AMAZON’S ONE-DAY ACER SALE OFFERS DEEP DISCOUNTS ON LAPTOPS, MONITORS, AND MORE

Amazon’s got a knack for awesome one-day sales, and today brings another one. The online retailer is selling a wide range of Acer products for up to 30 percent off. The deals include discounted prices on gaming mice, monitors, laptops, backpacks, headsets, mechanical keyboards, and more. Here are our three favorite picks from the sale.

First up is the Acer Chromebook 15 for $240, about $90 off its most recent price and an all-time low price. We normally aren’t big fans of Chromebook deals that crack $200, but this one is different. This laptop features a 15.6-inch 1080p touchscreen, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a dual-core 1.1GHz Intel Celeron N3350. Bottom line, it’s a great Chromebook. Even if it didn’t have a touchscreen we’d be happy with it at even $220, but the display really seals the deal. Acer makes solid Chromebooks, and this one supports Android apps and Linux apps beyond the regular Chrome OS.

Gamers on a budget should check out the 23.8-inch FreeSync Acer Nitro VG240Y for $110. Another device at its all-time low and well below the $170 MSRP. This IPS monitor has two HDMI ports, and one VGA. The display’s frame is razor thin on the sides making it a good choice for smacking multiple displays together. It also has a 75Hz refresh rate, and a 1 millisecond response time. There are also a pair of 2-watt speakers if you want to game or stream videos without a headset.

Finally, if you’re looking for a gaming mouse, the Acer Predator Cestus 500 is $34, this is the peripheral’s all-time low and $26 lower than the most recent price drop. This mouse features RGB lighting, on-board memory for 5 profile settings, a 7,200 DPI sensor, and eight customizable macro keys.

MOZILLA TAKES SWIPE AT CHROME WITH ‘TRACK THIS’ PROJECT

Mozilla this week touted Firefox’s anti-ad tracking talents by urging users of other browsers to load 100 tabs to trick those trackers into offering goods and services suitable for someone in the 1%, an end-times devotee and other archetypes.

Tagged as “Track THIS,” the only-semi-tongue-in-cheek project lets users select from four personas – including “hypebeast,” “filthy rich,” “doomsday prepper,” and “influencer” – for illustrative purposes. Track THIS then opens 100 tabs “to fool trackers into thinking you’re someone else.”

Mozilla's Track THISMozilla
Track THIS offers four personas – including an end-times zealot – to demonstrate how ad trackers follow users’ web wanderings, then customize the ads they see based on where they’ve been and what they’ve looked at. The project is part of Mozilla’s effort to establish Firefox as the go-to browser on privacy.

If it works, the browser will start showing online ads for products the trackers’ algorithms believe will be attractive to that persona. “It’s really just throwing off brands who want to advertise to a very specific type of person,” Mozilla wrote in a June 25 post to one of its blogs.

Depending on the agility of the trackers, the products chosen may revert to ones that hit closer to home, Mozilla warned. “Your ads will probably only be impacted for a few days, but ad trackers are pretty sophisticated. They could start reflecting your normal browsing habits sooner than that,” the company said.

Computerworld donned the mask of a pretend prepper to gauge Track THIS’s effectiveness in Chrome on a Mac. (Computerworld also tried Safari, but its “Intelligent Tracking Protection” stymied the impact of the 100 tabs.)

Among the 100 tabs were pages at amazon.com shilling 36,000-calorie buckets of bulk meals, water filters and purification pills, “bug-out” bags and the like; sites strutting television programs including “Ancient Aliens” (History Channel); places to purchase hazmat suits; and articles from survivalist websites such as primalsurvivor.net and theprepared.com.

doomsday adMozilla
After running Mozilla’s ‘Track THIS’ project on Chrome – and opening 100 tabs designed to spoof a doomsday prepper – the browser started showing ads for disaster-related products.

Subsequent ventures onto the Web with Chrome immediately revealed a change in ads. A visit to slate.com, for example, showed ads for camouflage jackets, while a trip to nbcsports.com boasted a banner ad that read, “You only get once [sic] chance to save your family” and led to wisefoodstorage.com where ad copy asserted “Don’t face your next emergency on an empty stomach.”

The whole purpose of Track THIS was, as Mozilla acknowledged, to publicize Firefox’s anti-tracking features. At the end of its blog post, after instructions on how to use Track THIS, Mozilla went into pitch mode. “When you’re done with the experiment, get Firefox with Enhanced Tracking Protection [ETP] to block third-party tracking cookies by default.”

Mozilla has long trumpeted Firefox’s down-with-trackers abilities. Originally called just “Tracking Protection” and restricted to Firefox’s private browsing mode, the technology blocked a range of content – not just online advertisements but also in-page trackers that sites or ad networks used to follow people around the web. Later, in November 2017, with Firefox 57, aka “Quantum,” Mozilla expanded Tracking Protection to cover non-private browsing. Problems persisted, however, with sites often breaking when trackers were struck out.

By October 2018’s Firefox 63, Mozilla claimed it had tamed site breakage, and added “Enhanced” to the name. Originally, ETP was off by default in Firefox 63, but Mozilla said it would switch it to on-by-default two versions later, in January. But ultimately, the company needed more testing time. Mozilla finally began to roll out on-by-default ETP with Firefox 67.0.1, a June 4 update.

The stratagem seemed aimed squarely at Chrome, the world’s most popular browser, which accounted for 68% of all browsing activity last month, accord to analytics vendor Net Applications. Of the top four browsers – Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft’s Edge/Internet Explorer duo – Chrome and Microsoft’s lacked integrated anti-tracking tools. And while Firefox’s user share has remained mire in the single digits, Mozilla’s drumbeat on privacy has been heard by some.

