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Security:

I am sure you will have heard that many of the processors running computers, whether made by Intel, ARM or AMD have been found to contain code which might be vulnerable to attack.  As almost all main computer systems have these chips built in the manufacturers have raced to develop code to prevent such an attack. The vulnerabilities have been named Spectre (ARM and AMD) and Meltdown (Intel). ARM chips are the ones used in most mobile phones in the world. This affects some Apple equipment as well.

Microsoft has issued an update (Microsoft Security Advisory ADV180002) which it is hope will protect users of Windows software.  Apple has also been busy. Be sure to install these updates, including iCloud and iTunes if you use those.

The flaws would allow hackers to steal the entire memory contents of computers, mobile phones, and servers that run in cloud-computing networks. So far, despite these weaknesses being around for a long time, there have not been any known attacks using them.

Windows 10 Update 

On the subject of updates I found that my Windows 10 machine had not had any since before Christmas.  However, I finally did get a massive update.  It took a long time to download, despite my having a very fast, cable connection.  It was version 1709. When it was finally installed I found that my machine had been changed a great deal. My keyboard had been changed the the US one and half the carefully planned shortcuts on the desktop had been removed and the so-called Quick Menu had been resurrected.  We all hate change, so what was so good about the new version ? It talks about 'Mixed Reality', and you can download a Mixed Reality Viewer from the Microsoft store. The program is called ARmodeling, referring to Augmented Reality.
Given a reasonably fast machine this could enable you to animate and view 3D Models in PowerPoint.

It also says you can add an 'Emoji' from your keyboard. You can also set up dictation (wow!), switch from your smartphone to the PC, change a typed character to the correct one, turn script scribbled on a touch screen into text, highlight text in an e-book, pin sites or a contact to the taskbar and call someone on Skype from the taskbar.

To say I am 'underwhelmed' would be an understatement. For this they mess up my laptop !

Incidentally, Microsoft is to offer the opportunity to defer updates, perhaps because people have found them disruptive.

In fact Microsoft is blaming certain anti- virus products for causing its updates to crash PCs or repeatedly reboot. Microsoft hopes to be able to detect those computers and they will not be updated.  However, looking through the list I did not recognise any of the popular anti virus programs apart from Totalav, which has been blacked by many security writers.

Bob Rankin wrote a blistering article about Avira anti virus software.  Whether it was Free or $99 it was massive, difficult to install and impossible to uninstall, even using my favourite (thorough) uninstaller by Iobit.  In the end he had to do a restore to save his sanity !

 HTTPS  What is that about ?

As a site author I am being bullied into paying a fee to upgrade my HTTP site to an HTTPS (Secure, encrypted) one. We all realise that the internet needs to become more secure.  But if we bought every security measure on sale we would need a bank loan.  As it is, my Windows machines take far too long to become usable because they are searching for all the updates that are generated daily to keep us safe. Apple's iCloud and iTunes software seem to do this weekly. They are very large updates; and you have to click the PC four times to get them, then reboot the thing.  All when you just want to send an urgent message ! It is no wonder people are favouring tablets, where one can get on and use them and choose when to do the updates. It is such a shame that Apple prices all of their (fragile) products beyond the range of many people. They tend to be more secure than Android based tablets as Apple has more control over the software.

Fragility. I see so many people walking around with broken iPhone screens. I, too, have broken a screen on an iPad mini. It cracked when I was prising it out of its cover. I decided to get it repaired by a non-Apple repairer. It was out of warranty and the repair cost far less than Apple would charge. But I was aware that Apple would wash their hands of it because I had not used their expensive service.  I just cannot understand why something that can cost over 1000 (like and iPhone X ) cannot be made more durable. BTW Apple MAY take responsibility if it is a hairline crack .

I hear that one of the latest iPhones may have an OLED screen  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OLED.

Hopefully these screens will be less likely to break when dropped.

