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Fake products? Only AI can save us now.

Half a trillion dollars.

That’s the rough amount of money that counterfeiters displaced last year by selling phony products. Some 2.5% of all trade is for fake goods.

The United States is hit hardest by the scourge of counterfeit products — U.S. brands accounted in 2013 for 20% of the world’s infringed intellectual property.

When most people think about counterfeiting, they think of knock-off Louis Vuitton handbags sold on the sidewalk. But fake products also include business and enterprise products, as well as everyday consumer goods.

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How to decide whether to deploy blockchain

While blockchain may have moved beyond the proof-of-concept phase this year and into limited production systems, that doesn't mean companies watching from the sidelines should plow ahead with their own deployments.

But neither can they afford to sit idly by.

"You can't catch up on innovation. If you wait until things have settled down, it may be too late," said Forrester Research principal analyst Martha Bennett.

Speaking at Forrester's New Tech & Innovation Conference, Bennett said public and private organizations must first determine what business processes blockchain distributed ledger technology (DLT) can address – and those to which it cannot be applied.

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(Insider Story)
Microsoft dives down a bizarre non-cumulative rabbit hole with July patches

About that MacBook Pro Core i9 throttling story

You won’t have missed the hysterical reporting around recent claims that Apple is throttling its all new high-end MacBook Pro, but it seems possible these alarms are blaring a little too loudly.

I saw it on YouTube...

The claims are that Apple’s new high-end i9 MacBook Pro has been designed in such a way as to throttle processor speeds to be slower than the i7 in order to reduce the heat created when in use.

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It was a JOKE, OK?

Pilot fish's workplace is upgrading to use smart cards, but he's not thinking about that when he sees a pop-up about an update -- one that strikes fish as a little, um, fishy.

"I thought, if something like that was to occur and need user intervention, IT would have sent a notice out about it," says fish.

"So a screen shot and email went off to IT security. They responded much faster than I expected, and in person: There was something wrong and they needed my laptop hard drives ASAP."

Fish turns over his machine, and the next day he receives replacement hard drives. But it turns out his backup wasn't configured for all the folders and file types he stores data in -- and now he's missing about a terabyte of data.

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Why Windows 7 updates are getting bigger

Windows 7's security rollups, the most comprehensive of the fixes it pushes out each Patch Tuesday, have doubled in size since Microsoft revamped the veteran operating system's update regimen in 2016.

According to Microsoft's own data, what it calls the "Security Quality Monthly Rollup" (rollup from here on) grew by more than 90% from the first to the twenty-first update. From its October 2016 inception, the x86 version of the update increased from 72MB to 137.5MB, a 91% jump. Meanwhile, the always-larger 64-bit version went from an initial 119.4MB to 227.5MB, also representing a 91% increase.

The swelling security updates were not, in themselves, a surprise. Last year, when Microsoft announced huge changes to how it services Windows 7, it admitted that rollups would put on the pounds. "The Rollups will start out small, but we expect that these will grow over time," Nathan Mercer, a Microsoft product marketing manager, said at the time. Mercer's explanation: "A Monthly Rollup in October will include all updates for October, while November will include October and November updates, and so on."

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Is mobile sensor-based authentication ready for the enterprise? Some big players think it might be.

An Arizona security company is working on an interesting approach to mobile authentication, one that leverages the exact angle a user holds the phone as a means of making replay attacks a lot more difficult. Aetna has been testing the method internally (according to the security company's CEO) and the company — Trusona — has announced about $18 million in funding, from Microsoft Ventures ($10 million) and Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers ($8 million).

The Microsoft Ventures funding is interesting because one of the more popular mobile authentication methods today is Microsoft's Authenticator app. Is Redmond covering its bases, or does it see the Trusona effort as threatening to displace Authenticator, at least in the enterprise IT world?

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The EU's Android antitrust ruling overlooks 3 critical points

Is Google abusing its power as the gatekeeper to Android? Antitrust regulators in Europe seem to think so — but reading over their ruling, I can't help but be struck by some inconsistencies between their assessments and the realities of Google's mobile platform.

In case you've been napping for the past couple days, the European Union slapped Google with a $5 billion dollar fine as part of an antitrust investigation. The EU says Google is stifling competition by forcing phone makers to preinstall Chrome and Google Search on their Android devices as part of a broader package of Google services — and by preventing partners from developing devices based on unofficial "forks" of Android (spoons, thankfully, are still permitted). Google has already announced plans to appeal.

