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19 Oct 2021

Brave has launched its own search engine to topple Google

Following a public beta for its new search engine back in June, Brave Software has announced that Brave Search is now officially available.

Beginning today, the company's search engine will be the default for new Brave Browser users in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom. The company's search engine also replaces Qwant in France and DuckDuckGo in Germany as the default search engine for users of its browser in those countries.

While existing Brave users will keep their chosen search engine as the default, they can also set Brave Search as the default search engine if they prefer. To do so, users will need to manage their search engine settings on Brave for Desktop, Android and iOS.

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CEO and co-founder of Brave, Brendan Eich explained in a press release how Brave Search provides a more privacy-focused alternative to other search engines, saying:

“Brave Search has grown significantly since its release last June, with nearly 80 million queries per month. Our users are pleased with the comprehensive privacy solution that Brave Search provides against Big Tech by being integrated into our browser. As we know from experience in many browsers, the default setting is crucial for adoption, and Brave Search has reached the quality and critical mass needed to become our default search option, and to offer our users a seamless privacy-by-default online experience.” 

Web Discovery Project

In addition to making Brave Search the default in its browser, Brave Software is also launching a privacy-preserving system for users to anonymously contribute data to help improve its search index called the Web Discovery Project (WDP).

Users will need to opt-in to the WDP and the new project protects user privacy and anonymity by design so that contributed data cannot be linked to them or their devices as well as to a set of users to prevent deanonymization.

At the same time, the WDP represents a fundamental shift in how a search index is built to serve relevant results to Brave Search users. Unlike with other search providers, the WDP is designed in such a way that all of the data it receives is unlinkable which makes it impossible to build profiles or sessions of project contributors.

In order for a URL to be sent to the project it needs to visited independently by a large number of people and this is achieved by using the STAR cryptographic protocol. The WDP also runs automatically while a user is browsing the web so it requires no effort on the part of contributors.

Interested users can test out Brave Search for themselves and contribute to the Web Discovery Project by upgrading Brave Browser to the latest version or heading to search.brave.com in the browser of their choice.

Read more...
19 Oct 2021

NetSuite is adding banking tools to its software

NetSuite has announced at its SuiteWorld 2021 virtual event that it will bring banking tools to its ERP software in an effort to help organizations improve forecasting and make more strategic cash decisions.

The company's new SuiteBanking offering is the first unified suite that embeds fintech into cloud ERP to help customers automate key financial processes and gain full visibility into cash flow.

By bringing together automated accounts payable and accounts receivable processes, NetSuite wants to make it faster and easier to pay bills, send invoices and get paid all from within its existing software.

EVP at Oracle NetSuite, Evan Goldberg provided further insight on SuiteBanking and how the new offering will help organizations save time in a press release, saying:

"Growing organizations cannot afford to have teams of people entering data, dealing with banks, monitoring transactions from multiple systems, and manually processing vendor payments. The time saved from automating these processes could be spent on strategic projects that help drive further growth for the organization. SuiteBanking is the first step in bringing the worlds of ERP and fintech together. It will help our customers automate all of these processes in one single suite and increase visibility and control so they can maintain healthy cash flow as they grow." 

SuiteBanking 

By accelerating accounts payable and accounts receivable processes, SuiteBanking improves cash flow while automation provides organizations with greater control over their expenses, increases the effectiveness of accounting processes and provides detailed insights all in one system.

Through its new unified system, NetSuite eliminates the need to collect and normalize data from other departments and systems which can help save finance teams dozens of hours each month.

Additionally, integrations with banking partners such as HSBC give the company's customers convenient access to a wide variety of financial services including a global digital wallet and virtual payment card. While HSBS is the first SuiteBanking alliance partner, NetSuite plans to add others going forward.

By eliminating manual data entry, NetSuite's SuiteBanking will not only save time for organizations but will likely help boost the productivity of their employees as well.

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19 Oct 2021

Android 12 release date, features, supported devices and what to know

Android 12 was confirmed back at Google IO 2021 in June, showcasing a revamped look and features that focus more on privacy and interactivity.

We've since seen the public beta release show off refreshed notifications, better screenshot support, one-handed mode and much more.

And after the Pixel 6 launch event, Google launched the software update, and it's available now for older Pixel phones – though the company hasn't confirmed which phones are compatible (we suspected the Pixel 3 might be the oldest phone to get the update given it was the threshold for the Android 12 beta).

Android 12 is the 2021 update for Google's Android operating system, building on 2020's Android 11, which some phones still don't have. But this is more than just an iterative update - Google describes it as the biggest design change in Android's history, and it certainly shows.

Some users can download the Android 12 beta now, which may still be valuable for non-Pixel owners of the Xiaomi Mi 11, OnePlus 9 and other beta-compatible phones. You'll find a full list below, while for instructions head to our how to get the Android 12 beta on your phone guide.

As for the final version, it's now live on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), but expect the recently-announced Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro to come with Android 12 sometime after the Launch Event.

The new Pixel phones will most likely be one of the first to ship with the update. If you have another (non-Pixel) Android phone you'll likely have to wait a bit longer, as each company needs to make sure the latest update works with their existing phones.

We've listed all the official Android 12 features that have been showcased at Google IO and in the subsequent betas, and we'll update this article as soon as we discover more – and continue updating it as Android 12 rolls out to phones and the subsequent beta releases.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next big Android update
  • When is it out? October 19
  • What's the biggest feature? Refreshed, unified UI
  • How much will it cost? It's free!

Android 12 release date

Android 12 was announced at Google IO 2021, and is was launched on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) on October 4. Shortly after the Google Pixel 6 launched on October 19, Android 12 became available for older Pixel phones, though the company hasn't released an official compatibility list.

Then, devices from Samsung, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Tecno, Vivo, and Xiaomi are set to get Android 12 later this year.

It will be up to device manufacturers to bring Android 12 to your phone though, and that often takes months to do, so don’t be surprised if your specific handset isn't able to update to Android 12 until 2022.

In the meantime, the new software is out in beta for select devices now, including phones from Oppo, Nokia, OnePlus, Xiaomi, ZTE, Asus, TCL and iQOO - as well as plenty of Pixel devices. You can find the full list in the section below.

Google Pixel 6 event

(Image credit: Google)

Android 12 compatibility

Android 12 will likely roll out to the majority of phones that came out in the last year or two, though some may be waiting a long time for it. It's guaranteed to hit every modern Pixel handset though, probably from the Pixel 3 onwards to the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, given that the Pixel 3 and 4a models support the beta.

Speaking of the beta, we can look at the list of compatible phones for that to get some clues as to which might be first in line for the finished Android 12. They are as follows:

We expect all of these would get the final Android 12 release, and likely quite quickly (with the Pixel phones getting it on day one). Major recent handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 are sure to as well though, and even most lower end and less popular phones probably will, if they're recent.

Google itself has said that devices from Samsung, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Tecno, Vivo, and Xiaomi will get Android 12 this year.

In terms of the beta though it's worth noting that all of the phones listed above other than the Pixel phones are running a developer preview, which is really only intended for developers, and is likely to be a lot less stable than the public beta running on Pixel phones, so we’d think twice about downloading it. Even in the public beta though you can expect bugs.

Android 12

(Image credit: Google)

Android 12: Refreshed UI

Google has announced a new Material Design language for Android 12, called Material You, which is a rethink of the whole UI across the operating system.

The current beta brings more rounded buttons, more varied colors, smoother motion and animations, and much more.

The company calls it color extraction, where you can pick a wallpaper and the system will automatically apply the dominant, complimentary and best looking colors from it to the rest of the UI, including the notification shade, the lock screen, and volume controls.

Google made it a mission to make sure that Android 12 is indeed on the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones, which feature an in-screen fingerprint sensor, improved cameras and much more.

See more

This time, it looks as though Google have developed the phones and Android 12 in-tandem, resulting in a release that's going to show more unification than what came before in previous Pixel phones.

