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Author Archives: Alex Kidman

Anyone fancy a transparent flexible tablet?

LG-display

Predicting the next big thing in technology is always a risky game. There’s always the possibility that you’ll pick the incorrect next big thing, or for that matter assume that current big things will maintain their status well into the future.

Watch any Sci-Fi show from the 70s or 80s that references the (then) far away world of 2010, and the chances are pretty good that you’ll see lots of curved cathode-ray monitors, few touchscreens and possibly even a rotary dial or two for communications purposes.

Still, there are technology ideas that persist over time as seeming “futuristic”, while still never seemingly coming to market. That’s because while technology as an entire field moves pretty quickly, individual components and change can occur much more slowly. It’s why while research is continuing in multiple fields, we’re still stuck with lithium ion batteries powering our laptops, tablets and mobile phones, because nobody’s yet totally cracked new technologies that work as well and as safely.

It’s also why while those older science fiction shows showed cathode ray TVs, we’re still using display screens that are flat and solid. There’s been plenty of research into more flexible screen display technologies over the years, and even some implementations. Earlier this year at CES in Las Vegas, LG had an array of its “flexible” W series OLED TVs set up as a massive curved chasm you could walk through, which was visually impressive, but probably not the way you’d want to watch the next State of Origin Match. Then again, put the opening crawl of Star Wars: A New Hope on that thing, and I could stayed there all day.

Getting that technology available at scale and cost, however, is another matter. As the Korea Herald reports, LG isn’t standing still on flexible displays, having now developed a screen that’s not only flexible, but also transparent and high resolution, with a display size of up to 77 inches.

That opens up all sorts of possibilities for usage, because while today’s laptops, tablets and phones all tend towards the same kinds of designs because of the limitations of screen display technologies, something that you can both bend and see through could be formed into many shapes for all kinds of applications.

Before you bin your smartphone and put a brick through your laptop display, though, even here LG reckons it’s a number of years away from mass commercialisation. It’s suggested that the displays might first be used for digital signage, or perhaps aquariums at first. LG produces displays not only for its own gear but (as is common in technology generally) also for many third parties. It’s the same all over, with a lot of memory and processors coming out of Samsung, while a lot of camera modules are produced by Sony, for example.

Still, even in the mid-term, some of the ideas that LG has around flexible transparent displays are fascinating. An aquarium built out of transparent displays has a lot of scope for engagement and education. Imagine staring at an aquarium full of fish, only to have the side of the tank interactively display the species of each tracked fish, with more information on display as required.

That feels like something out of science fiction, and while it’s not here yet, it’s also not that far away.


Are you protecting your business from phishing attacks?

virus, phishing, mail,

What’s the most precious part of your business? Depending on your trade, that answer might vary, but when you boil most businesses down to their core, it will usually revolve around money; either the operating capital that keeps you afloat, or the profits that you make on a day by day basis as the result of whatever it is that you do.

That information is usually stored electronically, and that has had a profound effect on business efficiency, whether it’s the speed with which you can turn around an email to a client, or the level of detail you can provide the tax office if they come calling. There’s few that would advocate for a return to a more fragile, harder to index paper business world.

Having said that, the use of technology to run your business isn’t without its risks, especially when it comes to the rising preponderance of phishing attacks. Phishing broadly defines the act of maliciously impersonating some other person or business you deal with (whether it’s your bank manager, your clients or the company that hosts your web site) in order to gain access to your private information. It’s by no means a new concept, but it’s also one that’s on the rise. The classic phishing approach is via email, because if you’re a scammer, it’s very low cost to execute, and even if 99% of your emails are either bounced back or ignored, that 1% that you fool could be very lucrative indeed.

There are numerous technological approaches you can take to mitigate phishing risks in order to minimise your exposure, by way of filtering incoming emails, but the best approach by far remains using your own actual intelligence. A recent report from Mimecast (Updated Email Security Risk Assessment) suggests that emails that intend to impersonate other business bodies for phishing purposes saw a 400% increase in the last quarter year. Testing the actual email from 44,000 users over 287 days uncovered 9 million pieces of spam, 8,318 dangerous file types, 1,669 known and 487 unknown malware attachments and 8,605 impersonation attacks.

