TechByter Worldwide takes two weeks of vacation each year, one around Thanksgiving Day and the other during the Christmas and New Year holidays. We'll be back next week. Even though next Sunday is New Years Day, Techbyter Worldwide will return. Perhaps a bit bleary eyed, but we'll be here. May we all survive 2017.
Something Completely Different: Landscape Pro: Landscape Pro doesn't compete with Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. It doesn't compete with any of the Alien Skin products. In fact, there's no existing product I can think of that Landscape Pro competes with. The new application from Anthropics Technology Ltd, a British company, has no competition. Because that's the case, explaining what the application does and why you would want it is somewhat challenging. But I like challenges, so let's do it.
Adobe Spark Makes You Look Like a Genius: I could start by saying that Adobe's free web-based Spark application will make you look like an HTML5 genius, and it will. But there's more if you want to go beyond HTML and create a small video, Spark helps there, too. And, as an extra bonus, we'll take you to the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival.
Short Circuits: Beware Amazon Fake Merchants! While looking for something else on Amazon.com, I noticed a price of $500 (including shipping and taxes) for an item that should cost nearly $800. The merchant noted that it was essential to contact them by email before buying. There were lots of clear indicators that this was a fraud, but the real question is how it got onto Amazon's site in the first place.
Malwarebytes Merges Products, Threatens Anti-virus: For many years Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and, more recently, Anti-Exploit and Anti-Ransomware have been used side-by-side with anti-virus applications from other companies. Now Malwarebytes has rolled all of its applications into a single product that threatens to displace standard anti-virus applications.
Does Verizon Still Want Yahoo? Liabilities keep piling up at Yahoo, which this week announced that it lost control of one billion (1,000,000,000) user names, phone numbers, birth dates, and other information that's useful to criminals. And when did this happen, you may wonder? Three years ago in 2013.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Replacing passwords with eyeballs, a small tablet that might be willing to take a bullet for you, and a look at how widespread malware is on popular websites.
Blow Up Your Images Without Harming Them: Photography can be so violent. First the photographer frames you and may flash you, then you're shot and blown up. Eventually, you'll hang. This is enough to make anyone shutter. Normally I don't start sections of the program with old jokes, but this time I thought it would be a good idea and we'll see what develops. (Sorry, sorry, sorry, and sorry.)
Why Vivaldi Might be Worth a Try: No, not the composer. The browser. Vivaldi's first beta was released a little over a year ago and the stable version is currently 1.5. Vivaldi is based on Chrome so all of Chrome's extensions are available. If it's Chrome, why would you want to try it? That's easy: Although it's based on Chrome, it's more than Chrome. And, in some cases, less.
Short Circuits: Go, Amazon Go: Amazon is testing a new kind of grocery store in Seattle. There are no checkout lines and no registers Amazon says. That could turn out to be a problem if you wander into the store without all the necessary hardware.
To Change a Setting, You Must First Find It: When Microsoft introduced Windows 8 in 2012, following 4 years of development, the Control Panel had been partially replaced by a Settings applet. Microsoft then canceled Windows 9 at the last minute and released Windows 10 in July 2015. Some changes still had to be made in the Control Panel. That's still the case now.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Crooks have wreaked havoc in 2016 by stealing data and 2017 doesn't look like it will be better. If you're tired of trading privacy for convenience, you might be interested by an anti-social network launched in England. Microsoft calls for new entrants in its grant program aimed at providing reasonably priced internet access in under-served areas. A Japanese supercomputer can transfer 1 terabyte of data per second. That's fast!
How Crooks Plant Malware on Computers with Your Help: Midway through Thanksgiving week, 9 spams of 2 types made it to my anti-spam filter. Hundreds of spams may have been deleted along the way, but these 9 showed up in MailWasher Pro. Most were already marked as spam, but I let them come through just so I could look at them. By the end of the week, my collection was approaching 50 items. Several were relatively harmless fake "renewal" notices for services that I've never used, but most were attempts to plant malware. I have some tips for sidestepping the danger.
Adobe Dreamweaver's Surprising New Features and Flaws: The just-released version of Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2017 includes many new and useful features, but it also includes some significant bugs that suggest problems exist in Adobe's internal quality assurance program as well as with external beta testers. Let's look at the good and the bad.
Short Circuits: Customer Service? Don't Pick up the Phone: The increasingly common method of providing support to customers is on-line chat. According to a recent survey, we still want to talk to humans when the chat system doesn't suffice.
When You Have a Question, AskIT: AskIT is a new free on-demand support service that claims to help anyone who has a technical question. The service recently launched a beta version that provides technical assistance and support for common everyday issues and problems related to computing, connectivity, peripherals, security, and software. More than 2000 IT professionals have been certified by the parent company, CompTIA, a provider of vendor-neutral skills certifications for the global IT workforce.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Lots of Android users users are at risk and the culprit is malware known as "Gooligan", and Microsoft has made another large investment in wind-generated electricity for some of its data centers.
Special Alert: The holiday shopping period is busy for honest people and also for crooks. I have seen a gigantic increase in the number of fraudulent messages with zip files that contain malware. The top story next week will look at these and some of the other dangerous messages that seem to crawl out from the undergrowth this time of year.
TechByter's Thanksgiving Break: There's no program this week, but please drop by and pick up your Thanksgiving greeting.
Eye Candy — One Tool Every Designer Should Have: Photoshop is capable of doing most of the things Alien Skin's Eye Candy (now version 7) can do, but some of the capabilities it adds aren't things that can be done with Photoshop alone. The question, though is why use Photoshop alone and spend half an hour creating an effect that Eye Candy can create in a few seconds. Time, after all, is money. We'll look at how Eye Candy can accelerate your work.
Maybe It's Time for a Different Browser: Firefox has fallen to around 8% market penetration and continues to sink. Chrome now has, by far, the largest share of the market -- 50% overall and 54% if you look at just desktop and notebook systems. For Windows 10 users, Edge is making inroads now that more plug-ins are available. It's beginning to look like future battles will be largely between Edge and Chrome (and Safari if you want to include MacOS systems). In recent months I've noticed that Firefox needs to be restarted several times per day and started thinking about change.
Short Circuits: Out of Date Apps on Mobile Devices are Bad News: More than half of Android users are running outdated versions of the Chrome browser according to research by Duo Security. Old applications are often capable of being used by thieves to gain access to the portable devices and then to the corporate network. In some ways outdated apps on mobile devices is worse than outdated apps on desktop systems.
Finding Stock Images with Shutterstock: Commercial stock photo and music provider Shutterstock has expanded the functionality of its design application, Shutterstock Editor, to include templates and the ability to upload personalized visual content to the template. The application is aimed at small business owners. Shutterstock launched the editor in open beta about a year ago and now it's been updated.
Spare Parts (only on the website): The European Space Agency and Germany's SAP combine to provide access to geospatial information for a fee, Comodo offers a free service designed to help corporate IT departments find malware before it bites them, and those who work in the software industry say that they expect to automate themselves out of a job in the next decade unless they learn new skills.
Photoshop 2017: WOW Features, Unexpected Places: Regardless of the application involved, the day of the blockbuster update is past. In the early days, Adobe or Corel or Xara would release a new version that contained amazing never-before-seen features. That was the 1980s and 1990s. Today we occasionally see big new features, but new versions today generally improve reliability or speed, or they improve an existing function. Adobe has certainly done that with the 2017 version of Photoshop.
Surface Studio Aims for Designers and Developers: Pushing further into hardware territory, Microsoft has introduced Surface Studio, Surface Dial, and an upgraded Surface Book. The Surface Studio might be seen as an effort to push further into Apple's territory by appealing to developers and designer despite a silly mistake carried over from the Surface Pro tablet line.
Short Circuits: Microsoft Patched 68 Vulnerabilities on Election Day: It's only a coincidence that Patch Tuesday (second Tuesday of every month) coincided with a presidential election day (second Tuesday of November every 4 years) and it was a busy one. Microsoft patched 68 vulnerabilities spread across Windows, the Office suite, the Windows 10 browser (Edge), Internet Explorer, and Microsoft's SQL Server.
Critical Cybersecurity Skills Shortage Cited by Kaspersky Lab: Tech-savvy youth could plug a widening skills gap as employers seek to combat the growing threat of cybercrime and avert mass disruption to public and private lives according to Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab. The industry is failing to provide a clear path for young people to find work, hone their skills, and serve society, the company says. Instead, they are being tempted to exacerbate cybercrime, rather than prevent it.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Those who had their personal information stolen from the US Office of Personnel Management are now being targeted for malware, financial institutions are under unrelenting attack says a provider of measures designed to prevent attacks, and a bank in Bangladesh will recover $15 that was stolen electronically, but the full theft was $81 million.
Adobe Tightens Its Grip on Creatives: That sounds ominous, doesn't it? Creatives don't seem to mind much, though. Three upcoming new applications and improvements to existing applications were announced at Adobe's annual MAX conference in San Diego this week. Adobe has products and services for nearly every category of artistic work, excepting perhaps only sculpture, on-canvas painting, and performance art. Anyone who works with words, sounds, or images will find useful applications in Adobe's Creative Cloud. We'll take a look at what's new.
Safe Mode is No Longer Your F8: F8 (fate) -- get it? It's sorta like a joke because in the old days, pressing F8 during the boot process would present a screen that would permit switching to Safe Mode, which is handy when you're trying to work out a problem. Just shut up and get on with it? OK. If you've tried F8 on a Windows 10 machine, you will have discovered that it no longer works. Microsoft says that's because the speed of the boot process (at least on Unified Extensible Firmware Interface computers) would be so fast that users wouldn't be able to press the key fast enough. Now there are 2 options, so let's look at them.