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Why two Apple HomePods really are better than one

Apple recently updated its HomePod software, introducing AirPlay 2 and support for stereo pairing. I’ve been using these features since they arrived, and this is what I think so far:

What are the improvements?

Apple’s iOS 11.4 update introduced HomePod 11.4, which brought two significant new features to HomePod systems: AirPlay 2 and stereo pairing support.

AirPlay 2

AirPlay 2 lets you control music playback around your home using Siri, HomePod and AirPlay 2 supporting speaker systems from third-party manufacturers. So long as all your systems are on the same Wi-Fi network, you get multi-room playback and controls.

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The next corporate collaboration tool: Podcasts?

Interest in podcasts has grown in recent years: 44% of people in the U.S. have listened to a podcast at some point, according to Edison Research, while 26% do so at least once a month now.

But while podcasts may be gaining ground in the car or at home, the streaming technology has made only limited inroads at work – so far.

Nevertheless, some companies see new potential for audio streaming as a means of delivering on-demand content to staffer, particularly for firms with a large number of remote and mobile workers.

With that kind of interest in mind, enterprise video streaming provider uStudio recently launched a podcast delivery platform that adds the necessary admin controls, business application integrations, security features and usage analytics expected by business leaders and IT departments. (Similar solutions are also offered by podcast hosting providers such as Podbean and Blubrry.)

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Throwback Thursday: How to guarantee business will grow

It's early 2005, and this pilot fish works for an online retailer -- and pays close attention to the chatter about website development.

Spring 2005:

Manager: "Do we need a database administrator for the new attribute key-value design?"

Software developer: "No, we won't ever need more than 10 attribute key-val pairs. The business will never get bigger than that. Besides, storing data in columns means it's contiguous on disk and one select will mean one read!"

Summer 2005:

Developer: "Hmm, why is the database so slow? I wonder if it's the 100 attribute key-value pairs. We now have 100 columns instead of 10, but that should be fine."

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Microsoft to dump Windows 10's smaller delta updates

Microsoft will stop serving one of three types of Windows 10 updates, contending that the updates have been superseded by an even small and more efficient format.

Delta updates are due to disappear early next year, Microsoft said, with their demise effective Feb. 12, 2019, that month's Patch Tuesday. Two formats will then remain: Full updates and express updates.

Delta updates are those that include only the components that have changed since the previous month's update. Because delta updates include the full component that changed - say, the Notepad application - not only the individual files that make up the component, they are larger than express updates, which deliver only changed files. The bottom line, and what enterprise IT is most interested in, is that express updates are smaller than delta updates, which are in turn smaller than full updates.

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Mingis on Tech: The blockchain evolution moves from smartphones?

If 2017 was the year many tech firms suddenly looked around and realized they needed to be part of the blockchain craze, this is the year companies in a variety of industries have begun actively experimenting with the distributed ledger technology.

Helping to make that possible – especially for firms with no experience in building out blockchain systems themselves – are IT vendors like IBM, Microsoft, HPE and Amazon Web Services. They now offer blockchain-as-a-service.

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Mingis on Tech: The blockchain evolution, from smartphones
Oracle joins other major tech vendors by rolling out its blockchain-as-a-service offering, and two smartphone makers plan to include the technology in new devices this year. Get the latest on the blockchain craze.
Google faces $5B fine over Android browser and search engine ties

Google has been ordered to pay a $5.05 billion fine and stop forcing Android smartphone makers to install its search engine and browser on their phones. That decision was handed down by the European Union's antitrust authority on Wednesday.

The ruling could open the way for smartphone makers to offer more choice, with devices running different versions of Android, or offering alternative browsers or search engines out of the box.

The European Commission found that Google has abused its dominant market position in three ways: tying access to the Play store to installation of Google Search and Google Chrome; paying phone makers and network operators to exclusively install Google Search, and preventing manufacturers from making devices running forks of Android.

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Internet meets tornado. Guess who wins?

IT pilot fish living just outside a small rural town isn't exactly swimming in internet options: There's no broadband, and the local phone company won't supply DSL to fish's home.

"That left dial-up -- until I discovered WiMax, which allowed line-of-site connection via a directional antenna on the house roof pointed to a transmitter on the city water tower five miles away," says fish.

"This worked great, and with UPSes, all the PCs and network equipment were protected from the various power outages, power spikes and brownouts that came our way on a fairly regular basis."