Bear in mind that in all these cases, email had already passed through some kind of spam detection filter, which is why it’s vital to keep your wits with you at all times. Always check the simple stuff, like spelling errors, or even errors in the way that you’re addressed. Why would your business partner/bank/other entity not address you by your full name, rather than, say “customer”? There’s one bit of phishing spam I’ve hit recently that seems to love inverting my name, so it always sends through to kidmanalex, which is a bit of a giveaway. Unfortunately, not all the scammers are quite that dumb.

Even if you don’t operate a business, where many of these phishing scams are targeted, it’s worth keeping your exposure to spam and malware at a minimum. You might think that you have no data worth pillaging or no online banking for the fraudsters to access, but even if they can get access to your computer, that’s a valuable resource in and of itself. For email phishing scams, for example, it’s fairly common to route emails through unsuspecting bot-controlled PCs to evade detection, which means that if your machine is compromised, it could be putting others at risk. As we saw with the recent wannacry infection as well, scammers will often use multiple attack vectors, so if the phishing email doesn’t get you, a gap in your patching updates just might.


Apple signals the death of 32-bit apps

mobile-phone-apps

Apple recently held its 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference, usually shortened to WWDC. It’s where Apple woos the developers that produce software for its Mac computers and iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones.

Apple did announce new Pro hardware at WWDC, including updated MacBook Pro models, a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro and an iMac Pro due to debut later this year. At least on paper, they’re nice iterative improvements on their predecessors, but when you’re talking to a room of software developers, what you really need to do is talk software. So that’s just what Apple did, announcing the next version of its macOS operating system, to be called “High Sierra”, and available for most compatible Macs free of charge later this year. It also announced the next version of iOS, which should be made available around the same time as the next iPhone refresh, so roughly in the September/October timeframe.

iOS 11 will, like macOS High Sierra, be free of charge to install, although as with many previous years there’s a generation of iPhones that won’t see the update. This year, that will comprise the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c, as well as several iPad models. What Apple also did was make it clear that iOS 11 will be the line in the sand for older iOS apps that rely on 32-bit based coding architectures. When Apple first launched iOS with the iPhone 3G, it was using a 32-bit hardware system, so all early apps were 32 bit as a result.

Apple switched to a faster 64-bit architecture a few years ago, but had kept 32-bit app compatibility alive, because if it had entirely switched at that point, it would have killed its own app store as a result. Still, it’s been clear for a long while that the death of 32-bit apps was coming. So what does that death mean? It means that older 32-bit apps simply won’t run on iOS 11’s entirely 64- bit architecture at all, and they won’t be listed in the app store either. Apple’s been more than keen for developers to update and recompile their 32-bit apps for 64-bit, with many, but not all complying as a matter of course. Right now, if you’re running an iOS 10 device, you can pick which (if any) of your apps aren’t optimised, because launching them will bring up a window noting that they may not work optimally on your device.

That’s Apple’s less than subtle way of getting its consumers to apply pressure to developers to update, or in essence, perish. This also means that if all the apps you use don’t have that kind of pop-up at all, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. That means that the app is already 64-bit compiled and should run fine under future iOS releases. There is an issue with getting apps updated, though. If the developer of an older app can’t be contacted, or if it’s one of the many older apps that’s been entirely abandoned, there may be nobody to do the necessary recompiling work.

What that means is that if you’re using a compatible iOS device that has older apps on it, when you update to iOS 11 they won’t run at all. Hopefully that’s not too many of your apps, but if you do have favourites, whether they’re games, productivity apps or any of the astonishingly wide array of other apps available and you can’t get the developer to update, it might be wise to start looking into alternative apps that offer the same core functionality. With a little luck, it might even be a free app.


Are you making the most of your browser?

Internet Website Computer Laptop

Ask most folks what an Internet browser is for, and they’ll look at you as though you’ve suddenly grown an extra head. Internet browsers are for browsing the Internet, right?

Well, you’re not strictly speaking incorrect to make that assumption, but the reality is that while browsers grew as a category of software designed for Internet browsing, they’ve long since eclipsed that simple goal, offering a suite of functionalities via either in-page applications or straight up extensions that can take the humble browser in all kinds of directions. You might not want or need to install numerous applications that used to be standalone if you can get your browser to perform the necessary functions instead.