So everything is much more unified this time, something which Google was keen to highlight. Before, the color scheme and even the fonts would look mismatched, but here, everything has been redesigned to look as unified as possible in Android 12.

This customizable theme is also coming to Google's web apps by the end of the year.

Widgets see a redesign too, looking much more rounded this time. Due to iOS 14 showcasing widgets last year, and now iOS 15 bringing widgets to the iPad, it only made sense for Android 12 to see a redesign in this area too, where its appearance will match the color extraction you've picked.

Android 12: Privacy and security

Google have made it a point this year of making sure that privacy is at the center of Android 12. The company repeated the point of privacy being at the forefront this year, and that includes Android 12.

The Android Private Compute Core is the engine behind Android 12's privacy features, making sure that the apps and the phone are following the privacy settings enabled by you.

To start with, the new privacy dashboard gives you an overall view of apps using the phone's location, camera, contacts, and much more.

However, a nice touch here is a simple overview in the form of a pie chart, of what has been accessed by the apps over the last 24 hours. 

The notification center also has a quick access to disable any features of the phone that an app is using. For example, if Facebook is using the microphone while you're using another app, this part of notification center will show you explicitly that Facebook is using the microphone. Pressing this will disable the use of it to Facebook, and other apps if you wish.

Adding to this, Android 12 will also ask you for permission from an app to use a feature of the phone. You can select to allow it while running the app, only once, or not at all.

You can also opt to only provide an approximate location to some apps, such as weather apps which don't need to know exactly where you are.

And with features like Live Caption, Now Playing and Smart Reply, all of the audio and language processing happens on your device, so the data isn't sent elsewhere.

There's also locked folders, available across apps, which allow you to lock a specific folder with a fingerprint.

And there's the ability to unlock a Chromebook using your phone. Similar to the Apple Watch unlock feature for an Apple Mac, it will be a matter of having your Android 12 smartphone near to a Chromebook, and it will bring you to the home screen.

Finally, when using an app such as the camera, there will be a subtle UI hint that certain features of the camera are being used, similar to how it shows in Apple's iOS 15.

Other features of Android 12

Android 12

(Image credit: Google)

Google has confirmed a multitude of smaller features, one to highlight is app hibernation. If there's an app that you don't use often, you go to its settings in App info, and remove its permissions and space. However, you can restore it easily if you need to.

Beta 3 brings an interesting improvement when rotating the display. Face detection is now involved, where the front camera of your phone will detect when it's time to go either portrait or landscape. Google tout that the latency has been reduced by 25% thanks to this.

When held down, the power button will now bring up Google Assistant, a much easier method of summoning the service for a query when needed.

A new built-in remote is also now standard in Android 12, so if you have a TV that runs on Android, or just a Chromecast, you can use your phone to browse through your favorite shows.

The media player that shows in your Quick Settings has also seen an improvement, where you can allow certain apps to use this. This can work well if you're switching between Spotify and YouTube, and you just want to keep using Spotify.

Google IO 2021

(Image credit: Google)

Alongside this, a new feature called Car Key enables you to unlock your compatible smart car with your phone. This will allow you to unlock, lock and even start the engine from your smartphone.

It uses UWB (ultra-wideband) technology, meaning that you can walk up to your car and it'll unlock, without you even having to take your phone out. 

You'll also be able to share digital access to your vehicle with others – allowing you to lend your car to a friend without giving them a physical key and allowing them access for a period of time.

In a slight nod to its competitor, Google is also touting better support for third-party app stores.

Google's password manager is also being redeveloped, with a cross-platform integration across your Google apps and devices.

Android 12

(Image credit: Google)

And photo modes will support a new format – AVIF, which promises similar compression to JPEG but at better quality, as seen in the examples the Android team gave (above) in an online developer session. Note the difference in cloud detail.

Android 12 also promises to make your device faster and more responsive. Google claims that it reduces the CPU time needed for core system services by up to 22% and reduces the use of big cores by the system server by up to 15%, all of which should also mean improved battery life.

Quick tap arrived with the first beta release, mirroring an accessibility feature from the iPhones running iOS 14. By tapping the back of the phone, you can customize it to take a screenshot, control media, show notifications, or even open a specific app.

Downloading and playing games look to be more straightforward in Android 12, where you can start a new game before the download has even finished. This harkens back to the features that the PlayStation consoles bring, saving you having to wait for a few hours for a game to finish installing.

Android 12 beta screenshots

(Image credit: Google)

Google has also confirmed that it will be prepping Android 12 to be more accommodating of third party app stores and installers like the Amazon App Store, APKUpdater and Samsung Galaxy Apps, to name a few.

Currently, third party app stores require direct user permissions to manage and update apps on their platform, but it looks like this change will allow third party stores to directly manage and update apps.

The process might not necessarily be a cakewalk for third party app store developers, however. They will first need to opt in to allow the feature to be used, and a specific “update packages without user action” permission will also need to be held by the store. As such, some vetting may take place on Google's behalf first.

Read more...
19 Oct 2021

Splunk wants to kick off the next generation of digital transformation

Splunk has unveiled a range of updates to its cloud tools as it looks to help businesses of all sized maintain their digital progress.

At the company's .conf 2021 event, new upgrades were revealed to Splunk Cloud Platform and Splunk Enterprise, aiming to ease the digital transformation journey for businesses all over the world.

As many organizations look to kickstart their digital journey following the pandemic, Splunk says it can help in offering a range of platforms and tools geared towards getting the most out of the mountains of data generated by many companies today.

Strong data foundation

“Over the past eighteen months, the transformative power of data moved to the forefront of how organizations have been reinventing themselves and their customer experiences. In an unpredictable world, organizations with a strong data foundation thrived despite unforeseen changes,” said Shawn Bice, President of Products and Technology, Splunk.

“As we enter this next era of opportunity, we understand the responsibility and partnership with our customers, and Splunk is committed to their success. Data is everywhere - public clouds, on-premises data centers, the edge, apps, third party tools - and Splunk will be right there with our customers to help them turn data into doing.”

The cloud journey can still prove difficult for many businesses, but Splunk says that its Cloud Platform can help provide extra flexibility and reliability for its customers. Among the additions to Splunk Cloud Platform are a new Data Manager tool to help data onboarding from AWS, Microsoft 365 and Google Cloud, and new Ingest Actions that allow customers to action data in motion, meaning they can filter, route and even redact data to Splunk or external AWS S3 storage.

A boosted Federated Search feature provides customers with a unified search experience across all their deployment types in a single search bar, allowing them to quicky track down the exact data they want.

Finally, the company is introducing workload pricing, allowing Splunk Cloud Platform customers to buy based on the exact infrastructure used to deliver services, meaning no one should pay over the limit.

Read more...
19 Oct 2021

Is Apple backing down on Safari’s tab redesign in macOS 12?

As Apple’s macOS 12 Monterey and iOS 15.1 are about to launch, a blogger has spotted another update in the design of Safari 15, where tabs are now reverting back to how they originally looked.

Apple’s web browser has seen some huge changes since a redesign was announced back at WWDC earlier this year, such as Tab Groups, an updated look, and extensions. But in the months after, lots of feedback has apparently made the company change course on some of the more radical changes Safari 15 was going to introduce.

The tabs were looking more like floating panels below the address bar, which took up more space, while not being clear in which window was active, confusing users.

With tabs now back to how they were, the new update is a mix of old and new, with a compromise that should have been there from the start.

When will the new update arrive?

With macOS 12 Monterey launching on October 25, alongside new Macbooks, and iOS 15.1 arriving soon after, Safari and its old tab design will also be arriving alongside those new operating systems.

Safari 15 brings extensions to both macOS and iOS, so you can install features from third-party developers, such as translators, password managers, and more. Alongside this, you can have Tab Groups which lets you organize your tabs across devices.

However, if you don’t like the new-look tabs, you can revert back to how tabs used to look by going to Settings > Safari and selecting ‘Compact Tab Bar’.


