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What’s the Most Secure Way to Handle OS Upgrades?

Your computer’s operating system may or may not be designed with security in mind, but without ongoing software updates, your computer is vulnerable. How do operating systems handle sending out these updates and which approaches are the most secure?

Why Do We Need Software Updates?

There are three key reasons software updates are important.

  • New Features: OS developers provide new features all the time. We want them. Gone are the days when you buy a new box to get the new code. Now you get the goods via software updates.
  • Security Patches: It’s impossible to know all of the vulnerabilities in a program before releasing it into the wild. Updates containing security patches bolster the defenses of the code running on our devices. You can mitigate much of your risk by running the latest versions of software.
  • Ongoing Support: These days we declare a device alive or dead not based on whether it still works, but rather if it still receives updates. A device that no longer receives updates is one that will gradually lose access to newer apps, successfully loads fewer websites, and becomes increasingly vulnerable to exploitation.

There are two ways to distribute these updates. One approach is a centralized model, where a single company manages all of the updates that go to your device, regardless of which brand or model you use.

In a decentralized model, the components that go into your OS come from many sources. There is a degree of separation between the developers and those who package all those various parts together for users.

Both approaches have their pros and cons. Proprietary desktop OSes such as Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Google Chrome OS all take a centralized approach. GNU/Linux has a decentralized model.

How Microsoft Windows Distributes OS Updates

Windows 10 on a Dell convertible laptop
Image Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft distributes OS updates to anyone with a Windows PC. These updates go out based on what version of Windows you run.

For most of Windows’ history, switching to a new version of the OS was expensive. This encouraged many people to continue using older versions. With Windows 10, the situation is different. Microsoft provided Windows 10 for free initially and has said that rather than release another major upgrade, the company will now focus on iterating the desktop through software updates.

Microsoft has traditionally supported popular versions of Windows well after the release of one or two successive releases. Windows 7, for example, still received updates half a decade after the release of Windows 10.

Windows Update automatically downloads updates

How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10

How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10

For control freaks, Windows Update is a nightmare. It works in the background, and keeps your system safe and running smoothly. We show you how it works and what you can customize.
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and forces users to install them. This can be frustrating, but it keeps computers up to date. Just make sure you create regular backups. While unlikely, system updates can botch your installation of Windows (or any other OS for that matter).

Security Assessment

Microsoft is transparent about how long Windows releases will receive support. This helps users make informed decisions about their hardware purchases. Forced updates also keep users patched and up-to-date, protecting more of us from exploits.

Still, a large number of Windows users aren’t using Windows 10. Some are using versions that are severely out of date, making the Windows landscape as a whole a vulnerable and easy target.

How Apple macOS Distributes OS Updates

macOS on an Apple MacBook

Apple provides OS updates directly to users via a dedicated Software Update tool. Unlike Windows, macOS does not automatically update your OS, but you can turn that feature on. Manual updates give you time to backup your data before getting new software.

Apple doesn’t explicitly state how long it will support each version of macOS. Generally, the three most recent releases will receive security patches. With new versions arriving every year

macOS Catalina Update: 6 Key Steps to Preparing Your Mac

macOS Catalina Update: 6 Key Steps to Preparing Your Mac

Before you install the latest macOS update and move to Catalina, here’s what you should do to ensure a successful upgrade.
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, that means you can expect roughly three years of support.

Unfortunately, the end of life for older releases can arrive at any time without any heads up or official announcement. Apple’s security updates page shows what updates have arrived but not how long they will keep coming.

This doesn’t tell the whole story. Generally speaking, there’s little reason not to upgrade to the latest version of macOS. Changes tend to be more iterative compared to the revolutionary changes that took place between Windows 7 to 8 and Windows 8 to 10. Upgrades were relatively cheap in the past, and now they’re free.

Since macOS is only available on Apple hardware, the company can explicitly list which devices it will support. Unfortunately, if your MacBook or iMac is not on the list, you’re out of luck. You must now replace macOS with Windows or Linux to have an OS with ongoing updates, even if your hardware is technically perfectly capable of running the latest version of macOS.

Security Assessment

Manual updates give you time to back up your data, but many people choose to never install updates, leaving them more vulnerable to exploits. Apple also doesn’t tell us when a given OS release will reach the end of its support period.

On the flip side, Apple generally supports a given computer model for many years. Just make sure you consistently upgrade to the latest OS. You can check out Apple’s list of obsolete products.

How Google Chrome OS Distributes OS Updates

Google Chrome OS on a Samsung convertible laptop

On a Chromebook, updates are quiet and automatic. It doesn’t matter which device you buy, if your model is supported, you will receive each update in a matter of days. Google manages most of the software experience, so Chrome OS feels the same regardless of which Chromebook you buy.

Google provides updates on a regular schedule. Maybe OS updates come roughly every six weeks, with security patches and software updates arriving twice as frequently. You have the option to turn off automatic updates if you prefer.

But Google is not transparent about how long each Chromebook or Chromebox will receive support. The company doesn’t actually base support times on operating system version (like Microsoft) or specific devices (like Apple). Instead, Chrome OS support depends on which chipset sits inside your machine. Google promises to support each chipset for six and a half years after launch.

That poses a problem. Most of us do not know what hardware lies underneath our keyboards. We can easily buy a Chromebook using a chipset that’s been around for five years already, without knowing we will only receive one and a half years of support.

Thanks to Chrome OS’s design, the danger of going without software updates is magnified. Since Chrome OS combines the web browser with the rest of the OS, when OS updates stop, your web browser will no longer receive updates. This is not the case on other platforms, where you can update apps separately.

Security Assessment:

Chrome OS strikes a nice balance between keeping users up to date with automatic updates while giving us the freedom to upgrade at our own pace by doing things manually. But the company’s support period is largely obscure and, given Chrome OS’s design, substantially more important.

How GNU/Linux Desktops Distribute OS Updates

Purism Librem 13 privacy laptop
Image Credit: Purism

We usually refer to GNU/Linux simply as Linux, but in this case it’s important to clarify things. Google’s Chrome OS is based on Linux, but how it operates is fundamentally different from other versions of Linux based on GNU software.

There are hundreds of different GNU-based desktops you can download. Most give you a degree of freedom on how you approach software updates. Generally, notifications will arrive automatically, but you must manually download and install the update. You can do so using a simple app or the command line.

How often you receive updates depends on the size of your chosen Linux distribution. You can use a given version of Linux until your machine no longer meets the minimal system requirements, which for a growing number of Linux desktops means a 64-bit processor.

Why Linux Distros Are Ending 32-Bit Versions (And What That Means for You)

Why Linux Distros Are Ending 32-Bit Versions (And What That Means for You)

More and more Linux distros are discontinuing their 32-bit versions. Why are they doing this? And how does it affect you? Here’s all you need to know.
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If you use a more niche version of Linux, you have a greater risk of losing access to updates due to the project ceasing to exist. Under such circumstances, you’re free to switch to another version of Linux and keep on trucking.

Security Assessment

GNU desktops have the longest support life. Your desktop will continue to work for as long as your hardware meets system requirements. And if your preferred Linux distribution does end support, you can just switch to another.

Updates are not automatic, but there are other aspects of the way free software gets distributed that have a larger impact on whether the various parts of your OS are truly up-to-date. Since software is not produced in a central location, new updates and patches may be available for months or years before the people who make your version of Linux get around to packaging and releasing them.

Which Method Is the Most Secure?

In this case, the means is less important than the ends. If you manually update your PC every day or two and keep software up-to-date, then your machine is effectively as secure as one that receives automatic updates.

Making updates automatic primarily prevents machines from going months and years without updates, becoming susceptible to long-fixed vulnerabilities that make not only those machines but, due to botnets

What Is a Botnet and Is Your Computer Part of One?

What Is a Botnet and Is Your Computer Part of One?

Botnets are a major source of malware, ransomware, spam, and more. But what is a botnet? How do they come into existence? Who controls them? And how can we stop them?
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, the rest of us less safe.

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What’s the Best Streaming Service Deal?

