Apple’s iOS 10.3 Arrives with Little Fanfare

Today Apple delivered iOS 10.3 to compatible devices, adding a small number of new features.

This is the 4th updated to iOS 10. The original iOS 10 release shipped back in September and brought with it some new features and was followed up by iOS 10.1 in October and again iOS 10.2 arrived in December.

Each of those two most recent updates came with a single marquee feature – Portrait mode (for iPhone 7 Plus only) in iOS 10.1 and the new TV app in iOS 10.2. iOS 10.3 is no different in that there is nothiing really flashy here. This time the marquee feature is Find My AirPods, which is a little ridiculous (if you ask me).

In addition to “Find my AirPods”, iOS 10.3 adds a single Apple ID profile interface in Settings, a Touch 3D-compatible weather icon in Maps, and various CarPlay improvements. There’s new file system called Apple File System (APFS) that is better optimized for the NAND storage used in i-Devices. In other words, not much. Or, as BGR puts it, iOS 10.3 is “packed with new features.”

Apple also shipped even less interesting updates to macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. So if you’re using Apple devices, be sure to fire up Software Update to get the latest software.

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Our Privacy Has Just Been Sold

I do not normally post articles here that have a political angle however today news out of the US Senate resulted in this one – which should worry each and everyone of us.

This morning, Republican senators voted to remove Obama administration restrictions designed to keep internet service providers (ISPs) from selling our private data. The vote passed along party lines, 50-48. This means that very soon – your private data will more then likely be sold to the highest bidder – without your control or your knowledge.

The Current Situation with Your Internet Data

The policy, originally proposed by then acting FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler outlined clear guidelines for how ISPs were to handle your data. In short, they could not use it without your permission and they certainly were not able to share sensitive information like browsing history and location data with advertisers.

The Effect on Your Privacy Effected by this New Action

As of today, that rule is a step closer to being a memory. Congress essentially just opened the floodgates to some of the sleaziest corporations on the planet using your data however they see fit, and they did it while assuring each of us that it was in our best interest.

Worse, the ruling could put the FCC in danger of not being able to create similar ones in the future. According to the Congressional Review Act:

Once a rule is thus repealed, the CRA also prohibits the reissuing of the rule in substantially the same form or the issuing of a new rule that is substantially the same, “unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule.

If you’re wondering how we got here, follow the money: the 22 Republican senators behind the push to strike down the original ruling have pocketed more than $1.7 million from telecom companies since the 2012 election.

On its own, the lack of privacy each of us face on the internet is already a scary proposition. Removing the few guidelines that protect us from shady backroom deals is outright terrifying.

This is just the opening shot in an on-going war. Already through the Senate, up next is the House of Representatives, where it’s expected to get the needed number of votes thanks to a Republican-controlled House voting along party lines, and finally Trump’s desk. He’s expected to sign the bill.

It’s no secret what Trump and his Republican-controlled Congress plan to do to the internet: shift control to corporate interests. Newly-installed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai has made it clear he intends to dismantle net neutrality rules. Last month, he even went as far as blocking language in the privacy rules that required ISPs to adopt reasonable security measures to protect our data, and notify each of us when a breach occurs.

 

Overturning net neutrality guidelines, when coupled with a complete lack of privacy, seems to put all of us on a one-way collision course with the antiquated cable TV model. That means tiered pricing, prioritized service, and always-on monitoring of your internet activity. And thanks to this sacrifice at the alter of capitalism, ISPs are set to profit handsomely while doing away with any notion of an open internet.

For the rest of us, we’re at the mercy of a group of rich suits, a group we’re now trusting to ethically handle data containing our most sensitive information.

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Two Windows 10 Cumulative Updates In One Week

Microsoft released a new cumulative update for Windows 10 earlier this week, fixing two fairly minor issues in the OS. Microsoft today released yet another update for Windows 10 users.

Image result for windows 10 updates

Similar to the update from earlier this week, the latest update is also a minor one and it only comes with fixes for two issues. The update, KB4016635, brings the OS build number up to 14393.970.