But one night there's a not-so-regular occurrence: A tornado roars through and tears things up. After the storm, fish discovers that his power lines are down and the WiMax directional antenna has been relocated from the roof to a nearby tree limb.

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What is a business analyst? A key role for business-IT efficiency
Business analyst help guide businesses in improving processes, products, services and software through data analysis. These agile workers straddle the line between IT and the business to help bridge the gap and improve efficiency.
How to handle Windows 10 updates

Confused about how updates work in Windows 10? Join the club. In this latest version of its operating system, Microsoft has transformed what was once a straightforward procedure into a seemingly complicated process that varies according to whether you have Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro or an enterprise or education edition. As a result, there have been lots of misperceptions about how Windows 10 Update works, and how to best use it.

Windows 10 update settings IDG

You can check for new updates in Settings.

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(Insider Story)
Microsoft lures Windows 2008 users to cloud with offer of extra support

Microsoft is dangling three years of additional support in front of customers running Windows Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 if they move the servers' workloads to Redmond's cloud-based Azure.

SQL Server 2008 -- and its follow-up, SQL Server 2008 R2 -- exit support July 9, 2019, or less than a year from now. Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will be retired from support about six months later, on Jan. 14, 2020. After those dates, the server software will not receive security updates, leaving them vulnerable to attack by hackers exploiting unpatched security flaws.

In an effort to entice customers to move to the cloud, Microsoft last week said it will provide three additional years of support to Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 when those systems' workloads are migrated to Azure virtual machines or Azure SQL Database Managed Instance, respectively. (The latter is a new service set to debut in the fourth quarter.) Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 workloads transferred to Azure will receive fixes for vulnerabilities rated "Critical" or "Important," until January 2023; SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will get the patches for bugs designated as "Critical," with the end of extra support coming in July 2022.

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Windows 10: A guide to the updates

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

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

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Stung by a festering pile of bugs on Patch Tuesday, MS releases 27 more patches

In what is becoming a common occurrence, Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday brought along so many bugs that they necessitated a remediation round. This month, unusually, it took only six days to get the exterminators out.

Since these fixes are aimed at four specific bugs introduced on Patch Tuesday, they don’t include the massive patches normally appearing on the second Patch Whateverday of the month. My guess is we’ll see at least one more big set of Windows patches before the month is out. Oh, boy.

Windows July patches, version 2

Yesterday, Monday, July 16, Microsoft released 27 new security patches for Windows, bringing the total number of patches so far this month up to 156. The new patches fall into six separate groups:

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Get ready for the next silly smartphone superlative

Smartphone marketing tends to revolve around superlatives — you know, words or phrases that suggest being the most something in all of the land.

The specific quality in question shifts pretty regularly (hey, you've gotta keep it fresh, right?). For a while, way back when, the boasting was all about having the phone with the most processing power. Since then, in no particular order, we've seen phone-makers focus on having the biggest, the smallest, the thinnest, the brightest, the most pixel-packing, and the least-bezel-showing devices. Oh, and don't forget megapixels. For the longest time, having the phone with the most megapixels was about as good as you could get in terms of ad-ready bragging rights.

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Oracle rolls out its own blockchain service

Oracle wants in on the blockchain-as-a-service game, too.

The company on Monday announced the availability of a fully-managed blockchain service over which businesses can automate processes over an immutable electronic ledger, such as tracking goods in a supply chain or handling customer financial transactions.

Blockchain-as-a-service {BaaS) offerings have grown over the past three years, enabling businesses to launch proof-of-concepts to test the distributed ledger technology without the capital costs required by an internal deployment. Other BaaS providers include IBM, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, SAP and Amazon Web Services.

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It's a Y2K miracle!

On the run-up to Y2K, this consultant pilot fish gets the job of making sure a state government department has all its patches and firmware up to date for the cutover.

"One of the sysadmins was more of a Lotus Notes admin and not really familiar with patching and firmware ugrades," says fish. "But he watched me as I patched a ton of Netware servers.

"One morning as I walked into the building I noticed him in the hallway, bouncing off the walls waiting for me to arrive.

"'You gotta help me,' he said. 'I upgraded the firmware on the Windows NT mail server and now it just blue screens!'

"I asked him if he upgraded the device drivers for the RAID controller too -- and just got that deer-in-the-headlights look of what's that for?

