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Empowering Women Through Technology

App of the Week: DuckDuckPro

A Year of DuckDuckGo – a review

 

By Tom Wood of designwithtom.com

I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as my default search engine instead of Google for about 12 months. This is why I could never go back.

1. Privacy

The main reason I switched over in the first place was a privacy concern. Spawned from a talk by the irrepressible Aral Balkan, the notion of corporatocracy was first lodged in my brain. Google weren’t just storing all my search history, but they were using it for all manner of things except for the one thing they assured me it was for; improving my searching.

With a Privacy Policy written in clear English, DuckDuckGo are all about you.

2. Quality of Search

Using Google you’re subject to what is known as the filter bubble. The filter bubble is where your search results are conditioned by the history of your previous searches. That means that different results are shown to different people. Not everyone who searches for Donald Trump (or guns) sees the same thing.

There is no filter bubble on DuckDuckGo. The ability to switch which local region you’re searching in gives you more options and ultimately, a truer search.

3. Design

Look at it. Look how clean it is! Don’t like how it looks, then head straight to part 4!

Lose the visual clutter of Google, and the mismatching styles and enter some gentle alignment and you get DuckDuckGo. Search for a topic like Airbnb and you’ll get a tidy summary (from Wikipedia of course) at the top of the page, and some genuinely related links to the right. All of this in your search results.

Search for an HTML snippet like <td>, and you’ll get an HTML table in correct syntax ready for you to copy and paste. Occasionally a StackOverflow answer will even appear up there!

4. Customization

So you don’t like how it looks and you prefer Google. Why?! Only joking.

You can change how DuckDuckGo both looks and behaves. You can change the default ProximaNova font to Helvetica Neue, or the colour to pink. You can change the way links open, or stop the favicons from displaying. You can truly cater it to your tastes.

5. Instant Search

You know how Google can give you the results to basic arithmetic, or tell you the weather without having to leave your search results? Well DuckDuckGo have been doing that for longer, and arguably, they do it better.

The weather is supplied by the wonderful and gorgeous Forecast.io (now renamed DarkSky), the clean strokes and bold lines are a breath of fresh air.

But perhaps the cleverest thing, is DuckDuckGo’s ability to play a song from within the search results. Try it. You can play a Soundcloud tune without ever having to leave your search results.

Oh, and if you search for “Stopwatch” you get (you guessed it) a working stopwatch.

6. !bangs

Bangs are the most useful part of DuckDuckGo. A bang is when you type an “!” followed by a letter, and then type your search query to instantly search on another site. Directly. Use wikipedia right from DuckDuckGo; “!w trainspotting”, or thousands of other sites.

You can use it to search Google if you need to, !g or !guk or even !maps. It’s such an intuitive way of searching. Visit DuckDuckGo for the full list (or submit your own)

It’ll work with !wikipedia, or !stackoverflow, !verge, and so on and so on (9,088 at the time of writing. Wow).

But the best part? DuckDuckGo does all of this anonymously, and if you don’t know why that’s a big deal (or if you don’t care) then I implore you to watch Aral’s talk below.

 

Download DuckDuckGo for iOS here
Download DuckDuckGo for Android here

 

Do you have a favorite browser you use for security? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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How to: Convert Several Images into a Single PDF Using Preview

 

By Tim Hardwick of MacRumors

Over the years, Adobe’s PDF file type has become a universally accepted method for sharing digital documents. The format’s cross-platform adoption means the documents can be viewed on almost any mobile device or computer, so it’s no surprise to find that macOS includes native support for viewing and creating PDF files.

In the Preview app, for example, it’s possible to create a single multi-page PDF document out of several separate image files. The feature is particularly useful if you need to share a number of scanned documents over email or digitize something for reference. Keep reading to learn how it’s done.

HOW TO CONVERT SEVERAL IMAGES INTO A SINGLE PDF

In Finder, select all the images you want to include in the PDF. To do this, drag a box over several images files using your mouse cursor, or select them individually by holding the Command key and clicking them one by one.

