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How to Protect Your Online Privacy: A Practical Guide | Privacy


Do you take your online privacy seriously?

Most people don’t. They have an ideal scenario of just how private their online activities should be, but they rarely do anything to actually achieve it.

The problem is that bad actors know and rely on this fact, and that’s why there’s been a
steady rise in identity theft cases from 2013 to 2017. The victims of these cases often suffer a loss of reputation or financial woes.

If you take your online privacy seriously, follow this 10-step guide to protect it.

1. Beware of Internet Service Providers

You may not be aware of it, but your ISP already might know
all about your online searches.

Each time you search for something online, your browser sends a query to a DNS server. Before the query reaches a DNS server, however, it first has to go through your ISP. Needless to say, your ISP easily can read and monitor these queries, which gives it a window into your online activity.

Not all ISPs monitor your browser queries but the ones that don’t are the exception and not the rule. Most ISPs will keep records of your Web browsing for a period of a few months to a year. Most ISPs don’t record your texts, but they do keep records of who texted you.

There are two ways to protect your privacy if you don’t want your ISP monitoring your browser queries: 1) Switch to an ISP that doesn’t monitor your online data, if practicable; or 2) Get a VPN to protect your data (more on this later).

2. Strengthen and Protect Your Login Credentials

One thing most people take for granted is the login credentials they use to access their many online accounts. Your username and password are the only things keeping your information and privileges from getting into the wrong hands. This is why it’s important to make them as strong as possible.

Choose a strong username that is simple and easy to remember but can’t easily be linked to your identity. This is to prevent hackers from correctly guessing your username based on your name, age, or date of birth. You’d be surprised just how cunningly hackers can find this information. Also, never use your Social Security Number as your username.

Next, pick a strong password. There are many ways to do this, but we can narrow them down to two options: 1) Learn how to make strong passwords; or 2) Use a password manager app.

Learning how to make a strong password requires time and imagination. Do you want to know what the most common passwords are? They are “1234,” “12345,” “0000,” “password” and “qwerty” — no imagination at all. A password combining your name and date of birth won’t cut it. Nor will a password that uses any word found in the dictionary.

You need to use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and even symbols (if allowed). Complexity is what matters, not length, since a complex password will take centuries for a computer to figure out. In fact, you can
try your password if you want to see just how long it will take to crack.

If you don’t have the time and imagination to formulate a strong and complex password, you can use one of the
six best password managers. These apps not only save you the hassle of memorizing your complex passwords but also auto-fill online login forms and formulate strong passwords for you.

Whether you want to learn how to make strong passwords or choose to install a password manager app is up to you. What you should never neglect, though, is 2FA (2-factor authentication). 2FA adds an extra layer of protection for your passwords in case someone ever does learn what they are. In fact, you may already have tried it when logging into an account on a new device.

The app or service requires you to key in the access code sent to another one of your devices (usually your phone) before you are given access to your account. Failing to provide this access code locks you out of your account. This means that even if hackers obtain your login credentials in some way, they still can’t log into your account without the access code.

Never use the same usernames or passwords for different accounts. This prevents hackers from accessing multiple accounts with just one or more of your login credentials. Also, never share your login credentials with anybody —
not even your significant other.

3. Check the WiFi You’re Using

Have you ever heard of a
KRACK attack? It’s a proof-of-concept cyberattack carried out by infiltrating your WiFi connection. The hacker then can steal information like browsing data, personal information, and even text message contents.

The problem is that not even WPA2 encryption can stop it. This is actually why The WiFi Alliance started development of WPA3, which it officially introduced this summer.

Do you need WPA3 to defend against KRACK attacks? No. You just need to install security updates when they become available. This is because security updates ensure that a key is installed only once, thereby, preventing KRACK attacks. You can add additional layers of protection by visiting only HTTPS sites and by using a VPN.

You also can use a VPN to protect your device whenever you connect to a public network. It prevents hackers from stealing your information via a MitM (Man in the Middle) attack, or if the network you’ve connected to is actually a rogue network.

4. Watch Your Browser

If you read through your browser company’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, you might find that they actually track your online activities. They then sell this information to ad companies that use methods like analytics to create a profile for each user. This information then is used to create those annoying targeted ads.

How do they do this?

Answer: Web cookies.

For the most part, Web cookies are harmless. They’re used to remember your online preferences like Web form entries and shopping cart contents. However, some cookies (third-party cookies) are made specifically to remain active even on websites they didn’t originate from. They also track your online behavior through the sites you visit and monitor what you click on.

This is why it’s a good idea to clear Web cookies every once in a while. You may be tempted to change your browser settings to simply reject all cookies, but that would result in an overall inconvenient browsing experience.

Another way to address the monitoring issue is to use your browser’s Incognito mode. Your browser won’t save any visited sites, cookies, or online forms while in this mode, but your activities may be visible to the websites you visit, your employer or school, and your ISP.

