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Microsoft Surface Pro vs Macbook Air: Ready to Take on the iPad Corporate Dominance

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Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft is taking aim at corporate America with the upcoming Surface Pro tablet.  Currently, road warriors and frequent flyers make due with iPads or occasionally an Android tablet. I’m not saying the iPad is a poor choice,  it is the current market leader, but to use it as a desktop replacement takes some work.

Apple does not have a true Microsoft Office replacement and the 3rd party apps do not perform well for advanced Office work. CloudOn is one of the better options, but requiring a constant Wi-fi or cell connection makes it non functional at times. Quick Office and Documents to Go both offer an alternative, but it still isn’t the Office you are used to on the desktop. Trying to view and edit more than a single document at a time is cumbersome.

Many corporate types are using a remote desktop app on their iPad to get back to their desktop or docked laptop. If they are lucky enough to be using a host VMware or Citrix virtual setup, then the iPad works great. It functions like a touch screen Windows device for work and a regular iPad for everything else.  This system can be costly to setup at a business level; however, it is still bypassing the tablet interface to get to the Windows OS. These environments exist because it can be a major pain to not be using Windows or Mac OS X.

The Surface Pro will have a full version of Windows 8 like a desktop or laptop. Regular PC software will run native on the tablet. This is the game changer for Microsoft. IT staff and consumers will not have to worry about getting a 3rd party app or a file system to play nice on a network. You will be able to load that proprietary accounting program or the company ERP software, just as if it was an office desktop. Printing won’t have to bring worry about being iPrint capable or having a compatible printer with the ever changing 3rd party apps.  Google has the same issue and the Chrome cloud print option works well, but it still is not as easy as it should be.

The 64GB version will start at $899 not including the well received keyboard. Don’t allocate all that extra storage just yet. The OS will consume nearly 16GB  leaving the end user with around 48GB worth of usable storage. The 128GB version will be $999 and comes with the same surface pen stylus and no keyboard.

The other specs will sound very similar to a  low end laptop. The screen is a 10.6 inch 1920×1080 HD display that will have a 16:9 ratio. The 3rd generation Core i5 Intel processor is packaged with Intel HD Graphics 4000. 4GB of ram is included along with a Mini Display Port that can output a 2560 x 1440 resolution.

A final key spec is the included full size USB 3.0 port that can be used for printing, a mouse or a thumb drive for quick backup. Microsoft will not force you to save to the cloud or rely on email for sharing documents of any kind.

Price will be a big factor for the Surface. While specs and price are similar to Ultrabooks or the MacBook Air, it is still just a tablet. Recent desktop and laptop sales have been overpowered by the cheaper and less functional tablets. Microsoft’s Surface Pro appears ready to compete with the highly portable Ultrabooks.

The popular MacBook Air comes in at the same price as the Surface Pro with the added keyboard. The screens are within .2 inches of each other, but the Surface has a much higher resolution. Along with that resolution comes a full 10 point touch screen. Each pack an Intel i5 with 4GB of ram.

A MacBook air will get around 5 hours of battery life, but per a Microsoft Twitter account, the Surface should get around 4.5 hours of use. In addition to the fully usable USB 3.0 port, the Surface includes a MicroSDXC card slot for extra storage or reading camera cards.  Each boasts Bluetooth 4.0 and a stereo headset jack. A full feature operating system on the Surface could be icing on the cake to finally compete with Ultrabooks in a business environment.

It will all come down to Windows 8 performance for the future of the Surface Pro. If Windows 8 is another Windows ME or Vista, then the tablet could have a short life. Microsoft seems to be turning a corner with the looks of Windows 8, but how long will it be relevant?

Microsoft Surface takes on the iPad

Microsoft joins the tablet wars with the Surface and Google is next, we’ll show you some of the secrets in iOS 6, and is a Retina Display coming to the MacBook Pro 13-inch?

Microsoft Surface Pro Pricing Announced

Microsoft has announced that their Surface tablet running Windows 8 pro will be hitting the shelves in January, with the device being priced in the US at $899. That’s $100 less than an 11in MacBook Air but a whole $400 more than the latest iPad.