Philo vs. Sling TV… which is the best streaming service? As more and more players enter the market, it’s becoming increasingly hard to determine an answer.

For many people, the decision is driven by cost. Philo and Sling are two of the leading budget streaming services available, but which offers the best deal?

In this article we pit Philo vs. Sling TV. We’ll tell you about both services, compare their streaming plans, discuss additional features, and pick a winner.

Philo vs. Sling: Background

Although Philo has been around since 2009 (then called Tivli), it only began offering a streaming service in late 2017. At the time of writing, it has amassed 50,000 subscribers and a string of high-profile investors, including Mark Cuban, HBO, and Facebook co-founder Andrew McCollum. Today, it is jointly owned by A&E, AMC, Discovery, and Viacom.

Sling is a newer company (it was founded in 2015) but has offered streaming services since its inception. It is owned by Dish Network. Unlike Philo, Sling TV benefits from extensive brand recognition and a much larger userbase. At the time of writing it has 2.5 million subscribers.

Philo vs. Sling: Cost

sling price and channels

Philo offers a single package to its users. It costs $20/month and includes 58 television channels. If you’re a new subscriber, you can benefit from a seven-day free trial. And when you do sign up, you will not be tied down to a lengthy contract; you can cancel and restart your plan at any time and as frequently as you wish.

Sling TV has two packages: Sling Blue and Sling Orange. They each cost $25/month. Sling Orange offers 32 channels; Sling Blue includes 47 channels. If you want access to the full set of content, you need to sign up for the $40/month combined package. Like Philo, you can take advantage of a seven-day free trial before you commit, and you’re free to cancel your plan at any time.

Philo vs. Sling: Channel Availability

philo channels and price

Aside from price, another key aspect of establishing which is the best streaming service is the availability of channels.

Firstly, let’s look at Sling TV Orange vs. Blue. There is some channel overlap between them. Both packages include TNT, AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, History Channel, A&E, The Travel Channel, Cartoon Network, Newsy, BBC America, Comet, Food Network, HGTV, and TLC.

The differences appear when you look at the premium channels. Channels that are exclusive to Sling Orange include Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, Freeform, and Motor Trend. Sling Blue has more exclusives, including Discovery Channel, E!, FOX, FOX Sports, FS1, FS2, National Geographic, NBC, NBC Sports, NFL Network, Nick Jr., and Paramount Network. Sling Blue also offers local channels from FOX and NBC in some markets.

These variances cause issues for sports lovers and families with kids. ESPN is on Orange, while FOX Sports is on Blue. Disney is on Orange, while Nickelodeon is on Blue.

Philo has no such discrepancies. It only offers a single plan to its users. Some of the most noteworthy channels on the service include A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BBC World News, Comedy Central, Discovery, DIY Network, HGTV, History Channel, MTV, Nick Jr., Nickelodeon, VH1, and TLC.

Readers with a keen eye for detail will have noticed some glaring omissions. Significantly, Philo does not carry any sports channels and does not offer any domestic news channels. Philo also does not offer any local channels. For many users, that makes the service entirely unsuitable.

Philo vs. Sling: Add-Ons

sling add ons list

Philo’s channel lineup is fixed; the company does not provide any add-ons or additional packages.

In contrast, Sling offers a few add-ons for users with niche interests. For example, several Spanish-language add-ons are available. For $5/month/region, you can watch channels from Mexico, Spain, South America, Central America, or the Caribbean.

There are also additional packages for comedy, premium channels, sports, kids, news, lifestyle, Hollywood, outdoor living, and international channels. Again, each additional package is $5/month.

Philo vs. Sling: Country Restrictions

Both Philo and Sling are only available to people living within the United States. If you want to access the plans from other territories, you need to use a high-quality paid VPN.

If you don’t have a VPN plan, MakeUseOf recommends signing up with either ExpressVPN or CyberGhost.

Philo vs. Sling: App Availability

philo apps list

Philo has apps available for Roku, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, iOS, and Fire TV. Sling supports those six platforms, but also has apps for AirTV, LG webOS, and Xbox. And unlike Philo, Sling TV is also Chromecast-enabled.

Both services have browser-based web apps.

Philo vs. Sling: Other Features

If you still can’t decide which is the best streaming service for your needs, perhaps some of the services’ additional features might help to crystallize your thoughts.

For example, Sling has some differences between its packages regarding the number of simultaneous streams. Sling Orange only allows you to watch one stream at a time, whereas Sling Blue increases the number to three. And if you subscribe to Orange + Blue, you can watch on four screens simultaneously. Philo offers three simultaneous streams for all of its subscribers.

Philo also includes the ability to record shows and watch them for up to 30 days after they aired. There is no restriction on the number of shows you can record.

If you want to record shows on Sling TV, you will need to subscribe to the Cloud DVR add-on for $5/month. All your recordings will be available forever; you do not need to watch them within a 30-day period. Furthermore, your recordings will still be available if you leave as a customer and then return at some point in the future.

NB: Check out our article looking at the best streaming services with family plans

The 9 Best Streaming Services That Offer Shared Family Plans

The 9 Best Streaming Services That Offer Shared Family Plans

Family plans for streaming services come with many benefits, the best being that it ends up being much cheaper than having separate individual plans.
Read More

for more information.

Philo vs. Sling: Which Is the Best Streaming Service?

So, Philo vs. Sling TV Orange vs. Blue—which is the best streaming service for you? It’s a difficult question to answer. If money is no object, then the Sling Orange + Blue package with the entire suite of add-ons is the best solution. However, if you’re an occasional TV watcher with no interest in sports content, we’d recommend going for Philo as the budget option.

To learn more, be sure to read our article listing the best TV streaming services

The Best Streaming TV Services (Free and Paid)

The Best Streaming TV Services (Free and Paid)

Here are the best free streaming TV apps and the best paid streaming TV apps for all your entertainment needs.
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available right now.

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What’s Google Up To? 9 New Google Apps and Tools You Need to Know About

Google releases so many new software and updates that it’s difficult to keep track. Not all of it is awesome or useful either. So here’s a quick list of the best Google apps, tools, and updates that you can make use of.

Naturally, the internet giant focuses more on Android apps and websites, but there are a few cross-platform tools too. There are cultural experiments, items that focus on health and well-being, and even some quirky and artsy programs.

The Family Conversation Guide from Google's Digital Well-Being tells families how to have a healthy digital lifestyle

Google created a mini-portal guide for families to figure out how to interact with technology in a healthy way, as part of its Digital Well-Being initiative. The Family Conversation Guide has six elements, each primed to ensure technology doesn’t disrupt your happy home.

  1. Decide when and how to use devices: As a family, this will ensure family time is kept separate, with also a special family-time box.
  2. Find positive content: In a world of bad news and negativity, work as a collective to find, discuss, and enact on the good stuff.
  3. Determine when your kids are ready for a device: Have the tough-but-fair conversation with your children, and make them present their case too.
  4. Use social media meaningfully and responsibly: While kids will obviously benefit from this, so will the parents.
  5. Make gaming a positive experience: Video games are great and inevitable, and they could be better if you discussed their harmful sides and positive aspects.
  6. Balance offline and online activities: This is a tough act for any family, but Google has a few ideas on making it happen.

The Family Conversation Guide is a great tool to learn more about how to balance digital and personal lives. If you’re looking for apps to fight smartphone addiction

The 5 Best Apps to Help You Fight Your Smartphone Addiction

The 5 Best Apps to Help You Fight Your Smartphone Addiction

Are you addicted to your smartphone? These mobile apps will help you salvage your personal life and regain your productivity.
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, Google has also created a few Digital Well-Being Experiments for Android.

2. Unlock Clock (Android): How Often Do You Look at Your Phone?

Unlock Clock is a Live Wallpaper app for Android phones. Every time you unlock the phone from a screen-off phase, it will update the counter. It’s big, it’s in-your-face, and after that number gets too high, Google is hoping you’ll start feeling guilty.

The clock resets every day. It also has the current date and weather information, as well as the Google Assistant bar for quick search.