Savings. Wherever you look it is impossible to find a decent rate of interest on savings.  Whilst banks are not interested in your cash they are quite keen to have customers to sell them mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. So, some of the best deals are given to new customers, with up to 200 tempters and cashback and regular savings offers. Santander used to be the king of the cashback banks but they have reduced the percentage you get back for household bills and have a monthly fee for accounts.  Almost all ask for minimum amounts to be paid in monthly and most now expect banking to be on line. As far as I can deduce, one of the best accounts is the National Savings 3 year Guaranteed Growth Bond, paying 1.95%.  Apart from being absolutely safe the cost of early withdrawal is only 90 days interest on the amount withdrawn. With the maximum being 1million that should take care of most of us !

n.b. With the indebtedness of most European countries (apart from Germany) this makes it doubly important to find a safe harbour for savings. Apart from Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain are all teetering on the brink.  One wonders how long the European Central Bank can prop up these countries,  We may be out of the Euro but, being a country that is dependent on the financial business we would not be immune from the draught caused by a default.

 N.B. As well as issuing these notes to a favoured few I intend to add them to this site at www.silverhairs.co.uk/blog.htm.


April 2018
Google's Gmail service is getting some major updates that will begin rolling out over the coming weeks. But don’t panic; the “send” button won’t move out of your sight (hopefully). So, what is in store...
Gmail, the web-based email service from Google 1.2 billion users. The new Gmail will be more icon-driven, and will offer three different layouts dubbed “default,” “comfortable,” and “compact.”
Starting in June 2018, you will be able to read, write, and search email while offline.
June 18
Having now seen the new Gmail I find it has defaulted to separating incoming e-mail under various headings. It is easier to delete them 'en-masse' but it is easy to miss seeing some that might be important.  You can always delete headings if you don't like them and your mail will just be found in the first column, as before.

Ads in Gmail
The only way to really get rid of the ads is to turn off the feature entirely. You can do this by: Heading to the gear shaped icon in the top right corner under your Gmail photo. Select "configure inbox" and disable the "Promotions". You may find this is not easily done on a tablet

ONEDRIVE A useful explanation of Microsoft's on line storage is at  https://newsletter.askleo.com/ask-leo-706-half-a-dozen-uses-for-onedrive/

Other Google services will become available.  Google Calendar, for instance, is a natural fit with Gmail where people plan joint activities, appointments, vacations, etc. Google Keep, the ad hoc Post-It Note(™) style note-taking app, is not exactly a household word. Integrating such obscure services with the popular Gmail will bring them to more users’ attention.
A new feature is "Smart Reply." Using machine learning and the context of the message, Gmail provides suggested one-click replies such as "Sure, Monday works for me," "So sorry to hear that," or "Cool, I'll check it out!"
Snoozing and Expiring Email Messages. "Snooze” is the ability to schedule the sending of an email at a future time.
“Expiring” emails are the flip side of Snoozing emails. You can set a date and time at which the email you are about to send will no longer be accessible by the recipient. Expiration is a security feature; it ensures that no confidential messages are hanging around beyond a specified date. In addition, the recipient of an expiring email won’t be able to print, forward, download or use copy/paste on the message.

New browser protection plug in.
Whilst Chrome already provides effective protection against malicious sites: go somewhere with a poor reputation and you'll get a big, scary red screen telling you that you're about to do something unwise. But Microsoft believes it can do a better job than Google, and it has released a Chrome plugin, Windows Defender Browser Protection, that brings its own anti-phishing protection to Google's browser. Microsoft justifies the new plugin with reference to a 2017 report that claims that the company's Edge browser blocked 99 percent of phishing attempts, compared to 87 percent by Chrome and 70 percent in Firefox. The plugin brings Edge's protection to Chrome, so if the theory holds, it should bump the browser up to 99 percent, too.

Free on-line storage. These days there is a lot of this on offer.  You have to decide whether your files and photos are safer there than on your local storage. In the case of tablets, many soon become full if you have a lot of music, videos and photographs.

Dropbox offers 2 GB; OneDrive, 5 GB; Box, 10 GB; Google Drive, 15 GB. If you're a photo buff, you can get a whopping 1 TB (1000 GB) of free space at Flickr to store your pics. (Flickr was recently acquired by SmugMug, so we'll see if the free space offer continues after the merger is completed).

The Internet of Things (I o T) has been getting quite an airing recently. Using a mobile phone one can control many items from anywhere, providing they have been set up correctly. Someone I know is able to remotely control the central heating in a holiday let flat. But there are many other things that lend themselves to this technology. 
See this article by security company Malwarebytes

 


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