The best way I’ve found so far is to replace your browser with an anonymous browser.

One example is TOR (The Onion Browser). TOR is a browser made specifically to protect user privacy. It does this by wrapping your online data in several layers of encryption and then “bouncing” it for the same number of times before finally arriving at the right DNS server.

Another example is Epic Browser. While this browser doesn’t run on an onion network like TOR, it does do away with the usual privacy threats, including browsing history, DNS pre-fetching, third-party cookies, Web or DNS caches, and auto-fill features. It automatically deletes all session data once you close the browser.

SRWare Iron will be familiar to Google Chrome users, since it’s based on the open source Chromium project. Unlike Chrome, however, it gets rid of data privacy concerns like usage of a unique user ID and personalized search suggestions.

These three are the best ones I’ve found, but there are other alternatives out there. Whatever privacy browser you choose, make sure it’s compatible with your VPN, as not all privacy browsers are VPN-compatible — and vice-versa.

5. Use a Private Search Engine

Presenting risks similar to popular browsers are the search engines many people use. Most browser companies also produce their own search engine, which — like the browser — also tracks your online searches. These searches then can be traced to your personal identity by linking them to your computer, account, or IP address.

Aside from that, search engines keep information on your location and usage for up to several days. What most people don’t know is that persons in the legal field actually are allowed to use the information collected by search engines.

If this concerns you at all, you may want to switch to a private search engine. These private search engines often work in the same way: They obtain search results from various sources, and they don’t use personalized search results.

Some of the more popular private search engines include DuckDuckGo, Fireball, and Search Encrypt.

6. Install a VPN

What is a VPN, and why do I strongly recommend it?

A VPN (virtual private network) is a type of software that protects your Internet browsing by encrypting your online data and hiding your true IP address.

Since you already know how online searches are carried out, you already know that browser queries are easily readable by your ISP — or anyone else, for that matter. This is because your online data is, by default, unencrypted. It’s made up of plain text contained in data packets.

You also already know that not even built-in WPA2 encryption is good enough to protect against certain attacks.

This is where a VPN comes in. The VPN courses your online data through secure tunnels until it gets to its intended DNS server. Anyone intercepting your browsing data will find unreadable jargon instead.

You may hear advice against trusting VPNs with your security. I’m actually inclined to partially agree — not all VPNs are secure. However, that doesn’t mean all VPNs are not secure.

The unsecured VPNs I’m referring to are the “free lunch” types that promise to be free forever but actually use or sell your data to ad companies. Use only the safest VPN services you can find.

A VPN is primarily a security tool. While you may enjoy some privacy from its functions, you will want to pair it with a privacy browser and search engine to get the full privacy experience.

A VPN can’t secure your computer or device from malware that’s already present. This is why I always recommend using a VPN together with a good antivirus and firewall program.

Some popular browsers run WebRTC protocols by default. You have to turn off this protocol. This protocol compromises a VPN’s security by allowing your true IP address to be read.

7. Watch Out for Phishing

You may have the best VPN, anonymous browser, and private search engine on the market, but they won’t do you much good if you’re hooked by a phishing scam.

Phishing employs psychological analysis and social engineering to trick users into clicking a malicious link. This malicious link can contain anything from viruses to cryptojackers.

While phishing attacks usually are sent to many individuals, there’s a more personalized form called “spearphishing.” In that case, the hackers attempt to scam a specific person (usually a high-ranking officer at a company) by using information that’s available only to a select few people that the target knows.

So, how do you avoid being reeled in by phishing attacks?

The first option is to learn how to identify phishing attempts. Beware of messages from people you don’t know. Hover over a link before clicking it to make sure it navigates to the site it portrays. Most importantly, remember that if it’s too good to be true, it most likely is.

The second option is to install an antiphishing toolbar. This software prevents phishing by checking the links you click against a list of sites known to host malware or those that trick you into disclosing financial or personal information.

It then will prompt you, once it determines the link to be connected to one of those sites, and provide you with a path back to safety.

The best examples I’ve found are OpenDNS, Windows Defender Browser Protection, and Avira Browser Safety.

8. Encrypt Your Communications

If you’ve been following tech news in the recent months, you may have found an item about the FBI wanting
to break Facebook Messenger’s encryption. Say what you will about the social network giant, but this news reveals one thing: Even the FBI can’t crack encrypted messages without help.

This is why you should always use “encryption mode” in your messaging apps. Apps like Signal, Telegram, and Threema all come with end-to-end encryption and support for text, calls, and even video calls.

If you require constant use of emails, ProtonMail, Tutanota, Mailinator, and MailFence are great alternatives to popular email services that actually monitor your email content.