Analysis: Safari 15 should have been a separate release

Safari 15’s redesign has already been changed a few times due to the negative feedback between WWDC and the upcoming release of macOS 12 Monterey.

The version that first arrived on iOS 15 in June was confusing and almost unusable for some people, as it was difficult to discover menu options and even select links in a web page, due to the address bar being a floating object.

While the version that shipped with iOS 15 in September was a massive improvement, some issues still remained on macOS and iPadOS. Thankfully, this upcoming version seems to fix most of these remaining problems, but all of this could have been avoided.

Safari on iPadOS 15 Beta

(Image credit: Apple)

In previous years, Apple has released some features with a beta tag, making users aware that it could change or be removed. Siri had this, Portrait Mode had this, and perhaps Safari 15 should have had this. It may also be better for Safari to be made available as a separate download, rather than being bundled with the macOS or iOS updates.

However, we’re at a point where Safari 15 is still being refined while the major software updates and hardware are being released. The next time another major app from Apple sees a redesign, perhaps it may be better for it to be labelled as beta, so a repeat of the Safari 15 discourse could be avoided.

Via Daring Fireball

Read more...
19 Oct 2021

Google Chat is finally getting this fundamental messaging feature

Google has announced it is pushing out a simple but important new feature for its instant messaging service, Chat.

As per the company’s latest blog post, Google Chat and Spaces (the group chat equivalent) will soon benefit from the ability to mark messages as read or unread, on both mobile and desktop.

“Marking a message as unread can help remind you to return to it later in Chat. In 1:1 and group DMs, you can mark a thread as unread starting from a particular message,” wrote Google.

To access the functionality, users can hover over a relevant message and select the dedicated “mark as unread” button from the pop-up menu.

The new feature is rolling out incrementally, but should be available to all Google account holders by early November.

Google Chat upgrade

Although Google has invested plenty of energy and resources into its Workspace suite since the start of the pandemic, the company’s messaging service has lagged behind the competition in more ways than one.

With the ability to mark messages as unread, Google is at least addressing one of the insufficiencies separating Chat from the likes of Slack and Teams. But the company still has a long way to go.

Although the Google Chat progressive web app (PWA) offers more flexibility and functionality than the old browser extension, it’s not as slick as the native clients offered by other services on the market.

Further, while Google has worked to deliver new synergies between Chat and its other products (Drive, Meet, Calendar etc.), the service does not benefit from a deep range of third-party integrations in the same way others do.

That said, the signs suggest Google is aware of these kinds of shortcomings. Last week, for instance, the firm announced it will increase its investment in the Workspace app marketplace, with a view to helping customers squeeze more value from its productivity software.

Read more...
19 Oct 2021

Best Linux distros for small businesses in 2021

The best Linux distros for small businesses provide a platform that emphasizes stability, support, and other important business considerations.

Linux has become increasingly friendly for use by individuals and businesses, partly as an attempt to lure users away from Windows, but also because Linux has come to power not just the wider internet but also most cloud services.

This means while Linux may seem like an intimidating option at first, it could actually be helpful in the longer run for those who need to develop their wider IT skills without proving so much of a challenge as initially feared.

As Linux is free it means you don't have to worry about licensing fees, and there are a number of virtual machine software platforms that will allow you to install different Linux (or other operating systems) on your existing computer. In fact, Windows 10 now famously ships with Linux as a virtual machine environment.

However, if you would prefer to avoid virtual machines you could instead use an older desktop PC and simply install a Linux distro as the main operating system. Most Linux distros have low resource needs, but do watch out that any hardware drivers you need are provided.

So what's the best choice for your small business? We've approached this selection with a few criteria in mind. Stability must come first: if you're putting a distro to work, uptime is critical. Since we are talking about small businesses here, the distros should also be easy to deploy, configure and manage. Solid support provision comes a close third.

Here therefore are the options we think are best Linux distros for small business users.

We've also featured these Linux guides:


(Image credit: NethServer)

1. NethServer

For point-and-click server rollouts

Zero cost
Easy to deploy and administer
Professional support options

Although server deployments require a certain level of expertise and understanding of the base technologies, sometimes you need to deploy servers in a snap. Setting up the popular server platforms is an involved process and involves pulling server software and manually editing the configuration files in a command-line text editor. While there certainly are deployments that require such kind of meticulous involvement, most can use some level of automation. 

The NethServer distro started as a fork of SME Server with the goal of easing the configuration of the servers. The distro is based on CentOS and helps you roll-out all kinds of servers without mucking about with configuration files. You can deploy and configure just about every aspect of your deployed servers through a browser-based interface.

You can use NethServer to set up a web filter, a mail server, file server, web server, firewall, VPN, Slack-like team chat, and more. While you can use all its features for free, NethServer does offer several tiers of professional support options.

Divider

(Image credit: ClearOS)

2. ClearOS

A distro administered entirely from a web interface

Graphical administration interface
Ample documentation
Commercial support options

ClearOS is a CentOS-based distro that’s designed as an alternative to commercial options like Red Hat Enterprise Server or Windows Small Business Server. There are several editions of ClearOS including a community-supported edition that is offered as a no-cost free download. 

You can use the community edition of ClearOS to roll out all kinds of network services including a content filter, firewall, an intrusion detection system, a bandwidth manager, domain controller, mail server, and more. Additionally you can also purchase additional server functionalities from its marketplace.

The best thing about ClearOS is its ease of deployment. You can use the distro to rollout complex network servers and services from a web-based management interface. 

Not only is the interface intuitive to use, it’s designed to help you conduct regular maintenance and administration tasks with a few clicks. Still, the project has ample documentation and in fact you can access module-specific help from within the administration interface itself.

Divider

(Image credit: Univention)

3. Univention Corporate Server

The most comprehensive option in terms of supported servers

Lots of servers
Online demo
Virtual images

Based on Debian, Univention Corporate Server (UCS) too offers the convenience of an easy-to-use web-based administration panel to easily deploy and manage servers, without dropping down to the command-line. However, unlike the other distros, where possible, UCS uses Docker containers to deploy the different servers and services.

UCS also provides a pretty comprehensive list of servers, boasting of supporting over 90  different modules separated into over a dozen categories, such as identity management, infrastructure, collaboration and groupware, security, virtualization, and more. Thanks to its comprehensive nature, you’ll have to spend some time familiarizing yourself with its peculiarities. However, the distro has ample documentation and videos to ease the process.

The distro is available in multiple editions including a freely available Core edition, which doesn’t differ from the paid editions in terms of features. The paid editions however include support and other benefits. In addition to an installable image, UCS also provides the choice of pre-installed images for both VMWare and VirtualBox, for easier deployment.

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(Image credit: Zentyal)

4. Zentyal

Another good option for rolling out pre-configured servers

Appealing interface
Free and paid editions
Optional certified training

Zentyal is in the same league as ClearOS, NethServer and Univention, in that it allows you to rollout and administer services across your network from the convenience of a graphical interface, although its offering isn’t as wide as some of its peers. 

Based on Ubuntu, the latest version of Zentyal is available in a couple of variants and the exact number of servers available for deployment vary between the two. There’s the freely available Development Edition that offers a small set of servers as compared to the full featured but paid main edition. 

That said, the Development Edition ships with a wide variety of Gateway, Mail, Infrastructure, and Directory and Domain functions. Once installed, you can configure these services from the web interface itself. Zentyal’s dashboard is visually appealing and is made up of several widgets that you can reposition as per your requirements. 

Zentyal’s dashboard also provides quick links to the Documentation and other useful material for an administrator, such as Certified Training. 

Divider

(Image credit: Ubuntu)

5. Ubuntu

Linux for home and business

Very well supported by community
LTS gives you long-term stability
Option of paid tech support

As the most popular desktop distribution of Linux, Ubuntu’s reputation might lead you to think that it’s best suited to home users. While Ubuntu's stability and flexibility for end users is very solid, there's also a free-to-use Ubuntu Server version to handle your backend tasks. 

