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What’s in the latest Firefox update? Firefox 71 plays picture-in-picture catch-up

Mozilla this week released Firefox 71, touting a picture-in-picture video mode and new ways to preview a VPN (virtual private networking) service that will be offered to customers next year.

Security engineers included patches for 11 vulnerabilities, six marked “High,” the second-most-serious threat rating. None were tagged “Critical.” Some of these flaws might be exploitable by cyber criminals, Mozilla said. “This could have caused heap corruption and a potentially exploitable crash,” the firm noted of one vulnerability, labeled CVE-2019-11745.

Firefox 71 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from Mozilla’s site. Because Firefox updates in the background, most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. To manually update, pull up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right, then click the help icon (the question mark within a circle). Choose “About Firefox.” The resulting page shows that the browser is either up to date or describes the refresh process.

Mozilla refreshes Firefox every six to eight weeks; it last upgraded the browser Oct. 22.

PiP PiP, and all that

Mozilla trumpeted a new Picture-in-Picture (PiP) mode within Firefox 71. “Picture-in-Picture allows a video to be contained in a separate and small window, and still be viewable whether you switch from tab-to-tab or outside the Firefox browser,” wrote Marissa Wood, vice president of product, in a Dec. 3 post to a company blog._

Although PiP was available only in Windows’ version of Firefox 71, the feature will be baked into the next upgrades for macOS and Linux, Mozilla said. Currently, Firefox 72 has been pegged with a Jan. 7 release date.

(If that January ship date for Firefox 72 seems earlier than it should, it is. In September 2019, Mozilla announced it would speed up Firefox releases by reducing the interval between upgrades. Starting with Firefox 74, set to debut March 10, the interval will drop to just four weeks. Mozilla will shorten the interval in steps; the six-week stretch between Firefox 70 and 71 will be reduced to five weeks between 71 and 72, and between 72 and 73.)

Not every video will play in PiP; those that do will display a small blue-backed “Picture-in-Picture” when the mouse cursor is hovered over the image. Clicking on that message deposits a frame on the desktop, video inside. The frame can be moved and resized at will.

Firefox pip Firefox

Firefox 71 debuts Picture-in-Picture (PiP), letting users pull video off a tab so that viewing can continue even when working in another tab or application.

And as Wood mentioned, the video is independent of the tab from which it spawned; that tab does not need to remain active and, in fact, the user can step outside the browser to another application’s window and the video will continue.

Firefox is somewhat late to the PiP party. Apple’s Safari now has PiP – as of the October upgrade, macOS Catalina – and Google’s browser has had it since Chrome 70 (an October 2018 upgrade). But Firefox’s implementation is significantly easier to use than Chrome’s, which required two right-clicks to initiate in Windows (and Computerworld was never able to successful call up PiP in Chrome on macOS).

Testing, testing of services

Other than PiP, Mozilla’s other Firefox 71 area of attention is further testing of its “Firefox Private Network” (FPN), the browser extension the company released in September. FPN accesses a VPN-like service that encrypts browser-to-site-and-back traffic and was free to Firefox Account holders in the test phase that kicked off then. Website security vendor Cloudflare provided the proxy server for FPV.

That September offer, however, has been shuttered.

Instead, a second testing phase launched alongside the debut of Firefox 71. Like the first, this “limited-time free service” relies on the FPN add-on to encrypt to-and-from-browser transmissions but comes with a major restriction: Usage tops out at 12 hours each month.

After signing up for the free deal, users are given a dozen passes, each good for an hour of encrypted traffic. “To claim a pass, simply turn Private Network on,” the beta’s explanatory page stated. “Use Firefox as usual, and your browsing will be encrypted and sent through a proxy service provided by our trusted partner Cloudflare. Passes expire after one hour, even if you turn Private Network off. You’ll receive 12 new passes at the beginning of each month.”

Mozilla suggested that users switch on FPV (and so use one of the month’s 12 passes) when relying on a public network, such as at a coffee shop or an airport.

As an alternative, Firefox users can request an invitation to a full VPN service, which for $4.99 month encrypts traffic to and from up to five devices. Mozilla called this a “paid beta.” The VPN service uses servers around the globe controlled by Mullvad, a Swedish VPN that sells its services for €5 per month. Initially, the Firefox offer only applies to users running Windows 10, although Mozilla said, “other platforms coming soon.”

Mozilla has struggled to create non-search related revenue streams – in 2018, the vast bulk of its income came from deals that put various search engines as the Firefox default – and this effort is the second time the organization has tapped a paid VPN as one solution.

Elsewhere in Firefox 71, Mozilla added a “kiosk” mode for businesses and the browser now notifies users when Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) blocks cryptominers.



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Is that you or a virtual you? Are chatbots too real?

In a recent episode of HBO’s TV show, Silicon Valley, Pied Piper network engineer Bertram Gilfoyle (played by actor Martin Starr), creates a chatbot he calls “Son of Anton,” which interacts on the company network with other employees automatically, posing as Gilfoyle.

For a while, Pied Piper developer Dinesh Chugtai (played by Kumail Nanjiani) chats with the bot until during one interaction he sees Gilfoyle standing nearby, away from his computer. Upon discovering he’s been chatting with AI, Dinesh is angry. But then he asks to use “Son of Anton” to automate his interactions with an annoying employee.

Like Dinesh, we hate the idea of being fooled into interacting with software impersonating a person. But also like Dinesh, we may fall in love with the idea of having software that interacts as us so we don’t have to do it ourselves.

[ Related: Will Google’s AI make you artificially stupid? ]

We’re on the brink of confronting AI that impersonates a person. Right now, AI that talks or chats can be categorized in the following way:

  1. interacts like a human, but identifies itself as AI
  2. poses as human, but not a specific person
  3. impersonates a specific person

What all three of these have in common is — regardless of their pretenses to humanity — they all try to behave like humans. Even chatbots that identify themselves as software are increasingly designed to interact with the pace, tone and even flaws of human interaction.

[ Don’t miss: Mike Elgan every week on Insider Pro ]

I detailed in this space recently the subtle difference between Google’s two public implementations of its Duplex technology. It’s use to answer calls when someone calls a Google Pixel phone is the first kind of AI — it identifies itself to the caller as AI.

The other use of Duplex, which was the first Google demonstrated in public, started out as the second kind. After

 

In a recent episode of HBO’s TV show, Silicon Valley, Pied Piper network engineer Bertram Gilfoyle (played by actor Martin Starr), creates a chatbot he calls “Son of Anton,” which interacts on the company network with other employees automatically, posing as Gilfoyle.

For a while, Pied Piper developer Dinesh Chugtai (played by Kumail Nanjiani) chats with the bot until during one interaction he sees Gilfoyle standing nearby, away from his computer. Upon discovering he’s been chatting with AI, Dinesh is angry. But then he asks to use “Son of Anton” to automate his interactions with an annoying employee.

