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Phishing attacks — fake “Apple” emails

 Computer, Desktop, Notebook, Phone, Tablet  Comments Off on Phishing attacks — fake “Apple” emails
Mar 282018
 

I’ve noticed these types of scams for awhile: email messages (supposedly) from Apple purportedly about a payment or Apple ID or login from another device (which in fact you may not own). More and more email apps (especially on mobile devices) do not permit examination of the raw message text, which often permits detection of the fraud. So, what to do?

This Vipre Security News blog post (March 16, 2018) is a good summary of the situation: “Apple Phishing Attacks Prompt Advice From Tech Giant.”

Apple customers don’t get phished quite as much as Microsoft ones, but they do face a fairly annoying variety and frequency of fake emails. The problem stems from the fact that Apple sends emails to its customers quite regularly, thereby making the millions of Apple customers juicy targets for the bad guys.

There are three basic fake emails going around. The first appears as an email invoice for your “recent Apple purchase.” Another is a “Reminder” notifying you of an account login from an iPad in Monaco. The third, and possibly most alarming, is a text message informing you that your Apple ID is expiring today.

If you’re not sure whether an email about an App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks Store, or Apple Music purchase is legitimate, these tips from Apple may help.

As in all phishing scams, these fake messages want you to click on a link or open an attachment (which may include further fake links) and then trick you into providing personal or account information — which (genuine) “App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks Store, or Apple Music purchases will never ask you to provide.”

Checking or updating any account or payment information should only be done in the Settings on your Apple device.

Spectre and Meltdown — Intel patches progress

 Computer, Desktop, News  Comments Off on Spectre and Meltdown — Intel patches progress
Mar 022018
 

Yesterday, PC World posted some articles regarding progress in the continuing Spectre and Meltdown saga.

The fixed Spectre fixes are coming fast and furious now. Intel quietly pushed CPU firmware updates out for Haswell (4th-generation) and Broadwell (5th-generation) processors earlier this week, following in the footsteps of recent microcode patches for Skylake (6th-gen), Kaby Lake (7th-gen), and Coffee Lake (8th-gen) processors.

Don’t expect to see the updates immediately. They need to trickle down through hardware suppliers like Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus in the form of motherboard BIOS updates; you can’t grab it directly from Intel. If you own a laptop or prebuilt PC from a major manufacturer, keep an eye out for an available update.

The Spectre CPU firmware updates will affect your PC’s performance, though it varies wildly depending on your hardware, operating system, and tasks at hand.

Typically, patching Spectre and Meltdown mitigations have followed a traditional pattern: Microsoft patches Windows via Windows Update, antivirus companies like AVG have patched their antivirus software, and so on. Intel, too, authors patches, as it recently did for Haswell and Broadwell CPUs. But unlike Microsoft, Intel doesn’t directly ship those patches to end users—it uses its network of PC makers and motherboard vendors to distribute them, after the appropriate testing by each vendor.

What isn’t clear is whether Microsoft will also push out Intel’s microcode via Windows Update, its usual distribution mechanism for supplying patches. … Though neither Microsoft nor Intel clarified exactly why Microsoft is providing Intel’s microcode, the likely reason is to support smaller PC makers, and especially motherboard makers … [So, for the typical PC user this does not apply, eh.]

Processor designations like Coffee Lake, Kaby Lake, Skylake, Broadwell, Haswell, etc., don’t mean anything to most of us; so, basically all this news tells us is that Intel and Microsoft (among others) are continuing to work on patches for relatively new and somewhat older PCs.

Update 3-9-2018: Intel issues Meltdown/Spectre fixes for Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge as patch effort winds down

Intel’s revised patches for its Ivy Bridge [3rd gen] and Sandy Bridge [2nd gen] processor families have begun rolling out to address Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. With the release of the new code, just a few older processor families remain in the patch queue.

By now, Microsoft and many antivirus vendors have issued the appropriate patches, but if you’re concerned that your PC or motherboard vendor hasn’t delivered the appropriate patch, you can also check Microsoft’s site.