Download: Unlock Clock for Android (Free)

3. We Flip (Android): Be More Social When Meeting Friends

Do you or your friends spend too much time on their phones when meeting together? Try the We Flip game to find out who is the worst smartphone addict among you.

When you meet, switch on We Flip on all your phones and “flip the switch” to begin a session. When someone unlocks their phone, the session ends. We Flip also knows whenever a person’s screen was active without unlocking, counting those as peeks.

At the end of your meeting, switch off the flip and see how you did. Psst, make the worst addict pay the bill!

Download: We Flip for Android (Free)

4. Post Box (Android): Delayed Notifications in Batches

Out of all the new Digital Well-Being experiments by Google

Google Launches Apps to Reduce Your Smartphone Use

Google Launches Apps to Reduce Your Smartphone Use

Google has launched its Digital Wellbeing Experiments. These are apps to “help people find a better balance with technology”.
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, Post Box shows the most potential. We have talked about how notifications can be major distractions and disrupt productivity. Instead of instant notifications, Post Box sends them all at once in batches.

It works exactly as you’d expect it to, but there is one significant problem. Right now, you can choose only four predetermined time slots in a day. Hopefully in a future update, Post Box will let you delay notifications to 15-minute or half-hour updates, which would make it tremendously useful.

Download: Post Box for Android (Free)

5. Morph (Android): Get Apps Based on What You’re Doing

Morph is a fancy version of creating profiles for your phone. In each profile, you set a few apps that are useful. You also add either a time slot or a GPS location for each profile.

When you reach that place or the clock strikes, Morph will then automatically give you only those apps you set in your profile. That way, you avoid distractions like checking social media at work.

Download: Morph for Android (Free)

6. Desert Island (Android): A Personal Challenge for Smartphone Addicts

You claim you aren’t addicted to your phone, but you’ll be surprised how much time you are wasting on it. Don’t believe us? Try the Desert Island challenge for smartphone addicts.

The app forces you to choose only seven essential apps and locks everything else away for 24 hours. Those apps will be on your home screen. You can still access other apps if needed, but it’s an honor-based personal challenge. You get to decide if you failed or succeeded. Are you brave enough?

Download: Desert Island for Android (Free)

7. Rivet (Android, iOS) and Bolo (Android): Help Kids Learn to Read

Google is building two new apps to help teach children how to read better. Google’s experimental team at Area 120 is developing Rivet, while Bolo focuses on Indian children, but should work for anyone.

Both apps feature a large library of illustrated books with built-in speech recognition. If the kid is stuck at any point, they can tap the word to hear it aloud. Plus the apps work offline and don’t show any ads.

These are among the best Google apps to play and learn for young children.

Download: Rivet for Android | iOS (Free)

Download: Bolo for Android (Free)

8. Touring Bird (Web): New Sightseeing and Tourism App for City Guides

Google's Touring Bird is a new sight-seeing and tourism app for detailed city guides

Many users were disappointed when Google shut down Google Trips. While that’s a done deal, there is still some hope for those who love to travel. Check out Touring Bird, the new venture from Area 120 that is now moving to Google full-time.

Touring Bird is a city guide that tells a tourist anything and everything they’d want to know. There is a price comparison for tours, tickets, and activities, which usually takes a lot of planning and research. The guide also includes off-beat activities and curated recommendations from writers and experts.

It currently has information for the most popular travel destinations in the world. Over time, Google hopes to add more, making this a comprehensive one-stop resource when you are visiting any of these major cities.

9. You Asked, Art Answered (Web): Google and BBC Answer Life’s Greatest Questions

In You Asked, Art Answered, Google and BBC get artists and creative thinkers to answer most-asked common search questions on google

Google’s Arts & Culture Lab is always doing something cool and quirky. This time, they teamed up with BBC to get artists and creative thinkers to answer some of the most Googled questions by everyday people. Naturally, the answers are a bit different than what you’d expect.

For example, choreographer Jamiel Lawrence tackles the question, “Do I have free will?” Artist Andy Holden’s cartoon ponders the eternal question “What is love?” through popular music. And if you’re from jolly old England, you’re going to love Sarah Maple’s “What does it mean to be British?”

Get the New Google Apps and Tools

On one hand, Google is doing great things at the cutting edge of innovation. On the other, it continues to promote quirky new apps and tools that are pure fun or useful for everyday tasks. They come in so frequently, that’s you can miss stuff. For instance, how many of these fun Google-made apps

5 New Google-Made Apps That Are Cool, Useful, and Fun

5 New Google-Made Apps That Are Cool, Useful, and Fun

Google is constantly developing new apps and conducting experiments with AI. These new Google apps could be useful or plain fun.
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have you tried so far?

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What’s the Difference Between Intel Core i3, i5, i7, and X CPUs?

The retail packaging for Intel's Core i9-9900K CPU.

While AMD is making inroads, Intel is by far the number one choice in computer processors. Core processors are great chips for a desktop or laptop, but what’s the difference between Core i3, i5, i7, i9, and X?

What’s a Core Processor?

Intel Core processors first came to the desktop in mid-2006, replacing the Pentium line that had previously comprised Intel’s high-end processors.

The Core “i” names are primarily “high level” categorizations that help differentiate processors within a given generation. A specific Core “i” name doesn’t mean the processor has a certain number of cores, nor does it guarantee features, like Hyper-Threading, which allows the CPU to process instructions faster.

Feature specifics can change between generations. As technology advances, it becomes cheaper to create higher-performing, low-end parts. It also means that features once found in parts like a Core i3 can disappear from the class entirely.

Intel's Core i9 processor package.
Intel Core processors.

General performance in similar CPUs also changes between generations. Low-level improvements to how CPUs process information result in generally better performance, sometimes, at lower clock speeds than previous families of CPUs.

Therefore, the differences between Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 designations matter most within its respective generation. For example, a seventh-generation “Kaby Lake” Core i7, and a third-generation “Ivy Bridge” Core i7 might run at similar speeds with similar core counts. This is generally meaningless, though, as the newer part is still going to perform better—check out this comparison at UserBenchmark as an example.

With that in mind, there are a few guideposts you can use to understand what all the different parts mean.

Core i3: The Low End

Intel Core i3 processors are where the Core lineup starts for each generation. In general, Core i3 processors have lower core counts than higher-grade CPUs. This used to mean that Core i3’s started with dual-core processors, but for recent generations, that core count has gone up to four on the desktop.

Those earlier dual-core Core i3’s also tended to have four threads, also known as Hyper-Threading. Intel has elected not to double the thread count in recent Core i3 generations; instead, it’s building CPUs with four cores and four threads.

Core i3 processors also have lower cache sizes (onboard memory). They handle less RAM than other Core processors and have varying clock speeds. At this writing, the ninth-generation, Core i3 desktop processors have a top clock speed of 4.6 GHz; however, that’s only the higher-end Core i3-9350K.

Core i5: The Lower Mid-Range

A bare gaming ATX motherboard.
An Intel-compatible ATX motherboard.

A step up from Core i3 is the Core i5. This is often where bargain-hunting PC gamers look for solid deals on processors. An i5 typically lacks Hyper-Threading, but it has more cores (currently, six, rather than four) than Core i3. The i5 parts also generally have higher clock speeds, a larger cache, and can handle more memory. The integrated graphics are also a bit better.

You see new Core i5 processors with Hyper-Threading on laptops, but not desktops.

Core i7: The Top Takes a Step Back

As of 2017, Core i7 CPUs had Hyper-Threading on desktops, but the more recent generations do not. These processors have higher core counts (up to eight in the ninth generation) than the i5’s, a larger cache, and a bump in graphics performance, but they have the same memory capacity as the Core i5’s (although, that could change in the future).

Core i9: The New Leaders

A gaming PC in a dark room with red, green, blue, and yellow LED lighting.
An Intel-based gaming PC. Intel

The Core i9 is at the top of the Intel Core pack. This is where you find many top-performing processors, like the Core i9-9900K—a current favorite for gaming.

