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12 hidden Pixel superpowers | Computerworld

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One of the best parts of using a Pixel is the way tasty little specks of Google intelligence get sprinkled all throughout the experience. Those small but significant morsels show off the value of having Google’s greatest ingredients integrated right into your phone’s operating system, without any competing forces or awkwardly conflicting priorities at play.

And Goog almighty, does that make a world of difference. The features in question may not always be the most eye-catching or marketing-friendly advantages, but they’re incredibly practical touches that can make your life easier in some pretty powerful ways.

Today, we’re gonna zoom into an especially possibility-packed area of the Pixel’s software setup, and that’s the Android Overview area. The simple-seeming interface for switching between recently used apps is overflowing with advanced actions on a Pixel phone, and once you discover (or maybe just remind yourself) what’s there, you’ll be saving time and flyin’ around your phone like nobody’s business.

So as a supplement to my popular Pixel Academy e-course — a totally free seven-day email adventure that helps you uncover tons of next-level Pixel treasures — join me for this tour of outstanding and out-of-the-way Pixel Overview gems. Check ’em out, try ’em out, and then come sign up for the course for even more super-practical Pixel awesomeness.

(Note that most of the possibilities on this page require Android 11 or higher to work. That means if you’re still hangin’ onto a first-gen Pixel phone, they won’t be available for you, unfortunately. But don’t despair. You can still find lots of other worthwhile goodies in my Pixel Academy!)

Pixel superpower No. 1: The quick text copy

We’ll start with a simple but supremely helpful feature for copying text from practically anywhere in a snap. You can use it to snag words from something like a web page or a document, sure, but you can also use it to highlight and copy anything from within an image, a screenshot you’d previously saved, or even an area of Android that wouldn’t typically let you select and copy text — like a specific screen within the system settings, for instance.

Whatever the case may be, all you’ve gotta do is open up your Pixel’s Overview interface — by swiping up an inch or so from the bottom of the screen and then stopping, if you’re using Android’s current gesture system, or by tapping the square-shaped button at the bottom of the screen, if you’re still holding onto the old legacy three-button nav setup — and then press and hold your finger onto the words you want within the view of your most recently used app (or any other app in your current history).

JR

As long as your phone is running Android 11 or higher, you should see the text in question get selected. And you can then slide your finger around as needed to expand or refocus the selection. If you want to select all of the visible text on the screen, you can also use the relatively new “Select” command at the bottom of the Pixel Overview interface. Either way, once your text is selected, all that’s left is to hit the “Copy” command in the menu that comes up and then do a spritely little jig of celebration.*

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple’s Focus: What does it do and how does it work?

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Apple introduced Focus at this year’s WWDC. This is likely to be a quite useful tool for any iPhone, iPad, or Mac user attempting to get things done, or trying to put some space between work and personal life.

What is Focus?

Focus is a nuanced version of Apple’s existing Do Not Disturb tool. It combines the ability to block out unwanted interruptions with contextual awareness and granular controls in a way that Apple hopes will help users remain focused on the tasks at hand.

The tool aims to help people disconnect from digital interruptions, such as work emails during the family meal, messages during a conference call, and all the other intrusions that squander our precious attention during daily life.

Focus is also smart. It uses on-device intelligence to suggest an appropriate Focus setting suitable to your context. When it does so, it will also suggest people and apps that are allowed to reach you once a focus is set.

What does Focus do?

The Focus mission is to optimize your Apple device to be useful wherever you are and whatever you are doing. So, when you are coding, you might need access to email, Xcode, FaceTime, and Safari; when reading, you might prefer no interruptions at all.

Focus also lets you curate customized pages of applications for use in different Focus states (Home, Work, Gym, Driving, etc.)

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple’s SharePlay vision: Too little, too late?

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Apple has made several attempts that nod in the same direction as its new SharePlay service, announced at WWDC 2021. Looking back, you’ll see that Apple has made attempts in what became the social media space, with Ping the most widely known failure.

Of course, Apple’s failures in social media now look like success, given the corrosive impact some services have had. “Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies,” Apple CEO Tim Cook has said.

But Apple hasn’t lost interest in finding some way to make use of casual, person-centered, and networked computer communications. That’s the space it’s exploring with SharePlay.

What is SharePlay?

Apple describes SharePlay as a set of tools you can use to share music, TV, movies, and more with other people in real time using FaceTime. The company is climbing aboard a set of trends here, as shared listening and movie watching parties became popular across some age demographics during the pandemic.

These are the primary ways Apple is offering up sharing across its apps in SharePlay right now:

  • SharePlay supports screen sharing, which becomes a “simple and super effective way to help someone out and answer questions right in the moment,” said Apple SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi.
  • A Shared with You tab makes content such as images, websites, news links and so on available in the relevant apps. You may see an image you recently received in a Messages thread in the Shared with you Tab in Photos, for example.
  • For Apple TV, SharePlay provides shared playback controls so all participants can play, pause, or jump ahead.
  • In FaceTime, users can share music, TV, movies, and more with others in real time.
  • FaceTime calls also extend beyond Apple devices for the first time — anyone can join a FaceTime call from their web browser on Android and Windows devices.

What about the developers?

Apple has also created an API so developers can build support for their own apps into FaceTime. Right now, the API seems focused on media sharing, which is why the likes of Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, TikTok, and Twitch are implementing support for SharePlay.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

50 illuminating questions about Google’s latest messaging service shakeup

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Good golly, gang, Google’s done it again.

Just when I thought the G-team had made its messaging service strategy as convoluted as humanly possible, Le Googlé has managed to inject even more messy confusion into its suite of messaging products.

This, my fellow earthlings, deserves some serious recognition. Achieving levels of perplexity this high is a rare feat, and you’d better believe it ain’t easy.