Update 4-6-2018: How to find your motherboard’s Spectre CPU fix – Such a crucial patch should be much simpler to find – by Brad Chacos, Senior Editor, PCWorld – April 5, 2018

Operating system patches alone can protect against the nasty Meltdown flaw affecting Intel processors, but fixing Spectre —Meltdown’s nasty sibling, which affects all CPUs — requires firmware updates for your hardware. Those firmware fixes are finally available for all Intel processors scheduled to receive a fix, dating back to the Sandy Bridge (2nd-gen) era of Core processors from 2011.

Installing Spectre fixes aren’t so easy, though, especially if you’re using a computer you’ve built yourself, or one from a boutique PC builder that uses off-the-shelf parts. You can’t download CPU firmware patches directly from Intel or AMD; instead, you need to download them from your motherboard’s provider, such as Asus, Gigabyte, or ASRock. You’ll need to know your motherboard’s model number to find the correct firmware for your device, too, and Windows doesn’t make that easy to find.

 

Ad blocking — Chrome enters the mix

 Computer, News  Comments Off on Ad blocking — Chrome enters the mix
Feb 142018
 

If you’re already using an ad blocker with your favorite Web browsers, you’re in good company. Eliminating the clutter and distraction is one thing (which some browsers’ Reader View can do). But ad clutter also slows down page loading, consumes more battery power, and poses some privacy and security risks.

Google and Facebook command the bulk of online ad revenue; so, when Google announces that the latest release of its Chrome browser will start blocking (some) ads, that’s news, eh. Today’s Cnet article “How Chrome ad blocking is already changing the web” provides a good summary of this move.

What was once unthinkable — that Chrome would block online ads, Google’s lifeblood — becomes reality on Thursday.

That’s when Chrome takes a significant step in the direction that  hundreds of millions of us already have gone by installing ad blockers. Chrome stops far short of those browser extensions, which typically ban all ads, but the move carries plenty of importance because Google’s browser dominates the web on both personal computers and phones. Chrome is used to view about 56 percent of web pages, according to analytics firm StatCounter.

Chrome’s ad-blocking move is designed to rid the web of sites stuffed to the gills with ads or degraded by obnoxious ads, said Ryan Schoen, Google’s product manager for web platform work at Chrome. There are signs it’s already had an effect: About 42 percent of sites that the company’s warned have dialed back on ads to pass Google’s standards, including the LA Times, Forbes and the Chicago Tribune.

A Web without lots of ads is unlikely. Perhaps there’ll be more “paywalls” on news sites. At least soon there’ll be another way to curtail the most obnoxious ads. The saga will continue.

And I do recommend Google’s browser. Windows PCs come with Microsoft’s Edge browser; and Apple’s devices come with Safari. Just add Chrome as a second browser.

Which Mac to get?

 Computer, Research  Comments Off on Which Mac to get?
Feb 012018
 

Considering purchasing a Mac for the first time or replacing an older one? Apple computers are premium products; so, congrats on your decision. If you’re a typical user, your experience on a Mac will be smoother, more consistent over time, particularly due to less housekeeping distractions than on a PC. And while Macs are not immune to malware and hacking, generally there’s less risk (remember, regardless of type of computer, more often criminals hack your head, not your device).

For power users — those with a passion for high-end video games or professional video production — choosing a Mac can be more complicated — considering a purchase over $5000 gets into a range where PCs have advantages regarding bang-for-the-buck (despite other factors).

Other than spending time exploring product descriptions and specifications on Apple’s site, this January 30, 2018, PC World article “Which Mac should you buy?” is an excellent guide.

When it comes to purchasing a Mac, we’ve got the lowdown on each model to help you make a buying decision.

Before we proceed, we should specifically address Apple’s desktop Macs. It’s been a while since the company has updated the Mac mini and Mac Pro. While our advice for each Mac model provides guidance as to which model you should buy, you might actually consider waiting to see if Apple releases a new Mac mini or Mac Pro, or consider buying an iMac.

This buying guide provides an overview of all the Mac models available, and what each model is best suited for. To get more details, you can read the full review by clicking the product name in the product boxes that have mouse ratings.

Apple has standard and “Pro” models for some of their computers — notebooks (MacBook) and all-in-ones (iMac), and then at the high-end just the Mac Pro. Most of my clients with Apple computers have iMac’s. And indeed those models are the most popular.

