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Why everyone is talking about everything talking

Voice-first technology went radically mainstream this week.

For starters, Amazon announced on Thursday a stunningly high number of Alexa-enabled devices.

These include an Echo for cars, a voice-interaction wall clock and an Alexa-equipped microwave that can order popcorn when you run out.

The products are fun. But the real news is that Amazon announced the Alexa Connect Kit, which includes a very low-cost circuit board the size of a quarter that has the electronics necessary to turn any device into an Echo. Expect a tsunami of Alexa-equipped devices next year.

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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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IDG Contributor Network: Getting ready for Microsoft Ignite

Next week is Microsoft Ignite (disclosure: Microsoft is a client of the author) and a whole bunch of us are flying into Orlando on Sunday to spend the week with Microsoft. In anticipation of this sold out event, I thought I?d list my expectations for this event which is largely focused on enterprise customers. (You can stream many of the sessions if you want to attend this thing remotely. As an aside, I wonder when we?ll be able to attend events like with Mixed Reality?)

Let?s get to it. 

Push to the cloud

While I expect there will be sessions that cover the breadth of what Microsoft provides I also expect that most of the focus for this show will be on Azure and the cloud. Azure is Satya Nadella?s baby and he takes incredibly good care of it. With the coming of 5G, I?ve been expecting a big pivot from Microsoft toward even more comprehensive cloud services, and my expectation is that is exactly what we will see at the show. There is very little you can?t do in the cloud these days with the only limitations, at least when it comes to personal technology, being bandwidth. With 5G networks starting to get lit up in a few short months (2019 event), the ability to truly pivot to the cloud is near, and I?m looking forward to seeing just how far that pivot will be at Ignite.

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Apple's dropping Back To My Mac Remote Access. Here's an Alternative, Currently Discounted.

Apple is dropping the Back To My Mac remote access feature, and in a recent support document they urge you to be prepared by looking for alternatives.

RemotePC by iDrive is a full-featured remote access solution that lets you connect to your work or office computer securely from anywhere, and from any iOS or Android device. Right now, their 50 computer package is 90% off or just $6.95 for your 1st year. So if you need an alternative to Back To My Mac, or have been thinking about remote access, now is a good time to consider RemotePC. Learn more about it here.

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8 things you?ll want to try first with your iPhone XS

A few million Apple customers are likely to be unboxing their brand-new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max devices today. So, what do they need to know?

But I didn?t get a new iPhone

You don?t need to actually have a new iPhone XS to get a sense of what they are like ? Apple has published a little microsite in which you can toy with an interactive 3D model to get a sense of them. You can also compare the sizes of the new devices with those of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. You must be using mobile versions of the Chrome or Safari browsers for this to work. 

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Samsung's Note 9 takes DeX to a new level for business

Samsung's Note 9 flagship enterprise smartphone has arrived with a bunch of hardware upgrades that make it one of the most advanced smartphones ever, but enterprise users might be more interested in a clever upgrade for DeX, the innovative Samsung software that allows a smartphone to be paired with a TV or monitor for a virtual desktop.

galaxy note 9 s pen Christopher Hebert/IDG

The Galaxy Note 9's S Pen comes in new fashionable colors to match the phone.

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Back to the ol' spam-fighting drawing board

Pilot fish returns from an extended holiday weekend to find his inbox full of spam -- and for once, dozens of the messages seem to be related.

"I was curious, so I didn't delete all 50 of them right away," says fish. "The first one was obviously spam -- a 'Hi, do you remember me, can we talk?' message with a phishing link.

"But the first reply was from an autoresponder at a legal-services company: Thank you for your email. You have reached the email inbox for... Please let us know if you have any questions."

The next message is from another autoresponder, replying not to the spam but to the first autoresponder: Thank you for contacting us. This is an automated response confirming the receipt of your ticket. Our team will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Future Forward: Leadership lessons from IDG founder Patrick McGovern

Editor's note: More than 50 years ago, at the dawn of the computer age, Patrick J. McGovern founded International Data Corp., and, later, International Data Group (the parent company of Computerworld, which he started in 1967). From that small beginning, McGovern, who passed away in 2014, would go on to create a global publishing and data empire.

