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What Linux needs to make it a better mobile desktop


Jack Wallen has a few suggestions that could help make Linux on the laptop a much-improved experience.

Image: iStockphoto/Spectral-Design

I have a bit of a confession to make. Although Linux is my operating system of choice on the desktop, I tend to skip over my open source-powered laptop in favor of either a MacBook Pro or Chromebook when I’m working beyond my desk. I know…blasphemy, right? I’ve reached a point in my career and life where I need the tools to be able to get my jobs done as efficiently as possible and without frustration or headache. 

To be absolutely fair, primary reasons why I overlook my one Linux laptop are because it’s too big and the keyboard is absolutely terrible. Given I am a writer by profession, a bad keyboard can be a deal-breaker. Once again, in favor of honesty, the 2016 MacBook Pro keyboard isn’t much better. The “butterfly” keys are loud and way too prone to sticking. My 2015 Pixel was, at one point, an absolute dream machine, but the battery life is waning, and sometimes ChromeOS can be a bit flaky with the trackpad.

Yet, I still opt to grab one of those over the 14-inch Tuxedo Computers laptop with the toyish keys laid out in a manner that makes my fingers feel like they’re new to typing. The issue doesn’t stop with a poorly designed keyboard–there are a few things developers could do to make mobile computing on the open source platform much improved.

SEE: Linux service control commands (TechRepublic Premium)

It’s all about the cloud

At this point, I’m certain users across the board are rolling their eyes, having choked on enough calls to the cloud for a lifetime. The truth of the matter is, the cloud has become an inherent aspect of computing these days. If I weren’t able to depend on the cloud, I’d still be doing scripted backups to…oh wait, I still do those anyway. Scrap that bit about backups.

The biggest draw with the cloud (at least for creative types like myself) is that it gives me access to my work from any computer connected to my cloud account. With some services, this works like a charm. On Linux, I can install the Nextcloud desktop client, the Dropbox client, or a number of different clients to make it possible to access my cloud files on the desktop. The one service I use the most requires the most work to enjoy even a pseudo-functioning bit of sync. Said service is Google Drive. 

To this day there isn’t a single truly reliable desktop client for Google Drive. Desktop environments like GNOME allow you to create a connection to that cloud account and, for some services, it works splendidly–your Google Calendar will sync with your local calendar, if you use Evolution as your email client it will automatically add your Gmail account, and your Google Contacts will auto-magically be there for your productive pleasure.

Then there are those files on Drive. Sure, you can mount your Drive directory to your local directory, but it’s not a true two-way sync. It’s slow, unwieldy, and has to remount and resync every time you reboot your laptop. That, my friends, is no viable solution.

I know there are tools like Insync and Rclone that can sync your Google Drive cloud account to Linux, but those tools aren’t nearly as reliable as they should be. I’ve had instances of Insync causing a catastrophic loss of my primary Google Drive folder (the one that holds all of my manuscripts). Rclone is serviceable, though not for the average user or the faint of heart.

On this front, Linux needs an official Google Drive client, one that only requires you to enter your authentication credentials and, like magic, your Drive folders (or those folders you have chosen) will be in sync on your local drive.

This should be considered a must have. The Linux desktop also needs to offer the same feature for Dropbox, OneDrive, and if possible iCloud. 

The cloud is the thing, and the Linux desktop needs to get its head in the clouds for a smooth, user-friendly, and reliable experience.

It’s all about the display

There are seriously outstanding Linux-powered laptops available. At the top of nearly everyone’s list and for good reason is the Dell XPS. It’s light, powerful, and the perfect portable size.

Even with that magnificent hardware (which will cost you about as much as a new MacBook Pro), what you see on the display pales in comparison to that of the Apple offering and even some Chromebooks. This has bothered me about Linux for some time–though not enough to send me packing. When you compare the contents of a screen between Linux and macOS, the difference is stark.

Even with Pop!_OS (one of the cleanest looking distributions I’ve used), it cannot stand up to what macOS offers. Fonts can look bitmap-y, windows often leave traces as you drag them about, and the overall effect isn’t nearly as sharp. This is made especially so when you spend all day staring at a screen your eyes will get tired.

I realize this issue is a fairly massive hurdle to overcome. I also don’t discount the amazing work that has been done to make desktop Linux look as smooth and clean as possible, but when you’re working with a laptop display that is often much smaller than that of a desktop, what you see needs to be as clean and clear as possible.