As an example, if you’ve ever used Google Docs to write out a document or even a list, then you’re word processing through your browser. Watching video via YouTube, Netflix or ABC iView in your browser, and it’s a video player. Both examples are essentially frictionless applications using the inbuilt capabilities of your browser of choice, but it’s in the ability to add extensions that you can truly leverage the power of your browser.

The range and scope of extensions is truly remarkable, whether you’re looking to maximise your broadband speed by using caching extensions such as Google’s Data Saver, create a to-do list with Any.do or just manage your spiralling quantity of open tabs with any number of different tab management applications. Most password managers also incorporate in-browser extensions that make it simple to autofill secure passwords for you on demand, keeping you safer than the still-all-too-common practices of using single passwords for multiple services, or for that matter using dictionary words for the same purpose.

Not that extensions are all flowers and sunshine. You’ve got to be careful with what you install and why, because each extension adds a certain performance load to your computer when it’s running. Poorly written or maintained extensions can pose security risks, so before you do install, read around to see if other users have complaints or if a particular extension has had any bad press lately.

Make sure you keep your extensions updated on a regular basis, because again they’re refined not only for security, but also performance and often new functionality as well. The same advice applies to browsers themselves, especially if you’re still using older browsers such as Internet Explorer (abandoned by Microsoft in favour of its newer Edge browser) or previous versions of Chrome or Safari. Browser attacks are on the rise, and old, unpatched browsers are a hacker’s delight.

While you’re pondering on extensions, it’s also worthwhile having a look at what the browser competition is doing these days. If you’ve only ever used a single browser type, be it Chrome, Edge, Internet Explorer or any other , have a look at what’s being done by the browsers you haven’t tried, such as Firefox, Opera or Safari.

You might find a browser approach that suits your PC better, and even if you don’t they’re simple and free downloads that are easily uninstalled if they don’t suit your needs. Competition for features and above all speed means that you don’t have to put up with a browser clogging up your computer’s precious resources any longer.


Microsoft’s revamped Surface Pro promises all-day battery life

microsoft-surface-pro

Since the inception of its Surface line of tablet and 2-in-1 PCs, Microsoft has had to toe a careful line. It has high aspirations for its own in-house hardware lines(Can a bigger Surface tempt you into Microsoft’s tablet vision?), but at the same time the larger Microsoft group doesn’t exactly want its other hardware partners to abandon Windows if they can’t see a way to sell laptops and desktops running the world’s most widely used operating system.

As such, Microsoft has usually used the launch of a new Surface device as something of an example of what can be done with its newest operating systems. A reference platform in other words, and it’s that reasoning that, up until recently, Microsoft used to explain why its popular Surface Pro 4 tablet PCs hadn’t been updated for a couple of years. Microsoft wasn’t interested in talking in public about a presumed Surface Pro 5, even though it had released other Surface devices such as the designer-centric Surface Studio or the very fancy Surface Book With Performance Base laptop line. More recently, it announced the Surface Laptop line, an education-centric laptop initiative running a specialised version of Windows 10 called Windows 10S. Windows 10S will only run apps available from the Windows Store itself, which should in theory make them more secure devices, albeit at the cost of a lot of flexibility when it comes to installing applications.

Amongst all this action, Surface Pro as a concept was seen as something that Microsoft would only update when there was enough of a technology reason to do so.

Microsoft then surprised the technology world by announcing an update to the Surface Pro 4. It wasn’t the Surface Pro 5, however, because it appears that Microsoft simply wants to use the Surface Pro name from now. So in the range of tablet/2-in-1 devices that it will launch in Australia in mid-June, they’ll be sold simply as “Surface Pro”. Come across a Surface Pro with a number, and it’s a much older device, in other words.

While there’s evidence of some tinkering with the innards, the key takeaway from the new Surface Pro line is that users should expect significantly improved battery life from the new laptops. They’re available with 7th Generation Intel Core M, Core i5 and Core i7 processors, depending on how much you want to spend. I’m yet to get proper hands-on time with the new tablets, but Microsoft’s own testing suggests that up to 13.5 hours of continuous video playback is possible on the Core i5 models, which roughly equates to an all-day battery life unless you really push it hard. For a portable device like the Surface Pro it’s a fine achievement. Being in-house, Microsoft also has greater control over the internal hardware, so they’re devices that should see more rapid large-scale Windows updates, avoiding the issues we saw around the Windows 10 Creators Update recently. (Windows 10 Creators Update). For the artistic types, there’s a new version of the Windows Pen to go with the new Surface Pros, although it’s no longer included in the box, so if you’re keen on its new 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity, you’ll have to cough up extra to own one.

