IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
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IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
News, Information and Updates on Hardware and IT Tools to help improve your Medical practice
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Momentum grows around Microsoft's Windows 10 for phones

Momentum grows around Microsoft's Windows 10 for phones | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 OS hasn’t taken the world by storm, but its successor, Windows 10, is off to an encouraging start even before its release.

Only a handful of Windows 10 handsets were on display on the show floor of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, but with some device and chip makers announcing their intentions to support Windows 10 on smartphones, that could translate to many more handsets becoming available by year end.

Microsoft has said that Windows 10 will provide a more consistent user experience across smartphones, tablets and PCs. A technical preview of the OS is already available, with the final version expected to reach handsets later this year. Some handsets, but not all, running Windows Phone 8.1 will be upgraded to Windows 10.

At the show Microsoft announced a new smartphone, the Lumia 640XL, which it demonstrated running Windows 10 Technical Preview at its booth. It will ship with Windows Phone 8.1, but can be upgraded to Windows Phone 10. A spokesman demonstrated the Cortana voice interaction and said it would work with Office 365, OneDrive and other Microsoft technologies.

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How Samsung won the smartphone wars — then blew it

How Samsung won the smartphone wars — then blew it | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

In November 2011, Samsung released the first of a series of ads that would define the company for the next three years.

It started with a bunch of hipster-looking people waiting outside a mock Apple Store for the next iPhone. As the hipsters tick down the hours until they have the right to get Apple’s new iThing, they spot others on the street using something better.

The phone, Samsung’s former flagship Galaxy S II, had a big screen and a 4G wireless connection, two major features that were missing from Apple’s new iPhone 4S. And unlike the iPhone, you didn’t have to wait around to buy a Galaxy S II. You could get it now.

The irony was that you didn’t see anyone lining up to buy a Samsung, or anything other than an iPhone, in those days. But that started to change with that first “Next Big Thing” spot. Just like Apple poked fun at Microsoft with its “I’m a Mac” campaign in the 2000s, Samsung’s goal was to tap into the same strategy — a little guy taking swings at the dominant player in the industry.

By the end of 2012, Samsung's profits were up a whopping 76%, fueled by the growth of the mobile division, which suddenly became the most profitable part of Samsung. Samsung was the only company other than Apple making a profit in mobile, and it seemed to be closing in on Apple’s dominance, prompting The Wall Street Journal to publish its famous “Has Apple Lost Its Cool To Samsung?” headline in January 2013.

By the time the Galaxy S4 launched in March 2013, the anticipation surrounding Samsung’s products could only be rivaled by Apple. It was officially a two-horse race.

But it only took another year for things to come crashing down. Profits tumbled in 2014, even during the normally lucrative holiday season. Throughout the year, Samsung blamed increased competition in mobile for the downturn.

Now, Samsung is gearing up for its most important smartphone launch ever on March 1. The question is whether or not the Galaxy S6 will be enough to help Samsung recover from its slump, or if it will share the same fate as former kings of mobile like Nokia, BlackBerry, and Motorola.

How did Samsung get so big so fast, and how did it all go so wrong? Competition from new players like Xiaomi and a renewed Apple are a big part of the equation.

But Business Insider has also learned that corporate politics, and a rift between the company's South Korean headquarters and its suddenly successful US group, also played a role.

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Samsung set to discontinue Galaxy Alpha in favor of cheaper phones

Samsung set to discontinue Galaxy Alpha in favor of cheaper phones | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

The Galaxy Alpha might have been among the best phones Samsung ever produced — it's certainly the prettiest — if it weren't for a couple of stumbles: the battery didn't last long enough and its full flagship price forced it to compete against better-rounded rivals. Now, just a few brief months after its introduction, the Alpha is reportedly being supplanted by its successor Galaxy A5, which will take over as the leading Samsung handset for the mid-range market.

ET News reports that the Galaxy A5, which launched in China last month, is being brought over to South Korea as part of Samsung's effort to "take the bull by the horns" and reorganize its slumping smartphone division. The 5-inch A5 is a continuation of the Alpha's design philosophy, emphasizing thinness and higher-quality metal construction, though it opts for a tamer spec sheet that will allow it to be priced at a more competitive 400,000 won (roughly $360). The report states that the A5 will be arriving in Samsung's home country in January or February, while the Galaxy Alpha will be phased out as production ramps down once the current inventory of materials is exhausted.

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Google backtracks on Android 5.0 default encryption

Google backtracks on Android 5.0 default encryption | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

When the Nexus 6 handset arrived late last year, it came with full data encryption enabled out the box. Google also pushed its hardware partners to do the same at first, but now appears to have quietly changed the requirement with a strong recommendation to enable encryption by default, reports ArsTechnica.

The same site noted performance issues with Google’s Nexus 6 in November, particularly with regards to read and write disk speeds, which it attributed to the encryption. How much of an impact did the tests show? In some cases, the new Google Nexus 6 was slower than the Nexus 5 it was designed to replace, even though the handset had much improved internal components.

Google did say in September of 2014 that the then called Android L software — later to become Android 5.0 Lollipop — would have encryption enabled by default out of the box. New devices with Android 5.0, however, don’t have the security feature enabled: The new $149 Moto E with LTE, is a perfect example. So what’s changed?

According to Ars, Google’s Android Compatibility Definition document is what’s changed; specifically, the section on disk encryption with Google making emphasis on what it recommends:

If the device implementation has a lock screen, the device MUST support full-disk encryption of the application private data (/data partition) as well as the SD card partition if it is a permanent, non-removable part of the device. For devices supporting full-disk encryption, the full-disk encryption SHOULD be enabled all the time after the user has completed the out-of-box experience. While this requirement is stated as SHOULD for this version of the Android platform, it is very strongly RECOMMENDED as we expect this to change to MUST in the future versions of Android.

