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The EU's Android antitrust ruling overlooks 3 critical points

Is Google abusing its power as the gatekeeper to Android? Antitrust regulators in Europe seem to think so ? but reading over their ruling, I can't help but be struck by some inconsistencies between their assessments and the realities of Google's mobile platform.

In case you've been napping for the past couple days, the European Union slapped Google with a $5 billion dollar fine as part of an antitrust investigation. The EU says Google is stifling competition by forcing phone-makers to preinstall Chrome and Google Search on their Android devices as part of a broader package of Google services ? and by preventing partners from developing devices based on unofficial "forks" of Android (spoons, thankfully, are still permitted). Google has already announced plans to appeal.

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Why two Apple HomePods really are better than one

Apple recently updated its HomePod software, introducing AirPlay 2 and support for stereo pairing. I?ve been using these features since they arrived, and this is what I think so far:

What are the improvements?

Apple?s iOS 11.4 update introduced HomePod 11.4 which bought two significant new features to HomePod systems: AirPlay 2 and stereo pairing support.

AirPlay 2

AirPlay 2 lets you control music playback around your home using Siri, HomePod and AirPlay 2 supporting speaker systems from third party manufacturers. So long as all your systems are on the same Wi-Fi network you get multi-room playback and controls.

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The next corporate collaboration tool: Podcasts?

Interest in podcasts has grown in recent years: 44% of people in the U.S. have listened to a podcast at some point, according to Edison Research, while 26% do so at least once a month now.

But while podcasts may be gaining ground in the car or at home, the streaming technology has made only limited inroads at work ? so far.

Nevertheless, some companies see new potential for audio streaming as a means of delivering on-demand content to staffer, particularly for firms with a large number of remote and mobile workers.

With that kind of interest in mind, enterprise video streaming provider uStudio recently launched a podcast delivery platform that adds the necessary admin controls, business application integrations, security features and usage analytics expected by business leaders and IT departments. (Similar solutions are also offered by podcast hosting providers such as Podbean and Blubrry.)

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Throwback Thursday: How to guarantee business will grow

It's early 2005, and this pilot fish works for an online retailer -- and pays close attention to the chatter about website development.

Spring 2005:

Manager: "Do we need a database administrator for the new attribute key-value design?"

Software developer: "No, we won't ever need more than 10 attribute key-val pairs. The business will never get bigger than that. Besides, storing data in columns means it's contiguous on disk and one select will mean one read!"

Summer 2005:

Developer: "Hmm, why is the database so slow? I wonder if it's the 100 attribute key-value pairs. We now have 100 columns instead of 10, but that should be fine."

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Microsoft to dump Windows 10's smaller delta updates

Microsoft will stop serving one of three types of Windows 10 updates, contending that the updates have been superseded by an even small and more efficient format.

Delta updates are due to disappear early next year, Microsoft said, with their demise effective Feb. 12, 2019, that month's Patch Tuesday. Two formats will then remain: Full updates and express updates.

Delta updates are those that include only the components that have changed since the previous month's update. Because delta updates include the full component that changed - say, the Notepad application - not only the individual files that make up the component, they are larger than express updates, which deliver only changed files. The bottom line, and what enterprise IT is most interested in, is that express updates are smaller than delta updates, which are in turn smaller than full updates.

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Mingis on Tech: The blockchain evolution moves from services...to smartphones?

If 2017 was the year many tech firms suddenly looked around and realized they needed to be part of the blockchain craze, this is the year companies in a variety of industries have begun actively experimenting with the distributed ledger technology.

Helping to make that possible ? especially for firms with no experience in building out blockchain systems themselves ? are IT vendors like IBM, Microsoft, HPE and Amazon Web Services. They now offer blockchain-as-a-service.

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Google faces $5B fine over Android browser and search engine ties

Google has been ordered to pay a $5.05 billion fine and stop forcing Android smartphone makers to install its search engine and browser on their phones. That decision was handed down by the European Union's antitrust authority on Wednesday.

The ruling could open the way for smartphone makers to offer more choice, with devices running different versions of Android, or offering alternative browsers or search engines out of the box.

The European Commission found that Google has abused its dominant market position in three ways: tying access to the Play store to installation of Google Search and Google Chrome; paying phone makers and network operators to exclusively install Google Search, and preventing manufacturers from making devices running forks of Android.

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Internet meets tornado. Guess who wins?

IT pilot fish living just outside a small rural town isn't exactly swimming in internet options: There's no broadband, and the local phone company won't supply DSL to fish's home.

"That left dial-up -- until I discovered WiMax, which allowed line-of-site connection via a directional antenna on the house roof pointed to a transmitter on the city water tower five miles away," says fish.

"This worked great, and with UPSes, all the PCs and network equipment were protected from the various power outages, power spikes and brownouts that came our way on a fairly regular basis."