At the Core i9 level in the current ninth-generation CPUs, we see eight cores, 16 threads, a larger cache than the Core i5 processors, faster clock speeds (up to 5 GHz for boost), and another bump in graphics performance. However, Core i9 CPUs still have the same maximum memory capacity as the Core i5.

Core X: The Ultimate

Intel also has a “prosumer” range of fancier, high-end desktop (HEDT) processors for enthusiasts, gamers, content creators, or anyone else who needs that level of performance.

In October 2019, Intel announced new Core X parts that range from 10 to 18 cores (Core i9s max out at eight). They include Hyper-Threading, and high boost clocks, although, not necessarily higher than Core i9 CPUs. They also have a higher number of PCIe lanes and can handle more RAM, and they have a much higher TDP than the other Core parts.

Which Should You Buy?

The Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 logos.

Core designations refer to relative improvements within a specific generation of processors. As the Core number increases, so do the capabilities of the processors, including higher core counts, faster clock speeds, more cache, and the ability to handle more RAM. At Core X, you also usually get more PCIe lanes.

If you’re a gamer, look for Core i7 and higher. You can definitely game with a newer Core i5, but you’ll get more future-proofing with a Core i7 and up. Content creators should look at Core i7 and Core i9 CPUs, as you’ll want those sweet threads.

For everyday tasks, like web browsing, spreadsheets, and word processing, a Core i3 will get the job done.

Something to keep in mind while you shop, though, is not all Intel Core CPUs have integrated graphics. These processors end with an “F” to designate that they come without a GPU, such as the Core i3-9350KF, i5-9600KF, and i9-9900KF.

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What’s in the latest Firefox update? Firefox 70 stops social media trackers

Mozilla on Tuesday upgraded Firefox to version 70, enhancing its anti-tracking technology with new blockers that automatically stymie social media trackers and compiling reports so users can see what spying the browser has stopped.

Security engineers at Mozilla also included patches for 13 vulnerabilities, one marked “Critical” and three marked “High,” the organization’s two top threat ratings. The critical flaw was described as “memory safety bugs,” a label that’s present in virtually every Firefox upgrade’s patch list. “Some of these bugs showed evidence of memory corruption and we presume that with enough effort some of these could be exploited to run arbitrary code,” Mozilla wrote in the accompanying security advisory.

Firefox 70 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 updates Firefox every six to eight weeks; it last upgraded the browser on Sept. 3.

Stops trackers from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn

Mozilla amped up its assault on trackers, the bits and pieces in websites and on pages that collectively allow advertisers — primarily but not exclusively them — to watch where users go on the web in an effort to piece together profiles, which in turn are used to deliver advertisements that, theoretically at least, should be more appealing and likely to trigger a purchase.

On the heels of Firefox 69, which switched on Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) for all users, Mozilla this version added trackers from several social media giants — Facebook, Twitter and the jobs-related LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft) — to the browser’s block list.

“Social networks place trackers on other websites to follow what you do, see, and watch online,” Mozilla wrote. “This allows social media companies to collect data about your browsing history and improve their ad targeting.”

Users can set social media blockers at two strength levels — Standard (the default) and Strict — just as they can blockers for other classes of trackers.

Privacy report card

Firefox 70 also introduced a basic privacy report that describes the number of times the browser blocked a tracker — broken down by cross-site, social media, fingerprinter and cryptominer categories — over the past week with totals segregated by day.

The report also displays the number of email addresses monitored for inclusion in publicly-known data breaches, the number of those breaches and how many passwords were leaked in those hacks. (The data comes from Firefox Monitor, which Mozilla introduced a year ago.)

To access the report, click the shield-like icon in the address bar — it’s at the far left of the bar — then select “Show Report” from the drop-down menu. Or type about:protections in the address bar and hit Enter to bring up the report.

firefox70 privacy report IDG

The new privacy report card breaks down the trackers Firefox has blocked over the past week. But it also keeps tabs on the total tally since Sept. 3, when Mozilla switched ETS on for everyone.

Mozilla has ulterior motives in pushing the report. The more impressed users are by the report’s totals — particularly the number of blocked trackers, cookies and content both — the more likely they are to stick with Firefox and recommend it to others.

Firefox has held on for the last two months in the fight over user share, but it’s still in the sub-9% cellar. Mozilla has banked on its privacy work, notably ETP, to bring in new users (or bring back deserters), so the only surprise is that it waited until now to debut a report lauding its accomplishments.

Lock ’em up, Danno!

During the summer, Mozilla started showing off a built-in Lockwise password manager in an under-baked preliminary version of Firefox 70. In that same preview, Mozilla demonstrated how Lockwise worked alongside its already-available Firefox Monitor, a service that provides warnings to users when their saved passwords have been revealed by a data hack.

The release version of Firefox 70 puts the two — the Lockwise password manager and the Monitor password revelation tool — in the hands of all users. And almost the way Mozilla outlined it earlier.

While Lockwise will crank out a password for the user when she creates a new account on a site, it’s not possible to ask the manager to craft one of those very strong passwords for an existing, stored account. That’s a pity, because that feature comes in handy in a third-party password manager when its user is told — because of a data breach, for instance — to change a password. And make it strong while they’re at it.

Other parts of Lockwise, notably those that come courtesy of the marriage between Lockwise and Firefox Monitor, are there, said Mozilla, but not testable because Computerworld couldn’t come up with an account revealed by a breach. The collaboration as described sounds slick: Exposed accounts are to be marked on the Lockwise page with both an icon in the list on the left and with a more prominent note in the main section on the right. (A Mozilla video shows how it’s supposed to look and work.)

One bit that was planned for the merger between Lockwise and Monitor — the ability to sort accounts so that revealed-by-hack usernames and passwords would be at the top of the list — didn’t make the cut with Firefox 70, as it was absent in the version pushed to users Oct. 22.

Elsewhere in Firefox 70, Mozilla claimed that it significantly reduced the browser’s power consumption on macOS (and published a technical thicket of a piece explaining that).

The next version, Firefox 71 — and the last of the year — should launch Dec. 3.

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What’s the Difference Between Caramel Apples and Candy Apples? – LifeSavvy

delicious caramel apples covered in crushed nuts
Teri Virbickis/Shutterstock

Just in case you’ve ever wondered if there was a difference between a candy apple and a caramel apple, we’ll break things down and cover the basics.

Many people use the words “candy apple” to describe any apple immersed in a sweet and delicious coating, but we’re here to clear things up. While both sweet treats take washed apples and pierce sticks into them before dipping, each has its own flavors and textures. Whichever is best is for you to decide.

What Is a Caramel Apple?

Although caramel is a type of candy, a caramel apple is not the same as a candy apple. Caramel apples—shown in the photo above—have a soft and chewy texture, and each bite brings you buttery sweet flavors. The perfectly tart apples combined with the sweet and creamy caramel flavor make for a tasty fall snack.

Caramel apples can be made in a variety of ways, depending on the homemade caramel recipe. A basic recipe uses sugar, corn syrup, water, butter, and cream, but others use ingredients like brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk.

Many opt to unwrap and melt caramel candies for a quick and easy-to-make coating. Whichever you choose is up to you.

Caramel apples are also known for being decorated and further flavored with ingredients like chopped nuts, chocolate drizzle, and various candies.

What Is a Candy Apple?

shiny red candy apples with black and white striped sticks resting on a silver platter
Arina P. Habich/Shutterstock

A candy apple is covered with a shiny red hard shell of homemade candy coating and should always be eaten with caution. The candy breaks or shatters with each bite, making it a deliciously dangerous treat to eat.

The candy apple was said to be invented by a candy-maker named William W. Kolb. While experimenting, he dipped apples in a red cinnamon mixture. Although they were intended to draw customers in around Christmas, they’re now commonly consumed around Halloween.

The candy coating is made from ingredients like water, sugar, light corn syrup, and red food coloring. Authentic candy apples have a cinnamon flavor. Nowadays, most people opt to use red food coloring instead.

Much like caramel apples, once your mixture is heated to the right degree, you evenly coat your apples, let harden, and then eat away.

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What’s New in Ubuntu 19.10 “Eoan Ermine,” Available Now

Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine's default desktop wallpaper background.

