Microsoft’s November Patch Tuesday Arrives

November’s batch of Patch Tuesday updates is now rolling out to Windows 10 users. As per usual, today’s updates include quite a few bug fixes and improvements, but no noteworthy features.

For those already running the Fall Creator’s Update, today’s patches bring the build number up to 16299.64 with update KB4048955. This is the first Patch Tuesday update for the Fall Creators Update. Here’s a look at the fixes included:

  • Addressed issue that causes the Mixed Reality Portal to stop responding on launch.
  • Addressed issue that causes a black screen to appear when you switch between windowed and full-screen modes when playing some Microsoft DirectX games.
  • Addressed a compatibility issue that occurs when you play back a Game DVR PC recording using Android or iOS devices.
  • Addressed issue where the functional keys stop working on Microsoft Designer Keyboards.
  • Addressed issue to ensure that certain USB devices and head-mounted displays (HMD) are enumerated properly after the system wakes up from Connected Standby.
  • Addressed issue where the virtual smart card doesn’t assess the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) vulnerability correctly.
  • Addressed issue where Get-StorageJob returns nothing when there are storage jobs running on the machine.
  • Addressed issue where applications based on the Microsoft JET Database Engine (Microsoft Access 2007 and older or non-Microsoft applications) fail when creating or opening Microsoft Excel .xls files. The error message is: “Unexpected error from external database driver (1). (Microsoft JET Database Engine)”.
  • Addressed issue where application tiles are missing from the Start menu. Additionally, applications that the Store app show as installed don’t appear on the application list of the Start menu. Computers that have Internet connectivity and upgrade on or after November 14, 2017 will receive this preventative solution and avoid this issue. Machines that lack network connectivity or have already encountered this issue should follow the steps in the Microsoft Answers thread “Missing apps after installing Windows 10 Fall Creators Update”. Microsoft will release and document an additional solution in a future release.
  • Addressed issue where Microsoft Edge cannot create a WARP support process and appears to stop responding for up to 3 seconds during a wait timeout. During the timeout period, users cannot navigate or interact with the requested page.
  • Security updates to Microsoft Scripting Engine, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Graphics Component, Windows kernel, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player.

Updates are similarly available for prior Windows 10 releases, each with a lengthy list of bug fixes. Windows 10 Mobile users are also getting an update to build 15254.12, which contains all of the improvements found in update KB4048954. You can find a full list of release notes at Microsoft’s support site.

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Microsoft Apps on Your Android or iOS Device

Although Microsoft’s Windows Phone is a distant memory and I often get choked up missing my old Windows Phone – Microsoft has done a great job embracing both Apple & Android. There are several awesome Microsoft productivity apps that you can download on your smartphone that will help you work better and get that awesome Microsoft tingly feeling (or maybe that’s just me).

Here are my favorite productivity apps that you will want to make sure are installed on your device.

Microsoft Office

Although small screens are not the best UI for major editing jobs, having the ability to tweak a presentation or other document when you are waiting to meet with a customer is valuable and these apps will give you that capability.

In addition, being connected to your e-mail and calendar is critical during the work day and having Outlook on your device for that is a no brainer. The latest versions of Outlook for iOS and Android include the Focused Inbox feature to help you stay focused on the important communications.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote has become my second brain and allows me to take all of my notes and other information everywhere I go. It is laid out to use a heirarchy of Notebooks which then have Sections and then those areas have Pages which can then be organize with all of the data that enters our daily existence.

Microsoft To-Do

Although this app is not nearly as full featured as Wunderlist which it replaced, much to the chagrin of Wunderlist loyalists, it does integrate with Outlook and enables you to keep track of all the items on your work list.

Microsoft OneDrive

As the cloud continues to become an integrated feature in our work flow having access to it and everything stored there is what makes this app a must on your device. It has recently undergone a significant UI update while makes the experience across iOS and Android nearly the same which reinforces the companies effort to make your experience mobile no matter what platform you use.