Like Dinesh, we hate the idea of being fooled into interacting with software impersonating a person. But also like Dinesh, we may fall in love with the idea of having software that interacts as us so we don’t have to do it ourselves.

[ Related: Will Google’s AI make you artificially stupid? ]

We’re on the brink of confronting AI that impersonates a person. Right now, AI that talks or chats can be categorized in the following way:

  1. interacts like a human, but identifies itself as AI
  2. poses as human, but not a specific person
  3. impersonates a specific person

What all three of these have in common is — regardless of their pretenses to humanity — they all try to behave like humans. Even chatbots that identify themselves as software are increasingly designed to interact with the pace, tone and even flaws of human interaction.

[ Don’t miss: Mike Elgan every week on Insider Pro ]

I detailed in this space recently the subtle difference between Google’s two public implementations of its Duplex technology. It’s use to answer calls when someone calls a Google Pixel phone is the first kind of AI — it identifies itself to the caller as AI.

The other use of Duplex, which was the first Google demonstrated in public, started out as the second kind. After initiating a restaurant reservation using the Google Assistant, Duplex would call a restaurant, interact as a person — but not a specific, living person — and not identify itself as AI. Now Google has added a vague disclosure to the beginning of the call.

And, in fact, this is the main type used by the proliferating customer service chatbots from companies like Instabot, LivePerson, Imperson, Ada, LiveChat, HubSpot and Chatfuel. Chatbots have proved to be a boon for customer service and sales. And they all identify themselves as bots.

Gartner estimated last year that one-quarter of all customer service and support operations will integrate AI chatbots by next year, up from less than two percent in 2017.

AI chatbots are everywhere (and anyone)

When we think of “customer service,” we think of calling on the phone specifically for help of some kind. But, increasingly, this interaction is happening through websites and apps as reminders or notifications. The Uber app notifies you than your car is arriving. Airline apps let you know about changes to your flight. It’s generally left up to the customer to assume that the interaction is coming from a human or a machine.

Does anybody care if they’re talking or chatting with a human or machine? And if they do, will they care in a few years after everyone is more accustomed to AI-based interaction?

In surveys, people will say that they’d rather speak to a human than a bot. But researchers at the Center for Humans and Machines at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin found that interactions with chatbots are most successful if the chatbot impersonates a human. In the research, published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, the goal was for chatbots to earn cooperation from humans. When the people thought the bots were human, they were more likely to cooperate.

The researchers’ conclusion: “Help desks run by bots, for example, may be able to provide assistance more rapidly and efficiently if they are allowed to masquerade as humans.”

In other words, because people are less likely to cooperate with chatbots, the best way forward is for chatbots to impersonate humans and not identify themselves as AI.

Android founder Andy Rubin agrees. As the now-CEO of phone maker Essential Products, he’s been working on a tall, skinny smartphone code-named Gem. Critics blasted the phone’s design, suggesting that the screen is too skinny. But according to reports, the whole purpose of the phone is to use AI so the phone does things on behalf of the user — including communication. The user would interact with the phone mainly through voice commands, according to comments Rubin made to the press last year. And an AI chatbot would automatically reply to emails and text messages on behalf of the user. He told Bloomberg that the agent would be a “virtual version of you.”

It’s the stuff of Philip K Dick or William Gibson novels — “virtual agent” posting as a “virtual you” in “cyberspace.”

The lawmakers will have something to say about it. A California law went into effect on July 1 that requires AI to identify itself as non-human in any interaction. But it’s likely this law applies only to companies with a “public-facing” chatbot, and not to individual users of technologies like Rubin’s “virtual version of you.”

The problem with the moral panic around AI disclosure

When asked if they want AI to identify itself as non-human during interactions, most people will say yes — they want that. People don’t like the idea of being “fooled” into interacting with a machine.

The problem is that machine-based communication isn’t binary. Machines help us communicate in all kinds of ways, from grammar checkers to out-of-office auto-replies, to AutoCorrect, to Google’s Smart Compose.

People already get messages from chatbots that don’t disclose their non-humanity for simple things like the status of their delivery pizza. We interact every day with increasingly sophisticated interactive voice response (IVR) systems whenever we call the bank or airline for customer service. And when we do reach a human, they’re often reading from an AI-generated script.

I believe that the moral panic — or, more accurately, the vague displeasure — around AI that impersonates humans is temporary.

A few years from now, it will be like cookie disclosures on websites. Europe, California and a few other political entities will mandate AI disclosures. But most users will find those disclosures an annoying waste of time.

The technology is here and will soon grow ubiquitous. We might be annoyed to learn that person we’ve been yammering away with isn’t human. But we also might be thrilled to let chatbots interact on our behalf.

Either way, “Son of Anton” is coming.



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Amazon and Microsoft moves indicate that hardware OEMs may become obsolete

[Disclosure: Qualcomm and Microsoft are clients of the author.]

I’m at the Qualcomm 5G Summit this week and according to both them and Cisco, next year we should reach critical mass on 5G. I didn’t really think about how big a change this would be until I listened to what Qualcomm said about Microsoft’s new Surface X (upon which I’m writing this very column) and the announcement from Amazon on their new AWS Outpost initiative.

Separately these announcements are certainly interesting. Together they may mean a massive change back to something far more like the old IBM mainframe model than most of us realize. In that model, the vendor owned the entire technology stack and the user experience. In this new case, the vendors in question are cloud vendors not OEMs.

The old IBM model

The IBM model still prevailed when I took Computer Science in college. For the most part, IBM was the technology market back then. As the adage went, “no one lost their job buying from IBM.” Margins were good, employees got pensions, and for decades IBM and excellent customer service were so synonymous that it was nearly impossible to get an IBM shop to even try another vendor’s solution…outside of the mid-market where vendors like HP and DEC seemed to be able to acquire and hold small segments.

People trusted IBM and for good reason: IBM had their back…until the old guard retired out, new executives moved up, and the focus shifted from customer satisfaction to increasing profit. Then the wheels came off the IBM wagon and the firm went from dominant to nearly out of business. I was working at IBM when that happened. It wasn’t fun.

But, while it worked, it was amazing.

It does, however, suggest that the companies trying to bring this model back need to put in place a powerful process to assure similar mistakes don’t recur.

Microsoft Surface X

At the Qualcomm event they praised the Surface X, not just because it uses Qualcomm technology but because it’s a very different approach to a product: more like a terminal than a PC in terms of providing vendor control.

A typical PC generally comes from an OEM, but is defined by several vendors, including Intel or AMD and Microsoft. In fact, the user experience is mostly from Microsoft. If any of these vendors screw up – like Microsoft did with Windows ME, Vista, and 8 or Intel did with the security problems from two years ago – the OEM is screwed because they can’t mitigate the problem. In effect, none of these vendors owns the complete stack or the user experience and thus none of them can assure that experience.

