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Blockchain gains traction in FinTech as payment networks emerge

J.P. Morgan has created what is arguably one of the largest blockchain payments networks to date.

The financial services company announced that the Royal Bank of Canada and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. are the first two banks to join the blockchain network, "representing significant cross-border payment volumes."

J.P. Morgan created the Interbank Information Network (IIN), which it said will significantly reduce the number of participants needed to respond to compliance and other data-related inquiries that delay payments.

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Dropbox targets freelance pros with Showcase portfolios and Professional pricing tier

Dropbox has launched a new portfolio feature, Showcase, designed to help independent workers and small teams of professionals display and share documents more easily.

The idea is that freelance workers such as architects and designers can store content in Showcase before sharing information with clients. Documents are arranged in a branded portfolio in a “secure and polished way,” with customizable layouts, said Dropbox director of product, Vishal Kapoor. It is also possible to add text captions to files to introduce content topics to help create a narrative around what’s being shared.

Dropbox, which recently rebranded to appeal to “creatives,” has identified a large target audience: it is estimated that 35% of the U.S. workforce is now freelance, a group that as of 2016 totaled to 55 million people.

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Microsoft shuts down Krack with sneaky Windows update

Microsoft today revealed that it quietly patched Windows last week against vulnerabilities in the Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) protocol used to secure wireless networks.

Details of the security update were only published Monday to Microsoft's Security Update Guide, the catalog-like portal that earlier this year replaced the decades-old practice of delivering explanatory bulletins.

All supported versions of Windows received the update, according to the catalog listing, including Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2016.

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FinTech builds on blockchain for international mobile payments

IBM has partnered with a Polynesian payments system provider and an open-source FinTech payment network to implement a new international exchange based on a blockchain electronic ledger.

The new payment network uses IBM's Blockchain Platform, a cloud service, to enable the electronic exchange of 12 different currencies across Pacific Islands as well as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

KlickEx Group, a United Nations-funded, Pacific-region financial services company, and Stellar.org, a nonprofit organization that supports an open-source blockchain network for financial services, are backing the new cross-border payments service.

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Microsoft's anti-malware sniffing service powers Edge to top spot in browser blocking tests

Microsoft's Edge browser, the default in Windows 10, blocked a higher percentage of phishing and socially-engineered malware (SEM) attacks than Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox, a Texas security testing firm said Friday.

According to NSS Labs of Austin, Tex., Edge automatically blocked 92% of all in-browser credential phishing attempts and stymied 100% of all SEM attacks. The latter encompassed a wide range of attacks, but their common characteristic was that they tried to trick users into downloading malicious code. The tactics that SEM attackers deploy include links from social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and bogus in-browser notifications of computer infections or other problems.

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Microsoft sunsets Windows 10's first feature upgrade

Microsoft today will deliver the final security update for Windows 10's first feature upgrade, the version released in November 2015.

Windows 10 1511 -- Microsoft labels its feature upgrades in a yymm format -- will receive its last security patches, then fall off Microsoft's support list. The company had announced 1511's retirement several times in the past, notably in a support lifecycle fact sheet on Microsoft's website.

Today is also October's "Patch Tuesday," the month's release of security updates for Microsoft's products. The company has tied the end of support for Windows 10's feature upgrades to Patch Tuesdays. The next in line after 1511, last year's 1607 -- aka "Anniversary Update" -- has been tentatively scheduled to drop out of support in March 2018. If true, Microsoft will undoubtedly call it quits on March 13, 2018, another Patch Tuesday.

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Nvidia wants enterprises to join it in Holodeck VR environment

Nvidia is inviting 3D designers aboard its Holodeck, a high-resolution collaborative environment that businesses can use to design, develop and demonstrate their products in virtual reality.

But while Nvidia's move shows its commitment to helping creators of photorealistic VR environments, Nokia is pulling out of a related business, the development of a 360-degree camera that captured immersive video for use in VR.

Nvidia's Holodeck is somewhere between a conferencing suite and a 3D design tool. The company is pushing it as a something enterprises can use to visualize anything from engineering prototypes to finished products or buildings, allowing staff to collaborate remotely in a shared environment.

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Facebook's Workplace takes aim at enterprise users with desktop chat app

Facebook has rolled out Windows and Mac desktop apps for its Workspace enterprise chat tool.

Workplace Chat is the business equivalent of the company’s popular consumer Messenger app, which has 1.2 billion monthly active users. The chat platform is available as part of the Workplace enterprise social network, which is now used by more than 14,000 organizations; Wal-mart most recently became a customer.

