The work-from-home employee’s bill of rights
Thu, 21 Jan 2021 03:00:00 -0800

Remote work became the new normal quickly as COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns came into force in spring 2020, and it’s clear that after the pandemic recedes, remote work will remain the norm for many employees — as much as half the deskbound “white collar” workforce, various research firms estimate. As a result of the sudden lockdowns, many employees had to create makeshift workspaces, buy or repurpose personal equipment, and figure out how to use new software and services to be able to keep doing their jobs.

Users and IT departments alike made Herculean efforts to adapt quickly and ensure business continuity, and the result was an improvement in productivity despite the pandemic. But now the pandemic has become a longer-term phenomenon, and remote work will become more commonplace, even desirable as a way to save on office expenses and commute time, even after the pandemic subsides.

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Chrome vs. Edge vs. Firefox: Which is the best browser for business?
Tue, 19 Jan 2021 03:00:00 -0800

What’s the most important piece of productivity software in the business world? Some might say the office suite. But if you look at the time spent actually using software, the answer may well be the web browser. It’s where people do most of their fact-finding and research.

Edge

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(Insider Story)

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For Microsoft’s January patches, no all-clear (yet)
Mon, 18 Jan 2021 05:11:00 -0800

I’m not ready to give an all-clear to the security patches released Jan. 12, and I want to warn you about one specific update that is affecting HyperV servers and some consumer level workstations.  

KB4535680, also known as Security update for Secure Boot DBX: January 12, 2021, makes improvements to Secure Boot DBX for a number of supported Windows versions. These include Windows Server 2012 x64-bit; Windows Server 2012 R2 x64-bit; Windows 8.1 x64-bit; Windows Server 2016 x64-bit; Windows Server 2019 x64-bit; Windows 10, version 1607 x64-bit; Windows 10; version 1803 x64-bit; Windows 10, version 1809 x64-bit; and Windows 10, version 1909 x64-bit. Key changes affect “Windows devices that [have] Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) based firmware that can run with Secure Boot enabled.” The Secure Boot Forbidden Signature Database (DBX) prevents malicious UEFI modules from loading; this update adds additional modules to block malicious attackers who could successfully exploit the vulnerability, bypass secure boot, and load untrusted software.

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Easing into the new year with a modest January Patch Tuesday
Fri, 15 Jan 2021 12:47:00 -0800

Microsoft rolled into 2021 with a fairly benign update cycle for Windows and Microsoft Office systems, delivering 83 updates for January.

Yes, there is an update to Windows defender (CVE-2021-1647) that has been reported as exploited. Yes, there has been a publicly disclosed issue (CVE-2021-1648) in the Windows printing subsystem. But there are no Zero-days and no “Patch Now” recommendations for this month. There are, however, a large number of feature and functionality groups “touched” by these updates; we recommend a comprehensive test of printing and key graphics areas before general Windows update deployment.

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Apple makes welcome change to 'Big Sur' security for Macs
Thu, 14 Jan 2021 07:41:00 -0800

When Apple shipped macOS Big Sur in November, researchers quickly spotted a strange anomaly in the system’s security protection that could have left Macs insecure. Apple now seems to be dealing with this problem, introducing a fix in the latest public beta release.

What was wrong?

For some strange reason, Big Sur introduced a controversial and potentially insecure change that meant Apple’s own apps could still access the internet even when a user blocked all access from that Mac using a firewall. This wasn’t in tune with Apple’s traditional security stance. What made this worse is that when those apps (and there were 56 in all) did access the ‘Net, user and network traffic monitoring applications were unable to monitor this use.

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Apple’s mythical AirTags shimmer slowly to release
Tue, 12 Jan 2021 08:03:00 -0800

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Apple seems to be closer to actually introducing the near-mythical AirTags, which you’ll no doubt use to track hardware, devices, and the vehicles that make up your transit fleet.

What we think we know

This is a long-running story. We first began to anticipate introduction of these products after WWDC 2019. Later, we thought they might show up even before the iPhone 12, or even as part of the company’s holiday season launches.

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The first Patch Tuesday of '21; time to delay updates
Mon, 11 Jan 2021 04:30:00 -0800

It’s Patch Tuesday time — that exciting second Tuesday of each month when we turn towards Redmond, WA, hoping for quality updates — and my advice is to not install updates tomorrow. To be fair, the vast majority of Microsoft users should be fine with whatever patches and fixes arrive. But, personally, I push off updates and delay installations on the systems I care about; you should do the same.

