Why Windows 10 Users Should Buy Android Phones, Not iPhones

We tend to think of Windows as an agnostic operating system. It works with just about any device that you buy, regardless of that device’s branding. But when it comes to smartphones, your Windows 10 PC is all about Android. In fact, Windows users should skip the iPhone and stick with Android for perks like desktop texting, wireless file transfer, and superb Office 365 integration.

The ‘Your Phone’ App Makes Android and Windows One

Banners advertising the Your Phone app's features.

What if I told you that you could see your phone’s notifications, write text messages, and even mirror your phone’s screen in Windows 10? The Microsoft-made Your Phone app takes just minutes to set up, but it allows you to fully integrate your Android phone with your PC. And because the Your Phone app isn’t available on iOS, it’s the best reason for Windows users to skip the iPhone and go for Android.

Texting or calling from your PC is super easy with the Your Phone Windows app. It shows all of your text conversations in a layout similar to that of Facebook Messenger, and even shows notifications for incoming texts and calls. And because your conversations sync between your phone and PC, you don’t have to worry about missing messages as you jump from one device to another.

Windows’ Your Phone app also makes it easy to transfer photos between your phone and PC. Just press the “Photos” button on the desktop app to access your phone’s Gallery. From there, you can drag and drop photos between devices or even delete pictures off your phone. It’s a lot easier than using a cable to transfer photos, and it could streamline how you work at the computer.

One of the weirdest features that Your Phone has to offer is Android screen mirroring. The feature is exclusive to the select Surface Duo Samsung devices at the time of writing, but it lets you see and interact with your phone’s screen on your computer. You can even run Android apps on your PC with select Samsung Galaxy devices—a trick that could revolutionize your workflow (or distract you from your work).

Getting started with the Your Phone PC app is easy. Just download Your Phone Companion from the Play Store on your phone. Sit at your PC, fire up the Your Phone Companion app on your phone, and follow the instructions to link both devices.

Office 365 Works Better With Android

Screenshots of the Office Android app.
Microsoft

Your annual Office 365 subscription comes with a ton of perks, including access to Microsoft’s professional apps, the Microsoft Teams messaging service, and oodles of OneDrive cloud storage. But you aren’t stuck working on your PC, because your Android phone has stellar Office integration.

The all-in-one Office mobile app makes it super easy to view or compose Word documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows on your phone. It connects directly to OneDrive and Microsoft Teams, so you can retrieve files that you made on your PC without any hassle or share documents with coworkers on the go. Of course, OneDrive and Teams also have dedicated Android apps, which you can use to back up files, share photos, or communicate with teammates while jumping between your phone and computer.

For even deeper control over your Microsoft productivity tools, try downloading the Microsoft Launcher and Microsoft Edge browser on your Android device. The Microsoft Launcher adds useful reminders and calendar events to your phone’s home screen, while the snappy Edge browser allows you to sync browsing history, bookmarks, and logins from your PC to your phone (assuming you don’t already do this over Chrome).

Some of these features are available on iOS, but they’re more robust (and often arrive a lot sooner) on Android devices. The Android operating system is more “open” than iOS, making it a better platform for deep integration with Microsoft productivity tools. And, of course, that brings us to our next point … the future of Microsoft and Android integration.

The Future of Windows Depends on Android

A photo of Microsoft's Surface Duo, a dual-screened Android smartphone.
A photo of Microsoft’s Surface Duo, a dual-screened Android smartphone. Microsoft

Microsoft has spent the last few years doing the unthinkable. The company with a reputation for single-mindedness teamed up with Google to develop the new Edge Browser, a replacement for Internet Explorer. It began streaming Xbox games to Android phones, and it released its first Android device, the dual-screened Surface Duo. What’s up with that?

Don’t worry; Microsoft isn’t giving up on Windows anytime soon. As explained by CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft is preparing for a world of cloud computing, where apps and services are streamed to your device no matter its form-factor, operating system, or processing power. The most common device in our cloud computing future will be small, lightweight, and power-efficient, which is why Microsoft (the king of bulky Intel desktops) appears to have a newfound obsession with Android and ARM architectures.

Microsoft’s cloud computing infrastructure, called Azure, is already helping people run professional software and games through the cloud. But it will take years before cloud computing reaches its full potential. In the meantime, Microsoft is working directly with Google and Samsung to improve the Android experience for Windows users. And while some of these improvements will find their way to iOS, deep integration with tools like the Your Phone app and the Microsoft Launcher will remain exclusive to Android.

People who use an iPhone with their Windows computer are missing out on a ton of cool features, like texting from your computer through the Your Phone app. Still, it’s worth mentioning that most of these features are available to iPhone users with a Mac. If you’re committed to the idea of buying an iPhone but still want to text from your desktop, consider grabbing a Mac computer.

Original Article by Andrew Heinzman

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is establishing a foundation for your business network that empowers its users to work efficiency, while leveraging technologies that save time and money, and offering scalable IT solutions that work with any business model. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.

New report reveals Apple’s roadmap for when each Mac will move to Apple Silicon

Citing sources close to Apple, a new report in Bloomberg outlines Apple’s roadmap for moving the entire Mac lineup to the company’s own custom-designed silicon, including both planned release windows for specific products and estimations as to how many performance CPU cores those products will have.

The M1, which has four performance cores (alongside four efficiency cores), launched this fall in the company’s lowest-end computers—namely, the MacBook Air and comparatively low-cost variants of the Mac mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro. These machines have less memory and fewer ports than the company’s more expensive devices. The Macs with more memory or ports, such as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, are still sold with Intel CPUs.

According to the report’s sources, Apple plans to release new Apple Silicon-based versions of the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the higher-end 13-inch MacBook Pro configurations in 2021, with the first chips appropriate for at least some of these computers arriving as early as spring, and likely all of them by fall. New iMac models that share CPU configurations with high-end MacBook Pros are also expected next year.