Last week, the Washington Post ran a piece titled “Goodbye, Chrome: Google’s web browser has become spy software” and stuck it near the top of its website, where it remained for hours.

“Seen from the inside, [Google’s] Chrome browser looks a lot like surveillance software,” argued the newspaper’s technology columnist, Geoffrey Fowler. “Having the world’s biggest advertising company make the most popular web browser was about as smart as letting kids run a candy shop. It made me decide to ditch Chrome for a new version of nonprofit Mozilla’s Firefox, which has default privacy protections.”

This story, “Mozilla takes swipe at Chrome with ‘Track THIS’ project” was originally published by Computerworld.

MICROSOFT ADDS ONEDRIVE PERSONAL VAULT TO SECURE YOUR CRITICAL FILES AND INCREASES STORAGE OPTIONS

Microsoft > OneDrive [Office 365]
Microsoft

Microsoft said Tuesday that OneDrive subscribers will receive a new OneDrive Personal Vault option that adds increased security to their online files, as well as additional storage tiers for existing subscribers.

Personal Vault is designed for files you really hold dear: tax information, scanned passports, that sort of thing. OneDrive Personal Vault will debut overseas, specifically Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and will be available worldwide by the end of the year. OneDrive Personal Vault will offer the same features for free-tier and Office 365 subscribers, save one: O365 users can allocate as much space as they want to the Personal Vault, while those who use the free or the 100GB paid tier of OneDrive will be able to add a “limited number of files” to the Personal Vault.

Microsoft also announced some more basic upgrades to the OneDrive service. For those who are already on OneDrive’s 50GB/month standalone storage plan, Microsoft will upgrade that plan to 100GB of cloud storage for free. Microsoft also finally bumped up the maximum OneDrive storage allotment from 1TB to a maximum of 2TB—though you’ll pay up to an additional $9.99 monthly for the extra capacity.

What is the OneDrive Personal Vault?

At first glance, the new OneDrive Personal Vault doesn’t appear to add much more than two-factor authentication to your OneDrive account—an security option that can already be applied to your Microsoft account. But Microsoft says that Personal Vault applies an extra layer of protection, essentially by reducing the timeout period.

The difference appears to be that conventional two-factor authentication can, in effect, be deactivated if you’re using what’s called a trusted device: a device that you basically exempt from 2FA, as it’s always in your possession. A trusted device may still ask you to reauthenticate every so often, especially if it’s governed by an administrator.

With Personal Vault, the period during which the device is trusted decreases significantly. That means that you’ll frequently need to reauthenticate, using a fingerprint, your face, or a code delivered by email or SMS. (Oddly, Microsoft didn’t announce support for a hardware token.) Microsoft says that the period of time to reauthenticate will vary by device, and can be configured somewhat by the user. The message here is that if your device is stolen or you need to step away unexpectedly, Personal Vault will still protect your files.

Personal Vault will sync your files to a BitLocker-encrypted area of your hard drive, if you use Windows 10 Pro (Windows 10 Home does not support it.) OneDrive Personal Vault also includes the other protections Microsoft has previously built into OneDrive: ransomware protection, at-rest encryption, mass file deletion and recovery, virus scanning on download, and version history.

Microsoft’s OneDrive capacity increases are much more conventional. Nothing’s changed for those who don’t pay for any additional OneDrive storage. If you do pay $1.99 per month for 50GB of OneDrive, your storage allotment will increase to 100GB. And if you want more than just a terabyte, you can have it—well, up to 2TB, anyway. It’s all summarized below.

Microsoft onedrive additional storage plansMicrosoft

This story, “Microsoft adds OneDrive Personal Vault to secure your critical files and increases storage options” was originally published by PCWorld.

ORACLE JAVA UPDATES HAVE BECOME EASIER TO IGNORE

Oracle’s shift from doing a major release of standard Java every three years to doing releases every six months, a plan announced in September 2017, has resulted in versions with far fewer new capabilities than before. And that are perhaps far less interesting.

Java Development Kit (JDK) 13, due in September, has just five new features, including a preview of text blocks and an enhancement to the Z garbage collector. Now in a rampdown phase in its development, JDK 13 follows JDK 12, released in March. JDK 12 had eight new features, including a preview of switch expressions.

Compare JDK 12 and JDK 13 to JDK 9, released in September 2017, which listed roughly 90 new features, chief among them modularity, a REPL, and compiler improvements. Of course, JDK 9 came three-and-a-half years after JDK 8 arrived in March 2014.

The new release cadence, intended to get features out faster, thus has made Java upgrades less dramatic than they once were. Fewer features gives Java shops more leeway to pass on the latest upgrade and wait for a more monumental release down the road. By the same token, users may not have to wait as long for a specific new feature, with the next release of Java always just around the corner.

With the six-month release cadence, Oracle also introduced a distinction between “non-LTS” feature releases, which receive support only until the next feature release, and “LTS” (long-term support) releases, which arrive every three years and receive extended support. The current LTS release, JDK 11, arrived September 2018, will be supported until September 2026.

Oracle JDK releases have been turning up every six months since JDK 10 in March 2018. After JDK 13 ships, JDK 14 is due presumably in March 2020. The JDK 14 status page does not yet cite any planned features. But based on what we’ve seen in the most-recent releases, developers awaiting JDK 14 should not expect more than a tiny handful of improvements once again.

This story, “Oracle Java updates have become easier to ignore” was originally published by InfoWorld.