Microsoft Authenticator

If you are not using Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on your accounts then you are behind the security power curve. What I love about the Microsoft Authenticator app is that it is platform agnostic, What I mean by that is I am able to setup the app as a second factor of authentication for any platform that supports 2FA. There are options for entering the account data manually or using a QR Code to automatically set 2FA in action.

Bonus Apps to Help You Work

Microsoft Edge

This recommendation reaches both iOS and Android and while Microsoft Edge is still in beta preview mode on iOS and Android (public preview). iOS users can sign-up to begin testing Edge through the Apple TestFlight program.or

This app is a key element of productivity for anyone who is using the latest feature update for Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update, with these two mobile platforms. Within the Edge app there is a method to send a website link to your Windows 10 device which can be opened right then or stashed in your Action Center as an alert that can be opened later. This feature, Share to PC, is some of the early steps Microsoft is working on for their Windows Timeline feature that will make this process easier by sharing activities between a users ecosystem of devices.

Microsoft Launcher

I wish it was possible to tell everyone that this app is accessible on both iOS and Android but unfortunately Apple does not support alternate launchers on their platform so this one is just for those on Android devices.

Microsoft Launcher is one way that users can transform their phone into a pseudo Microsoft device by not using the default Android launcher options and then installing any and all of the Microsoft apps that they want on their handset.

There are options to configure wallpapers, themes, icon packs and many other aspects of the app. In addition, by tying in your Microsoft Account you can easily access your calendar, documents, and other activities. Just like the Microsoft Edge app there are also capabilities built in to share items to your Windows 10 device that uses the same Microsoft Account.

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Fiirefox Quantum Arrives with Promises of Improved Speed & More

Firefox 57 is now available to download — and it’s probably the single biggest update to Firefox in the browser’s 13 year history.

In fact the the changes are so big that Mozilla has given the release its very own name: ‘Firefox Quantum‘.

A fitting title for such a fit release. As you will see, Firefox 57 is a quantum leap over previous versions of Firefox.

Firefox Quantum: Better, Faster, Stronger

There are 3 major changes in Firefox 57 that make it better, faster and stronger:

  • New look & feel including a new theme, new Firefox logo and new ‘New Tab’ page
  • New Rendering Engine that’s multi-core friendly and GPU efficient
  • New Add-on framework that’s designed for the modern web

Let’s take a closer look at each point.

Better: a new look

firefox quantum on ubuntu

Quantum gives an all-new look and feel to Firefox. The angular visual refresh, dubbed Photon, is clean, light and responsive.

Alongside the squared tabs, redesigned toolbar icons, and revamped menus is one striking change: a combined, centre-aligned address & search bar.

I got used to it after a few minutes. Once you get used to the “newness” it recedes into the UI, allowing you to focus on the contents of tabs instead go the Chrome around it. If you don’t like this change you can (pictured above) return to the separate address bar and search box.

The Photon refresh extends to virtually every part of the UI, form the spacing of menus and the color of toolbar icons to transitions and tab loading animations

firefox 57 gif

Firefox 57’s new look includes new UI assets and animations

A couple of new features are introduced as part of the Photon rejig, including a new “Firefox library” (a menu giving quick access to browsing history, bookmarks, Pocket saves, and synced tabs); “Screenshots” (which does what it says on the tin).

There’s a a totally redesigned new tab page. it makes far more efficient use of space than the old “speed dial” approach, and surfaces some helpful “highlights” from recent web searches and articles being shared on Pocket.

Talking of which, the Pocket save button has been moved out of the toolbar and into the new combined address/search bar.

Faster: Performance Revamp

‘Firefox is 2x as fast as this time last year, and uses 30% less memory than Google Chrome’

According to the bods at Mozilla Firefox Quantum is 2x as fast as last year’s Firefox 49, and uses 30% less memory than Google Chrome.

How?