The Mac Pro, on the other hand, would not arrive until 2022, which is the year that Apple has said it plans to complete its silicon transition. That suggests the Mac Pro may be the last machine to make the leap.

New chips for the high-end MacBook Pro and iMac computers could have as many as 16 performance cores (the M1 has four). And the planned Mac Pro replacement could have as many as 32. The report is careful to clarify that Apple could, for one reason or another, choose to only release Macs with 8 or 12 cores at first but that the company is working on chip variants with the higher core count, in any case.Advertisement

The report reveals two other tidbits. First, a direct relative to the M1 will power new iPad Pro models due to be introduced next year, and second, the faster M1 successors for the MacBook Pro and desktop computers will also feature more GPU cores for graphics processing—specifically, 16 or 32 cores. Further, Apple is working on “pricier graphics upgrades with 64 and 128 dedicated cores aimed at its highest-end machines” for 2022 or late 2021.

When Ars reviewed the M1 Mac mini and MacBook Air, we found that performance handily bested counterpart Macs with Intel chips.

Apple says it has achieved these performance improvements in part because of a newly refined unified memory architecture that allows the CPU, GPU, and other components to quickly access data in the same shared pool of fast memory without losing efficiency to moving or copying the data around.

When we interviewed Apple executives Craig Federighi, Greg Joswiak, and Johny Srouji, they claimed that the M1 is only the beginning of the performance leap for Macs based on this architecture.

The chart they referred to.

They pointed to the above chart and indicated that while the M1 in the MacBook Air sits at the 10W line on that chart, the performance line continues to scale upward. Up that scale is where next year’s new chips could fall.

When Apple first announced its custom silicon shift at its developer conference earlier this year, it said it expects to complete the transition from Intel within two years—which fits with the timeline this Bloomberg report has laid out. Still, it’s important to note that delays and changes to the designs of these chips are always a possibility when looking as far out as 2022.

Original Article by Samuel Axon

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is establishing a foundation for your business network that empowers its users to work efficiency, while leveraging technologies that save time and money, and offering scalable IT solutions that work with any business model. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.

10 Ways Website Structure Can Affect SEO

Optimizing your website for traffic, revenue, and conversion is one of the most essential parts of SEO.

In 2021, success means going beyond having a neat and glossy design that sometimes can be a hindrance in terms of how search engines view and crawl your website.

Conventional flat site structures are always popular.

But last year Google’s John Muller, in a Webmaster Hangout, did hint a hierarchical site architecture could provide Google better indicators on:

  • What the pages on your website mean.
  • How each page is related and connected.

With differences in design and website structure principles, a designer and an SEO pro’s opinions can vary considerably.

Striking a balance between a visually aesthetic website for customers and a structure architected for search engine visibility should be the ultimate goal.

And having an organized website structure is incredibly essential for SEO.

Without creating something that makes logical sense, your other SEO, content, and even design efforts may be for nothing.

A good website structure should have a significant impact on SEO traffic and conversion.

It should also help your whole organization engage better with users and create an experience aligned with your business goals, product, and service structure.

In this article, I share some key points to consider as to how website structure affects SEO.

1. Site Crawlability

Site crawlability is one of the most important factors when it comes to website structure.

Crawlability refers to a search engine’s ability to crawl through your website’s entire text content to figure out what your website is all about.

Part of this process is navigating through subpages and particular topics to understand the website as a whole.

A webpage has to take a visitor someplace else within the website, from one page to another, to be considered crawlable.

Search engine robots are responsible for website crawling.

An important tenet of good website crawlability is that there are no dead ends while crawling through your website.

10 Ways Website Structure Can Affect SEO

Make a concerted effort to include internal links on every page, which creates a bridge from one part of your website to another.

Breadcrumbs, schema, and structured data formats all help here.

Ensure you know and track your Google crawl budget, too.

2. URL Structure

One of the essential factors relating to how website structure affects SEO comes back to the URL structure.

URLs are also the building blocks of an effective site hierarchy, passing equity through your domain and directing users to their desired destinations.

The best URL structures should be easy to read by a user and a search engine and contain target queries, so they are content-rich.

Effective structures replicate logic across your whole website and submitting an XML sitemap to search engines with all of the most important URLs you want to rank for also helps.

Try to keep URLs simple and don’t over complicate them with too many parameters.

3. HTTP, HTTPs, HTTP2

HTTPS ensures your website security, and as Google continues to make it part of the user experience having a secure site can also help boost your rankings.

This is why more than 50% of websites worldwide are using HTTPS already.

Switching to HTTPS has multiple benefits in addition to better rankings.

  • Better user experience.
  • Protection of your users’ information.
  • AMP implementation – only viable with HTTPS.
  • PPC campaign effectiveness.
  • Improved data in Google Analytics.

As of November 2020, Google will start crawling some sites over HTTP/2.

4. Internal Linking

The basics of proper navigation dictate that users should get from one page to another without any difficulties.

If your website is large and has many pages, the challenge is making these pages accessible with only a few clicks, using navigation alone.

Usability experts suggest that it should only take three clicks to find any given page, but use this advice as a guideline instead of a rule.

Internal linking helps users and search engines discover a page, and much like a messaging house build helps provide a flow between content and pages.

Pages that are not linked are harder for search engines to crawl.

10 Ways Website Structure Can Affect SEO

Categorize and organize links in a way that won’t wreck your website structure.

Internal linking works by using keywords within your content and linking them to another relevant piece of content on your website.

The advantages of consciously using internal links for SEO are numerous:

  • Internal linking allows search engines to find other pages through keyword-rich anchors.
  • Internal links decrease page depth.
  • Internal linking gives users an easier way to access other content, resulting in a better user experience.
  • Search engines give greater value to internal links regarding ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Frequently, people will link back to old content through the use of internal links.

However, most people rarely do the reverse – going back through old content to link to newer content.

