February 16, 2017 brianradio2016

Apple once used to describe the Apple TV as a hobby, and it was supposed to be the device that gave the Cupertino giant a foothold in the living room and the chance to revolutionise the way people watch TV.

But now, almost a decade on from its initial release, the Apple TV is no closer to changing the way people watch television. If anything, all it has accomplished is to turn the TV into a giant iPhone, where users have t wade through a myriad of apps and services to get the content they want.

February 16, 2017 brianradio2016

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“Most organisations are going to find ways to include Apple as part of their digital ecosystem.”

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Long gone are the days when Macs were the specialist preserve of designers, startups, and students: Apple’s hardware has moved from the coffee shop to the office and into the boardroom, with workers increasingly lured by the usability and design of Apple’s devices.

However, in the enterprise Microsoft still remains dominant. So how easy is it to introduce and manage Apple devices in what is traditionally a Windows-oriented enterprise environment? Four enterprise tech chiefs give their different views on Apple in the enterprise.

1. Understand that Apple is likely to form part of your ecosystem

Apple in the Enterprise: A Strategic Guide

Apple in the Enterprise: A Strategic Guide

Once a pariah in the enterprise, Apple has quietly emerged as a darling of executives and professionals because of the ease of use of the iPhone and the iPad. We look at how the influx of Apple devices is changing the tech landscape in business.

Mark Foulsham, chief digital officer at Scope, believes Apple is very much ready for the enterprise. The charity is working with the technology giant to investigate how new platforms and services might be used, including Apple Pay. Foulsham says his experience of working with the firm has been very positive.

“They’re moving at a good pace and they’re listening to us in terms of our feedback,” he says. “There’s a long way to go still. But I think what you will find is that most organisations are going to find ways to include Apple as part of their digital ecosystem.”

Microsoft might remain at the core of many enterprise approaches but Foulsham says IT leaders must recognise that Apple provides great hardware and software. “Their devices are hugely popular for a reason — they’re very easy to use and employees benefit from that usability,” he says.

“Like other key suppliers in the market, Apple is helping organisations to embrace digital technology. We use iPads and iPhones, and key tools, like FaceTime. Apple has already become a key element in our digital ecosystem.”

2. Prepare to put in a lot of groundwork in terms of integration

Linklaters CIO Matt Peers joined the firm in May 2015, and the company has been moving from BlackBerry devices to iPhones for many staff: everyone who works for the firm from the back-office to the chief executive receives a corporate-supplied smartphone. But the firm also uses Microsoft Windows 10 devices and is a big user of the Office productivity suite.

The readiness of your business for Apple, says Peers, is often closely related to your firm’s reliance on other vendors, particularly Microsoft. “If your enterprise has still got a significant Microsoft estate, then you need to be aware that the two worlds don’t talk very well to one another,” he says.

Peers says his IT function has spent a lot of time trying to create stronger bonds between Microsoft and Apple technologies. The firm, for example, runs email in Exchange and the IT team dedicates a great deal of effort to ensuring the devices and email servers are in synchronisation.

“It’s a task for IT to make that work,” he says. “The good news is that Apple and Microsoft have started to come a lot closer together in recent times. You have to hope as a CIO that they’ll bring the two worlds even closer. But they are quite disparate and we have to do a lot of work to create harmonisation.”

3. Listen to the requirements of your end users

The simple message, says Mark Ridley, group technology officer at venture builder Blenheim Chalcot Accelerate, is that Apple is now a part of the mainstream — but like Peers he says there are still challenges to overcome, particularly around application compatibility.

“I see very large enterprises which incorporate Macs very successfully into what they do,” says Ridley. “Sometimes, however, those experiences aren’t as good as they could be. Some of that is related to the fact that individuals are often using the Microsoft stack on a Mac, which would probably run better on a Windows machine.”

Ridley has worked in interim positions where the majority of technology is Microsoft-based, and he also believes it is important to recognise that Apple and Microsoft operating systems are not the sole issue for businesses.

“If you were to tell a bunch of data scientists that they couldn’t use Linux, they’d probably get very irritated,” he says.

In the end, users at every organisation will prefer particular flavours of technology — and each platform has its merits. “I guess the key point is that all the operating systems can be made to work. The key differences now relate to ease-of-use, rather than questions about the inherent security of each operating system,” says Ridley.

“People are so comfortable using technology now that the sense of familiarity is a really big part of experience.”

4. Recognise that tried-and-tested has a strong business use case

Toby Clarke, interim head of IT at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says there are still big questions surrounding the readiness of Apple in an enterprise context. Clarke, for example, says Apple devices are not standard within his current organisation.

“The NHS has established a long-term relationship with Microsoft, so a lot of the kit you see is Windows-based,” he says. “Moving away from that environment is a cost that most IT and business managers will not take on.”

Clarke says it is also worth noting that Microsoft provides a great stack. “It works — in productivity terms, it does exactly what it says on the tin,” he says. Clarke says Apple is still better suited to specific environments, particularly startup organisations.

“It’s right for certain types of business, particularly those that can afford to take more of a risk,” he says. “It works well for organisations that want to be seen to do be doing something different. Apple can provide that opportunity — but in many organisations, safe and steady still often wins the race.”

