Geeks2U Promise
We guarantee you'll love our fast, friendly service - or we'll refund your money.  
133,572 Happy Customers & Counting
Need tech support?
1300 769 448
Extended hours, 7 days a week

Author Archives: Alex Kidman

For Microsoft, Mobile World Congress is no longer about phones

In the technology space, there’s a few “big” conferences where new technologies and gadgets get announced.

Early in the year there’s the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, followed in late February by Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. As the name suggests, Mobile World Congress is (largely) all about phones and mobile technology, which means that this year there’ll be a focus on everything from foldable phones to 5G networks.

In years gone by, Microsoft had a presence at Mobile World Congress to show off its mobile phone category, largely with its own Lumia-branded devices. However, if you’re a fan of Windows 10 Mobile, I’ve got some bad news for you. You might be a fan of it… but Microsoft isn’t.

It’s announced that it will end support for Windows 10 Mobile devices from the 10th of December 2019. That doesn’t mean that your phone will automatically stop working, but it does mean no more software or security updates, and it’s pretty likely that any app that requires the Windows app store to run will stop working around that time. Microsoft’s advice if you’re still rocking a Lumia phone (or one of the very rare non-Microsoft produced Windows 10 Mobile handsets) is to switch to Android or iOS.

Microsoft has space in the mobile mindset, however, with applications like Office and enterprise platforms that run on mobile devices, but it appears that this year at Mobile World Congress, it’s going to launch something new. Specifically, it appears, based on a teaser video tweeted out by Technical Fellow for AI Perception and Mixed Reality in the Cloud and AI Group at Microsoft, Alex Kipman that an update, and possibly a consumer release of its Hololens project is imminent.

As a complete aside, working as a tech writer I sometimes get mistaken for Alex Kipman. He’s not me, and I’m not him.

Kipman is the creator of Microsoft’s Hololens, a product I’ve written about for some years now that sits in a space that’s referred to by Microsoft as “Mixed Reality”. That’s because the first generation Hololens was a combination of what you might expect from a set of Virtual Reality goggles, but without the immersion in a virtual world. With a set of VR goggles, you’re cut off from the world, but with Hololens, you see the world with a heads-up display overlaid upon it.

Microsoft has built some impressive demonstrations of what Hololens can do over the years, but to date it’s not been a product that you can simply order online or from a tech store like you might a laptop or a phone. Instead, it’s been a high-priced device primarily pitched at developers and those in very specific industries that can afford its asking price.

The new Hololens will probably retain that kind of price point, but Microsoft’s presentation of it at MWC will be key to showing off any new features it might have. One of the prevailing trends in the mobile space right now is the use of enhanced AI functions, and for a device that not only has to overlay holograms in real space, but do so in real time, being able to more intelligently do so could make it a whole lot more useful.

That could lead to wider adoption, or, as happened with the humble PC, it could be the start of the journey that began in the early 80s — where a “consumer” IBM PC was priced near equivalent to a family car — but that led to today’s ultra-affordable computing environment.


Google’s Chrome password checker could improve your security — but there are better options

Generally speaking, people suck at keeping their passwords secure.

I know, I know. I’ve said this before many times.

But year in, year out, the same bad passwords crop up in leaked lists, because human beings are, for the most part, creatures of convenience.

If there’s an easier way to do something, most of the time we’ll do it. That leads to poor password routines, such as using the same password on multiple sites. That’s a big problem, because if your password on one service is compromised, it’s trivially easy for miscreants to code up a script that slams that password and your email against countless sites, just to see what happens. If you use the same password for a service that’s worth money, or as a gateway to your identity, you could quickly be in trouble.

Google recently announced a new official extension for its Chrome browser that should make it a little easier to detect if you’re using a password that may already be compromised. The Google Password Checkup Chrome extension checks passwords as you enter them against known breach databases, so it can alert you if you’re using a password that’s already been compromised. With that knowledge, you can then rapidly change that password for something else, and hopefully keep yourself more secure.

Installation is pretty easy — all you have to do is install it as an extension via the Chrome web store, either by searching for Password Checkup, or directly from this link.

Once installed, you’ll end with with a small green icon next to the URL bar. Click on it, and it will check if any of the passwords you’ve stored in Chrome are known to be compromised. Google says it’s using its own database, rather than the publicly available repositories such as those found at haveibeenpwned.com, so its results may be a little different.

