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Microsoft tries out new must-use-Edge ploy in Windows 10 preview

Microsoft will try a new way to push Windows 10 users into running Edge, forcing links opened from the Windows Mail app and its messages to display in the browser.

Normally, links embedded in messages retrieved by the Windows Mail app open in the default browser, which may be an Edge rival if the user has set one.

In the latest preview of Windows 10's fall feature upgrade, currently known as 1809 in Microsoft's yymm label format, Microsoft has mandated that Edge assume responsibilities for opening links within messages.

"We will begin testing a change where links clicked on within the Windows Mail app will open in Microsoft Edge, which provides the best, most secure and consistent experience on Windows 10 and across your devices," announced Dona Sarkar and Brandon LeBlanc, the Microsoft employees who most often speak for the Insider preview team, in a post to a company blog last week.

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Microsoft lifts update embargo on Windows 10

Microsoft this week lifted the security update blockade on Windows 10 PCs that do not have approved antivirus software, but kept the no-patches-for-you rule in place for the more popular Windows 7.

The update roadblock was assembled in early January, when Microsoft issued mitigations against the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. Those vulnerabilities stemmed from design flaws in virtually all modern processors made by Intel, AMD and ARM. According to Microsoft, the security updates could brick PCs equipped with antivirus (AV) software that had improperly tapped into kernel memory.

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The collaboration conundrum: Companies look to consolidate around team chat apps

ORLANDO, Fla. – The wide variety of collaboration and communications tools now available to businesses can help connect employees in different locations, but can also result in fragmented and siloed conversations. 

With that in mind, a new breed of team collaboration chat apps has emerged in recent years that, in many cases, incorporate video and voice call functionality alongside text-based messaging. That means enterprise organizations can begin to  consolidate some of their existing communication tools into a single platform deployed across the business, according to a panel of CIOs at the Enterprise Connect conference here in Orlando.

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What's in the latest Chrome update?

Google on March 6 released Chrome 65 for Windows, macOS and Linux, with fixes for 45 vulnerabilities, and security and developer improvements and enhancements that users won't see, or even notice.

Chrome updates in the background, so users only need relaunch the browser to install the latest version. (To manually update, select "About Google Chrome" from the Help menu under the vertical ellipsis at the upper right; the resulting tab either shows the browser has been updated or displays the download-and-upgrade process before presenting a "Relaunch" button.) Those new to Chrome can download it from this Google site.

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Interview: Khronos brings Vulkan applications to Macs, iPhones, iPads

Developers should be excited that Khronos today introduced new open-source tools to port Vulkan applications to Apple’s platforms. I caught up with Khronos Group President Neil Trevett to find out more about the project and why it matters.

Introducing Vulkan

Vulkan is an open standard for 3D graphics developed by the Khronos Group, an industry consortium dedicated to the creation of open standards for the graphics industry. 

Vulkan is supported by a large number of major industry participants, including hardware vendors, driver implementers, and tool vendors, across many hardware and operating system platforms.

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DeX gets an upgrade with the Samsung Galaxy S9

A better camera and personalized emojis might headline the new features on Samsung's Galaxy S9, but there are good reasons for enterprise users to take notice: a new version of its innovative DeX dock and upgrades to Knox.

DeX was introduced with the Galaxy S8 last year and connects to a monitor, keyboard and mouse for a PC-like experience powered by the smartphone. Software in the phone detects when it's connected and replaces the typical smartphone homescreen with a computer-like desktop on the monitor.

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Chrome 68 to condemn all unencrypted sites by summer

Google has put a July deadline on a 2016 promise that its Chrome browser would tag all websites that don't encrypt their traffic.

"Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as 'not secure,'" wrote Emily Schechter, a Chrome security product manager, in a Feb. 8 post to a company blog.

Google has scheduled Chrome 68 to release in Stable form - analogous to production-level quality - during the week of July 22-28.

Starting then, Chrome will insert a "Not secure" label into the address bar of every website that uses HTTP connections between its servers and users. Sites that instead rely on HTTPS to encrypt the back-and-forth traffic will display their URLs normally in the address bar.

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Mingis on Tech: A preview of Mobile World Congress 2018
This year's big show in Barcelona begins Feb. 26, and while hardware announcements are always part of the event, attendees are more likely to hear a lot about 5G networking.
Spectre and Meltdown | Salted Hash Ep 17
What is it about the Spectre and Meltdown attacks that scared everyone so much? Host Steve Ragan and J.M. Porup talk through the impact of these hardware flaws.
Why Google partnered with MobileIron – and what they plan to offer

Google Cloud and MobileIron have announced a partnership to provide a secure enterprise applications and services portal.

