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What can we learn from Apple’s celebrity leak fail? Five ways to keep data safe

9:39AM | Wednesday, 3 September

The internet exploded this week with a cache of private photos taken from the devices or online accounts of several high-profile celebrities.   Beyond the ethical and social questions raised by this incident are the technology questions and risks that have been exposed through this leak. There are lessons here on what businesses can do to better secure their information and that of their customers.   From what we know so far, the photos were claimed to have been taken from the iCloud accounts of the celebrities involved. It’s recently been revealed that Apple’s Find My iPhone service was vulnerable to password brute-forcing.   Brute-forcing is a password analysing technique which works by testing a large number of passwords until one is shown to be the correct one. Because Apple didn’t block repeated incorrect login attempts, it was vulnerable to this technique.   This recent iCloud vulnerability, whether or not it’s how the photos were gained, is terrifyingly easy to exploit. It’s not a stretch to believe this vulnerability could have also been behind the iPhone ransom incident from a few months ago.   As data continues to move to the cloud, it’s important to implement good security practices to reduce the risk of exposure. If you operate a business that involves handling sensitive or personal information, you are responsible for the security measures that keep that information out of the wrong hands.   Here are five things businesses can do to prevent unauthorised access to their online information:   1. Perform regular security audits on any online applications that store personal data.   Even a fairly rudimentary security audit would have revealed the brute-force vulnerability that Apple was exposed to. You can perform your own security audits using software such as WebSecurify, or hire a “penetration testing” consultant.   2. Ensure all software developers that work on your online applications have adequate knowledge and training in computer security.   This one can be tricky to measure, but most software developers are quick to learn when made aware of hacking techniques and how to protect against them. Resources such as the “Security Now” podcast help increase awareness. Depending on the technologies your company relies on, following related technical blogs is a great way for your developers to stay abreast of any security developments they need to react to.   3. Do not reuse passwords across multiple applications and do not use easily guessable passwords.   The Find My iPhone vulnerability still required a fairly rudimentary password to successfully gain access to an account. Remembering passwords (and creating strong ones!) is a tough process, look to software tools that make it easier and also remember the passwords for you. My personal recommendation would be AgileBits' 1Password, but many software applications exist that do this well.    4. Keep software up-to-date by installing updates as promptly as possible.   This applies to everything from your operating system, to your browser, to the plugins it may rely on (Java and Flash updates in particular are crucial). Modern operating systems (Windows, OSX, iOS, Android) all display prompts for security updates. Mobile operating systems in particular prompt for updates often, don’t ignore them! If you’ve had a particular software package that doesn’t have auto-update or update prompts, be sure to periodically check online for updated versions of that particular software. Never run unsupported software, or software with known security issues.   5. Finally, if you ever have a security breach, make diagnosing and patching it your number one priority.   Depending on the breach, this is a task that can be performed by your developers, although in some cases you may wish to consult an expert with background in computer forensics or computer security to help diagnose and rectify the problem. Notify your customers if you have a vulnerability that concerns the integrity of their data, and give them the information they need to secure it again.   Remember, your customers might not be happy about the breach, but they’ll be furious if they find out you covered it up or failed to try your best to prevent it.   Farid Wardan is a lead software engineer at Terem Technologies, an Australian company that specialises in developing custom software and technology solutions for corporate innovations and high-tech ventures.

THE NEWS WRAP: China could have its own operating system by October

8:28PM | Sunday, 24 August

China could have a new homegrown operating system by October, to take on imports Microsoft, Google and Apple.   The US and China have had a number of disputes regarding cyber security in recent months.   The operating system would first appear on desktop devices, before being extended to smartphone and other mobile devices, the head of an official OS development alliance, Ni Guangnan, says.   Ni says he hopes the Chinese-made software would be able to replace desktop operating systems within one to two years and mobile operating systems within three to five years.   Coin apologises to customers   Connected credit card startup Coin issued an apology to customers on the weekend after mishandling the announcement of a product delay.   The San-Francisco based startup was criticised last week after revealing, after months of ambiguity, it would be delaying the launch of its connected credit card and replacing it with a beta program in which its 10,000 pre-order customers could opt in to receive a prototype. They would be required to pay $30 to upgrade to the finished product when it launched.   Coin reversed its stance and the beta program will now be free. It apologised to its users for a “lack of transparency and clarity” in its communications.   Facebook most popular app in US   In comScore’s latest mobile app report, which tracks the 25 most popular smartphone apps in the US, Facebook leads the way by a considerable margin.   The Facebook app had 115.4 million US unique visitors over the age of eighteen in June 2014, with YouTube finishing in second with 83.4 million. The top subscription app is Netflix with 28 million unique visitors.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 38.27 to 17,001.22. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