For its part, Google says that the extension itself doesn’t store your passwords, or share them with Google in any way. However, the way that it works is via the passwords that you choose to save within Chrome itself, so it’s still doing a level of data analysis in order to work out if you’re at risk.

You’d have to take that as a matter of trust, although fairly obviously it’s in Google’s best interests to have consumers happy with using Chrome in a safe manner.

As a free extension, it’s a case, I think, of some security being better than none. That’s not quite the same thing as saying that all you should consider is installing the Password Checkup extension and considering your Internet security as a “fixed” matter. As always, where there’s money involved, whether it’s directly siphoning your bank accounts or compromising your credit via identity theft, there will always be a new approach and something to be wary of.

A password checking extension is a good start, but you should also consider ensuring that your general password hygiene is as sparkly clean as it can be.

I’d still advocate strongly for the use of a password management application such as Lastpass, Dashlane, Keepass or 1Password, simply because those provide a much more robust toolset for managing, changing and monitoring your entire password set.

They’ll even help you create truly random passwords if you do fear that an existing password may have been compromised. Some are paid, and some offer their services for free, so there’s really not much of a reason not to make yourself as secure as possible while you’re working (or playing) online.


Apple’s Facetime bug is a reminder that software is fallible, but updates are crucial

Apple is a company that prides itself on the security of its products. Apple has a lot to lose as one of the world’s biggest tech companies. It prides itself on having a lot of control given it produces a complete set of technology. That’s both the operating system software and hardware it all runs on, whether you’re talking an iPhone or a Mac.

It must have been embarrassing, then, for a major flaw to emerge in the company Facetime video calling service. The bug exploited a flaw in its group calling service.

Group calling allows you to call more than one person, as you’d expect.

If you started a group call and added yourself (along with 1 other person) to the call you could listen to everyone’s microphones, even if they hadn’t picked up the call!

To make matters worse, under certain circumstances, the video camera on some system could be viewed, again without the second caller actually agreeing to take the call.

If you have your iPhone or Mac with volume enabled you’d spot an incoming Facetime request. Not so much if you had your device on silent, or you were away from it.

To make matters even worse, Apple was reportedly told about the flaw some time ago. 9to5Mac reported that a concerned mother tried to contact Apple about the flaw some time before knowledge of it became widespread. Apple didn’t take them seriously.

That’s a huge black eye for Apple in the security stakes, because it could have patched away the issue well before the exploit itself became public.

Once it had become publicised, Apple yanked the Group Facetime servers offline, and it says it’s tested internally to patch the flaw.

A software update, due to appear at some point this week should disable the flaw on iOS and macOS devices, as well as re-enable Group Facetime calls.

The reality here — and what we, as consumers can learn about security as a result — is that modern application software is very complex stuff, built by fallible human beings.

No software, anywhere is 100% free from bugs, but what effect those bugs may have can vary. Some may cause crashes. Some may cause weird screen effects, and some — like the Facetime bug — may cause genuine security worries.

This bug was particularly troublesome in that, unless you’d already specifically disabled Facetime because you never used it, regular users would have done nothing “wrong”.

They left nothing insecure. Yet they still could have had their privacy compromised.

So what can you do? While it’s a scary situation, it’s also a reminder of why it’s a very good idea to make sure that you’re up-to-date with security releases and patches for your operating system, whether you’re an Apple Mac/iPhone user, or indeed more of a Windows/Android user.

There’s good sense in waiting on major operating system updates — again, because of the potential of crippling bugs in early software.

When patches relate to issues within that software, as Apple’s Facetime update is sure to, it’s smart to keep yourself up-to-date.

It’s likely that Apple will aggressively push the update to fix Facetime out with a lots of pop-up windows reminding you to upgrade.

You can take matters into your own hands by checking regularly for software updates.

On Macs, click on the Apple symbol, then App Store, and then on updates. On iOS devices, open Settings, then General, then Software Update. As long as you’ve got an active Internet connection, you’ll be informed if there are relevant updates to install.


Google’s anti-phishing quiz makes it easier to keep yourself safe online

As we’ve shifted to an online world, we’ve sadly seen a huge increase in the quantity and sophistication of phishing attacks.