Until now, Workplace Chat was only accessible via mobile app or through a web browser; Facebook launched its enterprise collaboration platform in October 2016, offering features such as voice and video calling.

The beta launch of the desktop client, which TechCrunch reported last week, will make it easier for employees who tend have many browser tabs open at once to view notifications. It is reportedly one of the most requested features from customers, and will be tested with beta users ahead of a wider roll out. 

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Mozilla to stop all support for Firefox on Windows XP and Vista

Mozilla plans to halt all Firefox security updates next year to personal computers powered by either Windows XP or Windows Vista, closing that chapter of its browser's history.

"Today we are announcing June 2018 as the final end-of-life date for Firefox support on Windows XP and Vista," Mozilla said in an unsigned post to a company blog.

Windows XP and Vista have both been retired by Microsoft, XP in April 2014 and Vista in April 2017. Once dropped from support, an operating system stops receiving security updates from Microsoft. Third-party application developers, however, may continue to support their products on retired versions of Windows.

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Apple, Microsoft patch iOS 11 email flaw

A flaw in iOS 11 that left some users of Microsoft email unable to send messages has been fixed, the companies said.

Email accounts hosted by Microsoft on Outlook.com, Office 365, or an Exchange Server 2016 running on Windows Server 2016 were affected by the software glitch.

Some users of mobile devices running iOS 11 have been receiving error messages that read: "Cannot Send Mail. The message was rejected by the server."

The problem was noted by Apple iOS 11 users in a post on Reddit.com.

On Sept. 19, Apple published a support document stating it was working with Microsoft to fix the issue, which was described as iOS 11 not being able to successfully create an HTTP/2 Transport Layer Security connection; that kept it from connecting to email clients and prohibited outgoing email from being delivered.

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Zoho Cliq is the latest group chat tool to rival Slack and Microsoft Teams

Zoho has unveiled the latest challenger to Slack and Microsoft Teams with the launch of Cliq — a team messaging tool that integrates into its range of business apps.

The core features found in Cliq will, for the most part, be familiar to users of established workplace collaboration tools, with group chat, file-sharing, video and voice call functionality. Separate channels can be set up for discussions with individual teams or around specific projects.

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Mozilla previews its faster 'Firefox Quantum' browser

Mozilla this week unveiled a preview of a redesigned, re-engineered Firefox, dubbed "Quantum," making good on its commitment to rejuvenate the browser.

"We're releasing the Beta of a whole new Firefox, one that's powered by a completely reinvented, modernized engine," Nick Nguyen, who leads product development on the browser, said in a Tuesday post to a company blog. Officially designated version 57, the release has also been given the Quantum name, said Nguyen, to "convey the magnitude of the changes" in the browser.

Mozilla has numbered, but never named, its Firefox releases.

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Google tightens grip on Android hardware with HTC deal

Google is buying its way back into the smartphone business, almost four years after selling its stake in Motorola Mobility to Lenovo.

It's a sign that Google is committed to tighter integration between the Android operating system and specialized smartphone hardware. That could be good news for app developers and Android phone buyers alike: As Apple has shown with the video processing and artificial intelligence features of its iPhone X, there is much to be gained by tightly coupling software and hardware.

Google never entirely quit the hardware business. Since selling Moto, it has continued to release smartphones and tablets under its own brand, but these were designed and manufactured by other companies, including LG and HTC.

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Apple upgrades Safari for older versions of macOS

Apple upgraded the macOS Safari browser to version 11 this week, adding a feature that has drawn the ire of the online advertising industry.

Safari 11 can be downloaded to Macs running 2016's Sierra or 2015's El Capitan from the Mac App Store. Users can access that e-mart by clicking on the Apple menu at the top left of the screen, then choosing "App Store..." The browser upgrade should appear under the "Updates Available" section.

The browser will also be bundled with macOS 10.13, aka High Sierra, set to release Monday, Sept. 25. This week's upgrade targeted users who will, whether permanently or temporarily, stick with the older Sierra or El Capitan.

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Sounds of Silence: What's coming to Google Chrome in 2018

Google will strangle most auto-playing audio in early 2018 when it issues Chrome 64, the upgrade expected to ship Jan. 21-27, the search giant promised last week.

"Chrome will be making auto-play more consistent with user expectations and will give users more control over audio," wrote Mounir Lamouri, a Chrome software engineer, in a post to a company blog.