Short Circuits: Microsoft Criticizes Google for Revealing Russian Threat: This week Google released details about a zero-day exploit that affects Windows users. Microsoft isn't happy about the disclosure, but Google's policy gives vendors 60 days to patch critical vulnerabilities and 7 days to report on critical flaws under active exploitation. Microsoft says that it will issue patches in next week's monthly patch Tuesday.
Your Future as a COBOL Programmer? COBOL was one of the first high-level programming languages. Maybe you've heard of it. If so, you may think the language was retired decades ago. It still exists and a Swedish company says that COBOL programmers are in demand.
Spare Parts (only on the website): One effect next week's election will have on Twitter, GM teams up with IBM to provide more functions (and distractions) for drivers, and Kaspersky Lab says more cybercrime fighters are needed.
We Have Seen the Future and It's Not Pretty: Everybody who knows anything about security has been complaining about the Internet of Things (IoT). Now we've had an example of why they're concerned, but nothing much will improve. Security was ignored in the interest of getting products to market fast and we're going to be paying for that mistake for a long time.
Possible DNS Workarounds: If you're using your internet service provider's nameservers, maybe you should switch to another service. Some have suggested that this would reduce the effect of attacks such as the one that occurred last week. I doubt it, but there are some other advantages.
The DNS server is set in your MacOS or Windows settings if you have no router, but anyone who uses a router will want to look at the router's control panel.
Short Circuits: Add Striking Effects to Photos with SnapArt 4: Alien Skin's Snap Art is one of the most effective ways to give photographs a complete makeover that can change the image's overall look. No effect can turn a bad photograph into a work of art, but often an effect can help to communicate the intended meaning of an image. We'll look at how and why.
Some Sites Invite Hacker Attacks: Every year more than three-quarters of a million websites are breached. The result may be the theft of sensitive and private information or it may result in malware being placed on the site. TechByter Worldwide uses SiteLock to monitor the server and the company says that some site characteristics increase the chances of an attack.
Police in Europe Vow to Fight Ransomware: Federal police agencies across Europe have joined in a project launched by the Dutch National Police and others to shut down ransomware. So far the agencies have helped more than 2500 victims decrypt their data, saving an estimated $1 million in ransom payments.
Spare Parts (only on the website): CyberGhost is another choice for secure internet communications, somebody might be listening to your phone calls, and technology might threaten annual performance reviews.
The Long Awaited Camtasia 9 (or 3) Has Landed: Camtasia is TechSmith's powerful screen video capture system. New versions have just been released for both Windows and Mac operating systems and the functionality across platforms is now more similar than at any time in the past. Although TechSmith's SnagIt can capture screen videos, Camtasia provides far more functionality. Let's take a look at what's new.
Windows Will Be More Crash Resistant Next Year: Windows users who are enrolled in the Fast ring of the Insider Preview program received a bit of a surprise early in October. Attempts to install build 14942 failed around 90% and rolled back to the previous version. There's only one way to install this build now and you're probably not going to like it, but it's the first step toward enabling functions that will make Windows 10 even more stable than it already is.
Short Circuits: Nearly Half of Cloud-Based Malware Delivers Ransomware: Cloud security company Netskope says that their research suggests nearly half (44%) of all cloud-based malware is intended to install ransomware on victim's computers. The research examines ransomware and how it spreads through cloud apps within an organization.
College Students Risk Losing Data to Ransomware: College students appear to have heard of ransomware, but are unaware of the extent of the danger to their data and their bank accounts. Webroot has some eye-opening information.
TechByter RSS News Page Adds Feeds: For information between weekly reports, don't forget to check the TechByter RSS News Feed page. This week I've added several useful sources and I'd like to let you know what's there.
Spare Parts (only on the website): A virtual 800-inch screen that you can wear, Shutterstock fights back against Adobe Stock, and all-flash storage is closer to becoming a reality.
Selecting the Right Wi-Fi Channel Isn't Intuitive: When installing a new Wi-Fi router at home, it's easy to make what seems to be a logical choice that has the potential to slow your wireless access and that of your neighbors. The trouble is that the bad choice seems so logical. Maybe you open an application like Wi-Fi Analyzer on an Android tablet or phone and see that everything is concentrated on channels 1, 6, and 11. Well, you might think, if those channels are busy, maybe I should use one of the others. Don't do it! There's a reason why everything is on channels 1, 6, and 11.
Apple's OSX Changes Its Name, Gets a Makeover: OSX is no more. After more than 16 years, Apple has moved on. As of early September, OSX is now MacOS. There was always confusion over "OSX" -- should it be pronounces "Oh Ess Ecks" or "Oh Ess Ten"? At least there shouldn't be any confusion over how to pronounce "MacOS" -- but maybe some people will say "Mac Oh Ess" and other will say "Mac Oss". We'll see. The new version is named "Sierra" and it's not a revolutionary update, but Mac users will find several features to be happy about. And besides, it's a no-cost update.
Short Circuits: Every Scanner Owner Needs VueScan: I've been using a substandard scanner simply because it's convenient. A scanner is built in to the Canon MF216n printer and it sits where an Epson 3200 Perfection Photo scanner used to sit. The Epson scanner had been in storage for more than a year, but I re-installed it and then found that Epson doesn't have drivers for Windows 10. It doesn't matter, though, because I have VueScan.
USB Takes Over the World: If you're old enough, you may remember when USB 1.1 was released. You'd plug a USB device in and cross your fingers. Maybe it would work and maybe it wouldn't. Then came USB 2 and now USB 3. Serial and parallel ports are long gone and even USB 3 is being threatened by ever faster interfaces. But for now, we live in a USB world.
Search Safely: In this week's Spare Parts, you'll see information about celebrities whose names are dangerous. Search for one of them, and there's a good chance that at least one of the links you're offered will be to a site that attempts to plant malware on your computer. Intel's McAfee Security division offers some tips for searching safely and these apply not just to searches for celebrities. We'll take a look at them.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Get advance warning about flu outbreaks from your phone and a list of the ten most dangerous celebrities when it comes to internet searches.
Alien (Skin) Invasion! Alien Skin's latest X2 version of Exposure continues its efforts to be more than just a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom. Exposure still operates as a plug-in for those applications, but Alien Skin continues to develop features that make it viable as a photography work flow management tool.
Fixing Firefox: Do you have a love|hate relationship with Firefox? I have to admit that as much as I like Firefox, there are times that I want nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, I'm not alone. Firefox reached almost 50% market penetration in 2008, but it's been dropping since then. Today Firefox has less than 17% penetration compared to Chrome's 70%+. The latest version brings useful new features and you can add a few tweaks of your own.
Short Circuits: A True (if Unwilling) Case Study on the Importance of Backup: Something happened. It might have been something I did. It might have been a power fluctuation (even though everything is powered by a UPS unit). It might have been that one of the fairies dancing on the head of a pin fell off. Who knows! What I did know was that Windows suddenly told me that drive F could not be used until it was formatted. The solution I used may surprise you.
What Are Dating Apps on Your Smart Phone Giving Away? Dating apps are popular on smart phones, but they may have permissions that you don't want them to have. After all, who reads those long legalese agreements before clicking "Install"? As a result, these apps could provide unwanted access for stalkers, phishing, and malware. A British firm, Leading Dating Sites, has tested 10 popular dating apps for Android systems and offers information about the potential risks that include in-app purchases, location information, and access to photos, contacts, and data.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Epson's new scanner is intended for those who need to scan lots of old photos applying arcade game technology to learning how to code, an on-line security test for your business, and Oracle asks if your employees have what they need to do their jobs.
Smart Phones Can Be so Dumb: A smart phone and a data plan offer many worthwhile benefits, but they also bring annoyances and frustrations; chief among these are spam phone calls and spam text messages. It's easy enough to glance at the caller ID and refuse a call when it's from a number you don't recognize or the display is blocked, but it's still an inconvenience. I've been looking at several Android apps that claim to be able to block the trash and the one I've decided to keep is Mister Number.
Replacing a Desktop Computer with a Notebook: Around the beginning of September, I needed to replace a desktop computer and for reasons far too numerous and complex to go into here, I decided that a notebook computer would be the best replacement. The next few weeks were interesting in the way that the (possibly apocryphal) ancient Chinese curse wishes that you will live in interesting times. If you're thinking about switching from an old, reliable desktop system to a notebook computer, be prepared for a little rough going.
Short Circuits: No, Brad Pitt Didn't Die: Not everything we see on the internet is true. In fact, much of what we see on the internet is demonstrably false. I have an example that illustrates why everything that glitters shouldn't necessarily be clicked.
Microsoft, Renault-Nissan, and and the Connected Car: The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Microsoft signed a global, multi-year agreement this week to work together on next-generation technologies to advance the concept of connected driving.
Is Sleep Solvable? Sleep tracking application Beddit has released a new version and says that it can be used to "solve sleep". That's an interesting way to phrase it, but maybe sleep is solved in Finland, which is where the company is located. The Beddit 3 Sleep Tracker intends to answer question about why one sleeps well or poorly. It might be worth examining if you don't sleep well but your health plan doesn't pay for a sleep test.
Spare Parts (only on the website): BlackBerry gets out of the phone manufacturing business, a new app that claims to help you get a seat at your favorite restaurant, and another social media app is about to launch.
Being Prepared for Broken Windows: Keeping recovery media around for use when your Windows computer won't start is a good way to turn a disaster into an inconvenience. Recovery CDs and DVDs were popular for a while, but some computers -- particularly notebook computers and tablets -- no longer come with optical drives. It's USB to the rescue.
