Categories
computing

Schools moving to the cloud

Network for Learning says ‘moving to the cloud’ is on the to-do list for many New Zealand schools. Here’s the first of a series of posts I’ve written for the N4L blog that aim to demystify the cloud and how to make use of it. It’s written for a non-technical audience.

“Cloud computing is using remote computers for jobs that were once done by local machines.

We call it cloud because the computers are somewhere else on the internet. Most of the time you don’t need to know where they are.

When the idea was first developed, people would draw diagrams to illustrate how it worked. They used pictures of clouds to show the remote computers could be anywhere. The image and the metaphor stuck.”

Read more at The Cloud.

Categories
computing mobile

New iPad, Mac models; odd choices

Earlier this week Apple announced new iPads and refreshed iMac models. Both product lines needed an update and, for the most part, Apple delivered. Yet there are some odd choices.

2019 iPad update

While there are two iPads in the announcement, they are, in effect, two different sized versions of the same hardware.

The 2019 iPad Mini is functionally the same as the 2019 iPad Air. In place of the Air’s 10.5 inch screen, the Mini has a 7.9 inch screen. Prices for Air models start at NZ$850. You can buy a Mini for NZ$680. Otherwise they are much the same.

That’s not the only confusing Apple product name to emerge from this week’s announcements. Both the new iPads work with the Apple Pencil, not the new flat-sided Pencil that works with iPad Pro models, but the older round pencil. You’ll need to be careful if you order one to go with your new iPad.

Adding a Mini model that can work with a Pencil is a smart move. There’s a clear need for this with some customers.

The new Air model’s screen is larger than the older Air. A move from 9.7 inches to 10.5 inches might not sound like much, but because we measure screens across the diagonal, any increase is a squared. In plain English, the new screen is a lot bigger than you might otherwise expect.

While I’ve chosen to use an iPad Pro as my main on-the-move computer these lower-powered iPads are a more affordable choice. For most everyday work, such as writing, dealing with email and so on, they are more than enough computer.

2019 iMacs

Apple’s 2019 iMac upgrades are nothing other than speed bumps. You’ll get a faster machine this week than the one you could have bought last week.

The computer’s external design remains much the same as before. This isn’t a problem, the iMac is perfectly formed and there’s nothing obvious that needs fixing on the outside. The gorgeous big displays remain gorgeous.

Inside the case is another matter. The new iMac models still include old school hard drives. The technology is now past its sell-by date. Apple doesn’t offer old style hard drives anywhere else. It pushed hard to show solid-state-only portables were the way to go at a time when other computer makers still relied on hard drives, but hasn’t extended this to its new iMac models.

Sure, there are Fusion drives, which combine some solid state storage with a spinning drive. This will speed up many apps, but even so, they are slower than pure SSDs. No doubt the argument if that iMac buyers are price sensitive.

Next week Apple is holding a media event in Cupertino, California. Company watchers expect Apple to launch one or more new subscription services including TV streaming.

Categories
computing

Apple’s profits sour and deep fakes get deeper

Listen to my RNZ Nine-to-Noon segment online. This week I look at Apple’s recent run of bad news where the world’s first trillion dollar company has seen its profits drop just as a new security bug was discovered by a teenager. Also on the segment I talked about the world’s first commercial quantum computer and discuss if deep fakes are the start of a new arms race.

Categories
computing

Unisys Security Index: Commercial digital identity services face fear barrier

New Zealanders are happy using digital identities to deal with government agencies.

Yet, according to the 2018 Unisys Security Index survey, we’re less happy using similar digital identities for financial transactions, paying for things and other commercial applications.

Take the idea of having an emergency button a phone so you can send your location to the police if you’re in trouble. Unisys found 84 percent of New Zealanders like the idea. Only eight percent do not.

Would you support the following

Medical devices reporting to doctors

How about having medical devices send alerts to doctors if there’s a significant change in readings? This could be a pacemaker noticing something happening with a heart or a blood sugar monitor seeing a spike.

The survey found eight times as many New Zealanders like the idea as those who don’t. It appears that we trust the police and health professionals.