Why Google Cloud and MobileIron? Because Google wants to use its Orbitera commerce platform, which enables the buying and selling of software and services in the cloud – and it needs an OS- and hardware-agnostic distribution and security partner.

MobileIron will not only help Google distribute the apps through its enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform, but its software can also provide analytics that show which apps and services are the most popular, and with whom.

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Zoho takes on IFTTT and Microsoft Flow with cloud app integration tool

Business app suite provider Zoho has launched Flow, a workflow automation tool that lets users connect a range of cloud applications to create their own automated processes.

Users already familiar with IFTTT (If This, Then That), Zapier, Microsoft Flow or other app integration tools will find Zoho’s approach similar. Each workflow consists of a trigger event followed by one or more actions. A trigger might be when a new ticket is created in a service desk application; an action could be an alert or ticket escalation message automatically sent to the relevant team’s communication channel.

Other trigger examples could be when an email is received from a particular person or a change is made in a CRM application. “For something like this, you shouldn’t have to write any code,” said Zoho chief evangelist Raju Vegesna.

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Meet 'Sawtooth,' a new modular platform for building enterprise blockchains

The Linux Foundation's open-source blockchain collaborative, Hyperledger, has unveiled Sawtooth 1.0, a modular framework for building, deploying and running business blockchains.

Blockchain proof-of-concept pilots based on Sawtooth 1.0 have already been deployed to support multiple business cases, including music and media content rights attribution, healthcare transaction recordings, Know Your Customer (KYC) in financial services and others, according to Hyperledger.

Hyperledger Sawtooth is the foundation's second Hyperledger project to go live after Fabric 1.0 in July 2017. Fabric enables blockchain components, such as consensus and membership services.

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Microsoft releases emergency Windows update to hamstring earlier 'Spectre' defense

Microsoft on Saturday issued an out-of-band Windows security update that disabled a patch the company released earlier this month to protect personal computers from possible attacks leveraging one of the "Spectre" vulnerabilities.

The weekend release was Microsoft's response to an announcement seven days ago by Intel, which told customers of all stripes - from computer makers to end users - to stop deploying the firmware updates it had offered after disclosures of the Spectre and Meltdown flaws. According to Intel, the new firmware "may introduce [a] higher-than-expected [number of] reboots and other unpredictable system behavior" on Broadwell and Haswell processors. Those silicon families were introduced in 2015 and 2013, respectively.

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Apple reveals 6 huge iOS improvements for 2018

We’ve just learned several important details around some of the key iOS improvements Apple hopes to make available to the rest of us in the coming weeks.

ARKit is about to improve

Apple wants to energize ARKit development with a range of powerful new features in ARKit 1.5 and iOS 11.3, which are currently in beta testing. These important improvements will clear even more space between the company and competitors in the mobile space. They include:

  • The capacity to recognize vertical surfaces (walls, doors, and such like). Until now, ARKit could recognize only horizontal surfaces.
  • Image detection for signs, posters and other artwork
  • Higher resolution (1,080p instead of 720p), enabling more realism in AR experiences.

These improvements should mean ARKit developers will be able to build better games (such as bouncing balls off of walls) and more immersive VR experiences, particularly in the education and museum sectors.

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Microsoft shoots for AutoSave parity in Mac Office 365

Microsoft last week added an auto-save feature to the core applications in Office for Mac 2016, matching what Windows users were given in August.

AutoSave is available only to Office for Mac 2016 users who are also subscribers to Office 365.

With the refresh to Office for Mac 2016 - which updated the version number to 16.9 - Word, Excel and PowerPoint now automatically save files opened from Microsoft's cloud-based storage services, including OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online.

Files are automatically saved to the cloud repository "every few seconds," Microsoft said in a support document, adding that the interval may vary "depending on what you are working on."

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Trello overhauls app directory for ‘Power-Up’ integrations

The ability to hook into a range of other applications has become a key facet of team collaboration platforms, as vendors seek to become the hub of workplace productivity.  

With that in mind, collaborative work management platform, Trello has been rapidly growing the number of apps that integrate with its software since its $425 million acquisition by Atlassian last year.  There are now 82 Power-Ups available to customers, including integrations with Google, Dropbox and Github; that’s up from 33 prior to the acquisition.  

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Facebook standardizes Workplace pricing, boosts cost for larger deployments

Facebook has changed the pricing for its Workplace enterprise social network, a move that will result in price increases for some new customers.

Workplace was officially launched at the end of 2016, following a lengthy, 18-month beta trial with large enterprises such as Royal Bank of Scotland. The platform is now used by more than 30,000 organizations worldwide and has recently won over some large customers, including Walmart and Virgin Atlantic, where it is accessed by 7,000 staff.

