Computer Blog


It's a bumpy road for the Win10 version 2004 rollout


Microsoft’s revised-revised Windows 10 update scheme now entails a “major” release in the first half of the year, followed by a “minor” release in the second half of the year.

The 2020 “major” release - version 2004 - started rolling out a couple of weeks ago, and the problems we’re seeing could fill a book.

Microsoft lists 11 officially acknowledged Known Issues with version 2004. One of them, with the DISM command, has a manual workaround. But if your machine appears to be affected by any of the other 10, Windows Update shouldn’t offer version 2004 just yet - and Microsoft has stern warnings that you shouldn’t try to manually install 2004, if it doesn’t come through Windows Update.

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Apple’s first 5G iPhone 12 will ship late this year


Apple’s first 5G iPhone 12 may not ship until later than normal this year, as the company grapples with COVID-19 supply chain problems, a senior company partner has suggested.

A little later than normal

Broadcom CEO Hock Tan warned investors that his company’s 2020 revenue would be impacted by what he described as a major product cycle delay at “a large North American mobile phone customer,' which is apparently how he has referred to Apple in the past.

Of course, we don’t know he’s discussing Apple, but it seems pretty likely, as most other North American mobile phone firms make relatively inconsequential quantities of devices.

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The critical need for AI digital assistants


One of the fascinating long-term discussions of the future is whether we’re trending toward the world in the book 1984 or Brave New World.  While most of us thought we were on track for Aldous Huxley’s vision, the future envisioned by George Orwell seems more plausible now.

In Brave New World, the problem is one of massive distraction; in 1984, it is all-encompassing misinformation. We could argue that the issues we face today are a blend of the two.  We face increasing phishing schemes and a proliferation of “Fake News,” which opens us to attacks and drives us to make bad decisions. And we are so overwhelmed with disruptions it is very hard to prioritize what we need to do.  Working from home has exacerbated this issue because many of us are now surrounded by pets, children, and chores that demand our attention. 

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Flashback Friday: NOW they get some edge?


It’s the 1990s, and this IT services outfit has a client that sees the writing on the wall for its aging minicomputer, reports a pilot fish on the scene.

“They asked if the software-development side of our company could custom-write a slightly specialized inventory control program for them that would run on a cheap Intel-based server,” says fish.

Negotiations ensue, and soon the client agrees to a rate for development and a final payment after delivery and acceptance.

The development team makes several visits to the client’s business to collect specifications. But the only input the client gives is that the new system needs to look and work exactly like the old program, so no one on staff will have to be retrained.

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The key point most Android vs. iOS arguments miss


In my approximately 97 years of covering Android, I've heard it all:

  • "You can't have privacy if you use Android!"
  • "You can't have security if you use Android!"
  • "You can't get upgrades if you use Android!"
  • "You can't have a good user experience if you use Android!"

All right, so that last one might be a bit of an exaggeration (though only a little). But that aside, these are all shockingly common sentiments you hear not only from tech enthusiasts but also from people who write about this stuff for a living. And I'm here to tell you they're all equally misguided.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook: 'Speaking up on racism'


In an important move, Apple CEO Tim Cook has published an open letter on the company’s website in which he speaks up on racism following the tragic events emanating from Minneapolis.

Face the challenge of change

Responding to the “senseless killing” of George Floyd, Cook pulls no punches, pointing to the longer history of racism.

Observing that discrimination persists across many parts of life, including criminal justice, health and access to education and services, Cook states:

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Wayback Wednesday: Four-letter words


This pilot fish works in an IT group that supports a semiconductor fabrication facility.

“The first step of the manufacturing process was to microscopically etch four-digit serial numbers onto the silicon using a laser,” fish says.

“One day, a microcode change request for the laser machine was made by manufacturing. They were quickly running out of four-digit serial numbers and wanted the laser reprogrammed to use alphanumeric characters.

“The first thought that came to mind was that there are some very offensive words that might be constructed from four alphabetical characters. We asked the factory director if she wanted a filter built into the new program to screen serial numbers using a predefined list of distasteful words.

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5 more hidden Pixel features worth finding


Need a distraction from — uh, you know, everything? I sure do. And there's nothing that puts me in a happy, temporarily oblivious place quite like finding underappreciated features for my favorite Googley gadgets.