I always recommend visiting an Apple Store and getting some hands on experience to help decide which model fits your needs and budget best. Just remember that you’ll likely be getting another new computer in several years, and if you can do everything on your iPhone or iPad, then there’s no need for a desktop. And if printing from your phone or tablet is the only issue, then a less expensive notebook may be fine. But one thing I can say from experience is that my 2012 Mac has gotten somewhat slower and slower with each macOS upgrade; so, performance is important, even for routine daily tasks.

 

Best TV streaming service?

 Desktop, Notebook, Phone, Site, Tablet, Video  Comments Off on Best TV streaming service?
Jan 312018
 

PC World, January 31, 2018: “Best TV streaming service: SlingTV vs Hulu vs PlayStation Vue, and all the rest.”

Which streaming TV bundle is the best deal for cord cutters? Our head-to-head reviews hash it out.

When you “cut the [cable TV) cord]” and keep your high-speed Internet service, whether you also switch to over-the-air (OTA) channels, what over-the-top (OTT) service do you subscribe to? There are quite a few choices. Not all choices are available everywhere.

Personally, after reactivating my old TV antenna for OTA reception, I chose YouTube TV. Is YouTube TV perfect? Nope. Does the service have all the OTA channels? Nope. Do I like it? Most definitely.

The PC World article cited above is an excellent guide for choices: Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, FuboTV, and Philo, and more. Channels, prices, features, device compatibility.

To see which local stations are available in your area, visit the websites for Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, FuboTV, and YouTube TV.

 

Mixed reality — if the price is right?

 Computer, Desktop, Research, Site  Comments Off on Mixed reality — if the price is right?
Jan 292018
 

I’ve been following this topic for a couple of years: virtual reality and mixed reality consumer gear. I have one PC which meets the requirements, but I’ve yet to make the investment in a headset. Now there are choices other than Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive if “mixed reality” is good enough. Price still can be a barrier when the value over time is fuzzy. And the technology is advancing quickly. So, this Cnet article on January 19, 2018, grabbed my interest: “Windows Mixed Reality headset prices cut in half on Amazon.”

The big promise of Windows Mixed Reality headsets was to bring augmented and virtual reality and anything in between to people at more reasonable prices and with an easier setup than competitors. By the time they rolled out late last year, though, it was mostly just the latter that came true: Once the headsets were bundled with controllers the WMR headsets cost the same or more than the current $399 Oculus Rift bundle.

But, there’s nothing like a steep price cut to spark some sales.

As spotted by GameDeals on RedditAmazon currently has prices on Windows Mixed Reality headset and controller bundles from Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo to around half of what they are elsewhere. Note, though, that these deals appear to only be available through third-party sellers and fulfilled by Amazon, so you’ll want to check their ratings and reviews.

 

Best smartphone case — CES 2018 drop test

 News, Phone, Site, Video  Comments Off on Best smartphone case — CES 2018 drop test
Jan 292018
 

Get a new smartphone and you’re probably going to get a case. I got one because my bare phone was slippery. I had no particular brand loyalty. So, if you’re not loyal to a previous brand, there are lots of choices. If drop protection is vital, then this Cnet video article “We broke $9,000 worth of phones to find the toughest iPhone X case” may be of interest.

We challenged 12 case makers to a live drop test at CES and dropped their cases from 20 feet. These were the last ones standing.

We invited the top case makers in the market to participate in a live drop test at CES to find out which one could survive the highest drop.

And 12 of them took us up on the offer: Caseology, Rokform, Thanotech, BodyGuardz, Tech21, Pelican, PureGear, Zizo, Spigen, RhinoShield, Supcase and OWC showed up at the CNET live stage at the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES 2018. Each brought their own brand-new iPhone Xs (still in the box) and their toughest case so we could drop them onto concrete slabs. Things escalated pretty quickly after that.

 

Best video streamer — Roku?

 News, Research, Video  Comments Off on Best video streamer — Roku?
Jan 292018
 

Some of my clients are using streaming devices (or sticks) for viewing movies and TV shows on their TVs over the Internet. Quite popular — these over-the-top (OTT) services versus over-the-air (OTA) or cable TV channels. Personally I’ve used a Fire TV Stick since 2015. And if all you’re interested in is getting to Netflix, that’s available on all these devices; so, compare other features, as this Cnet article “Which streamer should you buy?” on January 18, 2018, discussed.