Ubuntu 19.10 “Eoan Ermine” boasts an upgraded Linux kernel along with faster boot times, updated themes, and experimental ZFS file system support. Whether or not you upgrade, Ermine shows what to expect from Ubuntu’s next LTS release, due April 2020.

Should You Upgrade?

Ubuntu 19.10 is available for download today. Upgrading isn’t mandatory—in fact, most people stick with the long-term service (LTS) releases and upgrade just once every two years when the next one comes out. The last LTS release was Ubuntu 18.04 LTS “Bionic Beaver.”

For some people, if the latest release isn’t a Long Term Support (LTS) release, the question “should I upgrade?” is a no-brainer.  Canonical estimates that 95 percent of Ubuntu installations are running LTS versions. Ubuntu 19.10 isn’t an LTS release; it is an interim release. The next LTS is due out in April 2020, when Ubuntu 20.04 is going to be delivered.

If 95 percent stick with LTS releases, those who do upgrade to interim releases are very much in the minority. But there’s always going to be users who want the newest shiny things. They’re going to upgrade. Period. The fact that there’s a new version is reason enough.

So we’ve got the LTS-only users in the “definitely won’t upgrade” camp, and the give-me-the-new-version-now users in the “definitely will upgrade” camp. If neither of those is you, you must be in the “I might upgrade if there’s something compelling about this new release” camp. Here’s our quick run-down so you can make up your mind.

Updated Software

Of course, there is a lot of updated software. Here’s a summary of what’s been refreshed. The version numbers are given for each package. The version numbers in parentheses are the versions that were shipped with 18.04.

  • GNOME 3.34.1 (3.32.1)
  • Kernel 5.3.0.-13 (5.0.0-8)
  • Thunderbird 68.1.1 (60.6.1)
  • LibreOffice (
  • Firefox 69.0.1 (66.0.3)
  • Ubuntu Software 33.0.6-2 (33.0.6)
  • Files 3.34.0 (3.32.0)
  • GCC 9.2.1 (8.3.0)
  • glibc 2.30 (2.29)
  • OpenSSL 1.1.1.c (1.1.1b)


As soon as you boot up a computer with 19.10 on it, you’ll see some of the cosmetic changes. The user selection highlight bar is now a light shade of purple, instead of the orange color of previous versions.

user selection screen with purple highlight bar

The “Cancel” and “Sign” In buttons on the password entry screen have also been touched up. The “Cancel” button is a sort of pinky-magenta, and the “Sign In” button is green.

Password entry screen with the Wayland or Xorg menu displayed

The “Options” cog remains grey, with the two familiar options in it. You can start Ubuntu using either the Xorg or Wayland display server.

The Yaru theme has been updated, and there are many fresh icons. It’s not a massive departure from the visuals of 19.04, but users coming from earlier versions of Ubuntu will see quite a change from the Ubuntu Ambiance default theme.

Updated Yaru icon set in the file window and dock toolbar

Wallpaper Settings

There’s a suite of new wallpapers, as expected, but the wallpaper settings have been improved as well. When you select a wallpaper, you are prompted to change the desktop background wallpaper, the lock screen wallpaper, or both at once.

Previously, you had to indicate whether you were setting the desktop wallpaper or the lock screen wallpaper in advance of choosing the wallpaper. If you wanted the same wallpaper on both, you had to go through the selection process twice.

wallpaper selection screen with menu displayed

You can choose one of your own images as your wallpaper. Click on the “Add Picture” button, and you can use a file selector to select an image.

wallpaper image chooser dialog

Once you’ve added an image to the selection of wallpapers, it will always be available even if you remove the image from your computer. GNOME keeps a copy in the wallpapers folder.

Wallpaper selction dialog with custom wallpaper inserted

Night Light

The Night Light settings have been moved to their own tab in the “Devices” section of the Settings dialog.

Night Light tab in the settings dialog

The functionality remains the same. You can turn the night light on and off manually, and choose a “warmth” for the tinge that is applied to your monitor when the night light is on. You can also set a schedule to have the night light turned on and off automatically.

Dark Theme

If you install the GNOME Tweaks application, you can select a dark version of the Yaru theme. This seems to work very well. Some application windows and screen elements are beyond its control, but it should satisfy fans of the dark side.

Dark theme selected in GNOME Tweaks

Grouping Applications

In the application overview, you can drag application icons and drop them onto other icons. This will group the icons in the same way as you can with your iPhone or Android phone.

Separate icons for LibreOffice applications inthe application overview

For example, dragging the LibreOffice icons and dropping them on the same icon creates an Office group. We couldn’t see a way to rename that group, however.

LibreOffice icons grouped together in the application overview

ToDo Application

There is a new ToDo application. It allows you to create lists of tasks that you can tick off as you perform them. You can also set due-by dates for tasks that have deadlines.

ToDo Application main window with calendar displayed

Document Scanner

Simple Scan has been updated and renamed. It is now called Document Scanner.

It contains bug fixes, better translations, and a new appearance.

Document Scanner application with menu displayed

LZ4 Compression for Faster Start-Ups

The initramfs file system is loaded when Ubuntu boots up. This temporary root file system’s job is to initialize things far enough so that your real root file system—and the rest of the operating system—can start to boot up. The initramfs file system is compressed.

The faster the decompression can take place, the faster the boot time. A set of performance tests were carried out to see which compression./decompression algorithm performed best.

LZ4 compression came out the winner and is going to be the method used in Ubuntu for the foreseeable future.

Closed-Source NVIDIA Drivers in the ISO Image

Hold onto your hats. NVIDIA and Linux just got a bit cozier. Dealing with NVIDIA graphics cards could be a bit of a pain in the past, especially if you were stuck installing Ubuntu without an internet connection.

The NVIDIA drivers are now included within the install images so that they can be installed straight out of the Live CD. The Nouveau graphics drivers are still the default, but this will make the end-user experience a lot smoother for a vast number of Ubuntu users and–importantly—newcomers.

An End to Flickers for Intel and UEFI Users

A particular group of users used to see a couple of flickers or screen “blinks” when booting into Ubuntu. If your computer uses Intel graphics and you’ve got it booting with UEFI enabled, you’ve probably experienced this.

As long as your Intel graphics are reasonably modern, new code added to Ubuntu 19.10 should fix that for you.

Experimental Support for the ZFS File System

The ZFS file system is an advanced file system that originated at Sun Microsystems. It is exceptionally fault-tolerant and combines features that deliver file system pooling, cloning and copying, and RAID-like functionality, natively.

ZFS originally stood for “Zettabyte File System,” but it can currently store up to 256 Zebibytes.

Warning: You must treat this as alpha software. The Ubuntu implementation isn’t even at beta yet. It is included in 19.10 to allow testing to be carried out by the curious, the intrepid, and the fearless. In no circumstances should you put in on production computers. We recommend that you don’t even put it on home computers without a robust backup system in place. This really is something for “it’s spare, I don’t care” hardware, and virtual machines only.

The opportunity to use the ZFS file system appears when you are on the partition options screen. Note that Canonical has put the word “EXPERIMENTAL” in capital letters, and the word “Warning” in red. And they’re not kidding.

This option only appears on the desktop install. It isn’t even in the server install yet.

ZFS option on the partition choices screen

That’s you’re only chance to use it.

File system selection menu

If you select the “Something Else” option and opt to create your own partitions, you don’t get the option to choose ZFS in the file system menu.

The version of mkfs provided in 19.10 doesn’t offer ZFS as an option, either. ZFS became available in Ubuntu’s repositories back in Ubuntu 16.04, but it’s never been integrated into the installer like this before.

RELATED: Which Linux File System Should You Use?

What Didn’t Make the Cut?

The power management utility TLP was initially slated to be included, but it didn’t make it. TLP provides a wide range of settings for your computer’s subsystems. You can tweak them to maximize battery life on laptops and to minimize power consumption on desktops.

You can install TLP with this command:

sudo apt install tlp

sudo apt install tlp in a terminal window

Also, GSConnect didn’t make it. GSConnect allows you to integrate your Android phone with your GNOME desktop. With it, you can transfer files, control your phone from your desktop, see phone notifications on your desktop, and much more.