9. Watch What You Share on Social Media

Social media has become one of the best ways to keep in touch with important people in our lives. Catching up to everyone we care about is just a few clicks away. That said, we’re not the only ones looking at their profiles.

Hackers actually frequent social media sites as they hunt for any personal information they can steal. They even can circumvent your “friends only” information by adding you as a friend using a fake account. I don’t think I need to mention the problems hackers can cause once they’ve stolen your identity.

This is why you should exercise caution about what you share on social media. You never know if hackers are using the photos you share to target you for their next attack. You may want to skip out on filling out your profile completely. Avoid giving your phone or home number, and perhaps use a private email to sign up.

10. Update Early and Often

You may have heard this before but it’s worth repeating now: Don’t ignore system updates. You may not be aware of it, but updates fix many vulnerabilities that could jeopardize your online privacy.

Most people put off installing updates since they always seem to come at inopportune times. Sometimes we just can’t put up with the dip in performance or Internet speed while updates are being installed.

It’s usually best to suffer what minor inconvenience they cause early rather than risk getting caught in the whirlwind of problems hackers can cause if you should get targeted. Most software and apps now come with an auto-update feature, so you won’t have to manually search and download them.

In Conclusion

Privacy is a human right, and our online privacy should be taken seriously. Don’t neglect to take the necessary steps to protect yours.

Beware of your Internet service provider, and always protect your login credentials no matter how strong they are. Remember to check the network you’re connecting to before you log in.

Watch what your browser and search engine are doing, and consider replacing them with more private ones. Prepare against phishing by learning to identify attempts and installing an antiphishing toolbar.

Always use encrypted messaging, and watch what you share on social media. Finally, never ignore system updates when they become available.

Follow these steps and you’ll soon be on your way to a more private browsing experience.


John Mason, an avid privacy advocate, is founder of
TheBestVPN and serves as its chief researcher.





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$34B Red Hat Acquisition Is a Bolt Out of Big Blue | Deals


The cloud computing landscape may look much different to enterprise users following the announcement earlier this week of IBM’s agreement to acquire Red Hat.

IBM plans to purchase Red Hat, a major provider of open source cloud software, for US$34 billion. IBM will acquire all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Red Hat for $190 per share in cash, under terms of the deal. That stock purchase represents a total enterprise value of approximately $34 billion.

Once the acquisition is finalized, Red Hat will join IBM’s Hybrid Cloud team as a distinct unit, preserving the independence and neutrality of Red Hat’s open source development heritage and commitment, current product portfolio, and go-to-market strategy, plus its unique development culture.

Red Hat president and CEO Jim Whitehurst will continue in his leadership role, as will the other members of Red Hat’s current management team. Whitehurst also will join IBM’s senior management team, reporting to CEO Ginni Rometty. IBM intends to maintain Red Hat’s headquarters, facilities, brands and practices.

Following the acquisition, IBM will remain committed to Red Hat’s open governance, open source contributions, and participation in the open source community and development model.

IBM also will foster Red Hat’s widespread developer ecosystem. In addition, both companies will remain committed to the continued freedom of open source via such efforts as Patent Promise, GPL Cooperation Commitment, the Open Invention Network and the LOT Network.

The acquisition was a smart business move for both IBM and Red Hat, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“It seems possible or likely that other vendors would be interested in purchasing Red Hat,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “By making a deal happen, IBM is bringing in-house a raft of technologies, solutions and assets that are both familiar and highly complementary to its own solutions.

Partnerships and Financial Oversight

Both IBM and Red Hat will continue to build and enhance Red Hat partnerships. These include the IBM Cloud and other major cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba. At the same time, Red Hat will benefit from IBM’s hybrid cloud and enterprise IT scale in helping expand its open source technology portfolio to businesses globally.

Partnerships between the two companies span 20 years. IBM served as an early supporter of Linux, collaborating with Red Hat to help develop and grow enterprise-grade Linux and more recently to bring enterprise Kubernetes and hybrid cloud solutions to customers.

These innovations have become core technologies within IBM’s $19 billion hybrid cloud business. Between them, IBM and Red Hat have contributed more to the open source community than any other organization, the companies noted.

“For Red Hat, IBM is an ideal partner to help the company scale its business to the next level. Really, no other vendor comes close to having IBM’s reach into and credibility among global enterprises,” said King.

IBM intends to close the transaction through a combination of cash and debt in the latter half of next year. The acquisition has been approved by the boards of directors of both IBM and Red Hat.

The deal is subject to Red Hat shareholder approval. It also is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

IBM plans to suspend its share repurchase program in 2020 and 2021. The company expects to accelerate its revenue growth, gross margin and free cash flow within 12 months of closing.

Moving Forward

“The acquisition of Red Hat is a game-changer. It changes everything about the cloud market,” said IBM’s Rometty.

