Computerworld en-us Sat, 26 May 2018 20:04:48 -0700 Sat, 26 May 2018 20:04:48 -0700 Computerworld 510 510 Computerworld 796 288 Amazon's Echo privacy flub has big implications for IT Sat, 26 May 2018 08:34:00 -0700 Evan Schuman Evan Schuman

Amazon has confirmed a report that one of its Echo devices recorded a family's conversation and then messaged it to a random person on the family's contact list, who is an employee of a family member.

But Amazon, in a statement emailed to Computerworld, confirmed every privacy advocate's worst nightmare with its explanation: “Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like 'Alexa.' Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a 'send message' request. At which point, Alexa said out loud 'To whom?' At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer’s contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, '[contact name], right?' Alexa then interpreted background conversation as 'right.' As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

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]]> Mobile Privacy Security
Everything you knew about Chromebooks is wrong Sat, 26 May 2018 03:00:00 -0700 Mike Elgan Mike Elgan

Google’s slow, limited, browser-only, cloud-centric laptop platform is now the most powerful and capable user platform on the planet.

Yeah, I said it.

Apple fans laugh at this idea, saying that a MacBook Pro can run the Chrome browser and gain all the benefits of a Chromebook, as well as all the benefits and leading-edge content-creation tools of a far more elegant, better designed and better engineered device.

Windows users carp that Chromebooks are cute, but not serious business tools. The Surface Book 2 is also a tiny laptop, they say, but a real computer.

Linux developers concede Chromebooks are interesting but argue they can’t be used for software development.

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]]> Chrome OS Chromebooks Operating Systems Internet
Avast blames Microsoft for Win10 1803 upgrade blue screens, nonsensical options Fri, 25 May 2018 12:28:00 -0700 Woody Leonhard Woody Leonhard

Looks as if we have a solution for the Avast-related blue screens in Win10 1803 upgrades that I talked about earlier this week. Avast heavyweight Ondrej Vlcek chose his words carefully but threw lots of shade at Microsoft for the upgrade installer’s bug.

Posting on the Avast forum, Vlcek says:

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]]> Windows Security
How to create location-based reminders on iPhone Fri, 25 May 2018 06:57:00 -0700 Jonny Evans Jonny Evans

Apple’s iPhones can make sure you’ll remember to get things done when you are in the right place at the right time.

Why would you use location-based alerts?

With a little preparatory work, you can use this feature to help you get lots of different things done. Some examples:

  • Remind me to pick up milk when I leave the office.
  • Remind me to drop into the doctor’s to pick up my prescription.
  • Remind me to call Mum when I leave the gym.

If you use the Find My Friend app, you can even set a reminder that tells you to call your chum once they return to their home.

Setting up your iPhone for location-based alerts

To make location-based reminders more effective, you should open your Contacts app and create new contacts (or edit existing ones) with additional information. By this I mean you may want to create and name address items such as Office, Gym, Doctor. Here’s how to do this:

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]]> iOS Mobile Smartphones
See, you just have to ask them the right way Fri, 25 May 2018 03:00:00 -0700 Sharky Sharky

Go-live date for this big application update is now just days away, but it still hasn't been fully tested, says the pilot fish responsible for the project.

"Part of the preparation is to test the big update's ability to integrate with payroll," fish explains. "This, of course, requires cooperation from the Payroll Department. They must set up suitable test data in the primary test environment.

"The big update doesn't benefit them directly, and they have been highly resistant to assisting with any testing. 'Too busy, higher priorities' is what they have been saying for three months."

Naturally, all the other departments are busy too, but they've managed to find time to help fish with testing. And with go-live less than a week out, it's increasingly clear that the payroll integration test isn't going to happen at all.

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]]> Software Development
Microsoft pushing Win10 version 1803 to PCs specifically set to avoid it Thu, 24 May 2018 11:13:00 -0700 Woody Leonhard Woody Leonhard

If this weren’t so infuriating it’d be heartbreaking. According to multiple reports, Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 version 1803 onto PCs that are specifically set to bypass the upgrade until it’s declared fit for business use. Susan Bradley has details.