Close the loop by making sure both pieces are connected through the use of internal links.

5. Key Content & Keywords

Content and keyword research are fundamental parts of SEO and should be an essential part of how you build and structure your website from the get-go.

Ensuring this is done ensures your understanding of your target audience, search behavior, and competitive topics are built into your website structure and layout.

The best websites ensure they have provided a great user and a great search engine friendly experience by ensuring their website’s most crucial content is central to the structure and is of the highest quality.

6. Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is harmful to SEO because Google interprets it as spam.

A focus on high-quality and unique content on the SERP clearly defines how your website must be structured for ideal SEO.

Google’s Search Console is a useful tool for finding and eliminating duplicate content on your website.

It may be possible to repost duplicate content on LinkedIn or Medium but do so with caution.

As a more general rule, don’t post duplicate content on your website or anyone else’s.

7. Navigation & User Experience

The usability standards that today’s websites are held to are much stricter than in the early days of the Internet.

If a visitor comes across a poorly built website, they will avoid interacting with it further.

Additionally, nobody wants to waste their time on a website where they’re unsure what to do next.

If a visitor can’t figure out how to find the information they’re after they will seek it out on a competitor’s website.

And bad user experience hurts SEO.

How searchers interact with a website is interpreted by Google for future search results.

Click-through rate, time spent on site, and bounce rate are all signaling factors to Google’s algorithm.

Statistics indicating a positive experience validates the search results to Google.

Statistics showing a negative experience tells Google the page may not be the most relevant or useful for that query, and Google will adjust the search results accordingly.

The basics of providing a good user experience include:

  • Aligning click-through with expectations.
  • Making desired information easy to find.
  • Ensuring that navigation makes sense to the point of intuitiveness.

Run some tests with unbiased visitors to determine just how usable your website actually is and ensure you determine how real users are interacting with your website.

8. Core Web Vitals & User Experience

Core Web Vitals are part of Google’s page experience update, and when optimizing images, in particular, they could impact rank.

The shift in emphasis on CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) and the measurement of content and visual content load jumps is something website builders, designers, and SEO pros – together – should be working on.

Core Web Vitals could become one of the ranking factors in 2021, and at the moment, less than 15% of sites meet benchmark standards.

Google has given website owners and SEO professionals a heads up to prepare for this update, so now is an excellent time to take action in advance.

9. Mobile

Often associated with design, ensuring your website is structured for mobile viewers coming from different devices is now an essential part of a website build.

The amount of work involved can depend on your developer resources, IT expertise, and business models – especially if your site is ecommerce related.

10 Ways Website Structure Can Affect SEO

On the Google Search Central blog, Google suggests that going mobile will likely cost time and money if you had not considered this when you built your website.

This is especially the case for sites built with flash or that use old ecommerce platforms.

10. Speed & Performance

If your website build and structure does not favor a fast user experience, then your SEO and bottom-line results will nosedive.

Slow site and page speeds, unresponsive pages, and anything that “takes time” for the user damages all the hard work done by developers, content creators, and SEO pros.

A one-second delay in page load time can mean fewer page views and traffic and a significant drop in conversions, all alongside a miserable user.

Ensure that you are liaising with your designers and IT departments to choose the right mobile design and website structure – for example, responsive web design – and identify all the pros and cons to avoid high costs and costly mistakes.

Conclusion

For best SEO results, ensure your website is structured in the most appropriate and hierarchical format for your users and your business.

Make sure it is architected for search readability.

Engage with your website designers at the time of build, not after.

Even at the beginning stages of a website’s conceptualization, it’s essential to plan ahead for content to come.

It’s not hard to see how website structure affects SEO.

Ensure that you align your website architecture and design so your SEO efforts begin well and end well!

Original Article by Maddy Osman

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is establishing a foundation for your business network that empowers its users to work efficiency, while leveraging technologies that save time and money, and offering scalable IT solutions that work with any business model. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.

AWS brings the Mac mini to its cloud

AWS today opened its re:Invent conference with a surprise announcement: the company is bringing the Mac mini to its cloud. These new EC2 Mac instances, as AWS calls them, are now generally available. They won’t come cheap, though.

The target audience here — and the only one AWS is targeting for now — is developers who want cloud-based build and testing environments for their Mac and iOS apps. But it’s worth noting that with remote access, you get a fully-featured Mac mini in the cloud, and I’m sure developers will find all kinds of other use cases for this as well.

Given the recent launch of the M1 Mac minis, it’s worth pointing out that the hardware AWS is using — at least for the time being — are i7 machines with six physical and 12 logical cores and 32 GB of memory. Using the Mac’s built-in networking options, AWS connects them to its Nitro System for fast network and storage access. This means you’ll also be able to attach AWS block storage to these instances, for example.

Unsurprisingly, the AWS team is also working on bringing Apple’s  new M1 Mac minis into its data centers. The current plan is to roll this out “early next year,” AWS tells me, and definitely within the first half of 2021. Both AWS and Apple believe that the need for Intel-powered machines won’t go away anytime soon, though, especially given that a lot of developers will want to continue to run their tests on Intel machines for the foreseeable future.

David Brown,  AWS’s vice president of EC2, tells me that these are completely unmodified Mac minis. AWS only turned off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It helps, Brown said, that the minis fit nicely into a 1U rack.

“You can’t really stack them on shelves — you want to put them in some sort of service sled [and] it fits very well into a service sled and then our cards and all the various things we have to worry about, from an integration point of view, fit around it and just plug into the Mac mini through the ports that it provides,” Brown explained. He admitted that this was obviously a new challenge for AWS. The only way to offer this kind of service is to use Apple’s hardware, after all.

It’s also worth noting that AWS is not virtualizing the hardware. What you’re getting here is full access to your own device that you’re not sharing with anybody else. “We wanted to make sure that we support the Mac Mini that you would get if you went to the Apple store and you bought a Mac mini,” Brown said.