Here’s the changelog for the update:

  • Addressed a known issue with KB4013429 that caused form display issues with       CRM 2011 on Internet Explorer 11.
  • Addressed the issue with KB4013429 that prevents users from updating apps         from Windows Store with 0x80070216 error.

Needless to mention, the update is available to all Windows 10 users and you can get it from Windows Update in the Settings app.

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3 Windows Preview Builds in a Week

This morning I started my workday with this. I docked my Surface Book for another busy workday and had to wait 30-40 minutes while yet another Windows Preview Build was installed.

Less than 24 hours after it delivered build 15060 to Windows 10 Insiders on the Fast ring, Microsoft shipped yet another build, 15061.

What makes this unusual is that Microsoft has now shipped three builds in a single week: Build 15058 on Tuesday, build 15060 on Thursday, and now build 15061 today (Friday). That’s a lot of Preview Builds… even for me!

Like the previous several builds, Windows 10 Insider Preview build 15061 does not bring any new features. Instead, Microsoft is completing the development of the next major Windows 10 version here and is just fixing bugs at this point.

You can check out the original Microsoft blog post for a list of changes, improvements, and fixes, and a separate list of known issues. Neither is very long.

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Microsoft’s March Patches Arrive

Microsoft’s batch of security patches for March is one of the largest ever and includes fixes for several vulnerabilities that are publicly known and actively exploited.

Microsoft published 17 security bulletins covering 135 vulnerabilities in its own products and one separate bulletin for Flash Player, which has its security patches distributed through Windows Update. Nine bulletins are rated critical and nine are rated as important.

The affected products include Windows, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Office, Exchange, Skype for Business, Microsoft Lync, and Silverlight.

The highest priority should be given to the MS17-013 security bulletin, which addresses remote code execution, privilege escalation, and information disclosure flaws in the Windows Graphics Component, Graphics Device Interface (GDI), and Color Management. These vulnerabilities affect Windows, Office, Skype, Lync, and Silverlight.

The remote code execution flaws can be exploited by tricking users into opening a specially crafted website or document. What’s worse is that one of the vulnerabilities is publicly known and another is already actively exploited.

Another important bulletin is MS17-012, which fixes a vulnerability in the Windows SMB network file-sharing protocol that was publicly disclosed over a month ago.

The MS17-006 and MS17-007 bulletins for Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer also contain vulnerabilities that have been publicly disclosed, including a critical remote code execution one.

On the server side, the Microsoft Exchange and IIS bulletins, MS17-015 and MS17-016, should be prioritized because these systems are typically exposed to the internet. Server administrators should also direct their attention to the bulletins for Hyper-V virtualization (MS17-008) and Active Directory Federation Server (MS17-019).

The high number of patches in this release are because Microsoft decided to postpone by a month the security updates it had originally scheduled for February. This unprecedented decision was made due to an unspecified last-minute issue and especially since there were a number of publicly known flaws.

Also, it seems that Microsoft has backtracked on its plan to stop organizing patch information into security bulletins, at least for this month. The company had planned to stop using bulletins in favor of a new portal called the Security Updates Guide.

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Tech Tips in Bad Weather

A massive winter storm is slated to slam the eastern portion of the United States tonight. The area where I live could see as much as 2 feet of snow.

These are some tech tips to help you prepare for the storm:

Keep Your Mobile Devices Charged

Make sure you keep your mobile devices, smartphones and laptops charged so if your home loses power you have a way to communicate and stay informed.

Stay on social media

Posting on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram is an easy way to let friends and family know you’re safe. Social media will also alert you to breaking news and updates on the storm.

Watch your local news

This should be a no-brainer, but you should be tuning into your local news for updates on the storm. In the case of a power outage, you could pull that old radio out of the closet. Don’t own a radio? Check your old iPods or smartphones. The iPod Nano and some Android smartphones, such as the HTC One M9, also include FM tuners.

Internet down? Use text instead of voice

Cell phone networks can quickly become overloaded during storms and natural disasters. It’s best to send a text message, rather than continuing to attempt a phone call. Standard text messages have dedicated bandwidth on cell carriers’ networks. If Web connectivity (or even worse electricity) is spotty or down, and the phone circuits are overloaded, your text messages have the best chance of getting through.