Most companies only progressed 20 percent along their cloud journey, renting compute power to cut costs, she said. The next chapter in cloud usage — the next 80 percent — involves unlocking real business value and driving growth.

“It requires shifting business applications to hybrid cloud, extracting more data and optimizing every part of the business, from supply chains to sales,” Rometty pointed out.

Eighty percent of business workloads have yet to move to the cloud, according to IBM. Instead, they are held back by the proprietary nature of today’s cloud market. This prevents portability of data and applications across multiple clouds, data security in a multicloud environment, and consistent cloud management.

IBM and Red Hat plan to position the company to address this issue and accelerate hybrid multicloud adoption. Post-acquisition business will focus on helping clients create cloud-native business applications faster.

That will result in driving greater portability and security of data and applications across multiple public and private clouds, all with consistent cloud management. IBM and the absorbed Red Hat division will draw on their shared leadership in key technologies, such as Linux, containers, Kubernetes, multicloud management and automation.

Business Imperative

Red Hat/IBM is the second-largest computer software deal ever recorded globally, according to
Mergermarket data. In terms of computer software mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. alone, the sector already has hit a record high value of $138.3 billion this year, having surpassed all previous full years on record.

IBM/Red Hat accounts for nearly a quarter of total U.S. software deal value in the year to date. Red Hat is IBM’s largest transaction ever.

“IBM has been in need for some time of catching up with other tech giants, such as Amazon and Microsoft, in making a sizable investment like this in the cloud,” noted Elizabeth Lim, senior analyst at Mergermarket.

“It makes sense that IBM would pay such a large amount for a company like Red Hat, to try to outbid any potential competition,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

The deal with Red Hat marks a transition for the company toward hybrid cloud computing, after years of seeking growth with mixed results. For example, IBM made big bets on its artificial intelligence system Watson, but its traditional IT business has shrunk, Lim said.

“It is clear that CEO Ginni Rometty intends, with this deal, to try to propel IBM back into the ranks of the industry’s top players after falling behind in recent years, and that the company also felt the need to acquire outside tech instead of spending years trying to develop it in-house,” she explained.

The question now is how successfully IBM will integrate Red Hat, said Lim.

Smart Business

The acquisition comes as a surprise, but it is a smart move that makes a lot of sense, said Tim Beerman, CTO of
Ensono.

IBM has been a big supporter of open source and the Linux operating system, so Red Hat’s open source software portfolio, supported by value-added “paid” solutions, is the perfect investment, he told the E-Commerce Times.

“It is a big win for IBM, Red Hat and their customers. IBM gets to modernize its software services by adopting Red Hat’s technology,” Beerman noted.

“Red Hat gains IBM’s financial backing and the ability to scale its capabilities and offer a hybrid IT approach, and its customers receive the ability to go to market faster with the assurance their providers have the investment they need to excel in a hypercompetitive market,” he explained.

This acquisition reinforces the concept that open source tools are part of the answer to hybrid cloud solutions, added Beerman. IBM’s investment will allow the companies to increase their security profiles in open source systems.

Over the years, IBM’s technology portfolio, particularly on the software side, has dried up or been sold off, according to Todd Matters, chief architect at
RackWare. IBM really needs some of its own technology in their portfolio, so the Red Hat acquisition makes a lot of sense in those terms.

“Red Hat brings a long list of very good software products. Linux — and Red Hat in particular — has been able to purvey to the enterprise very successfully, and that is the sort of thing that IBM needs for its typical customer portfolio,” Matters told the E-Commerce Times.

IBM had little choice but to acquire Red Hat, observed Craig Rosenberg, chief analyst at research and advisory firm
Topo.

The deal is a “huge move for IBM and the industry,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“In the multicloud market where AWS, Google and Microsoft have a clear head start, IBM had to make a move or risk being left behind. By acquiring Red Hat — and more specifically OpenShift — IBM becomes a major player, with a compelling developer-centric, open source offering and business model,” Rosenberg explained.

Deal Ramifications

With the Red Hat acquisition, IBM will get the industry’s premiere enterprise Linux distro and its most dynamic container platform, along with myriad other valuable assets, noted King. For Red Hat, the acquisition cements an alliance with one of its oldest strategic partners.

“IBM has also been among the industry’s staunchest and most generous supporters of open source projects and initiatives. Frankly, it is hard to think of similar deals that would have been as beneficial for both IBM and Red Hat,” said Pund-IT’s King.

That rosy view is not supported but some other onlookers, however.

IBM has committed to pay a huge price for the agile growth company, but it is far from a sure bet that the deal will transform IBM into a nimbler player, according to Jay Srivatsa, CEO of
Future Wealth.

“It paves the way for Amazon, Microsoft and Google to get stronger. IBM is counting on open source to cement the company’s credibility as a cloud player, but the train has left the station,” Srivasta told the E-Commerce Times.