Unlike with other EC2 instances, whenever you spin up a new Mac instance, you have to pre-pay for the first 24 hours to get started. After those first 24 hours, prices are by the second, just like with any other instance type AWS offers today.

AWS will charge $1.083 per hour, billed by the second. That’s just under $26 to spin up a machine and run it for 24 hours. That’s quite a lot more than what some of the small Mac mini cloud providers are charging (we’re generally talking about $60 or less per month for their entry-level offerings and around two to three times as much for a comparable i7 machine with 32GB of RAM).

Until now, Mac mini hosting was a small niche in the hosting market, though it has its fair number of players, with the likes of MacStadium, MacinCloud, MacWeb and Mac Mini Vault vying for their share of the market.

With this new offering from AWS, they are now facing a formidable competitor, though they can still compete on price. AWS, however, argues that it can give developers access to all of the additional cloud services in its portfolio, which sets it apart from all of the smaller players.

“The speed that things happen at [other Mac mini cloud providers] and the granularity that you can use those services at is not as fine as you get with a large cloud provider like AWS,” Brown said. “So if you want to launch a machine, it takes a few days to provision and somebody puts a machine in a rack for you and gives you an IP address to get to it and you manage the OS. And normally, you’re paying for at least a month — or a longer period of time to get a discount. What we’ve done is you can literally launch these machines in minutes and have a working machine available to you. If you decide you want 100 of them, 500 of them, you just ask us for that and we’ll make them available. The other thing is the ecosystem. All those other 200-plus AWS services that you’re now able to utilize together with the Mac mini is the other big difference.”

Brown also stressed that Amazon makes it easy for developers to use different machine images, with the company currently offering images for macOS Mojave and Catalina, with Big Sure support coming “at some point in the future.” And developers can obviously create their own images with all of the software they need so they can reuse them whenever they spin up a new machine.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Pn3miC_tTH0%3Fversion%3D3%26rel%3D1%26showsearch%3D0%26showinfo%3D1%26iv_load_policy%3D1%26fs%3D1%26hl%3Den-US%26autohide%3D2%26wmode%3Dtransparent

“Pretty much every one of our customers today has some need to support an Apple product and the Apple ecosystem, whether it’s iPhone, iPad or  Apple TV, whatever it might be. They’re looking for that bold use case,” Brown said. “And so the problem we’ve really been focused on solving is customers that say, ‘hey, I’ve moved all my server-side workloads to AWS, I’d love to be able to move some of these build workflows, because I still have some Mac minis in a data center or in my office that I have to maintain. I’d love that just to be on AWS.’ ”

AWS’s marquee launch customers for the new service are Intuit, Ring and mobile camera app FiLMiC.

“EC2 Mac instances, with their familiar EC2 interfaces and APIs, have enabled us to seamlessly migrate our existing iOS and macOS build-and-test pipelines to AWS, further improving developer productivity,” said Pratik Wadher, vice president of Product Development at Intuit. “We‘re experiencing up to 30% better performance over our data center infrastructure, thanks to elastic capacity expansion, and a high availability setup leveraging multiple zones. We’re now running around 80% of our production builds on EC2 Mac instances, and are excited to see what the future holds for AWS innovation in this space.”

The new Mac instances are now available in a number of AWS regions. These include US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland) and Asia Pacific (Singapore), with other regions to follow soon.

Original Article by Frederic Lardinois

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is establishing a foundation for your business network that empowers its users to work efficiency, while leveraging technologies that save time and money, and offering scalable IT solutions that work with any business model. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.

Apple makes bold claims about its M1 chip for Macs

Apple has unveiled its first Macs with Apple silicon, and they’re powered by an all new Mac-specific chip: the M1. It’s based on the same fundamental design of the A14 (found in the iPhone 12), but scaled up to laptop-grade performance levels with more cores, more memory, and higher thermal limits.

The result, Apple says, is a shocking increase in performance and power efficiency. Here’s what you need to know about the M1 system-on-chip.

Eight core CPU and GPU

Where the A14 has a six-core CPU—four high-efficiency cores and two high-performance cores—the M1 expands that by adding another pair of high-performance cores for a total of eight.

We’ve already seen how fast these cores are in A14 performance benchmarks, and with the higher thermal and power limits of a laptop, they should have even more room to breathe. 

m1 cpu
Apple doubled its high-performance CPU cores to four, and still has four high-efficiency cores, too.

Apple has also expanded the GPU from four cores in the A14 to eight in the M1. Apple says it’s the fastest integrated graphics in any laptop anywhere. 

Apple isn’t big on benchmarks, but does make grand claims like “up to two times faster than the latest laptop chip.” Apple says the MacBook Air with the M1 chip is faster than 98 percent of all PC laptops. Not just “thin and light” laptops or “laptops in its class,” but all PC laptops.

A complete system-on-chip

Macs used to use several separate chips for CPU/GPU, I/O, RAM, and Thunderbolt control—this along with the T2 chip for security (and other functions). With the M1, all of those chips are combined into a single system-on-chip. 

m1 system on chip
Some of the separate chips now combined into the M1 system-on-chip.

That’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can say goodbye to expandable memory and most other upgrade options. Perhaps future Apple-designed Mac chips will allow for standard memory DIMMs, but the M1 features a single chunk of memory that can’t be expanded beyond either 8GB or 16GB.

On the other hand, fewer chips means that the system logic board gets a lot smaller, making it possible to produce smaller products, cram in more battery, and more efficiently cool the system. 

You also get the Neural Engine, with 16 cores (just as in the A14). That’s 11 teraflops of machine learning acceleration in a thin and light laptop. This is a huge leap forward for developers that write ML apps.

Better performance

Apple doesn’t promote its products with industry standard benchmarks—we’ll have to wait for independent reviews for that.