Carry a Pocket Full of Portable Apps: In addition to being a system recovery device, the USB thumb drive can hold dozens of portable applications that are useful when you're using somebody else's computer, when you want to help somebody else solve a problem with their computer, or when a problem crops up on your computer.
Short Circuits: Fraud? You Decide. Some of the ads we encounter in email and on the internet are clearly fraudulent. Some that might appear to be fraudulent actually aren't, but paying attention to the "offer" is important
Opera Offers a Free Virtual Private Network: Even if you use your computer only from home, a virtual private network (VPN) is a good thing to have because it provides secure connections to keep your private information private. Free VPNs are generally slow and some of them log your usage. There are paid options, but if you need a VPN and if you want it to be free and easy to use, there's Opera.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Steve Wozniak, one of Apple's co-founders, will be the keynote speaker at a conference in San Francisco next month, self-employed professionals who need accounting software might want to look at an updated offering from a Canadian company, and Ashland College enrolls more than 1000 inmates in a distance-learning program.
Making Windows 10 Your Own: Windows 10 was, to many people, the best version of Windows ever and the Anniversary update made it even better. Whether you agree or not, there's always room for change. The change might be an improvement (if it does something you want) or not. So let's take a look at some of the changes you can make to Windows 10.
Short Circuits: Virtual Reality Comes to High-Risk Training: Training for dangerous jobs is itself dangerous and virtual reality's close cousin, mixed reality, is providing new and safer options.
Free Conference Calls with YouMail: YouMail has released what it calls "the world's simplest free service for hosting and participating in conference calls."
Spare Parts (only on the website): AristotleInsight takes a new approach to asset inventory and data network administration and if a Windows update screen pops up on your computer, make sure it's the real thing before proceeding.
The Unexpected Attack is Coming: There's absolutely nothing even remotely humorous in this week's program. September 11th is an appropriate date for discussing the threat posed by having our own technology turned against us. In 2001, it was airplanes flown into buildings. The next gathering storm, 15 years later, involves the internet and a lack of preparation for how it could be used against us. But if I tell you an unexpected attack is coming, is it really still unexpected? Perhaps now is the time to prepare.
Short Circuits: Dangers of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Bring your own device (BYOD) is today's incarnation of the original intrusion of the PC into the workplace. Managers bought early Apple computers, took them to the office, and used them to process corporate data faster than they could have it done on mainframes. Now it's phones and tablets.
Check a Site's Security: Wouldn't it be great if you could ask someone about a site before you visited it, particularly when someone has sent you a shortened link that gives no clue about what the site is? Well, you can do just that, but with the understanding that it's not perfect. OnlineLinkScan can help you to avoid potentially dangerous sites, but it's important to understand that it's an automated tool and a site that's deemed to be safe may not really be.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Healthcare, telecommunications, retail, and transportation industries continue to struggle with security; an Italian company says that the internet will be "safe" within 3 years. I have my doubts; and government agencies increasingly are using hackathons to engage with developers.
Out, Damned Spam: In 2013, I described an anti-spam application called Mail Washer Pro. Although I liked it a lot, somehow it didn't get re-installed during a system upgrade. In July, after deciding that I had had quite enough of the spams about surface protection products and "professional" organizations for women only (and for which I was "pre-approved"), I started looking for solutions. It was then that I rediscovered Mail Washer Pro and found that the 2013 installation key still worked for the latest version. What a relief!
Is the Maxthon MX Browser Worth a Gamble? The Maxthon browser is a product of China. That might be enough for some people to write it off without going any further. After all, there are numerous books and articles by security experts that point out China's propensity to break into business and government computer systems. Still, we can't distrust everything unless we want to just disconnect our computers from the Internet, lock our doors, and stay inside.
Short Circuits: New Protections from Malwarebytes: The premium version of Malwarebytes has a new feature that will probably convince some users of the free system to pay the small registration fee. The Malicious Website Protection module attempts to identify and block malicious domains and IP addresses by intercepting DNS queries made by any application on your computer.
Attacking US Elections: You probably heard reports this week that voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois have been hacked. And that could be just the beginning.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Password protection, secure file sharing, and backup are included in a new application from Keeper Security; some suggestions to keep your organization from becoming the next data breach statistic; free accounting software from Denmark (but you can pay for it if you want to); and increasing threats on the internet of things.
How's Your Windows 10 Anniversary Update? It took nearly 2 weeks, but all of my Windows PCs have been updated to the Anniversary Edition. How did it work out for you? The updates worked as expected in most cases, but there are always some systems that experience problems. Let's take a look at some of the problems people have experienced and then review the improvements. We'll also consider Microsoft's public relations efforts and what needs to be done to make them better.
Short Circuits: Would You Trust j3llyh34d 1ndu5tr135? J3llyh34d 1ndu5tr135 (that's "Jellyhead Industries" for those who don't read LEET fluently) is a British company that seems to want to be taken seriously for dealing with advanced computer threats. For starters, the company might want to change its name.
Bulc Club Eliminates Spam with Social Networking: Crowd-sourcing and social networking are everywhere these days and Bulc Club says they can be used to fight spam.
Spare Parts (only on the website): An appealing offer from Opera for Android users, the 2017 edition of Acronis True Image brings some welcome features, the PC was 35 years old this month, and IT professionals have some disturbing questions about the cloud.
Finally, a Near-Perfect Email App for Android: Sending email from a hand-held device, while possible, is not likely anyone's first choice. Most of the email applications I've tried for my Android tablet and smart phone have ranged from OK to horrible. K-9 Mail seemed to offer the most features and then I encountered Aqua Mail.
Beware Business Email Compromise Attacks: The folks who brought us the Nigerian Prince scams are back with a new way to separate people from their money and Dark Reading executive editor Kelly Jackson Higgins says it's been successful in making millions of dollars for the scammers. The article quotes James Bettke, a researcher at SecureWorks, describing the crooks as "respected family men and leaders [who] are devoutly religious. They have Bible quotes on their desktops." And the scam itself is characterized as an evolved Nigerian scam.
Short Circuits: Is Any Operating System Perfectly Safe? Short answer: No. Slightly longer answer: Hell, no. Even longer answer: What kind of idiot would ask a question like that? Linux, which has generally been considered to be "safer" than Microsoft's Windows or Apple's OSX has some serious security shortcomings.
Preparing for USB-C: Many users think that a rule exists for USB plugs: No matter which way you try it the first time, you will be wrong. Sometimes a single rotation fixes the problem, but in other cases the plug needs to be reversed as second time. Fortunately some plugs have ridges or bumps on one side so the user can remember whether the bump should be up or down. But that's all about to change.
Shadow Brokers Try to Extort Half a Billion Dollars from the NSA: The Shadow Brokers, a group of hackers, wants the National Security Agency to pay then 1 million Bitcoin (that's more than half a billion dollars) to recover some "cyber-warfare" technology. The group claimed to have hacked its way into the "Equation Group", which is thought to be a front for the NSA.
Social Security Administration Reverses Course: The Social Security Administration announced plans last month to strengthen security on its website. Account holders were told that they needed to provide a cell phone number that the SSA could use to send an 8-digit code that the user would need to provide at log-in time. The announcement was not met with enthusiasm and now it's been reversed.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Crowd-based research is being used to fight diseases such as dengue fever, zika, and malaria and, there's lots of competition for the operating systems that will run our future automobiles.
Free Classes at MIT and Elsewhere: You could get a complete education from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for free. MIT OpenCourseWare publishes materials from 2340 courses on its website and the courses are available to anyone. This isn't a new idea, but when the project started 15 years ago, the internet was a lot less universal than it is now. And MIT is just one of several no-cost learning opportunities.
Analyzing Adware, Scareware, and Crapware: Understanding the business model for unwanted software could help security teams devise better ways to block the stuff. A team of researchers from Google and the New York University Tandon School of Engineering offers a view into shady practices that deliver computer crud that comes bundled with legitimate downloads. This actually is something that occurs more often than attempts to plant malware.
Short Circuits: Free for All on the Mac: Utility applications (freeware, donationware, and shareware) bring many useful features to Windows computers and these specialized, small applications are often featured on TechByter Worldwide. They're just as important to Mac users, so let's look at some of the key free applications for the Mac. You'll probably notice some cross-over with Windows applications.
Spare Parts (only on the website): New techniques promise to make iris recognition a better way to validate users on all sorts of devices in many kinds of businesses, CliffsNotes is starting a process that will place much of the company's instructional materials on-line, and a company that promotes a way to manage your child's electronic allowance seems not to have noticed that the company that provides the service it manages went out of business last month.
Mobile Devices Need a Virtual Private Network: Using a virtual private network (VPN) is essential if you ever connect to the internet via a public Wi-Fi hotspot or even if you connect to the internet via somebody else's private Wi-Fi hotspot. Cost is no longer a factor and current VPN applications are easy to use.
Remembering the Good Old Scams: Not so long ago, the most serious threats we encountered from scammers involved people pretending to be Nigerian princes or crooked bankers who wanted your help to get millions of dollars out of the country. Those threats were ineffective if the targeted victim had any common sense, but the threats are a lot more dangerous now and much harder to avoid. One word: RANSOMWARE!
Short Circuits: The New Maxthon Browser, Security, and Privacy: Chinese browser publisher Maxthon has released a beta version of its new MX5 browser and some users are raising concerns about privacy and security. The browser offers more features than Firefox, Chrome, Edge, and Internet Explorer, but some of those features make users nervous. Maybe even paranoid. We'll take a quick first look.