OPINION: How Google Drive for business fits with a home security business

6:39AM | Thursday, 26 June

Google’s main developer conference for the year – Google I/O – has kicked off in California.   For weeks ahead of time, speculation about Android Wear smartwatches, new Google Nexus devices and a possible update to its Android or Chrome OS operating systems.   So Google raised a few eyebrows when, ahead of the conference, it announced it’s shilling out $US555 million (approximately A$591 million) for a company called Dropcam. The newly acquired business is being combined with Nest, the smart smoke detector and thermostat company Google purchased in January for $US3.2 billion.   The company makes small security cameras with built-in microphones and speakers that connect to the internet over Wi-Fi and stream encrypted video and video to the cloud.   Once the camera is set up, the user can use the company’s iOS, Android or web app to stream video and video from their camera, or speak through the camera’s built-in speaker, allowing for two-way communications.   The company also offers the option of recording up 30 days of continuous security video and share favourite clips with family and friends.   The deal sparked a lot of discussion and speculation. Was Google interested in monitoring people’s houses, shops and businesses to glean even more data for its search rankings?   No sooner had the ink dried on the contract when, in Australia, Telstra announced a security deal of its own.   Through a joint venture with firm SNP Security, called TelstraSNP Monitoring, the telecommunications giant will offer will offer monitored security for business and residential customers. While SNP will continue offering guard and petrol services, its video surveillance and security alarm arm will be swallowed by the new venture.   A secure solution   Now, certainly both Google and Telstra have long been interested in security. But it’s mostly been of the cybersecurity and network security variety. So why the sudden interest in catching real-life crooks?   The reason comes down to two topics I’ve discussed a fair bit in recent weeks: Cloud computing and the internet of things.   While people still often think about the “internet of things” as connecting fridges to the internet. However, a real-world example of a situation where there are practical benefits in hooking up a device to the internet is with security cameras.   As I’ve discussed previously, IoT is an evolutionary trend, rather than a revolutionary one. In this case, connecting security cameras and alarms to the cloud allows for easy off-site storage of footage (with a cloud provider), as well as the ability to monitor footage in real time from almost any device anywhere in the world.   In many cases, internet-connected cameras will allow for more flexibility than if all the cameras were physically wired back to a control room or stored at the original location on video tape. (That being said, you can still do both of those things if you stream the footage over the internet).   For reasons I’ve previously discussed, the cost of cloud-based services has fallen through the floor in recent times. Today's announcement of Google Drive for business, with unlimited cloud-based storage for $10 per user per month, is a perfect example.   The cloud adding value   With the cost of providing the underlying cloud computing and storage services falling, the real business opportunity for cloud providers such as Google and Telstra is in providing value added services over the top.   Centralised video camera monitoring and security footage storage over the cloud is one example of where cloud service providers like Google and Telstra can add value for customers.   And if you combine security camera vision in a cloud-based with real-time information from other devices, you begin to build a powerful platform that can be used to remotely monitor facilities and equipment, without physically needing to have staff on the ground.   What it means for you   So what does all this mean for your business?   Well, in many sectors – such as retail or property management – security cameras have long been a fact of business life. A cloud-based, IoT solution could be a far more effective yet cost-effective alternative to existing video surveillance systems.   And if loss prevention is part of your business, that’s certainly worth looking into.   This article first appeared on Smart Company.