Surface X, on the other hand, is all Microsoft: they co-designed the processor, they provide a custom version of Windows on the system, they even own the 4G wireless experience that connects the system. In effect, much like IBM owned the client experience on their mainframes, Microsoft owns the client experience on the Surface X.

And I can attest the result is a pretty amazing little system. It anticipates a future where the cloud provider provides a complete solution from client, through networking, to data resources. And when you own a thing completely, you can assure the user experience far better than if you don’t.

AWS Outposts

Amazon Outposts come at this differently. AWS has been overmatched when it comes to hybrid cloud deployments and instead of providing just a local instance like Microsoft and Google do, their Outpost effort includes hardware. Much like it is with the Surface X on the client Amazon in the cloud is assuring the stack above the client under a highbred model. In a way it’s taking what EMC did with their old VCE effort and moving it into the cloud world.

Having covered VCE as long as it existed, I know it enjoyed some of the highest customer satisfaction and loyalty of any product short of that old mainframe I’ve ever seen. So, they provide the entire IT backend experience and in a hybrid form with a solution that has been optimized for the AWS hybrid environment.

The power of the blend

Amazon and Microsoft both watch each other closely. If Microsoft copied Amazon Outposts and Amazon copied the Surface X but turned it into a line, you’d have an end-to-end blended solution both cost- and user experience-optimized from a single vendor.

And, if only to complete with each other, that outcome is almost certain now.

Google – who already has Pixel Chromebooks that emulate the Surface X and likes to build their own hardware – could easily follow.

The result would be three mega cloud vendors (Amazon, Google and Microsoft) specifying their own custom client, premise, and cloud offerings and showcasing the benefit of a true single throat to choke with solutions tuned top to bottom for the lowest cost and highest customer experience.

Then, seemingly suddenly, the existing hardware OEMs become redundant.

To avoid this the OEMs will need to drive innovation deeper into the technology stack, increase their investments in their own cloud efforts, and take another look at that old VCE model. Because in a new mainframe-like world based around the cloud, if you don’t have one, you’ll be like the guy without a chair when the music stops. Out of the game.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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28 keyboard shortcuts Mac users need to know

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

Esc

Never underestimate the power of the Esc key to get you out of trouble. Say you’re taking a screen shot and managed to select part of your screen for that shot, only to discover it’s the wrong part – tap Esc and you won’t need to worry about it. That’s basically the principle of Esc. Use it to cancel a previous command. Another example: Web page won’t load and is sucking up your system resources?

Tap Esc….

Command-W

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

Command-Y

A lot of people use QuickLook to preview items they’re looking for. To use QuickLook, select an item in Finder, press the Space bar and a preview will appear. There’s also a keyboard shortcut — select an item (you can even use the Up and Down arrows to navigate to it in Finder view) and then press Command-Y.

Command – Comma (,)

This is one of the least-known keyboard commands on a Mac, but it’s super useful. It works like this: You are working in an app, and you want to open the application’s Preferences. You can navigate to the Menu bar if you like and scroll through to access the Preferences. Or you can simply press Command-, (comma) to get to them in the fastest possible time.

Command-G

I’m sure you use Command-F to find items, such as words in a document or on a webpage. Command-G is its lesser-known relative. Use it to navigate through each instance of the item you want to find. This means that if you use Command-F to find all the mentions of ‘Command’ on this page, and then tap Command-G, you’ll be able to navigate through each one. Oh, and you can also press Shift-Command-G to move back to the previous mention.

Command-M

Press this combination to minimize the front app window to Dock, or press Command-Option-M to minimize all the windows belonging to the front app.

Command and Option

If you can’t see your desktop for all the open applications, just hold Command and Option down and click anywhere on your desktop. You may just want to get to all the open windows for a specific app, in which case hold down the same keys and click on any available window for that app.

Command-Shift-A

Select this combination when in Finder/Desktop view to get to your Applications folder, or replace the A with U to open your Utilities folder in a new Finder window (or D for Desktop, H for Home or I to access iCloud Drive).

Command-Space

The combination that can change your life, Command-Space invokes Spotlight, just depress these keys and start typing your query. (I guess you know about Command-tab already?)

Command-L

The fastest way to make a search or navigate to a Website in Safari, Command-L instantly selects the address bar: start typing your query, and select the appropriate choice using the up/down arrows on the keyboard.

Command-Tab

Open application switcher, keeping Command pressed, use Tab to navigate to the app you hope to use.

Command-Option-D

Show or hide the Dock from within most apps.

Fn-left arrow (or right arrow)

Jump directly to the top or bottom of a web page using the Function key and the right (to the bottom of the page) or left (to the top of the page) arrows on the keyboard. You can achieve a similar result using Command-Up or Command-Down. A third way is to use Control-Tab and Control-Shift-Tab.

Command-left/right arrows

Hit Command and the left arrow to go back a page in the browser window. Hit Command right to go forward again.

Tab nav

Navigate between multiple tabs using the Command-Shift-] or Command-Shift-[ characters.

Command-Shift-

The easiest way to see all your open tabs in one Safari window.

Option-Shift-Volume

Press Option-Shift and volume up/down to increase or decrease the volume on your Mac in small increments. You can also use Option-Shift to change display brightness in small amounts. Read even more Option secrets here.

Fn twice

Press the function (fn) key twice to launch Dictation on your Mac, start speaking, and press fn once you’ve finished. Here are some other ideas on controlling your Mac with your voice. NB: macOS Catalina now offers the far more powerful Voice Control, which lets you manage everything on your Mac using only your voice. Find out more about this here.

Option-File

In Safari, pressing the Option key while selecting the File menu lets you access the ‘Close Other Tabs’ command. Try the other Safari menu items with Option depressed to find other commands you probably weren’t aware of.

Option-Brightness Up (or down)

Use this command to quickly launch Displays preferences. Or press Option with the Mission Control or Volume (up/down) buttons to access preferences for Mission Control and Sounds.

Command – Backtick `

This is one of the least well-known keyboard commands on a Mac, but it’s super useful. Use this combination to move between open windows in your currently active app. It’s so useful you’ll wonder why you hadn’t used it before.

Control – Command – Space

Want to insert emoji or other symbols into what you write? Use Control-Command-Space to open the Character Viewer where you can select and use such symbols.

Touch Bar tip No. 1

If you use a MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, you can press Shift-Command-6 to grab an image of what is on your Touch Bar. Want to grab an image to place into the document you’re typing in? Just tap Control-Shift-Command-6 and the picture will be saved to your Clipboard for pasting it in.

Touch Bar tip No. 2

This MacBook Pro Touch Bar tip is particularly useful if you find that you often  accidentally tap the Siri button: You can change where that button is located so you’re less likely to tap it by accident. Open Keyboard Preferences and choose Customize Control Strip. Look at the Touch Bar, and you’ll see the icons are slightly agitated. Move your cursor to the bottom of your screen and keep moving (as if you’re moving it off the screen); you should see one of the items in your Touch bar highlighted. Now move your cursor to highlight the Siri button and then drag and drop that button a space or two to the left.