One of Ubuntu's strongest features is the level of support it benefits from. The vast user base means there's a raft of technical documentation available, and its generous community has answered just about every question you might have.

Ubuntu is released twice a year in April and October. The April releases, after every two years, are tagged LTS which stands for Long Term Support, and unlike the regular release, the LTS releases are maintained for five years. 

For greater control and management, small businesses can buy a subscription to the Ubuntu Advantage program. All plans give you an additional five years of support (for a total of 10 years) as well as additional features such as kernel live patching, the Landscape on-prem systems management tool, and more.

  • Linux Format is the number one magazine to boost your knowledge on Linux, open source developments, distro releases and much more. Subscribe to the print or digital version of Linux Format here

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19 Oct 2021

It could finally be easier to shut down Microsoft Edge tabs using Task Manager

Helping Microsoft Edge run smoothly could soon be easier than ever due to a significant upgrade to one of the most useful, but also rarely-loved Windows 11 tools.

Microsoft has revealed Task Manager in Windows 11 will be getting two major additions as it looks to offer users more customization and efficiency options when using Windows 11.

The new updates include closer working with the Edge browser, and also potentially a new Eco Mode aimed at saving processing power and battery life.

Task Manager and Edge

First up, Task Manager will now be better geared towards managing Microsoft Edge and the resources and memory used by the browser.

The tool will now be able to display exactly what Microsoft Edge processes are using what amount of memory on your device. When clicking on Microsoft Edge in Task Manager, users will now see a list of processes under the browser, including specific tabs, extensions and subframes - and will now be able to select any of these to close individually.

Microsoft Edge tabs in Windows 11 Task Manager

(Image credit: WindowsLatest)

The GPU and crashpad will also be included in the list of processes, with tabs also displaying the specific site, icon and topic name to give you full visibility and pinpoint exactly which areas need shutting down.

The new updates are available now as part of Microsoft Edge 94 and Windows 11 Build 22000.282.

The rumored Eco Mode for Task Manager, set to launch within the next few months, will let users quickly identify and target particularly resource-hungry apps, giving their devices more space to work efficiently. 

When activated, the tool will reportedly allow users to set the priority of such processes to "low", giving other programs the chance to seize priority for system resources.

Windows 11 is out now, with Microsoft keen to get users switched over to the newest offering as soon as possible - provided they have the right system requirements, although this may not always neccessarily help, reports have claimed.

Via WindowsLatest

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18 Oct 2021

Xero wants to help your employees run all their own processes

Xero has announced a reimagined version of its employee self-service app Xero Me which now comes with integrated expenses technology to make it easier for both organizations and their employees to track their expenses.

By integrating the company's Xero Expenses technology into Xero Me, small business employees using Xero Payroll in Australia, New Zealand and the UK will now be able to submit expense claims in the same place they access payslips, submit timesheets and manage leave requests.

Executive general manager of business products at Xero, Simona Turin explained how the company's reimagined Xero Me app can benefit both small business owners and their employees in a press release, saying:

“Processes like onboarding, leave and expense management are time-consuming but critical to the optimal performance of any small business. The Xero platform is designed to make life easier for small business owners — so we wanted to give them and their staff an even easier way to manage those fundamental employee processes.” 

Xero Me

The Xero Me app is quickly becoming the central place for employees to manage critical people processes themselves and Xero plans to add even more functionality into the app going forward.

The reimagined app removes the need for employees to switch between multiple apps, systems and workflows for critical employee processes while creating a more seamless employee experience. Additionally, employers can ensure data is easily entered and stored in a single place.

The new Xero Me experience is rolling out in stages to all of Xero's global customers. In countries outside of Australia, New Zealand and the UK, this will be with Expenses-only functionality. This will still allow global employees to use the app to quickly submit expense claims though Xero Me will soon offer the ability to complete self-service setup for expense management.

Beginning this month, existing Xero Expenses app uses globally with a “Submitter” role will be able to download and transition to the reimagined Xero Me app to submit their expense claims. However, global Xero Expenses approvers and admins will still need to use the standalone Xero Expenses app to check and approve any claims.

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18 Oct 2021

macOS Monterey release date is October 25 and it'll be free – but it's missing a key feature

After months of speculation and public beta releases, macOS 12 Monterey has a release date of October 25.

Apple announced it in a press release after the October 2021 Event concluded, which saw the company announce two new MacBooks as well: the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) and MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021).

As for macOS 12 Monterey, it’s a software update that focuses on productivity, privacy and connectivity, but with some features being delayed for a future release.

However with the new MacBooks sporting new M1 Max and M1 Pro chips, it's a more substantial update than you may think at first, but it's also missing a feature that many have been looking forward to since WWDC.

The good news is that as with previous macOS updates, macOS 12 Monterey will again be a free upgrade for any compatible Mac or MacBook. If you have an Apple computer from the last five years, you should be good to get the update.

WWDC 2021 screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

Missing its most important update

While macOS 12 Monterey brings a bunch of new features, its most exciting one, Universal Control, won't launch with the operating system. Instead, it's scheduled for later this year.

Universal Control allows you to use an iPad as a second screen for your Mac, so you can drag and drop any files between devices seamlessly.

In a press release, Apple says that 'Coming later this Fall, Universal Control will make it easy for users to work effortlessly across their Mac and iPad.'

While it's a shame that the feature is still under development, anyone who's planning to buy one of the new MacBooks next week probably shouldn't be too disappointed, as these laptops look set to bring some great new features and performance upgrades.

Apple's Unleashed event explained how macOS 12 Monterey will be taking advantage of the new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, showcasing how apps will be able to take advantage. Alongside this, there's also the new menu bar that's going to take advantage of the notch that's present in these new MacBooks.

Expect our review of macOS 12 Monterey and the new MacBooks soon, and with Universal Control and SharePlay still on the horizon, there's a lot to look forward to, even if their absence next week will disappoint many people.

Read more...
18 Oct 2021

Microsoft knows about the worst Teams problems, but can’t decide how to fix them

New features for Microsoft Teams are being held back, despite having the potential to make the collaboration platform the undisputed market leader.

In various threads on the Teams User Voice forum, an official channel for customers to submit ideas for consideration, the company has acknowledged the validity of users’ complaints. However, solutions for many of these issues do not appear to be forthcoming.

Although some of the most upvoted ideas have already been implemented by Microsoft (like ability to reply to a specific chat message, which received 50,000 votes) and others are under active development, many more projects appear to have stalled completely.

Microsoft Teams feedback

A common complaint on the User Voice forum is that Teams is not optimized for use in a small window, unlike rival applications such as Slack. The problem was first noted in 2016 and the forum post has since accrued almost 21,000 upvotes.

“The current chat layout is not suited for professional chats; it’s way too space-consuming,” complained the original poster, who called for a more compact design to accommodate different types of monitor setup.

Members of the Microsoft team have posted in the thread on 25 occasions, calling for further feedback, announcing the issue was under review and providing updates on progress. However, the latest post (from June) simply updated the status to “Planned”, without providing any further details, to the annoyance of some forum members. 

Another post, which calls for the ability to move a project channel from one team to another, has even more public support, with 32,000 upvotes. The thread was also created in 2016, but the latest post from Microsoft (which is itself now a year and a half old) explains that the item has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

“This continues to be on our backlog due to the prioritization of other work items. We will update when there is more to share,” wrote a member of the Teams engineering department.

This is not to suggest Microsoft hasn’t invested sufficient energy and resources into Teams; since the pandemic began, the company has pushed out a bounty of new features for the platform. However, the stagnant forum posts do call into question the effectiveness of the company’s user feedback mechanisms.

TechRadar Pro has asked Microsoft for comment on its specific plans with regards to the most popular ideas from the User Voice forum.

Read more...
18 Oct 2021

One of the most vital tools in Windows 11 is getting a serious upgrade

Getting the most out of Windows 11 could soon be easier than ever due to a significant upgrade to one of its most useful, but also rarely-loved tools.