Right-click (or Ctrl-click) one of the highlighted files and select Open With -> Preview in the contextual dropdown menu.

 

In Preview’s sidebar, drag the thumbnail images into the order that you want them to appear in the PDF document. Use the Rotate button in Preview’s toolbar to change the orientation of individual pages (drag a selection over multiple pages to rotate several at once).

In the Preview menu bar, select File -> Print…, or use the Command+P keyboard shortcut to bring up the Print dialog.

Click Show Details to expand the Print dialog and browse the full set of options. Make sure the All button is selected in the Pages options. Note that you can double-check the orientation of each image by clicking the arrows below the print preview, and use the Orientation buttons to correct any if required.

Select Save as PDF from the PDF dropdown menu in the lower left of the Print dialog.

The Save dialog will appear. Give your new PDF a name and choose a save location. Fill in the Title, Author, Subject, and Keywords fields if desired (these details are searchable in Spotlight). The Security Options… button also lets you optionally set a password to open the document, copy from it, and/or print it.

Click Save when you’re done.

Note that the Save as PDF option can be accessed from the Print dialog window within a number of macOS apps, not just Preview. You can use it to create PDFs of web pages viewed in Safari, or Word documents opened in Pages, for example.

 

Do you have any slick Preview tips? Tell us about it in the comments below!!

Weekly Round Up 5/18/18

 

 

How could tech for good be bad?
GOOD TECH, BAD TECH


Anything is better than what we currently have?

Start-ups have a better shot than Amazon at fixing health care, says prominent Silicon Valley investor


If it were only that easy…

How This Tech Pioneer Hacked Her Way to Happiness


I wish I could say this comes as a surprise…

Closing tech’s gender gap will take decades

 

That’s what happens when you let Corporations think they don’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else.
San Francisco is fed up with Big Tech, and residents are begging the next mayor to do something about it

This woman rocks!
Supermodel Karlie Kloss’ videos showcase brilliant women in tech

Of course they are. They’re government funded.
Emergency 911 Tech Struggles To Keep Up With The Times

Like the orange faced dumpster fire in the White House makes us look good?!
Tech Companies Are Ruining America’s Image

Tales from the Orchard: What would Steve Jobs think of today’s Apple?

 

Originally posted on ZDNet

Steve Jobs was never one to leave anyone in any doubt as to what was on his mind, and thanks to hundreds of hours of keynotes, speeches, and interviews, we can get an insight into what he might think about the current state of the company he founded.

 

Still no next big thing

“One more thing…” — Steve Jobs

No quote excited Apple fans than this one. Those three simple words launched a number of world-changing Apple products.

 

Lack of focus

“Focusing is about saying ‘No.'” — Steve Jobs

The iPhone started out as a simple idea — a device that reinvented the smartphone. All a buyer needed to do was decide how much storage capacity they needed — 4, 8, or 16 gigabytes — and they were an iPhone owner.

Jump forward a decade and buyers are faced with eight different iPhones in numerous storage capacities and finishes.

 

AirPods

 

“The problem with Bluetooth headphones is that it’s not just recharging your iPod, you have to recharge your headphones too. People hate it. There are quality issues — the bandwidth isn’t high enough, and even if it does get there some day, people don’t want to recharge their headphones.” — Steve Jobs

While there’s little doubt that Bluetooth is now more than capable of delivering crystal clear audio, Apple’s solution to how to charge the AirPods would have no doubt upset Jobs. Not only do AirPod owners need to pop the AirPods into a case to charge, they also have to remember to charge up the case itself!

Dongles, dongles, and more dongles

 

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” — Steve Jobs

Apple is clearly on a mission to simplify its Mac lineup, and one way it wants to do that is by eliminating as many ports as possible and standardizing on a single port where possible, as it has done with the new MacBook Pro.

Problem is, while one port might work for the iPhone and iPad, when it comes to a computer it’s a real pain, and it forces many users to carry with them an array of different dongles and accessories (such as this Satechi Type-C USB 3.0 3-in-1 combo hub) in order to be able to get work done.