10 massive announcements from Google I/O: A new version of Android is coming for cars, smartwatches and TVs

6:48AM | Thursday, 26 June

Google’s head of Android, Sundar Pichai, delivered a keynote speech overnight to the tech giant’s annual developer conference, Google I/O.   In terms of big announcements, he didn’t disappoint, with key points including a new version of Android – called Android L – that will work with smart cars, wearables and TVs.   For small businesses, a major piece of news is Google Drive for Work, a new cloud computing product set to go head-to-head with Microsoft’s Office 365 and OneDrive.   The new product will cost businesses just $US10 per user per month, and allow them to access unlimited storage. Where Microsoft bumped its storage limits to one terabyte earlier this week, Google will allow individual files of up to five terabytes in size.   Meanwhile, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are now able to create or save Microsoft Office files in both Android and Chrome Browser, with support coming soon to iOS.   Here are 10 other massive announcements from the Google I/O keynote:   1. Android is absolutely hammering Apple in the marketplace   Sorry Apple fans, but the iPhone has well and truly been left in the dust.   According to figures read out during Pichai’s keynote, the number of users to have actively used an Android smartphone in the past 30 days has grown to over a billion. This is up from 77 million in 2011, 233 million in 2012, and 538 million last year.   But it’s not just in smartphones that Apple is being left behind.   Google revealed that in 2012, 39% of all tablets ran Android, growing to 49% last year. This year, that has grown to 62%.   In even worse news for the iPad, those figures exclude non-Google Android devices such as Amazon’s Kindle.   As if Google needed to stick the boot in to Apple further, Pichai told the conference: “If you look at what other platforms are getting now, many of these things came to Android four, maybe five years ago.”   The quote was a reference to a number of features, such as maps, text prediction, cloud services, widgets and support for custom keyboards, which have long been features of Android since around version 1.5, but have only recently been added to iOS.   2. Android L, with a new app platform and interface   The biggest news out of the conference was, of course, the newest version of Android, codenamed “Android L”.   The latest version is designed to power a range of new devices, including wearables, cars and TVs. The assumption will be that while users will always carry their mobile around with them, they are increasingly likely to be simultaneously using a second device.   Cosmetically, the new version will be built around a new, “flat” design language called “Material”, which bears a slight resemblance to Microsoft’s tile interface. The new interface will be carried through Google’s mobile apps, including its Chrome web browser.   However, the biggest changes are under the hood, with Android L getting upgraded to 64-bit. It also adds BlackBerry-style containerisation separating work and personal apps.   Meanwhile Dalvik, the app runtime environment used in Android, is getting dumped in favour of the new Android Runtime Environment (ART). For most developers, the change will mean better performance with no need to change their code.   ART is also truly-platform, meaning developers will be able to write apps once and deploy them to devices running Intel x86, ARM or MIPS processors.   Android L will be available to developers starting from today.   3. Android Wear   One of the big growth areas for mobile device makers is in wearables. Google has developed a platform for these devices, known as Android Wear, which it demonstrated at the conference.   “Android Wear supports both round and square displays, because we think there will be a wide array of fashionable choices,” said Pichai.   As many have predicted, notification cards and Google Now integration are key features of its wearables platform.   LG has made its first Android Wear device, the LG G Watch, available for pre-order, while Samsung is releasing a version of its Gear smartwatches that runs Android Wear, known as “Samsung Gear Live”.   Meanwhile, Motorola’s smartwatch, with a round clockface, will be available later this year.   