Plenty of options exist for streaming Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and the rest. We’ve reviewed almost all of them. Here are our picks.

Here’s a sample:

Why it’s great: Roku [the Roku Streaming Stick Plus] is my favorite streaming system, with the most apps, the simplest interface, the best search and a content-agnostic platform that doesn’t push any one provider, like Amazon video or iTunes over another. The Plus is the company’s cheapest streamer with 4K HDR, and even if your current TV doesn’t support those formats, your next one probably will. Its accent on practical features, like a remote that can control your TV’s volume and power, seals the deal.

The list of choices includes:

  • Roku Streaming Stick Plus
  • Roku Streaming Stick
  • Roku Express
  • Apple TV 4K
  • Nvidia Shield TV
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Chromecast

Microsoft Store — some free services

 Computer, Site  Comments Off on Microsoft Store — some free services
Jan 242018
 

I received an email message from the Microsoft Store recently reminding me of services available there, some of which are free. While these retail stores are scarce, if you’re near enough to one, you might consider that an option or a place to get general help — Answer Desk. Or if you’re thinking about a new PC, eh. Here’s a link to the local store in the LA area: Microsoft Store – Westfield Century City.

email snipemail snipemail snip

Meltdown and Spectre — Intel vs AMD status

 Computer, Desktop, Notebook  Comments Off on Meltdown and Spectre — Intel vs AMD status
Jan 192018
 

If you have a computer powered by an AMD processor, is your risk profile any different from someone with an Intel-powered PC? This Ars Technica article (January 18, 2018) summarizes the situation: “Meltdown and Spectre: Good news for AMD users, (more) bad news for Intel.”

Windows patches are fixed, but microcode updates are causing even more trouble.

Microsoft’s patches now work with newer and older AMD systems.

If you’re unfortunate enough to have installed the previous, bad update and now have a system that crashes on startup, you’ll still have to roll back the bad update before you can install the new one.

But Intel’s firmware patches remain an issue for several generations of their processors (something that will perplex the typical PC user).

The short article concludes with a perspective on what action really is practical for most of us with older PCs.

What this means is that if you’re lucky enough to have a system that is still being supported with firmware updates from its manufacturer—because let’s be honest: good luck getting any firmware updates for any consumer PC or motherboard that’s more than about 18 months old—you probably shouldn’t install the firmware anyway. Unless, that is, you’re in a high risk category such as a cloud host or VPS provider, in which case you’ll just have to install it anyway, because the consequences of not upgrading are probably worse than the consequences of upgrading.

Patches for Spectre — impact on your iPhone?

 Computer, Phone, Tablet  Comments Off on Patches for Spectre — impact on your iPhone?
Jan 172018
 

Much in the media still about global computer security vulnerabilities Meltdown and Spectre. Apple, among other companies, released patches to mitigate the risks. This PC World article (January 16, 2018) summarizes the situation for Apple’s mobile devices — your iPhone: “Apple’s iOS 11.2.2 Spectre patch probably won’t slow down your iPhone, but here’s what to do if it does.”

Last week Apple pushed out iOS 11.2.2, which seeks to mitigate the risks associated with the Spectre chip flaw via a security update to Safari and Webkit. Since a Spectre attacker is most likely to attack your system via a Javascript vulnerability, Apple has addressed the issue in iOS 11.2.2 to make your system more secure.

The patch doesn’t actually fix the issue, however, and it’s unlikely Apple will ever release an iOS update that will. While researchers and programmers are actively working on ways to reduce the likelihood that your iPhone will ever be exploited using the Spectre flaws, Apple and others have made it clear that these are merely mitigations and not outright fixes.

We tested an iPhone 6 with an original battery both before and after installing iOS 11.2.2, and the results were much more in line with what Apple told us. … That’s roughly a 2.5-percent performance hit …

If your iPhone’s performance feels different, the article reocmmends:

  • Restarting
  • Checking storage
  • Resetting Safari’s cache
  • (Temporarily) disabling Javascript
  • Checking the battery for possible replacement
Jan 122018
 

Yesterday, MacWorld posted a useful article about Apple’s $29 iPhone battery replacement program.