Just in case mention of that term had you pondering picking up gumboots and long lines and dreaming of trout, that’s fishing. Totally different thing.

Phishing is the term used to describe fraudulent ways to gain access to systems and information, whether that’s your personal details for the purposes of identity theft, or access to your online bank accounts for more traditional stealing activities.

Google recently launched a phishing quiz to help everyday web users identify phishing attacks, and it’s a very smart approach. I’d highly encourage you to give it a go — you can find it at https://phishingquiz.withgoogle.com/ — because whether you ace the quiz or flunk it entirely, there’s plenty to be learned. It’s part of Google’s wider efforts to make the web a safer place, alongside efforts to highlight insecure URLs for domains not using HTTPS encryption, and other measures.

The quiz itself encourages you to enter a name and email, and it actively encourages you to use a fake one, not that it captures this data regardless. Then again, it’s Google-based, and it probably already knows who you are anyway.

It then walks you through common phishing scenarios to see if you can correctly pick legitimate emails from their more fraudulent counterparts. Whether you get it right or wrong, you’re walked through what to look for and what to check for when a new email comes in, which is again, a smart approach.

If you’re right, it’s a refresher in what you should be doing with real email, and if you’re wrong, it’s the first step in learning what to look out for.

What I found fascinating in taking the test is how many very simple techniques scammers use when phishing in order to lure in their prey. While the visuals are more sophisticated, there’s a mix of straight up technological obfuscation at play — because the scammers want to appear as though they’re actually your work colleagues, bank or other important business you deal with — there’s also an element of psychological manipulation to deal with as well.

That’s why while it’s important to keep an eye out for more obvious clues, such as email addresses or URLs that don’t quite resolve where they should if you hover your mouse over them — it’s also important to stay calm when opening email, even if it appears alarming. Much of what works within a phishing approach does so because they try to short-circuit your logical thinking processes. That can come either by appearing to be from a friendly source, so they look like a zipped up bunch of photos from your significant other, or by making you outright panic with a warning about warrants for your arrest, lockdown of your valuable online accounts, or even just a simple request to reset your password following a “breach” of your account.

So what should you do in all cases? Check the URLs (or email addresses) of any email asking you to open a link or attached file carefully. Keep your anti-malware software up to date, because that way if you do accidentally click on the wrong URL, you’re at least a little safer if your software intercepts the dodgy URL before loading anything. But above all, use your brain when assessing an incoming message. If it looks dodgy, or it’s trying to make you panic, think twice, and possibly contact the individual (or business) directly. If there’s a genuine issue to resolve, you’ll still be on top of it, but if it’s a phishing scam, you’ll stop it affecting you outright.


Would subscribing to Microsoft make sense for consumers?

Microsoft made its immense fortunes largely off the back of selling software. There would be a new version of Microsoft Office, or Microsoft Windows, and you’d pay a set sum for CD-ROM (or, going back even further, a bundle of 3.5 inch floppy disks) that would provide you with that software, typically accompanied by a period of software updates (if available) until the next “new” version emerged.

Microsoft shifted many years ago to a subscription model for businesses and schools, offering up its popular software packages and operating system on a pay-as-you-go model for businesses where investing heavily in fixed packages didn’t make quite as much sense. Pay for an Office 365 subscription, for example, and you never have to worry about not having the latest features in Microsoft Word, because your subscription includes the very latest version of Word, all the time.

The question of whether or not you’re using all those features is one for another article, but there are also some security implications, and sometimes file compatibility issues if you stick with a particularly old version of Microsoft’s Office suite, and especially its Windows platform. That too has appeal for businesses, none of whom want to risk their business reputation (or the contents of the business bank account) to otherwise unpatched bugs or errors in the code.

Microsoft launched a bundled product simply called Microsoft 365 that included both Windows and Office products for businesses back in 2017, and it appears that it’s mulling over a similar strategy for consumers too. Speaking to The Verge, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggested that the company was looking into consumer-based subscription products, possibly under the same Microsoft 365 branding.

There’s an existing area of consumer interest where Microsoft already does pretty well with consumers, and that’s in gaming, where its subscription-based Xbox Live and Xbox GamePass services offer excellent value if you’re already an Xbox One or Xbox OneX owner. Gaming is a different sphere to productivity, however, and the prospect of having a subscription product as distinct from a software licence is one that brings with it some rather precise benefits and drawbacks.

