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SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

How to protect your PC against the Intel chip flaw

Here are the steps to take to keep your Windows laptop or PC safe from Meltdown and Spectre.

by Matt Elliott

Intel

A major security flaw has been discovered in many modern processors that could allow hackers to access data -- passwords, encryption keys and other information you want kept private -- stored in the protected kernel memory of your computer, phone or tablet. Known by the names Spectre and Meltdown, the flaws affect chips from Intel and Arm. Intel's rival AMD believes its chips are safe, saying in a statement, "Due to differences in AMD's architecture, we believe there is a near zero risk to AMD processors at this time."

Click here for a broad overview of the fixes currently available for a variety of devices. Considering the vast number of users with Intel-based Windows PCs and laptops, here's a deeper dive on what you need to do to protect yourself.

Install the emergency Windows patch

Microsoft has released a rare, out-of-band emergency patch for Windows 10 users. It should pop up and ask you to restart your machine so it can be installed, but if you have yet to receive such a notification, then head to Settings > Update & security see if there are updates waiting on the Windows Update page. If you are running Windows 10 version 1709 (Fall Creators Update), the patch you need is labeled Security Update for Windows (KB4056892).

For older versions of Windows 10, here are the patch numbers:

  • Windows 10 version 1703 (Creators Update): KB4056891
  • Windows 10 version 1607 (Anniversary Update): KB4056890
  • Windows 10 version 1511 (November Update): KB4056888
  • Windows 10 version 1507 (Initial Release): KB4056893

Manual install route

If you have yet to receive the patch via Windows Update, you can manually install it by going to this Windows Update Catalog page. Odds are you are running a 64-bit version of Windows, so you'll want to install the file for x64-based systems. For Fall Creators Update, for example, it's the bottom-most option labeled "2018-01 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1709 for x64-based Systems (KB4056892)."

How can I be sure I'm protected?

To check to see if you have installed the necessary patch, go to Settings > Update & security and click View installed update history. Under Quality Updates, look to see that Security Update for Windows (KB4056892) was successfully installed. You can also check by going to Settings > System > About and scrolling down to the Windows specifications section. After installing the KB4056892 patch, the OS Build will read 16299.125.

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Microsoft is shutting down its free upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 January 16

Microsoft's Windows 8.1 has moved out of mainstream support, meaning that users are essentially running a dead OS. But there's still one more way to upgrade to Windows 10 for free.

By Mark Hachman

Senior Editor, PCWorld

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If you’re still running Windows 8.1, be advised that Microsoft shut down mainstream support a week ago. But there’s still a last-ditch upgrade path to Windows 10: Microsoft’s assistive technology loophole, which closes January 16.

Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 8.1 on January 9, five years after the operating system’s debut. Essentially, it’s dead, and for the average consumer, Windows 8.1 will remain forever unchanged, with no new features or bug fixes. Instead, Microsoft has migrated the OS to “extended support,” which will provide security updates for another five years, until 2023.

In Microsoft’s world view, consumers should have already migrated to Windows 10, a modern OS with big fixes, patches, and period updates. And while the company gave users a one-year window to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, NetMarketshare shows about 7 percent of users have refused to upgrade, or simply forgot to do it by the July, 2016 deadline.

Well, know this today: You have one last opportunity to upgrade (unless Microsoft once again extends the deadline).

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What’s new in Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2017

The Version 15.6 beta provides a raft of C++ improvements, as well as enhancements for developer productivity and diagnostics

 

By Paul Krill

Editor at Large, InfoWorld | January 12, 2018

 

MS Visual Studios

                         ThinkStock

The second beta of the Version 15.6 update to Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2017 IDE is now available.


[ Review: Visual Studio 2017 is the best ever. | Cut to the key news and issues in cutting-edge enterprise technology with the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ]

Visual Studio 2017 15.6 beta’s features


Microsoft on January 10 released a second beta of Visual Studio 2017 15.6. Its features include:

  • Improved solution load performance, focused on scenarios where a project already has been opened.
  • The design time build cache has been optimized, with project data loading now done in parallel. Visual Studio thus can use the disk and CPU with greater efficiency. Microsoft has found that large C# and Visual Basic solutions will “warm-load” twice as fast as before.
  • For productivity, the beta lets developers navigate to decompiled sources.
  • For diagnostics, the CPU usage tool now displays logical call stacks for asynchronous code when used during post-mortem profiling with the Alt-Z Performance profiler. Asynchronous code running on behalf of a parent function or task appears as a child in Call Tree and Caller/Callee views. This view makes it easier to navigate asynchronous code and understand performance.
  • For Azure cloud development, continuous delivery can be configured for solutions with ASP.Net Core projects.
  • The Test Explorer capability, for running tests, has added a hierarchy to organize tests by project, namespace, and class.
  • Test Explorer has changed real-time test discovery so it is now on by default, rather than require a flag be set.