In line with its positioning as premium devices, though, pricing on the new Surface Pros isn’t exactly bargain basement. The entry level Core m3 version costs $1199, but that’s a rather basic machine. You’d be better served with the Core i5 versions, which run from between $1,499 up to $1999 depending on configuration, or if you need a much more powerful machine, the Core i7 versions, which start at $2,499 all the way up to $3,999. That kind of money could buy you pretty much any other Windows laptop, or in some cases, several.


Are telco services getting worse, or are we getting wiser?

You can’t get onto the Internet in any reliable way in Australia without dealing with a telecommunications company in some respect, whether you opt for a fixed line broadband service via ADSL, Cable or NBN, or simply utilise mobile broadband services.

When these services work and you’re correctly billed, everything is fine and dandy. But if you’re not getting the service you paid for, whether it’s a mistaken bill or a services that drop out or don’t deliver their promised speeds, it’s time to complain.

In every instance, you should register your complaint or complaints with the provider you’re signed up for so that they’re aware that there is an issue, and try to rectify it if feasible.

But what do you do if issues continue, or if your telco refuses to fix matters or even admit that there’s been a problem? That’s where the telecommunications industry ombudsman comes into play. If you cannot resolve an issue between yourself and your telco, the TIO acts as the third party arbitrator for all kinds of telecommunications issues in Australia.

It is important to note that the TIO won’t even take your compliant without clear evidence that you’ve attempted to resolve any issues with your provider first, and given them clear time to effect some kind of resolution. You can’t simply head to the TIO the first time your broadband goes down. But if you’ve been struggling with a terrible connection for months that your provider refuses to admit is an issue, and can prove you’ve contacted them multiple times to try to resolve the issue, then the TIO is very much the logical and appropriate next step. If you are struggling with an ongoing complaint with your telco, it’s even worth mentioning that you may take the complaint to the TIO to your provider. The cost of complaints is borne by the telcos, so it’s in their interest to settle matters more rapidly than the TIO process takes.

Still, it’s a step that an increasing number of Australians are undertaking, especially for Internet services. In its most recent report (Complaints about phone and internet services), the TIO notes that for the six month period to December 2016, it saw a 53.6% rise in complaints relating to Internet services. A total of 24,641 complaints were received during this period relating to Internet services, with a 117.5% growth in complaints relating specifically to NBN services over the same time last year. While that’s a very obvious rise, the TIO does note that it’s actually slower than the rate of availability for NBN services, suggesting that while there may be teething issues with NBN service, provision, they’re perhaps being solved more rapidly than new customers come onto the network.

That suggests that while Australian broadband is still something of a basket case (and in global terms, it undoubtedly very much is), we’re both getting more savvy about asserting our rights when it comes to service provision while services themselves are improving, even if not quite at the rate they ought to.


WanaCrypt0r 2.0 shows the destructive power of malware

wanna cry hacker malware

A lot of computer users tend to think of malware as a problem that affects other people, and especially people who were doing something that they shouldn’t. Download a dodgy file, or open a dodgy website, and you’re asking for trouble, goes the conventional thinking.

I’m certainly not going to argue that either of those acts are an entirely sensible way to keep your computer safe, but as recent malware attacks have shown, even systems that you would think would be the safest around can be compromised.

The recent WanaCrypt0r 2.0 attack hit around the world, affecting computers in at least 99 countries and causing a not inconsiderable amount of havoc across systems owned by everyone from auto makers to Britain’s public health system, the NHS. More than 20 British hospitals were thrown into relative chaos with non-essential surgeries cancelled and staff going back to simple paper systems due to a wide range of their computer systems being compromised by the malware, which locks down unpatched systems and demands money be paid to an as-yet unknown group of hackers. Given the serious and severe impact of WanaCrypt0r 2.0, hopefully they won’t be unknown too much longer. WanaCrypt0r 2.0 spreads via a known Windows exploit into a network and then seeks out any other security holes to spread as far and wide as possible. The scale of WanaCrypt0r 2.0 is, frankly, the most alarming part of it, because while this kind of malware, usually called ransomware is nothing new, getting it to hit so many systems and quite so fast is a worrying indication of where we’re headed in the future, security-wise.