RELATED: How to Wirelessly Transfer Android Files to a Linux Desktop

To Upgrade or Not?

You might find some of the above attractive enough to warrant performing an upgrade. Or you can’t wait to be free of a shortcoming or bug in the version of Ubuntu you’re currently on.

Whether you upgrade or not, it is interesting to view Ubuntu 19.10 as a stepping-stone to the next LTS version, 20.04, and to see the direction that Canonical is moving in.

Despite the scary warnings this time around for the ZFS file system, it would be great to eventually see it as a viable default file system in future iterations of Ubuntu, and out in the wider Linux-sphere.

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What’s the Best Virtual Machine?

There are several virtualization tools available to Windows 10 users. But three tools dominate the market: VirtualBox, VMware, and Microsoft Hyper-V. But which of these virtual machine tools is best?

Moreover, aren’t they all the same?

Choosing between VirtualBox, VMware Workstation Player, and Windows 10 integrated Hyper-V is difficult. Here’s how the three virtual machine tools stack up and which one you should use for certain tasks.

What Is a Hypervisor?

Let’s start with the big question: how are VirtualBox, VMware Workstation Player, and Hyper-V on Windows 10 different? They all allow you to run a virtual environment on your host machine, right?

Well, yes, they do. But despite that similarity, the virtual machine tools work differently under the hood. That is because virtual machines depend on two different types of software called hypervisors to install and run.

The hypervisor acts as the platform for virtual machines. It provides the necessary division between the virtual machine operating system and the host machine hardware. The host machine can share its resources, like memory and processing power, across multiple workloads.

There are two types of hypervisor: Type 1 and Type 2.

type 1 and type 2 hypervisor explanation

Type 1 Hypervisor

A Type 1 hypervisor runs directly on the host machine’s hardware and is sometimes referred to as a bare-metal hypervisor.

Microsoft Hyper-V is a prime example of a Type 1 hypervisor. It doesn’t require additional installation through an external package and directly manages the guest operating system.

VMWare ESX and vSphere, Citrix XenServer, and Oracle VM are all Type 1 hypervisors.

Type 2 Hypervisor

A Type 2 hypervisor installs on the operating system, just like any other software, and is known as a hosted hypervisor.

The virtual machine environment runs as a process on the host machine and still shares the system hardware, but the management of the virtual machine routes through the host instead of executing commands directly. The consequence of this arrangement is a slight latency between actions.

VirtualBox, VMware Workstation, and VMware Workstation Player are prime examples of a Type 2 hypervisor.

What is the Difference Between VirtualBox, VMware Workstation Player, and Hyper-V?

Now you know the difference between hypervisor types, understanding the differences, limitations, and positives of each option is easier. Let’s break it down into a few sections.

Ease of Use

Hyper-V is integrated with Windows 10 Pro, Education, and Enterprise, but not Windows 10 Home. You have to enable Hyper-V using Windows Features or a PowerShell command, but it takes care of activation itself.

Once activated, Hyper-V offers a quick virtual machine creation option and a more extensive virtual machine creation option through the Hyper-V Manager.

Creating a virtual machine through each Hyper-V option is easy

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. However, the quick virtual machine creation option auto-fills in the settings which can cause faults or errors when you attempt to start the virtual machine.

Hyper-V’s more extensive custom virtual machine creation option allows greater control over the settings.

hyper-v quick create virtual machine

Both VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player have a virtual machine creation wizard. The wizard on each program guides you through the virtual machine creation process. There are differences, though.

For example, the VirtualBox wizard has you create a basic virtual machine for which you edit the settings afterward, but it does offer some suggested values for specific virtual machine types. Here’s how you set up and use VirtualBox.

Whereas, the VMware Workstation Player wizard allows you to customize settings during the virtual machine creation process.

The difference isn’t much, but it does mean the VMware Workstation Player virtual machine is ready to run after finishing the wizard, rather than altering more settings once it completes.


The performance of a virtual machine relates to the hardware you use to run it. With virtualization, hardware is king. Furthermore, the virtual machine you use makes a huge difference.

I’m testing each virtual machine option using a Lubuntu guest operating system on my desktop which has an Intel i5-3570K, 16GB RAM, and an Nvidia GTX 1070. It isn’t the most powerful CPU, but it handles most things.

Simply put, VirtualBox is one of the slowest virtual machine options available.

If you have decent hardware, you won’t notice the stutters and whirring quite as much. But on a low power machine, VirtualBox doesn’t give the best virtualization experience.

The performance deficit is most noticeable when you switch to VMware Workstation Player. Running the same guest operating system on the same hardware shows that the VMware Workstation Player is a smoother, slicker experience.

So, where does Hyper-V fit into all of this? The Hyper-V installation of Lubuntu performed well and was noticeably smooth. It is important to note that some Windows 10 Hyper-V users report performance issues in other areas once they enable Hyper-V on their system.

Because Hyper-V runs at the BIOS level rather than as software within the OS, the virtualization is always “on,” even if you are not using a virtual machine.

Temporarily Switching Hyper-V Virtualization Off and On

If you feel Windows 10 Hyper-V is affecting your gaming performance or otherwise (without a virtual machine environment running), you can use a command to switch Hyper-V virtualization services off.

Type command in your Start Menu search bar and select Run as Administrator. Then input the following command:

bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype off

Then restart your system. Hyper-V virtualization will not start after the reboot, and you should find your performance returns to normal. If you want to turn Hyper-V virtualization on again, use the following command:

bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype on

Restart your system again.


If you’re unsure about how to choose between the three options, consider the functionality of each option. You can run a guest operating system using VirtualBox, VMware Workstation Player, or Hyper-V, but each hypervisor has its quirks.

Snapshots and Checkpoints

One major plus for VirtualBox and Hyper-V are Snapshots and Checkpoints.

Although the platforms use different names, Snapshots and Checkpoints are very similar tools. They allow youto take an image of the virtual machine in its current status. The image preserves the virtual machine, allowing you to return to that specific moment.

hyper-v checkpoints virtual machine image

Unfortunately, VMware Workstation Player does not support Snapshots or Checkpoints. You can temporarily suspend the guest operating system to resume from a specific point, but it isn’t the same as creating an image history for the virtual machine.

File Sharing

Each hypervisor allows you to drag and drop files between the host and guest operating system. You can also activate shared files and folders, although Windows 10 Hyper-V makes the process vastly more complicated than VirtualBox or VMware Workstation Player.

Seamless Mode

VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player both use seamless mode to integrate the virtual machine environment into the host operating system. Seamless mode strips away the additional virtual machine window and menus, making it feel as if the guest operating system is part of the host.

Unfortunately, Windows 10 Hyper-V does not feature seamless mode.

Virtual Machine Encryption

If you want to encrypt your virtual machines, you’re in luck. Each hypervisor supports encryption of one kind or another.

VMware Workstation Player supports virtual machine encryption out of the box.

VirtualBox supports encryption with the installation of VirtualBox Guest Additions, available to each VirtualBox guest environment.

Hyper-V on Windows 10 supports encryption using Microsoft’s BitLocker.

Each option is secure and works well with the respective platform.


Each hypervisor is free, but some are freer than others. Why?

VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player are free for any user. So long as your hardware can run the guest operating system without destroying the host in the process, you can use the free virtual machine software.

Whereas, Windows 10 Hyper-V is also free but only if you have the correct version of Windows 10.

There are workarounds for Windows 10 Home users desperate to use Hyper-V on their hardware. But those people may as well use one of the free alternatives rather than shoehorn a solution.

Don’t forget, the fix might work today, but it might not with the next Windows 10 update.

Guest Operating Systems

Windows 10 Hyper-V has some limitations regarding guest operating systems. Hyper-V supports Windows, Linux, and FreeBSD virtual machines. It does not support macOS.

VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player support almost all guest operating systems, including macOS.

Please note that a macOS guest operating won’t work out of the box. Follow our tutorial on how to install macOS in VirtualBox or VMware Workstation Player

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on Windows 10.