All of your questions answered.

The article covers the usual FAQs. In particular, “How do I initiate a battery repair?”

As for the “How do I check my own iPhone’s battery life?” question, I downloaded and tried the coconutBattery macOS app and found the results interesting. Battery capacity was still okay.

Jan 052018
 

Much in the media this week about an industry-wide problem with all devices using Intel processors — CPU chips, and perhaps those from other manufacturers as well. A security vulnerability: Meltdown and Spectre. It’s like Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow walking through the dark forest in the 1939 classic The Wizard of OZ and chanting “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

PC World’s been covering this situation with a bunch of articles. Here’re a few links:

Massive security vulnerabilities in modern CPUs are forcing a redesign of the kernel software at the heart of all major operating systems. Since the issues—dubbed Meltdown and Spectre—exist in the CPU hardware itself, Windows, Linux, Android, macOS, iOS, Chromebooks, and other operating systems all need to protect against it. And worse, plugging the hole can negatively affect your PC’s performance.

Everyday home users shouldn’t panic too much though. Just apply all available updates and keep your antivirus software vigilant, as ever. If you want to dive right into the action without all the background information, we’ve also created a focused guide on how to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre.1

Intel said the patches for the CPU vulnerability, due next week, would bring a negligible performance hit to the average user. Claiming that the patches can make PCs “immune” from the vulnerabilities is a first, though.

Intel may have dominated most of the news surrounding the kernel bug in processors, but it’s not just Windows and Macs that are at risk. In addition to Meltdown, there is also a “branch target injection” bug called Spectre that affects mobile ARM processors found in iOS and Android phones, tablets, and other devices that could also expose your data. Here’s everything we know about it so far.

We’ve been waiting to hear from Apple ever since we first heard about the far-reaching Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws earlier this week, and the company has finally responded with some not-so-good news: All Mac and iOS devices are affected. That’s right, all of them. However, Apple ensures us there’s no reason to panic.

So, the bottom line is that this vulnerability is serious. Lots of manufacturers of the hardware and software that make your devices run are working on the fixes. Some patches already have been released. So, just be ready for the updates. It’ll take time for everything to settle down. The major concern is impact on performance. Ironically, the vulnerabilities were a result of long-standing techniques to improve performance. As PC World stated:

“We feel your pain. But security trumps performance, so we’d rather our PCs be a little slower than exposed to hackers.”

In summary:

  • Update your operating system
  • Check for firmware updates
  • Update your browser
  • Keep your antivirus active

 

[1] That PC World article notes that:

  • Microsoft pushed out an emergency Windows patch [Windows 10 ‘1709’ edition KB4056892 patch] late in the day on January 3.
  • Apple quietly worked Meltdown protections into macOS High Sierra 10.13.2, which released in December. [Also iOS 11.2.]
  • Intel also released a detection tool that can help you determine whether you need a firmware update.
  • The major PC web browsers have all issued updates as a first line of defense against nefarious websites seeking to exploit the CPU flaw with Javascript.
  • The Google researchers who discovered the CPU flaws say that traditional antivirus wouldn’t be able to detect a Meltdown or Spectre attack. But attackers need to be able to inject and run malicious code on your PC to take advantage of the exploits. Keeping security software installed and vigilant helps keep hackers and malware off your computer.

UPDATE: I haven’t tried Intel’s detection tool, but today (January 17, 2018) Senior Editor Brad Chacos at PC World published an article about a 3rd-party tool which checks whether your system has been patched to protect against the flaws: “Is your PC vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre CPU exploits? InSpectre tells you.”

Gibson Research recently released InSpectre, a wonderfully named, dead simple tool that detects if your PC is vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre.

InSpectre is a small 122 KB program that doesn’t need a formal install and scans your computer for Meltdown and Spectre susceptibility in mere milliseconds. When it’s done, the program pops up with clear, easy-to-read information about the security status of your system.

This is the sort of software Microsoft or Intel should have released to help clarify the murky, convoluted patching situation around this devastating duo of CPU exploits.

