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Scanning Personal Gmail NO MORE says Google

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Google recently announced the end of its policy of scanning user emails for targeted advertising purposes, a controversial practice that riled privacy advocates and spurred legal challenges. Gmail is the world’s most widely used email provider, with more than 1.2 billion users. Google attributed its decision to gains it has made in the enterprise. Its G Suite business over the past year has more than doubled in size to 3 million paying corporate customers, who are not subject to the scanning process.

“G Suite’s Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalization, and Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer email service,” said Diane Greene, senior vice president at Google Cloud. “This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products.”

As Google makes further inroads into the cloud business, it recognizes that customers are going to be very wary of anything that threatens their privacy and security when compared against incumbent cloud services providers, noted Jeff Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies. “Google has always assumed that its users accept the implicit cost of using its free app,” he told TechNewsWorld, which is “that they will be targets of its ads and other search engine marketing mechanisms.

“However, as it tries to build its enterprise business, Google has recognized it must abandon this tactic to remain competitive with other enterprise and collaboration alternatives, such as Microsoft Office 365”. It’s not likely that the new privacy objective will harming Google’s ability to generate revenue, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“EPIC opposed Google scanning email from the start and won several significant battles, including the 2014 decision to end scanning of student emails,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Keep in mind also that Google was scanning the email of non-Gmail users, which raised problems under federal wiretap law and was the frequent target of lawsuits.” A settlement was reached late last year in a California class action brought by Daniel Matera and Susan Rashkis, who accused Google of violating federal wiretapping and state privacy laws by scanning non-Gmail accounts for advertising purposes. As part of that settlement, Google agreed to pay US$2.2 million in legal fees, but a federal judge earlier this year rejected the agreement.

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WHY LAPTOPS FROM OVERHEAT..

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Overheating laptops have gotten a lot of press over the last few years. The problem first gained popular attention around 2006, when reports of laptops actually catching fire started trickling in around the globe. The problem there was faulty batteries, and companies like Dell, Sony and Acer had to initiate major recalls.

The general issue of hot laptops is separate from those bad batteries, but laptop “explosions” certainly brought attention to the basic cause: Scorching heat is a bad trait for something that sits on your lap. People have actually gotten burned. Short of that, hard drives are damaged by excessive heat.

But if the problem isn’t a bad battery, what’s making these laptops so hot?

You’ve probably noticed that all of your electronics get hot when they run for a while, try putting your hand on the DVD player after you play a movie. Electronic components generate heat when they’re working, and your laptop is no different. Lets find out why laptops get so hot and see what you can do in terms of both maintenance and add-ons to keep yours cool. You don’t even have to spend any money to do it.

There are two major reasons why laptops have more of an overheating problem than desktops. First, since laptops are smaller than desktops, those electronic components are crammed in there more tightly. Since they’re closer together, and since the casing of a laptop is so narrow, there’s not much room for the heat to dissipate. The other issue is power. As laptops get more powerful processors, and as operating systems require more of that processing power to run, more heat is being generated inside the case.

Of course, laptop manufacturers know about this, and there’s lot of stuff inside the unit that’s supposed to remove this heat. Fans, heat sinks and air vents all work to cool down a laptop while it’s running. Sometimes, though, it’s just not enough. Overheating can happen when a fan isn’t working properly or there’s some other malfunction. But sometimes, it’s more the user’s fault than the machine’s. So before we go discuss an external cooling setup, let’s find out how we can help our laptops stay cool on their own.

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Why You Shouldn’t Use SMS for Two-Factor Authentication

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Security experts recommend using two-factor authentication to secure your online accounts wherever possible. Many services default to SMS verification, sending codes via text message to your phone when you try to sign in. But SMS messages have a lot of security problems, and are the least secure option for two-factor authentication.

While we’re going to lay out the case against SMS here, it’s important we first make one thing clear: Using SMS is better than not using two-factor authentication at all. When you don’t use two-factor authentication, someone only needs your password to sign into your account. When you use two-factor authentication with SMS, someone will need to both acquire your password and gain access to your text messages to gain access to your account. SMS is much more secure than nothing at all. If SMS is your only option, please do use SMS. However, if you’d like to learn why security experts recommend avoiding SMS and what we recommend instead, read on.