On the plus side, just like the business product you could expect to always have the latest version of each of the Office apps, as well as all the security updates for them. In today’s connected world, that’s a big plus. Microsoft could indeed leverage its Xbox platform to tie in some kind of gaming subscription as well, if it chose to. It’s also the owner of the Skype messaging platform, and again it could tie in value on for video calling into some kind of bundle.

At the same time, however, the reality for most consumers is that they don’t buy Windows as a standalone product that much any more. It’s much more likely to come bundled with a new desktop or laptop, with a licence tied rather firmly to that hardware. Microsoft shows no sign of switching away from the strategy of permanently iterating just on Windows 10, with no plans for “Windows 11” any time soon. As such, the upgrades are (currently) free anyway. Were Microsoft to start charging for them, unless it did release an entirely new “Windows 11” type OS, it would face a serious consumer revolt.

That means that the value would most likely lie with Microsoft Office, but again you hit that issue of whether new interface tweaks or semi-hidden features would have value to the average user. We’re long past the days of having the annoying Clippy pop up to ask us if we’re writing a letter, but he was at least a sop to the consumer-office-using-market. Modern Word is a fine word processor, but it’s not particularly consumer-centric, and it’s got plenty of features that you wouldn’t even need to look at unless you had rather precise professional needs.


8K TVs unveiled at CES 2019, but don’t rush to buy one

Every year, the consumer electronics industry descends on Las Vegas, and not for the reasons one might feasibly head to Las Vegas for. OK, to be fair, a certain amount of gambling and drinking does go on, but it’s the backdrop for the Consumer Electronics Show, where the world’s big electronics companies — and thousands you’ve never heard of — converge to reveal what they think will be the big technology trends in gadgets for the next couple of years.

This year, the big TV manufacturers announced the formation of the 8K Association, an industry group whose job it is to promote the adoption of 8K displays. Along with that, of course, the big brand names all announced 8K displays that you’ll be able to buy this year. As you might guess, 8K is the next big resolution leap over 4K, a technology which itself was announced at a CES some years back.

8K has plenty of resolution, but there’s a couple of problems that will keep an 8K display off your wall for the time being, or at least that should unless you’re very flush with cash indeed and just don’t care.

For a start, the resolution of 8K is impressive, but it’s really only impressive at rather mind-boggling scale for the kinds of walls and spaces most of us have to dedicate to TVs. Most industry research suggests that we tend to buy new TVs — typically when the time comes because the old set is knackered, although sometimes major sporting events can also spur spikes in TV sales — in roughly the 55-65” size range. Obviously, a TV for the kitchen if you fancy that kind of thing tends to come in smaller, but for primary living room style watching, those are the sizes that sell. It’s not too hard to buy a decent 4K set in those sizes for decent money, either.

8K, however, only really delivers on its resolution promise of seeming to lack individual pixels if you scale up much larger than that. We’re talking 75” and above in TV terms, and that’s a lot more space than many of us have. Yes, there were TVs that size and larger with 8K displays on show at CES — Sony, for example had a 98 inch 8K TV to show off that it presumably hopes somebody will buy this year — but how many of us have space, and more importantly budget for that kind of display? Naturally, the first 8K TVs won’t be exactly inexpensive either, but then you’d expect that with those kinds of size panels.

Then there’s the content question, although it’s an easy one to answer.

How much 8K content is there out there right now?

Basically none.

There’s a few demo reels of 8K content, but nothing you’re going to watch on a regular basis. All the manufacturers were at pains to talk about the 8K upscaling ability for 4K content, but even some years after 4K panels first started to appear, that’s hardly commonplace. There’s no real sign of 8K disc formats, which means (presumably) we’ll be waiting for the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime Video to deliver 8K video… of which they’ve announced none. Even when and if they do, you’ll need a hefty broadband connection to take advantage of it.

Not that CES didn’t have a few neat ideas in the TV space worth paying attention to if you do wind up needing a new smart TV this year. LG took a concept it showed off last year as a flexible panel and turned it into a TV that literally rolls itself down into a speaker box if you don’t want a TV panel on display all the time, which was easily one of the technology highlights.