(This is also an excellent way to become familiar with how you can edit other items in your Touch Bar.)

Touch Bar tip No. 3

Do you use the function keys regularly in some apps? You can get to them, of course,  by pressing the ‘fn’ character. But it’s also possible to set up the Touch Bar so it always shows the function keys in those apps. To do this, open Keyboard System Preferences, select Function Keys, and tap +. You can then select the app(s). Don’t worry if you want to use a regular Control Strip command when you’re using one of the apps — just press Fn to get back to that view.

Safari tips

There are lots of keyboard tips for the Safari browser:

  • Command + I: Open new email message with content of a page.
  • Command + Shift + I: Open new email message containing only the URL of a page.
  • Spacebar: To move your window down one screen.
  • Shift+Spacebar: To move your window up one screen.
  • Command + Y: Open/close the History window.

Command + Shift + T

This web browser tip can sometimes be a lifesaver. Command + Shift + T will open your last closed tab, which helps a lot if you are researching something and close a window without saving the URL.

Command + Control + Q

Walking away from your Mac? Tap this shortcut to immediately lock your machine.

You can also take a look at Apple’s own extensive collection of keyboard shortcuts for more great ideas.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic’s Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I’d like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.





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All about the latest iPhone location privacy scare

That story going round that claims iPhone 11 devices are secretly harvesting your location information even though you’ve told them not to do so? You don’t need to worry about it, and here’s why:

What’s the story?  

The tale begins when a security researcher noticed the devices seemed to be sending out location data even when Location Services were switched off on the iPhone.

He thought this was weird, but Apple reassured him that this was “expected behaviour” – and while the company took a little time to figure out what to say about this, it’s answer is convincing, once you know what it means.

What Apple said

The matter relates to iPhone 11’s U1 chip, which brings in an exciting (yet veteran) technology called Ultra Wideband (UWB).

Speaking to TechCrunch, Apple described UWB as an industry standard that is also subject to some regulatory usage limitations, meaning it can’t operate all the time.

Devices implementing it have to turn it off in some places, the company said.

Apple uses Location Services with UWB in order to ensure it is disabled in those places it is not permitted for use:

“The management of ultra wideband compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Security researchers seem to back this opinion up, saying there’s no evidence this location data gets shared beyond the device.

What is UWB?

I’ve written quite a lot about UWB, which is an old tech (first authorized in 2002) only now entering the light as the cost of its components fall and the case of using it grows.

The best way to see UWB is as a complementary technology to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (it can also replace them, but all three have advantages).

Apple media tend to focus on its time-of-flight capabilities, as it uses such data to figure out its position.

“The new Apple‑designed U1 chip uses Ultra Wideband technology for spatial awareness — allowing iPhone 11 Pro to precisely locate other U1‑equipped Apple devices. It’s like adding another sense to iPhone, and it’s going to lead to amazing new capabilities,” Apple has said.

What are the advantages of the standard?

However, UWB’s advantages are:

  • Can pass through walls better than both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
  • Has a range up to 100-meters.
  • Accurate up to 10cms.
  • Transmit data at 8 megabits (+) per second in mobile devices.
  • It requires very little energy.
  • Resistant to interference.

In other words, UWB is a low power solution that’s capable of sharing data in a hyper-local network that is also equipped enough to know where it is in relation to a compatible system it wants to communicate with.

Apple only has one current use for UWB in iPhones:

If you want to share items using AirDrop from one iPhone 11 to another, you just need to point your device at the other and that device will be first on your Share list.

This seems to me to be just the tip of the iceberg, given the standard’s other advantages.

It may certainly have implementation in Apple’s future product matrix.

What about security?

It is also highly secure – meaning its signals are hard to intercept and hard to crack, as I explained in this report:

“UWB is inherently more secure than Bluetooth. It works by sending out short pulses to other devices in range which then return the signal.

“The low range and wide wave bands supported by the standard make it much harder to spoof those pulses, while time-of-flight means the standard can tell precisely where an object is located.

“This means your keyless car entry system will actually know you are standing near the vehicle, and those pulsed and highly secured signals are much harder to intercept in man-in-the-middle and relay attacks. Not only do cars and doors know where you are, but the whole exchange is much harder to hack as the right signal coming from the wrong location won’t work.”

What this also means is that while your device is picking up location data which isn’t being shared, it is doing so in ways that cannot easily be hacked, cracked, hijacked or stolen.

Up next

UWB is already in use across factories and warehouses using UWB tags.

Car manufacturers are exploring the technology as a highly secure tool for keyless locking systems. Volkswagen recently demonstrated use of the standard (with AI) to provide walking pattern recognition, so the vehicle doesn’t just recognize the key, but also learns to understand who should be using that key.

Of course, in the current climate around the tech industry it’s no surprise so many people are concerned at machines that gather so much data about us – why wouldn’t we be?

It’s also fair to say that UWB is packed with features that could conceivably be used in some way to abuse privacy – it’s useful for indoor mapping, for example.

However, I guess Apple’s gamble here is to figure out how to provide convenience in conjunction with privacy, given that’s been its game plan for the last couple of years.

Though this doesn’t necessarily mean those products will remain as focused on user privacy in the event laws change, or management focus moves away from company-wide protection of it.

No company can really resist government regulation, after all.

But, if you want my reading of the current situation around UWB, the concern around its use of location is a little overblown, particularly because the data stays on the device.

In future it may become a lot more acceptable if you are able to use mesh-based UWB systems to find lost and stolen Apple devices logged into your Apple ID.

Which seems to me to be just one of the potential scenarios for this tech.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.





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HSBC’s plan to move $20B in assets to blockchain could be a watershed moment

Investment bank HSBC Holdings is using a blockchain distributed ledger technology (DLT) to digitize transaction records of private investments, enabling clients globally to access the details of their assets online in near real-time.

The London-based company, the seventh largest bank in the world, plans to move $20 billion in assets that include equity, debt and real estate onto its new Digital Vault blockchain, a shift away from its current use of paper records to respond to client search requests.

“The Digital Vault is live in Asia and will be rolled out in the U.S. and Europe in the first quarter of 2020,” an HSBC spokesperson said via email.

By getting investors to interact with this data on the blockchain through decentralized applications (dApps) supported by friendly user interfaces, HSBC is helping build the on-ramps and infrastructure needed to take blockchain DLT mainstream, according to Avivah Litan, a Gartner vice president of research.

“Presumably, millions of potential investors and users will be on-ramped to blockchain interfaces and they likely won’t even be aware of the backend technology,” Litan said.