Our latest confounding twist comes courtesy of an announcement earlier this week that Google Workspace — the recently rebranded identity for the entity formerly known as G Suite — will now be available for everyone, whether you’re using a paid company-connected account or a free individual Google account.

With that announcement comes a host of incoming changes to the communication services you know and love and even some changes to the core Gmail interface. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, and my own Gmail inbox has been overflowing with questions from bemused and befuddled Google users.

In an effort to answer those inquiries and make sense of Google’s increasingly comical messaging service situation, I thought we’d think through some questions together — questions that’ll help us get to the bottom of what’s actually going on with all of this and what it really, truly means for us as humble Google-using hominids.

So sharpen your fingernails and prepare for some intensive head-scratching: It’s time to get inquisitive.

All right, let’s start simple. What exactly is Google Workspace?

Excellent question, Mr. Watson! Best I can tell, Google Workspace is now the name for all of Google’s productivity apps — Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and so on. With this week’s announcement, that name now applies to anyone using said services, whether you’re a paying business customer or just a regular ol’ individual-account-owning schmo.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

What iOS 15 means for the future of the iPhone

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Computerworld | Jun 17, 2021

With iOS 15, Apple will allow users to upgrade to the new OS or stick with iOS 14 for security updates. At the same time, features in iOS 15 could position Apple for success even after the iPhone becomes irrelevant. Macworld Executive Editor Michael Simon and Computerworld Executive Editor Ken Mingis join Juliet to discuss what it all means.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

WSJ leaks Apple’s digital healthcare plan

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Apple has indeed been thinking about introducing its own healthcare service backed up by real doctors, the Wall Street Journal confirmed, though plans appear to have stalled.

An Apple a day keeps the doctor in pay

Apple’s interest in the sector goes back years. “Health is a huge issue around the world and we think it’s ripe for simplicity and a new view,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told a May 2016 conference.

Speaking in 2013, Ovum’s then-lead Healthcare & Life Sciences analyst Charlotte Davies told me: “More and more care will be delivered outside hospitals and clinics… mobile devices — from smartphones to monitoring devices — will become increasingly important as the number of patients cared for at home or in sheltered accommodation or other community centers increases.”

Suggesting the scale of the company’s ambition, Cook told the Time 100 Summit in 2019:

“I do think there will be a day when people looking back will say Apple’s greatest contribution to the world was healthcare.”

Cook has consistently returned to this promise ever since.

What’s the prognosis?

The story (via: Macrumors) in brief seems to be:

Apple has discussed its clinics before, saying they exist as initiatives for internal employee health, and the WSJ report cites Apple’s response to the claims as maintaining that line. The report reveals a secret Apple app called HealthHabit. This is offered to employees to provide chat-based contact with clinicians and to set and meet health challenges.

This combination of remote medical support and gamification of health targets doesn’t appear to have hit the sweet spot, at least, not yet — the report claims low use of the app. Employees just haven’t developed the habit, or so it appears.

Apple’s smart plan for digital health

That Apple would be exploring the potential of remote health monitoring systems makes a great deal of sense. Its work with Apple Watch and partnerships with health insurance providers show it well understands how sensor-based data can contribute to personal health, as does the company’s continued investment in research in this space.

It’s also important to consider the necessity of digital transformation in healthcare in order to deliver care on a planet with a growing population and insufficient trained medical staff. The idea here should be that routine tasks can be automated to enable practitioners to handle bigger patient workloads without impacting the quality of care provided.

In practice, of course, it probably just means Big Healthcare will use these efficiencies to maximize gross revenue. The global health insurance market is worth more $3 trillion, which is a tempting market for any company.

Not yet ready for prime time?

The Wall Street Journal seems to believe the effort to create an Apple-branded health service has stalled, but I’m inclined to reject that assessment. My hunch is that for the project to bear fruit, challenges around network coverage and regulatory approval must be resolved, along with Apple’s growing recognition that it treads an increasingly fine balance in which it must avoid over-extending its market power or face regulatory action.

At the same time, Apple’s efforts in privacy, continued sensor and software development, and its network of high street retail stores could all come into play in the event it decided to offer such services.

I expect we’ll see more work emerge as 5G networks proliferate and new health sensors appear. Because in the end, I’m convinced that Apple Watch and other connected wearables will indeed become your personal physician.

Though until access to these solutions is made universally available, health, like privacy, will remain a premium service meant for the many but accessible only to a few.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Google abandons URL shortening in Chrome

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Google has called quits on the notion of truncating URLs in Chrome, according to a note from earlier this month in the Chromium project’s bug database.

“This experiment didn’t move relevant security metrics, so we’re not going to launch it,” Emily Stark, a staff software engineer on the Chrome team, wrote in the June 7 entry.

Android Police first reported on Stark’s note June 10.

Stark’s notification, which referred to what Chromium — the open-source project that produces code for Chrome and several other browsers, including Microsoft’s Edge — called the “simplified domain” experiment, put a end to efforts designed to abridge what shows in the browser’s address bar.

In August 2020, Google announced — Stark was one of the trio of engineers who penned the declaration — that it would run trials with some Chrome users that would hide much of a site’s URL. The idea, Google said, was to foil phishing attacks.

“Our goal is to understand — through real-world usage — whether showing URLs this way helps users realize they’re visiting a malicious website, and protects them from phishing and social engineering attacks,” the engineers said.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

The great cloud computing surge

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We reached a big milestone in 2020: Cloud services revenue finally surpassed enterprise spending on data centers, according to the Synergy Research Group. One of the longest-running trends in IT – moving to the cloud – has been turbocharged, driven in part by a pandemic that pushed enterprises to avoid the logistical challenges and capital expense of deploying on prem.