With that piece of advice out of the way, I have some suggestions for 2021 for a healthy patching year.

Susan’s first recommendation of ‘21: Use Windows 10 Pro, not Home.

I recommend several things when dealing with updates: First and foremost, make sure you are on Windows 10 professional, not Windows 10 Home. 

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6 smart steps to get your Android phone in tip-top shape for 2021
Tue, 05 Jan 2021 09:17:00 -0800

Happy New Year! I don't know about you, but I find the start of a fresh voyage around this shiny ol' sun of ours to be a fine time for tidying up, optimizing, and getting good and organized for the months ahead. And while I'd love to pretend I'm the type of person who has one of those disgustingly pristine, clutter-free desks you see on the internet, let me be brutally honest: The physical space around me tends to resemble a half-abandoned hog parlor.

But my Android phone? My Android phone is as orderly as can be, gosh darn it. And if you ask me, that makes far more of a difference than the state of the physical space around me.

Our mobile devices are where we do so much of our actual work and contemplation these days, after all — and yet it's all too easy to overlook the importance of maintaining an optimal arrangement for both productivity and security within 'em. So now, as we gaze ahead at the promise-filled 2021 calendar, join me in taking 10 minutes to get your own trusty Android phone fine-tuned and fully ready for the coming year.

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1. Wi-Fi 6E is coming to the Apple enterprise

Apple will introduce a faster form of Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, into iPhones starting with the iPhone 13 series, according to the analysts at Barclays. What is this? Why does it matter? And what might this mean for your enterprise?

A year in eight days

Given that most Apple users haven’t yet installed Wi-Fi 6 routers in their homes and offices because of the cost of that equipment, news of a follow-up standard may not seem terribly important —particularly after the traumatic year that is the first week of 2021, one of the more benign highlights is that the Wi-Fi Alliance has begun certifying Wi-Fi 6E devices.

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2. Apple may put (self-developed) 5G modems in iPads next year

Apple’s world-class silicon design teams may be close to introducing internally-developed 5G modems inside iPads as soon as 2021, a report claims.

Apple has invested billions in 5G development

The report suggests the first Apple-developed 5G modems may be made available inside new mini-LED iPad Pro models starting in 2021.

The fresh speculation matches the 2019 prediction that, “it seems possible the company will ship its first 5G modem in an iPad or other device, rather than deploying it across all its mobile products at the same time.”

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3. Why just about everyone is wrong about 5G
The next generation of mobile broadband will neither solve all our problems nor cause new ones.
4. WFH? Tips for better Wi-Fi network performance

Whatever platform you use, you’ll want to optimize Wi-Fi performance when you work from home, as it’s hard to stay productive when your network crawls.

Start in the right place

Never ignore the basics:

  • Move your router so it is not on the floor and isn’t behind any large objects.
  • Update the software on all your equipment, including your router, printer and any other connected device.
  • Restart everything, including disconnecting your router from power for a moment or two.
  • Consider extending your network, or replacing it with a mesh network of some kind.

Change your Wi-Fi password

Changing your Wi-Fi password will knock all your devices (including those you've forgotten about) off the network; this is a good thing, as you can reintroduce them as and when you need them.

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5. At this point, 5G is a bad joke

Who doesn't want more bandwidth?

I sure do, and I currently have 300Mbps to my home office via Spectrum cable. What I really want is a Gigabit via fiber optic to my doorstep. Maybe I'll get it someday. But, what I do know for a fact is I'm not going to get Gigabit-per-second speeds from 5G. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever.

At the moment, there are a lot of things the telecomms are telling you in one ad after another that's just not true. I know – shocking news right? But, even by their standards, 5G is pretty bogus.

Let's start with the name itself. There is no single "5G." There are, in fact, three different varieties, with very different kinds of performance.

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6. Edge computing and 5G give business apps a boost

Over the past decade, advances in cloud computing have driven a centralized approach to system administration and operations, while the growth of mobile computing, SaaS, and the internet of things (IoT) have driven computing toward a distributed architecture. With the rollout of 5G and edge computing technologies, companies are now looking to take advantage of both approaches while boosting performance for their applications.

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