What’s the Best Virtual Machine Tool on Windows 10?

Choosing between VirtualBox, VMware Workstation Player, and Windows 10 Hyper-V is tricky. If you have a powerful machine running Windows 10 Pro, Education, or Enterprise, you can take your pick of the hypervisors.

If you are running less powerful machine, I would advise using VMware Workstation Player. It offers better support and stability for a wide range of hardware.

Still unsure if you even need a virtual machine? Check out these practical reasons to start using a virtual machine

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What’s the Difference Between DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 RAM?

RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory, is a short-term storage location your computer uses for running processes. You might not think much about RAM besides the amount of it when buying a new computer.

But not all RAM is created equal. Different generations of RAM provide different speeds and are only compatible with certain systems. Here are the differences between DDR2 and DDR3 RAM, compared to the newer DDR4 RAM.

What Is DDR RAM?

If you’re new to RAM, you might not know what “DDR” means. This abbreviation stands for double data rate.

In simple terms, operating at a double data rate means the RAM can transfer data two times per clock cycle. As you probably know, all data on a computer is digital, meaning it’s represented by a 1 (on) or a 0 (off).

One clock cycle is represented by the CPU signal going from off to on and back again. This is usually measured from the halfway point, as you can see in the chart below.

DDR Clock Cycle
Image credit: MisterSanderson/Wikimedia Commons

This double data rate is a major upgrade from old SDR (single data rate) RAM, which only operated once per clock cycle. Original DDR RAM first became generally available in 2000, and like SDR RAM, is now obsolete. Virtually all RAM you’ll find available now is some generation of DDR.

But why do these generations of RAM change?

DDR Generations Explained

Original DDR RAM was superseded by DDR2, DDR3, and now DDR4. These are all future generations of the same technology with faster speed and other improvements, and are all the same physical size.

This isn’t out of the ordinary, since many computing standards evolve over time. But you might wonder where DDR2 and DDR3 came from, and why they emerged.

The generation of RAM used with a computer is closely tied to the development of processors and motherboards. As companies like Intel come out with new CPU technology, they require new motherboard chipsets. This is a set of electronic components that let all the parts of a computer communicate properly.

New generations of RAM are necessary to work with the latest chipsets. This is why we’ve seen DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 RAM after the original generation. Without these advancements, we wouldn’t be able to put RAM into newer systems.

Importantly, RAM is not backwards or forwards-compatible. If your motherboard is designed for DDR4 RAM, DDR3 RAM simply won’t work in it. It’s thus vital when building or upgrading a PC that you buy the right generation of RAM for compatibility.

Each generation of RAM has its notch in a slightly different position, so it’s impossible to put the wrong type in your computer.

RAM Generations Chart


8gb ddr4 2133 ram crucial

You might wonder how the newer generations of DDR RAM stack up. Let’s look at DDR2 and DDR3 RAM differences first. While you’re unlikely to find DDR2 RAM in many places today (it did become available back in 2004) it’s still useful for comparison.

While original-generation DDR RAM ran two data transfers per clock cycle, DDR2 RAM can produce four transfers per cycle instead. DDR3 takes this even further, as it can produce eight transfers for every clock cycle.

When it comes to speed, DDR3 is unsurprisingly faster. One way to measure RAM speed is megatransfers per second, or MT/s. This refers to the number of operations the RAM can complete every second; 1MT/s is one million transfers per second.

While DDR2 RAM has data transfer rates ranging from 400 to 1,066MT/s, DDR3 smashes this at 800-2,133MT/s.

Voltage is another important aspect of RAM generations. DDR2 RAM uses 1.8V, while DDR3 is lower at 1.5V. Lower voltage means the RAM uses less power, thus putting less strain on the CPU.

You can find sticks of DDR2 RAM that are 4GB, but the most common maximum is 2GB. Practically, DDR3 RAM caps out at 8GB per stick, though some 16GB sticks are available.


Continuing with our discussion of RAM differences, how does DDR4 RAM stack up? DDR3 was introduced in 2007 and while it’s still used with some older systems today, DDR4 has become the standard.

DDR4 runs at an even lower voltage than DDR3, at just 1.2V. It’s also capable of more operations per second, ranging from 1,600MT/s to 3,200MT/s.

Samsung sells a single 32GB stick of DDR4 RAM, but it’s quite expensive. The maximum you’ll see in the wild is usually 16GB.

If you’re in the market, we have a buying guide covering the best DDR4 RAM

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Coming Soon: DDR5 RAM

At the time of writing, DDR4 RAM is the standard. But DDR5 is on the horizon, expected to launch sometime in 2020.

It will probably be a few years before DDR5 becomes standard, so you’re fine to build a computer with DDR4 RAM now.

How RAM Differences Affect You

We’ve thrown around a lot of values above, but don’t feel overwhelmed. The average user shouldn’t ever have to worry about which generation of RAM to buy. You can simply let the motherboard/processor you want to purchase dictate what RAM to get. When building a computer today, you’ll almost certainly have a setup that uses DDR4 RAM.

You might wonder how the different RAM generations affect performance. For the average user, it really won’t make much of a difference. DDR4 is theoretically faster than DDR3, but it’s not often that RAM speed is the bottleneck on your system.

In most cases, other upgrades will improve your computer’s performance more

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. Swapping an old HDD for an SSD, adding more overall RAM, or upgrading your processor will have a much greater effect than slightly faster RAM.

The main scenario where the intricacies of RAM really matter is in heavy use, such as in servers. These machines run heavy loads constantly, meaning that every bit of performance is vital. In normal use, you’d be hard-pressed to feel a difference between two systems with identical stats except for the generation of RAM.

Other Important Aspects of RAM

If you buy a prebuilt computer off the shelf, everything is already assembled, so there’s no worry. But if you’re building your own PC, you should be aware of other RAM values aside from the generation that we’ve focused on here.

Have a look at our general guide to RAM

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, which goes into more detail on other specifications.

DDR vs. DDR2 vs. DDR3 vs. DDR4: Cleared Up

Now you know the basic differences between DDR2 and DDR3, plus what DDR4 brings to the table.

In essence, DDR2, DDR3, and the rest are incremental improvements on the same technology. Aside from making sure you purchase RAM that’s compatible with your system (ideally the newest generation), you don’t need to worry much about it. But it’s useful to know what all those numbers and letters mean for RAM.

If you’re a PC gamer, dive deeper into this topic with our guide to RAM for gaming

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What’s New in macOS 10.15 Catalina, Available Now

Catalina Island at sunset.

Apple’s macOS Catalina arrives today, October 7. This free upgrade lets you use your iPad as a second display, draw with an Apple Pencil in Mac apps, and run more iPad apps on your Mac.

Catalina is compatible with most Mac models released after 2012. If yours ran macOS 10.14 Mojave, it will almost certainly run Catalina.

Dropping Support for 32-Bit Apps

The 32-bit app warning message on macOS Mojave.

Apple has warned for years that 32-bit app support is going away, and this will happen when macOS Catalina arrives. Most apps should be updated by now, but if you have an older Mac app that shows you the “[App] is not optimized for your Mac and needs to be updated” message when you launch it, that app won’t work at all in Catalina.

If an app you need occasionally displays this message when you launch it, don’t upgrade to Catalina until there’s a newer version of that app, or you find a replacement for it.

RELATED: How to Check Your Mac for 32-Bit Applications That Will Stop Working After High Sierra

Music, TV, and Podcasts Get Separate Apps

The Apple Music app "For You" menu in macOS Catalina.

Mac users have been begging Apple to break up iTunes for years, and in macOS Catalina, this finally becomes a reality. There are three new apps to handle media: Music, TV, and Podcasts. The Music app is where you go to stream Apple Music, manage your library, and purchase tracks from the iTunes Store.

The TV app is the new home of all things video. Here, you find all the TV and Movies you’ve purchased from iTunes, plus the iTunes Store to download even more. This is also where you stream content from Apple’s new TV+ subscription service when it finally launches this fall.