That empire eventually grew to include some 300 publications in 97 countries, 460 websites and 700 events focused on all aspects of the IT industry. And in 2000 it allowed McGovern to work with MIT to create the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

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Enterprises expected to implement annual Windows 10 upgrade pace

Most enterprises will now adopt a once-a-year upgrade model for Windows 10, finally getting some relief from the pressure of seemingly endless rounds of testing and deployment, a Windows expert said today.

"I think enterprises will fall into an annual cadence," Stephen Kleynhans, a Gartner research vice president, said in an interview. "With 30 months of support, you get to choose when to start rolling out [the upgrade]. You may say, 'We'll start kicking tires in January, piloting in March, deploying in June.' That's a nice window."

Kleynhans was referring to the changes he expects enterprises to make following Microsoft's announcement last week that it is extending support of Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education to 30 months. The additional support - previously maxed out at 18 months - will be awarded only to the fall feature upgrade, the one each year labeled xx09 in Microsoft's yymm format. Windows 10 Enterprise 1809 (and the matching Education edition), slated to release later this month or early in October, will be the first to get two-and-a-half years of security patches and non-security bug fixes.

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Quip builds out productivity offerings with 'Slides'

Quip, the collaborative word processing app acquired by Salesforce for $750 million, has added a new slideshow creation feature, further adding to its capabilities as a productivity suite. 

Quip was initially focused purely on word processing, but expanded its focus with the addition of a spreadsheet tool. Now, with the debut of Slides, the company has three of the basic components of major office productivity suites offered by Microsoft and Google. 

The idea behind Quip Slides is to allow creation of simple slideshows for team meetings rather than in-depth keynote presentations. That?s how such apps are most frequently used anyway, the company said. 

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What Microsoft has joined together, let no man put asunder. Except for .Net patches.

How to make Gmail's desktop interface infinitely better

Google's recently revamped Gmail website has a lot of good things going for it ? but the service's interface could still use some serious improvement.

Plain and simple, the Gmail desktop site is busy and cluttered, particularly if you've spent any time working with its far more minimal and aesthetically pleasing Inbox cousin. So now that Inbox is on the way out, what's a discerning email user to do?

Fear not, my friends, for there is hope yet. Just as you can recreate Inbox's best features in Gmail ? and make the Gmail Android app a touch more pleasant to use ? with a teensy bit of effort, you can pare down Gmail's desktop interface and transform it into a calm and uncluttered center for email productivity.

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Microsoft Patch Alert: Despite weird timing, September?s Windows and Office patches look good

As we near the end of patching?s ?C Week? (which is to say, the week that contains the third Tuesday of the month), there are no show-stopping bugs in the Windows and Office patches and just a few gotchas. As long as you avoid Microsoft?s patches for Intel?s Meltdown/Spectre bugs, you should be in good shape.

Why a Patch Monday?

On Sept. 17, Microsoft released two very-out-of-band cumulative updates for Windows 10:

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The enterprise guide to the September 24 'Mojave' upgrade

Apple will ship the next major macOS release, 10.14 Mojave on September 24, meaning thousands of Macs currently used in the enterprise will be due for an upgrade. With a successful iOS upgrade under your belt, here?s what you need to do to prepare your Macs for the next iteration of the OS.

Which Macs are compatible?

The following Macs are compatible with macOS 10.14 Mojave:

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Windows 10's new support policy a slap to SMBs

Microsoft's decision to extend Windows 10 support to 30 months for customers running the Enterprise edition leaves small business users adrift, a patch expert argued.

"Keep in mind that this only applies to those who have purchased Enterprise and Educational versions. I'm a SMB (small- or medium-sized business). We buy Windows 10 from Dell and HP," said Susan Bradley, a computer network and security consultant, in an email reply to questions. Bradley also moderates the PatchMangement.org mailing list, where IT professionals exchange tips on patching tradecraft, and she writes for AskWoody.com, the Windows-centric site run by Woody Leonard, a Computerworld columnist.

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