Digital Vault, developed by HSBC’s Securities Services unit (HSS), is expected to eventually handle the custody of additional digital asset classes, enabling the bank to move more of the asset transaction lifecycle onto the ledger in the future.

HSBC is hardly going into the blockchain project blind. The bank has been involved with enterprise DLT firm R3 since at least 2015, so it has had time to research and test various blockchain ideas, according to Michela Menting, digital security & blockchain research director at ABI Research.

R3, which began as a financial services consortium and is now governed by more than 70 partner firms, created the Corda open-source DLT platform. R3 claims Corda is not a blockchain platform because it lacks a consensus algorithm that allows participants to validate ledger entries. Like blockchain, Corda is a permissioned or private DLT platform that also enables the creation of dApps for various financial services uses; Corda uses the Java programming language for its dApps.

The use of Blockchain DLT will likely not only speed up HSBC’s processes significantly and cut costs related to “middlemen” who engage in the time-consuming process of paper records research, but it will also boost interest and engagement by the bank’s clients in securities trading, Menting said.

“This is important for a bank that wants to transform into a more nimble and flexible organization, especially with the increased competition from FinTechs,” Menting said.

Stephen Bayly, HSBC’s CIO for Securities Services, said the bank is responding to clients who have been requesting real-time visibility into their private transactions so they know when they will receive the coupon on a private debt transaction or to facilitate a records audit.

“Private assets are prime candidates for digitization and we see this platform as a key step on the journey as the model evolves,” Bayly said in a statement. “We are preparing for the future, in which the full transaction lifecycle could be stored on a ledger, including issuing digital tokens instead of paper certificates.”

This year has seen several high profile projects using blockchain to convert assets into digital tokens, which can then be more easily purchased or traded domestically or across international borders. KPMG recently pointed to a wave of start-ups and established financial services firms, such as Fidelity Investments, launching various crypto products and services for the emerging tokenized economy. The firm suggested that a tokenized economy will likely be one of the more significant innovations enabled by cryptoassets like bitcoin, Litecoin and Ether.

Last month, JP Morgan, IBM, Intel and Microsoft created a consortium to jointly develop a blockchain-based token specification that would enable regulatory-compliant digital currency.

HSBC’s deployment of a blockchain digital custody platform is significant for several reasons, including the amount of assets being entrusted to the electronic ledger, as it joins a quickly growing trend in the financial investment market, according Litan.

“Blockchain DLT provides a shared single version of the truth based on immutable data and audit trails, critical qualities in shared financial recordkeeping. This implementation should also prove that the technology can scale to support global bank performance and data confidentiality requirements,” Litan said.

Even as HSBC and other financial firms are increasing their use of blockchain, Boston-based State Street Bank reportedly slashed more than 100 blockchain-related developer positions in a move away from the technology.

State Street is by no means abandoning blockchain, but it is curtailing in-house development of the technology based on the Hyperledger open source platform. It  now plans to focus more on creating digital assets such as tokenized stocks and bonds through cryptocurrencies, “rather than the heavy lifting work of re-plumbing front to back office with distributed ledger technology (DLT),” blockchain industry publication CoinDesk reported.

Blockchain is not middleware meant to tie into existing legacy systems, but there are methods for automating the flow of data from ERP systems to blockchain networks. Those ERP systems or databases that contain corporate data are known as “oracles.” The flow of data between oracles and blockchain ledgers is automated by smart contracts, a business automation software that runs on top of the distributed ledger.

To create its own blockchain digital ledger, HSBC must have done a lot of “heavy lifting,” given the technology and its supporting middleware components that connect to legacy systems, are still “relatively immature,” Litan said.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Shell game | Computerworld

Pilot fish is working for a client at the same time that a consulting firm is developing a new system for the support team. And fish is nearby when the job fails during one of the early production runs. The support staff looks it over, but is quickly lost, so fish is called on for help.

Fish finds that the system consists of nine programs that run in sequence within a single shell script. The final step had failed, resulting in a non-zero return code.

So fish reviews Program 9’s output, and finds that the file from Program 8 was missing. He and the support team lead then start looking through Program 8 and its log to determine why it didn’t produce the file — only to discover that the file from Program 7 was missing. They repeat through programs 6, 5, 4, 3, and finally back to Program 2, where they find the real cause of the failure: There was no error checking between the programs.

Fish explains that error checking at each stage would have saved hours, first in runtime, since the problem would have become known several steps before the job’s completion, and second in research time, because they wouldn’t have had to check all those same failed programs.

Feed the Shark! Send me your true tales of IT life at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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6 smart things to think over with Google’s CEO shakeup

Oh, hey — didja hear? Larry and Sergey are leaving! Google’s founders are jumping ship! THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT IS BEING SHAKEN UP AND TURNED UPSIDE-DOWN.

Well, kind of. It’s true that Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two fellas who started Google in what I can only assume was a somewhat dank and none-too-fresh-smelling garage some 20 years ago, are stepping back from their formal roles within the company. The pair announced as much in a public letter this week, saying it was “the natural time to simplify” the management structure and revealing that current Google CEO Sundar Pichai would take over the role of Alphabet CEO — a position held by Page up til now — in addition to retaining all of his existing duties.

(Brin’s job of Alphabet president — a position whose practical purpose was even more murky than Page’s CEO role — seems like it’ll simply be eliminated.)

Well, shiver me timbers: This all sure sounds pretty sporkin’ earth-shattering on the surface. And it certainly is significant, in some sense; after all, the once-influential creators of a company formally resigning from their management roles is monumental, at least from a historical and sentimental perspective.

But, well, Google isn’t exactly an ordinary organization. And so it only makes sense that there’d be more to this story.

Join me in thinking through some critical context to Google’s high-profile and widely misunderstood management shuffle, and let’s see if we can get to the bottom of what it really signifies.

Here we go:

1. Pichai was already overseeing Alphabet’s most important areas

Have you ever tried to explain to someone what Alphabet is? The first challenge is getting across the idea that Alphabet even is something, as hardly anyone who doesn’t watch tech like a hawk is aware that it exists.

Once you manage that, you invariably wade into the thorny subject of what Alphabet truly represents — a conversation that, in my experience, usually goes a little somethin’ like this:

“Um, well, y’see, a few years ago, Google decided to make itself one small part of a bigger umbrella company — kind of like a ‘holding company,’ I think? So Google is technically one wing of Alphabet, I guess, and other things that used to be part of Google are now their own separate wings of Alphabet.”

Oh, I get it! So, like, YouTube and Android and Nest and whatever are all their own baby companies, alongside Google, and Alphabet is the papa?

“Uh….well, not exactly. I mean, YouTube and Android are still part of Google. Nest was its own separate wing under Alphabet for a while, but it’s back within Google now, too.”

Huh. So what else is under Alphabet, then?

And that’s usually where you coyly try to change the subject (or just give up and gallop out of the room while making cacaw sounds as a distraction).

