announced to much fanfare at Google I/O 2011 and then never mentioned again. There was the launch of the Android preview program in 2014, which was hailed by many as being the long-awaited answer to slow and unreliable upgrades. And then there were the efforts to make the preview program more effective each subsequent year, with increasingly early previews and extended windows of time between the initial and final releases.

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Throwback Thursday: Back to Plan A

It's a scorching summer day at this manufacturing plant, and the heat on the shop floor is almost intolerable. "The air conditioning and fan system was working full blast, but still the temperature was high -- as were tempers," says a pilot fish on the scene.

"Suddenly, there was a network outage in the shipping area, which was traced to a router. I accompanied the IT guy to help him by holding tools or whatever he needed."

The IT guy is working to replace the router when one of the shipping managers shows up, red-faced and sweaty.

"Do you know what's going on?!?" he roars at the IT guy.

IT guy calmly replies, "I believe so. I should have it up soon."

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The mechanics of Windows patching - in plain English

If you’re troubled by Microsoft’s patching policies, you aren’t alone. If you’re confused about Microsoft’s patching policies, hey, join the club. Here's my guide to what's really happening in Update Utopia.

Last week, in an attempt to address the confusion, Microsoft designer and lecturer John Wilcox posted a detailed look at the company's “update servicing cadence” on the Windows IT Pro blog. In it, Wilcox set out the official patching principles:

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Welcome to your new career!

The Fourth of July has just passed when this IT pilot fish is called to a meeting about a piece of software that has persistent problems.

"I and a programmer were to go to a customer and solve the issues," fish says. "We were told, 'We'll be sure you get to come home for Christmas.'

"At the customer site, as the hardware member of the team, my job was mostly to get the programmer up and fed in the morning, ask questions and observe."

But progress is slow. The troubled system is live, which means fish and his co-worker have to keep it up and running as they hunt for the problem. Worse still, symptoms are intermittent.

Then one day as July is turning into August, the customer's IT head walks into the workspace and asks fish's co-worker, "Did you know they just eliminated your division?"

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Apple really wants your next PC to be a Mac -- and the timing's right

Apple appears to be taking a small step to make it easier for enterprises to upgrade their clapped-out old legacy Windows systems in favour of new Macs.

Easing the Windows pain

The snag for Windows users upgrading to Macs has always been the challenge of bringing all the data across to the new system.

Apple already offers its Windows Migration Assistant to make it easier to migrate, and now it seems it is about to improve this solution when it ships macOS 10.14 Mojave.

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IDG Contributor Network: Networks for a yottabyte world

The rate at which telecom networks are growing and changing is nothing short of fantastic. It’s always risky to embrace a new paradigm, but for network carriers and customers, the risks of waiting could be greater.

Network function virtualization (NFV) and software defined networks (SDN) represent a radical departure from the traditional way of building, managing and evolving telecom networks. It’s often described as a switch from proprietary boxes to commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. While there is a potentially significant cost-savings in making such a switch, cost-savings is not the main driving force. The ability to quickly implement new business models, to deliver applications on demand, and to automatically provision and tear down resources are what make NFV and SDN so potentially disruptive.

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Android P — Pie! The complete FAQ

Hey! Can you believe it?! After months of awkward puns about the pending "Android P release" (and let's not even get into the "leaks"), we finally have an official name and number for Google's next great Android offering: Android 9, Pie.

Yep — just Pie. It's short, it's sweet, and it's a heck of a lot faster to type than certain past Android version names (here's lookin' at you, Ice Cream Sandwich). And it's not just a name and a number, either: Android 9 is fully cooked, out of the oven, and on its way into the world as of this week.

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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)

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)

 

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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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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Blockchain phase 2: Will it scale?

More than one organization has been working on solving a major blockchain conundrum: how to improve sluggish transaction performance.

Blockchain distributed ledgers work by linking together a chain of electronic records, each inextricably tied to the one before it; each new set of entries or "blocks" is completed and time-stamped with a hashtag only after passing through a consensus process on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network.

Due to its chain nature, each new record inserted into a blockchain has to be serialized, which means – as the blockchain grows – the rate of updates is slower than traditional databases that can update data in parallel.

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(Insider Story)

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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Windows 10: A guide to the updates

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

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

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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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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

Mingis on Tech: 3 big takeaways from Android Pie

So now we know: P is for Pie – as in Android Pie, the latest iteration of Google's mobile OS. It officially arrived Aug. 6, is already rolling out to Pixel devices and –  depending on how quickly other Android device makers get moving – it should show up for non-Pixel users over the next few months.

That makes this a good time to hear from Computerworld's JR Raphael about just what users can look forward to when they finally get their hands on their upcoming slice of Pie. (Sorry, just had to get that in there.)

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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The summer 2018 iPhone refresh speculation round-up

Apple’s smartphones are the best-selling mobile device models in the world, particularly among enterprise users, so what should we expect when the company announces new models this season?

Faster processors

Apple’s existing iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X models are reportedly faster than Samsung’s latest Galaxy range, and this advantage grows once again this year with the company expected to put a new 7-nanometer chip inside iPhones. TSMC began mass production of these back in April. Apple’s smartphone speed advantage is becoming so significant that the company recently ran a TV ad (Unleash) to celebrate it. The new models should boast up to 4GB RAM.