Here’s how SMS verification works: When you try to sign in, the service sends a text message to the mobile phone number you’ve previously provided them with. You get that code on your phone and enter it to sign in. That code is only good for a single use. It sounds reasonably secure. After all, only you have your phone number and someone has to have your phone to see the code—right? Unfortunately, no. If someone knows your phone number and can get access to personal information like the last four digits of your social security number—unfortunately, this be easy to find thanks to the many corporations and government agencies that have leaked customer data—they can contact your phone company and move your phone number to a new phone. This is known as a “SIM swap“, and is the same process you perform when you purchase a new device and move your phone number to it. The person says they’re you, provides the personal data, and your cell phone company sets up their phone with your phone number. They’ll get the SMS message codes sent to your phone number on their phone. We’ve seen reports of this happening in the UK, where attackers stole a victim’s phone number and used it to gain access to the victim’s bank account. New York State has also warned about this scam. At its core, this is a social engineering attack that relies on tricking your cell phone company. But your cell phone company shouldn’t be able to provide someone with access to your security codes in the first place.

It’s also possible to snoop on SMS messages. Political dissidents and journalists in repressive countries will want to be careful, as the government could hijack SMS messages as they’re sent through the phone network. This has already happened in Iran, where Iranian hackers reportedly compromised a number of Telegram messenger accounts by intercepting the SMS messages that provided access to those accounts. Attackers have also abused problems in SS7, the connection system used for roaming, to intercept SMS messages on the network and route them elsewhere. There are many other ways messages can be intercepted, including through the use of fake cell phone towers. SMS messages weren’t designed for security, and shouldn’t be used for it. In other words, a sophisticated attacker with a bit of personal information could hijack your phone number to gain access to your online accounts and then use those accounts to attempt to drain your bank accounts, for example. That’s why the National Institute of Standards and Technology is no longer recommending the use of SMS messages for two-factor authentication.

The Alternative: Generate Codes on Your Device

A two-factor authentication scheme that doesn’t rely on SMS is superior, because the cell phone company won’t be able to give someone else access to your codes. The most popular option for this is an app like Google Authenticator. However, we recommend Authy, since it does everything Google Authenticator does and more. Apps like this generate codes on your device. Even if an attacker tricked your cell phone company into moving your phone number to their phone, they wouldn’t be able to get your security codes. The data needed to generate those codes would remain securely on your phone.

You don’t have to use codes, either. Services like Twitter, Google, and Microsoft are testing app-based two factor authentication that allows you to sign in on another device by authorizing the sign-in in their app on your phone. There are also physical hardware tokens you can use. Big companies like Google and Dropbox have already implemented a new standard for hardware-based two-factor authentication tokens named U2F. These are all more secure than relying on your cell phone company and the outdated telephone network. If possible, avoid SMS for two-factor authentication. It’s better than nothing and seems convenient, but it’s usually the least secure two-factor authentication scheme you can choose.

Unfortunately, some services force you to use SMS. If you’re worried about this, you could create a Google Voice phone number and give it to services that require SMS authentication. You could then sign into your Google account which you can protect with a more secure two-factor authentication method—and see the secure messages in the Google Voice website or app. Just don’t forward messages from Google Voice to your actual cell phone number.

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“ALEXA” vs “OK GOOGLE”

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Amazon blew the industry wide open with its release of the Echo back in 2014, and has since become the company’s most popular hardware product. However, Google has since gotten in on the fun with the Google Home, a direct Echo competitor that aims to reign supreme. But which one should you buy if you’re in the market for a virtual home assistant? Here are some key points to know about both devices to see which one might be best suited for you.

Google Home Is Much More Knowledgeable

This should come as no surprise, but when it comes to asking random questions about all sorts of facts, Google Home comes out on top. That’s not to say the Amazon Echo is completely stupid, but in our testing, there were a handful of questions that the Google Home was able to provide an answer, while Alexa simply just replied with “Sorry, I don’t know the answer to your question.”

However, Alexa was able to do a better job in some areas, like when I asked both devices “How many movies has Tom Hanks been in?” Alexa was able to come up with the answer (83 films), while Google Home simply just named off a few movies that Hanks directed. Google Home is also able to remember the previous question, which is useful. So if you asked “Who played Woody in Toy Story?”, Google Home would say Tom Hanks, and then you could follow up with “How old is he?” and Google Home would say his age, even though you didn’t directly say “Tom Hanks”. Alexa isn’t able to do this. Overall, Alexa knows some stuff, but Google knows more.

Both Have Great Tastes In Music

By default, the Echo uses Amazon’s Prime Music service and Google Home uses Google Play Music, both of which are great sources for streaming tunes. The biggest difference is how many songs each service has in their catalog. Amazon Prime Music only has around two million songs available, whereas Google Play Music has an astounding 35 million songs. You’ll find most popular songs on both services, though.