Microsoft has revealed Task Manager in Windows 11 will be getting two major updates as it looks to offer users more customization and efficiency options when using Windows 11.

The new additions include closer working with the Microsoft Edge browser, and also potentially a new Eco Mode aimed at saving processing power and battery life.

Task Manager boost

First up, Task Manager will now be better geared towards managing Microsoft Edge and the resources and memory used by the browser.

The tool will now be able to display exactly what Microsoft Edge processes are using what amount of memory on your device. When clicking on Microsoft Edge in Task Manager, users will now see a list of processes under the browser, including specific tabs, extensions and subframes - and will now be able to select any of these to close individually.

Microsoft Edge tabs in Windows 11 Task Manager

(Image credit: WindowsLatest)

The GPU and crashpad will also be included in the list of processes, with tabs also displaying the specific site, icon and topic name to give you full visibility and pinpoint exactly which areas need shutting down.

The new updates are available now as part of Microsoft Edge 94 and Windows 11 Build 22000.282.

The rumored Eco Mode for Task Manager, set to launch within the next few months, will let users quickly identify and target particularly resource-hungry apps, giving their devices more space to work efficiently. 

When activated, the tool will reportedly allow users to set the priority of such processes to "low", giving other programs the chance to seize priority for system resources.

Windows 11 is out now, with Microsoft keen to get users switched over to the newest offering as soon as possible - provided they have the right system requirements, although this may not always neccessarily help, reports have claimed.

Via WindowsLatest

Read more...
18 Oct 2021

Windows 11 is hit by another serious slowdown bug – but a fix is in the works

Windows 11 has another bug which slows down performance on the desktop, with this latest glitch wrapped up in the changes made to File Explorer – but the good news is that a fix has been deployed, albeit only in preview (testing) at the moment.

As you may be aware, File Explorer – which refers to the folders you open on the desktop, which contain your files – got some tweaks with the new OS, and Windows 11 offers a command bar which replaces the traditional ribbon that runs along the top of a folder window.

This command bar is far more streamlined, offering core functions like copying or renaming files, with much less clutter, but the downside is it’s actually bugged right now, suffering from a memory leak as Windows Latest reports.

What’s happening, as Microsoft explains in the blog post for preview build 22478 of Windows 11 – which contains the cure for the issue – is that the command bar is being forced to do unnecessary extra calculations when the user switches between different folders, causing what the software giant describes as “an unexpected decrease in performance”.

Some Windows 11 users have also experienced problems when dragging over files to select them, or navigating files using the arrow keys within a folder, and the above bug is believed to be the cause of these hiccups, Microsoft reckons.


Analysis: Not a great start for Windows 11 overall, is it?

The long and short of all this is that if you’ve been experiencing slowdowns while working with files and folders on your desktop in Windows 11, then these gremlins should be banished before long too long.

However, do note that the fix has only just been deployed in preview build 22478 which came out four days ago, and this is in the Dev Channel (which carries early builds). Before coming to the full version of Windows 10, it’ll have to progress to the Release Channel for testers, which may take a little time (particularly if the bug fix itself creates any extra gremlins, and that’s been known to happen in the past).

You may recall that Windows 11 was hit with File Explorer memory leak issues right at launch, so there’s been some unpleasantness around this central aspect of the OS. That’s disappointing, and the lack of responsiveness that these bugs can cause doubtless adds to the perception of a lack of polish from Microsoft here.

All in all, it’s been a bit of a rough start for Windows 11, but if you are encountering issues with the OS, then help is at hand. Simply head over to our article on Windows 11 problems and how to fix the most common issues that may confront you.

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18 Oct 2021

Microsoft Teams could leave its rivals in the dust, but it won’t

Microsoft is dragging its feet over a number of potential new features for Teams that could help establish the collaboration platform as the undisputed market leader, forum posts suggest.

In various threads on the Microsoft Teams User Voice forum, an official channel for customers to submit ideas for consideration, the company has acknowledged the validity of users’ complaints. However, solutions for many of these issues do not appear to be forthcoming.

Although some of the most upvoted ideas have already been implemented by Microsoft (like ability to reply to a specific chat message, which received 50,000 votes) and others are under active development, many more projects appear to have stalled completely.

Microsoft Teams feedback

A common complaint on the User Voice forum is that Teams is not optimized for use in a small window, unlike rival applications such as Slack. The problem was first noted in 2016 and the forum post has since accrued almost 21,000 upvotes.

“The current chat layout is not suited for professional chats; it’s way too space-consuming,” complained the original poster, who called for a more compact design to accommodate different types of monitor setup.

Members of the Microsoft team have posted in the thread on 25 occasions, calling for further feedback, announcing the issue was under review and providing updates on progress. However, the latest post (from June) simply updated the status to “Planned”, without providing any further details, to the annoyance of some forum members. 

Another post, which calls for the ability to move a project channel from one team to another, has even more public support, with 32,000 upvotes. The thread was also created in 2016, but the latest post from Microsoft (which is itself now a year and a half old) explains that the item has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

“This continues to be on our backlog due to the prioritization of other work items. We will update when there is more to share,” wrote a member of the Teams engineering department.

This is not to suggest Microsoft hasn’t invested sufficient energy and resources into Teams; since the pandemic began, the company has pushed out a bounty of new features for the platform. However, the stagnant forum posts do call into question the effectiveness of the company’s user feedback mechanisms.

TechRadar Pro has asked Microsoft for comment on its specific plans with regards to the most popular ideas from the User Voice forum.

Read more...
18 Oct 2021

Facebook to make the most out of the gaming boom in India

India is in the throes of a gaming boom. Every major digital platform wants to tap into it. And Facebook is no exception to it. Last year, it launched its gaming app Facebook Gaming.

As per a statistic, over 380 million people play games and 200 million watch others play video games each month on Facebook. And specifically in India, which is the third-largest market for Facebook in terms of gameplay sessions, 234 million sessions were clocked in the two month period during July and August 2021.

“Gaming is a core area by itself. It’s not like an offshoot of an entertainment strategy. It fulfils the entertainment use case but if you look at it from a broader perspective, gaming has fundamentally been a unique use case,” Manish Chopra, Director and Head of Partnerships, Facebook India was quoted as saying in The Indian Express

Gamers can monetise on Facebook 

Facebook will now allow gamers, game developers, and creators across India to monetise on the platform. People can now follow their favourite professional gaming teams, discover new games, build communities, send donations and more right from Facebook’s gaming platform. Also, Facebook had recently introduced co-streaming on its game-streaming platform, which allows up to four users to stream with one another.

In India, Facebook is working with gaming video creators and game publishers to enhance its presence, and is also working on regional language (aside from English) to make a major impact. 

Details of FB Gaming Press Start event 

Amidst all this, Facebook's online gaming event, FB Gaming Press Start 2021, will be held tomorrow and the day after (October 19 and 20).

The FB Gaming Press Start 2021 event will be addressed by Gio Hunt (VP of Gaming Business and Operations), Ajit Mohan (Managing Director and Vice President, India), and Manohar Hotchandani (Business Development Director, Facebook).

The first day of the event will primarily focus on publishers and developers. It will have the following sessions: 

  • Play 101: Facebook Instant Games & Cloud Opportunities
  • Get In-App Ads Right With Audience Network
  • Supercharge Your Game With Facebook Gaming Services and AR as well as gaming communities.
  • On the second day, the sessions will be:
  • Facebook Gaming video programs
  • Gaming Creator Programs and Stories of Diversity
  • Monetisation from popular gamers in the gaming community.
  • Updates from the event can be followed using #FBGamingPressStart.

Want to know about the latest happenings in tech? Follow TechRadar India on TwitterFacebook and Instagram!

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18 Oct 2021

NBN plans: compare providers + best deals at every speed

A decade after it was first announced the NBN rollout has been declared complete, so the vast majority of Australians now have access to the National Broadband Network in some form.

