Windows 9. Threshold. Or just plain Windows. Whatever Microsoft ends up calling its next operating system, it's shaping up to be another big change from the Windows that came before it.
Only this time, Microsoft is looking to mollify its user base—especially in the enterprise—instead of scaring people away. If months of leaks and rumors are accurate, Microsoft will undo some of the most drastic changes in Windows 8, but it will also kick off a major transformation for Windows—one that's long overdue.
Microsoft is likely to reveal at least some of these changes at a September 30 event. Here's a look at all the details that have leaked out so far, and how we expect it all to come together:
MIT researchers have a great new way to protect your privacy on your smartphone: Stop giving your data away.
It doesn’t take a PhD to come up with this statement, but such a feat is clearly easier said than done. Even without NSA spying, a growing number of mobile and web-based apps collect information about us from our devices in exchange for providing a service. Want directions or an idea for lunch nearby? Allowing Yelp to know your location could help. Data collection is also useful when apps can aggregate information for many anonymous users and provide extra services. For example, Google Maps can estimate real-time road traffic conditions because it knows how quickly many people are traveling.
Microsoft continues to push back against a controversial search warrant procedure that the U.S. government, as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation, is using to demand emails stored in Ireland.
On Friday, Microsoft responded to a new court order by repeating its position that it would not comply with the data request, and insisting that the case go before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
While the details of the dispute are largely procedural, the case is significant because it comes at a time of heightened European sensitivity over how U.S. companies treat data stored on servers located in the European Union. As a result, Microsoft and others are anxious to signal to Europe that they will resist certain data demands from the U.S. government.
Security holes and vulnerabilities are to be expected, but not enough is being done to patch holes quickly enough. This is the conclusion of Heimdal Security who conducted analysis of software vulnerabilities. The security firm found that while security problems are on the increase, companies are failing to keep pace and issues remain unaddressed for too long. It's something that hackers are taking advantage of, and user data is being left at great risk. Heimdal Security found that between 60 and 90 percent of attacks from hackers take advantage of this fact.
A number of key culprits are singled out for particular attention -- names that will be familiar to most: Oracle Java Runtime environment, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash Player, and Apple QuickTime. The biggest offender, by quite some margin, is Java Runtime environment, blighted by 48 vulnerabilities in 2012, a staggering 180 in 2013, and 90 so far in 2014. According to CVE Details, the average severity rating for all of the vulnerabilities found in each of the four products. Using the CVSS (Computer vulnerability severity system), which rates issue severity on a 1 to 10 scale, the average rating is 7.8 for Java -- and that's the best of the bunch. Adobe's two products were rated 9.2.
So what is being done to address the issues as they are detected? Not enough. CEO of Heimdal Security, Morten Kjaersgaard, says: "Considering the severity and mass of security flaws we see in software released by key vendors, you may think that security gaps should be closed faster. However, our data actually indicates that it can take as many as 12 months between patches for Apple Quicktime to be released." Despite the huge number of security holes detected in its software, Oracle pumps out an update once every couple of months on average. Adobe and Apple fare just about as badly.
All of these products are still widely used. In fact, QuickTime is actually almost three times as popular now as in 2012. But while Apple's media player may only be installed on 33 percent of computers, the two Adobe products and Java Runtime are found on more than 80 percent of systems. Heimdal Security points out that this is particularly worrying as some 27 percent of emails contain malicious URLs which exploit known software vulnerabilities. What is perhaps more troubling is that it is business systems that have been used in the studies. The figures may be slightly different for home computers, but it is business systems that house the most sensitive data in the greatest quantities.
When it comes to technology, it is almost impossible to stay on the forefront. You will drive yourself nuts, and empty your wallet, chasing after every new thing. Got the newest and most expensive graphics card? Yesterday's news within months. The newest iPhone? You can make that claim for one year at best.
Hard drives are no different and are probably the longest-running way for manufacturers to take money from nerds. I bought a 4TB drive earlier in the year thinking it would be high-end for some time, but sure enough, it is now yawn-worthy. Why? Today, Seagate begins shipping 8TB hard drives. Yup, twice as big as my 4TB drive. I haven't learned my lesson though as I already want one!
"A cornerstone for growing capacities in multiple applications, the 8TB hard drive delivers bulk data storage solutions for online content storage providing customers with the highest capacity density needed to address an ever increasing amount of unstructured data in an industry-standard 3.5-inch HDD. Providing up to 8TB in a single drive slot, the drive delivers maximum rack density, within an existing footprint, for the most efficient data center floor space usage possible", says Seagate.
