Computer Blog


Throwback Thursday: Eyes only


Programmer pilot fish goes online to a message board for a development system that’s used for one of his company’s applications.

But he gets a message that the site is blocked. He can either forget about it, click a link to continue, or click a link to see the company’s access policy.

He clicks to continue, gets what he needs, and then, just out of curiosity, he clicks to see the access policy to get an idea of why this site is being blocked.

But instead of seeing the access policy, fish sees this message: Content blocked. Click here to access our internet resource policy.

Sputters baffled fish, “It actually blocked the policy!”

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3 reasons Apple’s iPhone 11 will exceed (muted) expectations


If the portents prove to be true, Apple’s next edition iPhone 11 will be announced Sept. 10.

Here are three reasons I think it will exceed expectations.

5G doesn’t matter yet

It really doesn’t.

  • Outside of a handful of cities, no one has access to it.
  • People aren’t yet relaxed about the health implications of it.
  • Huge quantities of infrastructure need to be installed to support it.
  • The services designed to fully exploit it don’t exist (yet).

The revolution may be televised, but the mobile broadband to carry it hasn’t been deployed.

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BrandPost: Preventing Office 365 Data Loss Surprises


Microsoft Office 365 is an indispensable tool for modern, digital businesses. For mid-sized companies in particular, many of their most important business processes depend on the various tools within Office 365. For this reason, protecting and backing up data that resides in Excel, Word, SharePoint, Planner, Outlook, Teams, and other applications that are part of Office 365 are critical. Data losses from within Office 365 can be costly and significantly impact productivity.

Although Microsoft has provided some protection for that data, there are still many vulnerabilities. Perhaps the most common cause of data loss is accidental deletion or overwriting of files. The Recycle Bin holds deleted documents for only a short period of time.  If the problem is recognized quickly, that data will be gone permanently. Malicious deletion is another problem that isn’t adequately addressed by standard Microsoft data protection.

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Apple wants (and needs) more female coders


There’s a shortage of coders. And just 15% of coders are women (at least in the UK). This is the context in which to understand Apple’s most recent move to teach people to code with the Girls Who Code organization.

What is Apple doing?

Apple is working with the Girls Who Code to provide specialized after-school Swift tutorials for female grade 6-12 students. 

“A more diverse future begins with opportunities for everyone,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a Tweet. “We’re excited to work with @GirlsWhoCode, empowering girls across the U.S. to be the tech leaders of tomorrow. #EveryoneCanCode.”

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The power of the beep-beep-beep


Power goes out at a law firm, and the UPS immediately starts beeping as an alert that it is discharging. One woman working nearby finds the beeping annoying, and she turns off her PC in an effort to make it stop. That does nothing about the beep-beep-beep, of course, but she’s been driven to distraction and starts to shut down everything in the law firm. The beeping continues. So she goes to the source and unplugs the UPS.

Yes, reader, you know the result: beep-beep-beep! But she cannot understand how the UPS can continue howling without a source of power. (Ahem! We are well aware that it has had no external source of power for quite some time at this point, but remember, the beeping is truly driving this poor woman around the bend.) “We thought it was possessed!” she exclaims to pilot fish.

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Hey Siri, how will I feel next Tuesday?


Voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri have been a bit of a giggle in their infancy. This is about to change as AI gets smarter, contextual intelligence greater and the augmentation of human capacity through their use reaches different parts of life.

We’re reaching critical mass

Siri, Alexa, Assistant, Cortana – none of these systems is perfect, some are less perfect, and all the big names in this technology need to wake up and act on the privacy implications of their use.

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6 significant new Chromebook hardware trends


We talk a lot about Chrome OS upgrades and how the never-ending stream of new software features can improve your Chromebook experience, but some pretty interesting hardware enhancements are also on the way.

Now, you know me: The idea of devices getting thinner, screens getting sharper, and bezels getting smaller doesn't exactly bowl me over. All that stuff is fine, sure, but it's also just the expected annual progression and nothing worth discussing in any great detail.

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Whatever it stands for, you’re deep in it


Pilot fish is tasked with evaluating help desk systems, and incidentally with giving the chosen system a name. When he submits his report on various off-the-shelf systems and the in-house option, he titles it “System for Helpful Information Tracking,” just for fun. His thought is that his manager will catch that the name forms an unfortunate acronym, they’ll have a laugh, and then they’ll give it a new name before it starts up the line in the rather straitlaced insurance company they work for.