However, Amazon Music Unlimited is a newer service from the company that boasts “tens of millions of songs”. Even if you’re a Prime member, though, you still have to shell out a monthly payment for it. Furthermore, both Prime Music and Google Play Music require a monthly payment, with the smaller Prime Music library included in Amazon’s Prime service. Besides the defaults, though, both the Echo and Home can link to your Spotify or Pandora accounts, so if you’re committed to one of those music providers instead, it’s no problem.

Google Home Can Recognize Individual Voices

More than likely there are multiple people living in your house, which means multiple people using the Amazon Echo or Google Home. Both devices have multiple-account support, but only the Google Home knows who exactly it’s talking to. This makes it way easier to get information that’s pertinent only to you. So instead of saying something like “Hey Google, what’s on Craig’s calendar for today?” (which would be weird to say my own name), you can instead just say “What’s on my calendar for today?”. The Google Home will recognize your distinct voice and name off upcoming events that are on your calendar and no one else’s.

Both Have Decent Speakers

The full-size Echo and the Google Home come with surprisingly robust speakers that sound pretty good—certainly not as good as a dedicated speaker system, but good enough to keep at a respectable volume while you putz around the house.

However, the speakers on the Google Home tend to go south the louder you turn them up, so I wouldn’t want to crank the volume if I want to keep the quality decent. Of course, if you have an Echo Dot, you can connect external speakers to it as long as the stereo system you’re plugging in has an auxilary jack. The full-size Echo and the Google Home don’t have audio out ports, so you’re stuck using the built-in speakers on those.

There are other small things, of course. For example, “OK Google” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the way “Alexa” does, which makes a bigger difference than you’d think. Conversely, Google Home comes with a customizable base, which is nice if you want it to fit in better with your home.

In the end, both are really good options, and it depends on what you’ll be using it for as far as which one you should go with. The Echo is better for smarthome integration and has slightly better speakers, and it integrates with a lot of different services through third-party Alexa Skills, but the Google Home’s vast search knowledge is likely something that Amazon will never touch, and the Chromecast support is pretty neat if you’re invested in that area.

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iPhone 8 Design

Friday, May 26th, 2017

The iPhone 8 has an impossible design. According to multiple sources, Apple will create an almost bezel-less design yet it will also integrate both the fingerprint sensor and front facing cameras under the screen. The former is plausible but the latter didn’t make sense, until now.

The explanation comes from two independent leaks which dovetail perfectly. What both illustrate is the iPhone 8 will indeed have a near bezel-less design, but the front camera (or cameras) will not be under the display. Instead a cutout will be made which still leaves space for permanent information like the time, date and signal strength. This is a move Sharp is also anticipated to make with its upcoming Aquos R Compact.

Of course the obvious counterpoint to this is to ask: Where will notifications reside if the cutout takes away a lot of this space?

But this is likely already answered by the new ‘function area’. A MacBook Pro-style touch bar will replace the home button with contextual controls and it would allow for more detailed information. It would also be easier to reach than stretching to the top of the phone, especially with the iPhone 8 expected to sport an enlarged 5.8-inch display.

Needless to say, while all this appears to add-up (and leaks have correctly revealed all major iPhone details ahead of launch for many years), the definitive word will only come when Tim Cook takes to the stage in September.

That said, with a disappointing ‘Plan B’ backup design apparently off the table, expectations for Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone launch are understandably skyrocketing…

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Emerson Sensi Touch works with Siri

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Thermostat maker Emerson today announced the Sensi Touch. Available starting in June. The new Sensi Touch Wi-Fi thermostat shares a lot of similarities with the previous Sensi which came out in 2016, but not everything.

As its name suggests, the Sensi Touch ditches the bland, plasticky hardware for a more modern touchscreen look. It’s a significant improvement at a glance, but the Sensi Touch is still lagging behind design-forward models like the Nest Learning Thermostat. The Sensi Touch actually reminds me of Honeywell’s Wi-Fi Smart thermostat somewhat, back in 2013. While that model is still sold today, Honeywell has since introduced the Lyric and the Lyric T5, both of which are more attractive than the original Wi-Fi Smart (and the Sensi Touch).

In addition to the touchscreen upgrade, this model is also equipped with an Apple MFi chip. The MFi chip is a required hardware component if you want your product to work with Apple’s HomeKit smart home platform.

And on a related topic, Emerson is replacing the original Sensi with Sensi 2.0. The second-gen Sensi will still cost approximately $160, and it will still have the same utilitarian design, the only change is the addition of an MFi chip. Like the new Sensi Touch, Sensi 2.0 is also slated to hit stores in June.

FYI: The Sensi Touch will only be available in the US at launch. Pricing converts to roughly £150 and AU$265 at the current exchange rate.

IT GURUS OF ATLANTA LLC

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