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While the same M1 chip is coming out in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini, the design of the mini gives us some forensic clues about how the M1 chip might be designed. The new M1 Mac mini is... hmm. It's not a slam dunk, but neither is it a complete WTF. It's ready enough for prime time for some tasks and carries the Apple Silicon question mark for other tasks. It's worth buying, but not for everyone or every workload. No, we're not talking about the money supply or a tank (other common uses of "M1"). Instead, our subject is the new CPU Apple introduced at this week's Apple Event. The M1 is an all-Apple design based on their mobile chips and the Arm architecture. And, yeah, it has potential. With high-performance and efficiency workload cores, with a deep commitment to on-silicon machine learning, and with an onboard GPU that shows some potential, this could be an architecture that leaves Intel behind. Just not so much yet. I talked previously about all the things that can go wrong in an architecture lift-and-shift. I also spoke about Apple's impressive track record of previous processor replacements in Macs. All that remains true after the Apple announcement. Big questions remain about how individual programs perform on the new M1. Some, like the Apple-developed juggernaut Final Cut Pro X, should perform exceptionally well. Others, like Photoshop and Fusion 360 - both mentioned in the Apple event - will either be ported to the new processor or be emulated. Performance on these, if mediocre now in Intel Rosetta 2 emulation, will undoubtedly get substantially better as their developers release updates. Virtual machines like Fusion, Parallels, and VirtualBox remain up in the air. Parallels is recruiting testers for its fully emulated version of the Intel instruction set on the M1. If you use a Mac and you rely on Windows in virtualization, you'll want to skip the M1 version, at least until the VM vendors finish their ports. After owning the 2018 Mac mini redesign, the new M1 is a bit of a letdown. We knew we'd probably see an Apple Silicon Mac mini early, simply because the developer kits released this summer were Mac mini-based. The Mac mini is a very versatile form factor, especially for those working at desks. It's definitely my favorite. I own five, ranging from 2011 to 2018. But the 2020 Mac mini takes a step backward from the Intel-based 2018 model. It loses two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The 2018 Intel model came with four Thunderbolt 3 ports and two USB-A ports. The 2020 M1 model keeps the USB-A ports, but provides only two Thunderbolt 3 ports. It also loses the ability to support 10Gb Ethernet. Yes, granted the 10Gb feature was an optional upgrade to the 2018 machine, but that upgrade is not available for the 2020 M1 machine. Another major issue is how the M1 appears to handle memory. RAM doesn't appear to be delivered via a separate module. It looks like the M1 comes out of the fab with not only in-chip video, but in-chip RAM. To be clear, in-chip RAM could well provide a strong performance boost. Bits that have to travel in and out of two separate chips will have a much larger propagation delay than bits that have to travel inside a single chip. So expect RAM performance to increase substantially. Apple tends to update its chips annually, and we can be pretty confident the M1 will be replaced by an M2 next year. While Apple has lauded the M1's performance, note that they have substantially restricted the amount of data that has to travel in and out the M1's ports. Each Thunderbolt 3 port can max out at 40Gb/s. The 10 Gb Ethernet port can theoretically max out at 10Gb, while the 1Gb maxes out at a tenth of that. Read this post in its entirety on OUR FORUM.