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Mozilla mandates that new Firefox features rely on encrypted connections

Mozilla this week decreed that future web-facing features of Firefox must meet an under-development standard that requires all browser-to-server-and-back traffic be encrypted.

"Effective immediately, all new features that are web-exposed are to be restricted to secure contexts," wrote Mozilla engineer Anne van Kesteren in a post to a company blog. "A feature can be anything from an extension of an existing IDL-defined object, a new CSS property, a new HTTP response header, to bigger features such as WebVR."

Secure contexts, dubbed a "minimum security level," is a pending standard of the W3 (World Wide Web Consortium), the primary standards body for the web. Secure contexts' main purpose, according to its documentation: "Application code with access to sensitive or private data be delivered confidentially over authenticated channels that guarantee data integrity."

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Slack trials private shared channels, adds admin controls

Slack has talked of its high expectations for group chat channels, which it argues will replace email as the primary means of workplace communication by 2025.

While channels are becoming a popular method for internal communication, Slack also wants to push them as way to interact with external companies – and stakeholders, too.

With that in mind, the team messaging company has expanded its shared channel feature – unveiled as a beta trial at its first conference in September last year – to enable private conversations between workers at separate organizations.  A third of its paying users have now signed up for the beta, Slack said.

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Microsoft stamps October's Windows 10 feature upgrade as enterprise-worthy

Microsoft today told enterprises that Windows 10's second feature upgrade of last year, October's "Fall Creators Update," had been sufficiently tested and is ready to deploy across their organizations.

The announcement came slightly short of three months after the Oct. 17, 2017, debut of Fall Creators Update, better known to corporate customers as 1709 in Microsoft's yymm nomenclature.

"Enterprise customers...can also fully deploy when ready," wrote John Cable, a Microsoft director of program management, in a post to a company blog.

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Browser makers build bulwarks to stump Spectre attacks

Amid the panicked response this week to the news of significant, though not-yet-exploited, vulnerabilities in the vast bulk of the world's microprocessors, it went almost unnoticed that most browser makers responded by updating their wares in the hope of fending off possible web-based attacks.

The Google-driven revelations - it was members of the search firm's Project Zero security team who identified the multiple flaws in processors designed by Intel, AMD and ARM - were to go public next week, on Jan. 9, this month's Patch Tuesday. At that time, a coordinated effort by multiple vendors, from OS developers to silicon makers, was to debut with patches to protect, as best could be done without replacing the CPU itself, systems against flaws grouped under the umbrella terms of Meltdown and Spectre. That plan went out the window when leaks started to circulate earlier this week.

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Chrome to block ads in February

Google yesterday announced that it will start blocking ads in its Chrome browser on Feb. 15.

Websites that want to avoid the Chrome hammer can either shed several broad categories of online ads or pay a consortium of advertisers, advertising trade associations and technology companies, including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, to become "certified."

"Starting on February 15, in line with the Coalition's guidelines, Chrome will remove all ads from sites that have a 'failing' status," Google said on its website, referring to the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA), a group that's promised to scour the web of the most annoying advertisements.

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Powermat to upgrade to 15W wireless charging, support Apple's new iPhones

Powermat plans to release an a new wireless charging product in January that will be capable of 15-watt power transfers through a 1.5-in. thick solid surface and provide support for new Apple iPhones and other Qi-enabled devices.

Charging Spot 4.0 is a new charging hardware product that requires no drilling and that can be installed under a table surface. Powermat's new SmartInductive technology, which includes firmware, integrated circuits and charging coils, will allow the new Charging Spot to offer higher power transfers over longer distances than previously availble.

The new charger will allow users to simply place enabled mobile devices atop a desk, for example, to begin receiving power.

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Mingis on Tech: The building blocks of ... blockchain
One of the biggest topics in IT right now involves blockchain, the distributed ledger tech that underpins Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Here's a look at what it is, what it does, and how companies are already using it.
Microsoft Whiteboard adds ‘digital canvas’ collaboration to Windows 10

Microsoft is bringing its Whiteboard ‘digital canvas’ app to Windows 10 users, providing a new way for employees to collaborate on creative work and share ideas.

Whiteboard, aimed at Surface owners, makes use of the device’s stylus and touch inputs to share drawings. Users can jot down notes, make precise illustrations or search for images on the web from the app. It can also create tables, diagrams and flowcharts, which are updated in real time and automatically saved to the cloud.

“It’s designed for teams that need to ideate, iterate, and work together both in person and remotely, and across multiple devices,” the Microsoft Whiteboard team wrote in a blog post.