Related Stories:

Microsoft Planning New Version of Windows 8: Windows Blue to be Released 2013
MacBook Pro Retina Display with 13.3-inch Slimmer Design Revealed by Apple
Windows 8 Release Date Set for October 26, 2012: Preview Video
Microsoft Steps into Uncharted Territory with “Surface Tablet”

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  1. John Brooks

    December 5, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Nice article Greg. I think you’re spot on in comparing this with the macbook air. Actually unlike the young girls posting on this site I believe that Microsoft really is trying to provide a more viable corporate product. Unbeknownst to the readers of this article I don’t sense a bias towards microsoft. Your thesis statement sets the bar and these n00bs haven’t been to college, just their mom’s.

  2. Justin

    December 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    The article fails to point out that the Surface does not come with a touch or keypad cover for those prices. Since that will cost you $100 it’s not really cheaper than a Macbook Air. At $1100-$900 why wouldn’t you just buy a laptop that can run any version of windows? Seems like a hard sell for most enterprise folks.

    • AbeTheBabe

      December 4, 2012 at 11:44 pm

      Did you not read? It says it will not include a keyboard at least twice.

  3. Jet Lee

    December 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    That dude is funnny.

  4. Josh

    December 4, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    This article reads as if you are grossly in favor of the surface, made it hard for me to make a direct comparison of the two, you stated the battery life for the macbook air at 5hours, which is a nice real world number, some downloading,video, high brightness, but your number for the surface is a hope to be guess, these are not apples to apples. In a real world test you will see that the battery life for the surface, under a comparable workload will be less that 50% than that of the macbook air, after all it is a full bodied laptop. You should have used the “stated” specs for the macbook, not the real world numbers we haven’t been able to collect about the surface pro yet.

    I happen to think the surface is a great step for microsoft, and the whole portable device category, but compare it to the ipad and not the macbook air.

    • AbeTheBabe

      December 4, 2012 at 11:48 pm

      What are you talking about? The 5 hours for the Macbook Air is what is stated on Apples website, has nothing to do with real world use. Obviously you are grossly in favor of Apple because you are trying to say that the Surface will get less than half the battery of the Air, but you, nor anyone, has ever used the Surface. Lastly, you completely missed the point of this article if you think this should be compared to an iPad. This is a laptop replacement in tablet form, not a tablet.

  5. Robert

    December 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    “Currently, road warriors and frequent flyers make due with iPads or occasionally an Android tablet.”

    The correct phrase would be “make do”. Spell checkers can’t replace editors.

    And actually, I do a lot better than make do with my iPad. It is an adjunct to my notebook computer and as such, I have no need to its storage to be in any way secure. Encryption, BitLocker, central management? No, thank you.

  6. Nokuteshimo

    December 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    How much did MS pay you for this piece?

  7. NovaSean

    December 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    You also forgot that most major businesses and government agencies have a requirement of drive encryption… The Surface RT and SurfacePro both have TPM security chips. The SurfaceRT ships with its drive encrypted with BitLocker on. The SurfacePro can be managed just a Windows 7 laptop and BitLocker can be managed by an organization’s IT group.

    Unlike the MacBookAir.. SurfacePro has a digitized screen.. So with SurfacePro, an artist could run most windows based creative software and draw directly on it…

  8. Steve

    December 4, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    FWI: you made a pretty large mistake. The Surface Pro is available in 64GB and 128GB models, and therefore the lower tier model will NOT lose 50% of it’s space to the OS.

    • Greg

      December 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Thanks for catching that Steve. It’s been updated.

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Mozilla Will Roll Out A Feature That Would Alert Users If They Passwords Were Compromised

The new feature is expected to rolled out with Firefox 70.

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Photo: Mozilla Website

In the age where the majority of human life is centered around the internet, passwords are one of the most important things to secure, especially that data breaches and system infiltrations seem to become a commonplace. In order to protect user passwords, Firefox is launching a feature that would alert the user who saves their passwords in the browser whenever those passwords have been compromised in a breach.

Last year, teach giant, Mozilla Firefox have collaborated with Hunt to develop a built-in password monitoring feature that would alert users if their passwords were part of a publicly disclosed breach. Furthermore, the Monitor tool from Firefox would send users notifications to users whenever the saved data in their system has the potential to be compromised aside from running a scan retroactively.

“It can be hard to keep track of when your information has been stolen, so we’re going to help by launching Firefox Monitor, a free service that notifies people when they’ve been part of a data breach. After testing this summer, the results and positive attention gave us the confidence we needed to know this was a feature we wanted to give to all of our users,” reads a blog post from Mozilla.

Now, Mozilla Firefox is said to be in the works to integrate the feature to Lockwise password manager, a system that protects and encrypts users passwords. They are working on launching the new feature along with the new version of the browser, the Firefox 70.