But it claims the M1 delivers twice as much CPU performance as the “latest laptop chip” (which is not specifically identified) in the MacBook Air’s 10-watt power envelope. It also delivers double the graphics performance at that power, according to Apple.

m1 gpu
The top-line specs for Apple’s GPU are quite impressive, for integrated graphics.

Apple’s claims are pretty extreme: The MacBook Air with the M1 chip delivers up to 3.5x the CPU performance and 5x the graphics performance of the last Air. Even in the bigger more powerful 13-inch MacBook Pro, Apple says it can deliver 2.8 times the CPU performance and 5x faster graphics. Even if those claims are way off the mark, we should be looking at a big speed improvement compared to prior Macs.

Apple’s specs for its GPU are impressive. At 2.6 teraflops and 41 gigapixels per second, it would easily outclass Intel’s Iris Plus G7 and may even compare favorably in some ways to laptops with Intel’s new Xe discrete graphics solution. It’s more impressive on paper than even AMD’s excellent Vega graphics in its latest Renoir mobile APUs

Of course, Apple will compete not just with thin-and-light laptops using Intel processors, but new PC laptop chips on the way from AMD, and thin-and-light Windows laptops that use discrete graphics.

Such incredible performance claims bear verification, and we’re somewhat incredulous. Such massive leaps in performance almost always come with a mountain of caveats, and we encourage readers to wait for independent verification before buying all of Apple’s claims. Still, even if Apple’s claims are off by double, we’re looking at a shockingly competitive platform.

Power efficiency

This increase in performance and new capabilities come not at a cost in power, but with less power use.

Apple claims M1 delivers the same peak CPU performance using only a quarter of the power as the “latest laptop chips.” The company does not specifically identify that, only saying that the comparisons were made using the new 13-inch MacBook Pro against “latest‑generation high‑performance notebooks commercially available at the time of testing.”

m1 cpu efficiency
Apple claims to absolutely demolish conventional laptop chips in power efficiency and performance.

When it comes to graphics, the company claims the same peak performance is achievable with only one third the power. And for both CPU and GPU performance, Apple says its chips deliver double the performance of the latest laptop chips within a 10-watt power envelope.

We’ll have to wait for independent testing to verify those claims, but Apple seems confident enough in its power efficiency to remove the fan entirely from the new MacBook Air. And both the new M1-based MacBook Air and MacBook Pro deliver dramatically increased battery life—we’re talking hours more—using the same-sized batteries as the versions with Intel chips. 

Original Article by Jason Cross

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is establishing a foundation for your business network that empowers its users to work efficiency, while leveraging technologies that save time and money, and offering scalable IT solutions that work with any business model. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.

Google offering ‘upgraded’ GMB profile with Google Guaranteed badge for $50 per month

Google is starting to offer Google Guaranteed certification for a monthly fee, outside of Local Services Ads. It’s positioned as an “upgraded profile” that will include a badge appearing on the profile and which may also appear in the Local Pack.

We’ve asked Google a number of questions about the new program and will update this post when the company responds (update: see below). Below is a promotional screenshot captured by Tom Waddington, who told me the new upgraded profile is being promoted within the Google My Business dashboard.

Cost is $50 per month. The cost is $50 per month, subject to Google Guaranteed’s normal eligibility rules, which include background and licensing checks. The annual cost of the program would be $600, assuming eligibility requirements are met.

Google Guaranteed was introduced in connection with Local Services Ads to instill greater consumer confidence in the advertised businesses. However, it has also evolved into a distinct program used to certify local businesses for inclusion in Google Home/Assistant search results.

Google Guaranteed has been historically used in the home services category. Last year, Google introduced a similar program for professional services called Google Screened. Assume Screened is next if Google decides to roll out upgraded profiles to professional services categories.

CTR boost? There’s no public data on any CTR or engagement lift from the presence of a Google Guaranteed badge, but I would speculate that such profiles do and would see higher click-throughs. Below is another screenshot from Tom Waddington showing the Guaranteed badge in a Local Pack. The listing with the badge calls more attention to itself.

Google Guaranteed badge on Profile and in Local Pack

Google’s market opportunity. In April 2019 Google sent out a small business owner survey, that also went to digital agencies. Among other things, it asked about enhanced GMB services and profile upgrades and how much businesses might be willing to pay for them. Verified profiles and Google Guaranteed certification were among the options in the survey.

I have long believed that subscription fees, for new or enhanced services, were on the GMB product roadmap as Google looks for new offerings for small business customers who either are resistant to Ads or churn out of Ads regularly. Google AdWords has had high SMB churn rates historically. Google is also looking for ways to more directly monetize GMB.

The Google Guaranteed badge does that without clawing back and trying to charge for any existing features, which is what the local SEO community was afraid of. CallJoy, one of Google’s first experiments with a subscription model (outside of GSuite) was shuttered. The virtual agent for SMBs, which answered the phone and transcribed calls, was $39 per month.

Yelp offers a number of different paid profile upgrades that can together cost more than $1,000 per year absent discounts or bundled pricing. Such subscription-based revenue has the benefit of lower churn and fewer ROI expectations from business owners.

There are roughly 30 million SMBs in the U.S. according to the Commerce Department. Google hasn’t published any public numbers but let’s assume that the company has the most comprehensive set of business listings online and that there are more than 20 million locations in the database (90% of which are single location businesses). According to a yet-to-be-published analysis of 800,000 business listings from Whitespark, 49% were claimed. That is Google’s “installed base.”

Google: an “experiment.” A Google spokesperson provided the following comment in email: We’re always testing new ways to improve our experience for our advertisers, merchants and users. This experiment will show the Google Guaranteed badge on the business profile. We don’t have anything additional to announce right now.”

Why we care. While there’s no guarantee of success, competition may help drive adoption of the Google Guaranteed profile upgrade. If business owner A sees that owner B, her competitor, has the badge that will likely generate inbound interest.