But one night there's a not-so-regular occurrence: A tornado roars through and tears things up. After the storm, fish discovers that his power lines are down and the WiMax directional antenna has been relocated from the roof to a nearby tree limb.

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How to handle Windows 10 updates

Confused about how updates work in Windows 10? Join the club. In this latest version of its operating system, Microsoft has transformed what was once a straightforward procedure into a seemingly complicated process that varies according to whether you have Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro or an enterprise or education edition. As a result, there have been lots of misperceptions about how Windows 10 Update works, and how to best use it.

Get into the fast lane with the Insider Program

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(Insider Story)

Microsoft lures Windows 2008 users to cloud with offer of extra support

Microsoft is dangling three years of additional support in front of customers running Windows Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 if they move the servers' workloads to Redmond's cloud-based Azure.

SQL Server 2008 -- and its follow-up, SQL Server 2008 R2 -- exit support July 9, 2019, or less than a year from now. Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will be retired from support about six months later, on Jan. 14, 2020. After those dates, the server software will not receive security updates, leaving them vulnerable to attack by hackers exploiting unpatched security flaws.

In an effort to entice customers to move to the cloud, Microsoft last week said it will provide three additional years of support to Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 when those systems' workloads are migrated to Azure virtual machines or Azure SQL Database Managed Instance, respectively. (The latter is a new service set to debut in the fourth quarter.) Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 workloads transferred to Azure will receive fixes for vulnerabilities rated "Critical" or "Important," until January 2023; SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 will get the patches for bugs designated as "Critical," with the end of extra support coming in July 2022.

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Windows 10: A guide to the updates

The launch of a big Microsoft Windows 10 update like the April 2018 Update isn?t the end of a process ? it?s really just the beginning. As soon as a major update is released, Microsoft quickly gets to work on improving it by fixing bugs, releasing security patches, and occasionally adding new features.

Here we?ve summarized what you need to know about every Windows 10 update being released to the public. First come updates to the currently shipping version of Windows 10 ? version 1803, known as the April 2018 Update ? with the most recent updates on top. (Note that the April 2018 Update is on a phased rollout, so you may not have received it yet.) Below that are updates to version 1709, known as the Fall Creators Update, and below that updates to version 1703, known as the Creators Update. For each build, we?ve included the date of its initial release and a link to Microsoft?s announcement about it.

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Stung by a festering pile of bugs on Patch Tuesday, MS releases 27 more patches

In what is becoming a common occurrence, Microsoft?s Patch Tuesday brought along so many bugs that they necessitated a remediation round. This month, unusually, it took only six days to get the exterminators out.

Since these fixes are aimed at four specific bugs introduced on Patch Tuesday, they don?t include the massive patches normally appearing on the second Patch Whateverday of the month. My guess is we?ll see at least one more big set of Windows patches before the month is out. Oh, boy.

Windows July patches, version 2

Yesterday, Monday, July 16, Microsoft released 27 new security patches for Windows, bringing the total number of patches so far this month up to 156. The new patches fall into six separate groups:

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Get ready for the next silly smartphone superlative

Smartphone marketing tends to revolve around superlatives ? you know, words or phrases that suggest being the most something in all of the land.

The specific quality in question shifts pretty regularly (hey, you've gotta keep it fresh, right?). For a while, way back when, the boasting was all about having the phone with the most processing power. Since then, in no particular order, we've seen phone-makers focus on having the biggest, the smallest, the thinnest, the brightest, the most pixel-packing, and the least-bezel-showing devices. Oh, and don't forget megapixels. For the longest time, having the phone with the most megapixels was about as good as you could get in terms of ad-ready bragging rights.

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Oracle rolls out its own blockchain service

Oracle wants in on the blockchain-as-a-service game, too.

The company on Monday announced the availability of a fully-managed blockchain service over which businesses can automate processes over an immutable electronic ledger, such as tracking goods in a supply chain or handling customer financial transactions.

Blockchain-as-a-service {BaaS) offerings have grown over the past three years, enabling businesses to launch proof-of-concepts to test the distributed ledger technology without the capital costs required by an internal deployment. Other BaaS providers include IBM, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, SAP and Amazon Web Services.

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It's a Y2K miracle!

On the run-up to Y2K, this consultant pilot fish gets the job of making sure a state government department has all its patches and firmware up to date for the cutover.

"One of the sysadmins was more of a Lotus Notes admin and not really familiar with patching and firmware ugrades," says fish. "But he watched me as I patched a ton of Netware servers.

"One morning as I walked into the building I noticed him in the hallway, bouncing off the walls waiting for me to arrive.

"'You gotta help me,' he said. 'I upgraded the firmware on the Windows NT mail server and now it just blue screens!'

"I asked him if he upgraded the device drivers for the RAID controller too -- and just got that deer-in-the-headlights look of what's that for?

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NEW AVG PC Tuneup 2014!