Well, it’s partly down to all-new CSS engine called ‘Stylo’, true multi-process architecture (a process which began with Electrolysis), plus new smarts in setting tab priority, and more.

“Over the past seven months, we’ve been rapidly replacing major parts of the engine, introducing Rust and parts of Servo to Firefox. Plus, we’ve had a browser performance strike force scouring the codebase for performance issues, both obvious and non-obvious,” explains Mozilla’s Lin Clark in a (thoroughly excellent) write-up.

All of the changes create an effectually new Firefox.

Stronger: a more reliable extensions framework

For many, the biggest change in Firefox 57 won’t be the sleek new interface, or the invisible under the hood tune-ups, but the fact that many much loved Firefox add-ons will no longer work with the browser.

‘Legacy add-ons no longer work in Firefox 57’

For the best part of a year Firefox has allowed you to run both legacy add-ons and the new-fangled web extensions side-by-side. With this release that ends; legacy add-ons no longer work in Firefox 57.

Add-on developers have had a long, long time to prepare for this day. A such a slew of popular add-ons are already available as Web Extensions (hurrah).

You can view a list of web extensions that work with Firefox 57 here.

You may find that one of two of your favourites haven’t been updated and, as such, won’t work in the new release. Alternatives may be available.

Firefox Quantum is just the start

If this post seems overly positive it’s because it has reason to be. Firefox 57 is a monumentally important release for the Firefox project, for Mozilla, and for open-source software in general.

The best part is that none of this is hyperbole: Firefox 57 really is better, faster, stronger. These improvements are tangible. The new combination of change here blasts some air back in to this flagship open-source project’s sagging sail.

Right now, Firefox feels in better shape than a long time and I, as someone who instinctively clicks the colorful Chrome logo when I want some internetz, am super impressed.

Whether this release sways you back to Firefox full-time or not, competition is healthy. Google won’t be oblivious to the praise the resurgent Firefox is getting. It will have improvements of its own to debut, I’m sure.

A new Firefox emerges today, and the improvements on offer serve as one heck of a foundation on which to build on.

Nice job Mozilla!

Download Firefox 57

So that’s the skinny on why you may want to give the latest release a spin for yourself. But how do you get Firefox on Ubuntu?

Well, that depends. If you’re using Windows, macOS or Linux you’ll be able to download Firefox 57 from the Mozilla website later today.

The latest stable release is technically already available to download from Mozilla’s FTP servers (the impatient route).

If you’re using Ubuntu you can relax. Ubuntu users will receive an automatic upgrade to Firefox 57 on supported versions of the distro (which includes Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, 16.04 LTS and the latest Ubuntu release, 17.10) shortly.

The upgrade won’t roll out right away, but it should be available to most at some point in the next day or two — so keep an eye trained on the Software Updater!

 

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Understanding Two-Factor Authentification

If you aren’t using two-factor authentication yet, you’re way behind and leaving your accounts vulnerable to hackers and phishers. In fact – you probably have been exposed to two-factor authentication and do not even realize it. If you ever forgot a password and were sent a text message with a code or if you were required to answer security questions you have already used two-factor authentication.

Image result for two factor authentication

Passwords today are simply not secure enough, especially when considering your personal and financial security.

There are several types of two-factor authentication security. Also not all two-factor authentication methods are equal. Some are safer and more secure then others. Here’s a look at the most common methods and which ones best meet your individual needs.

Two-Factor Authentication vs. Two-Step Authentication

Before diving in, let’s take a quick moment to clear up some confusion between two-factor authentication and two-step authentication. They’re similar, but not quite the same — one’s a square, the other a rectangle.

Two-factor authentication is when you protect an account with two factors. A factor is either “something you know” (e.g. password), “something you have” (e.g. phone), or “something you are” (e.g. fingerprint). To truly be protected by two-factor authentication, your account must require two locks of different factors before granting access.