For developers, Google has made a software development kit (SDK) available allowing for customer user interfaces, support for voice actions, and transferring data to or from a smartphone or tablet. This article continues on Page 2. Please click below. 4. Android Auto   Google has also released its smart car platform, known as Android Auto. Google says it has now signed up 25 major auto makers to the platform, including Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Volvo, Volkswagen, Kia, Renault, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Skoda, Jeep, Suzuki and Nissan.   Android Auto will be able to be driven by voice commands, and is designed to make app development for cars as simple as developing apps for smartphones and tablets. Again, for developers, Google has released an SDK allowing for car and auto apps.   Key focuses for the platform are navigation (Google Maps), communications (both audio and messaging) and streaming audio services.   Android Auto also contains a screen that displays notification cards in real time.   5. Android TV   Google’s new smart TV platform, announced during the keynote, is known as Android TV. It can be used to power a range of different devices, from smart TVs to set-top-boxes and dedicated streaming sticks.   Android TV allows the user to use their smartphone, tablet or smartwatch as a voice-powered remote control for their TV.   Android TV devices will include all the functionality of ChromeCast, but also add the ability of directly running apps directly.   6. ChromeCast   Speaking of things TV related, Google says its low-cost ChromeCast sticks are currently outselling every other streaming device combined.   New capabilities coming to the sticks include a new section on the Google Play app store for apps designed with added ChromeCast capabilities.   ChromeCast owners will soon be able to mirror the screen of their Android smartphone or tablet wirelessly on their TV screen.   Users will also soon get the capability of sending content to a ChromeCast device by logging in with a PIN, even if they aren’t on the same WiFi network.   Another new feature is that users will be able to set a picture or photo as a wallpaper on their ChromeCast for when they’re not using the device.   7. Android L integration with ChromeBooks   Up until now, Google has maintained two separate operating systems: Android for smartphones and tablets, and Chrome OS for its ChromeBook series of laptops.   A massive update for Android L is that ChromeBooks will now be able to run Android apps.   Meanwhile, apps running on a users’ tablet or smartphone will be mirrored on the screen of their ChromeBook device.   8. Google Fit   At Apple’s WWDC, the introduction of a health framework was one of the largest announcements. Given the sheer volume of announcements at Google I/O, the introduction of Google Fit is almost an afterthought.   Basically, like Apple HealthKit, Google Fit is a single set of APIs that blends data from multiple apps and devices to create a comprehensive picture of a users’ health.   Google is promising a developer preview of Google Fit in the next few weeks.   9. Google Play   Already, I’ve noted one big upgrade to Google Play, namely the addition of a section dedicated to apps with ChromeCast playback. Presumably, there will be similar sections dedicated to Android Wear and Android Auto.   But there are other changes afoot for Google’s Play download store.   First, Google says that it has paid out $US5 billion to app developers over the past year, which is two-and-a-half times higher than a year earlier.   Second, Google also announced the takeover of a startup called Appurify, which will provide automation services for apps being developed either for Google Play and Android or iOS.   And thirdly, for those interested in games, Google Play is adding the ability to save a snapshot of your progress in a game to the cloud, as well as special quests for games.   10. Cloud tools and services   Last, but certainly not least, Google has added a range of new cloud tools and services.   These include Cloud Monitoring, which provides a dashboard with real time metrics for apps running in Google’s cloud services.   A second, called Cloud Dataflow, is a data pipeline service similar to Amazon’s Data Pipeline. And a third, called Cloud Debugger, allows developers to more easily trace slowdowns in cloud-based apps.   This article first appeared on Smart Company.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple unveils iOS 8