The manufacturer further explains, "the 8TB hard disk drive increases system capacity using fewer components for increased system and staffing efficiencies while lowering power costs. With its low operating power consumption, the drive reliably conserves energy thereby reducing overall operating costs. Helping customers economically store data, it boasts the best Watts/GB for enterprise bulk data storage in the industry".
In other words, you can free up SATA connectors and lower energy costs by utilizing one drive instead of multiple. Think of it this way; I already own a 4TB drive. If I add a second 4TB drive instead of replacing the first with an 8TB variant, I will be wasting a SATA port and using more electricity. For a home user, this isn't a huge deal, but in a server environment, it can really add up. Over time, the savings could justify the cost.
Cost is the big mystery though, as Seagate has not announced an MSRP. However, it is shipping a limited supply of the drives to select retailers and will open it up to more later in the year. Expect them to be expensive, at least for the time being. Hopefully they will work in existing USB enclosures, so laptop and Surface users can enjoy the fun too.
Do you need 8TB of storage on your home computer? What are you storing? Tell me in the comments.
Dropbox Pro users gain access to a raft of new features including automatically expiring shared links, password-protected sharing, and adjustable permissions. In recent times, Dropbox has moved away from being just a simple cloud storage platform into a cloud-based collaboration tool. Password-protected files sharing is the first line of security that's now available, but it has been bolstered by the ability to have the share automatically stop after a set period. This is something that is particularly useful for sensitive data, and is a helpful addition to the manual disabling of a shared link -- a set-it-and-forget-it option.
Catching up with other file collaborative tools, Dropbox Pro now also takes into account the fact that you might want to share files with others without giving them the option to edit those files. The new ability to add view-only permissions to files and folders has this covered so it is possible to share sensitive files without worrying about them being changed. For anyone using Dropbox on mobile devices, there is always the fear of losing a handset; a new remote wipe feature takes care of this.
Rounding off the news for Dropbox Pro users is a change to the pricing of storage options. Packages have been streamlined so there is now just a single option -- a 1TB tariff for $9.99 per month. This is a huge increase in storage, or a massive price drop depending on how you look at it. Until recently, $9.99 would have gotten you 100GB of storage, while $19.99 per month bagged users 200GB, and $49.99 was the monthly cost of 500GB of storage. The new pricing structure means that twice as much storage is now available for a fifth of the price, making Dropbox Pro and increasingly competitive option.
For a while now, verified users and advertisers have been able to check statistics about their Twitter account so they can see how many times individual tweets have been viewed, check what types of tweet encourage the most engagement, and so on. Now Twitter Analytics is available to everyone -- free of charge.
It doesn’t matter if you have a blue verified tick next to your name or not, now you can use the analytics dashboard to check the performance of tweets. While this is a useful tool for businesses, for the average Twitter user it is a tool that will satisfy an idle curiosity and provide a way to while away the time obsessing over what key phrases yield the greatest return.
For those with a fascination for figures, the ability to see how many people view individual tweets is a dream come true. It might not be quite as in-depth as you might expect, or hope, but it strikes a good balance between providing useful information and remaining easy to use. Of course, additional data would be great, but it would end up complicating things. There's an eye-pleasing graph that shows at a glance how many hits your tweets have earned you.
The point of any chat system is to make it easier to communicate with others. This is something that Google Hangouts has singularly failed at, for one reason. Rather than making it obvious which of your contacts are online, it has -- up until now -- displayed a chronological list of the conversations you have held with people. This is about to change. Rolling out over the next few days, is an update which will see your online contact move to the top of your chat buddy list.
This might seem like a small change, but it's one that has been requested for some time now. Google seemingly thought that the tried and true way of ordering contacts was due for a shakeup -- now we know that the experiment didn’t really pay off. There's another new feature to play with as well. Just as Chrome -- and other browsers -- make it possible to pin frequently used tabs so they are always available, now Hangouts users will be given the opportunity to pin contacts to the top of their buddy list.
Announced late yesterday, the update has already caused quite some excitement, with the Google+ post (but of course!) used to publicize the feature already receiving hundreds of thumbs ups. If you've yet to enable Hangouts in your Gmail account, just select "Try the new Hangouts" under chat settings to get started. If you decide you don’t like it, you can use the "Revert to old chat" link to go back to your preferred style.
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