With Chrome 64, auto-play contents - often, but not always, advertisements - will not be allowed to run automatically unless it mutes the audio. There will be some exceptions, including a very large one: If the user has clicked or tapped (desktop Chrome or mobile Chrome, respectively), "somewhere on the site during the browsing session," the audio may play.

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Trello adds desktop apps for Windows and Mac users

Trello users can now access the project management tool directly from their desktop after the launch of native Windows and Mac apps.

The software had previously been browser-based only, meaning that Trello boards could easily get lost amid a multitude of browser tabs.  The company said in a blog post that the desktop app should make the software simpler to use, since Trello has added a navigation sidebar to help keep track of boards in a similar fashion to channels on collaboration tools such as Slack. 

Other features include “more granular” keyboard shortcuts and desktop notifications. Those using the latest Mac Book Pro laptops will also be able to open boards and create new cards from the Mac’s Touch Bar.

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What’s coming next for Slack? Plenty

SAN FRANCISCO – At Frontiers, the Slack users conference held here this week, company officials shared a roadmap of new features, including many designed specifically for enterprise customers, that the company plans to release during the next 12 months.

Several additions are in the works for Enterprise Grid, the enterprise version of Slack released in January. Enterprise Grid includes advanced security controls and  user and administrative functions for an unlimited number of workspaces. It also includes an e-discovery API that lets companies capture content.

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Slack launches shared channels to connect teams across companies

Slack is introducing shared channels to make it easier for employees at separate companies to collaborate using its messaging software.

The service, announced at the Slack Frontiers event that kicked off in San Francisco on Tuesday, is available as an open beta release to Slack Standard and Plus subscribers.

“About two-thirds of existing customers use guest accounts in some capacity to work with individuals or other teams,” said Slack product manager Sean Rose. “Shared channels make that process much smoother and much closer to how you work with your own company, using channels in your own organization.”

Slack has supported guest accounts since 2014 – a feature Microsoft added to its competing Teams software just this week.  But while it had been possible for separate organizations to communicate via Slack, workarounds were often required, Rose said, such as using a mix of guest accounts and email

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Here's the Apple macOS High Sierra release date

Apple on Tuesday quietly announced it will release High Sierra, this year's upgrade of the Mac's operating system software, on Monday, Sept. 25.

As has been Apple's habit for several years, the date was posted on the company's website. The news did not rate a mention during the lengthy introductions of the year's new iPhones, the 8 and 8 Plus and the $999 iPhone X.

High Sierra will be the second under the "macOS" brand introduced in 2016, when Apple dropped the older "OS X" and formatted the Mac operating system label to match others in its stable, including iOS and tvOS. High Sierra is also known as macOS 10.13 using the Cupertino, Calif. company's numerical labeling.

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The Evolution of Apple's iPhone
The iPhone, then and now
Apple's iPhone Evolution

Image by Computerworld / Apple

The iPhone has come a long way since its arrival in 2007.

First iPhone
Apple's iPhone, first generation

After months of rumors and speculation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone on Jan. 9, 2007. The device, which didn’t actually go on sale until June, started at $499 for a 4GB model, $599 for the 8GB version (with a two-year contract). It offered a 3.5-in. screen, a 2-megapixel camera and won plaudits for the then-new multitouch features. Critics, however, said the phone was too expensive to do well in the market. [See iPhone launch story here.]

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Here's the Apple iOS 11 release date...

Apple today said that it will release iOS 11, the latest operating system for its iPhone and iPad line-ups, on Sept. 19, or a week from now.

If the Cupertino, Calif. company follows tradition, it will issue the upgrade at approximately 10 a.m. PT, or 1 p.m. ET.

Apple first revealed changes to iOS in June, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), where it touted new features and enhancements targeting the iPad above all. Analysts liked what they saw of iOS 11 then, and called out several important additions, including the new Files app, that they believed would make Apple's tablet a stronger PC alternative.

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Sapho to add IBM Connections integration in ‘micro app’ platform update

Sapho is including new software integrations in the latest version of its “micro-app” platform, adding IBM Connections to its list of supported collaboration tools. Other integrations in the 4.2 release include BlackBerry Dynamics and SAP SuccessFactors.

The California firm, founded in 2014, creates front-end applications that sit on top of enterprise software and systems of record. These single-purpose apps enable employees to interact with legacy corporate applications more easily, simplifying complex workflows and pushing data out to a range of channels such as email clients, mobile apps and collaboration platforms.