But the endless capacity to add horsepower without provisioning your own infrastructure isn’t the biggest draw. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have become launchpads for the latest technology innovations, which developers can jump on to build innovative new applications. Machine learning libraries? Globally distributed databases? IoT platforms with all the bells and whistles? The big three clouds have ‘em all – ready, waiting, and API-accessible. It’s enough to make you wonder why you’d bother to build and maintain your own datacenter.

That’s exactly what Brunswick, a recreational boating company, wondered. In “Cloud or bust: IT leaders go all in on cloud computing,” CIO contributor Mary Pratt reveals that it took Brunswick a decade to get there, but the company’s IT estate is now 90% in the cloud, using a combination of IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS offerings that has enabled the decommissioning of two data centers. According to Pratt, Bain & Company, DeVry University, and the University of California, San Diego, are all at similarly advanced phases in their cloud journeys. As UC San Diego CIO Vince Kellen says, “cloud is a necessary and eventual transition that just about every organization is going to make.”

Clearly, the pace of that transition kicked into high gear during the pandemic. In “From legacy to the cloud: The 3 stages of enterprise modernization,” UK Group Editor Scott Carey cites Red Hat CEO Paul Cormier’s estimate that, for his customers, the pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption by five years. Last year’s great migration to working from home drove a new spike in SaaS adoption, with videoconferencing and other cloud applications enabling remote work. The second and third phases involve embracing the cloud native model and migrating legacy apps to the cloud.

Shifting to the cloud at scale is never easy. Cloud migration means applications must be refactored, cloud costs need to be monitored and optimized, and obtaining cloud expertise requires internal training and/or hiring expensive talent. For companies that use multiple clouds, security is a particularly knotty area, because each of the big three clouds has a different security feature set, increasing the risk of configuration errors. CSO contributor Neal Weinberg digs into the details in “AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Azure: How their security features compare.”

Even something seemingly as simple as moving from an on-prem Exchange Server to one hosted by Microsoft has its challenges. Contributor Jonathan Hassell offers a step-by-step guide born of experience in “Migrating to hosted Exchange: Do’s and don’ts.” It’s a must-read for anyone facing this laborious task.

Cloud computing’s real potential, though, is in the shiny new stuff. In a second article, this one for Network World, Neal Weinberg looks at the IoT platforms offered by various clouds vs. solutions you can assemble on-prem in “IoT cloud services: How they stack up against DIY.” A big plus for cloud right off the bat: IoT often demands the ingestion of huge quantities of data, which the cloud can accommodate dynamically. AWS, IBM, and Microsoft in particular have IoT cloud offerings with feature sets that would be difficult to assemble piece by piece on prem.

Rich arrays of pre-provisioned services like these highlight the potential of the cloud to offer platforms for building the future. No, the cloud will never completely replace the data center. But after this past year, the updraft is stronger than ever, as limitless scalability and endless assortments of new services make the cloud increasingly irresistible.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

WWDC: 12 small but important improvements you may have missed

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I’ve already focused on some of the bigger announcements made at WWDC this year; here’s a look at  some of the smaller (mostly iOS) improvements Apple told us about last week.

Easier iCloud iPhone updates

If you don’t have a great deal of iCloud storage, but want to backup all your data while upgrading to a new iPhone, Apple has made things a little easier. In the future, when you purchase a new device, you’ll be given as much storage as you require to create a temporary backup while moving to the new phone. (The space will be available for up to three weeks.)

This should really help anyone stuck with Apple’s paltry 5GB of iCloud space, and will likely help many enterprises pros in the upgrade process.

You won’t be forced to upgrade

When iOS 15 ships this fall, Apple will give users a choice in the Settings app. You’ll be able to choose between updating to the latest version of the new OS on release or continue to use iOS 14 and all subsequent updates to that OS until you are ready to upgrade.

This is nice to have in terms of consumer choice, but necessary to enterprises — particularly those who must run any software update through rigorous compliance testing before it is installed. Believe it or not, some enterprises need to stay a step or two behind, though most make an exception for security updates.

Built-in authentication

I don’t think it got a mention during the WWDC keynote at all, but Apple is adding the capacity to create verification codes in Passwords in the Settings app. Made available on sites and services that offer support for this form of verification, this task has been handled by third-party apps until now.

Apple hopes that, by making this a system feature, the use of such codes will be made a lot easier, particularly as they will autofill when you sign into a site. This should be quite useful to enterprises attempting to convince employees to use this kind of protection. Passkeys in iCloud Keychain will also let you replace passwords with Face ID, Touch ID, or a security key.

Find My (switched off) thing

One welcome improvement in Find My (other than the growing AirTags ecosystem) is that the network will now help you find devices that are switched off or out of power. I’m not certain yet how this works and imagine the system will simply show you the last known location of your device before it goes offline.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

The evolution of macOS (and Mac OS X)

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Progression of macOS

Image by IDG / Apple

Migrating to hosted Exchange: Do’s and don’ts

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Make no mistake: moving from an on-premises Microsoft Exchange deployment to Exchange in the cloud is a gargantuan undertaking. Earlier this year, I explored the major issues you’ll need to consider and decisions you’ll need to make when moving to hosted Exchange.

But for most folks, further guidance is necessary. What are some of the gotchas to watch out for? What are some best practices to factor into your planning? Here, I’ll take a look at several important do’s and don’ts when it comes to getting your organization into Exchange Online.

Note: This story focuses on migrating from Exchange Server on-premises to some version of Microsoft’s hosted Exchange service (under an Exchange Online, Office 365, or Microsoft 365 subscription), or to a hybrid configuration with the “365” apps in the cloud and Exchange remaining in some fashion on-premises in production. It is not intended to apply to migrations to other providers’ services.

Don’t underestimate the time it will take to move all of your data over.