The European Commission is about to propose a “revolutionary” overhaul of digital regulation that could hurt the business models of Big Tech, industry experts told CNBC. The Digital Services Act, due to be presented in early December, is expected to overhaul the management of content on platforms like Google and Facebook and is the first of its kind since 2000. Broadly, the EU wants to make tech giants more responsible for the content on their platforms and to ensure that competitors have a fair chance to succeed against the big firms. “It’s revolutionary,” Thomas Vinje, a partner at the law firm Clifford Chance, told CNBC Tuesday. The upcoming rules are “likely to require dramatic changes in the business practices and even business models” of Big Tech, he said. Last month, Europe’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager outlined some of the changes that could be included in the new regulation. “The new rules will … require digital services, especially the biggest platforms, to be open about the way they shape the digital world that we see. They’ll have to report on what they’ve done to take down illegal material,” she said. “They’ll have to tell us how they decide what information and products to recommend to us, and which ones to hide, and give us the ability to influence those decisions, instead of simply having them made for us. And they’ll have to tell us who’s paying for the ads that we see, and why we’ve been targeted by a certain ad.” This would be massive for tech firms, which have refused to disclose their algorithms for years. “The strict prohibitions in discussion in the DSA are a tsunami in terms of how platforms do business in Europe,” Nicolas Petit, a competition law professor at the European University Institute said. into companies like Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google over concerns that its market dominance is hindering competition. These probes have been mostly been led by Margrethe Vestager, who took over the competition portfolio in 2014. But real change as a result of these investigations is often elusive, with European officials frustrated by lengthy legal action. For instance, in 2017, the European Commission fined Google 2.4 billion euros ($2.81 billion) for promoting its own shopping comparison service rather than allowing similar access to rival companies. Google made some changes in the wake of that case, but a study by Lademann & Associates showed in September that not much has changed. According to the study, less than 1% of traffic through Google Shopping was transferring users to rival shopping websites. More recently, the Commission’s decision to ask Ireland (a member of the EU) to recoup 13 billion euros in unpaid taxes from Apple has been challenged. The EU’s general court decided in July that the Commission had failed to prove that the Irish government had given a tax advantage to Apple. The Commission has appealed that ruling, but it could be difficult for it to meet this burden of proof. “Perhaps the biggest challenge we face with enforcement is making sure that we have the right legal framework and powers to keep digital markets competitive and fair,” Vestager said in late October. Whatever the European Commission proposes next month will have to be signed off by member states and the European Parliament. “It should take several months before we have full legislation, which is an issue in a fast-moving tech market, but more importantly, the rules are only stepping one, with the enforcement of these rules the key issue,” Dexter Thillien, a senior industry analyst at Fitch Solutions, told CNBC via email. He added that Big Tech firms “will use the legislative process, and some have already started, to highlight the negative impact on innovation and the overall economy, to try and make the final rules less strict than the initial proposals.” Apart from some lobbying, however, there is nothing the tech giants can do to stop the new rules in the short-term, Clifford Chance’s Vinje said. “They don’t really have any friends here.” Learn more by visiting OUR FORUM.

Quantum computers are not yet creating business value, but CIOs should nonetheless lose no time in getting involved. Supermarket aisles filled with fresh produce are probably not where you would expect to discover some of the first benefits of quantum computing. But Canadian grocery chain Save-On-Foods has become an unlikely pioneer, using quantum technology to improve the management of in-store logistics. In collaboration with quantum computing company D-Wave, Save-On-Foods is using a new type of computing, which is based on the downright weird behavior of matter at the quantum level. And it's already seeing promising results. The company's engineers approached D-Wave with a logistics problem that classical computers were incapable of solving. Within two months, the concept had translated into a hybrid quantum algorithm that was running in one of the supermarket stores, reducing the computing time for some tasks from 25 hours per week down to mere seconds. Save-On-Foods is now looking at expanding the technology to other stores and exploring new ways that quantum could help with other issues. "We now have the capability to run tests and simulations by adjusting variables and see the results, so we can optimize performance, which simply isn't feasible using traditional methods," a Save-On-Foods spokesperson tells ZDNet. "While the results are outstanding, the two most important things from this are that we were able to use quantum computing to attack our most complex problems across the organization, and can do it on an ongoing basis." The remarkable properties of quantum computing boil down to the behavior of qubits -- the quantum equivalent of classical bits that encode information for today's computers in strings of 0s and 1s. But contrary to bits, which can be represented by either 0 or 1, qubits can take on a state that is quantum-specific, in which they exist as 0 and 1 in parallel or superposition. Qubits, therefore, enable quantum algorithms to run various calculations at the same time, and at an exponential scale: the more qubits, the more variables can be explored, and all in parallel. Some of the largest problems, which would take classical computers tens of thousands of years to explore with single-state bits, could be harnessed by qubits in minutes. The challenge lies in building quantum computers that contain enough qubits for useful calculations to be carried out. Qubits are temperamental: they are error-prone, hard to control, and always on the verge of falling out of their quantum state. Typically, scientists have to encase quantum computers in extremely cold, large-scale refrigerators, just to make sure that qubits remain stable. That's impractical, to say the least. This is, in essence, why quantum computing is still in its infancy. Most quantum computers currently work with less than 100 qubits, and tech giants such as IBM and Google are racing to increase that number in order to build a meaningful quantum computer as early as possible. Recently, IBM ambitiously unveiled a roadmap to a million-qubit system and said that it expects a fault-tolerant quantum computer to be an achievable goal during the next ten years. Although it's early days for quantum computing, there is still plenty of interest from businesses willing to experiment with what could prove to be a significant development. "Multiple companies are conducting learning experiments to help quantum computing move from the experimentation phase to commercial use at scale," Ivan Ostojic, partner at consultant McKinsey, tells ZDNet. Certainly, tech companies are racing to be seen as early leaders. IBM's Q Network started running in 2016 to provide developers and industry professionals with access to the company's quantum processors, the latest of which, a 65-qubit device called Hummingbird, was released on the platform last month. Recently, US multinational Honeywell took its first steps on the quantum stage, making the company's trapped-ion quantum computer available to customers over the cloud. Rigetti Computing, which has been operating since 2017, is also providing cloud-based access to a 31-qubit quantum computer. Complete details are posted on OUR FORUM.