Dumb solutions to simple problems

 

“You’ve baked a really lovely cake, but then you’ve used dog s— for frosting.” — Steve Jobs

Apple employs some of the smartest people on the planet, and the company is capable of doing wonderful things.

But it’s also come out with some howlers. For example, the battery case for the iPhone that has a charging indicator on the inside where you can’t see it. Or a rechargeable mouse that has the charging port on the bottom. Or a rechargeable pencil that has a tiny cap that’s easily lost.

These are just the sort of design howlers that you don’t expect from Apple.

Bogged down iOS

 

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” — Steve Jobs

When the iPhone was unveiled a decade ago the operating system (then called iPhone OS, the iOS name didn’t appear until 2010) was sleek and simple. Everything was a couple of taps away and the user interface was intuitive and a snap to use.

Fast-forward a decade and things have changed dramatically. While iOS 11 retains some of the look and feel of the early iPhone OS, Apple has bolted on, shoehorned in, and otherwise added to the mobile operating system so much that the once elegant and streamlined platform has become a kludgy and awkward mess.

Notification panels and popups litter the interface, gaining access to often-needed features now require users to memorize a number of different gestures, and the Settings app is now a mess to rival the Windows Control Panel at its worst.

Siri is still so dumb

 

“Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.” — Steve Jobs

Apple acquired the technology behind its Siri voice assistant back in 2010 and integrated the technology into the iPhone 4S in late 2011, and since then it has spread from the iPhone to the iPad and the Mac.

But over that time Siri has gone from being “Wow!” to “Meh.” Put Siri in a room with Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Now and you quickly discover just how dumb and gimmicky Siri actually is. The voice recognition is poor, and the range of things you can do, and the flexibility to ask questions in a natural way, is very basic compared to other voice assistant offerings.

Apple’s massive R&D budget

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” — Steve Jobs

Apple’s R&D budget has increased over tenfold since the iPhone was released in 2007, and yet the company hasn’t come up with anything that comes close to the success of the iPhone.

Apple Pencil

 

“Who wants a stylus. You have to get ’em and put ’em away, and you lose ’em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus.” — Steve Jobs

I know many would argue that the Apple Pencil is more than a stylus, but many of problems with the stylus — finding it, putting it away, and losing it — haven’t really been solved by Apple.

The iPad’s rapid decline

 

“What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes.” — Steve Jobs

The iPad was Apple’s plan to disrupt the tablet market and put a stepping-stone between the iPhone and the Mac. And it looked like it would work. But in seven years sales have gone from showing strong growth initially to hitting a peak a few years back to now a rapid decline.

It could be said that the problem with the iPad is that consumers and enterprise buyers have lost interest in tablets, and that it’s only natural that sales would tank. But in that case how has Apple managed to keep Mac sales strong in the face of horrible PC sales, or managed to return the iPhone to growth?

Evolution over revolution

 

“I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes.” — Steve Jobs

Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of incremental, evolutionary updates from Apple, ranging across hardware and software, but there’s been little in the way of revolutionary changes. Certainly nothing that compares with those big gambles that Apple took while it was under the leadership of Jobs.

Following, instead of leading

 

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” — Steve Jobs

Apple used to look forward, but now the company feels like it is increasingly looking sideways at what its competitors are up to, in particular the premier Android device maker, Samsung.

Samsung has a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” attitude when it comes to hardware, and over the past few years we’ve seen Apple take a similar approach, especially with the iPhone. Some of these moves have been successful (for example, it’s clear that there was indeed a pent-up demand for larger and more expensive iPhones) while others have flopped (the iPhone 5C springs irresistibly to mind here).

 

Share your favorite Steve Jobs comments in the comments below!

