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.

 

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.

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.

macOS High Sierra — to upgrade or not

 Computer, Desktop, News, Notebook  Comments Off on macOS High Sierra — to upgrade or not
Sep 252017
 

Starting today, the latest upgrade for macOS — High Sierra — is available. As always, the question is whether to upgrade or not; or, when to upgrade. This CNET article “7 things to know before upgrading to MacOS High Sierra 10.13” discusses this question:

“Yes, if you answer any of these affirmatively:

  • You’re paranoid about security. Some say that the update is essential in order to get a complete set of security fixes, but it’s not like Apple is going to keep Sierra unpatched. Enterprises are running even older versions and they’ll continue to be patched. But if you think the potential security advantages outweigh the possibility of running into application issues, then update.
  • Your system has an SSD, not a Fusion Drive or HDD.
  • You’ve updated your iPhone or iPad to iOS 11 and shoot photos and videos with the new file formats.
  • You’re a big Photos user.
  • You have a complicated family to manage with iCloud.
  • You’ve been screaming for the specific capabilities added in those particular applications.”

Best practice usually is to wait awhile — a week to a month — before upgrading. If your Mac is not running Sierra (10.12) and is compatible, then upgrading definitely makes sense. If you decide to upgrade, first backup your Mac’s internal hard drive (or at least all your personal files); and do so when you don’t need to use your computer for a few hours.

This CNET YouTube video (below) reviews the changes.

App Store > Featured > Info
macOS High Sierra
Size: 4.80 GB

New technologies at the heart of the system make your Mac more reliable, capable, and responsive — and lay the foundation for future innovations. macOS High Sierra also refines the features and apps you use every day. It’s macOS at its highest level yet.

Easily organize, edit and view your photos in Photos.
Make short videos from your Live Photos using new Loop and Bounce effects.
Easily locate and organize your content with the new sidebar.
Conveniently access all of your editing tools in the redesigned Edit View.
Fine-tune color and contrast in your photos with new Curves and Selective Color tools.
Access third-party apps directly from Photos and save the edited images back to your Photos library.
Rediscover images from your library with new Memories themes including pets, weddings, outdoor activities, and more.
Create printed photo products and more using new third-party project extensions.

Improve your browsing experience with Safari.
Stop web video with audio from playing automatically.
Prevent websites and ad networks from tracking your browsing with Intelligent Tracking Prevention.
Customize your browsing experience with new per-site settings for Reader, page zoom, content blockers, and more.

Enjoy refinements in Mail.
Instantly find the messages most relevant to your search using Top Hits.
Use Split View when composing new email in full screen.
Save space on your Mac with compressed messages.

Look up flight information in Spotlight.
Check the status of a flight by typing the airline and flight number in the Spotlight search field.

Collect your thoughts with Notes.
Organize your information using configurable tables.
Pin your favorite notes so they’re always at the top of the list.

Capture a moment in FaceTime.
Take a Live Photo during a video call to any supported Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

Get music suggestions from a more natural-sounding Siri.
Hear more variations in intonation, emphasis, and tempo when Siri responds to you.
Enjoy personalized music recommendations from Siri when you listen to Apple Music.

Copy and paste files from one Mac to another with Universal Clipboard.
Copy and paste files between your Macs using standard copy and paste commands.

Safely store your family data in iCloud.
Share a single iCloud storage plan with your family and keep everyone’s data backed up and safely stored.
Set up your family with a few clicks and add capabilities when needed.

Work together with iCloud Drive.
Share and work on any file in iCloud Drive with other people so it is always be up to date with the latest edits.

Upgrade the performance, reliability, and security of your Mac with the new Apple File System.
Update to a new file system architecture designed for all-flash Macs.
Experience greater responsiveness when performing common tasks like duplicating a file and finding the size of a folder.
Enjoy faster and more reliable backups.
Protect your entire drive with built-in native encryption for greater security.

Step up to the new standard for 4K video: HEVC.
Create and watch high-resolution video with High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), which uses up to 40 percent less space without sacrificing quality.

Enjoy next-generation graphics and computation with Metal 2.
Get the most out of the graphics capabilities of your Mac with the new and improved version of Metal.
Discover immersive tools for content creation with support for virtual reality.
Build state-of-the-art apps with features that accelerate common machine learning functions.

Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages. Some features require an iCloud storage plan. Some features have hardware requirements. Apple File System requires all-flash internal storage.

macOS Sierra — Apple’s latest Mac upgrade

 Computer, Desktop, Notebook  Comments Off on macOS Sierra — Apple’s latest Mac upgrade
Sep 262016
 

No more “big cat” names. Since October 2013, there’s been Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, … and last week Sierra, the latest (free) upgrade to the operating system (system software) for Apple’s Mac desktop and notebook computers. Now called macOS vs Mac OS X. As noted on Wikipedia:

macOS 10.12 Sierra was released on September 20, 2016. During the keynote at WWDC in 2016, Apple announced that OS X would be renamed macOS to stylistically match Apple’s other operating systems, such as iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. New features announced during the keynote include the addition of Siri, Optimized Storage, and updates to Photos, Messages, and iTunes.

If you’re wondering whether your old Mac can run macOS Sierra, here’re Apple’s Mac Hardware Requirements.

On your Mac, if you click Apple Menu > App Store > Featured, and then click on the macOS Sierra promo image, you’ll see the following description and highlights.

– – –
Apple Web Site
macOS Sierra Support
Privacy Policy

Information
Category: Utilities
Updated: Sep 20, 2016
Version: 10.12
Price: Free
Size: 4.77 GB
Family Sharing: Yes
Languages: English, Arabic, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Seller: Apple Inc.
© 2016 Apple, Inc.
Rated 4+
Compatibility: OS X 10.7 or later

Siri makes its debut on Mac, with new features designed just for the desktop. Your Mac works with iCloud and your Apple devices in smart new ways, and intelligent capabilities make your photos, music, and messaging even more enjoyable.

Get things done by asking Siri, the intelligent assistant now on your Mac.

• Enjoy your favorite features from iOS as well as new ones optimized for Mac.
• Send messages, create reminders, search the web, and more while you work.
• Drag and drop or copy and paste Siri results into your documents.
• Pin Siri results in Notification Center and reference them later.
• Find files, adjust settings, and get system information just by asking Siri.

Copy and paste between your devices with Universal Clipboard.

• Copy a quote, image, or video from an app on one device and paste it into an app on another device.

Automatically log in with Auto Unlock.

• Log in to your Mac automatically when you wear your Apple Watch — no need to type your password.

Enjoy the convenience and security of Apple Pay when you shop on the web.

• Use Apple Pay to make easy, secure payments when shopping in Safari on your Mac.
• Complete your purchase with Touch ID on your iPhone or with your Apple Watch.

Access files on your Mac desktop from your iPhone with iCloud Desktop and Documents.

• Automatically store all the files on your desktop and in your Documents folder in iCloud, and access them from all your devices.
• Keep the same desktop and Documents folder on your other Mac.Easily free up space on your Mac with Optimized Storage.
• Automatically store seldom-used files in iCloud, where they’ll be available on demand.
• Additional tools help you remove files you don’t need, to save even more space.

Get control of your desktop with tabs in apps.

• Use tabs to manage multiple windows in Maps, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, and more.
• Work with tabs in your favorite third-party apps — no developer adoption required.

Keep an eye on the big game or your favorite video with Picture in Picture.

• Float a video window from Safari or iTunes over your desktop as you work.
• Place the Picture in Picture window in any corner, and it stays put when you switch spaces or work in full screen.

Rediscover the most meaningful moments in your Photos library.

• Enjoy favorite and forgotten occasions from your photo library with Memories.
• View your images by who’s in them. Photos uses advanced face recognition technology to automatically group photos of the same person together.
• Search your photos by what’s in them, such as beaches, dogs, or concerts, thanks to intelligent search that can recognize objects and scenes.
• Track your photo expeditions across an interactive world map.

Enjoy an all-new Apple Music experience in iTunes.

• Easily navigate your library with the redesigned Apple Music.
• Discover great new music thanks to expert curation and advanced machine learning that give you the best recommendations.

Liven up your Messages conversations.

• See web content previews and watch web videos right in a conversation.
• Respond to messages with quick, handy Tapbacks.
• Express yourself with 3x larger emoji.
• View the stickers, Digital Touch, invisible ink, and handwritten messages that friends send from their iOS devices.

Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages. Some features have hardware requirements. Some features require an iCloud storage plan.
– – –

As noted in the description, the download is almost 5GB in size. The Upgrade itself can take 1 to 2 hours. There are some suspenseful periods during the process where only an Apple logo and a horizontal white bar (with no note on progress) are on screen for 10 minutes or more. Just be patient. Prepare also to spend some time getting familiar with the new look and features for some apps. Generally, however, you’ll be in the same familiar landscape as always.