Charge all your batteries

It’s always smart to be prepared for the power to go out. Make sure all of your devices (not just your smartphone) are fully charged. When power and Internet are down, CNET editor Dan Ackerman recommends using a laptop’s USB port to charge your smartphone.

Apps could be a lifesaver

If you still have power and Internet, you should be keeping an eye on weather apps. Some of my favorites are NOAA Weather Radar, The Weather Channel, Weather Underground (Android, iOS) and 6abc (Philadelphia). Make sure to check out local apps because they will be there to help you stay up to date with where you live.

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Tablet Quality Browsing Comes to Windows 10

Surfing the internet with a browser on a tablet or other mobile device can be a little clunky. That’s because internet browsers are – for the most part – designed with desktop PC’s in mind. However I have always thought laptops that can act as tablets would benefit from a clean – simple internet browser for those times we want to simply browse the internet.

Good news for Windows 10 users is that one has just arrived and it’s name is UC Browser for Windows 10.

The browser has a minimalistic UI (user interface) similar to Microsoft Edge that allows you to focus on the content. To make things even better, UC has included a tablet mode that adapts to the device you are using — for instance, if you are using the Surface Book with a keyboard and mouse, you will get the normal desktop UI but once you enable the tablet mode, you will get an improved UI that’s easy to interact with touch on a tablet.

UC has also included some neat mouse gestures built in the app. The browser also includes a built-in password manager, voice search, support for Cloud Sync, and more:

  • Minimalist UI: Focus on the content.
  • Switch Between Tablet and Mouse/Keyboard Mode: If you are using a 2-in-1 computer like Surface Pro or Surface Book, it’s easy to switch the layout by turning on/off Tablet Mode.
  • Mouse Gesture: Right-click and move to go back, forward, reload page, etc.
  • Smart Address Bar(Omnibar): Just type one letter to get most relevant suggestion. You can also use it to find matching bookmarks and browsing history, or enter any words to launch search engine.
  • Tile-view Bookmarks: Colorful and touch-friendly design for bookmarks.
  • InPrivate Window: Don’t want to leave browsing trace on the device? Go for InPrivate Window.
  • Cloud Sync: Sync bookmarks between mobile/other PCs by logging in to UC browser.
  • New Tab: Metro-style Magnet for popular sites.
  • Password Manager: Store your login info of all kinds of websites and lock them with a PIN. Easy to retrieve and edit.
  • Voice Search: Tap the microphone icon and say the words. We will take care of the rest.
  • Tab Stack: Smart tab-stacking to locate the active tab in a glance when there are many tabs open.
  • Floating Navigator: Use the sphere to quickly search, go forward and back, and view all the tabs.

UC’s Windows 10 UWP app is currently rolling out, and you can get it here from the Windows Store.

 

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Verizon Gives Up on Email Service

Do you use a Verizon email account? Pretty soon, that could be an AOL account. I missed this story entirely until my dad called me asking what he should do with his Verizon email account. At first I thought my dad was a victim of a phishing attack… but as is usually the case… my dad was right and I was wrong.

So after my dad called I did a little research and this is what I discovered.

Verizon has recently been notifying customers that it is giving up control of 4.5 million customer email accounts and will be migrating those accounts to AOL — a move that may give some flashbacks to the 1990’s. (Although I do not expect any free CD’s!)

Customers have 30 days to choose one of three options before they lose access to their accounts:

  1. Head over to AOL.
  2. Transfer their email to another provider or
  3. Leave their accounts alone to be deleted.

Verizon users who choose the AOL option will still be able to keep their existing addresses, which will carry the “verizon.net” ending. They will, however, have to let Verizon know that they want to hang on to their addresses and log in through AOL’s system from now on.

Why the change? According to an information page on Verizon’s website, the company stated that it realized there are “more capable email platforms out there”, including AOL Mail, which has been owned by Verizon since 2015.

Migrating from Verizon to AOL will apparently be easy. Users interested in keeping their email addresses will not have to do much. Verizon will migrate the contacts, calendars, email and other information to AOL for them.