I have faith that one or more of the desktop Linux distributions will catch up to macOS someday. When that day comes, I can assure you, my Linux laptop will be the first I grab. 

It’s all about gestures

This is yet another challenge whose bar has been set and reset by Apple. Use a MacBook Pro for a while and then come back to Linux. You’ll be cursing the fact that you can’t use gestures on that trackpad. 

Sure, you can jump through a few hoops to get a few gestures in place, but they don’t stand up to what those Apple mobile machines offer. 

Linux needs some serious work to get gestures in place on all laptop installations without requiring the end user to have to configure a text file in nano, vi, or Gedit.

For some, the idea of trackpad gestures is a non-starter; however, for others it’s a deal-breaker. When you pound keys for a living be it writing or coding, efficiency is everything. A quick swipe on the trackpad is much faster than dragging a cursor to a back button. 

It’s all about the browser

I’ve been harping on this for some time now. I’ve gone through every web browser available to Linux: Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Vivaldi, GNOME Web, Midori, Brave, MS Edge, Chromium, and everything in between. I’ve settled on Chromium for now, but at some point, I’m going to discover that one issue to send me back on the hunt for the perfect browser.

I know it doesn’t exist, but it should. Wouldn’t it be nice to cherry-pick the best features from all of those browsers and create one Frankenbrowser? The speed of Vivaldi, the rendering clarity of Chrome, the privacy of Brave, the open source of Firefox, even MS Edge’s take on Chromium’s apps. That browser would be a dream to use and depend on.

This isn’t so much a Linux-specific problem as it is a global issue. No operating system has the ideal browser. In fact, the one tool we depend upon the most is one of the most widely-contested tools on the market.

Until that nirvana of browsers arrives, I’ll keep looking and hope that time will pay off and the perfect browser shows up in the standard repository for every Linux distribution on the market.

It’s all about me

Everyones needs and experiences are different, and my point is not to tear down Linux and point fingers of blame at anyone. Linux has been my go-to operating system for over 20 years, and that’s not going to change. I love Linux and champion it every chance I get. Even though it has improved exponentially over the past few years, it doesn’t mean we’ve reached that point where we can say, “This is it, we’ve perfected the operating system!” 

Linux is a ways from perfect, especially on mobile devices, but with some brilliantly focused work, it can get as near to perfect as any operating system has ever been on the laptop.

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Best inkjet printers 2020: top picks for home and office


Welcome to our pick of the best inkjet printers of 2020. No matter if you’re looking for a new inkjet for home or office use, we’ve got some great choices for you.

We’ve carefully hand-picked the best inkjet printers you can buy in 2020, and with our built-in price comparison tool, we’ll make sure you get the very best deals as well.

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Black Friday vacuum deals at Best Buy can save you $200 on this Dyson

Black Friday vacuum deals at Best Buy can save you $200 on this Dyson

Black Friday deals are well known for excellent discounts on vacuums, and this week we’re seeing some early contenders jumping into the mix. Our top offer, however, is this Dyson Big Ball Animal + Allergy vac. 

There’s a $200 discount on this machine, bringing the final price down from $699.99 to a far more reasonable $499.99. There’s some serious tech packed inside as well, with a hypoallergenic filtering system, powerful but efficient suction that doesn’t lose its potency over time, and a wide head for easier and faster cleaning. 

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Best Tablets for Holiday Gifts 2020


These tablets from Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Amazon, and Lenovo are sure to satisfy anyone on your gift list this holiday season.

‘Tis the season of gift giving. Tablets make great holiday gifts, but there are a lot to choose from–this tech gift guide can help take some of the guesswork out of which tablet to pick. With tablets from Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and more, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for your loved one. 

Apple iPad Air (2020)

Image: Apple

With a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display, A14 Bionic chip, and a 12-megapixel back camera and 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera, this tablet makes a great gift for the Apple enthusiast in your life. The tablet is available in 64 GB or 256 GB options, comes in an array of colors, and has multiple accessory options like the Magic Keyboard attachment or the Apple Pencil (sold separately). Pricing for the iPad Air starts at $599 (64 GB) and $749 (256 GB). 