Earlier this year, we talked about hidden Pixel features — helpful yet out-of-the-way options just waiting to be discovered in Google's self-made devices. And you'd better believe the things we touched on then are far from the only gems floating around these mobile-tech aquariums.

With Google itself rolling out a fresh wave of Pixel features as we speak (and also the first Android 11 Beta release set to show up sometime soon — though not, as originally scheduled, this week), I thought this would be a fine time to pick up where we left off and make our way through more hidden Pixel features worth uncovering. No matter what generation Pixel you've got, there's something worthwhile waiting here for you.

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iOS feature request: Do Not Disturb Pro


That’s a very strange church


This pilot fish and his team have a customer with a nasty temper, so it isn’t too surprising when fish gets a call from the guy, yelling that his computer is running funny and accusing fish’s team of being the cause. That would be because about two weeks earlier, they had reinstalled Windows for him and basically made everything like new again.

Fish tries to calm the client down, and he does get him to agree to provide his ID and password so fish can log in remotely and take a look at what is going on. Fish looks around and finds several things like bogus antivirus apps that have been installed and are undoubtedly slowing the computer down.

Fish uninstalls those and then asks the client to run through some basic operations to ensure that everything is OK and he’s satisfied. The client says it all looks good, but just hopes it stays that way.

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Podcast: The definitive guide to the best videoconferencing options


Listen as staff writer Charlotte Trueman runs through the findings from her definitive comparison of the leading enterprise videoconferencing software during the pandemic, from WebEx, GoToMeeting and Teams, to Google Meet and Zoom.

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Podcast: The state of UK 5G today


Listen as UK-based Online Editor Hannah Williams lays out the state of 5G connectivity across the UK today and how to feel about those coronavirus conspiracy theories.

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You’ll get more done with these 10 Mac tips


Amid the ongoing distractions of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important to remember  millions are using their Macs every day to get work done. These tips should help you work more efficiently, giving you more time to catch up on everything else.

Use Do Not Disturb

Zoom calls, Teams conferences, phone calls, emails, instant messages, Slack conversations – does anyone else get stressed out that working remotely ends up being so noisy? It’s hard to focus through interruption, so use Do Not Disturb to buy yourself some mental space.

On your Mac, press the Option key and tap the Notifications icon in the top right. You’ll see its color change to light gray, which means Do Not Disturb is activated. Now you’ll receive no application notifications until you enable it again.

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Get your May 2020 Windows and Office patches installed


Headlines scream that you should avoid the May patches. Pshaw. From what I’ve seen they’re largely overblown. Not to say that all is well in patchland – it isn’t. But the situation has stabilized, and I don’t see any reason to hold back on May’s patches.

Of course, I’m assuming that you don’t voluntarily jump down the rabbit hole and join the unpaid beta testers working on Windows 10 version 2004 – the May 2020 Update. It's kicking up all sorts of problems – but that's no reason to hold off on the May patches.

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Memory-Lane Monday: The more things change …


It’s the late 1970s, and this big bank gets some of its computing from the IT services company where this pilot fish works.

“Time-sharing systems were the norm,” says fish. “You used a terminal to communicate over phone lines with a modem, and the terminals were mostly mechanical.

“I got a call from the executive secretary to the CEO of this bank — one of our very large clients. She said, ‘I can’t communicate with your system, and if you don’t fix it right now, we’re going to withdraw all our accounts.’”

It’s a threat that can’t be ignored, so fish calls operations. All was well. That’s when fish starts asking the secretary to try various things like checking her modem, telephone line and so on. This goes on for about five minute before he decides to try the dumb questions.

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Microsoft Patch Alert: May 2020


With most of the fanatical Windows fan base now circling the trough on the just-released upgrade to Windows 10 version 2004, it’s time for those of us who rely on stable PCs to consider installing the May patches.

While the general outlook now is good, we’ve been through some rough patches – which you may, or may not, have noticed.

Unannounced Intel microcode patch triggers reboots

On May 20, Microsoft released another of its ongoing series of “Intel microcode updates,” all named KB 4497165. Ostensibly intended to fix the Meltdown/Spectre security holes, many of them have a history of problems and hassles not commensurate with the amount of protection they provide (unless you’re running a bank transaction system or decrypting top secret emails).

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The HP example: How to do collaboration and remote work right


(Disclosure: HP is a client of the author.)

Remote collaboration products generally aren’t ideal.  We know this because, at least up until recently, employees preferred to fly to events rather than attend them remotely. The fact is that you can’t go now in person and fear of COVID-19 is having a significant impact on that behavior.  However, this pandemic will eventually moderate and, unless something changes, we are likely to still feel we need to be at important meetings in person. 

Over the years, I’ve seen companies try to build in travel penalties, freeze travel budgets, and use other compensation related tools to try to force people to stay off planes and out of cars. But employees revert to old habits after these rules expire and find creative ways around them even when they’re in place. 

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The best way to write Messages on Apple Watch?


When it comes to writing messages, Apple Watch limits you to canned responses, dictation, and Scribble notes. Now you can also manually write more complex messages, thanks to the recently-updated FlickType Keypad.

The little app that does

FlickType is a $1.99 third-party keyboard app designed for iPhone that also works as a gesture/swipe-type keyboard for the Messages app on your Apple Watch. You can use it to write, send and reply to Messages, use the Digital Crown to scroll for alternative words, emojis, and so on. It can be used as a Complication so it can be made available on your watch face – and in fact, you should enable this for best results.

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Flashback Friday: Failover? Well, he got the first half.


IT director at this big insurance company makes a big deal about how much money can be saved by consolidating virtual machines, reports a consultant pilot fish working there.

But fish isn’t so certain it’s a good idea. “Many of us said, ‘Are you sure about failover?’” says fish. “His response was basically, ‘Go away, kid, ya bother me.’

“We finally got all the work done, migrating applications and databases. We got a thank you. Director got promoted — he saved the company $10,000 per month.

“Six weeks after this project completed, the company’s websites — all customer-facing and team-facing access — crashed.

“After some research, it was discovered that the hosting company, under the director’s signature, had put all of the servers, primary and failover, in the same hardware frame, which had a power-supply failure. The company was offline for nearly 30 hours.

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Apple Glass: Apple’s rumored AR glasses


Apple’s new rumored wearable has been getting a lot of buzz. The Apple Glass (or iGlasses… just kidding) will likely be an augmented reality (AR) headset. But what will they look like? Who will use them, and why? Computerworld executive editor Ken Mingis and Macworld’s Michael Simon join Juliet to discuss consumer and enterprise use cases, expected features and how the Apple Glass will integrate with Apple’s existing ecosystem.

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Apple wants AI to make its products smarter


The trouble with data is the sheer quantity of it. IDC once said that if you stored all the data in the world on DVDs you’d have a pile of disks large enough to circle the planet 222 times.

So, how can you winnow junk data out of the stack to make better decisions? That’s one of the problems Apple seems to want to solve.

Inductiv for the rest of us

Apple has confirmed the purchase of a small Ontario-based machine learning start-up called Inductiv with its usual boiler plate statement that it purchases companies like this from time-to-time, and doesn’t want to tell us anything more about it.

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The Android hardware truth Google won't tell you


As the gatekeeper of Android, Google frequently finds itself in an awkward position. The company has its own platform-wide priorities and ways it wants its ecosystems to evolve, but it also has the goals of all the third-party manufacturers that create hardware for those virtual environments to consider.

And guess what? Google's priorities and the desires of the companies making the bulk of the devices don't always align. And that forces Google to do a delicate dance in order to push forward with its own plans without saying anything that'd go directly against a device-maker's interests.

Well, it's time to stop beating around the bush and just say what Google won't openly acknowledge: You should not be buying an Android tablet in 2020. Period.

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Mobile security forces difficult questions


As governments consider COVID-19 contact tracing and its privacy implications, it's not a bad idea for companies to take the opportunity to look more closely at their mobile agreements with employees. (By the way, just this week, Apple rolled out its latest iOS update, which included two COVID-19 updates, according to Apple: "iOS 13.5 speeds up access to the passcode field on devices with Face ID when you are wearing a face mask and introduces the Exposure Notification API to support COVID-19 contact tracing apps from public health authorities.")

Today, IT has to deal with pretty much one of two mobile scenarios: BYOD. where the employee uses the employee's personally owned device to perform enterprise business; and company-owned phones, which is the opposite: A company-owned phone where the employee, even if told not to, will use the phone for personal matters as well as business.

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Apple rejects flawed claims about its contact tracing tech


Even as we consider revelations Facebook shelved internal research suggesting its algorithms generate divisiveness, Apple has been forced to reject damaging claims against its contact tracing tech currently spreading on Facebook.

Exposure Notification is not spying on you

Numerous hysterical myths concerning the Apple/Google contact tracing technology are being circulated on Facebook. A series of posts claim the Exposure Notification feature inside iOS 13.5 will allow authorities to track people’s locations and monitor who they meet – which is precisely what it tries not to do.

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Wayback Wednesday: Of course not


User calls pilot fish and complains, “My PC won’t work for any network applications.”
What happens when you try? fish asks.

“Nothing!” user says. “I just get something like a ‘Network not found’ error.”

Is this affecting anyone else over there? fish asks.

“Nope, just me,” replies user.

Can you try a couple of things for me?

“No, not really. I’m not at my PC and calling from another desk.”


“I just changed cubicles and my phone doesn’t work yet.”

So fish makes the trek to the user’s cube. After a quick inspection of the PC and its connections, he turns to the user. Who reconnected your PC? he asks.

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How to make the most of Android's new Assistant add-on


Sometimes, it's the smallest-seeming announcements that have the biggest real-world impact. And there's no better example of that than a decidedly muted Android- and Assistant-related rollout plopped out by Google just before the U.S. holiday weekend.

You'd be forgiven for failing to notice — or maybe for seeing a passing mention of the news and then just casually scratching your fibula and moving on. Do me a favor, though, and pause all itch-related activity for a moment, because this announcement truly does deserve your attention — especially if you're a fan of potential-filled productivity boosters (and who among us isn't?!).

The item in question is an innocuous-seeming little somethin' called Action Blocks — about as uninspiring of a name as one could imagine, I know. And if most of us needed more reason to ignore it, it showed up as part of a meandering Google blog about "accessibility updates" — which, suffice it to say, isn't exactly the type of topic that screams "HEY! THIS IS A TIME-SAVING, EFFICIENCY-ENHANCING FEATURE FOR EVERYONE!"

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Apple’s big iOS 14 leak is just business as usual


The story is that an early developmental build of iOS 14 has somehow escaped into the wild. So why do we know so little about it?

What happened?

To paraphrase the elements of the claims:

What we know about iOS 14

The strange thing is that despite the operating system apparently being in circulation since February, all we really know about it is this:

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Mystery solved


Company where this pilot fish works is having a bit of a problem with non-deterministic load times in the data warehouse. If the load runs normally, even with heavy volume, everything is done by about 9 a.m., which means management can see their reports just around the time they’re having their morning coffee.

But the load doesn’t always run normally. In fact, a system problem during the night can set things back by as much as six hours, which management finds unacceptable.
So various measures are taken to get the load to run in less time: Users are kicked off the system, priorities are rejiggered and so on.

Nothing works. The load processes just don’t seem to take advantage of the resources made available to them.

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Memory-Lane Monday: Did they say anything about an offer you couldn’t refuse?


After working for a company that provides services to regional automobile dealerships such as sales, financing and inventory-control software, this pilot fish leaves to start his own company.

Shortly after that, he gets a call from a dealership that’s a client of his old employer.

“They heard I now owned a small software-development business,” says fish. “They’re interested in dumping the old company and want to know if I can develop competing software for them.”

That sounds like a good opportunity to expand his business, so fish sets up a meeting.
Turns out the assignment is simple: The dealership wants software just like what fish’s former employer provides.

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Google and Apple release contact tracing app API


Google and Apple delivered their contact tracing app API to public health agencies across the globe. The apps would allow Bluetooth pings between smartphones within six and a half feet of each other. And in theory, these apps would notify you if you had been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. In practice, public health authorities will have to encourage around 60% people in a given state or country to download the app in order to meaningfully conduct contact tracing/exposure notification. Computerworld executive editor Ken Mingis and PCWorld/Macworld’s Michael Simon join Juliet to discuss Apple and Google’s unprecedented collaboration, privacy concerns and how state and federal governments will utilize the API. 

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