NBN fibre upgrades are also in the pipeline, with 1.1 million premises around the country set to get a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connection by 2023. This will give users access to higher speed plans such as NBN 250, and we’ve got recommendations so you don’t have to spend a whole lot.

Here, we’ll drill down on the best wired NBN plans currently on offer, whether you’re looking for the most affordable option, the highest speeds or the best overall value. Click the links below to jump ahead to the speed you’re after:

Noteworthy NBN deals

We’ve detailed our plan recommendations below, but before we get into that, we want to highlight some great deals that are currently available on NBN plans:

Best NBN plans

We’ve compared all NBN plans currently available and picked the best plan for each speed tier below.

There are a couple of caveats you should consider when it comes to the high-speed NBN 250 or NBN 1000 plans. These tiers are only available on two types of NBN connection – fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC). With NBN 1000 plans, while all FTTP connections can sign up for 1000Mbps, that speed will only work with a select subset of HFC installations – estimated to be roughly 7% of the total.

Best NBN 25 plan

An affordable option for light internet users

Tangerine | NBN 25 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$44.90p/m (first 6 months, then AU$59.90p/m)

If you’re looking at an NBN 25 plan, chances are you just need the internet for everyday browsing. The good news is that if you just want to surf the web casually, it doesn’t matter what ISP you go with. That’s what makes this Tangerine plan our top recommendation – it’s affordable, comes with unlimited data, has a cheap introductory offer and the maximum typical evening speed on NBN 25 (which is 25Mbps). Considering all this, it’s quite comfortably the best overall value plan on offer at this speed.

[A multi-award winner in the 2021 Mozo Experts Choice NBN Awards.]

Total minimum cost: AU$44.90 | Total cost for first year: AU$628.80

• See more: Best NBN 25 plans

Best NBN 50 plan

The best option for most users

Spintel | NBN 50 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$54p/m (first 6 months, then AU$64.95p/m)

As you’ll notice on this page, Spintel and Tangerine are often the two telcos duking it out to claim the best NBN plans, and when it comes to the NBN 50 tier, Spintel has snatched back the title. That’s because it has a low introductory offer of AU$54 a month for the first six months, before increasing to a low ongoing rate of AU$64.95 a month. Tangerine’s offer is a smidge more at AU$54.90p/m for six months, then AU$69.90 ongoing.

Total minimum cost: AU$54 | Total cost for first year: AU$713.70

• See more: Best NBN 50 plans

Best NBN 100 plan

Our top choice for multi-user households and those who want a bit more speed

Spintel | NBN 100 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$69p/m (first 6 months, then AU$84.95p/m)

Spintel has edged out Tangerine this month with the best (and cheapest) NBN 100 plan we can find. You’ll get a discount on your first six months with the service, so you’ll first pay AU$69 a month before the price reverts back to the standard AU$84.95. Even once the initial discount ends, it’s still one of the cheapest options you’ll find in this tier. For the price, you’ll be getting a maxed-out typical evening speed of 100Mbps.

Total minimum cost: AU$69 | Total cost for first year: AU$923.70

• See more: Best NBN 100 plans

Best NBN 250 plan

If you need ludicrous download speeds, this one's a goer

Mate | NBN 250 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$99p/m

Mate is doing things a little differently than the other telcos by ditching the standard six-month discount entirely. Instead, you can get Mate’s NBN 250 plan for a low ongoing cost of just AU$99 a month. You’ll find that other providers will be cheaper initially, but Mate is hard to beat for its everyday pricing. Mate says you’ll get a typical evening speed of 208Mbps, but because some TechRadar writer’s have this plan themselves, we can report reaching speeds of up to 265Mbps in the peak period.

[A multi-award winner in the 2021 Mozo Experts Choice NBN Awards.]

Total minimum cost: AU$99 | Total cost for first year: AU$1,188

• See more: Best NBN 250 plans

Best NBN 1000 plan

The fastest you can get, but only available in select locations

MyRepublic | NBN 1000 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$105 (first 6 months, then AU$135p/m)

MyRepublic is our pick for the best NBN 1000 plan this month, and that’s because it offers a good combination of low initial price, low ongoing cost and a good typical evening speed. You’ll pay a discounted rate of AU$105 a month for your first six months before it increases to AU$135 each billing, which is the cheapest ongoing cost we can find. MyRepublic promises a typical evening speed of 350Mbps on this plan – if you want more than that, you’ll need to jump over to Aussie Broadband which quotes 600Mbps, but is AU$149p/m.

[A multi-award winner in the 2021 Mozo Experts Choice NBN Awards.]

Total minimum cost: AU$105 | Total cost for first year: AU$1,440

• See more: Best NBN 1000 plans

Which is the best NBN provider?

Best NBN provider this month – Spintel

This month, we’ve named Spintel as the best NBN provider. That’s because the telco has killer deals for new customers on its NBN 50 and NBN 100 plans, and good ongoing rates after the six-month discount too. Like most ISPs, you can choose to bring your own modem, while getting one from Spintel will cost you an additional AU$150 – which is a little more expensive than some competitors, but the overall value from Spintel is excellent.

Click here to learn more about the best NBN provider, and view plans

Understanding NBN speeds: which is right for you?

Choosing an NBN speed tier is arguably the most important decision you’ll make when it comes to getting internet. To figure out which is right for you, factor in how many people will be using the internet in your household and what their usage is like. Here, we’ve broken down each speed tier, and what they get you.

Your connection type can also limit what speed tiers you can access – click here to learn more about NBN connection types, or head to the NBN Co’s website to check what connection is available at your address.

NBN 12 (Basic I): 12Mbps download | 1Mbps upload | Any connection type | 1 user | Suited for a one-person household for browsing the internet, sending emails and watching YouTube videos at 1080p – though this tier is not recommended for lots of streaming.

NBN 25 (Basic II): 25Mbps download | 5Mbps upload | Any connection type | 1-2 users | For one or two people who want to browse the web at the same time, stream music and stream video in 1080p.

NBN 50 (Standard): 50Mbps download | 20Mbps upload | Any connection type | 2-4 users | Allows multiple users to stream in high definition and play games online, and crucially for some, it’s higher uploads are well-suited to working from home – particularly if you need to video chat.

NBN 100 (Fast): 100Mbps download | 20Mbps upload | Any connection type | 5+ users | Suitable for streaming video in 4K, downloading large files and having multiple devices online at the same time.

NBN 250 (Superfast): 250Mbps download | 25Mbps upload | FTTP, HFC connections | 5+ users | Gives you absurdly fast speeds that will let multiple people stream in 4K at the same time, and allow faster downloads of large files such as games and OS updates.

NBN 1000 (Ultrafast): 1000Mbps download | 50Mbps upload | FTTP, HFC connections | 5+ users | Fastest speed tier you can get, but note that there’s considerable difference between the typical evening speeds offered by the few telcos that offer this tier, with the lowest being 200Mbps and the highest reaching 700Mbps (the latter coming from Telstra).

How does switching NBN providers work?

So you’ve done your research and found the NBN provider you want to switch to, what’s next? 

Switching NBN providers is usually fairly seamless – your new ISP should take care of the whole process, including informing your current ISP of the change. If you’ve requested a modem/router with your switch, your new ISP will usually wait until that arrives to connect you – your existing service will continue to work as usual in the meantime.

If you’re keeping your current modem/router, then the switch can often happen within 24-48 hours, and will likely require you to change some of your router settings, such as username and password.

There’s one important step to do before finally switching providers, and that is to check the fine print of your current ISP.

If you are currently on a contract with your internet provider, you’ll likely face an exit fee or be required to payout the remaining months on your plan. If this is you, we’d highly recommend reconsidering breaking the contract unless absolutely necessary.

However, even if you’re on a month-to-month plan instead of a contract, you could still face a cancellation fee. For example, TPG requires its users to give a 30-day notice before cancellation, and if this isn’t done, you’ll need to payout the remaining days of the month.