Depending on a number of factors, including how many users you have, how much data each mailbox has stored, bandwidth constraints, and more, migrating email to the cloud can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. One unexpected slowdown may come from Microsoft itself: a non-obvious protective feature of Exchange Online is that it throttles inbound sustained connections in order to prevent a small number of bad actors from overwhelming the system.

Once you’re up and running and fully in the cloud for production, you will come to appreciate this defense, which works for the benefit of the general subscription base. But when you are trying to ingest data you will see transfer rates sometimes slow to a crawl. There’s unfortunately little you can do about this other than simply endure. Be sure to include this in your planning, as moving hundreds or thousands of multi-gigabyte mailboxes into Exchange Online may take a lot longer than you might expect.

Do use a delta-pass migration.

Reduce the time pressure on yourself, if you can, by using a delta-pass migration rather than a strict cutover migration. With delta-pass migration, multiple migration attempts are made while mail is still being delivered on-premises. The first pass might move everything from Sunday, May 1 backward, for example, and then another pass is made later in the week to move the “delta” — or changes — from Sunday, May 1 through Wednesday, May 4, and then another and another until essentially the mailboxes are up to date.

This is a useful technique, as each successive migration batch is smaller than the last. Typically over a weekend, your last delta batch will finish in a few minutes, and then your moves are complete and you can throw your MX records over to Exchange Online. Your users never experience missing historical mailbox data, because until the mailboxes are identical, they use the mailbox that already holds their data.

Don’t forget to configure edge devices and intrusion detection systems to recognize Exchange Online as a trusted partner.

If you forget this all-important step, your migrations may be interrupted because your IDS thinks that a denial-of-service attack is happening. Conveniently, Microsoft makes available a regularly updated list of IP addresses used by all 365 services to use specifically when configuring your edge devices to trust traffic where necessary.

Do run the Office network health and connectivity tests ahead of time.

Microsoft has developed a comprehensive tool that can alert you to routing or latency issues between you and the Microsoft 365 data centers. The tool runs a suite of tests of speed, routing, latency, jitter, and more on your network connection to identify and isolate common issues that could lead to a degraded experience — especially with voice applications — for Microsoft 365 users.

Any performance issues the tool finds will almost certainly have a negative impact on the speed of your migration attempts and passes. Solving or mitigating any issues you find will speed up the entire project.

In a hybrid environment, do use the EAC in Exchange Online to initiate mailbox moves.

If you choose a hybrid model for your deployment, then you will by definition have some mailboxes on-premises (at least for a time) and some in the cloud. In this scenario, it can be tempting to trust your old go-to Exchange Management Console to do all of your mailbox move work, shifting mailboxes to and fro. Don’t give in to that temptation; it’s best to pull mailboxes into the cloud from the web-based EAC in the Microsoft 365 administration center, rather than using outdated on-premises tools.

Don’t forget about Outlook client version updates.

Updating an office suite across a large enterprise is no easy task and takes a while, which means there’s often a prevalence of older copies of Outlook among your users. When you control your Exchange deployment, that’s fine, because you control the timing of your moves.

But one of the “side gotchas” that comes with using the cloud is that someone else gets to decide the baseline level of software that will work with its services. Microsoft is really pushing everyone toward the subscription-based Office suite (Microsoft 365 or Office 365) and away from the old per-user perpetual volume licenses with the year attached (Office 2013, 2016, or 2019, for example).

In fact, as of October 2020, the company declared that Outlook 2013 and older versions are no longer supported for connecting to Office 365 and Microsoft 365 services. While it won’t actively block these older clients, they “may encounter performance or reliability issues over time.” And there’s no telling when Microsoft will pull the plug entirely.

So don’t forget about developing a plan to update your clients to Office 2016 or beyond, or move to a subscription license and deploy those apps instead of the volume license editions.

Do plan to implement two-factor authentication.

One of the biggest advantages to moving to Exchange Online and Microsoft 365 is the ability to use all of the new security features available in the cloud, the most important of which by far is the ability to turn on two-factor authentication. 2FA reduces your attack surface significantly as soon as you turn it on, and since Microsoft has done all of the rewiring of the directory and Exchange security model on its servers to make it work, all you have to do is flip the switch and show your users where to plug in their mobile phone numbers.

Better yet, use the Microsoft Authenticator app to reduce the security and social engineering risks of using SMS text messages. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Deploying Authenticator across tens of thousands of phones can be difficult, especially with BYOD setups and remote-work environments where employees don’t have access to an in-person help desk. In contrast, setting up SMS requires nothing from the end user and can be done entirely by IT. So if the choice is between two-factor authentication with SMS and no two-factor authentication, then by all means turn on 2FA and use SMS.

In a hybrid environment, don’t remove your last Exchange Server.

One cardinal rule of operating a hybrid Exchange environment is that you must keep at least one Exchange Server running on premises in order to manage users. There exists a way to continue to use the Active Directory attribute editing functionality to manage recipients, but it’s not really supported — and if it breaks, you’ll have to file a ticket with Microsoft, wait three days, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll come back.

It is much easier to use the Exchange admin console of your on-premises server to manage recipients in a hybrid environment, and you can’t do that unless you leave an Exchange Server running in your on-premises deployment. Microsoft has repeatedly said it’s working on a solution to this issue of having to have an existing licensed server on-prem with hybrid deployments, but even after several years there’s been little progress toward solving that problem.

The last word

A transition time is always challenging, and that’s certainly true when migrating your organization to Exchange Online. By factoring in the advice and warnings above, you’ll make that path smoother and reach the finish line more quickly.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

WWDC: Why iCloud+ will help secure the enterprise

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One of the biggest surprises of WWDC 2021 was Apple’s introduction of iCloud+, an upgraded version of its existing service available at no additional charge that provides secure emailing and VPN-style security for users.

iCloud just became a useful business tool

The introduction of these features will transform iCloud into a very useful remote business tool, though it will be interesting to see whether all these features will be available to enterprise folks making use of Managed Apple IDs for their business tools. For the present let’s assume they will, given the deep value they promise to those in that sector.