A different picture emerges when there’s money involved. Unisys found that almost two-thirds of New Zealanders do not like the idea of personal health trackers reporting information to insurance companies, even if it might mean lower premiums. A quarter are in favour of the idea while the rest are undecided.

Likewise only half the population likes the idea of being able to make bank or credit card payments from a watch. When Unisys asked the same people why they didn’t support sharing personal data, there was a consistent pattern in their responses.

No compelling reason to share

In most cases the answer is “there is not a compelling enough reason for them to have this data.”

When money is involved respondents expressed misgivings about data security. This seems a reasonable response given the number of high-profile news stories about data security breaches. It means that organisations hoping to do business this way have their work cut out convincing customers their services are safe and that their requests for data are always benign.

Andrew Whelan, Unisys vice-president Commercial industries for Asia-Pacific says the last year has been relatively calm in terms of New Zealand politics and natural disasters. So our security focus has been elsewhere. He says: “…Local and global data breaches dominated media headlines and impacted many of us personally – so data security is top of mind.

Government yes, commerce not so much

“The results indicate that New Zealanders are more likely to embrace digital identities to engage with government organisations, especially where there are clear benefits of increased convenience or security.

“But in the banking sector, concerns about data security are hindering the take up of new services such as digital wallets and the integrated financial products that are evolving in the growing open banking environment.

“To overcome this discomfort, service providers must be able to show New Zealand consumers the measures they’ve taken to protect customer data across the entire supply chain.”

This is the second of a series of sponsored posts about the 2018 Unisys Security Index. Click the link for more information about the survey.

Categories
computing

Unisys Security Index: World worries on, New Zealand relaxes

Identity theft, bank card fraud and hacking top New Zealanders’ security concerns according to the 2018 Unisys Security Index.

On the whole, we’re more relaxed than people in most other countries. Unisys publishes its security index year. The index is a snapshot of how people feel about security issues.

This year Unisys surveyed 13,000 people worldwide, 1000 in each of 13 countries including New Zealand. The result is a comprehensive picture of how ordinary people around the world feel about security.

Concern high, not rising

The top line figure, a single index number, is a score out of 300 which shows the overall level of concern. This year’s worldwide index sits at 173 points. It’s the same as last year’s number, but a long way up from a decade ago when it stood at 130 points.

When it comes to major security worries, New Zealanders are not remarkably different from the rest of the world. But our overall level of concern is far lower than elsewhere.

With a security index of 138, New Zealand is third from the bottom of the 13 nations surveyed. Only Germany and the Netherlands are less concerned than us. People in the UK, Australia and the US are more concerned than those in New Zealand.

Philippines people are the most concerned. The index in that country sits at 232.

Unisys Security Index 2018 by country

This year, last year

New Zealand recorded the largest security index drop. Last year the New Zealand security index stood at 154. During the year it fell To 138, a fall of 16 points. Only the Netherland’s number fell by the same amount. Most other countries, including top-of-the-table The Philipines, saw their index fall.

Columbia saw a huge rise. It was up 47 points year-on-year. Things also took a turn for the worse in Argentina which is up 23 points. The UK was a touch more fearful with its index climbing 5 points, albeit off a low base, to reach 149. Last year it was comfortably below New Zealand.

Unisys Security Index 2018 over time- New Zealand

We’re more comfortable, but our fears are in line with everyone else

While there are nuances, it turns out our main concerns are the same as everyone else’s.

As Unisys puts it:

“The highest personal concerns are where people feel they have least personal control: identity theft and bankcard fraud
Globally, people surveyed were more concerned about losing their identity or financial information than they are about war, terrorism or natural disasters.”

The survey data shows around eight in ten New Zealanders are extremely or very concerned about at least one aspect of online security. The worldwide figure is nine in ten, so we’re a little more relaxed but not out of line with international opinion.

Identity theft tops Unisys Security Index

Identity theft tops the list with 53 percent saying they are extremely or very concerned. This compares with 68 percent of respondents worldwide.

Bank card fraud worries half the New Zealand sample while 47 percent say they are extremely or very concerned about hacking and viruses.

In general women are more concerned about security issues than men and younger people are more concerned than older folk.

This is one of a series of sponsored posts about the 2018 Unisys Security Index. Over the next few days we’ll explore the index in more depth..