“The risk of Red Hat simply becoming as irrelevant as IBM has in the cloud computing space is greater than the probability of IBM/RedHat becoming a leading player in this space,” he added.

One big stumbling block, according to Pete Sena, CEO of
Digital Surgeons, is the risky business of integrating Red Hat’s culture adequately. IBM has not matched Red Hat’s stewardship of open source.

“If IBM does not integrate the cultures effectively, Red hat employees may want to take their money and run,” Sena told the E-Commerce Times.

However, if IBM can deal with Red Hat’s proven successful open source format, the potential upside is nearly guaranteed, he noted.

“If you are a salesperson at either company, once this integration is rolled up together, then you have the ability to sell across various business units. The business implications point to IBM and Red Hat now having a ton of connected offerings,” Sena said.

Cloud Competition Impacted

Red Hat’s OpenShift container platform is being used or supported by virtually every major cloud vendor, noted King, and it’s likely those partnerships will persist.

“In fact, IBM emphasized that the deal would not disrupt any Red Hat customers,” he said, “but it is likely that the acquisition could spur interest in other container technologies by cloud companies.”

At the end of the day, though, mass defections are unlikely. It behooves service providers to support the technologies their customers prefer. For hybrid cloud customers, OpenShift is at or near the top of that list, according to King.

Because Red Hat will maintain its independence through the early part of the transition, it’s likely that things will remain relatively the same with respect to the e-commerce space relative, at least in the short-term, suggested Jonathan Poston, director of technical SEO at
Tombras Group.

“My guess is that IBM’s motive in the first place was less about controlling market supply and raising prices by buying out smaller, more competitive alternatives,” he told the E-Commerce Times, “and mostly about injecting vigor into a product inventory to extend the average life cycle through a classic strategic innovation acquisitions approach. An altruistic perspective, I know — but again, at least for the short-term, I suspect this will be the case.”

Open Source Reactionaries

The sudden unexpected announcement will no doubt produce some minor objections from the ranks of Red Hat workers. However, open source today is more commercial and institutionalized than it was even five years ago, so major turmoil over the business decision will not occur.

“Overall, I do not expect the deal to have any significant impact on open source culturally or as a practice,” said King. “IBM is too experienced and invested in open source to allow that to happen.”

However, the deal could spur interest in Red Hat’s competitors, like Suse and Canonical, as well as alternative container solutions, he suggested, and even might lead to other acquisitions in those areas.


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Android Pie Is Filled with AI | Operating Systems


Artificial Intelligence plays a big role in Android 9, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, released Monday.

Called “Android Pie,” the OS is designed to learn from its users’ behavior, and apply those lessons to simplify and customize their phone experiences.

“From predicting your next task so you can jump right into the action you want to take, to prioritizing battery power for the apps you use most, to helping you disconnect from your phone at the end of the day, Android 9 adapts to your life and the ways you like to use your phone,” noted Sameer Samat, Google’s vice president of product management for Android and Google Play.

google's android 9 pie

Adaptive Brightness and Adaptive Battery are two ways Android Pie uses AI to customize and improve a phone’s performance.

Adaptive Brightness learns what brightness levels a user likes in certain conditions and automatically adjusts the display to those settings when those conditions arise.

Adaptive Battery plugs into Google’s DeepMind systems and can learn a person’s phone usage patterns and make adjustments to optimize power usage.

“Users of the Android P beta program on Google Pixel phones found a 20 percent increase in battery life,” said David McQueen, research director for consumer devices in the London offices of ABI Research, a technology advisory firm.

“Battery life has always been a major pain point for the smartphone user, so this implementation of AI will be welcome relief,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Seeing Will Be Believing

The power management feature works without adding additional hardware, McQueen pointed out.

Huawei introduced performance-enhancing AI in its Mate 10 Pro product, he said, but to do it, the company had to add a chip to the device, which it called a “neural processing unit.”

“There’s not much going on in terms of new battery technology that can lengthen battery life, so Adaptive Battery could be a good thing,” suggested William Stofega, program director for mobile phones and drones at
IDC, a market analysis company based in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The Adaptive Battery feature appears to be compelling, acknowledged Tuong Nguyen,
a senior principal analyst at Gartner, a research and advisory company
based in Stamford, Connecticut. However, he is withholding judgment on the feature until the verdict from users comes in.

“We see a lot of power optimization announcements, and I’m sure they work well enough,” Nguyen told TechNewsWorld, “but my perception as a consumer is that I can never stay sufficiently charged and am always using too much battery.”

Screen Slices

Another new addition to Android is App Actions. It makes connections between when and how you use apps and makes suggestions based on those connections. For example, it’s 5:15 p.m. on a Monday. App Action may ask if you want to open the e-book you’ve been reading on your commute to and from work for the past week.

Google also announced a feature for Android Pie called “Slices,” which won’t appear in the OS until later this fall.