We saw forced upgrades three times with Win10 version 1709.

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]]> Windows PCs
Fuchsia and the future of Android Thu, 24 May 2018 09:08:00 -0700 JR Raphael JR Raphael

If you follow a lot of Android news, odds are, you've heard at least something about a mysterious Google project known as Fuchsia. And odds are, you're at least somewhat confused about what it actually is and what it's intended to do.

Let me assure you: You aren't alone.

Fuchsia, for the uninitiated, is an "early-stage experimental project" within Google. It's been under development since at least 2017 — and it's open source, which means anyone can peek at the code and even install the software on certain devices. (Pro tip: You can actually check it out from your browser right now, too, thanks to an independently created Fuchsia web demo. Fair warning, though: There's really not much to it.)

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]]> Mobile Android Chrome OS Operating Systems
Alexa gets smart meeting scheduling, a boost to its workplace presence Thu, 24 May 2018 08:53:00 -0700 Matthew Finnegan Matthew Finnegan

Amazon has made it easier for business users to manage personal schedules via Alexa voice commands, adding the ability to move appointments and schedule meetings based on participants’ availability. 

The digital assistant has quickly gained traction among consumers and Amazon is intent on replicating its success in the workplace – as shown by the launch of its Alexa for Business service last year.

While it was already possible to create and cancel appointments with Alexa, the Smart Scheduling Assistant feature gives users more control, cutting time and effort, Amazon said in a blog post this week.

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]]> Digital Assistants Office Software Productivity Software Software
Surprise: Next iPhone will be even faster than anything else Thu, 24 May 2018 03:34:00 -0700 Jonny Evans Jonny Evans

Surprising no one, it turns out that the next-generation iPhone will put an even bigger performance gap between itself and the rest of the industry, as TSMC begins mass production of powerful 7-nanometer A12 chips for use in Apple’s next-generation iPhones.

Smaller is better

TSMC announced volume production of 7-nanometer chips in April 2018 but did not say who it was producing these processors for. Bloomberg claims those chips are Apple’s.

Why does this matter?

It’s like this — a nanometer is one billionth of a meter. In chip design, it represents the distance between the transistors that comprise the processor.

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]]> Mobile iOS Computer Hardware
Windows 10 quick tips: 10 ways to speed up your PC Thu, 24 May 2018 03:33:00 -0700 Preston Gralla Preston Gralla

Want Windows 10 to run faster? We've got help. Take a few minutes to try out these tips, and your machine will be zippier and less prone to performance and system issues.

1. Change your power settings

If you’re using Windows 10’s Power saver plan, you’re slowing down your PC. That plan reduces your PC’s performance in order to save energy. (Even desktop PCs typically have a Power saver plan.) Changing your power plan from Power saver to High performance or Balanced will give you an instant performance boost.

To do it, launch Control Panel, then select Hardware and Sound > Power Options. You’ll typically see two options: Balanced (recommended) and Power saver. (Depending on your make and model, you might see other plans here as well, including some branded by the manufacturer.) To see the High performance setting, click the down arrow by Show additional plans. 

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]]> Windows PCs
Throwback Thursday: Shh! Don't tell! Thu, 24 May 2018 03:00:00 -0700 Sharky Sharky

Pilot fish gets a new job where one of her first assignments is to design a database-oriented application.

"I'm not permitted to create any tables or keys," says fish. "I have to submit it to our database admin, who will take care of it when he gets around to it.

"I soon learn that, at this company, they spell DBA G-O-D."

Fish sends DBA her tables, their links and recommended indexes. DBA accepts the table design, but tells fish that the data will be indexed by first, middle and then last name.

That won't work, fish tells him; the lookup key is by last name. But the boss sides with the DBA. And predictably, the application's response times are B-A-D.

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]]> Software Development
14 easy ways to cut back on data use in Android Wed, 23 May 2018 13:42:00 -0700 JR Raphael JR Raphael

These days, mobile data is money — and if you don't optimize your phone to handle it intelligently, you're throwing dollars down the drain.