These new tools mean iCloud-using employees:

  • Won’t see email opening activity tracked by invisible pixels as explained here with Mail Privacy Protection.
  • Will be able to sign-up for mailing lists using fake email addresses.
  • Gain access to a built-in VPN with iCloud Private Relay.
  • Can create domain-based email addresses.

A game of cat and mouse

Apple will continue to invest in these protections. Apple’s Crag Federighi, vice president of software engineering, confirmed that Apple sees cybersecurity as an ongoing challenge, telling Fast Company:

“The incentives for ‘innovation’ in the exploitation world are high, and so there is a lot of advancement in the art of tracking; a lot of advancement in the arts of security exploits. And so, in both areas, we think there’s going to continue to be a cat and mouse game. We think we bring a lot of tools to that fight, and we can largely stay ahead of it and protect our customers. But it’s something we recognize as a battle we will be fighting for years to come.”

In a sense, Apple’s decision to secure its platforms reflects the reality that it is becoming a more viable target as its place in the enterprise grows.

“As a result of its growth in the enterprise, Apple devices are now a bigger security threat target,” Jamf Senior Manager Garrett Denney writes.

“This, coupled with remote work and schools accessing sensitive cloud resources, enhanced the demand for even greater Apple platform security. And with enhanced security comes the need to balance data privacy protections and the end-user experience across a number of contexts. New privacy-centric features like Hide My Email and Private Relay put user privacy at the forefront, enabling privacy protection regardless of where devices are being used.”

Star of the show: iCloud Private Relay

Private Relay is a built-in internet privacy service that exists inside iCloud. It is designed so that you can connect to and browse the web using Safari in a highly secure way, protecting both the site requests you make and the places you visit from being identified.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Google’s 15 funniest flip-flops with Android, Chrome OS, and beyond

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Now you see it; now you don’t.

As any Android fan can tell you, Google’s become a bit notorious for changing its mind. One day, we hear about how some new app, feature, or idea is the way of the future and the answer to all of our pressing problems — and the next day (or so it often seems), that notion is mysteriously gone and forgotten.

The best fickle flipples are when Google doubles up and does another 180 soon thereafter and ends up going back to the thing it initially sold us on and then abandoned. It’s enough to make even the most stable tech enthusiast bemused and befuddled.

With a handful of fresh about-faces getting added into the mix in recent months, I thought it’d be a fine time to look back at some of Google’s most memorable, amusing, and occasionally groan-inducing U-turns here in the land of Android and other associated apps and services.

So buckle up and grab a bottle of Dramamine, just in case. Some serious flipping-and-flopping-caused flabbergasting is straight ahead.

1. Android: “Hangouts is gonna be Android’s single default messaging client!”

We’ll start with the biggest, floppiest flip of all: the mess of Google’s ever-evolving approach to messaging services, especially as they pertain to Android.

After a long and often-confounding journey, Google finally got its act together in 2013 and came up with a single unified messaging app for Android. Hangouts would be the “single communication app [for] users to rely on,” a Google exec said at the time. It’d handle instant messaging, SMS-based texting, and even internet-based audio and video calls.

At last! Android’s rusty old Messaging app was dishonorably discharged, and Hangouts started to serve as the platform’s default messaging application. Until about two years later, that is, when Google Messenger came along and took over the default spot — splintering things back into a muddled messaging mess.

And that, of course, was only the beginning. (Allo? Can you hear me?)

2. Everywhere: “Google Messages and Duo are for casual consumer use! Google Chat and Meet are for businesses!”

Speaking of messy messaging about, erm, messaging, after many more years of complicated confusion and no consistent focus on a sensible messaging service strategy, Google got its act together again in 2018 and settled on a new approach that actually almost made sense (if you allowed yourself to forget the past for a moment).

Ahem: Messages and Duo were the text and video messaging apps for consumers, while Chat and Meet were the group chat and videoconferencing apps for enterprises. Google made this distinction abundantly clear, with a member of the messaging team going as far as to create and share a handy chart that illustrated the breakdown:

Twitter

But then — well, y’know. By 2020, Google changed its mind about that and made Chat and Meet broad-use services, for both teams and individuals, while Messages and Duo remained minimally different variations on the same basic concepts.

And here’s a bonus U-turn within this U-turn: Last fall, Google brought screen sharing into Google Duo…two years after removing that very same feature from the app.

Cool. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.

3. Android (and beyond): “RSS is dead!”

Way back in the prehistoric era of 2013, Google made many of its most loyal users steaming mad by announcing the shutdown of its popular (at least in certain circles) Google Reader service. Reader was a tool for following RSS feeds from individual websites, which made it super-easy to create your own custom feed of info from the sources you cared about the most.

In its 2013 announcement, Google said that “usage of Google Reader [had] declined,” and “as a company, [it was] pouring all of [its] energy into fewer products” — because it thought “that kind of focus [would] make for a better user experience.”

Fast-forward to 2021, and what do we have? Why, it’s a new “experiment” that basically recreates the Google Reader concept right within Chrome on Android!

Per that announcement:

Today, people have many ways to keep up with their favorite websites, including subscribing to mailing lists, notifications, and RSS. It’s a lot for any one person to manage, so we’re exploring how to simplify the experience of getting the latest and greatest from your favorite sites directly in Chrome, building on the open RSS web standard. Our vision is to help people build a direct connection with their favorite publishers and creators on the web.