Even if you don’t run a larger-scale IT system, there are some rather simple lessons that can and should be learned from WanaCrypt0r 2.0’s spread.

Firstly, assuming that just because your internet usage is simple and steers clear of the net’s, shall we say, murkier side is automatically keeping you safe is really sticking your head into the sand. I’ve little doubt that many of the places hit by WanaCrypt0r 2.0 had implemented protocols to keep unsavoury sites or activities locked down, and they were still hit, and hard.

Secondly, a big part of the way that WanaCrypt0r 2.0 spread was by attacking known security holes, many of which have been patched with Windows updates. Microsoft has gone as far as releasing patches for operating systems that they had in fact stopped supporting some time ago, simply to contain WanaCrypt0r 2.0’s spread. This goes all the way back to Windows XP systems, and if you’re running one of those and you’re still online, it would be very wise to both patch your operating system and seriously consider upgrading the operating system overall. Likewise, as new updates become available, it’s imperative that you keep installing them. It’s a nuisance to boot your PC to see that updating screen, but it’s better than not being able to boot your computer at all.

The systems not hit by WanaCrypt0r 2.0 were those that were patched, by and large, as well as protected by decent (and upgraded) antivirus software. It’s a sad, but necessary price of being online in this day and age, ultimately.

Now, if WanaCrypt0r 2.0 had attacked a previously unknown vulnerability (typically called a zero day attack, because the vendor of the software has had that much notice about the problem) then no amount of patching or AV would have stopped it. That’s why the final lesson that every user, whether you’re running large scale systems or just your own laptop or desktop should take seriously is backup. Yeah, it’s dull, and you do need to invest in an external drive or cloud backup solution. Preferably both, but the reality here is that if the worst comes to pass and you power up your system only to find it’s been entirely locked down or otherwise compromised, if you have backup of your actual personal content, you can always rebuild from there. WanaCrypt0r 2.0’s makers have apparently not made that much from the attack, and at least in the case of its impact on UK hospitals it appears that backups were made. That makes it an annoyance and a waste of time and money, but it’s a lot better than losing everything because you weren’t prepared for it. A good backup will protect you not only from computer hardware faults, but also malware that’s becoming all too common.


Do your sums carefully before leasing a phone

For decades businesses have been leasing equipment that they either lacked the funds to buy outright, or in situations where outright ownership didn’t make sense over the longer term. There are certain business tax differences with leasing that also came into play to make it an attractive proposition under specific circumstances.

For consumers, however, leasing technology goods outside of those specific retailers who make it their stock in trade (and, who on comparative grounds, often charge a pretty penny for the privilege) hasn’t really been a big option. Most consumer technology gear isn’t in the stratospheric ranges that IT (or other equipment) leases have considered.

More recently, however, two of the nation’s biggest telcos have added leasing options to their contract mobile phone plans. Telstra kickstarted the move with lease options (Telstra Go Mobile Swap) on a range of phones, and more recently Optus has taken up the leasing mantle (Optus My Plan Flex) for a smaller range of premium smartphones. The key benefit they push is that a leased mobile plan is somewhat cheaper than a standard contract mobile plan.

It’s worth doing your sums and considering your actual usage of the phone in question before signing on the dotted line, however. While the amount you’ll save varies a little depending on the handset and plan you pick, the most you’ll save per month with either carrier is $10. Over a two year plan, that means that you’ll save a maximum of $240 over the price paid by somebody taking up the regular version of the same contract with the same calls, texts and bundled data provisions.

$240 is nothing to sneeze at, and it’s certainly tempting to go for a bargain if you can get one. However, it’s what happens at the end of that contract period that you need to consider. On a regular mobile contract, once your term is up, the handset attached to your contract is yours. You can keep using it, give it to a friend or relative, sell it, or if it’s beyond its usage life for whatever reason, put it in for responsible recycling (Mobile Muster). Whatever you do, don’t throw it in the bin. Your phone has particular chemicals and minerals that, to put it politely, aren’t terribly friendly to the waterways, so unless you relish the idea of drinking your phone, recycling is the way to go.

