December 12, 2016 brianradio2016

2016 has been a rollercoaster of a year, with political upheavals the world over and a constant stream of high profile celebrity deaths. But the tech world hasn’t been without its dramas either, and one company that’s been keeping pundits and analysts at the edge of their seats throughout the year is Apple.

Tech gifts for the holidays

And 2017 looks to be an even tougher year.

See also: Apple releases iOS 10.2 – Here’s what’s new

Ever since Apple made it big with the iPod back in the early 00’s and began raking in cash at ever-increasing pace, there have been doom-mongers “predicting” that disaster awaited Apple at every turn.

And yet here we are, it’s 2016 and Apple has what is undoubtedly the best-selling consumer electronics device ever, billions of dollars in the bank, and revenues that give it the economic might of a big country.

But all is not well in Apple-land.

First off, iPhone sales are weakening, and analysts are predicting that things are only going to get worse. Next year’s 10th anniversary iPhone might kick off a huge upgrade cycle, but beyond that the consensus among analysts seems to be that the trajectory is headed downwards.

It doesn’t help things that both the iPhone 7 and iOS 10 have been plagued by problems, and that as the year draws to a close iOS 10.2 — which does appear to finally solve a lot of the problems that have dogged this latest release — is still in beta.

No fun for people who have upgraded to iOS 10 or purchased a new iPhone.

Apple also suffered from supply chain constraints following the release of the iPhone 7, and this not only meant that it wasn’t able to keep up with demand, but it also failed to capitalize on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco.

But Apple’s problems go beyond the iPhone.

The iPad, which once looked set to join the iPhone as a huge money-maker for Apple, is tanking, and tanking badly. While the holiday season will likely give sales an upward kick, on the whole things don’t look good. Even releasing the iPad Pro didn’t seem to move the needle for Apple.

The iPad looks like it is on borrowed time.

Then there’s Apple’s aging hardware line-up. Sure, the iPhone (which is buggy), the MacBook Pro (also buggy), and the Apple Watch have now seen a refresh, but everything else is old and stale and in desperate need of a refresh.

And when Apple did unveil a refreshed MacBook Pro, it seemed bland compared to Microsoft’s Surface Studio PC. You know it’s bad when Microsoft is now throwing shade on Apple.

As for everything else that needs a refresh, Apple doesn’t seem in any rush to do anything. It’s almost like it’s stretched to the limits by the demands of making and continually refreshing the iPhone line.

To top it all off, Apple hasn’t even managed to get its AirPod wireless earphones out in time for the holidays, allegedly due to an audio sync issue. This is a pretty big fail for a company that was crowing about how awesome the AirPods were only a few weeks ago.

Does any of this mean that Apple is doomed? Of course not, and people who pull this card are either catastrophists or trying to distract from the real issue. The problem for Apple isn’t doom, but becoming just another tech company, tripping over its own shoelaces, bungling launches, and having to put out fires.

2016 showed that even Apple, with all the money and smarts and consumer goodwill, is just another tech company.

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December 11, 2016 brianradio2016

AssistiveTouch floats a small menu on your display (which you can move about on the screen to wherever suits you) that allows you to carry out gestures such as pinching or multi-finger swipes with a single finger, offers quick access to a variety of functions, and even allows you to activate Siri without pressing the Home button.

There are three ways to activate AssistiveTouch:

  • Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch, then switch on AssistiveTouch
  • Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and then activate AssistiveTouch
  • Ask Siri: “Turn on AssistiveTouch”
December 9, 2016 brianradio2016

iOS 10 hidden features

Uncover some of the cool new features hidden in iOS 10.

Here is a quick rundown of some of the new features contained in the latest iOS 10 update that you might have missed.

While most of these should be available on all devices that support iOS 10, some will only be available on newer devices.

See also: How to make the rechargeable battery in your smartphone, tablet or laptop last for years

December 9, 2016 brianradio2016

AssistiveTouch floats a small menu on your display (which you can move about on the screen to wherever suits you) that allows you to carry out gestures such as pinching or multi-finger swipes with a single finger, offers quick access to a variety of functions, and even allows you to activate Siri without pressing the Home button.

There are three ways to activate AssistiveTouch:

  • Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch, then switch on AssistiveTouch
  • Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and then activate AssistiveTouch
  • Ask Siri: “Turn on AssistiveTouch”
December 9, 2016 brianradio2016

PowerShell is an enormous addition to the Windows toolbox that gives Windows admins the ability to automate all sorts of tasks, such as rotating logs, deploying patches, and managing users. Whether it’s specific Windows administration jobs or security-related tasks such as managing certificates and looking for attack activity, there is a way to do it in PowerShell.