Essentially, Google has gone back to having encryption as an option for new Android 5.0 devices, not a requirement: They must support it but it isn’t necessary to enable it by default. However, the last sentence in the guidelines indicates that hardware partners should be ready for this to change back in a future version of Android.

From security standpoint, this is a bit of a disappointment. If encryption impacts performance, however, Google has little choice here.

The concern I have is that most mainstream Android users won’t know that they should enable encryption their device or simply don’t know how. My hope is that if Google reduced the requirements due to performance, it finds a way to address the root cause of the issue and then get device encryption back as a default option.

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Obama recruits Apple, tech giants to reveal new slew of cybersecurity proposals

Obama recruits Apple, tech giants to reveal new slew of cybersecurity proposals | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

The federal government can't protect your cyber data by itself.

That's why President Obama is expected to unveil executive actions Friday designed to increase information sharing among private sector companies and federal law enforcement.

At a cybersecurity summit to be held on the Stanford University campus Friday, Obama will announce initiatives to form organizations that will gather, share and analyze information, as well as ease access to cybersecurity threat information for corporate entities. The executive order is also expected to enable the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to better manage the flow of information into the government.

The administration says strengthening the federal government's capabilities is becoming increasingly necessary to protect American consumers.

"Cybersecurity and consumer protection are two sides of the same coin," Obama's economic adviser, Jeff Zients said, in a briefing with reporters. "When a company invests in strong cybersecurity, they are protecting not just their own networks, but in most cases their customers' information and security as well."

The White House is introducing these policies after several large-scale security hacks have claimed major corporate victims like retail giant Target and Anthem, America's second largest health care insurance provider. These breaches have put the personal information of millions of Americans at risk, compromising everything from addresses and birth dates to Social Security numbers.

But, as White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel admits, it's going to take more than just the government to patch these cybersecurity holes.

"No one can do this mission by themselves," Daniel said. "As you look at all the things we want to do to drive the growth in the digital economy, it's clearly something that has to be done in partnership with the private sector and the federal government."

So they're turning to Silicon Valley for help.

In the wake of recent cyber attacks, several private industry titans are expected to embrace these new measures.

Apple and Intel will be attending as the summit's big tech names, while several financial companies are also backing the administration's moves. MasterCard, AIG, and Bank of America are also among those expected to have representative at the summit.

Companies like Intel believe the Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) first outlined in February of 2014 is, in fact, a practical plan to implement.

"Now that we have tested the framework ourselves, we can say that it provides clear and demonstrable benefits," an Intel spokesperson said. "Given that the CSF focuses on risk management rather than compliance, we believe it has the potential to help transform cybersecurity on a global scale."

Intel further attempted to dispel fears with a white paper published Thursday titled "We Tried the NIST Framework and It Works."

But skepticism persists, especially from privacy hawks like the American Civil Liberties Union, who are particularly concerned with government overreach in cyberspace.

"It's not clear that we need to open the door wider," ACLU policy advisor Gabe Rottman told CBS News. The assertion is that Americans also need protection from the government.

"Information that identifies who we associate with--our financial activities, our healthcare information, information that identifies those aspects of our lives and then identifies us--that information needs to be stripped out unless it's necessary to address the cyber security threat. And the proposals for information sharing that have come out from both Congress and the White House don't sufficiently ensure that that happens," Rottman said.

In a nod to these concerns, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel acknowledged that: "It is neither appropriate, nor would Americans want, for all network be carried out by the government. It's not even physically possible."

It's one of several steps the White House has recently taken to increase cybersecurity protections. Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco announced Tuesday the creation of a new federal agency that will coordinate threat responses and intelligence across government entities. The Cyber Intelligence Integration Center is expected to facilitate investigations and "connect the dots" undertaken by the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other intelligence operations.

Via Paulo Félix
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The Big Future: What does the future of interaction look like?

The Big Future: What does the future of interaction look like? | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |
The rise of smartphones has left us tapping away at touchscreens. In this week's Big Future, we look at what comes after the glass. Will we all be speaking to our devices? Are augmented reality glasses and contacts going to feed us information all day? Or does touch interaction work so well that we'll never really replace it?

The Big Future interaction 1

Touch has dominated for a long time

We've accessed and manipulated information with our hands and fingers for decades. Whether we recognize it or not, our brains are constantly processing information afforded by what we hold and telling our hands how to respond. What we've lost over the years as we swapped mouse and keyboard for glass touchscreens, though, is feedback. Our phones and tablets demand our attention in part because we have no sure way of knowing what we're tapping when we look away.

The Big Future interaction 2

Augmented reality is one possibility, and it's almost here

The technology that is perhaps the closest to replacing touch interaction is augmented reality. The idea of overlaying information on the things we see is attractive to many people, but the application of it is still clumsy. Google Glass is too expensive and limited, and more miniaturized versions (like electronic contacts) are still a bit of a pipe dream. Removing touch in this way begets other problems like needing to use voice control or eye tracking — both of which still have their own unique issues.

The Big Future interaction 3

Faking touch

Maybe we have a way to bring this all together. In the future, it could be possible to use implants or nano-technology to let us feel things that aren't there. While a digital display makes it look like a button is hovering in the air in front of you, the next breakthrough would let you feel like you were pressing it, providing haptic feedback for a gesture control system. We're still a long way for making that system work, but a lot of people are trying.
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