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Apple apologizes, issues Mac login security patch

With great apology, Apple has rushed to respond to the appalling macOS High Sierra security flaw, issuing a software update that has been made immediately available for download and will be automatically installed in existing Macs.

‘We greatly regret’

Apple has shared the following statement:

"Security is a top priority for every Apple product, and regrettably we stumbled with this release of macOS.

“When our security engineers became aware of the issue Tuesday afternoon, we immediately began working on an update that closes the security hole. This morning, as of 8:00 a.m., the update is available for download, and starting later today it will be automatically installed on all systems running the latest version (10.13.1) of macOS High Sierra. 

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Microsoft sets a cutoff date for free Office app viewers

Microsoft is warning customers that it will retire several Office application viewers in little more than four months, shutting off the spigot to the free document readers used by those without the productivity suite.

"The Excel Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer, PowerPoint 2007 Viewer and the Office Compatibility Pack, will be retired in April 2018," said a post to a company blog. "At that time, they will no longer be available for download and will no longer receive security updates."

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iOS 11.2 to unleash ‘fast’ wireless charging for the iPhone 8, iPhone X

Apple is preparing to release iOS 11.2, an update that will enable 7.5W "fast charging" for the new iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X.

Currently, iOS v11.1.1 supports only 5W wireless charging; iOS 11.2 is now in beta and expected to ship over the next month or so.

While all three of the new iPhones are capable of taking a charge of up to 15 watts via the Qi v1.2 specification, the iOS platform doesn't support that raten of power transfer. In fact, it only supported 5W charging when originally launched in September.

Additionally, only some wireless chargers support 7.5W wireless charging. Here's a list of Computerworld's top 10 wireless chargers, most of which support the "fast charging" capability.

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RStudio cloud service in the works?

An interesting result popped up when I searched for RStudio cloud this morning: from RStudio itself.

"Kick the tires to your hearts delight - but don't plan on taking a cross-country trip just yet," the service warns on its home page.

I logged in using my existing account, which the home page advises to do. If  you don't use, you can set up a new account there, or use Google or GitHub credentials. 

The opening screen lets you create a project:

RStudio.coud Screenshot at

Page to create a project at

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With Spark Assistant, Cisco adds voice-activated A.I. to videoconferencing

Virtual assistants are gaining popularity as Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant get better at quickly retrieving information and helping to organize things. Joining them in the office are smart assistant chatbots, which are being integrated into a variety of enterprise applications.

Now, Cisco wants to bring the power of voice-activated A.I. smarts to conference rooms with its Spark Assistant.   

The idea is for Spark Assistant to take some of the pain out of setting up meetings by allowing voice commands to be used to call colleagues or start, join and leave meetings without interacting with physical devices. The A.I. assistant is activated with a simple, “Hey, Spark.”

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Apple putties Krack in macOS, iOS

Apple on Tuesday patched both macOS and iOS against serious vulnerabilities in the Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protocol used to secure wireless networks.

Information about the flaws, dubbed "Krack" by their Belgian discoverer, made news earlier in the month when security researcher Mathy Vanhoef announced weaknesses in WPA2 that could allow criminals to read information transmitted over a Wi-Fi network thought to be encrypted.

Krack, said Vanhoef, stood for "Key Reinstallation Attacks."

The macOS 10.13.1 and iOS 11.1 updates addressed the Krack vulnerabilities, as well as a slew of others. The Mac update fixed a whopping 148 flaws, while the iPhone and iPad update quashed 20 bugs. The bulk of the macOS patches - 90 of the total - plugged holes in "tcpdump," an open-source network packet analyzer that's baked into the operating system.

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Apple just bought its own wireless charging company. Here's why.

Apple has purchased a New Zealand-based wireless charging company whose technology can send power to multiple devices, from headphones to remote controls, at the same time.

As appealing as that may sound for mobile devices, Apple likely hopes to use the technology for a vast array of electronics such as the Apple TV remote control or its own computer mouse – and perhaps even for industrial applications.

PowerByProxi wireless charging IDG/Lucas Mearian

A prototype of PowerByProxi's wireless charging box, which can charge multiple devices at the same time. Inside the box is a remote-controlled car, a Wii controller and a TV remote control, all using wirelessly chargeable AA batteries. 

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Mastercard launches its own blockchain payments network

Mastercard is launching its own blockchain network to enable partner banks and merchants to make cross-border payments faster and more securely.

The Mastercard blockchain service can be used to clear credit card transactions, eliminate administration tasks using smart contract rules and thus, speed transaction settlement.

"By combining Mastercard blockchain technology with our settlement network and associated network rules, we have created a solution that is safe, secure, auditable and easy to scale," Ken Moore, executive vice president for Mastercard Labs said in a statement.

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