There are times when corporations lose their temper. Well, they're people too. In Microsoft's case, it's people and politics that are driving the company crazy. I'm quite used to hearing that Microsoft has annoyed someone. Usually, it's a Windows user who's angry about Redmond's keenness to slip unwanted products onto their screens. I was rather moved, then, to hear that Microsoft itself is enduring conniptions of the most fundamental kind. You see, the company recently commissioned research company YouGov to ask 5,000 registered voters about their innermost feelings. One or two deeply felt highlights emerged. 90% of respondents admitted they're worried every time they share their information online. 70% privately pointed their fingers at the US government. They said it isn't doing enough to protect their personal data. A similar 70% said they'd like to see the next administration enact privacy legislation. How do I know this made Microsoft angry? Well, these details come from a bracingly seething blog post -- published this week -- from the company's "Corporate Vice-President For Global Privacy and Regulatory Affairs and Chief Privacy Officer." Extraordinarily, we're talking about just one person with all those titles, Julie Brill. She doesn't think the US government is doing brilliantly. Brill tried to rein in her irksome. She began by talking about the importance of data in our new, more domestically confined world. She said: "Data is critical not just in rebuilding our economy but in helping us understand societal inequalities that have contributed to dramatically higher rates of sickness and death among Black communities and other communities of color due to COVID-19. Data can also help us focus resources on rebuilding a more just, fair, and equitable economy that benefits all." A fundamental problem said Brill is the lack of trust in society today. In bold letters, she declared: "The United States has fallen far behind the rest of the world in privacy protection." I can't imagine it's fallen behind Russia, but how poetic if that was true. Still, Brill really isn't happy with our government: "In total, over 130 countries and jurisdictions have enacted privacy laws. Yet, one country has not done so yet: the United States." Brill worries our isolation isn't too splendid. She mused: "In contrast to the role our country has traditionally played on global issues, the US is not leading, or even participating in, the discussion over common privacy norms." That's like Microsoft not participating in the creation of excellent smartphones. It's not too smart. Brill fears other parts of the world will continue to lead in privacy, while the US continues to lead in inaction and chaos. It sounds like the whole company is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. Yet it's not as if Microsoft has truly spent the last 20 years championing privacy much more than most other big tech companies. In common with its west coast brethren, it's been too busy making money. Brill is undeterred. She tried to offer good news. Some states are taking the matter of privacy into their own jurisdictions. And then she offers words of hope that, to this reader at least, swim in baths of sarcasm: "There are also signs of real interest among some members of Congress." Real interest among members of Congress can often feel like real sincerity. You hope it's there, but you suspect it's not. Yet I sense Brill doesn't have too much hope in governmental action. So, spurred again by the company's research, she turned to the corporate world. "The YouGov study found that significantly more people believe companies bear the primary responsibility for protecting data privacy -- not the government," she said. Yet what do those companies do? They make privacy controls your responsibility, dear citizen. Full details are posted on OUR FORUM.