If you find that your current ISP requires you to give notice of cancellation, we’d recommend scheduling the switch with your new NBN provider, so you can avoid any surprise exit fees.

Best NBN plans: major telcos

If you’re looking for an NBN plan from one of Australia’s three major providers, these are our plan recommendations:

Best Telstra NBN plan

Telstra | NBN 250 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$125p/m (first 12 months, then AU$140p/m)

If you sign up for Telstra’s NBN 250 plan, you’ll pay a discounted rate of AU$125 a month for your first 12 months, which will save you AU$180 in total. After the discount ends, your bill will increase to AU$140 a month, but you can avoid the price hike by moving down to a lower speed plan if you want. This is one of the more expensive NBN 250 plans, but you’ll be getting a maxed-out typical evening speed of 250Mbps, which is the best on offer. Just keep in mind that if you leave Telstra before 24 months have passed, you’ll need to pay out the Telstra Smart Modem, which costs AU$216.

Total minimum cost: AU$341 (includes modem) | Total cost for first year: AU$1,500

Not the right plan for you? Check out our full comparison of all Telstra’s NBN plans.

Best Optus NBN plan

Optus | NBN 50 | Unlimited data | No lock-in contract | AU$79p/m

Optus has historically performed well in the ACCC’s quarterly report, often achieving the highest average download speed among the telco’s monitored. On Optus’ NBN 50 plan, you’ll get unlimited data and typical download speeds of 50Mbps for AU$79 a month. Optus Sport is also included as standard, and the telco’s modem comes with 4G backup. If you stick with Optus over 36 months, you won’t have to pay for the modem (usually AU$252).

Total minimum cost: AU$331 (includes modem) | Total cost for first year: AU$948

Need a different speed? See our full comparison of all Optus NBN plans

Best TPG NBN plan

TPG | NBN 50 | Unlimited data | 6-month contract | AU$69.99p/m

TPG is a favourite for delivering solid, reliable speeds at a bargain price. The ISP typically ranks well in the ACCC’s reporting, and on this plan, it delivers typical evening speeds of 50Mbps. If you sign up for six months, TPG will waive the usual AU$99 setup fee and throw in an included modem, however a AU$10 modem delivery fee still applies. While this plan is cheaper than what’s on offer from the big telcos, be mindful that you could face a contract payout fee of up to AU$350 if you decide to leave early.

Total minimum cost: AU$429.94 (includes modem) | Total cost for first year: AU$849.88

More NBN deals

  • Want to see other broadband options? You can use our broadband plan finder to compare a huge range of Australian NBN, broadband and cable plans!

Typical evening speed explained

A typical evening speed is the average download speed you can expect on a plan during the peak busy hours of 7pm-11pm. Each telco will quote a typical evening speed on its plans, and this number can vary within the same speed tier, so be sure to check and compare.

In 2021, more internet providers started to claim a maximum typical evening speed, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found several ISPs are even delivering above that maximum number.

With so many providers offering a fast service, factoring in typical evening speeds isn’t as important as it used to be, but you should still keep an eye out for low numbers. Any NBN provider quoting close to the tier’s top-rated speed is fine, but consider it a big red flag if it’s significantly lower than the norm.

NBN connection types

First, you’ll need to suss out what connection type you have – you can do that by checking your address on the NBN Co website. Your connection type is good to know, as not every NBN plan is supported by every connection, so it’s an easy first step in narrowing down your choices.

While the NBN is made up of a multi-technology mix, it’s important to know that you don’t have a choice in what technology is available to you. Different connection types have been built in different areas, so it’s entirely dependent on where you live. Below, we lay out the connection types across the network, and what they mean.

Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP): FTTP is a fibre-optic line that runs directly to your home, and therefore is the best type of connection you can have. It requires a device to be installed in your home, and is what was originally intended for every household in Australia when the NBN was first announced.

Fibre-to-the-building (FTTB): An FTTB connection is most commonly used for connecting apartment blocks and similar buildings to the NBN. In this instance, a fibre-optic line runs to the building’s communications room, and existing technology such as copper wiring is used to connect each apartment from there.

Hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC): An HFC connection uses existing pay TV (Foxtel) or cable network as the final connection to households. The HFC line will run from your home to the nearest available fibre node.

Fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC): FTTC is when the fibre-optic cable extends a little closer to your home by connecting to a distribution unit located outside on the street. From there, it uses the copper phone line to run the last leg into your home.

Fibre-to-the-node (FTTN): The majority of Australian households – around 4.7 million – are using FTTN technology. This connection type uses existing copper phone wire to make the final connection to the home from a central node in your neighbourhood. The distance of your home to the node will affect the average speeds you can reach, so if your home is more than 700m from the node, it’s not advisable to choose an NBN 100 plan.

Fixed Wireless: Fixed Wireless connections are used to reach regional and remote areas. Homes in these areas will access the NBN from a transmission tower through an antenna installed on their roof.

Sky Muster satellite: The NBN’s Sky Muster satellite technology is also used to reach regional and remote communities. It requires a satellite dish to be installed on the premises, to which the NBN is received through satellite.

TL;DR: Check your address on the NBN Co website to find out what connection you have. It’s important to know because not every NBN plan is supported by every connection type.

NBN plan price

Finally, once you know what type of connection you have and what speed you want, you can find a plan that suits you at the right price.

There’s good news for those who just want to surf the web casually – for that kind of use, it doesn’t matter what ISP you go with. Recent research by the ACCC has shown that your choice of provider won’t impact website browsing performance, so you can go with a cheap NBN plan if this is all you’re after.

But if you need to do more with your internet, you might want to consider some of the fastest NBN plans. These will cost you more per month, but they’ll allow you to download and upload large files faster, stream comfortably in 4K and game online with minimal lag.

When looking at NBN plan prices, be sure to suss out what NBN deals are available too. It’s extremely common for ISPs to offer a discount for your first six months on their service, and it’s usually about AU$15 off each month.

The telcos will also try and tempt you up to faster plans with bigger discounts – up to AU$40 off each month for six months in some cases – so consider taking advantage of these options too.

There’s one last thing to mention when it comes to price, and that’s contracts. The vast majority of NBN plans come with no lock-in contracts, so you’re free to leave anytime (though some telcos will require you to pay out the remaining cost of your modem).

NBN plans on a contract will typically last between six and 12 months, and the benefit here is usually in reducing upfront fee costs (such as waiving the set up fee or throwing in a free modem).

While those benefits may seem tempting, weigh up those perks before committing to a contract. If you decide to leave early, you’ll likely still need to pay for each month you have remaining.

TL;DR: If you just want to browse the internet, a cheap NBN plan from a smaller NBN provider will do you just fine. For those that want to stream in 4K and game online, look for a fast NBN plan at a competitive price. Be sure to take advantage of six month discounts offered to new customers, and weigh up whether a contract or no-lock in term is best for you.

NBN FAQ

What is the NBN?

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia’s upgraded internet and phone infrastructure. It’s a government initiative that was first announced more than 10 years ago, and after several changes to the rollout plan, it’s officially been declared complete (though upgrades are still ongoing).

The NBN uses optical fibre and other technology types to get faster, stable internet into homes across Australia, taking the place of copper wires and cable broadband.

How do I connect to the NBN?

If you’re not sure whether you can connect to the NBN yet, check your address on the NBN Co website. Most Australians do have access to the NBN, and if you find your home is NBN-ready, all you need to do is select an NBN plan and sign up. Then you can either use a BYO modem or one provided by your telco of choice to connect to Wi-Fi.

If you find that your home isn’t connected to the NBN, you’ll need to contact NBN Co and organise installation.

Do I need a new modem/router for the NBN?

For a modem/router to connect to the NBN, it needs to have a VDSL port, so you will need to upgrade if your current hardware is missing this port. While most plans will give you the option of bringing your own device for the connection, you’ll also have the ability to buy one directly from your NBN provider.