But manager doesn’t catch it and passes the report along before fish can stop by his office to have that expected laugh. Suddenly the little joke doesn’t seem so funny to fish, but there’s nothing he can do to stop the report’s progress through the ranks without calling attention to what is sure to be seen as a tasteless and unacceptable attempt at humor (which even fish wouldn’t argue against). Finally the report comes back from a very senior manager, which means it got through many levels of managers and vice presidents.

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Installing Windows 7 from a backup? You need a BitLocker patch right away


No doubt you recall the warning back in February that Windows 7, Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2 patches starting in July would use the SHA-2 encryption protocol. If you want to install Win7 patches issued after July, you have to get the SHA-2 translator installed.

A few days ago, Microsoft tossed a zinger into the FAQs down at the bottom of its SHA-2 post, 2019 SHA-2 Code Signing Support requirement for Windows and WSUS. That post now says that you have to install a seemingly unrelated patch, KB 3133977, entitled, BitLocker can't encrypt drives because of service crashes in svchost.exe process in Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2.  

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Will Apple launch iPhone on Sept. 10?


Memory-Lane Monday: For once, credit where it’s due


Pilot fish gets a job at an electronic cash register company, where he’s been assigned to put parts in little plastic bags for the people who solder the circuit boards. He applied to be a programming intern, but HR said he wasn’t qualified.

Fish is good at his assigned job, but bored. Especially on Friday afternoons.

“The computer we used in the parts cage had to run weekly inventory reports,” explains fish. “The reports took about four hours to run every Friday, and pretty much shut the parts cage down because we were not allowed to kit components without first entering them into the computer, and the PDP-11 couldn't multitask.”

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IDG Contributor Network: Microsoft ups effort to get firms off Windows 7 with FastTrack


[Disclosure: Microsoft is a client of the author.]

Windows is pretty unique in the segment if you think about it. For most everything else we use, the hardware and software come from – and get support from – the same company. For most of our other devices, tools, equipment, etc., a major software update will only come when we buy a new system.

The good part of this is that our PCs are more up to date than our cars, appliances and other integrated products. The bad news is if we don’t want to update, we don’t have to – and a lot of us don’t like the update process and are sometimes back a couple of generations on the OS. (I won’t even mention the folks still using Windows XP, because they’re in their own unique and painful world at the moment.)

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31 always useful Apple productivity tips


I’ve put together thousands of Apple-related tips over the years. I thought it might be useful to reprise 31 essential ones that will help you get more from your iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch.

6 Siri tips for everything

Change Settings

Use Siri to change Settings or System Preferences. Just trigger Siri and ask it to open the Setting or Preference you need – it can change some of them too…

Open an App

Open any app by triggering Siri and asking it to open the app.

Open a website

Ask Siri.

Siri the weather

On any Apple device that supports Siri you can get a weather report by just asking for it. Or sports scores, or get answers to sums, measurement conversions and more.

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Pilot fish gets a call from company’s computer center for immediate service on a 1403 printer, one of those IBM behemoths of the big iron days, the sound of which Columbia University’s computing history project characterized as “at full throttle … somewhere between a power saw and a jet airplane.” What could be so urgent? fish wonders as he heads over to the computer center.

The answer is obvious once he looks behind the printer in question. There he sees a female operator sitting on the floor. Fish notes at a glance that she has striking long red hair, and that it is wrapped in the printer stacking rollers. She’s stuck.

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4 noteworthy new Chrome OS features coming your way right now


Android upgrades can often seem like an eternal waiting game, thanks to the role unmotivated device-makers play in the process — but with Chrome OS, it's a completely different story.

Chrome OS upgrades, y'see, roll out to every current Chromebook within days of their release, directly from Google and without any meddling along the way from manufacturers. So when you hear about a new Chrome OS version coming out, you can rest easy knowing it'll reach your Chromebook quickly and reliably — no matter who made the thing.

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Microsoft warns of Visual Basic, VBA and VBScript 'procedure call' errors after August patches


August is going to be a perilous patching month.