WIT: Hidden Figures, Unsung: One Woman’s Fight To Be An IBM Programmer In The 70s

 

 

 

By Everett Harper of Forbes.com

In 1975, a 34 year old black woman with a high school education, and three tween kids, sat with dread before her final exam. She had risked her job as a secretary at IBM, and her marriage to take the Introduction to Programming course — and it wasn’t going well. Before the final exam commenced, her instructor walked up to her and said, “Jackie, you seem like a lovely lady. Go home and take care of your kids. You are dismissed.” Jackie left class, sped down Harrigan Road in her brown Pontiac Catalina station wagon, to pick up her three sweaty kids from daycare before she got hit with a late fee. As the kids fought over the radio (“not Edmund Fitzgerald AGAIN”) she wondered if she would have a job the next day.

IBM, the forgotten diversity pioneer in technology

IBM was one of the most powerful companies in the world in the mid sixties through the seventies. The S/360 mainframe revolutionized computing, giving processing power previously available only to government and universities, and made it accessible to business. By 1971, the $8.3B company offered the full slate of free or nearly free benefits to its 270,000 person workforce — healthcare, scholarships, and nearly every engineering class under the sun. They hired women for managerial roles twice as fast as their employment growth, and as result 15% of their workforce were women in 1970. To give that context, the number of women at Facebook grew 4% from 2014 to 2017 while their employee base grew 43% [CNBC] Thomas Watson Jr., CEO of IBM, personally committed to inviting and recruiting African-Americans to “white-collar” jobs in the mid-sixties, and one of them, Mark Dean, designed the first PC.

Jackie’s husband Jim was one of those recruits. He trained first in the US Navy, running a radio transmitter and electronics shop on the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Independence. IBM recruited him to be a systems engineer in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1963. Jackie came with him, and soon had three kids in three years. She decided to go back to work in 1972 as a secretary for the old Selectrix typewriter division in East Fishkill, NY. Jackie was highly disciplined — be on time, prepare, focus, get things done. But she also noticed how much of the world was being run by men carrying boxes of punch cards and magnetic tape. She realized that she was sitting in the middle of the revolution. So she decided, no more typewriters — I want to be a programmer.

Despite the progressive environment, this was a bold statement in 1975. She was a black woman with a high school education from Westinghouse High School in the poor neighborhood of Homewood in Pittsburgh, PA. She had no extended family in small-town Hudson Valley, which still had KKK meeting announcements on AM radio alongside the VFW and PTA. But, “we understood that coming from a hard family life that we could do more. We knew that the money and the means was not there. But once we got to a place where education would be number one, then my kids could go far.” However, Jackie also knew when to take her opportunity — and that was Intro to Programming at IBM.

So you think you want to be a Programmer, Ms. Jackie?

 

For nine weeks, weekdays from 8am to 5pm, she took the class that had a reputation of being designed to “make or break” students. They started with Assembler and, “it was like a foreign language to me. Flowcharting seemed quite simple, yet putting that in code — programming language — was very difficult for me.” The class was diverse — 30% were women. While this might seem surprising, the number of women with computer science degrees was rising until the early 1980s.

Her classmates were recent college grads, having taken the higher math classes that Jackie lacked. There was one final drag on her ability to learn. “Even though my husband was a programmer, he was not supportive of me learning this skill.” As a result, when other students stayed after class to get help from instructors, or stay all night to finish assignments, Jackie had to pick up kids, shop for groceries, and make dinner. She fell way behind, failed her interim exams, and as the final exam approached, she was seriously demoralized.

“Most people who fail,” Jackie said, “go home and stay home.” Not her.

When she arrived at the IBM East Fishkill building, Edward Holden, her manager and sponsor, called her into his office. They talked about what she’d gone through in the course. At the end of the meeting he said, “Jackie, you have a job. Take the next few weeks, review programming, study what you need, and retake the exam.” With Holden’s encouragement and clearing her schedule, she found programming courses in PLS, PLI and APL at Duchess Community College, Marist College and took them all. “I was able to regroup, it wasn’t so foreign, and I knew what I was looking for and that helped.” This time she was ready.