Read more about Apple in the enterprise

February 16, 2017 brianradio2016

A surprise announcement yesterday afternoon rattled Microsoft customers: Patch Tuesday is officially delayed for a month.

Microsoft is being close-mouthed. A curt, unsigned post on the Microsoft Security Resource Center TechNet blog simply states: “UPDATE: 2/15/17: We will deliver updates as part of the planned March Update Tuesday, March 14, 2017.”

Microsoft started documenting its security patches with Security Bulletins in 1998, but the patches arrived at random. Steve Ballmer announced the Patch Tuesday protocol on Oct. 9, 2003, to “reduce the burden on IT administrators by adding a level of increased predictability and manageability.” Starting with MS03-041, security patches were generally held until the second – sometimes third or fourth – Tuesday of the month.

The practice of releasing all security patches on Patch Tuesday has been the subject of some well-deserved criticism. See, for example, Christopher Budd’s Oct. 13, 2013, article in GeekWire. Although out-of-band patches – security patches not released on the second Tuesday – are fairly common, the system has held. There’s never been a skipped Patch Tuesday that I can find, until now.

February 16, 2017 brianradio2016

The Swedish network giant Ericsson will have a lot of prospective 5G equipment to show to gearheads at Mobile World Congress later this month, but the future cloud capabilities it demonstrates may be just as important for a subscriber’s experience.

In addition to fast broadband speeds, Ericsson’s technologies for next-generation networks will be able to guarantee enterprises the same type of service around the world and shift applications to the edge of a network to shrink transmission delays, the company said in an MWC preview on Wednesday.

Those concepts aren’t new, but building the back-end infrastructure to support them – much of it defined by software – is part of the ongoing move toward true 5G deployments coming around the end of this decade.

On Wednesday, Ericsson highlighted several features of its 5G Core System, which takes advantage of SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network functions virtualization) to give mobile operators more flexibility in the services they offer subscribers.

February 16, 2017 brianradio2016

More companies are using Git, and not only for developing business and consumer apps. Science and government organizations are also increasingly working with the technology, for good reason.

Git allows for increased collaboration, faster deployments, and more code-building confidence—three all-important goals as more teams start adopting a devops approach. To help meet those goals, many Git platforms now include integrated tools for code testing and team management.

Even as Git has become ubiquitous, there is still some fearfulness surrounding its adoption. GitLab recently conducted a survey and found that 40 percent of dev teams are concerned about the learning curve associated with Git. Naturally, at GitLab, I work with Git every day, and I understand the challenges Git can pose for new users.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help new users get over their Git anxiety. Many companies, including ours, have free resources available for devs who want to learn Git. In addition to company-led resources, Git is supported by a number of helpful communities that share solutions to common problems and are ready to answer your questions. 

February 16, 2017 brianradio2016

Docker is the king of devops tools, hybrid cloud is beating public-only and private-only clouds, and Microsoft Azure is making sizable headway in public cloud.

Those are some of the key insights from this year’s edition of SaaS provider RightScale’s State of the Cloud report, which is derived from a survey of more than 1,000 IT pros around the world.

Docker keeps climbing — and here comes Kubernetes

If there’s one devops tool that’s out in front with cloud-conscious companies, it’s Docker. Thirty-five percent of respondents were already using it, and 32 percent had plans to do so. These numbers outstripped those of Chef, Puppet, Ansible, Salt, Mesosphere, and Rancher.

The other technologies are in use, but it’s clear Docker has become the leader in this area. In enterprises, Docker racks up even higher scores (40 percent using, 30 percent planning), and almost 35 percent of all Docker users run some kind of container-as-a-service offering, chiefly AWS ECS.

February 16, 2017 brianradio2016

Vendors at this week’s RSA cybersecurity show in San Francisco are pushing artificial intelligence and machine learning as the new way to detect the latest threats, but RSA CTO Zulfikar Ramzan is giving visitors a reality check.

“I think it [the technology] moves the needle,” he said on Wednesday. “The real open question to me is how much has that needle actually moved in practice?”

It’s not as much as vendors claim, Ramzan warned, but for customers it won’t be easy cutting through the hype and marketing. The reality is that a lot of the technology now being pushed isn’t necessarily new.

In particular, he was talking about machine learning, a subfield in A.I. that’s become a popular marketing term in cybersecurity. In practice, it essentially involves building algorithms to spot bad computer behavior from good.

February 15, 2017 brianradio2016

Bluetooth headphones aren’t a new accessory category created by Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7.

What was created, however, was a market for inexpensive wireless headphones that don’t cost hundreds of dollars. Even Apple’s own offerings, both through its Beats brand and under the Apple name, are over $150.

While I still think the Apple AirPods are some of the best tech I’ve used in years (they truly do “just work”), I’ve been using the IFROGZ Impulse Wireless headphones off and of for a few weeks, and you know what? At $60, I don’t think you can find a better wireless experience.