I mean, honestly, how many Alphabet companies — outside of Google — can you name? Assuming you aren’t a professional industry “pundit” (which I’m pretty sure is a euphemism for “unemployed blowhard”), at best, you might come up with “some health research thing, some investment stuff or other, and something about hot air balloons?” Heck, even Alphabet’s official website doesn’t appear to have been updated since the organization’s formation in 2015. You really have to do some serious digging to figure out what the hell it’s all about.

But once you do, you discover that beyond the health research thing, the investment stuff, and the something-about-hot-air-balloons matter, Alphabet has a handful of thus-far-unrealized experimental sorts of projects within it — including the DeepMind artificial intelligence research group and the Waymo self-driving, uh, brainstorming entity. It also houses the confusingly named Google Fiber — the once-promising-sounding effort to bring affordable high-speed internet access to all of America that’s now separated from Google and faded into barely-active-seeming obscurity.

When it comes to the more significant parts of the Alphabet operation, though, both from a business perspective and from the perspective of what actually impacts us as fragrant-footed bipeds who use the products — y’know, products like Google Search, YouTube, Maps, the whole advertising empire, and those silly little things we call Chrome and Android — well, those were already all under Pichai’s purview.

And that brings us to our second point:

2. Alphabet projects that become particularly significant seem to have a way of moving back to Google, anyhow

The most prominent example is Nest, and it’s an especially striking one: When Nest first became its own standalone entity, separate from Google and under the Alphabet umbrella, things didn’t exactly go well.

During its Alphabet era, the company — which was initially held up as an illustration of what the Alphabet-centric, everything-isn’t-Google model was supposed to achieve — lost its two co-founders and the founder of a high-profile connected camera company it acquired. It struggled to ship new products and seemed weirdly at odds with Google’s own smart-hardware-making efforts. Google even reportedly tried (and failed) to sell the organization off altogether at a certain point, and stories abounded about discontent and frustration within the Nest ranks.

Now united with Google’s hardware team, Nest is shipping products and slowly but surely settling on a cohesive strategy. Its story is far from finished, but it’s certainly a dramatic turn from where it was a few short years ago.

Google similarly swallowed up Alphabet’s enterprise security company Chronicle this past summer, just a few months after Chronicle released its first official product. From the sounds of it — with a little between-the-lines reading — out in the real world, Chronicle wasn’t acquiring its own clients quickly enough and so it made more sense for it to become a part of Google’s existing Google Cloud service instead of awkwardly trying to succeed as its own standalone entity.

See the trend here?

3. Page and Brin have already, by most measures, been mostly absent for a while

Perhaps the most important unspoken takeaway from this week’s shift is the fact that the whole thing seems more symbolic than anything — more of a formalization of something that had largely already happened as opposed to a sudden shocking change.

To wit: Neither Page nor Brin has had any significant public role within Alphabet in ages. Neither even attended the company’s last two shareholder meetings. When someone appears publicly on the organization’s behalf — be it at an investor-focused event, a customer-focused unveiling, or a politically required meeting or hearing of some sort — it’s almost always Pichai (along with other appropriate executives).

Even within Google’s walls, the founders have long been conspicuously absent, according to numerous reports. In June, Bloomberg posed the question: “Where Is Larry Page? Alphabet Deserves Better” — the title of an article that made a pretty damning proclamation:

Alphabet has both a functional CEO in Pichai and a figurehead CEO who busies himself with far-off technology and is otherwise increasingly a ghost inside and outside of the company. …

Everyone would like to do only the interesting parts of a job and skip the unpleasant or dull tasks. That’s not how adult life works, and that isn’t how a public company should work, either.

Page and Brin had even both mostly stopped attending their company’s legendary “TGIF” town-hall-style pow-wows for employees — a noteworthy contrast from the past, when their presence was generally considered a given. (Those meetings have also since been scaled back and revamped into more structured monthly meetings about “product and business strategy,” but that’s another discussion for another time.)

4. Page and Brin may be formally stepping down in title, but they’re ultimately still in control

This part is key: While both of Google’s founders are relinquishing their managerial titles — “assum[ing] the role of product parents, offering advice and not but not daily nagging,” as they put it — the two still have total command of their company’s course.

It’s no exaggeration: Page and Brin control more than 50% of the voting power on Alphabet’s board, where they’ll stay on as members. They’re effectively kings of the Alphabet empire, in other words, and they’ll continue to make the big decisions even if they aren’t doing the day-to-day legwork.

That little tidbit makes the change in titles seem slightly less significant, doesn’t it?

5. Page and Brin are reducing their roles at a time when strong leadership is most needed — and arguably most difficult

It’s not a frequent subject of discussion in these more practical-impact-focused quarters of ours, but it’s no secret that Google (and thus also Alphabet) is facing some serious challenges as a company right now — challenges that relate to labor issues and employee unrest as well as broader and not entirely unrelated questions about the company’s culture. And that’s to say nothing of the growing storm of political and regulatory hurdles that’s long been a-brewin’ and threatening to explode.

Page and Brin, perhaps not surprisingly, don’t seem particularly interested in such issues. They’re engineers — product guys. This stuff is difficult, dull, and presumably far less rewarding than achieving some awe-inspiring new technological breakthrough.

And while Google is of course still simultaneously charging forward on the tech front, it’s hard not to think that the cultural, political, and regulatory issues are gonna be the biggest and most consequential challenges for the company in the months and maybe even years ahead — particularly from the perspective of a founder or executive.

Maybe Page and Brin aren’t the right guys to steer that ship. It’s certainly easy to see why they might not want to; even in a simpler past, Page was known to shy away from the more mundane managerial tasks, devoting his time and attention more toward product strategy and then outsourcing policy, budgets, and other such dry matters to folks who seemed better suited to handle ’em. He often spoke of wanting Google to act more like a startup, and there’s nothing less startup-like than dealing with bureaucratic monotony.

6. The impact of this change — for us, as users — seems likely to be far less dramatic than what we’ve seen with Pichai’s previous promotions

Given everything we’ve just discussed, the notion of this change in leadership leading to any major practical changes for us — not investors or shareholders or employees but simply the regular ol’ folk who rely on Google services — doesn’t seem especially likely.

Ultimately, the whole point of the Alphabet umbrella organization existing in the first place was to isolate the more experimental projects and thus allow Larry Page to focus on such “bigger-picture” thinking while Sundar Pichai handled the day-to-day business operations. The other point was to separate the less immediately profitable parts of the operation from the viable Google businesses and thereby to enhance investors’ views of Google’s success.

Well, the Page part of the equation is no longer relevant. And the investor part of it was never especially relevant from any practical, user-oriented standpoint.

Now, compare that with six years ago, when Pichai — then a Google VP in charge of Chrome — took over as the chief of Android following Android creator Andy Rubin’s departure.