Jackie Harper had a 25 year career as a programmer and then software coder at IBM. Her husband still wasn’t supportive, but she didn’t encounter resistance within IBM. “In fact, the guys seemed excited when a woman came in. They were happy when a woman made manager.” She worked floor control manufacturing systems, engineering design systems and eventually global services. She learned many of the assembly languages at IBM, then eventually db2 and early versions of SQL. The diligence to simply debug a program is astonishing to anyone who is working in modern software. When she came to the Truss office her stories raised a lot of eyebrows among our engineers about the things we now get to take for granted.

Leadership: creating space for others to do their best work

 

Since I first heard this story in 2012, I’ve wondered what made Ed Holden, a white male middle manager, stick his neck out for his black female secretary. As I researched this story, it is clear that the IBM ethos was a significant influence. This was a company that sponsored IBMers to go back to get a Ph.D without requiring them to return. Jackie recalled, “If you proved you were a worker, and could adapt to IBM’s unwritten rules: ‘don’t swear, don’t talk politics, don’t call names’, you could find a place at IBM.” (I added another unwritten rule: “suit, tie and hose”, and we laughed). Holden’s sponsorship was more than a gesture — it was an action, backed by institutional commitment, that demonstrated his belief that Jackie would rise to the occasion.

Jackie created space too, for herself and her kids. In the seventies, sending your black children to college was not a given, especially if neither parent had a college degree. Jackie’s particular genius was shifting the family framework to “where are you going to college”, instead of “will you go to college”. I never recall a day when college was an “if”, and that change in mental model has incalculable value in being an entrepreneur or leader. To me, one of the reasons STEM and inclusion programs are crucial is because they change “if I can” into “when I do” . I was raised in a legacy of leaders who remove obstacles and create space for others to excel — from Thomas Watson Jr. leading IBM, Ed Holden leading his team, and Jackie Harper leading her family. Now that’s part of my core purpose and how I lead my company at Truss.

My hope in writing this story is to invite women to tell their stories — of insight, ambition, perseverance and achievement — out loud! As Tiffani Bell, CEO of Human Utility, wrote on Twitter

Ultimately, this is the story of discovering that your mother is a badass. Lucky me. Happy Mother’s Day, Jacqueline Harper — programmer, coder, engineer.

App of the Week: Acorns

 

By Investmentzen.com

Summary

If you have never heard of Acorns, that is about to change. To save you time from scouring the web for quality Acorns reviews, we went ahead and put together everything you need to know here.

Acorns uses the “micro investing” approach by allowing you to round to the nearest dollar for every purchase you make and investing the difference. All those pennies start to add up and compound over time, and best of all it happens automatically when you make purchases you would normally make anyways!

Account Minimum
$5
Fees
$1/month or 0.25% per year for accounts greater than $5000.

Expert Walkthrough

What is Acorns?
Saving money today can be difficult. That amount of people who are investing in their future is far lower than it should be. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. It doesn’t have to be this way!

It can be difficult to reach the goal of a comfortable emergency fund or even starting to save for retirement. It takes both time and attention. With how busy life gets, these two things are not always easy to find.

Now Acorns has entered the game and is helping people in this exact situation. This is a service that allows you to get your feet wet with investing with little to no knowledge required. With such an inventive idea, we’ve put together this Acorns review for you to see how they can help you start investing today.

Acorns is revolutionizing the way millennials invest. They are taking charge in a time when it is well known that most people are not saving nearly enough to guarantee a comfortable retirement. This is a problem! Retirement can be as long or longer than your working career, so you want to make sure you are planning for it.

This is why Acorns allows college students to pay absolutely no fees for four years. Once you provide a valid .edu email address, you won’t pay a dime to Acorns for the remainder of your four-year degree.

Acorns does an excellent job explaining the investing process to beginners. Throughout the experience of signing up and investing, key terms are defined in a digestible format. This way, you know the implications from every action you take within your investment portfolio.

 

 

How Does it Work?

Acorns enables you to round to the nearest dollar for every purchase you make and invests the difference automatically.

These pennies are invested in one of six asset allocations. Each portfolio is made up of different Exchange Traded Funds (ETF). These options allow you to decide how aggressive or conservative you want to be.