The feature works with cross-referencing data with the popular data breach database, Have I Been Pwned. The integration will scan and detect all saved login credentials in both Locwise password manager as well as Mozilla Firefox browser and cross-referencing those entries to a massive database of data leaks reported by Have I Been Pwned, while simultaneously and continuously alerting users if a match has been made.

“Visit monitor.firefox.com and type in your email address. Through our partnership with Troy Hunt’s “Have I Been Pwned,” your email address will be scanned against a database that serves as a library of data breaches. We’ll let you know if your email address and/or personal info was involved in a publicly known past data breach. Once you know where your email address was compromised you should change your password and any other place where you’ve used that password,” explains Mozilla on how the Monitor works.

According to Mozilla, Firefox Monitor has already had 635,000 people have signed up for alerts, and they are expanding with Lockwise to increase this number and help people secure their passwords.

The notifications and alerts will be curated in the Firefox Monitor Dashboard. Through the breach dashboard, users will receive a quick summary of updates for all registered email accounts and passwords. They will be able to easily identify which emails and passwords are being monitored, how many known data breaches may have exposed their information, and specifically if any passwords have been leaked across those breaches.

“Being part of a data breach is not fun, but keeping track of and knowing where your private information may have been made public is one of the first steps in taking control of your online privacy,” Mozilla penned in a blog post.

However, for Locwise users, the monitoring will not work retroactively. That means that users have to manually check if their passwords were part of an older breach.

Nonetheless, the new feature has been updated to include more detailed stats will also be displayed on the extent of the impact on your account, including the number of email addresses affected, amount of breaches they are involved with, and the number of passwords exposed in the breaches.

For those who are wondering how Mozilla will be handling the submitted emails to their monitoring system, they said that they would do their best to protect the emails submitted for scanning.

“If you’re wondering about how we’re handling your email address, rest assured we will protect your email address when it’s scanned. We talked about the technical details on how that works when we first launched the experiment. This is all in keeping with our principles at Mozilla, where we’re always looking for features that will protect people’s privacy and give them greater control when they’re online.”

Firefox 70 is expected to be out in October.

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Study Finds Google And Facebook Trackers In Porn Sites

Google and Facebook are watching you watching porn.

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Photo: Gonçalo Nobre | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The success of online advertising relies on the ability of advertisers to track the online behavior of their target market. And to do this; they have to clip in several trackers all around the internet to ping back a response that gauges a target customer’s online presence. However, a recent study suggests that these trackers are also present in porn sites that allow massive advertising platforms like Facebook, Google, and Oracle to track people’s pornographic behavior.

The study entitled “Tracking sex: The implications of widespread sexual data leakage and tracking on porn websites” suggests that a massive number of porn sites available on the internet contain ad pixels that can be traced back to the three mentioned above companies. Researchers from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pennsylvania scanned 22,484 porn sites, and they found out that these sites are platforms for Facebook, Google, and Oracles to track people’s porn-viewing.

“Our analysis of 22,484 pornography websites indicated that 93% leak user data to a third party. Tracking on these sites are highly concentrated by a handful of major companies, which we identify. We successfully extracted privacy policies for 3,856 sites, 17% of the total. The policies were written such that one might need a two-year college education to understand them. Our content analysis of the sample’s domains indicated 44.97% of them expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user,” the study’s abstract stated.

The study reveals that out of the more than 22 thousand porn sites examined by the researches, 16,638 sites had Google trackers, 5,396 had Oracle trackers, and 2,248 Facebook trackers. Researchers warned that this information leak should be extremely worrying for many users: “The fact that the mechanism for adult site tracking is so similar to, say, online retail should be a huge red flag.”

“These porn sites need to think more about the data that they hold and how it’s just as sensitive as something like health information. Protecting this data is crucial to the safety of its visitors. And what we’ve seen suggests that these websites and platforms might not have thought all of this through like they should have,” said Elena Maris, a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft and the study’s lead author.

According to the researchers, people generally think that the websites they visit are owned by one single entity. However, they are not aware that most of the sites on the internet have third parties installing their hidden codes. Such “third-party” code can allow companies to monitor the actions of users without their knowledge or consent and build detailed profiles of their habits and interests. Such profiles are often used for targeted advertising, for example, by showing ads for dog food to dog owners.

And advertising is where platforms like Facebook and Google earns much of its revenue. “Many websites and apps have revenue-sharing agreements with third-party advertising networks and gain direct monetary benefit from including third-party code,” the study suggests.