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication methods

If an account is protected by two locks of the same factor, then it falls under two-step authentication (or two-phase authentication). For example, a password and a security question are both “something you know,” making authentication two-step but not two-factor. Though this can still provide adequate protection, two-factor authentication is preferable.

Just as a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn’t a square, two-factor authentication is a type of two-step authentication but not the other way around.

Method 1: Security Questions

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method security

What is it?
When creating an account, you choose one or more security questions and set answers for each one. When logging into that account, you have to provide the right answer to each question to validate that you have rightful access.

The Pros
Security questions are extremely easy to set up. Most of the time, the service provides a dropdown menu of questions — all you have to do is pick one and give the answer. You don’t need any other equipment, devices, etc. The answer is just stored in your head.

The Cons
Many security question answers can be found in public records (e.g. your father’s middle name) or socially engineered (e.g. phishing emails or phone calls). To get around this, you can make your answer gibberish and effectively make it a second password — but be careful that you don’t lose it or forget it!

Method 2: SMS Messages

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method sms

What is it?
When creating an account, you provide your mobile phone number. Whenever you want to log in, the service sends you an SMS message with a verification code that expires (usually after 15 minutes). You have to input that number to complete the logging in process.

The Pros
SMS messages are extremely convenient. These days, pretty much everyone has an SMS-capable device and can receive SMS messages free of charge. Usually the messages arrive instantly, but even when they don’t it rarely takes more than a few minutes. If you ever lose your device, you can transfer your phone number so you’ll never be permanently locked out.

The Cons
You have to trust the service enough to share your phone number. Some disreputable services may use your number for advertising, or sell it off for monetary gain. And since phone numbers aren’t actually tied to devices, hackers can actually circumvent SMS-based authentication without ever touching your phone (though it isn’t easy).

Method 3: Time-Based One-Time Passwords

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method totp

What is it?
When you create an account, you’re assigned a “secret key.” After installing a code-generating app (like Google Authenticator or its alternatives), you scan a QR code to load the secret key into the app. It then generates one-time passwords every so often (e.g. 30 seconds) using the secret key as a seed, and you need these one-time passwords to log in.

The Pros
The codes are generated based on a mixture of the secret key and the current time, which means you can get valid codes on your device even when you have no reception and/or no mobile service. And since the secret key is stored on the device itself, it can’t get intercepted or redirected (such as through a phone number takeover).

The Cons
You will be unable to log in if your device runs out of battery or dies altogether. Sometimes internal clocks can desync between device and service, which results in invalid codes. These are two reasons why printing backup codes is essential.

If a hacker somehow clones your secret key, then they can generate their own valid codes at will. And if the service doesn’t limit login attempts, hackers may still be able to compromise your account through sheer brute force.

Method 4: U2F Keys

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method u2f

What is it?
Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) is an open standard that’s used with USB devices, NFC devices, and smart cards. In order to authenticate, you simply plug it in (for USB keys), bump it (for NFC devices), or swipe it (for smart cards).

The Pros
A U2F key is a true physical factor. Unlike SMS codes, they can’t be intercepted or redirected. And unlike most two-factor methods, U2F keys are phishing-proof because they’re only registered to work with sites you’ve registered. It’s one of the most secure 2FA methods currently available.

The Cons
Because U2F is a relatively new technology, it isn’t yet widely supported. For example, as of this writing, NFC keys only work with Android mobile devices whereas USB keys mainly work with the Chrome browser (Firefox is working on it). U2F keys also cost money, often between $10-$20 but could go higher depending on how rugged you want it to be.

Method 5: Face, Voice, Fingerprint

The Pros and Cons of Two-Factor Authentication Types and Methods two factor authentication method biometrics

What is it?
Facial recognition, voice recognition, and fingerprint scans all fall under the category of biometrics. Systems use biometric authentication when it’s imperative that you really are who you say you are, often in areas that require security clearance (e.g. the government).