Windows 10 Anniversary Edition: Microsoft released the promised anniversary edition of Windows 10 on the second of August. It installed without a problem on the notebook that's been running the insider preview. Likewise on the Surface tablet. That's what most users are seeing. Not so on the production desktop system, though.
Neural Networks for Short Videos and Spying on Your Pet: A couple of items this week about video. Let's start with Kodak's hardware that lets you keep an eye on Fido or Fluffy and then move on to a Russian internet service provider's application for tiny video shorts.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Verizon continues to spend money on acquisitions and we'll take a look at the future of retail as on-line buying changes the landscape dramatically.
Xara for Photos, Pages, Publications, and Websites: Xara offers 4 versions of its design application, one intended for website design, another for page layouts and publications, a third for photographers, and a fourth that contains all features for purposes. Although all four applications share numerous base functions, the Designer Pro version includes everything from the other three and adds a few. This week we'll take a look at the big brother, the one that promises to be everything to everybody.
Short Circuits: Yahoo, a Shadow of its Former Self, Still Worth Nearly $5 Billion: Once Yahoo was valued at $125 billion. This week Verizon bought its core internet assets for a little less than $5 billion and some analysis say that was too much. Last quarter Yahoo lost more than $400 million and has been hovering near extinction for a decade or more. Still, it's a good deal for Verizon.
PornHub Has Been Hacked, but Don't Panic: The attackers had been invited by PornHub and their successful break-in earned them a reward. The on-line pornography site wants to know about its site's vulnerabilities before bad guys find them.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Advanced persistent threats are the bane of IT managers and Pieter Arntz of Malwarebytes has an outstanding explanation of what these things are. A group called the Cyber Senate will gather in September in London to address major security issues that face the industry today. And we'll look at a report from security expert Brian Krebs, who says that the Democratic National Committee, the Republican National Committee, and the Trump for President organization all fail a key test for email security, but Hillary Clinton's site passed. (Yeah, you read that right.)
Comparing Apples to Microsofts: I thought about that headline for a long time. Of course it's based on "comparing apples to oranges", but it doesn't quite work. I could have written it "Comparing Apple's computers to Microsoft's computers" but that just sounds lame, so I stuck with a construction that doesn't quite work and looks ungrammatical. Stay with me here; I promise that the article is better than the intro.
Considering Operating Systems: Today's operating systems have more things in common than fans of any system would like to admit. Allthough I almost always have at least one Linux-based computer on hand, it had been a while since I've owned a Mac. My first Mac come home from New York with me in 2000 after I'd spent the week at PC Expo. In 2010, one of my daughters accidentally killed the replacement for the original Mac and I didn't replace it until now because I'm mainly a Windows user and TechByter Worldwide is a Windows-centric podcast and blog. And there's one more possibility.
Short Circuits: Windows 10 Aniversary Update -- Are You Ready? Windows 10 will be a year old next month and users will receive an upgrade to the anniversary version. Key word: Users. If you haven't yet upgraded for free to Windows 10 and decide later that you want to upgrade, you'll have to pay. Please don't say you weren't warned.
Consolidation Continues in the Antivirus Market: Just last month, Symantec announced a plan to pay more than $4.5 billion to acquire Blue Coat Systems, another company that provides protective applications for computers. Now Avast has announced plans to buy AVG for nearly $1.5 billion.
Spare Parts (only on the website): How about throwing several thousand bugs into your software? Voice modification software from Vietnam. Facebook Messenger sees 1 billion users every month. And Intel's profits continue to fall, but they beat analysts' expectations.
Have You Driven Thunderbird Lately? Thunderbird is the email client from Mozilla, the same organization that created Firefox. If you don't care for Outlook or the email clients provided by Windows or OSX, it's an application that you should consider. It's the perfect choice for those who use both Windows computers and Macs because it runs on both platforms.
How Fraudsters Turn a Useful Tool into Something Evil: "Hello, my name is Mike and I'm from Windows Support," the caller says in a voice that sounds more like the speaker's name should be Ankit Singh, Raj Patel, or Ashok Kumar. If you've listened to the TechByter Worldwide podcast or read the blog for more than a few months, you undoubtedly know not to trust these callers. They're not from Microsoft and all they want is your money.
Short Circuits: Somebody at the Washington Post is a Genius: Newspapers are in trouble. Only old people seem to buy the paper version and nobody wants to pay for on-line content. Advertisers have been fleeing newspapers for years as on-line services attract auto dealers that used to spend a lot of money on newspaper advertising. Now a year's worth of access to the Washington Post is available for free. Could this be a good idea?
Finding the Sun or the Moon: Do we really need software to help us locate the sun or the moon? Although you might consider this to be a silly question, the location of the sun or the moon isn't as obvious as you might think. Will we see the moon today? If so, will it be visible during the day or night? How much of the moon will be visible? When will the sun rise or set? These are questions that are important to astronomers and photographers. Anyone who needs an answer that's more precise than "up in the sky" might need such an application.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Mac users have to watch out for two new malicious apps launched in the last week, let's consider the possibility of voting on-line (someday), the FDIC is in trouble for trying to hide numerous long-term break-ins that exposed a lot of personal information, and even though Apple doesn't include a security slot with its notebook computers, you can add one -- for a price.
How Much Security Is Enough? You've probably seen email described as having the security of a post card. Actually, it's worse than that. After you mail a postcard, it will be handled only by the US Postal Service (and, if you've sent it to another country, by that country's postal service). Plain-text email can be intercepted and read at many locations by many people.
Backup to Where? Backup is important. Perhaps you've noticed that it's one of the things I frequently talk about -- "yammer on endlessly about" might not be putting too fine a point on it. Security, another "yammer on endlessly about" topic and backup work together -- security to avoid problems and backup to recover from problems.
Short Circuits: Controlling the Windows 10 Start Menu: Windows 10 brought back the full Start Menu, but with some additions that give you a lot more control than you had in the past. Making the Start Menu yours is easy.
Is there a Hummer on Your Android Device? Hummer (or maybe hummingbird) is malware that could be on your Android phone or tablet. The good news, at least if you're in the United States or Europe, is that it seems not to be a big threat.
Careful! Your Plants May Be Talking About You! A Swiss company says its newly developed technology allows your plants communicate with you. PhytlSigns is described as "wearable tech for plants." I checked the calendar and April First was quite some time ago. Developers say the device listens to what the plant is communicating rather than simply measuring the air temperature or the soil around it.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Now there's an app intended to remind you to put down the phone and communicate with real live people; if you fear that someone will pass you counterfeit money, there's a portable device that identifies funny money; and a high school in New York City has just graduated its first class of software nerds.
Who's There on Your Wi-Fi? Ideally, the answer to that question would be "nobody but the people I know about," but how sure are you that this is the case? If you're using appropriate security precautions, you can be relatively sure. So let's take a look at security precautions and how you can verify that your Wi-Fi router is secure.
Podcast Number 500: Today's podcast is number 500 in the series that began in 2006, but the program is quite a few years older. In the mid 1980s, I joined Joe Bradley occasionally on Sunday mornings for a short section on technology on WTVN Radio. Eventually it grew from 15 minutes to an hour and continued until 2006. On radio, an hour is about 17 to 20 minutes after subtracting time taken for commercials, news, sports, weather, jingles, and bumper music. So excuse me, please, while I consider yammering about technology on radio and elsewhere for more than 30 years, 20 years the website has been operational, and 10 years of podcasting.
Short Circuits: The Wonderful World of Windows: A couple of Microsoft accounts caught my eye this week -- the coming Windows 10 anniversary update and the going of some money from Microsoft to a person who didn't want Windows 10.
4 Terabytes in your Pocket: Western Digital now offers My Passport drives with up to 4TB of capacity. These are the pocket-size drives that are popular with people who need to carry around huge amounts of data.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Virtual reality comes to health care as a pain management tool and some tips on how to avoid being the next victim of a data breach.
TechSmith's SnagIt Receives a Major Update: Anyone whose duties include documentation of any computer-based procedure or application should be using SnagIt. Yes, you can use the Windows PrintScreen function to grab a screen shot and then paste it into Paint, but then what? SnagIt has all the tools needed to capture exactly what is needed -- with or without the cursor -- and then highlight and annotate the image to call attention to important information. Let's see what's new and improved.
Another Bunch of Goodies from Adobe: It seems like just a few days ago that Adobe released updates to Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. In fact, it was just last week that I described the improvements in those applications. Now it time for updates that affect the entire Creative Cloud suite of applications. Creative Cloud subscribers started seeing direct access to Adobe Stock, content-aware crop, and an improved liquify feature this week.
Short Circuits: Maxthon Fires Warning Shots at Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Edge: Maybe the browser wars are about to heat up again. Firefox and Chrome have been the big two. Internet Explorer is being replaced by Edge. Safari is still available, but only on Macs. And then there's Maxthon.
Western Digital Releases Wireless Disk Drives: Western Digital has introduced several new disk drives in both the Passport and Cloud series. My Passport Wireless Pro Wi-Fi and My Cloud Pro Series network attached storage (NAS). These drives are intended primarily for photographers and others who work in visual media on computers.
In Spare Parts (Only on the Website): Most programs today can create PDF documents, but going the other way can be a problem. An on-line service plans to change that. Verizon plans to improve its location-based technology. I'll explain that in English. The Weather Company and IBM will soon make highly-localized forecasts possible. And the Malwarebytes blog reveals a malicious app that can use your smart phone.
Not Everybody Needs a Plain Text Editor; Maybe You Do: If you do, UltraEdit and UltraEdit Studio are applications that you should be looking at. I have used UltraEdit since the beginning -- that's 20 years -- and it's still an application that I use every single day. Besides being an application that provides code highlighting for every programming language most people have ever heard of, it's a great way to write prose when you want to make sure that formatting doesn't get in the way.