The Podcasts app is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s nice to finally be able to manage subscriptions, download episodes, and discover new shows outside of iTunes. All three apps use a very similar interface. And they’re noticeably leaner and more responsive than their previous iTunes implementations.

If you miss iTunes, don’t worry—on Windows, the classic iTunes app will live on.

Use Your iPad as a Second Display

An iPad being used as a second display with the Sidecar app in macOS Catalina on a MacBook Pro.

With the new feature called Sidecar, you can turn your iPad into a second display. It works with any iPad that supports the Apple Pencil, although Apple hasn’t announced which Mac models are officially compatible. From what we’ve heard, Sidecar should work on Macs released in 2016 or later.

You can already do this if you use a third-party app, like Duet Display, but now it’s available in macOS and iPadOS.

To enable Sidecar after you upgrade your iPad to iPadOS 13 and your Mac to macOS Catalina, head to System Preferences > Sidecar, and then select your device from the drop-down menu. You can also enable a sidebar to access keyboard shortcuts, and a touch bar at the bottom of the screen just like the one on a MacBook Pro.

Use Your Apple Pencil in macOS

A hand drawing with an Apple Pencil on an iPad next to a MacBook Pro with the same image on its screen.

When you connect your iPad to your Mac via Sidecar, you can take full advantage of your Apple Pencil using the touch display. You can draw in apps, like Illustrator, touch up photos in Affinity Photo, or use Preview to mark PDFs or sign your name.

However, note the small print on Apple’s website that says some apps will need updates to work with Sidecar in this manner.

Run iPad Apps on Your Mac

Sticking with the iPad theme, macOS Catalina also makes it easier for iOS developers to port iPad apps to the desktop. Apple calls this Catalyst, and we should see an influx of apps coming to the Mac over the next few months as developers familiarize themselves with the porting process.

Catalyst is the official name for Project Marzipan, which debuted at Apple’s 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). When Apple released macOS Mojave, it included a handful of apps based on this technology, including News and Voice Memos. Catalyst puts it in the hands of third-party developers.

Apple used the racing game Asphalt 9 to demonstrate the feature when they announced Catalina. The presentation noted how the mobile-optimized game takes advantage of an even more powerful desktop machine to hit higher resolutions and deliver more impressive visual effects.

It’s not just games that will be ported across, though. Apple also highlighted iOS apps, like Twitter, TripIt, and Morpholio. Expect to see more apps on the Mac as developers who had previously targeted iOS find it easier than ever to create Mac versions.

Screen Time Comes to the Mac

The App Limits menu in Screen Time on macOS Catalina.

Screen Time—introduced on the iPhone and iPad with iOS 12 to help users monitor their device usage—is now coming to the Mac. It’s likely the feature will be even more useful on the Mac because it helps you monitor which apps and websites you use throughout the day to improve your productivity.

You see your app usage, incoming notifications, and device pickups (including iOS devices). You can set limits, like how long an app can be used, or whitelist apps that are “always allowed.” You can also restrict content, stores, and more. Screen Time on the Mac shares data across devices, so you can see your combined usage on one screen.

Screen Time also replaces the old Parental Controls panel in System Preferences. So, this is now where you set up parental controls on your Mac. It’s more powerful and makes it easy to set limits based on real-world usage. If you’ve used Screen Time on an iPhone or iPad, the process will be familiar to you.

The Usual Security Enhancements

The "Input Monitoring" menu in the Security and Privacy Settings in macOS Catalina.

Every macOS update includes a sprinkling of security enhancements and more fixes behind the scenes. Catalina introduces an iOS mainstay called Activation Lock for Macs with Apple’s security-focused T2 chip. This works the same as it does on iOS, and prevents a thief from using your Mac even if it’s been erased.

With Catalina, macOS now runs in a read-only volume. This prevents third-party apps from writing to the most sensitive parts of your system. This is another way Apple is trying to protect the core operating system; it also added to features, like System Integrity Protection and GateKeeper.

Catalina builds on the iOS-like permissions system introduced with Mojave. You now have more control over what apps can do on your system. Apps have to ask to record your screen or typing, just as they do for your webcam or microphone. You’ll find the new options under System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy.

Approve macOS Actions on Apple Watch

You can now approve admin-level changes, like installing a new app or making changes to root files, on your Apple Watch without having to type your password.

The feature works with any Mac and Apple Watch combination that can already take advantage of the Auto Unlock feature. You need a mid-2013 Mac and an Apple Watch that run macOS Catalina and WatchOS 3 or later, respectively.

Some Old Apps Get an Overhaul

The Photos app in macOS Catalina showing a series images of a gray cat.

As is customary in each macOS release, a handful of first-party apps are getting the following improvements:

  • Photos: It gets a new look that matches iOS 13. It’s also easier to browse your library by day, month, or year. And it’s now smarter at identifying “moments,” like trips abroad and celebrations.
  • Reminders: This app was rebuilt from the ground up and mirrors iOS 13. You can now add attachments, tag people, and browse your reminders via Smart Lists, with labels like, “Today” and “Flagged.”
  • Notes: A new gallery view makes it easier to browse content, and the search is more powerful. You can now share entire folders of notes and collaborate with others on iCloud. Plus, there are bulleted lists and easy drag-and-drop reorganization options.
  • Safari: The browser received its usual yearly updates to improve rendering performance and web standards. There’s also a new start page, complete with Siri Suggestions for context-relevant shortcuts to bookmarks, iCloud tabs, and links from Reading List and Messages.
  • QuickTime Player: A brand-new picture-in-picture mode is just one of the upgrades for this app. It also now features a movie inspector pane that shows you more technical information about the current file. You can also create a movie from a sequentially-numbered folder of images in H.264, HEVC, or ProRes formats.

The New “Find My” App

The new Find My app brings together all the features of Find My Friends and Find My iPhone under one umbrella. Now, you can find all your friends and devices on the same map, and manage your location-sharing permissions, too.

Voice Control for Mac and New Accessibility Options

A map providing directions based on a voice command in macOS Catalina.

Apple’s speak-aloud accessibility feature, Voice Control, finally comes to Mac. It allows you to navigate your Mac with your voice. Speech recognition and dictation were improved, as were accessibility features, like numbered labels and grid-based selection. This means you can select, zoom, or drag files via voice commands.

Another enhancement called, “Zoom Display,” allows you to keep a secondary display zoomed in at all times. And the “Hover Text” option displays highlighted text in high-resolution when you tap the Command key.

System Preferences Is More iOS-Like

The System Preferences pane in macOS Catalina.

System Preferences finally got a face-lift! When you launch it in macOS Catalina, you see your name at the top, just as you do on iOS. This new layout makes it easier to access account-related settings, subscriptions, and purchases, and manage all of your devices from a single interface.

Can Your Mac Run macOS Catalina?

If your Mac runs macOS Mojave, it should be able to run Catalina. According to Apple, the following models are compatible:

  • MacBook Air: 11- and 13-inch; mid-2012 or later
  • MacBook: Retina and 12-inch; early 2015 or later
  • MacBook Pro: 13- and 15-inch; mid-2012 or later
  • iMac: 21.5- and 27-inch; late 2012 or later
  • iMac Pro: 2017 or later
  • Mac mini: Late 2012 or later
  • Mac Pro: Late 2013 or later

To find your Mac’s model and year, click the Apple logo in the top-left corner, and then select “About My Mac.”

How to Install macOS Catalina

As usual, macOS Catalina is available as a free download in the Mac App Store. But remember, not all software will be compatible with it from the outset. If you rely on a particular piece of software, make sure it’s compatible with Catalina before you upgrade.

After you confirm your Mac is compatible, back up your computer just in case anything goes wrong during the installation process. To do this, connect an external drive, launch the Time Machine app, and then follow the onscreen instructions.

After you back up your machine, launch the Mac App Store—macOS Catalina should be listed on the Featured tab. If not, just type “Catalina” in the App Store’s search bar and search for it.

The installation file will download and give you an application called “Install macOS Catalina.” Run it and follow the prompts to upgrade your Mac to the latest version of macOS.

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