However, in a statement, a Google spokesperson denied that they allow their advertisers to run ads in sexually explicit websites and porn sites. “We don’t allow Google Ads on websites with adult content, and we prohibit personalized advertising and advertising profiles based on a user’s sexual interests or related activities online. Additionally, tags for our ad services are never allowed to transmit personally identifiable information to Google.”

Similarly, Facebook also echoed the same statement saying that the company’s ad Community Guidelines does not allow running Facebook trackers on adult websites and pornographic hubs. Facebook’s pixel tracker is, however, can easily be installed on any website, but Facebook claims not to track data collected from pornography websites.

Nonetheless, the researchers said that the results of their study suggest that there are indeed tracking codes in the porn sites they have scanned. Moreover, they said that their results have opened to different implications. Most of these implications revolve around the risk of tracking pornographic behavior as well as to the process of giving out consent to being tracked.

“We identify three core implications of the quantitative results: 1) the unique/elevated risks of porn data leakage versus other types of data, 2) the particular risks/impact for vulnerable populations, and 3) the complications of providing consent for porn site users and the need for affirmative consent in these online sexual interactions,” they concluded.

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FaceApp And The Double Standards Against Tech Startups — An Opinion

FaceApp is crucified for doing the exact same thing as other photo-sharing platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

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Photo: charlene mcbride | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

There’s much speculating about how the popular photo-manipulation app, FaceApp, would use the data it collected from users who used the platform to take a sneak-peek of how they would look like in the future.

Following the success of the small-time Russian app on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; many have raised concerns regarding how the app could potentially be a privacy and security risk for users. After the news broke out, major news outlets shared their opinions of how the app has gained access to a dataset of photos from millions of people and how the app can use the materials without the owner’s concern — which is clearly stated in the app’s terms and conditions.

By submitting your photo to the app, you “grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you.”

The issue of FaceApp being blown out of proportions highlights the fact that people don’t really care about their online security and privacy. Many of the app’s users responded with a blunt “I don’t care” to the news that FaceApp could potentially compromise their data.

Double standards vs. FaceApp

However, one of the most untalked elements of the issue is how it highlights the double standard that people impose on small-time developers and tech startups, as compared to tech superpowers like Facebook, Google, and Youtube.

In the get-go, it is clear that there is a potential security risk involving FaceApp and the fact that it is connected to a Russian company. However, these risks are also present in models of massive tech companies, especially social media and photo-sharing platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook and Instagram, as platforms where users freely “upload” and share photos (and other data) of themselves, process millions of terabytes of data every day. These two platforms have access to a much more significant database of photos that can be compromised at any time.

If you come to think of it, the risk in sharing your photo on Facebook and Instagram is much damning than when you use FaceApp. But we have not heard the media calling out Facebook and warning people not to upload their photos on Instagram.

The risk is the same.

The difference between Facebook and FaceApp is that Facebook (and Google) has a history of selling your data to third parties. Last year, Facebook faced the US government for allegedly selling US citizens’ data to Cambridge Analytica, a British PR firm accused of helping the Russians and Donald Trump influence public opinion through fake news, and a series of anti-Hillary campaigns.

Another argument used against FaceApp is that it asks a series of permission, including access to a user’s camera roll. They stipulate that once given this access; the app would have the capability to gain unauthorized access to all the photos saved on the user’s device.

In a statement, FaceApp clarifies that the permission was necessary for them to gain access to the photo selected by their users. FaceApp added that the app “performs most of the photo processing in the cloud, upload a photo selected by a user for editing, and never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud.”

While this is indeed a sketchy practice, it is also worthy to note that Facebook and Instagram also ask for this permission. Meaning, they too have access to the plethora of photos (embarrassing or not) saved in a user’s phone. And again, we don’t hear media and experts telling us not to upload pictures on Facebook and Instagram, nor are they stopping us from giving that permission to those social media giants.

This is a reality for small-time developers and tech start-ups. Often, when they release innovation, people quickly become too skeptical and raise concerns about their new product.

But this does not go to show that we should stop criticizing technology. At all cost, we should. The only problem with the reality right now is that we burden budding technology with so many things to prove while we let established tech companies get away with the exact same thing.

The bottom line is that if we are going to tell people to be vigilant of FaceApp, we should not single the app out. Instead, we should tell people to be watchful of the risks that come with all technology — including those that are produced by large tech companies.

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