The Threat of Live Streaming Feeds: What should you be worrying about these days? Well, maybe not worry, but just be cautious. Millions of people use free live streaming websites to watch sports and other events on-line, but this comes with a security risk. Researchers from KU Leuven University in Belgium and New York's Stony Brook University have found that viewers can be exposed to malware infections, personal data theft, and scams.
Short Circuits: A Win for Net Neutrality, but Hold On: A federal court says that high-speed internet service can be defined as a "utility" and that is an important point for those who support "net neutrality". I am one of those who supports the concept because it offers to maintain an equal footing for websites, whether large or small.
Microsoft Plans to Take Over LinkedIn: Microsoft and LinkedIn have announced an agreement under which Microsoft will acquire LinkedIn for $196 per share in an all-cash transaction. Now sit down for a moment while considering the math. The cash deal is worth $26.2 billion. Wow.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): The biggest growth industry for crooks these days is ransomware and spam has progressed from being just annoying to being extremely dangerous.
Be Careful Out There! Maybe you're old enough to remember Hill Street Blues in which Michael Conrad's character, the Hill Street Station's watch sergeant (Phil Esterhaus) always ended roll call with "be careful out there." The program ran from 1981 through 1987. When you're anywhere on the internet, it's a good idea to keep that warning in mind. This week, let's consider the doxer and how to avoid the creep.
Website Security Looks Like an Impossible Dream: A new report from WhiteHat Security suggests that most web applications have multiple serious vulnerabilities that make them vulnerable to data loss. The information is included in the 11th annual Web Applications Security Statistics Report. The report was compiled using data collected from tens of thousands of websites.
Short Circuits: New Lightroom and Camera Raw Versions: This week Adobe released new versions of Lightroom CC (2015.6), Lightroom (6.6), and Camera Raw (9.6). According to Adobe, this release provides additional camera raw support and lens profile support as well as addressing bugs that were introduced in previous releases of Lightroom. The primary new feature this time around is called Guided Upright for Creative Cloud members.
Recommended Reading: Software as Weaponry in a Connected World: New York Times technology writer Nicole Perlroth wrote this week about the technological equivalent of germ warfare. It's the disturbing story of how governments are stockpiling software bugs so that they could be used in internet warfare.
Are You Smarter than Mark Zuckerberg? You've probably heard that Mark Zuckerberg's Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram were hacked. Now Zuckerberg is a pretty smart guy. He created Facebook, after all. And yet apparently he used the same credentials for multiple sites.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): A utility that claims to be able to fix broken Microsoft Office files comes with a hefty price tag. Verizon sounds like it wants to buy Yahoo's internet assets. And Fujitsu offers some scanners that can store your files in the cloud without involving a computer.
Have a Digital Camera? Try Xara Photo & Graphic Designer! Software engineers at Xara continue to improve Photo and Graphic Designer. New features, improvements and tweaks, and updates for a full year should be enough to get your attention. Many of the new features that were added to Xara Website Designer are included here and the photo-centric improvements simply enhance the value.
Short Circuits: A Big Fumble for the National Football League: According to the Washington Redskins, a notebook computer owned by one of their trainers has been stolen. The laptop computer was password protected, but the computer's disk drive was not encrypted. The NFL says that the team confirmed the theft on June first. The laptop computer was stolen in mid April.
Ohio State University Wins Back-to-Back EcoCAR 3 Competition: This may not have a lot to do with desktop or notebook computers, but you can bet there's a lot of technology involved. And besides, it shows that the little school down the street from my house can do more than just turn out decent football teams.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Is "Facebook privacy" just an oxymoron or is there something you can do to improve your odds? The latest batch of CPUs from Intel bring astounding performance, but also astounding prices. And following the acquisition of SanDisk by Western Digital, jobs start to disappear.
Flashing Forward to a Flashless Future: It's time for Flash to fade. Flash used to nearly universal, but Apple stopped supporting it years ago. Few, if any, smart phones or tablets support it. Support continues to dwindle because of its ongoing status as a security disaster so you can see why it might be on the way out. Today we'll look at how you can disable it if you want to.
We're Losing the Tech Race to Fraudsters: Accounting firm KPMG says that few frauds are detected using data analytics, but technology significantly enables nearly 1/3 of perpetrators. The fraudsters -- both internal and external -- are getting better, while protection lags. This is not exactly an encouraging report.
Short Circuits: You May Call, But Microsoft Won't Answer: In a surprise to approximately nobody, Microsoft is all but exiting the phone business and eliminating another 1800 jobs. Microsoft phones never really caught on and the business has been fading since the company acquired Nokia for $7.2 billion in 2014.
Internet, You're No Longer Special: The Associated Press is now recommending "internet" instead of "Internet" and the New York Times has agreed to go along. Oh, no!
Spart Parts (only on the website): Kaspersky warns about a new variant of an ATM skimmer that leaves no physical evidence. Adding a battery to a wall-wart charger makes it a 3-in-one device. And Microsoft has a plan to make affordable internet access more common.
The Surface Pro 4 after Seven Months: Last October you may have heard or read my initial report on Microsoft's Surface 4 tablet. As I recall, the article indicated cautious optimism. A problem with the Intel video subsystem and Intel video drivers created problems for a lot of people and has created a glut of reconditioned Surface 4 Tablets. Maybe you've seen them on Woot or Groupon or any number of other retail sites and wondered if you should buy one.
Readers Who Like Bargains Should See Book Bub: Reading has changed in the past few years. Libraries now loan electronic books in addition to physical books. Some book stores sell e-books. And Amazon, of course. But now there's BookBub, a service that runs 1-day sales on e-books. Some of them are offered for free.
Short Circuits: Why Girls "Can't" Code: Occasionally I read a juvenile fiction book. One that I'm reading now features a young woman (about 18) who is a computer coding wizard. This seems perfectly reasonable to this grumpy old guy, but there's still a general belief that girls don't code.
GoDaddy Enters the Phone Business: It's been a long time since domain registrar GoDaddy was just a domain registrar. The company provides website hosting, e-mail services, and a variety of other services intended for small business users. Next up: Telephone service.
The Evil Microsoft: Sometimes it seems that people who write about technology are crazy. Or stupid. Or rabid. Maybe all three. Some have an irrational dislike for Apple. Others are terrified by Linux. And others just can't bring themselves to admit that Microsoft ever does anything right. Case in point: Microsoft's latest attempt to upgrade Windows 7 and 8.1 systems to Windows 10. For free.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): A new app lets you turn your smart phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot, LinkedIn says the breach that occurred 4 years ago allowed crooks to harvest 100 million more user names and hashed passwords than previously thought, and how big should a flat-panel display be in a classroom -- or should schools be using something else entirely?
Web Design: You Can Get There from Here: Xara takes an interesting approach to website design: "you shouldn't need to know, or even see, the HTML that goes into creating your site, any more than a car driver needs to know how an engine works." I can't decide whether this is an extraordinarily good approach or an extraordinarily bad approach. Chances are, it's neither, but if you're a design-oriented user, I think you'll love it.
Who Invented E-Mail? Everybody knows it was Ray Tomlinson, who died in March. But everybody might not be quite right. Tomlinson, a computer programmer, implemented the first e-mail program on the ARPANET system, which later led to the Internet. This was in 1971. The use of the @ sign to separate a user name from ID of a computer allowed mail to be sent to a user on a different machine. End of story, or so we thought. As it turns out, the story is a bit more complex.
Short Circuits: Free Upgrade to Windows 10 is Ending: When Windows 10 was released, Microsoft said that it would be a free upgrade for the first year for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. The one-year period ends on July 30th and, if you haven't upgraded by then, your upgrade will not be free. So consider this your fair warning.
IBM's Watson will take on Cybercrime: Sherlock Holmes must be out, so it's up to Watson to solve the problem of cybercrime. IBM says that 8 universities will help train Watson for cyber security. IBM's Watson seems to have considerably more on the ball than Arthur Conan Doyle's Watson, Holmes's sidekick who saw everything and noticed nothing.
Who Are You and Why Are You Shouting at Me? Most people don't like to be shouted at and it seems that younger consumers like it less that older folks. A Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Lithium Technologies questioned nearly 2400 consumers from Gen Z (ages 16 to 19) to Baby Boomers (60 and older). Maybe because Boomers grew up with radio and television telling them what to ask their parents to buy, they're more accepting of pushy on-line services.
Spare Parts (only on the website): A new top-level domain name for your mom; Western Digital finalizes its acquisition of SanDisk; and the market for wearable electronics is big, growing fast, and will be huge.
The Video Studio in My Pocket: I sometimes wish time travel was possible. Going back to 1965 and telling a television news photographer that in the next century it would be possible to use a pocket-size camera to record and produce video would be astonishing. At that time, video on the evening news was film (hence the term "film at 11"). And if I told the TV news photographer that the pocket-size video production studio could also be used to make phone calls I probably would find myself in the custody of mental health authorities. Then I'd have to tell them that the video studio with a phone could also be used to manage appointments and send messages electronically.
A Treasure Cache at the New York Public Library: Around the first of the year, the New York Public Library gave everyone a remarkable gift: 180,000 high resolution historical images from its public domain collection. The images, which include drawings, maps, letters, manuscripts, photographs, posters, and more, are available without restriction.
Short Circuits: Opera Adds Ad Blocker: Ads - good or bad? People who provide information on the Internet (journalists, bloggers, whatever you want to call them) have expenses. People have shown overwhelmingly that they will not pay for content. Some subscribe to the New York Times. Those of us who still pay for a printed newspaper have access to the website. But most people simply will not pay, so the people who provide information have to find a way to monetize the service.