Depending on your situation AOL may actually be the right choice, however this will also be a good time for many to look at service providers like Google & Microsoft.

For my dad, I am thinking AOL will be his best option.

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Podcasts 101

One of the best innovations to arrive with mobile technology has been the emergence of Podcasts. I have been listening to podcasts for many years now and I am always surprised at just how few people really are aware of what these are.

I wanted to take some time to share with all of you, my dedicated readers just what podcasts are and how they can really help you learn more and immerse yourself in the topics you enjoy.

If you live in our new technological era and you’ve been online, then you must know something about podcasts. It’s not just me. Podcasts are becoming very popular. According to a study performed in 2014 by Edison Research, 39 million Americans listen to podcasts every month. These figures have most surely increased since then, especially considering the fact that almost all podcasts are available for free.

What Are Podcasts Anyway?

Podcasts are a direct result of the new technological development and have been around for a while. So, a podcast is a downloadable/ streamable file that contains the recording of a discussion/show. Usually podcasts can be listened to so they come in MP3 format, but they can also be videos. In terms of content, everyone can find something interesting; people who make them cover every imaginable topic and then some more.

If you want a comparison, a podcast usually sounds like a radio show. The creator invites several guests and they discuss a certain topic. Some podcasts also allow interactive interactions with listeners like direct conversations, comments, etc. One of the most important features of a podcast is its serial characteristic – just like a radio show, the podcast can have daily/weekly/monthly series.

Who Are the Podcasters?

Celebrities, comedians, scientists, blogger, regular people, and the list could go on. Actually, everyone with a decent smartphone and an online connection can create their own podcast.

Finding Podcasts

While many radio celebrities or comedians launched their career with a podcast, not everyone has something interesting to say. So how do you find the best podcasts?

Well, podcasts are usually listened on-the-go (while driving, walking, working out etc.) So, both Android and Apple devices have access to apps specially created to bring podcasts to you. Simply browse and try until you find interesting topics and people.

My Podcast app, Overcast. With a Podcast App on your SmartPhone your mind will expand as you are exposed to topics of all kinds.

My Favorite Podcast Apps

iPhone Users – Overcast offers a great combination of clean design, powerful audio and podcast management features. Overcast deftly handles episode playbacks and downloads, sends notifications of new episodes, and can play offline or through streaming if you need to save some space; plus it has some nice audio features. Voice Boost normalizes the sound levels of speech, automatically raising quiet voices and lowering loud ones. Smart Speed automatically cuts away at gaps and silence in the podcast, speeding up play without distorting audio. The most recent update adds interface enhancements, an iOS 10 widget and a new action tray that makes it easier to manage episodes of your favorite podcasts.

Android Users – Pocket Casts (Android, iOS) neatly combines style and function with an attractive design that showcases subscribed podcasts in tile format. Tap on a square to bring up an episode list and download options. A smart playlisting feature helps you sort and categorize your downloaded content for easy listening. Pocket Casts also includes video podcast support, auto-downloading and automatic cleanup of downloaded episodes to save storage space. Other helpful playback features include quick skip forward and back buttons with configurable time intervals, and a sleep timer. What may be its most important feature is its cross-platform nature that allows it to sync between devices and OS’s, which is great if you’ve got an iOS and Android device.

So there you go – if you were unaware of podcasts are did not think that taking the time to learn about them was just not worth it.

Give it a try – your mind will thank you.

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Cleaning Your PC for Free!

One of my favorite PC cleaners is CCleaner. This nifty free piece of software can really put some life back into your computer. There is a paid version but for the majority of home PC users the free version will add some life your PC. Here are some highlights if you take time time to install CCleaner.

Cleaning Out Some Old Programs

When you analyze and run a cleaning scan, CCleaner picks some default types of information to delete. But some of these aren’t worth cleaning regularly. For instance, browser cache can build up over time and use lots of space on systems with smaller hard drives. However, the cache lets you access commonly visited sites quickly, so clearing it all the time is detrimental.