Let’s assume this program is successful and remains available. I see two paths forward: one in which Google adds new features to the “upgraded profile” that offer additional incentives to participate and another where there’s an a la carte approach, similar to what Yelp has done. However I don’t see Google coming up with too many independent upgrades.

Google’s market opportunity here is in the millions of potential customers. For example, if Google were to successfully upsell two million businesses that had claimed their listings it would represent $1.2 billion in annual revenues. No word yet on bulk pricing for multi-location businesses or franchises.

Original Article by Greg Sterling

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is establishing a foundation for your business network that empowers its users to work efficiency, while leveraging technologies that save time and money, and offering scalable IT solutions that work with any business model. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.

Apple dishes details on its new M1 chip

Apple’s “One More Thing” event is all about Macs. Here’s the scoop on Apple’s latest chip, the M1, which is the first ARM-based computer chip the company is making in-house.

The M1 is the first computer chip built on a 5nm process with 16 billion transistors. Optimized for Apple’s lower-power systems with minimal size and maximum efficiency, there are four performance cores and four efficiency cores in the CPU. Pound for pound, Apple says it has the highest CPU performance per watt, and the four efficiency cores alone match the performance of a dual-core MacBook Air while using much less power. This should contribute to longer battery life and better efficiency in low-power tasks like checking emails, for instance.

The GPU has eight cores and can process up to 2.6 teraflops. In concert with the 16-core neural engine, which is capable of 11 trillion processes per second, Apple says apps like Garage Band can handle three times more instruments and effect plugins, while Final Cut Pro, for instance, can render complex timelines up to six-times faster. Compared to “previous-generation Macs,” Apple says the M1 delivers “up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, and up to 15x faster machine learning” with up to double the battery life.

Since this is a system-on-chip (SoC) in which the typically separate components of the computer (CPU, GPU, security, etc.) are integrated into one, Apple’s aiming to optimize the flow of data for this with a unified memory architecture. Essentially, this allows the components of the SoC to pull from one central pool of memory, rather than multiple individual stores. This will all be supported by security features like hardware-verified secure boot, automatic high-performance AES encryption via the storage controller, and macOS run-time protections. It also includes a Thunderbolt controller with support for USB 4 transfers up to 40Gbps.

With the newly launched macOS Big Sur, Apple expects to take full advantage of this streamlining. Wake-up times will be instant, as they are on iPhones and iPads, while apps like Safari are almost two times more responsive, the company claims. In fact, all first-party programs have been optimized for the M1 chip. Third-party apps that originally ran on Intel chips and have yet to be optimized for the M1 can still run thanks to Rosetta 2. Some of these apps, Apple claims, run better in Rosetta than they did on their original Intel platforms. Apple is also enabling users to run iPad and iPhone apps on Macs, growing the compatible programs for Mac users significantly.

The M1 will be found in the newly-announced MacBook Air13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini.

Original Article by Corey Gaskin

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is establishing a foundation for your business network that empowers its users to work efficiency, while leveraging technologies that save time and money, and offering scalable IT solutions that work with any business model. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.

Microsoft urges users to stop using phone-based multi-factor authentication

Microsoft is urging users to abandon telephone-based multi-factor authentication (MFA) solutions like one-time codes sent via SMS and voice calls and instead replace them with newer MFA technologies, like app-based authenticators and security keys.

The warning comes from Alex Weinert, Director of Identity Security at Microsoft. For the past year, Weinert has been advocating on Microsoft’s behalf, urging users to embrace and enable MFA for their online accounts.

Citing internal Microsoft statistics, Weinert said in a blog post last year that users who enabled multi-factor authentication (MFA) ended up blocking around 99.9% of automated attacks against their Microsoft accounts.

But in a follow-up blog post today, Weinert says that if users have to choose between multiple MFA solutions, they should stay away from telephone-based MFA.

The Microsoft exec cites several known security issues, not with MFA, but with the state of the telephone networks today.

Weinert says that both SMS and voice calls are transmitted in cleartext and can be easily intercepted by determined attackers, using techniques and tools like software-defined-radiosFEMTO cells, or SS7 intercept services.

SMS-based one-time codes are also phishable via open source and readily-available phishing tools like Modlishka, CredSniper, or Evilginx.

Further, phone network employees can be tricked into transferring phone numbers to a threat actor’s SIM card — in attacks known as SIM swapping—, allowing attackers to receive MFA one-time codes on behalf of their victims.

On top of these, phone networks are also exposed to changing regulations, downtimes, and performance issues, all of which impact the availability of the MFA mechanism overall, which, in turn, prevents users from authenticating on their account in moments of urgency.

SMS AND VOICE CALLS ARE THE LEAST SECURE MFA METHOD TODAY

All of these make SMS and call-based MFA “the least secure of the MFA methods available today,” according to Weinert.

The Microsoft exec believes that this gap between SMS & voice-based MFA “will only widen” in the future.

As MFA adoption increases overall, with more users adopting MFA for their accounts, attackers will also become more interested in breaking MFA methods, with SMS and voice-based MFA naturally becoming their primary target due to its large adoption.

Weinert says that users should enable a stronger MFA mechanism for their accounts, if available, recommending Microsoft’s Authenticator MFA app as a good starting point.

But if users want the best, they should go with hardware security keys, which Weinert ranked as the best MFA solution in a blog post he published last year.

PS: This shouldn’t mean that users should disable SMS or voice-based MFA for their accounts. SMS MFA is still way better than no MFA.

Original Article by Catalin Cimpanu

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is establishing a foundation for your business network that empowers its users to work efficiency, while leveraging technologies that save time and money, and offering scalable IT solutions that work with any business model. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.

These WordPress plugin bugs could jeopardize hundreds of thousands of sites

WordPress site owners currently using the Ultimate Member plugin are being urged to update to the latest version in order to patch three serious security flaws that could be exploited to launch site takeover attacks.