What Follows Moore's Law? Gordon Moore is nearing 90 and the "law" he created seems to be running on empty. Moore, a co-founder of Intel, said that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years. He predicted that would continue and hence the statement became a "law". But Moore made the observation in the mid 1960s when he was considering a period from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s. It's now 2016.
Making Mobile Devices Smarter: Qualcomm says that it is offering what the company calls the first "deep learning software development kit" for devices powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processors. The SDK is intended to give OEMs a powerful, energy efficient platform for delivering better experiences for the users of mobile devices.
YouTube: Unplugged in 2017: In its continuing move to be everything for everybody, Alphabet (formerly Google) has its YouTube division working on a paid subscription plan that will stream some cable TV channels over the Internet. Reportedly, the service will be called "Unplugged" and will start sometime next year.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Spreadsheets are useful, but they're not always the best choice; ShareIt, a Chinese sharing app, claims 500 million users; and InformationWeek names the 100 companies it says make the best use of technology.
Belt, Suspenders, and Duc[k|t] Tape: Backup is important. Disk drives don't last forever and, when they fail, they often do so with little or no warning. That's why I use multiple backup strategies that include local hot backups, an image backup of my boot drive, USB-drive backup, and online backup. My objective is never to lose an important file. And all files are important.
A Tablet that Doesn't Run Windows or OSX: BQ, a Spanish company, is shipping a tablet computer that runs Ubuntu Linux. The Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition sells for about $400 and weighs just slightly more than a pound. That's a good price, but whether it's a good deal depends on what you need.
Short Circuits: Somebody Wants Your Master Password: Password managers use a single password to protect all of your other passwords. This could be dozens or hundreds of sets of credentials. Allow your master password to fall into the wrong hands and you'll be up to your eyebrows in trouble. Crooks and thieves know this and they do everything they can to trick users into giving their master passwords away.
Nacho Mail - Maybe Worth a Look: In the middle of last week, I stumbled across Nacho Mail. It's an app for Android and IOS devices. What led me to it was a news release from the publisher about the addition of "Work-Chat". The idea is that it adds a chat application to your smart phone or tablet. I never did find the Work-Chat feature, but I did find a promising e-mail client for this "post-PC world".
In Spare Parts (only on the website): The FBI says it isn't going to share the Iphone hack it bought from hackers for more than $1 million with anyone and particularly not with Apple. Software used to rescue children from sex trafficking. Maybe a decent swipable keyboard is coming to Microsoft devices. Activist investors are named to Yahoo's board of directors.
Extra! A bonus track following the program close on the podcast. Be sure to wait for it.
Power Director, a Fast but Crash-Prone Video Editor: CyberLink Power Director 14 is surprisingly powerful for an application that costs just $200 (but seems to be perpetually on sale for $70). It has one of the fastest rendering engines I've ever seen, offers a variety of flashy transition effects and a seemingly endless variety of additional plug-in features that you can buy. But for all the power and speed, it has the annoying habit of crashing frequently.
Short Circuits: Has Microsoft Finally Fixed its Surface Tablet? When the Surface tablet came out, I thought it was an interesting device, but didn't buy one. The Surface 2 was more compelling. The 3 even more so, but I resisted. Then came the Surface 4. I bought one and I've generally been happy with it. "Generally happy" however is not "delighted". The video driver has a nasty habit of crashing. The problem is really a combination of bad firmware and bad drivers from Intel, so it's not really a Microsoft problem. But it is a Microsoft problem because it has affected most, if not all, versions of the Surface. Updates over several years haven't had much effect on the problem, but now maybe it's fixed.
Amazon Challenges Netflix to a Duel: Amazon Prime members are automatically enrolled in the company's video streaming service. The Prime enrollment fee is paid in a lump sum, once a year, but now Amazon is offering streaming video for $9 per month and Amazon Prime, including video, for $11 per month. That could do some damage to Netflix.
Your Own Private Cloud: Western Digital and Veritas Technologies are pushing what they call the HGST Active Archive System that combines Veritas NetBackup with Western Digital hardware. The system reportedly provides improved scaling and reduced backup complexity and cost to a "private cloud". The advantages include lower administrative costs and infrastructure overhead, including the costs associated with tape management, tape rotation, and off-site storage.
Public Radio Programs on NextRadio: NextRadio will start carrying programs from the Public Radio Satellite System so public radio stations that air national shows can automatically send the feed to NextRadio. The added value NextRadio brings includes images and other descriptive information about the program.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): If you're hungry and you're in one of 24 cities served by DoorDash, you can have food delivered from many local restaurants. Scotch maker Johnnie Walker wants us to learn more about the carbon footprint Web surfing creates (yeah, I'll have to explain that). And a couple of acquisitions caught my attention this week.
Windows 10: Heading for the Anniversary Edition: In July, Microsoft will release an "anniversary update" that will include a lot of new features. Those who are participating in the Windows Insider program, have seen numerous recent updates with only minimal visible changes. That's because developers have been working on the framework that will hold the new features. This week Microsoft released Preview Build 14316 in the Fast ring. The most interesting addition to Windows will be bash, the Linux shell.
Google Drops "Free" Fiber in Kansas City: Google is eliminating what some considered to be "free" Internet service in Kansas city. It wasn't really free, but it did involve a one-time fee and was then supposedly without charge after that. If you pay, you'll still pay a lot less than what cable companies charge and you'll have considerably faster service.
Short Circuits: Protecting Yourself from Ransomware: Ransomware is big news and big business. It's big news because several hospitals have been victims of ransomware attacks. Some have paid the ransom. Some have managed to recover without paying the ransom. Some, undoubtedly, have not admitted that their systems have been compromised. It's big business because the crooks can extort a lot from a hospital. Malwarebytes published guidelines this week on its blog to avoid being victimized.
Privacy vs Security: Microsoft Sues the Feds: Apple stood up for privacy, but the FBI found a workaround. Now Microsoft is fighting back against what some privacy experts see as government threats that, while intended to make us safer, might actually have the opposite effect. Microsoft is suing the Justice Department over the use of secrecy orders that bar Microsoft from telling people when the government obtains a warrant to examine data stored on Microsoft's cloud servers.
The BBC Says Streaming Audio Leads to Vinyl Purchases: Possibly the most interesting data point from research by the British Broadcasting Corporation into the purchase of vinyl records is that 7% of purchasers don't even own a turntable. About half (52%) have a turntable that they use and 41% have a turntable, but don't use it. Why are these folks buying music on vinyl disks?
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Toshiba has a new processor that promises better video in your automobile, IBM is working with Box to provide on-line storage in Europe and Asia, and updates to StorageCraft's Image Manager to make backups more robust.
Ending (Some) Annoyances: Some applications do things that are annoying. Preferring not to be annoyed, when I encounter something that frustrates me, I look for a way to fix it. Sometimes the fix involves working with the software publisher. Sometimes it simply requires some experimentation. Here are a few annoyances that I've banished recently.
Short Circuits: End of the Line for Carbonite? I've been recommending Carbonite for so many years that I can't recall when I started recommending it. For the most part, it has served me well and has allowed me to restore files when something unfortunate happened. But a few weeks ago, something happened and Carbonite has not been forthcoming about the cause. This article could have been included in the earlier annoyances article except for the fact that this goes somewhat beyond annoying and hovers distressingly close to hazardous.
Firefox Add-ons May Be Endangering You: Ars Technica published a report late this week describing how popular Firefox extensions such as NoScript and Firebug could be exposing your computer to infection with malicious code that would allow thieves to steal sensitive data.
Samsung Hits an Apparent Home Run: Analysts have predicted a difficult year for Samsung, but a popular new phone is increasing profits, at least for now. Samsung's operating profit for the first three months of 2016 are up 10% over last year.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Turning old electronics that you no longer want into useful materials instead of fodder for landfills, D-Link now offers two power-over-Ethernet routers that are designed for surveillance applications, and Nokia is pushing what it terms a "passive optical LAN" as a better solution than copper wire for local area networks.
Now's the Time to Think About Better Vacation Pictures: If you're a photographer and you're not using Lightroom, you're probably working too hard. The Lightroom-Photoshop combination costs about $100 per year and it's a bargain. Even if you don't use Lightroom and Photoshop, you'll find some useful information here because many applications include similar basic features.
Short Circuits: FBI Works Around Apple: With more than a week to go before it had to go back to court with a status report, the FBI said that it no longer needs Apple's help to open an Apple phone used by San Bernadino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Case closed. But now what?
Privacy and Security: The Balancing Act for Insider Threats: Former federal prosecutor Shawn Thompson will be discussing the legal aspects of implementing an insider threat program this coming Thursday at a conference in Boston that will also be webcast.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): A short history of fraudulent e-mails, Windows 10 is now on 270 million computers, Hololens is shipping if you have $3000, and Bat developer Ritlabs is now in the top 1% of Microsoft developers.
FBI Overreach Nipped: Maybe Tim Cook overreached, too. The FBI attempted to use an antique law to force Apple programmers to write code that would allow the government agency to have access an Iphone used by one of the San Bernadino terrorists, but it would also expose every other Iphone in the world. As this story spins out, it's not looking good for anyone who's involved.
How Much Is That Disk Drive in the Window? If you're really old, you might remember 8" floppy disks. Not so old? Do you remember 5¼" disks? Well, then, maybe 3½" disks. Those little non-floppy floppy disks were introduced by Apple and then Apple was the first company to drop floppy disks entirely. I thought they made the move a year or two before the market was ready, but today it's nearly impossible to find a computer with any kind of removable magnetic disk.