Apple also freed up its Airplay 2 standard, with most manufacturers signing up to offer it for their TVs. That’ll alllow you to stream iTunes and Apple Music content direct to your TV, no Apple TV required. If you’ve got a sizeable iTunes library, that could be a real game changer.

8K TV, though? I wouldn’t rush at it, and that’s essentially the same advice I gave for 4K panels when they first started appearing. Wait for the prices to drop and the content to appear, because until then, you’re not going to be getting any real benefit from it.


5G will be big in 2019 (eventually)

The new year is upon us, and with it, the promise of all sorts of new tech gadgets, with everything from foldable phones to smarter electric cars for sale.

Connectivity is the glue that binds those two quite different concepts together, and indeed just about any other technology you’d care to name, because we absolutely live in an internet-connected world now. The big shift in connectivity in 2019 will come as telecommunication providers across the globe roll out the first 5G networks for consumers to jump onto.

5G follows 4G, and it’s a simple enough matter to explain in one sense, because it’s the fifth generation of mobile telecommunications technology. Where once it was concerned purely with the shifting of voice signals away from copper wires and towards an over-the-air delivery mechanism, 5G instead concentrates almost entirely on data throughput, and especially latency. The idea is that it’s not only meant to be fast, but also super-responsive for potentially thousands of devices on each 5G mobile cell.

So what’s the catch? Well, firstly, there’s the issue of exactly when 5G might roll out in your area. While the big global telcos are all jousting around who’s going to be “first” — a slightly meaningless derivation in real terms because some will use quite different rollout technology than others — there’s really nowhere on the planet that will automatically be bathed in fast 5G signal. Just as the switch from 3G to 4G took time, so too will we see a gradual rollout of 5G capabilities depending on the spectrum available to carriers, and their implementation of new networks.

Of course, a fast network isn’t much use without devices to run on it, and here too we’ll see the otherwise-fast 5G networks somewhat stymied by a lack of devices. As an example, in Australia, the two telcos currently pitching to be “first”, Telstra and Optus are both stating that they’ll launch with “fixed 5G” broadband services — or in other words, devices that will compete with fixed line broadband services that you might be getting over copper or fibre right now. The speed of 5G does have some appeal in these cases if you can’t otherwise get a fast fixed line service, although the costs involved with mobile data, as well as the highly variable nature of those services means that fixed line is still a (generally) more reliable and cost-effective way to get your broadband fix.

If you’re wondering why nobody’s releasing a 5G mobile phone yet, well… you won’t have to wait long, it seems. Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in late February/Early March is tipped to be the launching point for a number of 5G-enabled handsets, with Samsung widely tipped to show off a 5G-enabled variant of its upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10 handset there. It’s an open question as to when such a device might go on sale, however, because it is something of a chicken-and-egg situation. The device makers don’t want to produce millions of handsets that can’t sell easily because there’s few networks that can run them, after all.

As a mobile technology, it’s not just mobile phones that may well see the 5G treatment. It won’t be long before we see tablets and laptops with embedded 5G modems in them as well, although again there’s not much in the way of announced products with those capabilities this early in the year.

So what does that mean in practical terms? You can expect lots of breathless hype from mobile providers around the capabilities of their nascent 5G networks in 2019, but for most folks, this year will be when 5G networks are bedded in, with the wider array of actual devices that can use the new networks really starting to land in 2020 and beyond.


We’re all still pretty bad at passwords

So, what is your password?

No, don’t answer that. Really, please don’t. Partly because the whole point of a password should be that it’s a secret known only to you, but also because there’s increasing evidence that we’re still not much better at password security than we were last year.

Each year, SplashData (100-worst-passwords-top-50) puts out a report highlighting the worst — which is to say the least secure — passwords uncovered due to data breaches in that calendar year. 2018 has (sadly) been a bumper year for data breaches. That does have a minor upside, because companies are significantly more upfront about when they have some kind of data breach incident, but a much larger downside, because the results of their research are depressingly familiar reading if you’ve followed online security for any time at all.

So what were the top 10 worst passwords?