This underappreciated Android gem can protect your privacy and make your phone significantly more secure, but it's up to you to dust it off and use it. It's amazing how many useful Android features get buried in the operating system and then forgotten over time. When you stop and think about it, it's also kind of inevitable: With every passing year, Android grows increasingly robust and complex, as more advanced options make their way into the software. So it's only logical that certain elements will become out of sight and out of mind and get lost in the shuffle somewhere along the way. One such item jumped out at me the other day, triggering an immediate "AHAH!" in this rusty ol' noggin of mine as I remembered its existence and then scolded myself for forgetting to use it all this time. It's a little somethin' called Android Guest Mode, and it first showed up way back in the Android 5.0 (Lollipop) era of 2014. Guest Mode, in case you've also forgotten, does exactly what you'd expect: It gives you an on-demand way to switch your phone into a blank-slate-like state, where your personal apps, accounts, and data are all securely tucked away and you instead get an out-of-the-box-like experience, with only the basic preinstalled system apps in place. It's almost like an incognito mode of sorts, applied to your entire phone: All your regular stuff is gone, and nothing done in that environment has any impact on your standard smartphone setup. The implications for that are enormous. The biggest realistic threat with smartphone security, after all, isn't the coming invasion of scary-sounding malware monsters (which, as we've discussed to death 'round these parts, are more about sensationalism and security software sales than any pressing, practical danger). Nope — it's your own negligence and occasional lapse in judgment. And even if you take every possible step to protect your privacy and strengthen your phone's security, all it takes is a single, brief pass-off of your device to the wrong person to send all your best-laid efforts swirling down the drain. Whether we're talking about sensitive company data or your own personal photos, messages, and maybe even browsing history, it doesn't take long for the wrong set of eyes to see something they shouldn't — whether it's deliberate or by mistake. That's exactly the sort of slip-up Android's Guest Mode can prevent — and best of all? Once you remember that it's there, it's simple as can be to deploy. First things first, we need to make sure your phone is set up properly to support the feature, as it's often disabled by default these days. If you have a Samsung phone, unfortunately, you're out of luck here, as Samsung has for no apparent reason opted to remove this standard operating system element from its software. When you're ready to exit out of Guest Mode and get back to normal, just repeat the same first two steps from above — opening the Quick Settings panel and tapping the user profile picture — and this time, select "Remove guest" from the menu that comes up. That'll completely erase and reset everything that was done in that temporary profile and, once you put in your PIN, pattern, or password (or use biometric authentication), take you back to your own standard Android setup. A pretty useful possibility, right? The power's been right there at your fingertips all along — and now that you've got it activated and in the back of your mind, you can tap into it anytime the need arises. Visit OUR FORUM for more details and a guide on how to enable this privacy measure.

Emotet diversifies arsenal with new lures to trick users into infecting themselves. In today's cyber-security landscape, the Emotet botnet is one of the largest sources of malspam — a term used to describe emails that deliver malware-laced file attachments. These malspam campaigns are absolutely crucial to Emotet operators. They are the base that props up the botnet, feeding new victims to the Emotet machine — a Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) cybercrime operation that's rented to other criminal groups. To prevent security firms from catching up and marking their emails as "malicious" or "spam," the Emotet group regularly changes how these emails are delivered and how the file attachments look. Emotet operators change email subject lines, the text in the email body, the file attachment type, but also the content of the file attachment, which is as important as the rest of the email. That's because users who receive Emotet malspam, besides reading the email and opening the file, they still need to allow the file to execute automated scripts called "macros." Office macros only execute after the user has pressed the "Enable Editing" button that's shown inside an Office file. Tricking users to enable editing is just as important to malware operators as the design of their email templates, their malware, or the botnet's backend infrastructure. Across the years, Emotet has developed a collection of boobytrapped Office documents that use a wide variety of "lures" to convince users to click the "Enable Editing" button. But this week, Emotet arrived from a recent vacation with a new document lure. File attachments sent in recent Emotet campaigns show a message claiming to be from the Windows Update service, telling users that the Office app needs to be updated. Naturally, this must be done by clicking the Enable Editing button (don't press it). According to an update from the Cryptolaemus group, since yesterday, these Emotet lures have been spammed in massive numbers to users located all over the world. Per this report, on some infected hosts, Emotet installed the TrickBot trojan, confirming a ZDNet report from earlier this week that the TrickBot botnet survived a recent takedown attempt from Microsoft and its partners. These boobytrapped documents are being sent from emails with spoofed identities, appearing to come from acquaintances and business partners. Furthermore, Emotet often uses a technique called conversation hijacking, through which it steals email threads from infected hosts, inserts itself in the thread with a reply spoofing one of the participants, and adding the boobytrapped Office documents as attachments. The technique is hard to pick up, especially among users who work with business emails on a daily basis, and that is why Emotet very often manages to infect corporate or government networks on a regular basis. In these cases, training and awareness is the best way to prevent Emotet attacks. Users who work with emails on a regular basis should be made aware of the danger of enabling macros inside documents, a feature that is very rarely used for legitimate purposes. Knowing how the typical Emotet lure documents look like is also a good start, as users will be able to dodge the most common Emotet tricks when one of these emails lands in their inboxes, even from a known correspondent. For more detailed information visit OUR FORUM.