On the Cleaner tab, have a look at the various categories CCleaner lets you tweak. The Windows header contains entries for Edge and Internet Explorer, File Explorer, and other system elements like log files. The Applications header lets you clear browser information, as well as various utilities you might have installed like Foxit Reader, Office, 7-Zip, and more.

Browse though these items and uncheck everything you don’t want CCleaner to remove. If you often navigate via the Recent Documents page in File Explorer, it’s not worth the minuscule storage you save by removing it.

Say Goodbye to Some of those Unnecessary Startup Programs

Whenever you install software, it often sets itself to run at startup and adds an entry to your right-click menu. In theory these are useful, but having too many startup items can slow down your system and a messy context menu is more frustrating than helpful.

CCleaner lets you easily edit both of these lists. Open the Tools tab and select the Startup option. Here, you can see startup programs under Windows, as well as Context Menu items and even Scheduled Tasks. Click an entry you don’t want, then click the Disable button on the right side. You shouldn’t Delete something unless you’re certain that you don’t need it.

To keep a copy of everything you have in these lists, press Ctrl + A to select all items and click the Save to text file button. If you’re not sure what an entry is, right-click it and choose Open containing folder to find the source.

If you’re not sure which items to remove, check out the top items you don’t need at startup. And once you’ve removed useless entries, you should boost your context menu by adding great shortcuts.

So Long Duplicate Files – and Hello More Free Space

Duplicate files are a pain. Not only do they waste space, they might confuse you if you edit one file, then open the other one and wonder where the changes went. To combat this, use CCleaner’s tool to find extra copies and remove them.

Head to Tools > Duplicate Finder to start. Here you can specify criteria, such as limiting file sizes, skipping over hidden and system files (which is a safe idea), and only searching certain drives. By default, the tool considers duplicate files as those with an identical name, file size, and modified date. You can also check the Content box to further restrict matches.

Once you click Search, the list will populate. Be careful with deleting these files; stick to removing your own documents and videos and avoid removing DLLs or other data used by programs.

Don’t Be Scared – Wipe That Drive!

When you click Delete on a file in Windows, it disappears from your view. But that file is still on your hard drive for a while after deletion. Windows marks the spot where that data was stored as free space ready for new information, so until that happens you can recover the old file with the right software.

CCleaner provides a tool to securely erase data from your hard drive so that others can’t access it. Visit Tools > Drive Wiper to access it. Under Wipe, select Free Space Only. A Simple Overwrite will do in most cases, but you can do an Advanced Overwrite with three passes if you’d prefer. Select the drives you want to perform this on, and click Wipe. Note that this will take some time, so you shouldn’t use your computer while it’s running.

Wiping the free space won’t affect the contents of your drive at all, but will prevent previously deleted files from being recovered. If you want to completely obliterate a drive, select Entire Drive next to Wipe. This will irrevocably destroy all information on the drive, so use it with caution! For safety you can’t run this process on your Windows disk, but it’s great for wiping external drives.

Getting Under the Hood with Your Disk Space

While CCleaner can free up a good amount of space for you, chances are that the bulk of storage on your computer is taken up by your files and installed programs. There are several disk usage visualization tools, but CCleaner has its own built right in.

Some Cookies Are Good – Some Are Not So Good

When you clear browser information, cookies are one of the items CCleaner can remove. You probably don’t have any problem with tracking cookies going out the window, but removing the cookies for your email or social accounts means you have to log back into them. Head to Options > Cookies in CCleaner to remedy this.

The left panel shows you every cookie on your machine, while the right lists the cookies that CCleaner doesn’t delete. You can scroll through the (likely massive) list and double-click any website to add it to the Keep list. For some help, right-click on the left side and click Intelligent Scan — CCleaner will automatically find cookies for sites like Google and AOL and move them to the Keep side. You can remove them if it keeps one you don’t want.

As I said at the strat of this article, the free version in most cases is enough  however there are a few features, like cleaning automatically on a schedule which are only available in the $25 Professional version. However, you can easily set up CCleaner on a schedule manually for free. You don’t have to pay to get a ton of powerful features in one great utility. Start using CCleaner to its full potential today!

You can learn more and download the free version of CCleaner here.

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