The portfolios that are available are:

Conservative
Moderately Conservative
Moderate
Moderately Aggressive

Each of these portfolios are balanced differently to aim for your desired level of risk.

It really is that easy.

In addition to “Rounding Up” you have the option of contributing lump sums on a weekly or even daily basis.

This method takes more effort because you have to go out of your way to send money initially, or regularly. While it is a great way to get in the habit of investing, Acorns mainly focuses on sending a few cents on each transaction you make. It is done in the background so you may even forget it is happening.

There is no cost to sign up, but a $5 deposit is required to begin investing.

It is easy to login and check your balances and performance of your investments. Acorns will automatically reallocate your funds to fit the asset class you have selected.

This way, if the small business cap stocks have a good month, you won’t have too much tied up in that sector after the rally. Your money will be redistributed to other asset classes, potentially limiting the risk of losing these gains.

Pros

Acorns has changed the game for millennial investors. Although those from all walks of life use the service, the younger generations are taking advantage of this micro investing approach more than others.

Acorns makes investing easy. With a “set it and forget it” methodology, in a way it forces you to begin investing by rolling in few cents for every purchase you make.

This is a great way for college students who may not have access to a 401k plan to build up a savings account. Acorn investments will grow just as if the funds were placed in an individual mutual fund with an investment bank.

They do all the work. When you sign up with Acorns, the hardest part of your job is initially deciding where you want your money and linking your cards (which is not difficult). After that, you are saving money.

Acorns also offers a mobile application for iOS and Android devices. Take a look at the Acorn app reviews in the app store to see what people are saying. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive. The app is helping so many people, there may be use of a full Acorns app review in a future article.

Acorns is very useful if you are just beginning to learn about investing. They make it very easy by doing virtually all of the work for you. Your everyday purchases contribute to your savings.

From the time you swipe your linked card, you will decide which asset allocation you want to invest in. Acorns puts your money in a well diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds.

 

 

Cons

Acorns isn’t perfect for everyone. This service is not a way to replace a 401k or Roth IRA. The lack of tax benefits may steer some away.

The fees to use the service can be rather high when combined with a low account balance.

If you take advantage of the Round-Up program that Acorns offers, the pennies you are contributing will add up over time. Depending on how much you spend, you could be hovering under $20 for quite some time.

A $1 fee on a $20 balance is a 5% fee. When compared to retirement accounts with other financial institutions, 5% would be extremely high.

You can of course lower the fee percentage by depositing a larger initial amount, which would dilute the $1 fee to a lower percentage of your total savings.

Limited investment options. Acorns does offer 6 different assets allocations that are well diversified. However, hundreds more options can be found by dealing with a commercial investment company like Wells Fargo or Fidelity.

 

 

Is Acorns Worth It?

Acorns is an amazing tool to get started with investing. If you do not have a company offered retirement account like a 401k, it allows you to put your money in the stock market with little barrier to entry.

It is not a way to replace a 401k or Roth IRA. Acorns does not provide a match like most companies, and the growth is not tax deferred or tax free.

The passive nature of using Acorns works well for investors who want a hands off approach. With reallocating and depositing done in the background, you have more time to focus on other things in your life.

If you would rather get a root canal than learn about investing, then Acorns could very well be the solution to your problem. Use this Acorn review and decide for yourself if this method of investing will be beneficial for you.

Download Acorns for iOS and Android

Do you have a favorite investment app? Tell us about it in the comments below?

How to: Add AirDrop to Your Mac’s Dock for Quicker Access

 

 

 

By Chris Hauk of MacTrast

AirDrop is a great way to send and receive files between Macs or between your Mac and iOS devices. Here’s a quick way to shave a few clicks off of the process.

If you’re initiating an AirDrop transfer from your Mac, you usually have to open a finder window and then navigate to AirDrop. But, by following the quick steps below, you can open an AirDrop window with a single click.