At the end of a phone lease, however, you don’t own the phone at all. Either telco will sell you the handset at what it determines to be the “fair market rate” for that phone, but with mostly premium handsets on offer, it seems unlikely they’ll say the fair market rate will be under $240. If you really do still want the handset, that could prove costly.

You do have the option to hand the phone back to the carrier and walk away, and that has some benefits if you no longer want the device. However, it’s got to be in good working order. Damage, even minor, will attract penalty fees that for either carrier start at $229 (minor screen cracks and the like) all the way up to $499 for more serious problems. Many of us drop our phones, or squash them in bags, or do other terrible things to them unwittingly, especially over a two year period. Just one instance like that could quickly wipe out the supposed $240 saving you’d make on a lease, and while if you opt for a regular contract, you’d still presumably want to fix a serious problem, if you’re already out of contract you don’t have to face that additional fee.

Leasing isn’t for everyone, in other words, so consider carefully. If I was signing up for a leased phone, the very first thing I’d do is go out and buy a decent quality protective case for it. Yes, that will eat into the up-to-$240 saving you’re making over the life of the contract, but it could save you big bucks at the end of the lease term.


Windows 10 Creators Update creates problems for Microsoft

Windows 10 Creators Update

One of the core promises behind Windows 10 was that Microsoft would regularly release quite large updates to keep what’s expected to be a more-or-less perpetually upgraded operating system current. The previous update was dubbed the “Anniversary Update”, while the latest big change is known as the “Windows 10 Creators Update”.

It promises a rich cornucopia of new goodies focusing around creating new content, especially in 3D. As such, stalwarts of the Windows world such as the usually simplistic Paint becomes Paint 3D, a much more powerful application that makes it much easier to create and modify 3D objects. Yes, you still need a modicum of artistic skill to create something eye catching, but it does open up possibilities that were well beyond the older Paint app. For gamers, there’s the Beam facility, somewhat similar to services such as Twitch, as well as a dedicated Game Mode to improve performance even on older machines. Microsoft’s Edge browser gets an update, and features such as book sales (for now, US only) and Dolby Atmos support are also baked into the “new” OS.

If you’re using a device such as the excellent but not exactly inexpensive Microsoft Surface Pro 4, you may already have had the Creators Update pushed to your device. As with other Windows 10 updates, it’s a matter of Microsoft pushing the updates out to your device, typically overnight so as not to interrupt you when you’re doing actual work.

If you’re not running a first-party device such as a Surface, it is possible to push the Creators Update out to your PC manually, and this isn’t a terribly complex process, involving a single app that checks compatibility in exactly the same way that it would have done if you upgraded from Windows 7/8 in the first place before downloading the components needed for the upgrade. Microsoft’s eventual plan is, as with Surface owners, to push the update out to everybody, because, like its more regular security updates, there’s also a slew of performance and security updates hidden behind the interesting new features. It’s generally wise to keep your PC as up to date at least in security terms as possible to avoid headaches from hackers and buggy software.

That being said, Microsoft has started blocking the automatic rollout process to many PCs. That’s because the Windows hardware ecosystem incorporates thousands of individual components. Within your laptop or PC, you may have one of many different processors, graphics cards, sound chips, Bluetooth or Wireless or Wired networking adaptors, hard drives, optical drives and interfaces, to say nothing of the countless different printers, mice and other peripherals that may still be serving you well many years into their service life. That’s a complex brew of drivers (the software that essentially tells Windows that a graphics card is a graphics card, or a printer how to print) and other configuration possibilities. Not all situations will end with software responding as it should, and Microsoft has already identified situations where the Creators Update, if manually applied, may come a clanger. Hence the block on pushed upgrades beyond known hardware configurations. Microsoft designs and sells Surfaces, so it knows what goes into them, but there are many third party manufacturers and self-builders out there, so it’s a complex problem to solve.