Speaking of security, there’s a good chance someone has already created a PowerShell script or a module to handle the job. Microsoft hosts a gallery of community-contributed scripts that handle a variety of security chores, such as penetration testing, certificate management, and network forensics, to name a few.

December 8, 2016 brianradio2016

You’ve been tasked with helping your company stay competitive by modernizing your IT organization’s delivery of developed applications. Your company has already embraced virtualization and perhaps dabbled in the public cloud. Containers look like the next big thing for you, so you’re considering how to bring container technology to your organization. Some thing needs to create containers on compute resources and network them together. On the drawing board, you’re considering these general components:

diy components 2Apcera

You start doing the research. You soon discover that cloud management platforms, PaaS, and container management platforms are all readily available as prepackaged software and services. Even the individual components that make up those packages are available in Open Source Land. “Hmm,” you think, “Why pay anyone for a platform when the parts are there to do this myself?”

For a brief moment, you’re taken all the way back to kindergarten. The teacher starts crafting class and opens the drawer to an array of fun-looking parts. Pastel paper, glitter, and bows! You’re ready to craft that masterpiece. All you need is a bottle of glue!

After a blink, you’re back to the IT drawing board, laying out the parts for your future container management platform in greater detail:

December 7, 2016 brianradio2016

Since October, millions of internet users have been exposed to malicious code served from the pixels in tainted banner ads meant to install Trojans and spyware, according to security firm ESET.

The attack campaign, called Stegano, has been spreading from malicious ads in a “number of reputable news websites,” ESET said in a Tuesday blog post. It’s been preying on Internet Explorer users by scanning for vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash and then exploiting them.

The attack is designed to infect victims with malware that can steal email password credentials through its keylogging and screenshot grabbing features, among others.

The attack is also hard to detect. To infect their victims, the hackers were essentially poisoning the pixels used in the tainted banner ads, ESET said in a separate post.

December 6, 2016 brianradio2016

Cloud storage is a wonderful thing. It gives IT a central place to manage, secure, and back up company files. It lets users work on their files anywhere, from practically any authorized device, so the days of having to keep multiple copies of files synced across devices (work computer, home computer, mobile devices) are over.

But there’s a potential security gap in cloud storage that means you’re not getting the data security you expect, or you’re forcing users to walk through hoops to get their jobs done. And there’s no elegant solution to the problem today.

Here’s the scenario: IT encourages or requires users to store all work documents in their corporate OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive. Basically, to use it instead of the My Documents folder in Windows or Documents folder in MacOS. To do that effectively, and to maintain usability with users’ computer software, users are running the local virtual disk client for OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive. No more need for thumb drives, emailing of documents to themselves, and the other practices users invented to get their work done wherever, whenever.

Here’s the risk: A Windows PC or Mac running the virtual drive software is stolen or accessed by an unauthorized person. Even if IT cuts off access to the cloud storage service, and to any cloud-subscribed apps like Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s G Suite, those virtual drive apps have made local copies of the user’s documents on that computer. So, a data thief could get those local copies of the nominally cloud-stored corporate documents.

December 5, 2016 brianradio2016

Here's how to switch on a hidden shortcut menu on your iPhone or iPad

AssistiveTouch can make navigating around iOS and accessing often-used features much quicker and easier.

I use my iPhone more than any other bit of kit I own. Every day that thing gets a good 16+ hour workout, but there are times when I feel that certain features that I use regularly are buried from view or require finger acrobatics on the buttons to achieve.

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But there’s a hidden shortcut menu bar built into every iOS device that allows you quick and easy access to features that you might need access to the most often.

The feature is called AssistiveTouch, and what it does is float a small menu on your display (which you can move about on the screen to wherever suits you) that allows you to carry out gestures such as pinching or multi-finger swipes with a single finger, offers quick access to a variety of functions, and even allows you to activate Siri without pressing the Home button.

One feature I use a lot is screenshot. It’s much easier and quicker to have a single button do it than have to simultaneously press the Home button and the Power button.

Also, if you have a case with a deep bezel, being able to access the Control Center from a button press rather than a swipe from the bottom is much easier.

There are three ways to activate AssistiveTouch:

  • Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch, then switch on AssistiveTouch
  • Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and then activate AssistiveTouch
  • Ask Siri: “Turn on AssistiveTouch”

The Siri method is very quick and convenient.

Many of the features AssistiveTouch gives access to are functions that otherwise involve button presses, such as the Home button. As such, it’s a handy stop-gap feature for people who have a broken or temperamental Home button.

I’ll be honest and say that using AssistiveTouch does take some getting used to. Initially, my brain — and fingers — kept going back to the Home button or the old ways of doing things, but if you stick with it for a few days, you will reap the rewards of having easy on-screen access to useful features.

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