After all, whether you have a plan with a monthly data cap or a setup where you're billed for the data you use, you're essentially paying for all the virtual info you transmit over your carrier's network. In the former case, reducing your data usage could let you move to a cheaper level of service — while in the latter, every megabyte you save will directly lower your monthly bill.

The good news is that it's relatively easy to scale back your mobile data usage without seeing much meaningful impact on your day-to-day experience. Just follow the steps below, starting small and ending with the nuclear-level Android Data Saver option, and watch your wallet — or your company's appreciation — grow larger.

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]]> Android Mobile Mobile Apps Smartphones
How your web browser tells you when it's safe Wed, 23 May 2018 13:27:00 -0700 Gregg Keizer Gregg Keizer

Google last week spelled out the schedule it will use to reverse years of advice from security experts when browsing the Web - to "look for the padlock." Starting in July, the search giant will mark insecure URLs in its market-dominant Chrome, not those that already are secure. Google's goal? Pressure all website owners to adopt digital certificates and encrypt the traffic of all their pages.

The decision to tag HTTP sites - those not locked down with a certificate and which don't encrypt server-to-browser and browser-to-server communications - rather than label the safer HTTPS websites, didn't come out of nowhere. Google has been promising as much since 2014.

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]]> Browsers Internet Security
Is Microsoft avoiding the Win10 (1803) upgrade on PCs running Avast? Wed, 23 May 2018 10:56:00 -0700 Woody Leonhard Woody Leonhard

What began as a complaint on Reddit about botched upgrades to Windows 10 April 2018 Update, version 1803, has apparently mushroomed. Now, according to MartinZ, a moderator on Avast’s support forum:

Microsoft temporarily disabled the updates on version 1803 on PCs with Avast. We are working together with MS to find out the cause of this issue, but unfortunately right now neither MS nor us are able to reproduce the issue.

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]]> Windows PCs Cloud Computing
Top-level executive support, redefined Wed, 23 May 2018 03:00:00 -0700 Sharky Sharky

It's the late 1990s, and this multinational company's US division is developing a new system for its call center, says a pilot fish who's hired to be the systems manager there.

"The CIO and the cheapskate US division president clashed on the new custom system," fish says. "The CIO wanted to use the Oracle and AS/400 system that was being developed by the UK office, because it was being designed as a strong business application.

"The president wanted to use a system being developed in the Mexico office -- in FoxPro, which was already being phased out at most IT shops, and certainly wasn't enterprise-grade enough to develop the company's primary business application in."

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]]> Software Development
Mastering your Outlook inbox Wed, 23 May 2018 03:00:00 -0700 Scot Finnie Scot Finnie The truth is, I hate Outlook. But in the Windows environment, there's no better email, calendaring and contacts package than Microsoft Outlook 2016. When I think about why I hate the software, it comes down to a set of frustrations around key areas like a lack of focus on inbox management, a tacked-on search facility with a terrible user interface, and the absence of two-way syncing with non-Microsoft sources of calendars and contacts.

Conquer junk mail with SpamBully

To read this article in full, please click here

]]>(Insider Story) Office Software Email Collaboration Software IDG Insider
24 keyboard shortcuts Mac users need to know Tue, 22 May 2018 13:25:00 -0700 Jonny Evans Jonny Evans

I’m sure most Mac users know Command-C means copy and Command-V means paste, but there’s a host of other useful shortcuts that make a Mac user’s life much easier. I’ve assembled this short collection to illustrate this truth:


Closes the active window you are currently in. Use Option-Command-W to close all currently active app windows.


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]]> Apple Mac MacOS Operating Systems
Slack adds Actions feature, highlights dev community growth Tue, 22 May 2018 09:44:00 -0700 Matthew Finnegan Matthew Finnegan

Slack users can now create action points directly from a message post in the app with the introduction today of a new Actions feature. 

Announced as Slack kicked off its first Spec developer conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Actions deepens integration with third-party apps such as project management tool Asana and issue-tracking app Jira. 