Ultimate Member is a popular WordPress plugin designed to help simplify the task of creating and managing user profiles which is currently installed on over 100,000 websites. The plugin enables site owners to create a user based website with WordPress with custom privileges for different users.

However, the security firm Wordfence recently disclosed three high-severity vulnerabilities in the plugin that could be exploited by an attacker to escalate their privileges as well as take over any WordPress site running versions of Ultimate Member before version 2.1.12.

All three vulnerabilities have now been patched with the release of Ultimate Member version 2.1.12 back in late October and WordPress site owners should update the plugin immediately to avoid falling victim to any potential attacks.

Privilege escalation vulnerabilities

Of the three vulnerabilities disclosed by Wordfence in its new report, two have a maximum CVSS severity rating of 10/10 while the other has a critical CVSS score of 9.8.

The two high severity vulnerabilities can be exploited for unauthenticated privilege escalation via user meta by granting admin access upon registration and user roles by selecting an admin role during registration. The critical vulnerability is a bit less severe as an attacker would need wp-admin access to a site’s profile.php page to exploit though it still allows an authenticated attacker to easily elevate their privileges to admin.

Although Ultimate Member released an updated version of its plugin which patched all three vulnerabilities in October, 34.6 percent of the plugin’s active users are still running outdated versions according to data from WordPress.org.

Now that all three vulnerabilities have been publicly disclosed, cybercriminals will likely try to launch attacks against WordPress sites running vulnerable versions of the plugin which is why all Ultimate Member plugin users should update their installations to the latest version as soon as possible.

Original Article by Anthony Spadafora

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is establishing a foundation for your business network that empowers its users to work efficiency, while leveraging technologies that save time and money, and offering scalable IT solutions that work with any business model. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.

8 On-Page Optimization Techniques That Google Hates

In the past, a wide range of black hat SEO techniques proved to be successful in the short-term.

However, they simply weren’t sustainable.

Many websites implementing such tactics experienced severe penalties that were impossible to recover from.

The bottom line is that Google has become much smarter and continues to advance its algorithm every day.

For this reason, SEO is constantly evolving and our strategies for on-page content optimization must do so, as well.

The downside?

Doing white hat SEO takes a lot of time and expertise.

It requires:

  • A well-constructed strategy.
  • A variety of on-site and off-site initiatives.
  • Quality content.
  • The ability to adapt to a constantly changing landscape.

But, the payoff is real.

In this article, I’ll be looking at some of the many old-school SEO techniques that you should avoid – or else risk getting penalized.

1. Keyword Stuffing

Offering value to readers should be at the forefront of all SEO and content marketing tactics.

In the past, marketers could get away with producing a ton of thin content that didn’t provide much value to their users but would still get them at the top of search results.

Keyword stuffing was one of the most common content tactics because well… it was so easy!

Marketers would simply identify the keyword(s) they want to rank for.

Then produce content with a high-level focus on the topic but not too in-depth – stuff content with the exact-match keyword(s).

And make sure the title, page tagging, and headers were stuffed with the keyword as well.

For example:

Keyword Stuffing

Google is now much better at understanding what content provides value and answers the questions that users are asking.

For this reason, this on-page content optimizations tactic was made obsolete with the Panda update in 2011.

How to Avoid It

To help ensure you’re offering real value and not participating in the act of keyword stuffing, here are a few questions that you should be asking yourself when crafting content:

  • Does the content on this page truly align with the title and page tagging?
  • What types of content are showing up in top search results around this keyword? Is my content better or is it just providing more noise?
  • How many times did I use the keyword on the page? Are there any uses that don’t read naturally?
  • What actionable next steps could readers take from this content?
  • Could this content have been added to an existing page instead?

2. Only Optimizing for Desktop

Mobile optimization was not always a big focus for SEO pros in the past.

However, there is no denying that it will be fundamental for the future.

Mobile Optimization

Google first announced that it was experimenting with mobile-first indexing in 2016.

And ever since then there’s been a ton of conversation around the topic.

Most recently, John Mueller confirmed that Google’s mobile-first index will exclude all desktop content as of March 2021.

While he provided quite a bit of information in his recent Pubcon presentation, the most important takeaways are that desktop-only sites will be dropped from Google’s index, and any images or other assets that are in desktop version of a site will also be dropped.

How to Avoid It

Mobilegeddon is in play, and marketers who aren’t optimizing for mobile will surely be left behind.

Make sure that the mobile version of your website correctly reflects the content that you want Google to index and rank in search results.

M-dot sites may experience having desktop users sent to the mobile version of their site from SERPs.

For those with an M-dot site, it’s recommended that you identify desktop users and redirect them to the correct desktop version of your website.

3. Targeting Keywords for Traffic, Not Intent

In the old days, marketers would include popular (and often inappropriate) keywords in their content for the sole purpose of gaining traffic.

However, once the users arrived on the page, they would not convert due to the simple fact that what was provided on the page was not aligned with what they were searching for.

While high volume keywords present the opportunity to drive traffic to your website, targeting keywords that aren’t relevant to your brand can cause serious harm.

Not only will you have the wrong eyes on your content, but you will also confuse search engines and get penalized.

How to Avoid It

Stick to your niche.

Understand that as Google is indexing pages on your website, it takes into consideration all the content and topics that you address across the domain (beyond just that page) then ranks it for the queries it deems relevant.

My suggestion is to write about what you want to be known for – by users and by search engines.

If you are a software organization, don’t write a series of controversial articles about the presidential election.

Content that is irrelevant to your brand will only create more noise and confusion for search engines.

4. Unnatural Internal Linking

Internal linking can be an extremely powerful strategy for SEO if done properly.

Ideally, it allows you to connect webpages and create an ideal structure or path for search engines and users to follow.

Both users and search engines reference links to find content on your website.

Google uses links to understand the relationship between content and attribute link value while readers use links to find valuable, related information.

Unfortunately, marketers often walk a fine line when it comes to internal linking.