For the everyday internet connection, these modem/routers will suffice for your connection, though you may want to consider buying better hardware if you’ve signed up for a fast NBN plan – just ensure that it’s compatible.

What is a good data amount for my NBN plan?

The majority of NBN plans available today come with unlimited data, with prices starting at AU$50 a month for an unlimited data plan. With an unlimited data plan, you won’t have to worry about monthly data caps, and we’d argue that they’re better value for money when factoring in price per gigabyte.

Which is the cheapest NBN provider?

The provider with the cheapest NBN plan overall is TPG, but it’s a very limited connection that offers just 10GB of data per month. If you’re looking for affordable internet, head over to our cheap NBN plans page, where we’ve compared the cheapest plans from each speed tier.

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17 Oct 2021

Why 3D Pinball needs to come back in Windows 11

The release of Windows 11 has come and gone, but already there’s feature wishes for future releases of the newest Windows upgrade. One in particular from me is for 3D Pinball to make a return.

As a child, one of the primary reasons for using the family computer would be to see what search engines would bring in the way of games. While there were random Flash games of British Soaps and non-sanctioned Matrix games to play online, Windows itself had its fair share of games pre-installed.

One from Windows XP was 3D Pinball, where hours would easily be wasted in achieving a high score. With a programmer now having reverse-engineered the game to work on web browsers, and even Sony’s PlayStation Vita, it’s time to see the game return for Windows 11. 

Playing 3D Pinball on an iPad

Steve Jobs once said that having iTunes on Windows was akin to having a glass of water in hell, and while this quote is harsh in retrospect, playing 3D Pinball on an iPad Pro feels strange. It’s similar to playing a Sonic game on a Nintendo console, or using Apple Music on a Google Pixel device.

3D Pinball being played on an iPad Pro in Safari

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Using the Z and / keys for the flippers, alongside the spacebar for launching the ball instantly takes you back to Windows XP. The sounds and graphics are intact, and you can even play 3D Pinball on your smartphone if you wish.

Using this in Windows 11, within a web browser, instantly takes you back to that time as well, and there are ways of using it as its own app as well. Playing 3D Pinball on a laptop with a touch screen is also possible, but a full screen mode would be much better for this orientation.

There are plans for new music tracks, multi-ball and other features to come soon, but as it stands, you’re at risk of losing many hours already to this new way of playing 3D Pinball, as I already have in iPadOS 15 and Windows 11.

Time for a remake in Fluent Design

We’re in an age where remakes are a valuable commodity in the games industry. Pokémon, Resident Evil and other franchises have already seen critically acclaimed remakes. They tap into the nostalgia associated with our childhood years but updated for modern times with improved graphics and gameplay, and 3D Pinball can fit that brief perfectly.

3D Pinball running in Edge browser, in Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

While there were other games included in Windows across the years, such as Minesweeper and Solitaire, 3D Pinball brought a competitiveness to the family PC. There was a thrill about beating the high scores of your relatives with every visit you made to them once a week.

A new 3D Pinball game that’s built from the ground up in Windows 11 could add to the mantra that Microsoft has about this release; that it’s an upgrade meant for everyone. 

With a new focus on gaming thanks to HDR and the Xbox app being heavily featured for the Windows upgrade, a new 3D Pinball game with online multiplayer and leaderboards, alongside native touch-support for those with laptops that have this feature, could be a big temptation to many who are still waiting to update to Windows 11.

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15 Oct 2021

Brave browser cuts off another avenue for tracking your web activity

In order to further protect users of its browser from unwanted tracking online, Brave Software has announced in a new blog post that it will add debouncing protection to Brave.

Bounce tracking is yet another technique websites use to follow users around the web. The technique itself works by injecting additional sites between a site a user is currently visiting and another site they want to navigate to. Over time these intermediate sites learn what websites a user has visited which allows them to perform tracking in a similar way to using third-party cookies.

Beginning with version 1.32 of Brave on desktop, the browser will protect users against bounce tracking by automatically recognizing when they are about to visit a known tracking domain, skipping visiting the tracking site all together and instead directly navigating a user to their intended destination.

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Brave Software's new debouncing feature is currently available in nightly versions of Brave but will be rolled out to all users soon.

Debouncing in Brave

With its new debouncing feature, Brave not only protects users against bounce tracking on websites but also bounce-tracking URLs used in other places across the web including links in affiliate marketing emails.

In order to know which URLs employ bouncing tracking, the company maintains a list on GitHub that is drawn from a mix of crowd-sourced and existing open source projects including the URL Tracking Stripper, Link Clearer and Clear URLs extensions. However, additional rules are also maintained by Brave Software and the company plans to keep this list up to date and add more bounce-tracking URLs to it going forward.

Debouncing isn't the only bounce tracking protection in Brave though as the browser utilizes query parameter stripping and warns users when they are about to visit a suspected bounce tracking site.

In addition to bringing debouncing to its browser, Brave Software is also working with the W3C to help standardize protections against bounce tracking so that they can be implemented by other browsers as well.

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15 Oct 2021

Microsoft Teams update will help you tune out all distractions

A constant barrage of incoming notifications can be distracting while trying to work which is why Microsoft plans to roll out a new update for Microsoft Teams later this year to help users stay focused on the task at hand.

According to a new post on the Microsoft 365 roadmap, the software giant is currently working on a new experience for the Viva Insights app in Teams that expands on its focus time feature.

For those unfamiliar, Microsoft's Viva Insights app provides Teams users with personalized recommendations that help them do their best work. These insights are derived by summarizing data about your emails, meetings, calls and chats from Microsoft 365.

At its core, Viva Insights helps users improve their productivity and well-being at work through a number of features including Headspace which offers guided meditations, virtual commutes to mindfully close out your workday, Microsoft To-Do, breathing breaks and more.

Focus time in Teams

As part of its new update, Microsoft will expand Viva Insights' focus time feature to enable Microsoft 365 users to work uninterrupted with Teams notifications silenced.

With focus mode in Viva Insights, Teams users will be able to make progress on important work with focus music from Headspace playing in the background. This new immersive experience will also include a notification as well as a new focus mode page in the Viva Insights Teams app.

Microsoft 365 users can enroll or modify their focus plan settings or even book ad-hoc focus time in the Viva Insights Teams app.

Whether you're working from home or have already returned to the office, focus time in Teams should help you eliminate distractions so you can get more done during your workday. 

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15 Oct 2021

Google will allows Chrome apps to live on a little while longer

Google has further postponed the retirement of Chrome apps, which are already on extended life support.

Chrome apps, not to be confused with Chrome browser extensions, were Google’s idea of delivering browser-based apps that installed inside Chrome and looked and functioned like regular desktop apps.

Chrome apps never took off thanks to the evolution of web standards and platforms such as progressive web apps (PWA), which rendered Chrome apps obsolete.

However, Chrome apps seem to have found their stride with Chrome OS’ Enterprise and Education customers, because of whom Google has been forced to delay the retirement process for several more years.

“Based on feedback from our Enterprise and Education customers and partners, we have made the decision to extend Chrome app support for those users on Chrome OS until at least January 2025,” notes Google.

Prolonging the inevitable

Google first announced its decision to terminate Chrome apps for Windows, Linux and macOS back in 2016. Back then it admitted that the combined user base of Chrome apps on these platforms was about 1%.

Since then, the evolution of web standards and development of powerful new and open APIs have enabled developers to build robust PWAs that work seamlessly across platforms and browsers, validating Google’s decision to pull the plug on Chrome apps.

Even as it extends the timeline for select customers to run Chrome apps on Chrome OS, Google asserts that PWAs are the way of the future.

“There is a growing ecosystem of powerful desktop web apps & PWAs, from advanced graphics products like Adobe Spark to engaging media apps like YouTube TV to productivity and collaboration apps like Zoom,” said Google, further encouraging Chrome app developers to migrate to PWAs “as soon as possible.” 

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