Short Circuits: Kentucky Hospital Hit by Ransomware: Krebs on Security reports that Methodist Hospital in Henderson, Kentucky, was infected by ransomware recently. The hospital's website noted that the hospital was operating in an "internal state of emergency". Whether the hospital has recovered is unclear, but the warning is no longer on its website.
Only the Paranoid Survive: That's one of Andy Grove's most memorable quotes. It's also the name of a book he wrote. Grove, who served for many years as Intel's CEO, died this week at 79.
Well, That Was (Not Exactly) a Surprise: About 2 years ago, stock photo company Fotolia started an inexpensive service called Dollar Photo. All images could be licensed for just one dollar. Techbyter Worldwide has used images from the service. Then Adobe acquired Fotolia for its $10 per image program. It was only a matter of time until Dollar Photo would be discontinued.
The US Treasury Has Filed Suit Against Me! That's what the recorded voice told me. If I didn't call 321-301-1105 right away, I was going to be in trouble. BIG TROUBLE! The caller just wanted to help me, he said.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Marketing pros may be replaced by robots, trying to make tech support more personable, and a plan to make genetic research more accessible.
Phishing Becomes More Sophisticated: Last week, I described an unsophisticated fraud. This week, let's look at some of the reasons that phishing has become a huge profit center for organized crime.
Adobe Turns on the Fire Hose:Trying to take a refreshing sip from the Adobe water fountain this week was a bit startling. Camera Raw, Lightroom, Photoshop, After Effects, Dreamweaver, Bridge, and Slate all received updates. Possibly the most fun comes from Slate, a free application that runs on desktop computers (via a browser) and on Apple and Android mobile devices. But Adobe pushed out a lot of cool new updates this week
Short Circuits: Western Digital - SanDisk Merger Approved: This is one of the most logical mergers in many years. Western Digital estimates that its merger with SanDisk will generate $500 million in additional profits within a year and a half. That's good news for investors. But it also looks like a winner for those of us who buy disk drives and solid-state storage media.
Knowledge Worker? Will Your Job Exist in 5 Years? About one third of knowledge workers say their current jobs probably won't exist in 2021. Office work in general is in a state of rapid change with more contract workers and on-line virtual office workers. If you're feeling more dispensable, you're probably right.
Sometimes Amazon Doesn't Quite Get It: There's a back-story to this story, so I'll start with that. I've been reading a series of books about a Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective, Harry Bosch. The series is written by Michael Connelley. As it turns out, Amazon Prime Video has adapted the books and I decided to watch them. That's where the confusion began.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): A new way to think about retirement, Kaspersky says its new protective applications for business networks seek out targeted attacks, and the creator of the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony will be the keynote speaker at a conference on the Internet of Things.
"Hello, Dear." I thought spams that began that way had died out years ago and yet there it was on my screen. "Hello, Dear" from someone I don't know. It wasn't from the daughter of a Nigerian king or a banker who wanted me to help him get some money out of the country. In fact, I don't know what the scammer's line would have been. The message simply said that the sender had something important to tell me and I should contact her.
Short Circuits: Microsoft's Windows Defender Gets an Upgrade: After languishing for several years, Windows Defender is more robust. There's no shortage of third-party security applications and I use one of them, but it really makes sense for protective functions to be part of the operating system.
Still Think Macs are Perfectly Safe? Malwarebytes reports that ransomware is showing up on Macs and says that Apple has added detection for "KeRanger" to the XProtect anti-malware definitions in OS X. Palo Alto Networks discovered the threat and made the initial report.
Making Broadband Affordable for Low Income Families: The Federal Communications Commission is promoting a plan that would make broadband service more accessible for low-income families. Nearly all households with annual incomes of $150 thousand or more have broadband access. Less than half of those with incomes under $25 thousand have access.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): At the education section of the South By Southwest Festival, talk about how open education resources are becoming increasingly important in classrooms and Microsoft partners with the NCAA to provide insight into the upcoming March Madness and we hope they don't drop the ball.
Arm Wrestling with Firefox: Mozilla recently added a feature to Firefox so that only approved add-ons can be installed. This feature is aimed at ensuring security, but it means the many perfectly safe add-ons are locked out at least until the developers expend the effort required to have Mozilla certify their work. When Firefox updates, valid extensions are frequently disabled. There's a way around this and I'll explain later in this week's program because you'll probably want to know how to get around the restriction after you hear about some of the features you can add to Firefox with add-ons.
Short Circuits: Yes, I Know You're Trying to Protect Me: But really, Mozilla, do you have to keep killing add-ons that aren't the least bit dangerous? Every time Firefox receives an update, previously acceptable add-ons are disabled. Enough is too much! I've used LastPass for years. LastPass is secure. It's been validated by Mozilla previously. Yet now it can no longer be verified. Why? There's a workaround and it's really easy.
Mixed Signals and Fumbled Balls in FBI vs Apple: Top items in the scuffle between the FBI and Apple this week include a court ruling that says the FBI can't use the All Writs Act of 1789 to make Apple break the encryption on an Iphone, an admission by the FBI that it was their own bungling that locked the phone in the first place, and hints from the Secretary of Defense that the FBI's request wouldn't be in the best interest of Americans.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Corporate data is threatened not only by outsiders but also by employees, contractors, and business associates. Peach Fuzzer is designed to find flaws in automated systems before they hurt someone. Huawei and Leica say they will re-invent smart phone cameras. And Microsoft offers Xbox users a (virtual) $2 million Lamborghini.
Tracking the Trackers: A recent update to Ghostery has improved the tracker tracker browser plug-in. Websites may include a variety of mechanisms to make your experience better (good features such as typeface management and functions that allow you to share content), ones that track where you've been and report information about you (not so good), and ones that work with specific websites to highlight things that interest you (good or bad depending on your point of view). Ghostery makes it possible for you to tell them apart and to block the ones you don't want.
Short Circuits: Privacy, Security, and Governments Worldwide: Government security agencies have a legitimate interest in wanting to be able to collect information and evidence. People have a legitimate interest in wanting to protect their information. As the current case regarding the FBI and Apple shows, finding a balance is difficult. But let's leave that to the courts and the politicians and look instead at some advances in hardware security.
Webroot Explores Next-Generation Cyber Threats: The latest edition of Webroot's annual Threat Brief says that nearly all malware is now designed in a way that makes signature-based security virtually useless. Many attacks are staged, delivered, and terminated in just a few hours and sometimes within minutes. In other words, it might happen so fast that you won't even see it. That's not a very comforting thought. The report says that malware and potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) have become overwhelmingly polymorphic, which means that signature-based detection no longer works.
The Death of Google Compare: Maybe you never even heard of it. Google Compare allowed web users to examine offers for car insurance, credit cards, and mortgages. Now, after less than a year in the US, it's shutting down.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory say some new research provides clues about how diseases move through a population, something new from Amazon (free training), and bit.ly (the little company that started out just shortening links) is all grown up and making a big move.
An Attempt to Destroy RitLabs and The Bat: Normally TechByter Worldwide doesn't report on legal and political issues because legal reporting is a highly specialized undertaking. However, a case involving the company that developed an e-mail program called The Bat in 1998 came to my attention and it's a story that I'd like to share with you.
Short Circuits: Avoiding Stupid Errors: My wife posted a message to Facebook this week warning about a phony JetBlue promotion. A Facebook page claiming to be JetBlue Airways was offering give free flights "for an entire year to 800 of our lucky fans." Really? Let's check out some "offers" and e-mails you should ignore.
Windows 10 Offers Login Options: Microsoft wants you to associate your Windows account with an Outlook account and there are good reasons to do this, but it can be a pain. After all, you want the Outlook account to have a strong password and having to type that password whenever you log in is a problem for those who use tablets and other mobile devices. That's not the only option, though. You can log in with your face or with a 4-digit PIN. I'll explain.
Is Your Teenager a Hacker? Kaspersky Lab suggests that parents "question their teen's on-line habits" to see if they've raised a hacker. The average age of a cyber-criminal is now 17 years old.
Apple's Encryption and the Courts: Apple says it will not create a "back door" that would allow police and prosecutors to decrypt information on Apple phones. A court order this week demanded that Apple develop a way for investigators to read information on the phone of the the man who, with his wife, killed 14 people and injured 22 others in California. Apple has refused and, I think, with a good reason. Maybe there's an alternative.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Bluehost updates 2 million WordPress sites and then offers the update script to everyone, including competitors, warnings about malware called Red Sheriff, and a review of the 2016 Golden Mousetrap Awards.
Password Managers Are No Longer Optional: If you've been around computers long enough, you remember when anti-virus programs weren't essential. You remember when only a few early adopters had home networks. Anti-virus programs have been extended to protect against all kinds of threats and they haven't been optional for decades. It seems like just about everyone has a home network these days. Now it's time for everyone to have a password manager.
Short Circuits: Computers and the Internet Change Medical Care: Medical care is a lot different than it used to be. Insurance companies have websites that provide health information and explanation of benefit forms. Physicians make it possible to schedule appointments, request prescription refills, and view the results of tests on-line. Some organizations even give people a way to work with a physician by phone or computer to handle routine medical issues.
New Windows 10 Release in the Fast Ring (Yawn): Microsoft has released build 14257 of Windows 10 in the Fast ring, but it continues in the pattern of other recent releases by providing little that even testers will notice. Developers are working on what will be the second major Windows 10 update that will be released sometime during the summer.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Scammers are now targeting children and China-based WeChat handed out money (with an ulterior motive) in Times Square around the Chinese New Year.