Apple iPad Mini

Image: Apple

Another option from Apple is the iPad Mini. The smaller iPad has an A12 Bionic chip with Neural Engine, 7.9‑inch Retina display with True Tone, has an 8-megapixel back camera and 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera, and is available in 64 GB or 256 GB options. The iPad Mini is compatible with the Apple Pencil, so the user can get as creative as they want on their new tablet. Pricing starts at $399 (64 GB) and $549 (256 GB). 



Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 is an ultra-light and versatile tablet that features a 12.3-inch screen, laptop-class Intel Core processor, 5-megapixel front-facing camera and 8-megapixel rear camera, a built-in kickstand, and is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth compatible. The Surface Pro 7 runs on the Windows 10 Home operating system and comes in 4 GB, 8 GB, or 16 GB options. Pricing starts at $749.99. 



Microsoft Surface Go 2

Image: Microsoft

Another tablet option from Microsoft is the Surface Go 2, which has a 10.5-inch touchscreen, runs on Windows 10 Home in S mode, and comes in 4 GB or 8 GB options. The Surface Go 2 can be paired with accessories like the Surface Go Type Cover and Surface Pen (sold separately). Pricing starts at $399.99. 



Samsung Galaxy Tab A

Image: Samsung

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab A is great for the tablet lover in your life who enjoys streaming movies and music. The Galaxy Tab A runs Android OS and features a 10.1-inch full HD corner-to-corner display, Dolby Atmos surround sound speakers, a long-lasting battery, 2 GB of RAM, and expandable memory (up to 512 GB with a microSD card). The price is also nice–the Galaxy Tab A starts at only $229.99 for the 32 GB model. 



Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab

Image: Lenovo

The Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab runs on Android 9 Pie and features a 10.1-inch screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 octa-core processor, stereo speakers, a built-in kickstand, an 8-megapixel autofocus front camera and 5-megapixel fixed focus rear camera, and is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible. The Yoga Smart Tab also has Google Assistant’s Ambient Mode built in so it can double as a screen-enabled smart home hub. Pricing starts at $249.99.



Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet

Image: Amazon

The Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet has a 10.1-inch 1080p full HD display, 2 GB of RAM, 32 or 64 GB of internal storage (up to 512 GB with microSD), 2.0 GHz octa-core processor, 2-megapixel front- and rear-facing cameras, and dual-band, enhanced Wi-Fi. The Fire HD 10 tablet also has Amazon’s Alexa built in so the user can get information, find entertainment, and connect with people using voice control. Pricing starts at $149.99.



Amazon Fire 7

Image: Amazon

The Amazon Fire 7 is the cheapest tablet on this list, yet it has some great features, especially for the price. The Fire 7 features a 7-inch IPS display, 1 GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of internal storage (up to 512 GB with microSD), a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, and a 2-megapixel front- and rear-facing cameras. Like the Fire HD 10, the Fire 7 also has Alexa built in and runs on dual-band Wi-Fi. Pricing starts at $49.99


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Best Mobile Accessories Gifts


This gift guide features cool and handy accessories for smartphones, smartwatches, and laptops.

With people turning to mobile devices now more than ever, accessories for smartphones, smartwatches, and laptops make great gifts for your loved ones or coworkers. This gift guide offers options for power banks and chargers, smartwatch bands, phone cases, earbuds, and more to help you narrow down which mobile accessories to gift this holiday season.   

RAVPower Fast Wireless charger 

Image: Amazon

Being able to charge a smartphone quickly makes anyone happy. Why not give the gift of fast charging with the RAVPower Fast Wireless charger? This charger works for iOS and Android devices, including the new iPhone 12. As long as the smartphone is Qi-compatible, this charger can get the job done, and the user doesn’t even have to remove their phone case. 

$16 at Amazon


AUKEY USB-C power bank

Image: Amazon

Anyone who’s had the battery on their smartphone or laptop die while they’re away from their charger can tell you that it’s very inconvenient. A power bank can prevent the problem and would be a great gift for any mobile device user. The AUKEY USB-C power bank is a viable option to consider. The sleek 18W power bank can charge any USB-C and USB-powered device, charges up to four times faster than conventional charging, and has built-in safety features to prevent overheating and overcharging. 