That change, as I noted back in 2013, made a significant and very noticeable difference: It made Android start to feel “more like a Google product and less like its own island within the Google universe” — with the first real steps toward a more Google-like design, the first prominent integration of non-Android-specific Google functionality, and generally just the beginning of a more consistent and connected sort of experience. It’s tough to remember now, but that was a pretty sharp change from the way Android had been up to that point.

And all of that’s to say nothing about the transformative Android-Chrome-OS alignment we’ve been seeing slowly take shape over the past several years, with seeds being planted around that same era.

Putting all of Alphabet under Pichai’s direction sure doesn’t seem likely to have anywhere near that level of outward-facing impact, even if it could perhaps lead to a similar sort of increased unification from an internal organization perspective. Heck, even if Pichai pulls the ultimate Google move and eventually “spring cleans” Alphabet itself into oblivion, the practical impact for us on the outside would presumably be pretty minimal.

To sum things up, then: The founders of Google are stepping down from managerial roles they haven’t really been actively practicing for a long time now while continuing to hold onto ultimate control of what happens within the company. And the guy who’s been in charge of all the important stuff for a while already will continue to be in charge of all the important stuff, just with some other odds and ends sprinkled on top.

It wouldn’t be Google if there weren’t some level of near-constant change, but all in all, this shift — monumental as it may be in certain senses — seems like something that’s more of a long-time-coming, logical sort of adjustment than any earth-shattering recalibration.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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All’s clear to install Microsoft’s November patches

The November passel of patches didn’t include anything earth-shattering; there were no emergency security breaches storming the gates, but good patching hygiene dictates that you get your machine braced for the next round.

If you install patches manually one by one (“Group B,” which I don’t recommend for mere mortals), you need to make sure you have the proper Servicing Stack Updates in place. They’ve all changed in the past month.

For those of you manually installing Win7 and 8.1 (and related Server) Security-only patches to avoid Microsoft’s pernicious snooping/telemetry, I have good news. For November, we haven’t detected the full-monty telemetry packages that were lurking in the July and September “Security-only” updates. 

As usual, Patch Lady Susan Bradley has full patch-by-patch details in her Patch Watch column (paywall).

Update

Here’s how to get your system updated the (relatively) safe way.

Note: If you install any Office updates, you may start seeing spurious “Query xxx is corrupt” error messages that look like the screenshot.

query is corrupt 1 Woody Leonhard/IDG

Should those start appearing, realize that they’re caused by a bug in the latest Office patches. You’ll have to manually download and install a fix for the bad patch. Microsoft has a list of the buggy patches and their fixes on the Office Support site.

Step 1. Make a full system image backup before you install the latest patches.

There’s a non-zero chance that the patches — even the latest, greatest patches of patches of patches — will hose your machine. Best to have a backup that you can reinstall even if your machine refuses to boot. This, in addition to the usual need for System Restore points.

There are plenty of full-image backup products, including at least two good free ones: Macrium Reflect Free and EaseUS Todo Backup. For Win7 users, If you aren’t making backups regularly, take a look at this thread started by Cybertooth for details. You have good options, both free and not-so-free.

Step 2. For Win7 and 8.1

Microsoft is blocking updates to Windows 7 and 8.1 on recent computers. If you are running Windows 7 or 8.1 on a PC that’s 24 months old or newer, follow the instructions in AKB 2000006 or @MrBrian’s summary of @radosuaf’s method to make sure you can use Windows Update to get updates applied.

If you’ve been relying on the Security-only “Group B” patching approach to keep Microsoft’s snooping software off your PC, this month you’re in luck — we haven’t detected a repeat of the full telemetry packages hidden in the July and September patches. That means you can install the June, August, October and November patches without covering Microsoft’s messy tracks.

For most Windows 7 and 8.1 users, I recommend following AKB 2000004: How to apply the Win7 and 8.1 Monthly Rollups. You should have one Windows patch, dated November 12 (the Patch Tuesday patch). 

Realize that some or all of the expected patches for November may not show up or, if they do show up, may not be checked. DON’T CHECK any unchecked patches. Unless you’re very sure of yourself, DON’T GO LOOKING for additional patches. In particular, if you install the November Monthly Rollup, you won’t need (and probably won’t see) the concomitant patches for October. Don’t mess with Mother Microsoft.

If you see KB 4493132, the “Get Windows 10” nag patch, make sure it’s unchecked.

Watch out for driver updates — you’re far better off getting them from a manufacturer’s website.

After you’ve installed the latest Monthly Rollup, if you’re intent on minimizing Microsoft’s snooping, run through the steps in AKB 2000007: Turning off the worst Win7 and 8.1 snooping. If you want to thoroughly cut out the telemetry, see @abbodi86’s detailed instructions in AKB 2000012: How To Neutralize Telemetry and Sustain Windows 7 and 8.1 Monthly Rollup Model.

If you’re worried about Windows 7 hitting end-of-support in January, don’t be alarmed. About a quarter of all Windows users will hit the end-of-support date, just like you. Win7 won’t suddenly stop working on Jan. 14, 2020. You have many options — and not all of them end with Windows. We follow the alternatives intently in the Seven Semper Fi series on AskWoody.

Step 3. For Windows 10 prior to version 1903

If you’re running Win10 version 1803, the November cumulative update is your last. You need to move on — but not necessarily in the direction Microsoft is pushing you. I have a full discussion of your options and step-by-step instructions for getting to the version that you want in Running Win10 version 1803 or 1809? You have options. Here’s how to control your upgrade.

If you’re using Win10 version 1809 — my production machines are still on 1809 — you should start thinking about moving to 1903. Microsoft has issued rivers of patches for 1903 in recent months, and 1903 may be approaching some semblance of stability. I’m going to take a close look at the December patches before jumping ship, and suggest you do as well.

Once you’re running the version of Win10 that you want — there’s no reason to install patches until you’re running the right version — and you have Win10 Pro (or Education or Enterprise), you can follow my advice from February and set “quality update” (cumulative update) deferrals to 15 days, per the screenshot. If you have quality updates set to 15 days, your machine already updated itself on Nov. 27 and will update again on Christmas Day. 

1809 sac 300 15 1 Woody Leonhard/IDG

If you’re stuck with Win10 1803 or 1809 Home, it’s time to move to version 1903 (or even 1909). The potential disruption of a version change is worth that one key new feature — probably the single best new feature ever introduced in Windows 10 — which allows you to defer updates, giving Microsoft a chance to test its patches before they roll onto your system. See Running Win10 version 1803 or 1809? You have options. Here’s how to control your upgrade for full details.

Step 4. For Windows 10 version 1903 and 1909

Windows Update in Win10 version 1903 went through a major makeover in September — the documentation didn’t change, but the behavior did. The result is a major step forward in Windows 10 patching.