If you are repeatedly linking to your site’s top pages with keyword-rich anchor text and in ways that don’t make sense or feel natural, this may be flagged by Google.

Getting hit with this type of over-optimization penalty is far from ideal.

At one point in time, marketers could dramatically and almost instantly improve keyword rankings by implementing internal links from keyword-rich anchor text.

Internal Linking

As shown above, all you would have to do is link off to the same URL from several keyword variations.

However, similarly to the spammy tactics we’ve covered already, Google caught on!

How to Avoid It

Internal links should provide users with relevant information around the anchor text and topic at hand.

Ask yourself:

  • Does this link provide real value to users?
  • Does this link make sense with the anchor text that I am linking out from?
  • What other content might users want to explore after reading this page?
  • Would users expect to land on a page with this type of information, or is the anchor text misleading?
  • How often am I linking off to this page (on this page and other content)?

5. Unique Pages for Every Keyword Variation

While keywords are by no means dead, they don’t play the same role in SEO that they used to.

For a long time, keywords were the end all be all of getting your pages to rank in top SERPs.

Though making the proper keyword selections is important, you can no longer stuff your site with multiple keyword variations and expect it to boost rankings.

At one point, obtaining a top position in search results required creating unique pages for every keyword variation you wanted to rank for.

For example, if you wanted to rank for the following keywords, you would need to create a dedicated page for each:

  • “Personalized birthday gifts.”
  • “Custom personalized birthday gifts.”
  • “Custom birthday presents.”

This SEO method allowed marketers to target keywords individually and rank for every variation of a keyword.

While it was 100% acceptable years ago, today, this tactic would lead to some serious keyword cannibalization and certainly cause more harm than good.

How to Avoid It

Instead of creating unique pages for every keyword variation you want to rank for, focus on identifying keywords with the right intent.

Create one amazing piece of content and see if it ranks for multiple keyword variations.

If it doesn’t, you can always revisit it for further optimizations but make sure to give it enough time to take off.

Again, be cautious that you aren’t over-optimizing your website.

Panda, HummingbirdRankBrain, and Fred are constantly looking to take down sites that abuse keywords.

6. Spammy Footers

Footers are so important to help users:

  • Learn more about your brand.
  • Navigate key sections of your website.
  • Find the information they are looking for.

It also allows the chance to provide essential content like location, contact information, social media profiles, privacy policies, copyrights, and much more.

For example, here’s an optimized footer:

Website Footer

Here you see IBM’s logo with links to key locations on the website like Products, Services, Industries, Demos, etc.

The footer also features a whole section dedicated to learning more about the brand – careers, events, news, partnerships, and much more.

It also provides other ways to connect with the brand including support, social media channels, and a way to contact IBM.

It’s a pretty intuitive experience.

Now, instead, imagine if that website footer was stuffed with hundreds of links and tags.

How do you feel about the footer below?

Bad Website Footer

Yuck!

It’s no wonder why websites that were using this spammy tactic were penalized by two algorithm updates – Panda (targeting poor site structure) and Penguin (aimed at sites participating in link and tag manipulation).

How to Avoid It

Keep the user experience top of mind when optimizing both the footer and header of your site.

Make sure your footer provides vital information like:

  • Key navigational pages
  • About the company.
  • Contact information.
  • Copyrights/policies.
  • Social media channels.
  • Any subscription fields and more.

But, please don’t use it to spam search engines!

You will not succeed.

7. Cloaking

Now, this one is a throwback in the world of SEO.

This old school tactic is strongly forbidden by search engines for very good reasons.

The art (or lack thereof) of cloaking refers to the method of delivering a certain page to search engine crawlers, while delivering a completely different page to the human eye.

This was an advanced black hat SEO method.

Marketers would identify search engine crawlers by IP in order to serve them different web page content.

It also called for abusing server-side scripts and code on the backend.

Why?

To manipulate search engines.

Marketers could get their pages to rank, while still providing an ideal experience for users.

Additionally, some marketers would combine this tactic with targeting irrelevant keywords for traffic (discussed above).

For example, you would search “cute otter pictures” and end up on a real estate site.

How to Avoid It

This one is pretty straightforward – don’t cloak.

Avoid learning to abuse server-side scripts and “behind the scenes” code all for a quick boost in SERPs.

8. Content Swapping

Last but not least, let’s talk about another advanced black hat SEO method – content swapping.

This was another way of manipulating Google’s algorithm to get content to rank.

It went a little something like this:

  • Publish content to your website.
  • Wait for Google to crawl and index that content.
  • Verify that the page is being displayed in search results.
  • Block the page (or even entire site) from being indexed.
  • Swap content to what you actually want to appear.

A classic example of this is a page that originally covered tobacco pipes but was exchanged with content that featured banned substances.

Google wasn’t always as quick as it is today.

This was always a forbidden SEO tactic, but black hatters got away with it because Google was once slow to reindex websites.

Now, Google almost always immediately cuts pages that are blocked from the index.

How to Avoid It

Obviously, content swapping is no longer a workable strategy and can result in serious penalties.

Remember that quality is king.

If you want Google to rank your page, make sure that you are providing top-notch content that offers significant value to your readers.

Conclusion

Avoid these on-page optimization techniques that Google hates.

Instead, implement the best practices provided.

When in doubt, think about what’s best for the user experience and you’ll be on your way to boosted rankings and a brighter future.

Original Article by Kristen M. Vaughn

At Raptor IT Consultants, our goal is providing an immersive yet simplified approach towards outsourced IT consulting, with a dedicated IT support helpdesk that understands your time is valuable, and offering enterprise level IT services affordably. With more than 15 years overseeing our customers IT service needs, offering a dedicated IT support helpdesk bundled with affordable managed IT services, and website development; Our experienced, Microsoft certified IT consultants strive to exceed expectations by offering a immersive yet simple IT support experience.