The feature brings a new “Follow” button into the Chrome Android app that lets you subscribe to a site’s RSS feed and then see all of its latest stories in the browser’s New Tab page.

Gee willikers, that sure does feel familiar.

4. Android: “Bottom tab bars are bad, mmkay?”

When Google’s Material Design standard debuted in 2014, it actively discouraged the use of bottom tab bars — the iOS-reminiscent rows of commands that appear at the bottom of the screen within Android apps.

This was no subtle suggestion, either. Google’s official design guidelines were adamant about the platform’s stance on the bars:

Google Android Bottom Tab BarsJR

But then, something changed. Within a couple years of that proclamation, bottom tab bars started appearing in Google’s own Android apps. And by 2016, Google’s design guidelines were updated to encourage the use of bottom-dwelling boxes in Android applications.

And here’s the real kicker: Over the past year, we’ve seen some Google apps get updated again to do away with the bottom tab bars and move back to that original bar-free standard — for a little while, at least.

Oh, Google.

5. Android: “We’re gonna put all your browser tabs in the Overview list!”

Speaking of design about-faces, with 2014’s Android 5.0 Lollipop release, Google made a bold move: It took the ability to jump between browser tabs out of the actual Chrome app and put it into the system Overview list instead. Each browser tab would look like its own app or process, we were told, and it’d make perfect sense alongside all the other apps and processes in a single system-level destination. We’d get used to it!

Only, um, we didn’t. For most people, having tons of tabs mixed in with apps and countless other cards made things more difficult to manage — and only added to the cluttered and confusing nature of the Overview interface in that era.

After about four years, Google seemed to admit that the move was misguided. In 2018, the company rolled out an update that eliminated the tab-Overview option and brought tabs back into the browser for everyone.

6. Android: “Widgets should go in the app drawer!”

The Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich era of Android was all about taking the simplification introduced in the tablet-only Honeycomb release before it — the moves to eliminate hidden commands and make the operating system more intuitive — and bringing those same concepts to phones in a way that made sense for the smaller screen.

Part of that effort involved moving the option to add home screen widgets from an out-of-the-way and hidden long-press menu into the main app drawer, where it’d be plainly in sight — with widgets existing right alongside all the regular app shortcuts. The idea was to create a single streamlined place for finding everything that could be added onto your home screen. It seemed to make an awful lot of sense.

Android Widgets App DrawerJR

But, alas, it lasted for only a brief two years: Without explanation, Google yanked widgets out of the app drawer and put ’em back into their former long-press menu with 2013’s Android 4.4 KitKat release. And even with the magically renewed focus on widget discovery in this year’s Android 12 update, the element remains vexingly out of sight and accessible only via that long-press action.

7. Android: “Widgets belong on the lock screen!”

In other widget-related flippity-floppity, back in 2012, Google sold us on the notion that widgets would be an excellent addition to our devices’ lock screens. Lock screen widgets were a key element of that year’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean release, in fact, and the pitch was impressive: Widgets were so darn useful on the home screen — so why not also make ’em available one step higher?

By Android 5.0 two years later, user-configured lock screen widgets were but a mere memory. And in this case, I don’t think too many people were choked up over the change.

8. Android: “The app drawer should scroll horizontally!”

This is getting into pretty geeky waters with the history of Android versions, I realize, but Android’s app drawer scrolled vertically — up and down — all the way through the platform’s 2010 Gingerbread era. Then, in 2011, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich introduced a horizontal scrolling drawer, where you’d access additional pages by swiping side to side instead (a pattern we still see used by certain third-party device-makers today). It was an easier, more sensible way to access your apps! Or so we were told.

Things stayed sideways up through 2015, when an update related to that year’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow release arrived without warning and moved Android’s core interface back to its original up-and-down scrolling setup.

Déjà vu much, Monsieur Marshmallow?

9. Chrome OS: “The launcher should be ginormous!”

In the early days of Google’s Chrome OS platform, the launcher — the Chromebook’s version of an app drawer — was a small window that appeared on top of your desktop. The interface wasn’t far removed from what you see with the Windows Start menu model.

At some point, though, Google rethought that approach and transformed the Chrome OS launcher into a giant, full-screen sort of affair — more like what you see on MacOS. That’s still how the software behaves today.

Erm, for now, at least. Signs in the open-source Chrome OS code suggest Google’s experimenting with a revamped launcher design that’d go back to the original, smaller pop-up-window setup. It’d supposedly “improve app workflows by optimizing access to apps, app content, and app actions.”

Ooookay.

10. Google TV: “It’s Android TV, gersh dern it!”

Maybe the funniest Google flip-flop of all time is the company’s stance on its streaming media platform, Android TV.

Android TV, y’see, actually started off as Google TV when it first launched back in 2010. Four years later, Google announced it was changing the name to Android TV. And then, last October, the company launched a new Chromecast device that featured a new software layer called — wait for it — Google TV.

Technically, Google TV is a custom interface that exists atop the Android TV software. But eventually, Google says Google TV will be integrated into Android TV and the entire platform will become Google TV instead of Android TV (except maybe in certain exceptions where device-makers decide to stick with Android TV without the Google TV elements).

In related news, Google’s marketing department is apparently now headed up by the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy.

11. Wear: “Smartwatches are all about notifications and proactive info!”

At its start in 2014, Google’s wearable technology platform revolved around the idea of simple interactions and easy access to pertinent information. As an extraordinarily dashing Android-focused writer put it once:

It was what Wear didn’t try to be that made it especially interesting. Unlike other wearable-tech efforts, the platform didn’t try to cram lots of tiny buttons and complex commands into an awkward-to-use wrist-based screen. It reframed the smartwatch to be less about performing grand tasks and more about transmitting pertinent info quickly and without fuss. 