You may find that you can tell Win10 to delay quality updates by 15 days, as shown in the preceding screenshot, but you have a much simpler tool at your disposal.

If you’re on Win10 version 1903 or 1909 (either Home or Pro), click the link on the Windows Update page that says “Pause updates for 7 days,” then click on the newly revealed link, which says “Pause updates for 7 more days,” then click it again.

1903 pause 7 days 3 Woody Leonhard/IDG

By clicking that link three times, you’ll defer cumulative updates for 21 days from the day you started clicking — if you do it today, you’ll be protected until Dec. 26 — which is typically long enough for Microsoft to work out the worst bugs in their patches.

There are several group policies and a handful of registry settings working in the background when you click Pause updates. You may even be able to see the settings if you’re using Win10 Pro. But the “Pause updates” approach has proven itself to work reliably for everybody, 1903 or 1909, Pro or Home. Use it.

If you see an offer of an Optional update (screenshot), don’t click Download and install now. Even more bugs await.

1903 optional updates available Woody Leonhard/IDG

The December updates should appear next week. Realize that a large percentage of experienced Windows devs take vacations through much (or all!) of December. Expect the December patches to be minimal and — cross your fingers — relatively benign.

Thanks to the dozens of volunteers on AskWoody who contribute mightily, especially @sb, @PKCano, @abbodi86 and many others.

We’ve moved to MS-DEFCON 4 on the AskWoody Lounge.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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10+ tips for better iPhone battery life

What can you do when you’re racing to the next meeting, desperate to use Wallet to catch your plane, or otherwise stuck on a long and winding road with no access to power for your iPhone? You can follow these tips…

Think about how you use your iPhone

Of course I realise that when you are using your iPhone you want to be able to do everything you possibly can do with it, but when you’re attempting to eke out a little more active battery life it makes sense to think about what you are using your device for and how to do so in a more energy efficient way.

That means that when battery life is important you should ration how many times you check your device, avoid watching video or playing processor-intensive (or any) games and send text messages rather than make voice calls. It takes more battery power to make a voice call than send a text.

Do you need to check social media right now?

Use Low Power Mode

The first step you should always take is Low Power Mode.

The easiest way to enable this is to swipe down from the top right side of your iPhone and then tap the Battery icon you should see there. This slightly dims the screen, limits background processes, slightly slows the processor and otherwise trims the energy demanded by your device in normal use.

You can also enable Low Power Mode in Settings>Battery>Low Power Mode.

NB: If the Battery icon does not appear in your Control Center, visit Settings>Control Center>Customise and enable Low Power Mode there.

Switch to Dark Mode

When you use your iPhone your display’s True Tone feature automatically adjusts display brightness to make colors appear consistent in different places.

The thing is, this also means your display will be brighter when used in bright places, such as when using it outside. The downside of which is that when your display is brighter you’ll be using more power to display what’s on it.

Recent tests suggest that there’s an appreciable difference in battery life if you use Dark Mode on your iPhone and with your apps. If you are trying to extend battery life, you should use Dark Mode, as even a one or two percent improvement means you’ll get more time between every charge.

NB: In Settings>Display & Brightness you can disable Automatic appearance and True Tone and set the brightness levels down as low as possible in order to conserve battery life.

Switch off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

I know this recommendation makes no sense if you are using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to get things done, but if you aren’t then you will see useful extension to your battery life if you simply switch Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth off.

You can do this in Settings, but the easiest way to do this is to summon Control Center and then long press either the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth icon until the network controls appear. Now you can switch one or both networking standards off.

Halt Motion and Dynamic Backgrounds

Low Power Mode should mitigate both of these features, but to be certain you aren’t wasting valuable energy on eye candy when you need to keep your iPhone working just a little bit longer, disable these:

Motion: Settings> Accessibility>Motion>Reduce Motion and toggle to on (green).

Dynamic Backgrounds: Settings>Wallpaper>Choose a New Wallpaper and select a static wallpaper from the ‘Stills’ section.

Turn off App Location Services

Lots of apps (more than you realize) seem to think they need to track your location in order to work. The thing is, all those little GPS interrogations and data harvesting of your location cost you energy, and you’re reading this article because you want to conserve energy – so disable App Location Services.

Open Settings>Privacy>Location Services and toggle this to off.

While you’re at it, why not take a moment to review which apps are currently accessing your location data. Do you use those apps often enough that you want to let them?

NB: You can also disable some system activities – scroll down the page at Settings>Privacy>Location Services and tap System Services. You can pretty safely disable Location-Based Apple Ads, Popular Near Me and iPhone Analytics without impacting your user experience. And while the power saving may be tiny, it may just be the tiny tweak of energy you need.

Use AirPlane Mode

Another way to disable Wi-FI, Bluetooth and your cellular connection is to use AirPlane Mode (Control Center, tap the plane icon).

If you want to continue using one of those features, you can switch them on again individually while remaining in AirPlane mode.

Perhaps you want to keep Wi-Fi active but don’t need calls or Bluetooth, for example. Just jump into Control Center and reenable the networking activity you need or leave them all off for significantly improved battery life in order to keep working on that document or whatever.

Switch it off

Sleeping? Unless you really expect to receive a call or utterly rely on your iPhone for your morning alarm call, why not switch off your device? If you sleep for eight hours that will save you approximately one-third of your daily charge.

(Don’t forget, your device uses energy to launch again, so if you’re really slim on power you may be unable to wake it up once you switch it off).

Stop Siri listening – disable ‘Hey Siri’

When you activate Siri (even by accident) it uses a little energy to wake up, listen to you, and then consult the Siri servers for a response (unless it knows the answer on your device).

One way to prevent this is to open Settings>General>Siri and toggle the ‘Hey Siri’ command to Off. You will still be able to summon Siri by tapping the Home (iPhone 8 and earlier) or Side (iPhone X or later) buttons.

Check your battery hogs

Some apps are more addictive than others. By the same token, some apps use more energy than others. Open Settings>Battery and take a look at the Battery Usage by App section.

This shows you which of your apps are using the most energy. In my case I’ve frequently found WhatsApp, Mail and social media to be greedy for my battery power.

When I need to tweak those extra precious moments of battery life I’ve been known to disable the background app activity for the most energy consuming apps, or simply switched on Low Power Mode which has the same effect.

NB: At one time Facebook was the least energy efficient app on my device, but that’s no longer a problem now I only access that service through a browser.

Plan before you go

Being prepared is the best defence.

One way to ensure you always have enough battery power for your device is to use an Apple battery iPhone case (or a third-party equivalent), or use an external battery pack (mophie is popular in the U.S.), carry a solar charging device and/or always ensure you have a power adapter and cable with you when you travel.

I hope these little tips help you get where you’re going without running out of power.

When you get there and charge your device up again, feel free to follow me on one of the social media links below, and if you have any other power-saving tips to share, do drop me a line and I’ll update this story. Travel well!

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.





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