An Asana task can be created by clicking on the context menu in the right hand corner of a Slack message, for instance; it will capture relevant data directly from the message menu such as due date, what needs to be done and the project involved.

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]]> Collaboration Software Productivity Software Software Development
Will Android P lead to faster upgrades? 3 words to remember Tue, 22 May 2018 09:33:00 -0700 JR Raphael JR Raphael

Stop me if you've heard this one before: A new version of Android is right around the corner — and with it comes some lofty talk about how this'll finally be the year Android manufacturers start taking upgrades seriously.

That's the story with Google's upcoming Android P release, thanks to the software's integration of Project Treble — a new "modular base" for Android that makes it easier for manufacturers to process updates. In short, Treble keeps the guts of Android in their own standalone layer within your device's storage. The hardware-specific code needed to make the device run properly, meanwhile, lives in a totally separate lower layer. It's kind of like a fancy cake, only with less unsaturated fat than the kind you normally buy.

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]]> Android Mobile Software Operating Systems
WWDC: The evolution of Apple’s Siri Tue, 22 May 2018 08:15:00 -0700 Jonny Evans Jonny Evans

Siri became a built-in element of iOS way back in October 2011, when Apple announced its inclusion inside iPhone 4S and iOS 5. Apple’s AI has seen numerous improvements since then, so I thought it would be interesting to explore the evolution of Siri at WWDC since launch.

WWDC is important for the evolution of Siri

Apple’s big developer conference isn’t just about wowing the crowd with consumer-focused improvements; it’s also about sowing new seeds developers can choose to use to build their own solutions and businesses.

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]]> Mobile iOS Cloud Computing
Well, he was half-right -- it WAS plugged in... Tue, 22 May 2018 03:00:00 -0700 Sharky Sharky

Flashback to the late 1980s, when this IT pilot fish working for a large city's Board of Education gets a call about a green-screen terminal that has stopped working.

"Over the phone, all indications told me there was no power going to the terminal," says fish. "There wasn't even the 60-cycle hum you hear when the transformer is energized.

"But the caller confirmed that it was plugged in and there was power to the outlet.

"Off I went to visit the caller several blocks away.

"It was plugged in, all right -- to an extension cord. And the extension cord was not plugged into an outlet..."

Sharky would love to visit your desk to hear your true tale of IT life, but that's not in the budget. So send me your story at You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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]]> Technology Industry
Google details how it will overturn encryption signals in Chrome Mon, 21 May 2018 13:45:00 -0700 Gregg Keizer Gregg Keizer

Google has further fleshed out plans to upend the historical approach browsers have taken to warn users of insecure websites, spelling out more gradual steps the company will take with Chrome this year.

Starting in September, Google will stop marking plain-vanilla HTTP sites - those not secured with a digital certificate, and which don't encrypt traffic between browser and site servers - as secure in Chrome's address bar. The following month, Chrome will tag HTTP pages with a red "Not Secure" marker when users enter any kind of data.

Eventually, Google will have Chrome label every HTTP website as, in its words, "affirmatively non-secure." By doing so, Chrome will have completed a 180-degree turn from browsers' original signage - marking secure HTTPS sites, usually with a padlock icon of some shade, to indicate encryption and a digital certificate - to labeling only those pages that are insecure.

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]]> Browsers Internet Security
IDG Contributor Network: Microsoft’s new Surface Hub 2: potential game changer for conference rooms Mon, 21 May 2018 09:00:00 -0700 Rob Enderle Rob Enderle

The idea of collaborative screens for conference rooms has been bouncing around for some time. The promise of integrating video conferencing and digital white boards into a single offering certainly looked compelling but adaption has lagged expectations. Much of this is tied to three problems, the solutions can be very expensive to buy and install, the devices can be very difficult to setup and use, and people are creatures of habit and current habits don’t include using digital white boards. This last has been particularly problematic because no CEO likes seeing expensive technology go unused yet that has often been the case after these things are installed.  