Slices shows relevant information from apps depending on a user’s screen activity. So if a user started typing Lyft into Google Search, Slice would display a slice of the Lyft app with information such as prices to a destination and the ETA for a driver.

“Slices is great because it brings us a step closer to the post-app world,” Nguyen said.

“Instead of searching through a dozen of apps and individually opening them,” he continued, “the UI allows me to use them with fewer steps.”

Better Security

Android Pie also sports a new single home button for simpler navigation.

In addition, Android’s Overview feature has been redesigned to display full screen previews of recently used apps. It also now supports Smart Text Selection, providing action suggestions based on selected text.

Security has been beefed up in Android 9. It has an improved security model for biometrics. It uses a secure, dedicated chip to enable hardware security capabilities that protect sensitive data, such as credit card information.

Android 9 chooses the TLS protocol by default, as well as DNS over TLS, to help protect all Web communications and keep them private.

Multi-Camera and HEIF Support

Android’s photographic capabilities are expanded in Pie. It supports multiple cameras, which enables developers to access streams from a number of physical cameras simultaneously.

“Multi-camera support is a potentially cool feature because it impacts the trajectory of immersive augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality experiences,” Nguyen said.

“Anything that advances immersive is exciting for me, but it’s a long road, so don’t expect to see something with a super impact immediately,” he added. “It’s more of a building block for bigger things to come.”

Android Pie also supports a new image format, HEIF. The format provides better compression than the widely used JPEG format without a loss in quality. Apple has been using the format for awhile.

A common complaint among consumers is a lack of storage on phones, Nguyen noted.

“I’m not familiar with the technical details on HEIF, but I think all consumers can appreciate having more room because of better compression,” he said.

Fighting Phone Addiction

With concerns rising about how much time people spend with their phones, Google decided to add some time management features to Android Pie.

“While much of the time we spend on our phones is useful, many of us wish we could disconnect more easily and free up time for other things,” observed Google’s Samat.

“In fact, over 70 percent of people we talked to in our research said they want more help with this,” he added. “So we’ve been working to add key capabilities right into Android to help people achieve the balance with technology they’re looking for. “

The new “digital well-being” features that will be added to Android Pie this fall include the following:

  • A Dashboard that helps users understand how they’re spending time on their devices;
  • An App Timer that lets an operator set time limits on apps and grays out the icon on their home screen when the time is up;
  • A Do Not Disturb mode, which silences all the visual interruptions that pop up on a screen; and
  • Wind Down, which switches on Night Light and Do Not Disturb and fades the screen to grayscale before bedtime.

While the new digital health features may be embraced by some users, they could be annoying to others.

“I can see things like Wind Down and app timers getting in the way,” IDC’s Stofega told TechNewsWorld. “I thiink people want to use their devices whenever and however they want.”

Possible Pain Points

For many Android users, all the goodies in the latest version of the OS are likely to remain out of their hands for some time, since Pie works only on Pixel models, and a few other phones that participated in the beta program for the software.

“It will be telling how quickly Android P is able to migrate to Samsung and Huawei smartphones, and then on to those that run Android One,” McQueen said.

Even for those who are able to get their hands on the new OS, there could be challenges.

“The issue always is how quickly will people be able to recognize some of these new features,” and whether these devices are “getting too complex for their own good,” Stofega said.

“These devices are becoming Swiss Army knife-like,” he remarked. “Device makers have to figure out and adjust to what people really need versus what’s technically possible.”


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.





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Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 18.04: Multicloud Is the New Normal | Software


By Jack M. Germain

Apr 29, 2018 5:00 AM PT

Canonical last week released the
Ubuntu 18.04 LTS platform for desktop, server, cloud and Internet of Things use. Its debut followed a two-year development phase that led to innovations in cloud solutions for enterprises, as well as smoother integrations with private and public cloud services, and new tools for container and virtual machine operations.

The latest release drives new efficiencies in computing and focuses on the big surge in artificial intelligence and machine learning, said Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth in a global conference call.

Ubuntu has been a platform for innovation over the last decade, he noted. The latest release reflects that innovation and comes on the heels of extraordinary enterprise adoption on the public cloud.

The IT industry has undergone some fundamental shifts since the last Ubuntu upgrade, with digital disruption and containerization changing the way organizations think about next-generation infrastructures. Canonical is at the forefront of this transformation, providing the platform for enabling change across the public and private cloud ecosystem, desktop and containers, Shuttleworth said.

“Multicloud operations are the new normal,” he remarked. “Boot time and performance-optimized images of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS on every major public cloud make it the fastest and most-efficient OS for cloud computing, especially for storage and compute-intensive tasks like machine learning,” he added.

Ubuntu 18.04 comes as a unified computing platform. Having an identical platform from workstation to edge and cloud accelerates global deployments and operations. Ubuntu 18.04 LTS features a default GNOME desktop. Other desktop environments are KDE, MATE and Budgie.