Saphos plans to formally unveil the changes Wednesday. 

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Apple's 2017 iPhone 8 (and iPhone X) event live blog

Today may, or may not, go down in Apple’s history as the date it set the scene for another decade of smartphone industry leadership. We'll know more after Apple's iPhone event, which begins today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT (and 6 p.m. in the UK).

[ To comment on this story, visit Computerworld's Facebook page. ]

We’re expecting the new iPhone X and iPhone 8 range, an all-new Apple TV (with 4K video and improved gaming performance), and a truly smart Apple Watch with its own LTE connection.

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IFA: The 'corporate' electronics show
IFA: The corporate electronics show
ifa 2017 electronics show

Image by Peter Sayer/IDG

IFA, the consumer electronics show held in Berlin each September, has something for everyone -- including the corporate buyer. True, its many halls are dominated by home entertainment equipment and white goods such as smart washing machines and connected refrigerators. But some of the products on show would be equally at home in the enterprise. Here's a quick tour of 2017's crop. 

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Microsoft Teams gets a boost with Adobe partnership

Microsoft and Adobe have strengthened their strategic partnership with new product integrations aimed at boosting workplace productivity.

As part of the effort, Adobe Sign is now the “preferred” e-signature platform for Microsoft’s product portfolio, the two companies said in a statement Thursday. For Adobe, this means potential access to 100 million users of Microsoft Office365 suite as well as the Dynamics CRM platform.

Other Sign integrations include Microsoft Flow, a workflow management tool launched last year; OneDrive cloud document storage; and Microsoft’s Slack-competitor, Teams.

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What's in the latest Chrome update?

Google on Wednesday released Chrome 61 for Windows, macOS and Linux, adding several new behind-the-scenes features -- including one that lets web apps access USB peripherals -- and patching 22 security vulnerabilities.

Chrome updates in the background, so most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. (To manually manage an update, select "About Google Chrome" from the Help menu under the vertical ellipsis at the upper right. The ensuing page either shows the browser has been updated or displays the download-upgrade process before presenting a "Relaunch" button.) New to Chrome? It can be downloaded from this Google site.

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Apple’s next-generation iPhones to ship in September?

Apple will announce the future of its decade-old iPhone franchise at a special event in the Steve Jobs Theater at its Apple Park campus on Sept. 12, with many claiming the company will ship its new devices just 10 days later.

Momentum builds for new iPhones

Expected to be available in three varieties, including upgraded iPhone 7S models and an all-new high-end device, and predicted to cost up to $1,299, the new smartphones are expected to become the biggest-selling mobile phones this season.

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WhatsApp turns its attention to business

Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp has unveiled plans to develop standalone versions of its mobile app aimed at connecting businesses and their customers more easily. 

WhatsApp Business will be free for small businesses, with a paid-for enterprise version targeted at those with a global customer base – an indication of one way Facebook plans to monetize the app, which now has a billion daily users.

In a blog post Tuesday, the company said the proposed enterprise app will allow large organizations including airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks to contact customers with notifications, such as “flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates”.

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MobileIron adds Apple security along with support for iOS 11

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) software vendor MobileIron today announced its Apple release, aimed at the growing need for enterprises to provide IT managers with more robust management and security features for Macs.

While Windows and even Chrome-based laptops are already included in EMM consoles, macOS hardware has traditionally been treated as an outlier in the office, according to Nick McQuire, vice president of Enterprise Research at CCS Insight.

While MobileIron's software suite already supported macOS for basic functions, including device configuration, millennials entering the workforce favor Apple's line of laptops – driving the need for a unified endpoint management strategy that includes security and bulk licensing, according to Ojas Rege, MobileIron's chief strategy officer.

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Microsoft slates September release for Windows Server's first fast upgrade

Microsoft will release the first upgrade to Windows Server 2016 the last week of September.

"We'll be launching Windows Server, version 1709, at Ignite," Jeff Woolsey, a manager in Microsoft's Windows Server group, wrote on a company blog on Thursday.

Ignite, the conference successor to the long-running TechEd, will run Sept. 25-29 in Orlando, Fla.

Windows Server 1709, labeled in Microsoft's yymm release format, will be the first of an every-six-months upgrade cycle. The Redmond, Wash. company introduced the new cadence in June, saying at the time that it was synchronizing Windows Server upgrades with ones for both Windows 10 and Office 365.

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