But then, well, something happened: The early Wear devices weren’t selling like hotcakes — and Apple’s well-marketed alternative, on the other side of the mobile universe, was striking a chord with tech-hungry shoppers. So Google decided to take a little time-out and reassess its smartwatch strategy.

Self-quoting genie, hook me up again:

The Apple Watch came along, complete with its overly complicated interface and app-centric nature (something Apple would refine somewhat over time but that was almost laughably bad in the beginning). And Google, rather than sticking to the parts of its platform that made sense, decided to revamp Wear entirely and parrot Apple’s flawed approach.

With 2017’s Wear 2.0 update, Android Wear lost the core element that made it sensible as a wearable operating system — the focus on easily glanceable info from both notifications and predictive intelligence — and instead put the focus on things that sound impressive in ads but don’t make for a great real-world experience on a tiny wrist-based screen: complicated standalone apps, cramped on-screen keyboards, and notifications that don’t appear in a glanceable way and require multiple taps and interactions to process.

Yuuuuuuuup.

And we all know how this story ends. Just like clockwork, a year and a half after that ill-advised revamp, Google pulled another 180 and went back to its original vision for the platform — with the focus firmly on glanceable info and proactive assistance once more. So far, signs suggest this year’s coming Wear re-re-re-revamp will more or less follow that same pattern, albeit with even more focus on trying to make products people will actually want to buy.

12. Android: “Android tablets deserve their own specialized interface!”

In 2011, Google held a splashy event at its headquarters to introduce a new era for Android. It revolved around the release of Android 3.0 Honeycomb and a newfound focus on optimizing the platform for tablet use.

Honeycomb established a totally reimagined interface for Android on tablets, with key functions like navigation buttons, notifications, and the app drawer living in corners of the screen in order to provide easy two-handed access. It was a dramatic departure from the standard Android interface and was designed to let the operating system take full advantage of the larger screen space.

Android Tablet InterfaceJR

The tablet-specific UI was unceremoniously dumped before long, however, when Google’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update brought a more traditional phone-like setup back to tablet screens — with “consistency and usability” being cited as the driving reasons for the reversal.

At that point, Android’s notification panel remained split into two separate parts on tablets — a configuration that would stick around until 2014’s Android 5.0 Lollipop release, when the tablet-based panel finished its transformation and became a single pulldown like its phone-based counterpart.

13. Android: “Face unlock is the new standard in smartphone security!”

Ah, 2011. Remember that year in Googley gadgets? All the cool kids unlocked their phones with their faces for about five minutes back then, when Google first introduced the Face Unlock feature as part of that year’s Android 4.0 release. But even as the facial security system grew ever-so-slowly more reliable over the years, it was never as fast or as easy to use as a good old-fashioned pattern swipe or fingerprint tap — and it didn’t take long for most folks to give up on the notion of it being anything more than an impractical-in-the-real-world parlor trick.

With the launch of 2019’s Pixel 4 phone, Google gave facial recognition a fresh start. It introduced official system-level support for advanced hardware that’d make face-driven phone unlocking more consistent, secure, and effective, and it played up the Pixel 4’s facial recognition feature as a meaningful advancement and advantage.

That focus on face unlocking lasted all the way to the following year’s Pixel 5 flagship, which ditched facial recognition entirely without so much as a puff of explanation.

Naturally, it now looks like the feature could possibly make a comeback in this year’s Pixel 6 phone. Hey, Google: You’re makin’ me dizzy.

14. Android: “Android needs its own native video editor!”

The high-profile launch of a new native video editing app for Android was a really big deal in 2011 — especially since there weren’t many great third-party options for that function at the time (and also since, y’know, That Other Mobile Platform™ had gotten its own high-profile native editing client just one year earlier).

But Google’s Movie Studio app was abandoned more or less immediately after its birth. The app never got much in the way of updates or improvements, and after shipping sporadically with Android devices through 2012’s Nexus 4 phone, it just kinda silently evaporated — never to be replaced or discussed again.

This past February, a full decade later, Google finally introduced a decent video editing function as part of its Android Google Photos app. It’s not the standalone video editor Android once had, but hey, it’s somethin’.

15. Android: “This operating system is all about people, mmkay?”

In 2011’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich version, Google curiously renamed the platform’s default Contacts app to People.

The idea behind the shift was logical enough: Our phones were about so much more than contacts, the thinking went, and so it made more sense to call the app People — and to have it act as a hub for all of our social communications.

To that end, the People app aimed to bring all of your contacts’ social networking connections into single, centralized profiles. You could see a person’s tweets or, yes, even Google+ postings right then and there — a “live window into your social world,” as Google put it at the time.

Unfortunately, renaming Contacts to People mostly seemed to confuse people who couldn’t figure out where their contacts had gone. By the Lollipop update a few years later, the app unceremoniously went back to its original name, and it didn’t take long for the whole “single hub” thing to fade away, too — at least, up until last year’s Android 11 release, when people suddenly became a key focal point for the operating system once again.

Oof. My head hurts.

So what gives?

Looking back through all these U-turns, it’s hard not to wonder what’s going on — why Google so frequently goes back and forth in an almost random-seeming manner with relatively significant decisions about how its platforms and services work.

The answer, best I can figure, is actually quite simple. Ready? Google is Google. Within Android and without — for better and for worse — the company has always shown a willingness to try things and then change course a short time later if it decides it doesn’t like the new direction.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior VP in charge of Android (and most everything else now, too, it seems), acknowledged the trend during a chat I had with him a handful of years ago.

“From a product development perspective, I think it’s a great thing to be able to experiment and try new things and see what works [and] what doesn’t,” he said. He went on to note that too much back and forth can definitely have its downsides — namely on users who just want things to work consistently and without superfluous change.