We’re tracking down credible reports of the Server 2012 R2 Monthly rollup breaking RDP logins, a conflict between the Win10 1903 cumulative update and last month’s version of Outlook 365, confusion about Win7 patches being branded as “IA64 only,” dealing with the lack of telemetry (!) in the August Win7 Security Only patch, much mayhem trying to install SHA-2 signed patches (including the Win7 Monthly Rollup) on systems using Symantec Endpoint Protection, even more confusion over the difference between Symantec Endpoint Protection and Norton Security Suite, and lots of the usual installation failures and rollbacks.

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IDG Contributor Network: Critical updates for Microsoft Patch Tuesday may cause testing headaches


This is a huge month for Patch Tuesday as Microsoft attempts to address 93 unique vulnerabilities spanning Windows desktop and server platforms, Microsoft Office and core development tools. Without the pressure of a publicly reported vulnerability and with no Zero-days to urgently address, we recommend a measured pace of testing before deployment for the Windows and Office updates, with a more rapid pace for the IE and development tools patches. Do yourself a favor and reference this handy infographics on the status of each update group.

Known issues

With each update that Microsoft releases, there are generally a few issues that have been raised in testing. For this August release, and specifically Windows 10 1903 builds, the following issues have been raised:

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3 Google privacy tips for Mac and iOS users


Alternative search engines such as DuckDuckGo are attracting growing numbers of privacy focused users, but there’s no doubt that Google dominates the industry, even on Apple products. Fortunately, there are several ways to make your Google activity more private.

Do you have a Google account? (You probably do)

Do you use Gmail? Did you one use Google +? Perhaps you employ Google Drive, Google Docs or any of the company’s other products. If so, you have a Google account.

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Throwback Thursday: But it WILL stay dry


Electrical fire breaks out above the ceiling tiles in this server room, reports a pilot fish in the know.

“In the past, the room was a large mainframe room and was protected by a Halon fire-suppression system,” fish says. Nowadays the room just contains half a dozen racks of servers and network gear.

The Halon system is still working when that ceiling fire breaks out, but it isn’t triggered. Trouble is, there aren’t any smoke sensors above the ceiling tiles.

Fortunately, the fire smolders for quite a while, and thanks to an alert security guard, there’s just minor water and smoke damage to unoccupied areas of the big room.

Some time later, management decides to get rid of the Halon system and replace it with a sprinkler system.

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Flying for business? Don’t take (some models) of 15-inch MacBook Pro


This isn’t a good look. The Federal Aviation Authority has banned certain models of 15-inch MacBook Pros from flights due to a previously disclosed battery risk.

What’s happening?

It’s important to stress that not every MacBook Pro is affected, but models sold between mid-2015 to February 2017 are impacted.

These are the same Macs Apple issued a voluntary recall for earlier this year, warning that they may “contain a battery that may overheat and pose a fire safety risk”.

As part of the recall, Apple is offering free battery replacement for these models. You can check if your Mac is part of this recall on an Apple support page here.

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Wayback Wednesday: At least he saw the problem


This pilot fish is the CIO of a small company with offices in New Jersey and New York City.

“My one IT person in NYC, who does network admin, desktop support and project management, is out for an extended time due to an illness,” fish says. “I asked the CFO if I could bring in a temporary IT person until she returns.

“His answer was, ‘Could you bring in someone for four hours per day instead of eight?’“I said, ‘Sure. When do you want us to have problems then, in the morning or in the afternoon?’

“To which he replied, ‘Oh, good point.’”

Sharky’s time is your time. Send me your true tale of IT life at You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

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2 Android Q features we still haven't seen in action


We're down to the final countdown for Google's Android Q release — and by and large, it feels like there aren't many surprises left. After all, while Q won't technically be released for another week or three, the software's been evolving in a public beta for nearly five months now. 

But hold the phone: Despite the fact that we've been talking about Android Q for what feels like an eternity, there are actually a couple pretty significant areas of the software that we haven't yet explored — and won't be able to for a while, either, even after this summer's official release.

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MacStadium announces cloud-based Mac IaaS for developers


MacStadium has officially announced Orka, a Kubernetes-compatible virtualization layer for Mac cloud infrastructure designed to boost development of cloud services and solutions on Apple’s platforms.