Personally, I’ll wait for these tools to evolve further.

Rose Parade — screenshots

 Photo, Research  Comments Off on Rose Parade — screenshots
Jan 012018
 

My Rose Parade 2018 screenshots: Rose Parade 2018 • 42 items • Shared

[Wiki] The Rose Parade, also known as the Tournament of Roses Parade, is part of “America’s New Year Celebration” held in Pasadena, California each year on New Year’s Day (or on Monday, January 2 if New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday). The parade includes flower-covered floats, marching bands, and equestrian units and is followed by the Rose Bowl college football game. It is produced by the nonprofit Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.

Originally started on January 1, 1890, the Rose Parade is watched in person by hundreds of thousands of spectators on the parade route, and is broadcast on multiple television networks in the United States. It is seen by millions more on television worldwide in more than 100 international territories and countries.

Screenshot

Rose Parade 2018

New iPhone — things to do first

 Computer, Phone  Comments Off on New iPhone — things to do first
Dec 282017
 

New iPhone for the holidays? MacWorld once again has tips for a smooth start with your new device: “Got an iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus? Do these 10 things first.”

After you inhale that new-iPhone smell, follow this setup guide to be up and running faster than you can say A11 Bionic.

Eleven tips, starting with back up and restore.

New holiday computer?

 Computer  Comments Off on New holiday computer?
Dec 212017
 

If you got a new PC for the holidays, congrats. What’s next? Windows 10 updates, Cortana practice, customization, privacy settings, another browser, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, backup, … fun.

As in the past, PC World posted an article yesterday about what to do first with a new PC: “How to set up your new computer.”

Best practices:

  • Run Windows Update
  • Install a second browser, e.g., Google’s Chrome
  • Set up your new PC’s security — either the default Windows Defender or a 3rd party program bundled by the manufacturer + Malwarebytes
  • Clean your computer’s bloatware (optional)
  • Learn about your new computer (new features compared to your previous one)
  • Install additional software programs (e.g., Microsoft Office or a 3rd party Office program)
  • Copy personal files from your old PC (or not — if all your stuff’s stored in various Cloud services)
  • Back up your new computer

And it’s best to do these things when you’re not distracted or stressed by other things. And one step at a time. And practice, practice, practice. (How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.)

Doing email — options

 Computer  Comments Off on Doing email — options
Nov 282017
 

When I ask some of my clients how they get to their email, a typical response is “AOL” or “hotmail” or “Google.” Or they might say “myname@hotmail.com” or “myname@aol.com.” Well, that’s not what I’m trying to understand.

Knowing their preferred service company or email address is a start, but I’m more interested in whether they get to their messages on a desktop or notebook computer or on a smartphone or tablet (or all of those devices). And if on a desktop or notebook computer, whether they use a special purpose program (like Microsoft’s Outlook, Apple’s Mail, Mozilla’s Thunderbird) or a general purpose program — a Web Browser like Microsoft’s Edge, Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox, etc.

There are pros and cons to each option. When a Web Browser is used to access your email on a service provider’s Web site, this method is called Webmail. One advantage to this is that you visit other sites (web pages) using your browser and so webmail is just visiting a special type of site. And you can do this anytime and anywhere you have a device with an Internet connection and a browser. No special programs need to be installed and configured. You do not even need to use your own computer.

Webmail can be tedious, however, when you have many email addresses (and accounts with several email service providers) — going to separate sites to check each one.

A special purpose email program, however, can typically manage multiple accounts and Inboxes, which makes checking those accounts more convenient. A special purpose program also may in general be easier to use (a friendlier graphical user interface). That’s why many pepople still use the AOL Desktop program.

On smartphones you’ll generally want to use a special purpose app, like Apple’s Mail or Google’s Gmail app.

Here’s a drawing intended to clarify these email options (link to pdf version below).

Drawing

email options-app_vs_webmail

Oct 172017
 

We’ll explain why Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update is worth your time in our review. Here’s what’s different this time around: There’s new hardware, too.