$30 at Amazon


AUKEY USB-C car charger

Image: Amazon

Another charging option from the AUKEY brand is the USB-C car charger. This car charger is optimized to deliver 21W to most USB-powered devices including iPhones, iPads, AirPods, Nintendo Switches, and more and is designed to fit almost any vehicle’s 2V/24V socket. 

$14 at Amazon


iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Defender Series Pro case

Image: OtterBox

Smartphones are expensive so it’s important that the phone’s owner has the proper protection for it. OtterBox cases are known for their durability, but the Defender Series Pro also features a silver-based antimicrobial additive to help inhibit microbial growth and defend against many common bacteria on the exterior of the case. This case makes the perfect gift for new iPhone 12 owners, though it’s available for other models as well.  

$70 at OtterBox


Bose Sport earbuds

Image: Best Buy

If you’re shopping for a runner and/or a music fan, check out the Bose Sport earbuds. These wireless earbuds are sweat and weather resistant, feature intuitive touch controls and a microphone for touch-free calling, and have a battery life of up to five hours. They come in three colors: Black, Baltic Blue, and Glacier White, so you’re sure to find a style that works for anyone on your gift list.

$179 at Best Buy

Bands for Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy smartwatches


EverAct Compatible bands for Samsung Galaxy watches

Image: Amazon

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s not rocking a smartwatch of some kind these days, so a new band might be just the thing to get them. Apple offers an array of different bands to fit anyone’s style, including its Sport Loop bands. The bands are made of a double-layer nylon weave and are soft, breathable, lightweight, durable, and easily adjustable. Sport Loop bands come in a variety of colors and can be purchased on Apple’s website for $49. 

If you’re looking for bands for a Samsung Galaxy smartwatch, consider EverAct Compatible Bands. This 12-pack of durable silicone bands come in a variety of colors with the option for gold or silver buckles and are compatible with most Galaxy smartwatches, including the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and Active2, Samsung Gear, and Galaxy Watch 3. The bands are available on Amazon for $20.99. 


PhoneSoap 3

Image: Amazon

Smartphones are held constantly, put down on dirty surfaces, touched by others, etc., so they’re bound to pick up a lot of germs and bacteria. Cleaning a smartphone can be tricky as certain cleansers can actually do more harm than good, but PhoneSoap has taken the guesswork out of properly cleaning smartphones. Using two UV-C bulbs, PhoneSoap 3 kills 99.99% of germs and features a USB and USB-C port so users can charge their phone while cleaning it.

$80 at Amazon


OtterBox Amplify Glass Antimicrobial screen protector for iPhone XR/11

Image: OtterBox

Another OtterBox product to consider is their line of screen protectors. Having a protected screen is crucial for any smartphone owner. Without a screen protector on your smartphone, one drop can mean a shattered screen and lots of money for repairs or replacement. OtterBox offers several types of screen protectors, including antimicrobial, anti-glare, edge-to-edge protection, and blue light blocking, which are available for just about any smartphone or tablet.



Incase ICON backpack

Image: Incase

For those on your list who are in school or always on the go for work, consider getting them a bag to carry their laptop and other important items in. The Incase ICON laptop backpack is a great option that features durable 840D nylon construction, multiple compartments for organization, a dedicated side-access iPad pocket, adjustable padded shoulder straps and a sternum strap for comfort, and a cable port for on-the-go access to portable power or audio.

$200 at Incase

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Top 5 Smartphones for Business Professionals


Here are five smartphones to consider the next time you’re shopping for a new mobile device for work.

Busy professionals need devices that keep up with their workday pace, and for many people their most essential device is a smartphone. There are many reasons why it may be more convenient to use a smartphone instead of a laptop, such as being away from your desk, working in the field, or not wanting to sit down in front of a larger screen when a smaller, more portable one will do. 

If you use your smartphone for work, you need one that’s reliable, which is where these five devices come in. Each smartphone on this list has unique features designed for business users who may have different use cases.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20

Image: Samsung

Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note device is practically tailor-made for professionals, with its in-device stored S Pen designed to make note-taking and on-the-go organization a snap. The S Pen in the Galaxy Note 20 is improved over last year’s version, and it’s redesigned to eliminate lag; plus, it has auto-synchronization with Microsoft OneNote, the ability to turn handwritten notes into text, and note-taking capabilities with the screen turned off.

The Galaxy Note 20 is available for preorder and will start shipping on Aug. 21, 2020. