Apple has completed a major revamp of what was perhaps the worst part of its mobile suite of software, Apple Maps, with the navigation app serving as a viable alternative to Google Maps.

The redesigned Apple Maps is available for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch with detailed pedestrian data, precise addresses, and better mapping coverage. Apple had subsequently released its fleet of tech-loaded cars that collected data for the Apple Maps improvement by roaming across the world.

While the data are what powers the latest features like "Look Around" which allow the Maps users to virtually travel the streets right on their iPhone, and supposedly Apple's version of Street View.

What are the New Features in Apple Maps?

Besides the "Look Around" feature, another highlight of Apple Maps is the "Flyover" feature that shows photo-realistic 3D imagery of the currently covered 350 cities.

The revamped navigation system builds on several of the existing features, with some new ones such as access to real-time transit information, sharing of trip ETA with friends, flight status, and indoor maps, among others. Albeit, many of the new features in Apple Maps are already available on Google Maps, so doesn't make any new innovations.

However, the company is promising a more secure and privacy USP for Apple Maps, like the Apple Card, which works with Apple Pay or with the laser‑etched titanium card, as Apple Card lives on the iPhone.

How to update Apple Maps on Your iPhone

Apple doesn't require users to sign-in to use Apple Maps, which is only possible for the web version of Google Maps. And the data collected is de-identified, with location information that is stored on Apple server obfuscated using the fuzzing process. So, that is probably a vantage point for Apple Maps users who want more privacy from tracking.

The updated Apple Maps is now live for US users, and in the coming months, will be landing in Europe. If you tap the "Updates" button at the bottom right of the App Store, with "Apple Maps" listed, then it means the new version is available for your region. If it is not listed, then you have to wait for the latest version.

Apple Maps redesigned version rolling out to iPhone/iPad users in the US

Kali Linux serves as the go-to operating system for the cyber-security world by providing bespoke packages like DBeaver and many other such tools that help in Penetration testing, to gather such data as employee details, open ports and domains from different resource locations.

While Offensive Security announced in 2019 about its plan to ditch the root user policy, Kali Linux 2020.1 which is the first release of 2020 launches with a non-root user model, and other major changes. The latest Kali Linux release also comes with improvements and new features including a single image installer made up of fewer images which are available for downloads, like live image and a network installer image.

It means that separate images for all desktop environment has now been discontinued, and users can only choose their desired desktop environment during the installation.

Brief History of the Default Root User

Formerly BackTrack, which in its original form was based on a Slackware live distro intended to run from a CDROM, that was far back in 2006. This model, however has no real update mechanism, with only a bunch of pen testing tools that are live in the /pentest/ directory, which anyone can use as part of assessments.

In the early days, things were not all this sophisticated, so everything just worked as it did. But a lot of these tools either required root access to run or were better ran as root. With the operating system that could be run from a CD, and never to be updated, with lots of tools that needed root access to run, it was an easy decision to have an “everything as root” security model.

But as time went by, there was a number of changes as people were installing BackTrack on bare metal so there was a need for an update mechanism. The move to base BackTrack 5 on Ubuntu instead of Slackware live (February 2011) happened after noticing that many systems were vulnerable to some certain exploit which came out a few weeks prior.

Going Forward

Then it later moved to be a Debian derivative brought about by a host of advantages, including been based on Debian-Testing. Debian seems to have a well earned reputation as one of the most stable Linux distros and Debian-Testing is the development branch of the next version of Debian, which realistically is more stable than several of the mainstream Linux distros.

Over the last few years, more and more users started to run Kali as their day to day operating system, even when not using it for penetration testing full time, including members of the Kali development team.

They obviously don’t run as default root user, as this usage means that default root user is no longer necessary and Kali will be better off moving to a more traditional non-root user security model.

Why Kali Linux 2020.1 Release drops default “root” user for a Non-root User model?

Microsoft Search is a unified enterprise search solution that offers contextual work-related information by sourcing data from Office 365, including: OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, and Exchange. It tends to deliver personalized results which are powered by Microsoft Graph to make search within the organization more effective, and save everyone time.

While the idea is novel, Microsoft's attempt to change the default search engine of Chrome browser to Bing on PCs running Office 365 ProPlus without users consent has been hugely criticized. Albeit, Microsoft's scheme to switch Bing as default browser from Office 365 ProPlus customers' PCs, was perhaps part of Microsoft's Search strategy.

Microsoft Search has become a key component of Microsoft 365, the enterprise subscription bundle for Office 365, which includes Windows 10 and management tools, allowing employees to search for colleagues by simply typing the team name, title, or even office location in the address bar.

Microsoft sought to spread the use of its new search service by enforcing it on enterprise users, those running Office 365, with Chrome as their default browser, even though it knows that the plot could result to serious backlash and possibly, to users rising against the service.

Why the Angst for Microsoft's decision to change the default search engine?

The force-changing of settings on a user's PC for arbitrary reasons, definitely falls under 'unlawful' browser hijacking, which Google has spent significant time blocking hijackers from taking over its browser, and even barring unofficial extensions in the Chrome Web Store from installing, as part of a process to lock down the browser.

Microsoft's attempt to do just what Google has tried to stop is perhaps equating to the unsolicited search engine change practiced by malware makers and scammers.

Microsoft's own policies forbids Browser hijacking

Microsoft's browser extension policy for the old-school Edge states that "All extensions for Microsoft Edge must be deployed from the Microsoft Store," and "The installation must be initiated and completed by the user, using only the user experience provided by Microsoft Edge and the Microsoft Store".

The company's definition of unwanted software includes phrasing that may match how it distributes the Chrome extension. In the support documentation, "How Microsoft identifies malware and potentially unwanted applications," under "Unwanted software," Microsoft said, "Software should obtain your consent before installing." But Microsoft said nothing so far about users consent when it rolled out the update to Office 365 ProPlus.

Microsoft Search for Office 365 ProPlus defaulting to Bing on Chrome browser

Linux latest kernel release version 5.5 is named Kleptomaniac Octopus, and promises improvements in hardware support, including Wake-On-Voice for Google Chromebooks and Logitech keyboard driver, along with improved Thunderbolt and Ice lake USB power management.

Linux 5.5 also brings many changes to the file system like XFS, ext4 and exFAT; while Ext4 has direct I/O via fscrypt and iomap support for smaller block sizes. And VMs on Microsoft Hyper-V, can finally hibernate, and kernel concurrency sanitizer gets spotting data race conditions.

The support for gaming hardware includes AMD OverDrive overclocking support using the Navi GPUs with significant changes to the Linux kernel’s scheduler that ensures better performance for Linux gamers.

Hardware Support Improvements in Linux 5.5

Notable among the hardware improvements in Linux 5.5 are support for the Raspberry Pi 4 / BCM2711, with various performance enhancements, including support for reporting NVMe drive temperatures, new Logitech keyboard driver, AMD HDCP support for content protection, introduction of KUnit for unit testing, and new RAID1 modes.

Other improvements and changes includes: Support for toggling ASPM link states individually for better power-savings when connected where the driver by default blocks ASPM. And Ice Lake USB power management improvement, the ability to boot modem processor on the Snapdragon 835 SoC (which is important for both cellular and WiFi support), and System76 ACPI Coreboot laptop driver support.

Additionally, on the laptop front are Huawei improvements, Thunderbolt improvements and officially deprecating the EEPROM driver and the highlight char/misc changes. And the new WFX WiFi driver for Silicon Labs WF200 ASICs.

Enhanced Security on Linux 5.5

Linux 5.5 livepatching infrastructure is now able to track the system state for better patch handling/compatibility. With the dropping of the SYSCTL system call, and reworked AMD IOMMU driver code, and security fixes continuing until 2038.

Besides the last-minute network driver fixes, Linux 5.5 also include several other improvements, with the support for new and upcoming hardware platforms like Raspberry Pi 4 and Chromebooks.

In the brief announcement by Linus Torvalds, he also mentioned the opening of the merge window of Linux 5.6 right from the next day of release. You can download the latest Linux kernel 5.5 from the Linux Kernel Archive.

What's new in Linux Kernel 5.5 & Hardware Support Improvements?

Canonical, the developer of Ubuntu is about now rounding up with the development of the next Long-term support (LTS) release, Ubuntu 20.04, which follows on Ubuntu 19.10, whose support is scheduled to end in July 2020; Ubuntu 20.04 as LTS release will get major updates and improvements until 2030.

While Ubuntu is an open-source Linux distribution based on Debian, which is released in three editions: Server, Desktop, and Core, with all editions able to run on computer alone, or in a virtual machine.

The codename for Ubuntu 20.04 is 'Focal Fossa' - with the word 'Focal' meaning 'most important part', while Fossa is a cat-like predator that is native to the island of Madagascar, as fans of the film Madagascar may already know. Canonical usually follow a 25-week schedule for the October releases and for April, a 27-week schedule. So, the life cycle of Ubuntu 20.04 will include the 27-week release schedule.

Updates & Release schedule for Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

As Canonical publishes new releases of Ubuntu, it tends to help the community, and developers to plan with certainty on new open source upstream capabilities available with the latest releases.

The Long Term Support (LTS) releases are published every two years in April, and as LTS releases are the ‘enterprise grade’ releases of Ubuntu, with an estimated 95% of all Ubuntu installations as LTS releases, and over 60% of large-scale production clouds running on Ubuntu 18.04, 16.04 and 14.04 LTS, which are the most popular OSes so far.

And every six months in between the LTS versions, Canonical pushes an interim release of Ubuntu, with 18.10 being the latest of such instances. These releases are production-quality grades and supported for their lifespan, with sufficient time for users to update, albeit the releases don't receive the long-term commitment of LTS releases.

Major Features of Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

The release date is scheduled for April 23, 2020, meanwhile Canonical has already revealed the major changes that will be coming with the Ubuntu 20.04 release.

Among the notable features for Ubuntu 20.04 is support for Linux kernel 5.4 which provides the latest kernel features, such as lockdown mode and exFAT support, with improvements to the ZFS support which was introduced in 19.10 release, though it is still an experimental feature.

Additional features include, upgrade to GNOME from v3.34 to v3.36, some gaming-related improvements and Fractional scaling in the Xorg sessions.

If you wish to upgrade to Ubuntu 20.04 and currently using Ubuntu 18.04 or 19.10, you can do so directly by following the guide provided here. And if you’re still stuck on the 16.04, you'll need to upgrade to 18.04 first before you can upgrade to 20.04.

Upcoming Features, Codename and Release Date for Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

TrickBot proved that the hallowed Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection defense system isn't quite foolproof last year, as the malware variant was able to disable Windows Defender by deploying some of its own tricks, such as the deletion of the WinDefend service.

The earlier havoc wreaked on Windows users by the disabling of Windows Defender, includes infecting nearly 250 million Google accounts, but this time it has resurfaced with the new capability of stealing Windows Active Directory credentials. This latest trait of the infamous Trojan makes it even more lethal as far as security is concerned.

TrickBot has a new module dubbed “ADll” which executes a set of commands to steal Windows Active Directory information, with the new module haven been discovered by Sandor Nemes, a security researcher from Virus Total.

How the Trojan Steals Windows Active Directory Credentials?

As Windows administrators use the command named ifm (install from media) to create a dump of Active Directory, this command also creates an installation media used for setting up Domain Controllers.

The Trojan's new ADll module is able to abuse the ifm command to create copy of the Windows Active Directory database, with the database dumped into the %Temp% folder, which the bot then forwards to the malware creator. And the data can be used to infect other computers in a network and also used by other malware that are looking out for such vulnerabilities.

The State of Windows Active Directory Credentials

The Active Directory database is created when the server acts as a domain controller and it's saved to the default C:\Windows\NTDS folder on the domain controller, with information like passwords, users, and groups of Windows Active Directory stored in a file called ntds.dit within this database.

But since this information is highly sensitive, Windows encrypts it using BootKey which it then stores in the System component of the Registry.

Normal file operations can't access the BootKey, administrators make use of a special tool called ntdsutil when performing database maintenance to access the ntds.dit database.

It is recommended that Windows 10 users should ensure that the “Tamper Protection” feature is enabled, even though the feature remains ‘On’ by default, as the malware is capable of disabling it and if it is enabled, Windows 10 users shouldn't be so much worried about the Trojan.

The Infamous Trojan, TrickBot can now steal Windows Active Directory credentials

Kaisen Linux is a dedicated system rescue operating system based on Debian GNU / Linux distribution, with tons of network and web testing tools for network administrators to cover the needs for diagnosing, and troubleshooting of the system installations.

While system administrator are saddled with lots of responsibilities, which duties include disaster recovery, hardware maintenance, system security management, and several others. And keeping the system running securely require several tools that may become overwhelmingly frustrating to install and configure; so Kaisen Linux was launched to solve the complexity problem.

Started by Linux developer, Kevin Chevreuil, the development of Kaisen Linux has reached the stage of public beta, which is now released for testing and to help suggest flaws which will be fixed before the final release.

Some Major Features in Kaisen Linux Beta

The desktop view has many system variables displayed to give you live wallpaper feel and also allows you to directly monitor it. While the system variables, includes CPU status, temperatures, swap space, disk storage, processes, network interfaces, and battery status, which are all prominently displayed on the desktop using Conky, a free system monitor tool. The major features are as follows:

  • Multi-user graphic profile to the root session
  • Improved terminal and more intuitive
  • Integration and Support for UEFI with Secure Boot
  • Addition of the installer in expert and rescue mode
  • Live mode boot, including USB and encrypted persistence
  • Installed rtl and iwl firmware to support Realtek and Intel Wi-Fi drivers
  • Addition of Guymager tool

All the system variables are available via the themes, which also is what Conky uses to work. And Kaisen Linux use the Mate desktop environment by default with the two panels that include bars running along the top and bottom of the screen.

Where & How to download Kaisen Linux?

If you are a system administrator and wants to give Kaisen Linux a try, and test the integrated tools of this system rescue Linux distribution, you can download the Kaisen Linux ISO and if there is a problem with the installation of the GRUB on UEFI during system installation of the beta version, you can follow the procedure as listed on this page.

Kaisen Linux comprises over 100 integrated tools in several categories (including network tools, data recovery, disk cloning, and so forth), which tools can be used for various purposes such as the modification of the hard disks, to save the data or to repair the file system and recover data, and reactivation of the boot manager, among others.

Kaisen Linux: A Dedicated System Rescue Linux Distribution based on Debian 9

Opera Software has made an inroad into Africa with a plethora of mobile services, and just recently, it has expanded into loan apps to help in bringing extra revenue, but the extortionate interest rates and repayment threshold may have resulted a violation of Google’s Play Store policies.

Opera currently runs three loan apps in Africa, namely OKash, OPay, and OPesa, which are supposedly aimed at alleviating the deficit of lending culture in those climes, but the vast majority of the loans are disbursed via the Android apps, which line of business poses a risk of disappearing or being severely impacted if Google ultimately takes a punitive action.

The supposed violation of Google’s Play Store policies, according to Hindenburg Research, stems from the fact that Opera describes the loans’ interest rates as between 12 per cent and 33 percent maximum per annum, which the actual rate is about 365 to 438 percent. And these figures are worsened if repayments come late by even a single day, raising it to about 876 per cent.

As can be seen from the Opera OPay loan description above, the loans are offered over 91 to 365 days, while the actual duration range from just seven days to a maximum of 29 days, which is significantly lower than the 60-day minimum contained in Google's policies page for such apps on its Play store.

Opera’s loan apps exhibited the same misleading description that looks to be rather in compliance, but obviously in violation of Google’s Terms, with the claimed loan length on the Google Play Store versus the actual loan length for Opera’s lending apps.

Albeit, the company refuted the Hindenburg claims in the Opera Investor Relations official website, stating that the report contains "numerous unsubstantiated statements, and misleading conclusions." Opera says it is aware of and has carefully reviewed the report and believes that the report contains misleading interpretations regarding the business of and events relating to the Company.

Opera has recently scaled multiple new mobile-focused businesses and has continued to post financial growths, and intends to continue leveraging its large user base of over 350 million users for additional growth.

Why Opera's loan apps could be in violation of Google’s Play Store policies

Google has announced a highly monumental change to its Chrome browser, which over the course of next two years, it will phase out support for third-party cookies.

The hint on the crumbling of tracking cookie has definitely raised a lot of arguments among advertisers and publishers, as it will make a big mess for online marketing. While cookies are the little piece of codes used by advertisers to track what web users are doing online, so that they can serve targeted ads based on the sites they visit or what they've previously searched for on the web.

Google stressed that its goal for this initiative is to make the web more private and secure for all users. It had earlier launched an open source initiative known as Privacy Sandbox, which is a set of open standards to fundamentally enhance privacy on the web.

Albeit, the Privacy Sandbox will serve as an ad-supported web in a way that renders third-party cookies obsolete, the approach will help to address the needs of web users, publishers, and advertisers alike.

How Advertisers will be impacted by changes to Chrome third-party tracking?

The fact that Chrome browser is the most dominant of the lots, with statistics pointing to about two billion installation and one billion people using the browser each month, means that any changes to the ecosystem will drastically affect the digital advertising world.

And Google’s business model has heavily relied on data collection, given that the search giant is the dominant player in online advertising and it’s opt-in version of Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) may become the ultimate spun for cookies, which may will likely lead to some antitrust issues.

Since Apple (Safari) and Mozilla (Firefox) implemented the changes to their browsers, about 40% of third party cookies have already been wiped out. In that programmatic ecosystem, it means advertisers will be unable to personalize content or serve targeted ads for almost half of their audience.

Now, imagine the impact of large scale blocking of cookies that Chrome will unleash, and how it will undermine publisher’s most profitable revenue stream?

What are the Good News about the Crumbling of Cookies?

There are mostly good news, if you're a user because the end of third-party cookies is generally good for your privacy. Albeit perhaps, there is a caveat, in that it isn't entirely clear how Google intends to provide a privacy-protected browsing experience that also ensures that ads are targeted.

And the fact that some less-ethical advertisers will resort to other types of more nefarious tracking techniques, like the browser and device fingerprinting. These technologies evades the blockade by creating a profile of web users based on data sent by the browser about their device, operating system, location, and some other unique identifiers.

However, the latest Firefox browser has fingerprint blocking turned on by default. And Google is working on its own techniques to detect and mitigate covert tracking and workarounds by the use of new anti-fingerprinting measures to discourage these kinds of intrusive and deceptive techniques, scheduled to launch later this year.

What Google's hint on End of Cookies for Chrome means for Digital Advertising

Microsoft's use of open source tools to ensure high-quality software and services, led them to recognize the inherent risks in trusting such open source software. So they've created a free source code analyzer called Microsoft Application Inspector to help in identifying some interesting features and metadata, such as the use of cryptography, and whether it connects to any remote entity.

The tool will help developers by highlighting security issues on the deployment of open source components like libraries during the reuse of code, as they need to understand what exactly all the external software components does, before placing trust in each of the several contributors to the components.

While Microsoft Application Inspector differs from the more typical analytics in that it's not limited to detecting just poor programming practices, but also surfaces interesting characteristics in the codebase that would otherwise be difficult to identify through the manual introspection.

Different Use Cases for Microsoft Application Inspector

Microsoft Application Inspector covers hundreds of feature detection patterns involving many popular programming languages, with support for the following characteristics: Application frameworks, Cloud APIs, Cryptography, Data types, Operating system functions and Security features for authentication and authorization.

The Application Inspector is used to identify key changes to a given component’s feature set, from version to version, which can indicate such things as increase in attack surface to malicious backdoor. It can also be used to identify high-risk components and those with some rather suspicious features requiring additional scrutiny.

It's cross-platform compliant, meaning the command-line tool can produce output in multiple formats, including JSON and interactive HTML, as can be seen in the HTML report below.

The different icon in the report represents a feature that's identified in the source code, which feature report is further expanded on the right-hand side, and you are able to view the source code snippets by clicking on any of the links.

Getting started with Application Inspector

Microsoft Application Inspector is designed for use by an individual or at scale, and fully capable of analyzing millions of lines in source code from components built from different programming languages, which process is simply not feasible to attempt to do manually.

Using Application Inspector is fairly simple, since it is open source, cross-platform (.NET Core), and available for download on GitHub.

Microsoft Application Inspector: An Open-Source, Free Source Code Analysis tool

There is a growing emphasis on alternative security mechanisms to the regular Password, such as Titan keys, the phishing-resistant two-factor authentication devices that protect high-value customers from the most sophisticated cyber-attacks.

While the Titan keys is highly effective as a security mechanism, the downside remains that you'll need to carry the physical key, which in any situation it gets lost, you'll be locked out from your online activities. However, Google had provided backup with an extra key that can help you gain temporary access to your account, until the recovery which can take days or even weeks.

And just recently, Google also made it possible for Android users to turn their devices into physical security keys, which feature requires devices running Android OS version 7+ with Bluetooth and location services fully enabled. Now, this same capability has been extended to iPhone users, with Google’s Smart Lock app for iOS that allow iPhone users to use their device as a physical 2FA security key for logging into Google’s first-party services using Chrome browser.

How Smart Lock app for iOS works?

The Smart Lock app works with iPhone to enable Google’s Advanced Protection Program, which is perhaps the strongest protection against phishing or other cyber attacks. The program also supports physical security keys, like the Titan keys, while the iPhone functionality makes use of the device processor’s Secure Enclave, which is employed to securely store the device’s private keys.

The feature was first available starting with the iPhone 5S, and requires iOS 10 or later to function. For the new iPhone support, it appears to be limited to authenticating of Google logins from the Chrome browser, as other browsers create an extra step in the login process, requiring an alternative 2FA option.

How to use Your iPhone as a physical Security Key

Firstly, you’d need to download and set up Google’s Smart Lock app, then enable the Bluetooth on your iPhone and tap the button in Google’s app to authenticate before the login to your laptop is completed.

If you attempt to log in to Google services, say, via a laptop, it will generate a push notification for your iPhone.

The process is quite similar to the Google security prompt functionality, but the difference is that the Smart Lock app works via Bluetooth, instead of connecting through the internet. As such, the device will need to be in close proximity to your laptop for authentication to take place, which is another layer of security for your online accounts.

How to use Your iPhone as physical Security Key for online transactions

The deadline for support is January 14, 2020, as such Windows 7 reached its end of life (EOL) yesterday. So going forward, it will no longer receive security updates, which leaves the aged operating system open to malware and susceptible to attacks.

While Windows 7 was released back in 2009, making it exactly 10 years since it debuted to replace the much criticized Windows Vista, which was rather too slow as a result of "software bloat" adding so several features to its programs that the code becomes huge and unwieldy.

Windows 7, no doubt, has been the daily driver for many people who are yet to go for Windows 8/8.1/10, with over 400 million of such PCs across the globe still stuck to the aged operating system.

What is the fate of users still stuck to Windows 7?

Microsoft figuratively told Window 7 not to let the door hit it on the way out, which perhaps should have been directed to the users instead. As support for Windows 7 comes to an end, it is recommended that users should transition to the newer options right away.

Though, it may seem the situation can be manageable in the real world, but it leaves such users vulnerable to attacks, with all security updates halted for PCs running the OS; albeit business customers running Windows 7 Pro and Enterprise editions, have Extended Security Updates (ESU) for up to 3 years if they are willing to pay an annual fee.

For regular users, there is still the free Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade offer available, allowing those with Windows 7 license key to upgrade to 10 at no extra cost. And the good news, almost 99% of Windows 7 apps are compatible with Windows 10, so users don’t have to worry about incompatibility issue.

How to Backup Your Data for Free before the Migration

During or after such software upgrades, most people tend to encounter problems which will force them to go back to the previous version. And many Windows users don’t know how to go back to previous versions from Windows 10, considering all the technicalities.

If perhaps, you encounter any problem while upgrading to Windows 10, either it messes up your PC settings; EaseUS System GoBack will help you to go back to a previous version of Windows and reset your system easily as it has all your data backed up.

What To Do Now that Windows 7 Is Officially Dead? How to Backup Your Data

Microsoft in a bid to attract the Firstline Workforce to use its Teams collaboration software has introduced a walkie-talkie feature, which offers push-to-talk (PTT) option to be integrated with Samsung’s new Galaxy XCover Pro handset.

While the Samsung's Galaxy XCover Pro is a rugged handset that is supposedly made for frontline workers across a variety of industries, which completely re-imagines what the enterprise-ready smartphone should be like, delivering rugged, but still stylish device for both field and customer-facing settings.

The strategy to hook businesses on the Teams service also follows Microsoft's move to establish a repository for documentations that any worker needs to work on the platform, with the addition of about 140 business apps, and the availability of 2GB per user file limit means ample storage for each user.

Why the Galaxy XCover Pro makes a perfect fit for Teams?

The Galaxy XCover Pro builds on Samsung's premium legacy features which includes immersive display, long-lasting battery and security by Samsung Knox platform.

It challenges the status quo with optimization for a broad range of industries including healthcare, retail, manufacturing and logistics. With its modern-styled light form factor, the Galaxy XCover Pro offers more than a traditional enterprise-ready device; it is the sleekest rugged all-in-one mobile device currently available in the market.

The smartphone is also IP68 water and dust resistant, meaning it is capable of withstanding water drops of up to 1.5m, even without a case, and MIL-STD 810G certified for protection against extreme humidity, altitude, and other hash environmental conditions. And the Pogo pin charging support and compatibility with other third-party charging docks will ensure that the phone is amply powered as soon as the workday begins, coupled with a 4,050mAh battery that promises to last all day. For times when more power is required, there is room for battery replacement – simply pop in a spare to keep going.

And the fact that the device is enhanced with unique partner-enabled mobility solutions for use in a wide range of business scenarios, including the ability to integrate the walkie talkie capability in Microsoft Teams.

More About Teams walkie-talkie feature

Unlike traditional walkie-talkies, the feature is a no risk for cross-talk or eavesdropping, and it relies on Wi-Fi or cellular data, which can be used across different geographic locations, as well. It will be available in preview “in the first half of the year,” is designed to help in reducing the number of devices carried by workers and perhaps, cut IT costs.

And the combination of Microsoft Teams and Galaxy XCover Pro will provide firstline workers everywhere with the technology they really need to be more productive, with effective collaboration and security at hand.

Microsoft Teams walkie-talkie function for Samsung's Galaxy XCover Pro handset

Amazon has launched a new toolkit for automated machine learning, AutoGluon, as an open source project designed to make it easier for developers to incorporate deep learning models into their applications.

AutoGluon will serve as an easy-to-use and easy-to-extend auto machine learning (AutoML) with focus on deep learning and real-world applications including text, image, or tabular data. And it is intended for both beginners and experts in machine learning, as it allows quick prototype to deep learning solutions for data with few lines of code.

It leverages on automatic hyper-parameter tuning, model selection / architecture search, and data processing, while automatically utilizing the state-of-the-art deep learning techniques without requiring expert knowledge.

Amazon claims the deployment of deep learning models with state-of-the-art inference, means accuracy will typically require no extensive expertise. As such developers that have had to invest a considerable effort into training deep learning models, now can be rest assured of a ready-made toolset for their application development.

Despite advancements with the Keras library, more easily specifying parameters and layers in deep learning models, developers still have to grapple with complex issues like data pre-processing and hyper-parameter tuning. AutoGluon is intended to fully democratize deep learning and make machine learning more easily available to all developers.

AutoGluon will leverage on available compute resources to locate the strongest model within the allotted runtime. While Python 3.6 or Python 3.7 is required, AutoGluon support is limited to Linux, with MacOS and Windows support still in the works.

It is currently available for tinkering from the project website or GitHub, for developers who want to deep their feet in the waters, even as it guarantees to enable them to produce high-performance neural networking model with as little as three lines of code.

Amazon’s new toolkit, AutoGluon to automate machine learning for developers

Everyone knows how strongly guarded Apple’s garden is, with the new image format for iOS 11, HEIC or HEIF (High-Efficiency Image Compression or Image File) not supported on Windows or Android devices, which is a tremendous loss for users on these devices.

And to further compound the woes of users on both Windows and Android, there are currently no native converter for HEIC Files, which may perhaps take many more years, if ever there will be a native support for it; but at present, there are some few options available for users of the unsupported devices.

While there are numerous software tools that can convert HEIC files into the regular .jpg and .png formats, HEIC File Converter for Windows is one software that is completely free and that enable users to convert HEIC photos to jpg/png/pdf in just 3 steps.

Unique Features of HEIC File Converter for Windows

  • Drag & Drop options
  • Easy-to-use Interface
  • Easily Convert HEIC to JPG/PNG/PDF
  • Retention of EXIF Metadata
  • Supports Color profiles & Wide-gamut
  • 100% Free

Steps to Convert HEIC Files to JPEG on Windows

To use this app, simply download and install it on your Windows PC, which should not take more than 20MB of your PC's storage space, and there's even a portable online version available on the official website.

Step 1: Upload your Image to HEIC File Converter.

Step 2: Configure the File by Setting the format and target folder.

Step 3: Click the "Convert" button to process the Image.

The software has an easy and self-explanatory interface, with designated section for dragging & dropping of the images, as well as an options menu whereby users can choose to convert the HEIC file to either PNG, JPG, or PDF. And the process takes only a few seconds and requires no Internet connection.

The app is absolutely free with no strings attached, and supports all versions of Windows including XP/7/8/10, which conversion uses powerful AI algorithms to ensure quality image processing, which is perhaps another good reason to go for the software.

HEIC File Converter Review: Best Free HEIC to JPG Converter for Windows

Huawei's openEuler is a CentOS-based Linux distribution, with an enterprise edition called EulerOS which is already made available on Gitee, a Chinese Github alternative.

While the source code of openEuler Linux distribution comprises of Code source (used in storing the source code) and Package source (Used to store software packages to build the OS), with Huawei promising to open up its technology in the field of ICT basic software, and the basic platform capabilities in the operating system, compiler / JDK and other fields to the openEuler community.

Huawei had specifically recommended two particular packages, A-Tune and iSula, with A-Tune as an intelligent performance optimization system software and iSula, a cloud-native solution that meets the multiple needs of ICT field, been a lightweight gRPC service-based container runtime written in C language.

More About EulerOS

EulerOS is an enterprise edition operating system currently supporting the TaiShan servers, and with strong competitiveness in terms of compatibility, performance, and power consumption.

It guarantees improvements in multi-core concurrency and enhance business performance; with L2 Cache sharing technology to improve access efficiency between different OSD processes, which for the first time, the kernel patch is implemented in Kunpeng processor architecture.

Additionally, the key features of the Kunpeng processor is performance breakthroughs in core business scenarios and contributions to the open-source communities such as virtualization, GCC, Linux kernel, OpenJDK, and Docker.

Where to download openEuler?

The source code of openEuler isn't yet available on Github, but it is published on Gitee, a Chinese Github alternative. And you can also download its ISO from Huawei’s official website.

However, there are some difficulties with its documentation as it’s not available in English; the openEuler Linux distribution appears to be aimed at hardcore Linux fans rather than just hobbyists. It will be interesting to see how Huawei intends to position openEuler to compete effectively with other Linux distributions.

A CentOS-based Linux Distribution, openEuler released by Huawei

Mozilla's move to tackle fingerprinting scripts which are capable of tracking users across the web, by taking a screenshot of their computer’s configuration to track them without their consent is now in full gear with the debut of Firefox 72.

The latest release, Firefox 72 protects against fingerprinting by blocking requests from third-parties to companies that are known to participate in fingerprinting, which is akin to cookie-based tracking, also used by websites and advertisers to track users as they surf the web.

While fingerprinting take clues from browser version and device platform, including installed fonts and extensions to create a unique profile that distinguish one user from another. Unlike cookie-based tracking, fingerprinting continues to follow a user even after the browser's cache has been cleared or privacy mode is enabled, which supposedly, should be surfing anonymously.

What is Enhanced Tracking Protection?

The Enhanced Tracking Protection made debut in Firefox 57 with options to block website elements (ads and social share buttons), and enables tracking protection outside of private browsing. It is aimed at mitigating privacy threats and allowing the users take back control of their online activities without fear of tracking across websites — without consent.

Albeit, the tracking protection wasn't enabled by default, meaning that a user will have to enable it for protection. And Firefox users can turn on ‘Strict Mode’ to get protection from fingerprinting scripts.

But starting with Firefox 72, Mozilla has fingerprinting protection option of Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) turned on by default, which means that even if a user switched off ETP, the "Fingerprinting protection" will still be active.

How to block fingerprinting with Firefox 72

Download the latest browser version, Firefox 72 as it protects you against fingerprinting by blocking third-party requests to companies that are known to participate in fingerprinting.

And the setting is not hidden that you'd need to dig around to find it, the latest Firefox browser has fingerprint blocking turned on by default. You can visit your privacy protections dashboard to see websites that are trying to track you behind the scenes and how Firefox is stopping them.

Mozilla turns Fingerprinting protection option of ETP on by default in Firefox 72

The best gift is, of course, that which touches the recipient with its very special message. Do you know that you can easily personalize a gift for that lingering memory, like a special date, moment or message by customizing a piece of jewelry on that'll really be close to the heart?

And you can also create custom made jewelry with your names and initials. At GetNameNecklace, you can easily customize jewelry and have it ready in less than 24 hours. As a personalized gift, it makes all the difference and serves as perfect timeless gift item that keeps on giving.

The jewelry can also be personalized by number or custom engraved, with all design carrying a personal touch to serve as a meaningful gift. Besides, what else could be more touching than having your name on a piece of diamond ring?

Who Are Behind GetNameNecklace?

GetNameNecklace is a manufacturer of exquisite jewelry that offers gorgeous and fashionable personalized jewelry experience.

They are a team of designers renown in the art of turning names and initials into amazing piece of jewelry. With a wide range of categories to choose from such as the monogram chocker necklaces, Infinity name necklaces, and family pendants, which all come with superior quality, and competitively priced, created using the latest jewelry making technology.

The Single Infinity Name Necklace and Everyday Classic, are perhaps their specialty collector items, offering you the appeal to show the essence of what the word "forever" truly represents and it makes the perfect gift for loved ones, as you can get your name and that of your significant other engraved upon it.

Also, you can check out other Infinity-branded necklaces by clicking here, with each a masterpiece and having the option of being fully personalized and customized to your peculiar style.

How to Personalize Your GetNameNecklace Jewelry

To create your personalized Jewelry online with GetNameNecklace customizable jewelry tool is easy and straightforward, simply choose to add engraving, or monogram to any piece of jewelry. And the custom jewelry can be created online within few minutes, and delivered in a gift box.

The ease of use will wow you, with engraved message in a ring or engraved onto a pendant. Also, you can find a gift for virtually everyone and that special person in your life from the collection of personalized jewelry, engraved rings and many more.

The personalized jewelry gifts are certainly not common, and you can only get the best from Get Name Necklace, when you simply add a custom message to the piece of jewelry to make them priceless.

The factory procedures are also well organized to ensure efficient service delivery. From technical aspect right to actual shipments, there won’t be issues with the check out of package processes, as they offer professional, fast and timely delivery to satisfy all clients.

GetNameNecklace Personalized Jewelry: The Perfect Gift for that Special someone

Google's browser, Chrome is the most dominant, and currently used the same way Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE 6) was back in the days, when developers primarily optimized for it, leaving out the rivals for later tweaking.

But will Google be able to maintain its dominance this year, with Microsoft having set a January 15, 2020 release date for the Chromium Edge browser, and the stable version of the browser coming as part of Windows 10 update?

Microsoft's adoption of Blink rendering engine forked from WebKit, which is also used by Google Chrome and Opera browser, is perhaps the company's biggest move to improve its browser's performance and perhaps, also gain better market share and position as well.

What are Microsoft's Edge Chances of Gaining Market Share?

Microsoft pitched the Chromium-based Edge to business users as a preferred alternative with regards to security and privacy, but whether IT admins will respond to the advances from Microsoft remains to be seen.

While the company has maintained IE on life-support, to cater for those organizations that may still need it to run some specific web apps or intranet sites, which are not worth a refresh, IE's share will most likely suffer as the new Edge's share rises. Albeit, the new Edge browser includes the much anticipated IE mode, which makes the stand-alone Internet Explorer worthless for most businesses that have resorted to it for access to legacy websites.

The result is that IE will be an afterthought browser run by less than 5% of Windows users, however, there won't be an accelerated IE decline, as Edge browser will need some time to become stable enough to drive the future forecasts of the enterprises.

How to Update to Chromium Edge browser

Microsoft has scheduled Windows 10 updates as functionally mandatory, except of course, for those users in a managed enterprise network, as all Windows PC will automatically download the update and perhaps start pestering users to complete the installation by restarting their PC.

So, the update to Chromium Edge browser will be automatic, and there won’t be any problem for most users, even if you've never used the old Edge, and don’t want to use the new Edge, Microsoft will respect your choice. But it will bundle the program onto your PC all the same, though it offers a tool, Blocker Toolkit to help stop Edge from installing on computer with the Windows 10 update.

The Blocker Toolkit is to help users to retain the original Edge browser (bundled with Windows 10 since its debut) for some time, and just like such other kits, it's easily executable to run locally, including a template that IT admins can use to block the original-Edge through Group Policy settings.

Browser Wars 2020: Google's Chrome dominance to be challenged by Microsoft Edge?

Nowadays, the dominant camera technology is the 4k video format, while most of the video hosting services such as YouTube and Instagram are already supporting the ability to upload 4K video clips.

As the standard for video resolution has moved from 1080p to 4K, even the latest smartphones record videos at this amazing new format; the issue now is the convenience of editing the videos. It is often very expensive, and involves some rather complicated piece of software, such as Adobe Premiere, and the likes.

 Additionally, though 4k video looks rather very fabulous, but the files are exponentially larger. For instance, a one-minute HD (720p) video is almost 90MB, while the same in 1080p is barely about 120MB, but in 4K it goes up to 350MB.  And that isn’t good, imagine you’re shooting video of a 90-minute event in 4k, the result would be almost 32GB.

Over the course of a year, that’s about 1.6TB of data in 4K resolution. So, it becomes very crucial to post-process your 4K footage before sharing. But how could someone easily do that?

Why Upload Videos in 4k in the First Place?

If you're a professional vlogger, you would have known that YouTube SEO requires that your videos should be in high resolution to rank higher, you also probably know that high-definition videos rank better than the lower-quality ones.

And with the prevalence of smart TVs and the fact that video sharing platforms like YouTube are available on almost every device, means that 4K videos can be enjoyed with its stunningly realistic viewing experience and striking visual details.

In fact, 4K videos make a lot of sense when it comes to bigger screens with resolution 4 times higher than the regular 1080p monitor.

Encoding for 4K Video before Uploading to YouTube

For smooth uploading and processing of 4K video and to get the best possible results, you have to follow this steps recommended.

Albeit, the official YouTube's recommended upload encoding settings for 4K videos are as follows:

Container: MP4
  • Move atom at the front of the file (Fast Start)
  • No Edit Lists (or the video might not get processed correctly)

Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Sample rate of 96khz or 48khz
  • Channels: Stereo or Stereo + 5.1

Video Codec: H.264
  • High Profile
  • GOP of half the frame rate
  • Progressive Scan (without interlacing)
  • Chroma Subsampling: 4:2:0

However, if the 4K video your want to upload to YouTube is in formats such as AVI, WMV, AVCHD, MKV, or MXF, you can download VideoProc to convert it to the YouTube's recommended 4K H.264 High Profile video.

And we recommend VideoProc because it's a great utility for YouTubers with the stripped back option, especially those who doesn't want the complexity and more of redundant features, often associated with other professional 4k video editing software.

Steps to Edit and Post-process your 4K footage

The nifty software tool called VideoProc takes away the complexity off the editing of 4k videos and without requiring lots of training or tutorials to get the better part of using it.

We recommend VideoProc as a great utility tool with stripped down option for YouTubers that don't want the complexity and redundant features of the costly professional video editing software. As the features and interface is crafted for ease of use from the ground up.

Step 1. To import the video file, simply open VideoProc and click "Video" to get into the video processing center. Then click "+ Video" to select your 4K video files and "Open", or, simply drag & drop your 4K files right into the software.

The 4K footage are usually substantially bigger than normal HD video and can take quite some time to upload, but VideoProc, with its advanced level-3 hardware acceleration, guarantees a fast uploading time within a few seconds.

Step 2. Then cut and trim your video, as YouTube requires a maximum video length of 12 hours. But don't try to upload anything above that, always do some research about the topic you want to make a video for to figure out the likely duration.

You can follow the below video to learn just how to use VideoProc to cut out the unwanted parts or join selected segments from your 4k video footage:

In a quick preview, you can watch the official YouTube guide to learn how to edit 4K video smoothly on any computer below:

Step 3. For resizing and converting your video to YouTube supported format, VideoProc's intelligent compression algorithm automatically selects the encoding settings to lower the file size while also keeping the effect on image quality to its barest minimum.

And its Full Hardware Acceleration efficiently make it possible to have a very smooth 4K video editing experience even on mid or lower-processor range computers. Now then click "Target Format" and find "YouTube Video" under "Web Video Profile" to choose "MP4 Video for YouTube" and "Done" then click the "RUN" button on the main interface to commence the conversion.

After you’ve finished editing and converted your 4K video to YouTube-ready MP4, sign into your YouTube account on the web browser to start the uploading. Also note that it is recommended to use the latest version of the browser, especially Chrome for uploading large-sized 4K videos.

While the video is uploading you can quickly edit both the basic and advanced settings, then click "Publish" to finish uploading the video to YouTube.


VideoProc is fully capable of stabilizing those videos shot on shaky cameras, like GoPro and iPhone, it also help users to turn the videos into GIFs for sharing on social media. And it reduces the background noise and equally add watermarks, or correct Fish-eye that occur in the recording, allowing your audience to focus more on the subject of the video.