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Enterprise PC-buying spree spurs first shipment climb in six years

Shipments of traditional personal computers during the second quarter of 2018 grew by nearly 3% year over year, the largest increase since 2012, research firm IDC said last week.

According to IDC, computer makers shipped approximately 62.3 million systems in the June quarter. Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple and Acer were the top five OEMs (original equipment manufacturers); their shipments represented 78% of the total.

Rival research company Gartner pegged second-quarter growth at 1.4% and pointed out that it was the first year-over-year increase in 25 quarters. Gartner said that total shipments in the June quarter reached 62.1 million, with the same top five OEMs accounting for 74% of the global number.

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How to use Apple Maps more effectively

While we wait for Apple to implement its promised deep changes to Maps, here is how to use a few of the lesser-known features in the company’s navigation software.

Take control of Maps

I’m going to skip the basic stuff about using Maps. In this short guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Scroll Maps the easy way
  • Find and add pit stops to an existing route
  • Export a Map as a PDF
  • Find the car
  • Understand what Apple Watch is trying to tell you

There are lots of other Maps features. Take a look here and here for other ideas.

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The show must go on!

It's far away and long ago -- so long ago, in fact, that there are still IT trade shows where vendors can show off their wares, says a pilot fish working at just such a show.

"I was on hand to set up a demo machine," fish says. "The equipment arrived at a loading dock on one floor, but needed placement on a mezzanine area half a flight of stairs down.

"The person in charge of the demo was anxious to load the software and ensure everything was ready. But after moving some of the equipment down a ramp, the folks responsible for moving the 19-inch racks disappeared and were nowhere to be found...for a long time.

"A marketing guy returned from his liquid lunch, and conspired with me -- I was, somewhat sadly, naive -- to make the exhibitor happier by moving a rack down to the mezzanine.

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6 efficiency-enhancing Android apps

Your phone is now essentially your personal assistant — and like any aide, it needs the right set of tools to do its job effectively.

The good news? As an Android user, you've got no shortage of efficiency-enhancing options. Unlike other mobile platforms, Android affords you the opportunity to customize and control the core user interface to make it better suited to your needs. And while the more advanced UI-adjusting tools tend to be targeted at the power-user crowd, you don't have to be a card-carrying geek to take advantage of what they offer.

Behold: six innovative apps that'll empower your favorite high-tech helper and allow it to reach its full productivity potential.

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Why your smartphone needs 5 cameras

Who knew that the camera in your phone would turn out to be the most popular, useful and important technology in your life?

The human race will take 1.3 trillion photos this year, according to Keypoint Intelligence/InfoTrends. Smartphones will be used for 87% of them.

Most of these pictures are useless and frivolous — not only selfies, but bad selfies that will never even be posted. Don’t even get me started about videos. Smartphone cameras are responsible for the biggest waste of storage space in history.

But a huge number of these photos are valuable for business or professional uses.

Businesspeople of all kinds are increasingly using smartphone cameras as all-purpose sensors for harvesting data from the environment, augmented reality, quick data entry and far more.

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Chat happens: Your guide to 11 group-chat services

Everyone knows the secret to success — personal and business alike — is good communication. But in what form? If you're trying to communicate with a group in real time, you're no doubt familiar with the old standby: conference calls. You know: those mind-numbing phone meetings in which talkers overlap, voice quality is terrible, half the people aren't paying attention and somebody's dog barks intermittently throughout the call.

But what's the alternative? Consider an old (very old) standby: instant messaging. Except nobody calls it that anymore; now it's group chat. These virtual meeting rooms are focused on text-based communication — and often vastly preferable to conference calls.

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(Insider Story)
Surface Pro 2 owners wonder: Will Microsoft ship TPM firmware that works?

If you have a Surface Pro 2, you’re in for yet another runaround. This time, the controversy surrounds the SP2’s TPM chip – the chip that controls access to BitLocker and some other disk encryption technology.

The SP2 shipped with an older, less-secure version of the TPM firmware. If your machine has an older version of the TPM firmware, you see a Win10 Defender warning like the one in this screenshot.

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Microsoft yanks buggy Office 2016 patch KB 4018385, republishes all of this month’s patch downloads

As I reported yesterday, the July 2018 Windows and Office patches teem with bugs. We’re just beginning to see the fallout.

The July 3 non-security Office 2016 patch KB 4018385 is officially yanked. If you don’t recall KB 4018385 — a small patch in a sea of Office fixes — the original KB article describes it thusly:

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