Well, if you’re using any of the following, stop it, right now:

  • 10 – iloveyou
  • 9 – qwerty
  • 8 – sunshine
  • 7 – 1234567
  • 6 – 111111
  • 5 – 12345
  • 4 – 12345678
  • 3 – 123456789
  • 2 – password
  • 1 – 123456

The worst password lists haven’t changed for years, because, ultimately, we all tend to use our computers to make our lives easier, and human beings are pretty hardwired to go for easy approaches. If it was just one hacker living somewhere on the planet manually typing in random passwords, that might work out OK, because the odds of that one dude hitting your account are going to be pretty low in a world of billions of online users.

The problem is that we’re not talking about facing off against one lone human with the same lazy traits as the rest of us. We’re talking about automated systems that approach the problem of cracking a password as simply a mathematical equation.

Easy to remember number sequences that just happen to be on the keyboard in line might seem like an elegant solution to remembering your passwords, but that also means they’re easy for miscreants to guess.

Not that they have to guess any more, because the vast majority of cracking attempts against password systems use automated approaches that can zip through every single dictionary word and keyboard number combination in a frighteningly short period of time.

This is also why using the same password across multiple sites, even if it isn’t “123456” or “password” is such a bad idea. Again, systems doing this kind of cracking will apply that password and email combination to as many services as it can hit in a few seconds, just to see what will work. All too often, it does, and suddenly you’re locked out of your email, buying sports cars in far eastern Russian bloc nations or finding your bank balance completely drained. Sometimes, while you sleep.

There’s a balance here, because nobody’s going to remember a 256 character password containing at least 50 different punctuation marks and at least one Japanese Hiragana character, but then, you really don’t have to. While it can seem as though the modern world is too complex with too many passwords to remember, you can use the approach of the crackers to help you. Which is not to say that you should counter-crack, but instead that you can use machine smarts, by way of a good password management application such as 1Password, Keepass or Dashlane to remember your passwords for you. They can generate complex passwords that you can often either paste or even auto-fill into services, and all you have to do is come up with a single, very strong password to keep those apps secure.

Yes, it’s a little bit of work to set up in the first place. But it’s a lot less work than recovering your finances, email, online social media accounts and everything else that could go wrong if you rely on a weak and common password like 123456.


Facebook data bug leaves photos up for grabs

2018 has been a year marked by some pretty big and significant privacy stories in technology. In one sense, this has been a healthy matter, because it’s made a lot more people aware of what it is they’re sharing online, where their data is tracked and what it’s used for.

There’s plenty of data about all of us that we’d probably rather keep secret, but we’re often not all that aware of how private that data might actually be. If you’re right now thinking “but I’ve got nothing to hide”, think again. Would you tell strangers your credit card number or password details? That’s “private” information too.

Facebook has had a pretty bad year in privacy terms, with the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal showing how the firm has sold and traded data over the years, and it’s ending up the year with another privacy problem, although this one appears to have been more of a bug than a business decision.

An error with the Facebook Photos API — in simplest possible terms, it’s the software that allows third party applications and indeed Facebook itself to upload and share your photos across its social media service — may have left up to a whopping 6.8 million users with photos that were less-than-private, including photos that they may have never fully uploaded and posted to Facebook itself.

On the plus side, Facebook has been quite upfront about the issue, with a Facebook internal developer flagging the issue with its development community.

In the normal course of events, apps that you allow to see your Facebook photos can only see pictures you post on the Facebook timeline. The bug meant that other photos, such as those shared on Facebook Stories or Marketplace may have been accessible, even if you never granted those permissions. Even photos you may have started to upload but then cancelled posting could have been snaffled, because Facebook keeps copies of those in case you change your mind.

In order to be affected by the bug, you would have had to have authorised a third party application to access your photos in the first place, and Facebook does say it’s going to work to notify users who may have had one of the 2,500 applications potentially affected in the coming weeks. If you do get an alert from Facebook that you’re an affected user, it would be smart to check which apps you’ve currently got running with access to your data. That cute game that you maybe played once five years ago could still be sitting there, quietly (and possibly not so nicely) harvesting your data.

It’s yet another circumstance where there’s not that much that you, as an individual user can do, given you don’t write Facebook’s code, and this does seem to have been a genuine software bug, not a deliberate hack or data selling scandal.

It does highlight, however, that Facebook as a service, while super-useful for staying in touch with friends and relatives, has become a repository of our data beyond just names and dates of birth.