The Pros
Biometrics are extremely difficult to hack. Even a fingerprint, which is arguably the easiest to copy, requires some kind of physical interaction. Voice recognition would need some kind of statement said in your voice, and facial recognition would need something as drastic as plastic surgery. It isn’t unbreakable, but pretty close.

The Cons
The biggest downside, and the reason why biometrics are rarely used as a two-factor method, is that a compromised biometric is compromised for life. Plus, how comfortable would you feel giving up your face, voice, or fingerprints? Would you trust them to be kept safe? Most wouldn’t.

Which Two-Factor Authentication Method Is Best?

Well, it depends on what you value most:

  • For balance, time-based one-time passwords are the best. You just have to be careful about keeping backup codes in case you lose or break your device.
  • For privacy, U2F keys are the best. They can’t be used to track you and you don’t have to give up any personal information to use them. But they cost money.
  • For convenience, SMS messages are the best. Yes, they can be intercepted or redirected, and yes, they fail with bad reception, but they’re quick, easy, and secure enough.

If given the choice, don’t ever rely on security questions as a two-factor method. If you have no other option, then prefer to use it as a second password. Don’t ever answer the question directly, especially if the answer isn’t something that only you know.

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Crisis Donations Made Easy @ Facebook

Facebook is giving users a new way to help after a major disaster: an actual donate button.

The company introduced the Crisis Response Center a couple of months ago to provide useful information for victims – as well as help their friends and family check in on them. The donate button is the latest step towards providing relief for victims.

Facebook adds crisis donate button to help disaster victims

Facebook will partner the nonprofit organization GlobalGiving, which works with partner organizations to find the best ways to distribute funds. This way, concerned Facebook users can throw money at a crisis page without having to choose a specific organization.

Asha Sharma, Facebook’s Social Good Product Manager, said the company hopes this tool will connect enthusiastic donors with areas of greatest need:

Following a disaster, people in the affected area often have tremendous needs to help them recover and rebuild, while others who aren’t affected want to help communities in any way they can. Our goal at Facebook is to create tools that make it easier for people to help their community and the communities they care about recover from a crisis.

Facebook also pledges to waive all fees on donations made through the Crisis donate button – a welcome gesture.

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iOS 11.1.1 Arrives with Bug Fix

Apple has released iOS 11.1.1 for all iPhone and iPad customers. The latest software update includes bug fixes and improvements including a fix for the notorious ‘i’ autocorrect bug that resulted in an A and [?] character appearing.

Users can find the update available through the Settings app under General and Software Updates. The fix has already been available for developer and public beta testers running iOS 11.2 beta.

Apple previously asked customers to create a text replacement workaround for the ‘i’ autocorrect bug as a temporary fix. With iOS 11.1.1 and later, the workaround solution is no longer required.

Here are the full release notes:

iOS 11.1.1

iOS 11.1.1 includes bug fixes for your iPhone or iPad. This update:

  • Fixes an issue with keyboard auto-correct
  • Fixes an issue where Hey Siri stops working

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Saving Windows Media Player

Image result for windows media player logoMicrosoft isn’t quite as bad as Apple or Google when it comes to trashing much-loved apps, features, and services, but lately Microsodft also seems to be moving in that direction.

For example, with the release of the Fall Creators Update, Windows Media Player has, at first glimpse disappeared. It goes missing as soon as you install update KB4046355 on build number 1709. I am sure Microsoft really – really wants everyone using Groove, however in many ways Media Player is simpler and all you need.

But is Media Player gone forever? Well, no. At least not yet. You can get it back. Here’s how.

Bringing Back Windows Media Player on Windows 10

Follow the step-by-step guide below to bring back Windows Media Player:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to Apps > Apps and features.
  3. Click on Manage optional features.
  4. Select Add a feature.
  5. Scroll down to Windows Media Player.
  6. Click on Install.