What a Difference a Year Makes: Last week, I mentioned a new feature that came with the latest version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. At the time, I hadn't had time to work with it. Now I have and it's every bit as useful as I thought it would be. Panoramic views are some of the most dramatic images a photographer can create because they're extremely wide or extremely tall. And despite the advances in phone-based cameras, panoramas are still better when created with a digital SLR. Lightroom makes them both better and easier.
A Network Attached Storage Star Is Born, Maybe: Certainly the specs are impressive for the Synology DiskStation DS216+, but at $300 or more for a network attached storage (NAS) box without any disk drives, they should be. It's billed as a high-performance 2-bay NAS server for home and small office users. Let's check it out.
Short Circuits: Class Action Suit Filed Against Seagate: Claiming excessive drive failures, a law firm representing Christopher Nelson has filed a class action lawsuit against Seagate. Some of the evidence for the trial, if it occurs, will come from on-line backup provider BackBlaze. The company regularly publishes disk drive statistics and has described a high failure rate for Seagate 3TB drives.
Microsoft Wants You to Have Windows 10 for Free: And they won't take NO for an answer. Actually Microsoft will take NO for an answer, but then they'll ask again. And again. Starting this week, Microsoft began pushing Windows 10 to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 machines. Users still have the final word, but Microsoft will continue to recommend the update.
A Report Card from Data Privacy Day: A new cloud technology company says it will give the Internet a grade once per month to report on overall privacy. Mezzobit says it will monitor data collection, consumer tracking, and security on the top million websites to calculate the Data Transparency Index. The index is intended to provide an objective barometer for 5 key areas of Internet data operations along with an overall composite score.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Slow crooks down and you might be able to keep them out of your computer and IBM plans to acquire Columbus-based Resource/Ammirati.
Some Glass for Your : We're approaching one of the prime photography seasons in the northern hemisphere. Summer brings warm weather and vacations. More daylight. Children playing outside. If you're thinking about upgrading your photo gear for the summer, now is a good time to do some research. Many TechByter Worldwide subscribers are interested in photography, so I occasionally spend some time on the subject. Usually it's software that catches my eye, but this time I thought hardware might be a good topic. After all, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are probably all that you need to know about software. For that reason, today's program is all about lenses.
Short Circuits: Lightroom Update's Cool New Feature: About the time I was putting the finishing touches on the article about lenses, Adobe released a new version of Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. These applications are always released in tandem because they include the same features, ACR for Photoshop, and Lightroom's built-in raw image management. There wasn't enough time to put together a full review, but I did notice one really astounding feature.
Facebook Considers a Dedicated Video Service: We have Vimeo for video perfectionists and YouTube for the masses. Users can post videos to Facebook, but apparently the company is now thinking about creating a separate service that would compete directly with YouTube and Vimeo.
Spare Parts (only on the website): Chrome may be one of the safest browsers imaginable, but that doesn't mean you can forget about rogue software. And the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team is warning about a threat called "Dorkbot".
Are You Using Microsoft's Edge Browser? If it's not your default browser, have you at least tried it? Granted, you need to be using Windows 10 to use Edge, but the number of computer owners who have upgraded to Windows 10 is substantial and growing. Users of Firefox or Chrome who depend on browser extensions such as LastPass, AdBlock Plus, or any of the hundreds of add-ons available for those browsers will find Edge wanting when it comes to extensions. We'll also take a look at Bing, Microsoft's default search engine, which they'd really like you to use instead of Google.
Short Circuits: Goodbye to AOL? America OnLine might be going away. The name, that is. The service will continue, but it could have another name. Verizon paid $4.4 billion to acquire AOL last year and chief marketing officer Allie Kline says the name could be changing. I couldn't help but think about when a high-flying AOL bought Time-Warner. The merger was considered to be an intelligent move at the time. AOL was signing up users right and left. But then people learned that they didn't have to stick with slow dial-up connections and AOL's training wheels.
Answers for Your Questions: People in large groups can be intelligent. If you show a jar of jelly beans to 1000 people, ask them to guess how many jelly beans are in the jar, and average the answers, the result will be very close to the actual number. A new question and answer site turns the model on its head.
Untappd and Next Glass Go Out for a Couple of Beers: Two mobile applications that are intended to help people identify beers and wines they'll like (and help them to find them) are merging. Untappd and Next Glass say that merging their "science-based alcohol software" will create a "powerhouse combination that will provide an unparalleled beer experience."
Don't Forget Your Cat's Appointment: Does your dog forget to go to the vet? Or maybe your cat has been gaining weight lately and refuses to exercise. Bayer, the aspirin company, has released an app that people who are owned by pets can use to manage health-care and vet appointments.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): Microsoft's latest Fast Ring version of Windows 10 is out with few visible changes, but with stability improvements that will allow new features in upcoming builds. Leica has a new $3000 camera you can throw into the lake. And a code of ethics for software engineers from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Society and the Association for Computing Machinery.
"Mostly Cloudy" is a Perfect Forecast for Creatives: At the end of November, Adobe released updates to most of the Creative Cloud applications, but the holidays and the TechByter schedule kept me from getting to them until now. New features aren't as plentiful, as big, or as bold as they were when release cycles were 18 months instead of 6 months. And new features are likely to show up at any time because the system updates itself. That said, there are still a lot of improvements. More than I can cover in a single program, but I'll highlight some of them.
Short Circuits: Support Ends for Older Windows and for Internet Explorer: If you have an older version of Windows, the end has come or is quickly approaching. Mainstream support and extended support have already ended for XP. Mainstream support ended for Vista in 2012 and mainstream support ended for Windows 7 a year ago (13 January 2015). What does this mean? Let's dive in.
Security Threats to Watch for in 2016: What nasties are coming your way this year? The threat landscape changes continuously and never for the better. Last year just about every type of business or government agency suffered data losses. The folks at iSheriff (which I will style as "ISheriff" from this point forward because I consider the lower case "i" to be both silly and pretentious) have a list of what they consider will be the 5 biggest threats in 2016.
200 Million Windows 10 Computers Now: Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi says that Windows 10 has been activated on more than 200 million computers. More than 40% of the activations occurred since the end of November 2015 and Mehdi says the adoption rate "continues to be on the fastest growth trajectory of any version of Windows." Activations have outpaced Windows 7 by about 140% and the largely ignored Windows 8 by nearly 400%.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): A system is being developed to allow self-driving automobiles to help each other. AT&T says it will help the Federal Communications Commission modernize it's "business". If you want a dog, but you really don't want a dog, you're now able to buy a robot dog.
Taming Public Wi-Fi, the Enemy We Love: Free Wi-Fi is available just about everywhere. Public libraries, restaurants, hotels, and even some stores offer it. It's a big draw and its an inexpensive feature to set up and offer. All that's needed is an Internet connection and a wireless router. But if you use a public Wi-Fi system without protection, the cost of that free service could be exceedingly high. Although there are some tricks you can use to make the public Wi-Fi less dangerous, there's a way to make it secure.
Short Circuits: When Malware Turns Out the Lights: The US power grid is generally acknowledged to be vulnerable to certain types of attacks by hackers. According to CyberX Labs, this kind of attack has already been used in Europe. We'll consider a "weaponized" version of BlackEnergy malware.
Microsoft is Inside Some Volvo Automobiles: Microsoft wants to help you talk to your Volvo automobile. Undoubtedly, there are jokes that could be told and I'll dig up at least one of them, but this is a serious effort.
Oculus Rift Beats Microsoft HoloLens to Market: Microsoft's HoloLens is still available only for developers and organizations such as NASA. Meanwhile, Oculus Rift devices have gone on sale even though they won't te available until March.
In Spare Parts (only on the website): It's January, so the Consumer Electronics Show is running in Las Vegas.
You Can't Have Too Much Backup: It's a few days past the start if the new year, but if you're still looking for a worthwhile resolution that's easy to keep, now would be a good time to decide to improve your computer backup system. Or, if you don't have a backup system (YIKES!!!), this would be the perfect time to implement one. This is a topic that I revisit about once a year because it's so important.
Beware the Phish that Bites: Although most of us are getting better when it comes to spotting clearly fraudulent e-mail messages, the fraudsters are getting better every day and all it takes is a moment's inattention to be victimized. Millions of e-mail messages containing links to malware are sent out every day. So are millions of messages that contain sometimes legitimate-looking requests that can give a thief enough information to steal your money or your entire identity.
Short Circuits: Apple's Italian Tax Dodge Ends: Apple will pay Italy $350 million to settle tax evasion charges. Many multi-national companies have arranged to be taxed in countries where rates are low (Ireland), but the European Union is beginning to force companies to pay taxes in each country where they operate. This is the first of several cases initiated by Italy.
2015 Wasn't Just About Windows: Although I spent a lot of time talking about Windows 10 in 2015, it's been a busy year for other platforms, too. Android in particular. Let's take a look at Android's big deals for 2015.
Changes? Not Many This Year: Sometimes the first program of the year reveals lots of new features on the TechByter Wordwide website. Sometimes it's big changes in formatting. And sometimes the changes are relatively minor. This year, they're all but non-existent, but I'll tell you want to look for.
Spare Parts (only on the website): WatchGuard Technologies has released a list of the top 10 threats they expect to make life miserable for some of us in 2016. More businesses will be cloud-based in 2016 and a survey from Cisco, the communications gear manufacturer, estimates that more than four-fifths (86%) of corporate computer workload will be processed by cloud data centers by 2019. And SanDisk Corporation and Quanta Cloud Technology have announced a plan to combine SanDisk's flash drive experience with QCT's data center expertise. The goal is to provide massively scalable solid-state storage for data centers.