6:27PM | Monday, 2 June

Apple has unveiled iOS 8 in what it says is its biggest release since the launch of the app store.   Some of the main features include:   Interactive notifications which gives users the ability to respond to notifications within the notification pane, without having to switch apps. An improved mailbox with Mailbox-style actions enables users to easily tag or dismiss emails without needing to open them. Spotlight now lets you search for apps you haven’t installed yet, along with songs in the iTunes store, movie location times and more. HealthKit, which is a one-stop shop for all the health tracking apps on your phone.   No Microsoft Start Menu until 2015   Microsoft won’t be delivering a new Start Menu for Windows 8 with its coming Windows 8.1 Update 2, sources told Zdnet.   Microsoft’s operating systems group has decided to hold off on delivering a Microsoft-developed Start Menu until Threshold, the next major release for Windows, expected to be released in April next year.   Google scraps Zavers   The tech giant has decided to discontinue Zavers, a service that lets shoppers clip coupons online and get those savings when they purchase products in the stores of retailers.   The service had been running for 17 months, launching in January of last year following Google’s acquisition of a startup called Zave Networks.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 26.46 to 16,743.63. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US92 cents.

All the smartphone questions you’ve pondered but never bothered to ask

9:28PM | Wednesday, 25 September

When it comes to smartphones, there’s a whole heap of jargon. Quad-core processors? AMOLED displays? Android or iOS?   If you’re not a techie, it can be tough to make sense of it all. So here’s a layman’s guide to some of the mobile mumbo jumbo you’ve always wondered about, but been too afraid to ask.   (Before we get started a note to the techie uber-geeks reading this. Old Taskmaster is completely aware some of these points are gross oversimplifications, that your early-90s BeBox had more than one processor or that I didn’t bother to mention MeeGo. No need for snarky comments. This is intended as a layman’s guide, so sue me!)   What exactly do iOS, Android and Windows Phone do?   A good, simple way of thinking about your mobile phone is as a pocket-sized computer that can also make calls.   On most computers, there’s a piece of system software, called an operating system that basically manages the relationship between a computer’s hardware and the programs that run on it. In the computer world, most PCs use Windows or Linux, while Apple Macs use Mac OSX.   Operating systems like iOS, Android and Windows Phone basically do the same thing, except they’re designed to work on a smartphone.   If you run an iPhone, you run Apple’s iOS. If you run a recent Nokia, it almost certainly uses Windows Phone. Pretty much everything else – most notably Samsung Galaxy smartphones – use Android.   So why do Androids come in Cupcake, Ice Cream Sandwich or JellyBean?   Each major version of Android is code-named after a dessert. The first letter of each dessert goes up in alphabetical order. So you’ve had Android Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jellybean.   Why? Basically, because Google thinks ‘Android Gingerbread’ sounds cuter than ‘Android Build G’.   What are the most recent versions of the major smartphone operating systems?   The current version of Android is 4.2/4.3 Jellybean, although Google has announced Android 4.4 KitKat is coming soon.   As fairly well publicised by their recent announcement, the latest version of Apple’s iOS is iOS 7.   Windows is up to Windows Phone 8, although 8.1 is just around the corner.   Finally, BlackBerry is up to BlackBerry 10.2. Given their current business status, Old Taskmaster wouldn’t bet on 10.3.   LCD or AMOLED?   LCD (of various descriptions) and AMOLED are the two common technologies you’ll find powering smartphone screens.   An LCD (liquid crystal display) display is made up of thousands of tiny liquid crystals that modulate light to achieve a desired colour. The light itself is either provided through backlights or through a reflective back panel on the display.   AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) displays are made of a thin film of organic material that lights up when charged by an electric current. The charge that makes different parts of the screen light up is provided by a thin-film transistor that sits behind the organic material.   Which is better?   LCD is the more mature technology of the two. Generally speaking, LCD will be clearer at different viewing angles and produce more realistic colours, but is less good at contrast.   AMOLED colours are brighter, have better contrast and (because they don’t need to be backlit) generally use less power. Traditionally, they are less viewable in direct sunlight.   What’s this resolution business?   Whether your display is LCD or AMOLED, the number of pixels or dots of colour per square inch of screen size determine how clear your image is. In the past, Windows PCs used 96 points per inch, while Apple Macs used 72. The usual standard for the printing industry is 300 dots per inch. By comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy S4 displays 441 pixels per inch.   Dual-core? Quad-core? Octo-core? What-the-core?   Historically, most computers were built around a single processor – called the CPU (central processing unit) – that computer programs ran on. One processor core, one chip, one computer.   These days, most smartphones have more than one of these processor cores on a single physical computer chip, and these are known as multi-core processors. In effect, it’s like having two or four computer CPUs on your phone, except they’ve been shrunk down to fit on a single piece of silicon.   Most current smartphones use a quad-core processor, although some older ones use a dual-core processor, while octo-core processors are beginning to be offered on some newer models.   How is the processor in my smartphone different to the one in my computer?   If you open up your PC or Mac, you’ll probably find it’s built around an Intel processor. The ancestor of this chip was the 8088 and 8086 chips in the very first IBM PCs.   Over the past couple of decades, the design of these chips has been optimised for maximise performance, often at the expense of using more power.   In contrast, the processor in your smartphone is most likely an ARM chip. Its great ancestor first appeared in a 1985 accelerator card add-on for the BBC Micro B. (Yes, the BBC Micro B is a distant relative of your smartphone!) Acorn’s Archimedes and Apple’s Newtons used this series of chips, too.   Because they’ve spent most of the past 20 years being used in mobile devices, they’ve been optimised for battery life as well as performance.   But my smartphone processor is built by Qualcomm/Nvidia/Samsung?   ARM comes up with the basic designs for its processors. It then licenses them to a range of other chip companies, including Qualcomm, Nvidia, Samsung and Apple.   In turn, these companies don’t usually make chips, they just market them. The chips themselves are manufactured by companies with chip manufacturing plants (foundries), including TSMC and Samsung.   SNS integration?   It stands for Social Network Service. It’s a fancy, jargony way of saying this phone has an app or hub that pulls your social media messages into one place.   Over to you   Are there any other bits of smartphone jargon you’ve heard but have been too afraid to ask about? If so, leave your question in the comments below!   Mobile and mobile commerce is an increasingly critical part of every business. If there’s some piece of mobile mumbo jumbo you don’t understand, make sure you get it cleared up!   Get it done – today!