1.) Open Finder on your Mac. (You can just click anywhere on your Mac’s Desktop and the Finder menu will be enabled.)

2.) In the Finder menu, click on the “Go” menu item, and then select the “Go To Folder” item in the Go menu.

3.) In the dialog box that appears, enter the following directory path exactly, then hit the Enter / Return key:
/System/Library/CoreServices/Finder.app/Contents/Applications/

4.) A window will open on your Mac’s Desktop, in it you’ll see an icon marked “AirDrop,” as seen below.

5.) Click and hold on the icon with your mouse pointer. Then drag-and-drop the icon onto your Mac’s Dock, dropping it in the spot where you want it to appear.

6.) Close the folder you grabbed the AirDrop icon from.

The AirDrop icon will now always be available in the Dock. Just click on it, and an AirDrop windows will open, ready to go.

For more tips and tricks on how to make better use of your Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, or Apple TV, be sure to visit the “How To” section of our website.

 

What’s your favorite AirDrop tip? Tell us in the comments below!

Tips & Tricks: You’re Not Using a VPN? Bad Idea

A PCMag survey demonstrates that most people are aware of the privacy risks on the internet, but most aren’t doing anything about them.

By Max Eddy of PCMag.com

In the past few years, PCMag has seen VPN services go from being fringe security utilities to red-hot, must-have cyber accessory.

The popularity (and necessity) of the once-lowly VPN is certainly due to the ever-growing legal and technological challenges to individual privacy. Virtual private networks are a tool whose time has clearly come. That’s why it’s so surprising that a poll conducted by PCMag found that, despite understanding the threats to their privacy, the vast majority of respondents don’t use VPNs and never have.

Unsecured Traffic

 

Of the 1,000 people polled by PCMag between Feb. 7-9, 71 percent have never used a VPN.

That struck me for two reasons. First of all, the search volume we receive at PCMag for VPN-related articles is enormous. Second, many companies require the use of a corporate VPN when working remotely. That might explain why 15 percent had used a VPN in the past, but don’t currently log on.

Most people, I assumed, would have crossed paths with a VPN at some point. And yet, the vast majority of respondents not only do not currently use a VPN, they have never laid hands on one.

New (and Old) Threats to Privacy

What’s interesting about the recent interest in VPNs is that it hasn’t been tied to a single issue, but rather an avalanche of privacy and security concerns. An awful lot has happened in the last few years, the answer to which has often been “use a VPN.”
One of the first news items that seemed to spur VPN adoption was the decision by Congress to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to sell anonymized user data.

That’s reflected in our survey data, where 25 percent of respondents (correctly) identified ISPs as the biggest threat to their individual privacy.

In our survey, 24 percent of respondents also listed Facebook as a threat to their privacy. This was despite the fact that our survey was in the field back in February, before the Cambridge Analytica scandal raised nascent privacy concerns about the social network to a new level. I imagine that if we ran the same survey now, even more consumers would be concerned about Facebook, and rightly so.

Admittedly, a VPN won’t do much when it comes to the kind of surveillance carried out by Facebook, but it’s still spooky to learn that the company is even tracking users who don’t have Facebook accounts.

These issues haven’t been limited to the US. Russia and China have introduced new rules that make it much harder for VPNs to operate within those countries. Furthermore, Russia recently banned popular encrypted messaging app Telegram, reportedly driving more users to adopt VPNs.

Another threat reflected in the survey is the dangers in using public Wi-Fi networks. There’s no way to know that the network labeled “Starbucks_Wifi” is legit and not a network created for the express purpose of nabbing people’s personal information. Fortunately, 43 percent of respondents said the main reason they would use a VPN was to access public Wi-Fi.

And then there’s net neutrality. Many hoped that the ongoing fight to ensure that ISPs must treat all web traffic equally in terms of speed and accessibility would end with updated FCC rules during the Obama administration. Unfortunately, a new FCC chairman decided (incorrectly) that these rules were unnecessary and successfully dismantled them.