A Mac-based cloud for developers

You may have heard of MacStadium before.

Speaking during the Mac mini launch in 2018, Apple told us how the company manages over 8,000 Mac mini systems in colocation centers.

The company now manages a global fleet of 20,000 Macs of various kinds (soon including the new Mac Pro). It is even patenting some of the technologies it uses to rack-mount these machines. Capital One, Pandora and Box are all existing MacStadium customers.

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It’s a snap!


Software company that sells its product to businesses is small enough that it’s somewhat remarkable that when one of its customers, a small business located nearby, is acquired by a big national company, the larger company is also a customer. This is good news: The small company will keep using its product. It appreciates this good fortune so much that it says it will be happy to comply with an odd request from the local company.

The acquired company is being asked by its new owner to put employee photos on file. The small company doesn’t want to pay a professional photographer to take the pictures, so it asks the software company to help out. The software company prides itself on its customer service, so it says yes.

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It’s the Monday before Patch Tuesday – make sure Windows Auto Update is off


If you haven’t patched your machine since May, you’re in harm’s way and need to get your BlueKeep inoculation right away.

For most other people – those who aren’t guarding state secrets or recalculating the national debt in real time – it’s smart to hold off on Windows and Office patches for a couple of weeks to see what turns belly up. I call it crowd-sourced bug hunting, and describe it in "The case against knee-jerk installation of Windows patches."

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7 Microsoft Word productivity tips for iPad users


If there is one app that’s used by almost every enterprise professional, it has to be Word, so I thought it might be useful to put together a short collection of productivity tips to help iPad users get more from the application.

Tap, Tap, double-tap

Most Word on iPad users know about tap. When working with text, tap once to place the cursor. Or, tap twice to select a word – or tap three times to select the entire paragraph. You’ll then be able to cut, copy, delete the text and apply text effects.

Place the cursor accurately

There are now two ways to place a cursor accurately when using Word, the Apple way and Microsoft’s alternative:

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Is Windows pushing you to upgrade? Don’t be bullied. There’s a middle path.


Microsoft’s in a full-court press to get folks running Win10 version 1803 to upgrade to version 1903. Ostensibly it’s because version 1803 patches will stop after Nov. 12, and the laggards still stuck on the “old” version — first declared suitable for business a scant year ago — need the enlightened, new 1903. Waiting for three or four months just won’t do. 

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Messages pending


Pilot fish’s company uses a third-party MSP to monitor its servers. The in-house server is a hefty box with two VMs running, one for the file server, and one for the Exchange server.

Comes a night with wild weather everywhere, and the power goes out for longer than the UPSs can keep the servers going, so naturally, they shut down.

Fish discovers this the next morning when he checks his email and finds that it hasn’t updated on his phone since 1 a.m.

He tries to log in to the server: No connection available. He hurries into the office and finds that the power is still off. Once he gets everything powered back up and functioning, he contacts the MSP to ask why he hadn’t been notified.

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Apple announces a new iPhone (and you can’t have it)


Apple has announced a new iPhone for 2020, but it will only be made available to a select group of security researchers – along with huge bounties to anyone alerting the company to a new OS vulnerability.

Probably the world’s most exclusive iPhone

Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of security engineering, provided big insights into Apple’s platform security during his presentation at Black Hat U.S. 2019.

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IDG Contributor Network: At the AMD Epyc 2 launch, I saw the future of the PC


[Disclosure: Microsoft and AMD are clients of the author.]

Epyc 2 is a server part, so you might be wondering how I saw the future of the PC at the Epyc launch event. Well, one of the demos was of the coming Microsoft Virtual PC platform, which is a server instance for a virtualized desktop. While I’ve written about it before, this is the first time I’ve ever seen it. Mike DeNeffe – an old friend of mine from the Transmeta days (Transmeta was the company that forced Intel into developing a truly mobile part) – set the thing up, and it was impressive.

I’m a huge fan of Virtual Windows. Because I use and review a large number of PCs, there is seldom a month that goes by that doesn’t have me setting up a new PC. And, as easy as that has become, the idea of simply logging into a new machine and instantly having all my stuff there the way I want it is the holy grail for me. So I’m eagerly waiting for this platform to roll out.

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