Windows Media Player Disappeared? Get It Back! windows 10 optional features

The process might take several minutes to complete. When it’s finished, you’ll find the Windows Media Player shortcut in your Start Menu. Click on the shortcut to launch the app.

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Viewing Your iTunes Purchases History Made Easy

Starting this week Apple is making it easier for users to view purchase history directly from their iOS devices. The company revealed in an updated support document that you can now view your App Store and iTunes purchase history in the Settings app on iOS.

Previously, as the support document notes, this functionality was only available through iTunes on Mac and PC. While you could view purchase history via the App Store and iTunes Store on iOS, it was purely for re-downloading purposes and didn’t show detailed pricing information.

In order to view purchase history on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, simply head into the Settings app and follow Apple’s steps below:

  1. Go to Settings > [your name] > iTunes & App Store.
  2. Tap your Apple ID, then tap View Apple ID. You might be asked to authenticate your Apple ID.
  3. If you use Family Sharing, you’ll see in your purchase history what you bought using your Apple ID, but you won’t see what other family members bought. To see what other family members bought, sign in with their Apple ID.
  4. Scroll to Purchase History and tap it.

Apple further explains that purchase history is grouped by “the date that they were charged to the payment method that you have on file.” Items that have not yet been processed by your bank will appear under a “Pending” heading at the top of the interface.

If you tap on an item in the purchase history ledger, you’ll see more details such as the purchase/download date and the name of the device from which the content was purchased. You can also easily address discrepancies by clicking the “Report a Problem” button.

Furthermore, you can request a new email receipt to your inbox by tapping the “Resend” button, should have you accidentally deleted the first one.

For more details about this new functionality, head to Apple’s support webpage now. This is certainly a welcome change as having all of the information in one place makes managing your purchases and downloads considerably easier.

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Google Battles Tricky Redirect Pages

Did you ever wonder how you got tricked into opening a rogue webpage? If you have experienced this – you are not alone. This is a big problem because this nasty trick can land you on a webpage that can install viruses, trojan horses and more.

Image result for google chrome

The good news is that Google is taking some action to help stop this.

Google is rolling out new security features for Chrome which will make it harder for third-party ads to subvert pop-up blockers or disguise links within a site.

On its Chromium blog, Google admits to getting lots of user feedback saying that sites will randomly redirect to other pages — one in five feedback reports relate to seeing unwanted content. Some pages do it automatically, while others have transparent overlays or deceptive buttons.

Another nifty trick is to change the page you’re currently on to the ad, while opening the link you’re trying to access in another tab. Google calls this “effectively a circumvention” of the pop-up blocker.

Starting in January, Chrome will block these kinds of redirects. Site owners can today access an Abusive Experiences Report which will allow them to see if their site has problems like these. If they do, and the site’s content is not fixed within 30 days, the site won’t be able to open new pages or trigger redirects.

This could be part of Google’s campaign against malicious ads, which it’s been working on since earlier this year. The company has also said advertisers have until next year to clean up their ads or they won’t appear to Chrome users at all.

 

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Googling Restaurant Wait Times

The latest piece of information Google is providing is wait times at restaurants. Most people have their favorite restaurants and favorite foodstuffs, and are willing to wait in line to experience them. But everyone has a limit to how long they’re willing to wait. So Google has stepped in.

Image result for google restaurant wait times

From now on, when you click on a business listing on Google for a restaurant, it will show you a slew of information about wait times. This includes live wait times at that moment, average wait times for specific days of the week, and when the restaurant experiences its peak wait times.

Google is adding wait times for almost 1 million “sit-down restaurants around the world that allow walk-ins”. The company is also planning to add wait times for grocery stores in the future, thereby allowing millenials to decide whether that almost-ripe avocado really is worth the wait.

These wait times are based on “anonymized historical data,” so they may not always be 100% accurate. Still, knowing roughly how long you’ll have to wait to eat is better than not having a clue. This feature is rolling out to Google Search now, and coming soon to Google Maps.

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