Diversified Features

The latest technologies under the Ubuntu 18.04 hood are focused on real-time optimizations and an expanded Snapcraft ecosystem to replace traditional software delivery via package management tools.

For instance, the biggest innovations in Ubuntu 18.04 are related to enhancements to cloud computing, Kubernetes integration, and Ubuntu as an IoT control platform. Features that make the new Ubuntu a platform for artificial intelligence and machine learning also are prominent.

The Canonical distribution of Kubernetes (CDK) runs on public clouds, VMware, OpenStack and bare metal. It delivers the latest upstream version, currently Kubernetes 1.10. It also supports upgrades to future versions of Kubernetes, expansion of the Kubernetes cluster on demand, and integration with optional components for storage, networking and monitoring.

As a platform for AI and ML, CDK supports GPU acceleration of workloads using the Nvidia DevicePlugin. Further, complex GPGPU workloads like Kubeflow work on CDK. That performance reflects joint efforts with Google to accelerate ML in the enterprise, providing a portable way to develop and deploy ML applications at scale. Applications built and tested with Kubeflow and CDK are perfectly transportable to Google Cloud, according to Shuttleworth.

Developers can use the new Ubuntu to create applications on their workstations, test them on private bare-metal Kubernetes with CDK, and run them across vast data sets on Google’s GKE, said Stephan Fabel, director of product management at Canonical. The resulting models and inference engines can be delivered to Ubuntu devices at the edge of the network, creating an ideal pipeline for machine learning from the workstation to rack, to cloud and device.

Snappy Improvements

The latest Ubuntu release allows desktop users to receive rapid delivery of the latest applications updates. Besides having access to typical desktop applications, software devs and enterprise IT teams can benefit from the acceleration of snaps, deployed across the desktop to the cloud.

Snaps have become a popular way to get apps on Linux. More than 3,000 snaps have been published, and millions have been installed, including official releases from Spotify, Skype, Slack and Firefox,

Snaps are fully integrated into Ubuntu GNOME 18.04 LTS and KDE Neon. Publishers deliver updates directly, and security is maintained with enhanced kernel isolation and system service mediation.

Snaps work on desktops, devices and cloud virtual machines, as well as bare-metal servers, allowing a consistent delivery mechanism for applications and frameworks.

Workstations, Cloud and IoT

Nvidia GPGPU hardware acceleration is integrated in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS cloud images and Canonical’s OpenStack and Kubernetes distributions for on-premises bare metal operations. Ubuntu 18.04 supports Kubeflow and other ML and AI workflows.

Kubeflow, the Google approach to TensorFlow on Kubernetes, is integrated into Canonical Kubernetes along with a range of CI/CD tools, and aligned with Google GKE for on-premises and on-cloud AI development.

“Having an OS that is tuned for advanced workloads such as AI and ML is critical to a high-velocity team,” said David Aronchick, product manager for Cloud AI at Google. “With the release of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and Canonical’s collaborations to the Kubeflow project, Canonical has provided both a familiar and highly performant operating system that works everywhere.”

Software engineers and data scientists can use tools they already know, such as Ubuntu, Kubernetes and Kubeflow, and greatly accelerate their ability to deliver value for their customers, whether on-premises or in the cloud, he added.

Multiple Cloud Focus

Canonical has seen a significant adoption of Ubuntu in the cloud, apparently because it offers an alternative, said Canonical’s Fabel.

Typically, customers ask Canonical to deploy Open Stack and Kubernetes together. That is a pattern emerging as a common operational framework, he said. “Our focus is delivering Kubernetes across multiple clouds. We do that in alignment with Microsoft Azure service.”

Better Economics

Economically, Canonical sees Kubernetes as a commodity, so the company built it into Ubuntu’s support package for the enterprise. It is not an extra, according to Fabel.

“That lines up perfectly with the business model we see the public clouds adopting, where Kubernetes is a free service on top of the VM that you are paying for,” he said.

The plan is not to offer overly complex models based on old-school economic models, Fabel added, as that is not what developers really want.

“Our focus is on the most effective delivery of the new commodity infrastructure,” he noted.

Private Cloud Alternative to VMware

Canonical OpenStack delivers private cloud with significant savings over VMware and provides a modern, developer-friendly API, according to Canonical. It also has built-in support for NFV and GPGPUs. The Canonical OpenStack offering has become a reference cloud for digital transformation workloads.

Today, Ubuntu is at the heart of the world’s largest OpenStack clouds, both public and private, in key sectors such as finance, media, retail and telecommunications, Shuttleworth noted.

Other Highlights

Among Ubuntu 18.04’s benefits:

  • Containers for legacy workloads with LXD 3.0 — LXD 3.0 enables “lift-and-shift” of legacy workloads into containers for performance and density, an essential part of the enterprise container strategy.