PC World today shared the news that Microsoft is rolling out the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update: “Windows 10 Fall Creators Update review: This could be Microsoft’s biggest Windows yet.” As in past Updates (which install like entire new editions of Windows 10, as large downloads with extended install times), there’s a way for early adopters to grab the Update now, while most of us will get it over time like other monthly Windows updates.

Update: The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is now available, and can be manually downloaded/upgraded via the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant. Otherwise, Microsoft will automatically push the FCU to all PCs in a series of waves that should last for a few weeks. 

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is what every sequel shoots for: bigger, better, more ambitious than the original. As it rolls out in phases starting Tuesday (see Microsoft’s blog post for details), our review focuses on Windows’ big, risky bet on mixed reality, plus smarter investments in the pen, creative 3D apps, Edge, and even speech. A ton of practical, everyday additions won us over, including OneDrive placeholders and much longer battery life while watching movies.

See the full article for what’s new and what’s changed.

PC World has separate articles for various aspects of the Update. For example, “Hands on with Windows 10’s Story Remix, the new tool to make your photos pop” covers the new Remix app.

Microsoft’s Story Remix was expected to be one of the highlights of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and it lives up to that promise, combining the existing, excellent Photos app with a video and slideshow editor that adds transitions, music, and even fantastic 3D animations.

It’s worth noting, though, that Story Remix and Photos exist (for now) within a sort of odd, yin-yang duality where both apps co-exist. If you choose to open or edit a file within Photos via File Explorer, Windows will open the “traditional” Photos interface. But if you simply launch the Photos app, the Story Remix interface will open. Interestingly, there also seems to be no way to transition between the two interfaces within the app itself.

There’a also a separate slideshow: “The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’s best new features.

Feature update version

W10 Fall Creators Update

Oct 162017
 

“Fortify your PC against all manner of attacks—for free!”

This PC World article “How to build the best free PC security software suite” (October 16, 2017) is one of the best digests of the topic that I’ve encountered. The article offers a ready summary of what you need to cover various security risks on your PC. For those not wanting to purchase an annual computer security subscription (with auto renew, eh) — but not go potluck — and willing to blend together a solution, the recommendations agree with my research and experience.

Antivirus software is the key component of any security suite, and for good reason—it’s going to be your primary defense against malware. Windows offers its own built-in anti-virus program called Windows Defender for Windows 8.1 and up—Windows 7 users can download and install Security Essentials. Windows’ solution offers fairly good basic security, but most third-party testing firms find that it falls short of third-party security suites. The upshot is: If you’re a security-aware user who’s willing to occasionally run a scan with Malwarebytes (see below) then Defender may be enough.

Avira Antivirus Free Edition and Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition are two free products worth your attention. According to recent benchmarks published by the German antivirus testing firm AV-Test, paid products for both Avira and Bitdefender won top marks on all three of the firm’s major testing categories including protection, performance, and usability; both did a perfect or near-perfect job at stopping malware and other threats. Avira did score one false positive from AV-Test when it identified legitimate software as malware during a system scan.

And, as for any free PC app, there’s a caution:

… free products can include browser toolbars, extensions, or other desktop programs that you might not want. Freebies can also have ads that help their makers pay the bills. Be mindful while you’re installing free programs to avoid also installing bloatware you don’t want, which is often flagged for installation by default.

Read the full article for recommendations to safeguard your PC in other ways.

Face ID Q&A — beyond Touch ID

 Computer, Phone, Site  Comments Off on Face ID Q&A — beyond Touch ID
Sep 282017
 

I’ve talked with at least one iPhone enthusiast who’s going to get Apple’s new iPhone X — and willing to wait until it ships. It’ll be interesting to get his reaction to the new Face ID feature. In the mean time, this CNET article “10 things we learned about Face ID on the iPhone X” is a useful summary of face-scanning.

Curious about using your face to unlock your phone? Apprehensive about Face ID and Apple Pay? Apple published an extensive guide on Face ID in advance of the upcoming iPhone X. You can read it all yourself. Also, check out our in-depth look at the security aspects of Face ID and general overview of the tech.

This isn’t the first time Apple’s mentioned some of these features, but it all feels much more official now.  Here are the ones that stood out …

Yes, you’ll still need to use a regular passcode at times.  Note the additional citations in the article for more information.