So what should you do with regards to the Creators Update? If you’ve not yet had it suggested for your Windows 10 PC, hold tight. It would still be a decent idea to update when the time comes even if new features don’t appeal, simply so you’re on track for those all-important security updates. If you’ve already got the Creators Update and everything is fine, congratulations and enjoy! If you are hitting problems, see if you can pinpoint exactly what’s going wrong. You may be able to upgrade a specific program or driver to full compatibility, or at least contact the provider of the app or hardware to see if they have solutions to hand. Microsoft does have support options open (Windows 10 Creators Update rollout) if you’ve already got the Creators Update running, but even it advises that pushing it out early to potentially unsupported machines and configurations might not be the best step.


Amazon confirms Australian plans, but what will this affect?

amazon

It’s been the worst kept secret in the retail space that Amazon was looking into launching in Australia. For some years now it’s maintained the Amazon.com.au as a way to sell its Kindle e-book readers and ebooks, and more recently as an avenue for its Amazon Prime Video service, headlined by The Grand Tour, a series that’s essentially Top Gear with the previous hosts on board.

Still, Amazon has had larger ambitions for Australia for some time, even though in global terms it would be a very small market for the globally dominant retailer. While rumours circled for some time, Amazon remained relatively quiet until recently, when it made a rather formal announcement around its upcoming plans.

In a statement, Amazon said that “The next step is to bring a retail offering to Australia, and we are making those plans now. We are excited to bring thousands of new jobs to Australia, millions of dollars in additional investment, and to empower small Australian businesses through Amazon Marketplace”

Head to Amazon’s Australian site now and you’re just as likely to be met with a merchant message suggesting you get ready to sell your wares through Amazon Marketplace as you are an Amazon Prime Video advertisement. Amazon is quite serious about Australia, but what will that mean for Australians looking to buy online?

Hopefully, what it will mean is that Australian online retail will be rather more forcibly kicked into the 21st century, because on a global scale, most of our online retailers are woefully underprepared. Pretty much any time there’s a large scale sale, and especially if there’s a given hot commodity item, you can bet that an Australian online store will melt down into oblivion.

The manic consumer interest in Nintendo’s tiny NES Classic just before Christmas last year is a good example. It was the hot toy (and in many cases, nostalgic throwback for 30-40 somethings) of 2016, but supplies were low. Both EB Games and Target tried to manage online sales, only to find their sites utterly swamped every time they tried. Some folks got lucky, but far more were left disgruntled by sites that simply couldn’t cope.

You may not care about videogaming per se, but the reality of what happened there shows how relatively underprepared many Australian online retailers actually are relative to customer expectations. Amazon should push that along nicely, whether it absorbs those merchants into its own marketplace, where third party companies sell their own wares under the Amazon banner, or if it simply forces them to up their own game.

Amazon could also well be a blessing for Australian consumers in more remote and regional areas where existing retail opportunities are more limited by distance. Naturally, if you’re in those areas online shopping is already open to you, but often shipping costs and time delays make it impractical. Setting up warehouse space in Australia should remove most of those barriers.

That’s not to say that Amazon will be all smiles and roses for existing Australian retail. There’s bound to be complaints from some retailers, both big and small, but that’s essentially their problem to adapt and survive. Any business that can’t adapt to a changing market where a competitor can offer better service, whether that’s delivery, availability or pricing isn’t one that’s likely to survive that long without being willing to adapt.


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Predicting the next big thing in technology is always a risky game. There’s always the possibility that you’ll pick the incorrect next big thing, or for that matter assume that current big things will maintain their status well into the future. Watch any Sci-Fi show from the 70s or 80s that references the (then) far… More 

Creative tablet computer with mobile phones cloud of colorful ap

Whether you’re sitting at the bus stop or waiting for a flight, a cloud Office suite ensures that you can always get things done. Getting stuck waiting for something isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes it offers you some much-needed downtime for luxuries like reading the newspaper over coffee. Of course at other times you… More 

virus, phishing, mail,

What’s the most precious part of your business? Depending on your trade, that answer might vary, but when you boil most businesses down to their core, it will usually revolve around money; either the operating capital that keeps you afloat, or the profits that you make on a day by day basis as the result… More 

Apple homepod Amazon echo

With Apple unveiling the Siri-powered HomePod smart speaker, it’s ready to take on Google and Amazon for pride of place on our kitchen benches. As your home fills with smart gadgets you can find yourself constantly jumping between smartphone apps in order to get things done. Smart speakers aim to be the one smart gadget… More