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Patch Tuesday’s coming: Block Windows Update and pray we don’t get fooled again

July 2018 patches for both Windows and Office brought bugs and bugs of bugs — many of which haven’t been solved, even now. We have even reached the unprecedented stage where the .NET team openly warned people against installing buggy updates, and the Monthly Rollup previews got shoved down the Automatic Update chute to fix bugs in the primary Monthly Rollup.

July was more galling than most months because the patches caused widespread problems for many, while plugging security holes for exactly zero widespread infections.

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Why IT contractors get gray

It's back in the days when hardware is a lot easier to customize, and this pilot fish's company sends him to a customer site far from home to deal with what's supposed to be a routine issue.

"It's a university, and the managers are friendly and grateful for service," says fish. "They get downright solicitous explaining how their terminal controller doesn't quite do what they need.

"Surely someone as skilled as I am can figure out a way to make it do what they want, or knows someone who can, they say.

"I'm young and not yet suspicious, so I look at the schematics and allow that I see a way that looks promising.

"Less than two hours later, the controller does what they asked for. As I'm packing my bags, one of the customer's smiling managers remarks, 'Now we'll be able to monitor patients on the operating table.'

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Mastering Outlook and Google two-way calendar syncing

Microsoft Outlook is a complex, multifunctional software package, jam-packed with options and features. So, it's somewhat surprising that the calendaring function in Outlook 365/Outlook 2016 for Windows has almost no facility for two-way syncing with anything other than another Exchange-supported Outlook calendar.

The Outlook client can open several types of calendars, and it does an excellent job of displaying an overlay view of multiple calendars. The problem many users face is syncing those calendars for updates, especially bidirectionally. Changes made in Google Calendar, for example, may update in Outlook. But changes you make with Outlook will not be reflected in your Google calendars.

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(Insider Story)

Sorry, gamers. Magic Leap means business!

Magic Leap is finally here.

After seven years of rumors, speculation and hype (not to mention $2.3 billion in funding from major companies like Google), Magic Leap this week started selling a real product you can buy.

And I'm here to do a magic trick of my own: I'm going to make your misconceptions about Magic Leap disappear!

The hardware bundle in detail

The Magic Leap One Creator Edition is available on the Magic Leap website for $2,295. The headset weighs just under a pound and comes in two sizes based on head size and eye distance. Both sizes come with removable, variably sized and shaped nose and forehead rests. It gets about three hours of battery life.

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Blue Team Village, DEF CON 2018 | Salted Hash Ep 43

Host Steve Ragan talks to Munin, a staffer at the DEF CON Blue Team Village about what's happening and what you can expect.

Chrome 68 takes notifications native in Windows 10

Google this week started rolling out a change to Chrome 68 on Windows 10 that uses the operating system's native notification center to post messages from the browser.

According to Peter Beverloo, a staff software engineer who leads the team responsible for, among other things, Chrome's notifications, half of version 68's users have had the native support switched on in their browsers. The remainder will have it enabled, Beverloo said, "in a week or so."

Chrome 68 launched July 24. The browser must be running on Windows 10 1607 - the mid-2016 feature upgrade also named "Anniversary Update" - or later.

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Is Intel building a new version of its Coffee Lake chipset just for Win7?

AirPods aren't just for hipsters, they're also for the enterprise

I’m seeing AirPods in everyday use increasingly often, and it’s got me thinking about the business case of using these things in the enterprise.

What do AirPods do?

Apple’s AirPods are white wireless earbuds that let you play music, communicate, get information and ask Siri for help.

They aren’t (yet) independent devices and must sync with an iPhone or LTE-enabled Apple Watch to deliver all their features.

AirPods have a reputation for delivering good quality for a wireless device, and users also like that when they wear the things they retain some awareness of what’s happening nearby – essential in some parts of the city.

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A word to the wise: Skip Microsoft’s July patches

On July 9, I recommended that you disable Windows Automatic Update and wait to see if the July Microsoft patches brought more mayhem than relief. With the August patches just a few days away, it’s time to put a nail in the July coffin. I strongly recommend that you not install any of the July patches, and pray that Microsoft treats us better in August.

It’s been a tumultuous month.

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Microsoft may soon add multi-session remote access to Windows 10 Enterprise

Hints appeared last week that Microsoft may be close to offering multi-session remote desktop access to Windows 10 Enterprise as an alternative to, and complement of, Windows Server.

The appearance of "Windows 10 Enterprise for Remote Sessions" as an installation option was noticed by Tero Alhonen, of Svenska Handelsbanken AB, who tweeted screenshots Aug. 1. The find was first reported by ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley two days later.

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Just another day in the IT life

IT pilot fish is tapped to go to a customer site in New York City, and the trip is already off to a fine start when fish learns how he'll be getting there: in a private plane.

"It happened that a VP was flying there on a company plane, so I hitched a ride," says fish. "The seat beside the pilot beats the usual coach seat!

"We landed across the river in New Jersey and took a helicopter to Manhattan. The VP got into a limo, and I took the subway to the customer site."

Fish arrives and is introduced to the consultant he'll be working with, who turns out to be a sometime colonel in the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. OK, that's different, fish thinks.

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Phishing AI | Salted Hash Ep 42

Host Steve Ragan is joined by Lookout’s Jeremy Richards, who manages the @PhishingAI account on Twitter, as well as a good friend and fellow reporter from Ars Technica.