Lots of people use Facebook Photos to note important moments in their lives, whether that’s the birth of a child or a stunning vista on a well-earned holiday break.

But that data has value to us, and it’s worth remembering that when you upload it, you do lose some control over what happens to it after that. If you rarely post pictures to Facebook this may not be a big concern for you, but if you do post photos all the time, it’s something worth considering, and maybe changing your approach depending on how much you value your privacy — and of course, the nature of the photos you’re posting up!


What will Microsoft’s switch to Chrome mean for your web browsing?

The history of web browsers is fascinating if you’re of a geeky bent, from the early days of NSCA Mosaic through to the explosive growth of Netscape and its eventual ousting by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) browser. If you’re not that geeky, you’re probably more used to clicking on an icon to access the web, and you may not even care what that icon is. Current browser usage figures suggest it’s most likely Google’s popular Chrome browser.

Microsoft’s moved on from IE, and it’s also moved well on from the days when IE commanded a majority share in the browser market, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from competing with its own Edge browser, pre-installed with its Windows 10 operating system.

Microsoft has expended significant time and money in promoting its Edge browser as faster and safer than competitor Google’s Chrome browser, but it’s recently shifted gears in a rather radical way.

The next version of its browser will still be called Microsoft Edge, but underneath the shiny icon, it’ll be running on the open-source Chromium engine. As the name suggests, that’s the same rendering engine used for Google’s Chrome, as well as a number of open-source alternative browser choices.

Microsoft’s not quite waving the white flag and asking Google to get on with the job of delivering new browser experiences, however, stating that it intends to work on developing and improving the underlying Chromium engine from within its own developer ranks, before sharing those improvements out for other Chromium browsers.

So what’s the practical effect likely to be if you’re already using the Edge browser? Microsoft’s claim is that it’ll slowly shift its desktop browser over to Chromium rendering, at which point web developers will be able to ditch Edge-specific optimisations or layout instructions and instead concentrate on a mostly-Chromium web. Apple’s still got Safari, there’s still Firefox and Opera as well, so it’s not quite a 100% Chromium web.

That update should be effectively invisible to you, because the icon’s not likely to change, although it does bring with it the prospect of Chrome extension accessibility within the Edge browser. It also means Microsoft can expand the range of its Edge browser, offering it for competitor Apple’s macOS platform. Microsoft used to develop a macOS version of IE many years ago, but it’s long been an obsolete app there.

It could well be a net win for Internet security as well, as long as Microsoft’s properly sharing out its improvements to the Chromium engine over time.

You should see web pages appear more consistently across devices too. Right now, if you load some pages in Edge and the same pages in Chrome, the text content should be similar, but you’re likely to see small differences in how they handle layout and some interactive page elements. It’s a big problem for a lot of businesses, especially if functions like text entry boxes or drop-down menus don’t work properly, and this should help minimise those frustrations.

So is it a net win for Internet browser users? Edge’s overall market share as a used platform is tiny, even though it’s present on every Windows 10 machine, so in that sense it’s not much of a loss. Where it could be interesting is if a third party develops an even better browser with newer features. Google’s Chrome appears unassailable right now in the browser space, and even moreso now with Edge in tow, but then, the same thing could have been said about Internet Explorer at one time.


Recent News

In the technology space, there’s a few “big” conferences where new technologies and gadgets get announced. Early in the year there’s the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, followed in late February by Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. As the name suggests, Mobile World Congress is (largely) all about phones and mobile technology, which… More 

Generally speaking, people suck at keeping their passwords secure. I know, I know. I’ve said this before many times. But year in, year out, the same bad passwords crop up in leaked lists, because human beings are, for the most part, creatures of convenience. If there’s an easier way to do something, most of the… More 

Apple is a company that prides itself on the security of its products. Apple has a lot to lose as one of the world’s biggest tech companies. It prides itself on having a lot of control given it produces a complete set of technology. That’s both the operating system software and hardware it all runs… More 

As we’ve shifted to an online world, we’ve sadly seen a huge increase in the quantity and sophistication of phishing attacks. Just in case mention of that term had you pondering picking up gumboots and long lines and dreaming of trout, that’s fishing. Totally different thing. Phishing is the term used to describe fraudulent ways… More