“We’re trying to find the right balance of how to iterate but also provide stability so that we’re not causing whiplash,” he told me.

It’s an admirable goal. And who knows? Maybe to some extent, experimentation is better than stagnation — even if it does come with the occasional flipping and flopping.

Then again, maybe it isn’t.

Oh, hell. I can’t decide.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

WWDC: Universal Control on the Mac and iPad explained

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I’ve always found it frustrating that I’ve been unable to use the same mouse and keyboard to control both computers when working across an iPad and a Mac simultaneously. Soon, I’ll be able to do precisely that thanks to a new feature called Universal Control, which Apple introduced this week at WWDC 2021.

What is Universal Control?

Universal Control lets you use your keyboard, mouse, and trackpad across all your devices. If you want to use the trackpad on your MacBook Pro to control what you do on your iPad, or even on another Mac, Universal Control is for you. And Apple says it has designed the feature to be easy to setup.

What happens?

When you use Universal Control, you’ll be able to slide your cursor left or right (but only horizontally) between your devices. You will see a Mac cursor on the screen of your Mac, and the iPad round dot cursor as you move to that device.

What can you do?

Anything you already use your mouse, trackpad, and keyboard for will work across all your devices using Universal Control.

Just get your cursor to the relevant device to get started. You can even drag and drop items such as documents, images, or media between devices – just select it on your iPad and drag it over to your Mac. This could be useful when sketching, designing, planning, or otherwise getting things done.

The expectation is that any application that currently supports Handoff will work with Universal Control. (I’ve not yet been able to test this, but I do hope this largesse extends to Office apps.)

How many devices does Universal Control support?

You can use the new feature with up to three devices. I believe this can be in any combination, so an iPad and two Macs or vice versa. I’m not certain whether you can use this with three Macs, but I think a lot of people working in high-end motion graphics studios would be thrilled if you can.

How do you setup Universal Control?

Assuming Handoff is enabled on all your devices, and they meet the requirements listed below, setup is pretty easy. All you do is use your mouse or trackpad to push the cursor (left or right on a horizontal axis) from one device to the other until it appears on the second device. You can then move your cursor seamlessly between them.

The way it works is also interesting. Apple isn’t using anything more complex than proximity, so assuming your devices are close together, you’ll start a session by dragging your cursor to the left or right of the Mac’s screen and then a little beyond.

During Apple’s WWDC keynote, execs showed the gray animated bar that appeared to the side of the iPad as the first cursor crossing took place. That bar has a couple of arrows you can use to line up the iPad with your Mac so that dragging the mouse feels smooth.

What happens if I have multiple devices?

If you have lots of compatible devices, the system will assume you are dragging toward the last iPad or Mac you used, assuming they are nearby.

I’ve heard Universal Control uses Continuity and Handoff?

Correct. The magic happens thanks to Continuity and Handoff. You’ll find the Handoff tick box in System Preferences>General on your Mac and in Settings>General>AirPlay & Handoff on your iPad.

Just toggle Handoff to on (which it should be by default) to enable Universal Control.

You can, of course, disable it if you want to stop using it.

You can set your devices up to always use Universal Control

If you use your devices together most of the time and want to use Universal Control with linking the devices using the cursor, you can. Once the new operating systems ships, you’ll find a System Preference that lets you do this.

Which Macs support Universal Control?

Universal Control is available on the following Macs:

  • MacBook Pro (2016 and later),
  • MacBook (2016 and later),
  • MacBook Air (2018 and later),
  • iMac (2017 and later),
  • iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, Late 2015),
  • iMac Pro,
  • Mac mini (2018 and later),
  • Mac Pro (2019).

Which iPads support it?

Universal Control supports the following iPad models:

  • iPad Pro,
  • iPad Air (3rd generation and later),
  • iPad (6th generation and later),
  • iPad mini (5th generation and later).

What are the requirements?

Once you’ve established that the Macs and iPads you want to use Universal Control with are compatible, you’ll need to upgrade your machines to macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15, both of which ship in this fall. Or you can participate in the public beta testing process; public betas are due out in July.

You’ll also need to make certain that both devices are signed into iCloud with the same Apple ID using two-factor authentication. Your Mac(s) and iPad(s) must also have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff turned on and must be within 10 meters (30 feet) of each other. iPad and Mac must not be sharing a cellular and internet connection.

Can you use a USB connection?

Yes, to do so you must verify that you trust your Mac on the iPad using the dialog box that should appear when you connect the two.

When will Universal Control be available?

Universal Control will be made widely available when Apple ships macOS Monterey and iPadOS 15, usually around September.

If you take part in Apple’s Public Beta system you may be able to test the feature for yourself beginning next month, but Universal Control isn’t yet included in the currently available developer beta. That’s why we’ll need to wait a little longer to try it out.

Who is this for?

Apple observes that the feature is great if you are someone who wants to use an Apple Pencil to create a design on your iPad and then want to drop into a project you are building on your Mac.

This is true.

But you can also imagine using it across multiple Macs in a rendering or animation studio, or supporting a major Logic edit on your Mac with assets captured on the fly using your iPad Pro. Or even in the field as you take assets from across multiple machines to ingest into an edit on your MacBook Pro.

Beyond creatives, being able to access up to three distinct computers using one mouse and one keyboard should help anyone engaged in a variety of tasks, from data entry to financial trading and design. Because while one big screen is great, multiple complementary screens are even better.

Also read:

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Copyright © 2021 Softwaretoolapps, Inc.

How to transfer your Google Play Music library to YouTube Music

How to transfer your Google Play Music library to YouTube Music

This story was originally published 2020/05/16 5:30am PDTon May 16, 2020 and last updated 2020/06/08 11:03am PDTon Jun 8, 2020.  Google Play Music will cease to be a thing later this year, and it wi…