This is where our numbers seem a bit out of step with reality, as we found that 55 percent of respondents who agreed with the concept of net neutrality had never used a VPN. Although 46 percent said they supported it, 32 percent didn’t know what it was. That’s disappointing on its own.

Is Privacy Dead?

Also disheartening were the responses about voluntarily surrendering personal information.

A dismal 62 percent of respondents said they’d willingly hand over personal information for free Wi-Fi. Another 23 percent said they would hand over personal info for exclusive content on video streaming platforms, and 13 percent said they’d do it for exclusive content in video games.

A staggering 7 percent said they would surrender personal info for free adult content. I find this particularly mind blowing, as there is not (last I checked) a dearth of free porn on the internet.

That said, a key caveat of this particular set of questions was the phrase “willingly.” Too often, people aren’t aware of the information they’re giving up in exchange for a free mobile app or what companies can see when they share a post on Facebook. If we’re going to use our personal information as currency, it’s better that we make those transactions willingly.

You Should Definitely Use a VPN

In all my writing about VPNs, I’ve tried to stress their limitations. They won’t make you truly anonymous online (you need Tor for that), and there’s a risk anytime you use a for-profit company for security (you can roll your own VPN with Outline, but I digress).

Many of you have concerns about using VPNs in general, such as what kind of impact a VPN will have on internet speeds (37 percent), whether or not it will work with a particular online service (15 percent), and if it can be used to access Netflix (28 percent). Those are legitimate concerns, and ones that have only been partially solved by VPN companies.

But the last few years have shown that an economy based around gathering user data has real consequences. Between data breaches, foreign election influence, and the sheer volume of data being gathered by seemingly innocuous services, it’s never been more urgent to take control of our privacy online. A VPN won’t solve all those issues, but it’s a start and one that only 29 percent of you have so far used.

 

Do you use a VPN for your personal network? Sound off in the comments below!

Tales from the Orchard:Apple’s iOS 11.4 update with ‘USB Restricted Mode’ may defeat tools like GrayKey

The iOS 11.4 beta contains a new feature called USB Restricted Mode, designed to defeat physical data access by third parties — possibly with forensic firms like Grayshift and Cellebrite in mind.

 

“To improve security, for a locked iOS device to communicate with USB accessories you must connect an accessory via Lightning connector to the device while unlocked — or enter your device passcode while connected — at least once a week,” reads Apple documentation highlighted by security firm ElcomSoft. The feature actually made an appearance in iOS 11.3 betas, but like AirPlay 2 was removed from the finished code.

The change blocks use of the Lightning port for anything but charging if a device is left untouched for seven days. An iPhone or iPad will even refuse to sync with computer running iTunes until iOS is unlocked with a passcode.

USB Restricted Mode may be intended to impose a seven-day window on when digital forensics specialists like Grayshift can break into a device, at least using any simple techniques. Those firms will often employ a “lockdown” record from a suspect’s computer to create a local backup of iPhone data, skipping passcode entry.

iOS 11 already has some restrictions on lockdown records, namely automatic expiration, and full-disk encryption that renders them useless if a device is rebooted. The 11.3 update shrank the life of iTunes pairing records to seven days.

ElcomSoft suggested that connecting a device to a paired accessory or computer could extend the Restricted Mode window, and centrally-managed hardware may already have that mode disabled.

“If the phone was seized while it was still powered on, and kept powered on in the meanwhile, than the chance of successfully connecting the phone to a computer for the purpose of making a local backup will depend on whether or not the expert has access to a non-expired lockdown file (pairing record),” ElcomSoft elaborated. “If, however, the phone is delivered in a powered-off state, and the passcode is not known, the chance of successful extraction is slim at best.”

The exact details of the hacking techniques used by Cellebrite and Grayshift’s GrayKey have been kept secret, so it’s possible they may still work after iOS 11.4 is released. The companies could however resort to more extreme methods to get at data, such as removing the flash memory from the devices, copying them, and using the copies to attack the password.

 

What do think of Apple’s move to thwart hackers and the FBI? Sound off in the comments below!

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