    LXD provides “machine containers” that behave like virtual machines in that they contain a full and mutable Linux guest operating system, in this case, Ubuntu. Customers using unsupported or end-of-life Linux environments that have not received fixes for critical issues like Meltdown and Spectre can lift and shift those workloads into LXD on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS with all the latest kernel security fixes.

  • Ultrafast Ubuntu on a Windows desktop — New Hyper-V optimized images developed in collaboration with Microsoft enhance the virtual machine experience of Ubuntu in Windows.
  • Minimal desktop install — The new minimal desktop install provides only the core desktop and browser for those looking to save disk space and customize machines with their specific apps or requirements. In corporate environments, the minimal desktop serves as a base for custom desktop images, reducing the security cross-section of the platform.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Android P Tackles Phone Addiction, Distraction | Operating Systems


Google on Tuesday revealed some major new features in the next version of its Android operating system for mobile devices.

Now in public beta, the OS known as “Android P” includes features designed to address growing concerns about phone addiction and distraction.

For example, a dashboard will show users how often, when and for how long they use each application on their phone. What’s more, they can set time limits on usage.

With the help of artificial intelligence, Android P also will watch how a user handles notifications. If notifications from an app constantly are swiped away, Android P will recommend notifications be turned off for that program.

“Do Not Disturb” mode has been beefed up in Android P. Users will be able to set the mode so there are no visual cues at all on a display of notifications, not even in the notification drawer.

The mode can be activated simply by placing the phone face down on a flat surface. If a phone is set up to separate work from personal apps, it can be configured to mute all apps at once with a single toggle.

Moreover, there’s a “wind down” feature that will take the phone into Do Not Disturb mode at a bedtime set by the user.

Fighting Addiction

The new application dashboard and notification muting features target a growing social concern about smartphones.

“Google is making the product far more user-friendly and directly addressing at least some of the problems associated with smartphone addiction,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

That strikes a contrast with Android’s chief competitor, iOS.

“Apple is more focused on ensuring privacy and doesn’t seem to be as aggressively addressing the addiction problem,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

It remains to be seen whether users will take advantage of the tools.

“Folks should care more about this — but, like any addiction, they likely feel they can deal with this one without help,” Enderle remarked.

The success of the features will depend on Google, noted Gerrit Schneemann, senior analyst at IHS Markit Technology.

“I firmly believe that many smartphone users do not use all the features of their phone to their full potential,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It seems like that could be the case here.”

“If Google focuses on things like ‘wind down’ to expose users to the capabilities, I think there could be traction,” Schneemann said. “However, depending on users to discover the dashboard alone will be problematic on a broad scale.”

More Than Well Being

In addition to the new “digital well-being” features, Android P will provide a new way to navigate phones.

There’s the familiar home button, but with modified behavior. With new gestures, a user swipes up to get an overview of open apps, and swipes up further to go to the app tray.

The back button is still there, but it only appears inside apps.

Google has added screenshot editing to Android P, allowing users to mark up screenshots without having to use another app.

Google also has injected smarts into app searching in Android P. When a search is performed, things that can be done with an app appear along with its icon. So if you search for a ride-sharing app, for example, the results might include a button to hail a ride.

The Android P team partnered with
DeepMind on a new Adaptive Battery feature that optimizes app usage, noted Dave Burke, VP of engineering for Android.

“Adaptive Battery uses machine learning to prioritize access to system resources for the apps the user cares about most,” he wrote in an online post. “It puts running apps into groups with different restrictions using four new ‘App Standby buckets’ ranging from ‘active’ to ‘rare.’ Apps will change buckets over time, and apps not in the ‘active’ bucket will have restrictions in: jobs, alarms, network and high-priority Firebase Cloud Messages.”

Android P Adaptive Battery

Personal Touch

Android P shows Google wants to make the OS more personal and relevant for individuals, noted Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner.

“There’s a lot of new features in Android, but they all center on how can Google users have a more holistic and personal interaction with technology,” he told TechNewsWorld.

With Android P, Google is making a pitch to use less technology, Blau maintained.

“They’re saying you don’t need technology at every last pinpoint in every day of your life,” he continued. “Maybe you need more effective technology with fewer interactions. With Android P, Google is taking away the rough edges. That, over time, means what you will see is an Android that caters much more to the individual.”

From a feature and user interface perspective, Android P is one of the more significant rollouts for the OS in a while, noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

“They’re also letting the beta run on more third-party phones,” he told TechNewsWorld. “In the past, betas only ran on a Nexus or Pixel device.”

Those third-party phones include the Essential Phone, Sony’s Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2S, Nokia’s 7 Plus, Vivo’s X21, Oppo’s R15 Pro and the soon-to-be-released OnePlus 6.


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.





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