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]]> Videoconferencing Windows PCs
Will Apple play nice with others to make Siri smarter? Mon, 21 May 2018 08:40:00 -0700 Jonny Evans Jonny Evans

We’re going to hear lots about embedded vision product development during the Embedded Vision Summit, but the first announcement may have implications for Apple's machine learning systems.

Apple and embedded vision

We know Apple is interested in embedded vision and machine learning following its acquisition of PrimeSense and introduction of ARKit.

We also know this because it has already placed embedded vision solutions such as scenes and items recognition within the Photos app.

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]]> iOS Mobile Artificial Intelligence
IDG Contributor Network: Charter Spectrum Mobile joining wonderful world of wireless Mon, 21 May 2018 06:32:00 -0700 Jeff Kagan Jeff Kagan

Competition in the wireless industry is growing and changing. Comcast, Charter and Altice are moving into wireless. Comcast launched one year ago. Charter Spectrum is getting ready to launch in the next few months. Altice will do so next year. So, the wireless industry is under a new wave of competitive and transformational pressure. Let’s take a look at whether Charter and Altice will be as successful as Comcast in wireless.

Wireless could help Charter stabilize their customer numbers short-term and help show growth long-term. The question is, do they have the competitive fire in the belly that it takes to succeed in wireless?

Many companies like Facebook,, Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox and others tried this several years ago and failed. This time around could be different.

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]]> Mobile Carriers Mobile
FAQ: Microsoft 365 explained Mon, 21 May 2018 03:13:00 -0700 Gregg Keizer Gregg Keizer

Microsoft has spent considerable marketing and promotional capital on its newest by-subscription suite, Microsoft 365, since late April, trumpeting it as the firm started to roll out the latest Windows 10 feature upgrade and continuing the huzzahs during Build, its annual developers confab.

Why? What's so important about yet another cluster of software?

Computerworld has an answer to that question, and many others, about Microsoft 365, the less-than-a-year-old effort that may define how the Redmond, Wash. company approaches the business of selling business software for the next decade.

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]]> Windows Office Software
Businesses join to create enterprise standard for blockchain networks Mon, 21 May 2018 03:06:00 -0700 Lucas Mearian Lucas Mearian

A blockchain standards group made up of hundreds of businesses and tech development members has unveiled its first specification for enabling the development of peer-to-peer, decentralized networks explicitly for automating corporate transactions.

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) last week released the Enterprise Ethereum Client Specification 1.0, an open-source framework to speed business transactions, boost privacy for contracts and create a faster, more efficient business transaction workflow.

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]]> Blockchain Software Development Fintech
Overboard Mon, 21 May 2018 03:00:00 -0700 Sharky Sharky

IT pilot fish at a maritime support company gets a call from a field employee whose laptop has been running slowly for some reason.

"After an attempt by the help desk to clean it off and speed it up, the employee called again," fish says. "He was asking to have a newer laptop that he had found at the project site reassigned to him.

"The machine had been left by a project engineer who had moved on to another project. Supposedly it had water damage, but seemed to be working. Oddly, it had never been returned to us, and just left at the project.

"It took a little research, but we found that the project engineer had been sent a replacement laptop, and hadn't been asked to return the brand new 'water damaged' one.

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]]> Computer Hardware
Yet another bunch of Microsoft Surfaces don’t work with Win10 version 1803 Sun, 20 May 2018 11:42:00 -0700 Woody Leonhard Woody Leonhard

Microsoft made Windows 10 version 1803 available for download - and pushed to “seekers” - on April 30. It started sending the OS out to the unprotected masses on May 8. Shortly after, we started hearing complaints from Surface Pro (2017) owners that the upgrade to 1803 froze their machines. By May 11, we figured out that Surface Pro (2017) hardware with Intel SSD6 solid state drives were failing because, somehow, somebody at Microsoft forgot to test them.

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]]> Windows Computer Hardware Tablets
Easy mobile security the Faraday way Sat, 19 May 2018 03:00:00 -0700 Mike Elgan Mike Elgan

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

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

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

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

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

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]]> Security Mobile