In fact, VideoProc meets all requirements for professional video editing by serving as a simple-to-use editing solution with the ability to easily compress large/4K file sizes.

How to Edit 4K Video & Steps to Upload Your Video on YouTube

MercadoLibre is an eCommerce company with headquarter in Buenos Aires, Argentina, dubbed the “eBay of Latin America”, because of its dominant position in the Latin America’s market.

While Mercado Pago is its payment platform that enable the customers to send and receive money via emails, and other solutions to facilitate transactions with online merchants that support the payment system. It also enable the online retailers to provide their customers with installment payment solutions.

In a dramatic move, PayPal has entered into partnership with the Latin America eCommerce giant, with their payment platforms getting direct integration, to allow customers of the eCommerce to use PayPal for online checkout, and other merchants that integrate with Mercado Pago.

The integration means that PayPal’s over 300 million existing users will be able to shop and make payments at “hundreds of thousands of new merchants” in Latin America, with PayPal also as a payment option at checkout on the MercadoLibre platform.

Additionally, PayPal will offer Mercado Pago as payment option for merchants accepting PayPal, which will expand PayPal’s reach to the over 48 million existing users on Mercado Pago. And PayPal is also expanding Xoom service, which is its online money transfer solution, to support remittances paid to Mercado Pago wallets in Mexico and Brazil.

However, it should be noted that PayPal had earlier invested $750 million in purchase of common stock from MercadoLibre, which investment would accelerate the growth to “foster financial inclusion in Latin America.”

PayPal’s integration with MercadoLibre followed the strategic investment in the eCommerce conglomerate, which scale and capabilities will help drive access and inclusion to the global digital economy.

Mercado Pago payment platform gets direct integration with PayPal

Sketch2Code is part of Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services, the Custom Vision and Computer Vision APIs used for object detection, which uses trained models to detect HTML objects, then employs the text recognition capabilities in extracting handwritten text in the design.

Now, Microsoft has launched Sketch2Code as a web-based application to help in converting hand-drawn sketches into HTML codebase, by combining the object and text to generate HTML snippets of different web design elements.

While Microsoft AI research is dated back to over two decades, but only restricted to internal deployment; now the company is gradually bringing it to open web for everyone to use through simple, and yet powerful AI tools.

How Sketch2Code Dynamic designs work

The process of transforming handwritten image to HTML using Sketch2Code, first requires that the user uploads an image through the website. Then a custom vision model will try to predict what HTML elements are present in the image and their location.

Once the handwritten text recognition service reads the text within the predicted elements, the layout algorithm will use the spatial information from the bounding boxes of the predicted elements to generate a grid structure to accommodate them all.

The HTML generation engine, then uses all the pieces of information to generate HTML markup code reflecting the exact result.

Use cases for Sketch2Code Dynamic designs

Web designers can use Sketch2Code to collaborate and draw on whiteboard to see the resulting code to test their own new web page ideas immediately. As the interface design process involve lots of creativity that starts right from the whiteboard where designers share ideas.

So the design is captured within a photograph and manually translated into working HTML wireframe to play within the web browser with the help of Sketch2Code.

Sketch2Code is developed in conjunction with Kabel and Spike Techniques, and the source code is now available on GitHub for developers to tinker with, or anyone to get started with AI and become an AI developer.

Sketch2Code: Microsoft AI Experiment to turn hand-drawn sketches into codes

How best to start the New Year than looking back at Nigerian technology startups to meet their Waterloo in 2019, and see if perhaps there are some lessons for those still holding on to the game.

So, we thought it wise to revisit the technology startups failing points that other companies might learn from their mistake and perhaps be able to survive through this year and beyond. Despite some good news on huge fundraising rounds and sort of flamboyant personalities behind the Nigerian startups, still the reality remains that running a startup in Nigeria is hard work.

More so, since in our business environment where the supposed internet usage figures don’t actually match active users, with lopsided government regulatory obstacles, it goes without saying that many startups don't survive beyond the first five years. Find below the Nigerian Technology startups to meet their Waterloo in 2019.

1. MyPadi

MyPadi was founded in August 2016 by Joel Amawhe, formely HostelsVila and, as a hyper-local online platform that was geared towards making stress-free school starting with provision of easy access to housing for the students, including those on the National Youth Service Corps service in Nigeria.

The startup was estimated to have generated an annual revenue in excess of $1m in 2018. And it pride itself as the go-to-guys to connect students with affordable accommodations on or off campus across several of Nigerian higher institutions.

MyPadi integrates the whole process of searching, and reaching out to house owners, also booking hostels and roommates into one safe and secure, hassle-free platform. But then, what went wrong? Since May 2019, the website operations seem to have been suspended, with all social media activities, and contact phone remained unreachable till date.

2. OyaPay

OyaPay was a promising Nigerian fintech startup that almost joined the ranks of Flutterwave, Paga, and PayStack, to mention but a few of those startups that have emerged as leaders in the country's fintech space.

Founded in 2017 by a team of 3 co-founders led by Abdulhamid Hassan, who also serve as the CEO, the platform catered for offline businesses, helping them to accept payments and forward orders from their customers with or without a phone.

But problem started when the startup was seeking for investors, the initial backers were said to be family member who pushed against the idea of adding new investors. The situation got worst and unresolved for several months, leading to the eventual shut down of the startup.

3. DealDey

DealDey was founded in 2011 by Sim Shagaya (also the founder of Konga) and in 2015, the company was already numbered among Nigeria’s biggest eCommerce platforms, with $5 million funding from Kinnevik. But things took a different turn shortly afterwards, leading to the laying off about 60% of its workforce.

However, the company in 2016, was acquired by Ringier Africa Deals Group (RADG), a joint venture between Swiss Ringier Africa AG and South African Silvertree Internet Holdings (Pty) Ltd, for $5 million — which is a meager amount compared to the owners original offer to sell for $75 million.

The company was officially announced as dead in January 2019, following a month of inactivity on the website and social media pages. DealDey offices in the country were also closed up and the workers haven been laid off since.

Nigerian Technology startups to meet their Waterloo in 2019