More tricks for using Android

2:34AM | Friday, 15 February

This article first appeared April 13th, 2011.   Android is fast becoming one of the most popular operating systems in Australia, challenging the iPhone for dominance in the smartphone sector.

Remember to use cloud tabs in Safari

3:38AM | Friday, 15 March

Occasionally you’ll be reading something on your desktop computer at home, then hop on the train for a commute and want to continue where you left off.

Six top tips to avoid an outsourcing disaster

9:23AM | Wednesday, 12 September

I see so many start-ups that simply waste money, unintentionally (I've invested in them).

Victorian start-up Axiflux motors on to win national iAward

8:47AM | Friday, 10 August

A Victorian start-up is among the winners of the 2012 national iAwards, after creating the world’s first modular, real-time, software-reconfigurable electric motor and generator.

“Bring Your Own Apps” trend gaining pace in the office: Telsyte

8:40AM | Wednesday, 1 August

A trend dubbed “Bring Your Own Apps” is gaining pace in the workplace, according to a Telsyte report, which shows businesses are encouraging their staff to use apps for work purposes.

Facebook set for two further start-up acquisitions

5:44AM | Wednesday, 30 May

Facebook’s disappointing debut on the Nasdaq doesn’t appear to have dampened the company’s spirits, with reports circulating the social media giant is about to make two more acquisitions.

Should I create an app for my business?

3:13AM | Tuesday, 13 March

The first question you should ask yourself before creating any type of app is “why on Earth would someone download this?”

How can I best connect my sales force with the office?

3:42AM | Friday, 15 March

As a new business, if you have staff that work from home or need to go on the road, you might get them to use their own home PC or Mac, smartphones or tablets to keep initial costs down.

Mobile malware evolving “frighteningly” fast: Report

3:29AM | Monday, 11 March

Malware targeting mobile devices is evolving “frighteningly” fast and has the potential to be even more destructive than ever before, according to a worrying new report.

Cybercrime as widespread as accounting fraud: PwC report

11:33AM | Wednesday, 30 November

Almost a quarter of companies around the world were the victim of computer or internet-related crime in 2011, a new report reveals, with cybercrime almost as widespread as accounting fraud.

Microsoft unveils Windows 8 software

9:03AM | Wednesday, 14 September

Software giant Microsoft has revealed its Windows 8 software to developers in a new preview build, as the company attempts to battle against both Google and Apple in both the desktop computer and smartphone categories.

Share folder from OSX to Windows

6:50AM | Wednesday, 8 June

Many offices have different types of computers being used for a variety of different purposes, and often in an office you’ll find Macs and Windows computers working alongside each other.

I wonder if I’d feel too constricted being a franchisee?

4:49PM | Tuesday, 12 April

I’m quite an independent (and sometimes feisty) thinker and person in general. I’ve seen a few franchise opportunities recently that I liked the look of. However, I wonder if I’d feel too constricted being a franchisee?

Secure your Windows 7 system

3:35AM | Friday, 25 March

It’s surprising how many entrepreneurs don’t pay attention to the security features on their own desktop, especially considering how many important documents and data they keep on there.

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