Specs

  • Drivers: 40mm
  • Resistance 32hms
  • Sensitivity: 120dB +/- 3dB
  • Frequency: 20Hz – 20KHz
  • Listening time: 12 hours
  • Standby: 58 hours
  • Charge time: 2.5 hours via microUSB
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth and 3.5mm headphone jack

In the box, set up

ifrogz-impulse-wireless-headphones-5.jpg Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

In the box you’ll find the headphones, a microUSB charging cable, and a 3.5mm cable. Unfortunately, a small travel bag or carrying case isn’t included.

Before you use the headphones with a Bluetooth device, be it your Mac, iOS device, Android device, or PC, you will need go through the pairing process.

To put the Impulse Wireless headphones into pairing mode, you hold in the power button for roughly five seconds, and then connect to the headphones through the pairing menu on your phone, tablet or computer.

Top ZDNET Reviews

A moment later, you’ll hear a tone in the headphones and the pairing process is complete.

Design

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The Impulse Wireless headphones are available in black with red highlights, or white with tan highlights. The majority of the housing is made of plastic that doesn’t necessarily evoke thoughts of high quality, but it doesn’t feel extremely cheap made either.

A pair of “AreoFoam” pads rest against your ears, providing comfort during long listening periods. I found my ears would begin to hurt around the four-hour mark, but after a short break, I was able to continue listening. As someone who hasn’t worn on-ear headphones in awhile, the discomfort isn’t necessarily this particular pair of headphone’s fault.

The same type of foam is used to line the top band that rest against your head, again providing comfort.

IFROGZ claims the pads also work as a means for passive noise cancellation. I found that claim to be true, but only for every day environmental sounds (example: typing on a keyboard, someone walking down the hall, etc). I wouldn’t expect the passive noise cancellation to block out a screaming child or a chatty traveler in the row behind you during a flight.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

On the left side is where you’ll find a 3.5mm jack, for use when the battery is dead, and the power button. On top of the right side is a volume rocker, with a play/pause button found on the bottom next to the microUSB charging port.

Each side of the headphones fold into the middle of the footprint, decreasing their overall size and making it a breeze to throw in a backpack or purse when traveling.

Battery life

One of the biggest drawbacks to any Bluetooth device is battery life. Apple’s AirPods, for example, can last five hours before they have to go back into the charging case. Samsung’s Gear IconX last under two hours.

IFROGZ touts the Impulse Wireless headphones as having a battery life of 12 hours.

I wasn’t unable to test these headphones for 12 hours straight, but I did keep track of various listening sessions, and I feel confident in saying the IFROGZ estimate is possible.

That’s what’s so appealing to me about Impulse Wireless. As someone who frequently travels for work, walking through airports, sitting on a plane, and waiting for an Uber all while listening to music, battery life is of the utmost importance.

Sound quality

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

When it comes to headphones under the $100 mark, you usually have to make concessions on battery life, sound quality, or both.

With the Impulse Wireless headphones, battery life isn’t one such concession. However, sound quality isn’t necessarily one either.

I would put the sound quality of Impulse Wireless just below that of Apple’s AirPods, yet above the included wired headphones Apple puts in each iPhone box.

Unless you’re an audiophile accustomed to hearing everything high, low, mid, and in-between, there’s little to complain about in regard to sound quality with the Impulse Wireless headphones.

Conclusion

After a few days of use, I told my wife when it comes time to buy our children wireless headphones, they are getting Impulse Wireless headphones. Not only does the battery keep going, but they are comfortable and sound quality is a non-issue for my kids.

Oh, and the $59 price tag makes it a bit easier to deal with the inevitable stolen or broken pair of headphones.

If you want wireless headphones without spending a fortune, the Impulse Wireless headphones should be near the top of your list.

VIDEO: AirPods Review

February 15, 2017 brianradio2016

Microsoft earlier this month quietly extended the life of Windows 10’s debut edition, the version launched in July 2015.

Rather than end support for Windows 10 v. 1507 — Microsoft labels the OS by year and month — in March, as announced last year, the company will issue the version’s final security updates in May, probably May 9, that month’s Patch Tuesday.

The new date was posted as a revision to a mid-January blog post by Nathan Mercer, a senior product marketing manager for Microsoft. In the original entry, Mercer had tapped March 26 as the end of 1507 “servicing,” a company synonym for updating and patching.

In the amended post, Mercer did not give a reason for the extension.

February 15, 2017 brianradio2016

Microsoft was closed-mouthed yesterday about why it postponed the month’s security updates, but a patch expert argued that it was probably due to one or more problems with the company’s update service infrastructure, not a single flawed fix.

“Something is broken in the infrastructure, in Windows Update or the [Microsoft Update] Catalog, is my guess,” said Chris Goettl, product manager at patch management vendor Ivanti, formerly Shavlik.

Goettl contended that a back-end snafu was the most likely cause for the unprecedented delay, which Microsoft announced yesterday, because other potential causes made less sense.

Asserting that one update, or one component of an update — say a single patch for Windows — had held up the entire month’s slate was unreasonable, Goettl suggested, because not every fix would be bundled into the Windows updates. Office patches, Goettl noted, were delivered separately from those addressing vulnerabilities in Windows, and fixes for Internet Explorer (IE) were to be spun off this month.