The preview also offers new capabilities for C++ developers:

  • For C++ standards conformance, the preview implements more of the C++ 17 standard library, including APIs such as stable_sort and partition.
  • Missing include files are automatically discovered for C++ Open Folder if under the workspace root.
  • Debug options are now available for embedded ARM GCC development.
  • Five new checks have been added to enforce rules around integer overflow and additional rules for C++ guidelines
  • CMake projects are now automatically listed in Test Explorer.

Features introduced in the December 8, 2017, initial beta include:

  • The CPU Usage tool shows source-line highlighting based on consumption of specific lines of code.
  • Using Intellisense capabilities for Python code no longer requires a completion database.
  • The Team Explorer collaboration tool improves Git tags functionality, with the Tags tile available for viewing all tags in a repo. Developers also can delete and push tags and build a new branch from tags.
  • Access to the App Authentication Extension, for configuring a device to use protected settings when working with the Azure cloud, has been moved into the main setup.
  • Real-time test discovery, used for projects using the Roslyn compiler to find tests and populate the Test Explorer, is on by default. It had been available via a flag in the Version 15.5 release.
  • For Azure cloud development, Visual Studio supports configuring continuous delivery to Azure for Team Foundation Version Control, Git SSH remotes, and web apps for containers.
  • The WCF Web Service Reference connected service provider now supports an existing service reference, simplifying the process of regenerating client proxy code for an updated web service.

Where to download the Visual Studio 15.6 beta
You can download the Version 15.6 beta at the Visual Studio website.

Now available: Visual Studio 2017 15.5 features

Visual Studio 2017 15.5 was released on December 4, featuring faster load times for C# and Visual Basic.

Visual Studio 2017 15.5’s compiler and standard library gained the following new support for the C++ 17 standard:
• The compiler supports about 75 percent of C++ 17 features, including structured bindings, constexpr lambdas, inline variables, and float expressions.
• C++ code generation has been improved.
• New C++ Core Guidelines checks should ensure the quality of C++ code.
• Support for the Google Test Framework assists with writing Google Test C++ unit tests
• The Linux C++ workload supports cross-compilation for ARM microcontrollers.

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Connected Devices, Remote Security: Data Encryption and Security in the Cloud

By Pete Johnson


Security” used to mean worrying about HTTPS certificates on your websites. The notion of a “device” was a browser and all you really had to do was to guarantee that traffic between it and your web servers was encrypted.

Then the “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon caused system administrators to worry about things like isolating WiFi traffic for visitors and providing VPN tunneling software of iOS and Android, so that employees could access corporate assets in the palms of their hands. “Device” then meant “smartphone.”

But now, “device” means something different. Manufacturing equipment, plane engines and even parking meters all qualify. Devices seem to outnumber people, reminding us why we need IPv6. But this new notion of “device” also requires a very different security model unless you want to fall victim to a hacker because you forgot to secure every thermostat in your building.

Building Multiple Security Levels on top of HTTPS
Different vendors address this more complex security model in different ways, but generally speaking, it has three components to it: Authorization Engine, Handshake Certificates and HTTPS.

HTTPS is still the underlying technology for encrypting traffic, but unlike the old days of web surfing (when we used to argue about the length of the keys), modern device traffic puts two layers on top of that base encryption. First, there is a set of certificate handshakes that makes sure that some cloud entity should be talking to the device in question. On top of that is typically a cloud-driven authorization engine that can confirm or deny specific instructions to the device.

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10 Best Google Analytics Tools for Your Business

google analytics tools 1

Google Analytics Tools make it a lot easier to use Google Analytics as well as extend its functionality in many ways. Here are 10 Best Free Google Analytics Tools to help you get more things done with Google Analytics in a lot less time. In fact, some of these tools & add-ons can be used with Google Tag Manager (GTM) as well. All of these tools are free browser add-ons that you can simply download & install with a click.


1. Tag Assistant

Tag Assistant is a great google analytics tool that enables you to verify if you’ve properly added google analytics tracking code to your website or blog, and troubleshoot in case of problems. In fact, you can also use it to verify Google Tag Manager Installation as well as Google Adwords Conversion Tracking. Tag Assistant is a Chrome extension that you can easily download & install from Chrome store.

google analytics tools

Bonus Read : 8 Google Analytics Metrics Every Business Must Track Regularly


2. Google Analytics Debug

Google Analytics Debug is a Chrome extension that allows you to debug Google Analytics right from within your browser. It basically inserts a piece of code when you load a page containing Google Analytics Tracking Code in your browser. This allows you to see useful information, warnings and errors messages about Google Analytics installation and performance, in your browser console. It also provides in-depth information about each tracking beacon/variable that your website sends to Google Analytics.

Bonus Read: How to Get Google Analytics Individual Qualification


3. Page Analytics by Google

Page Analytics is a wonderful Google Analytics Tool that allows you to see how customers interact with your web pages, including what they click & didn’t click. You can use these insights to optimize your web page layout, and increase conversion. When you load a page for which you have Google Analytics Access, it basically uses the Google Analytics Report data for it to generate page insights. You can even use the Google Analytics date comparison and segmentation tools right from within the extension.

Bonus Read : 10 Best Google Analytics Reports for Your Business

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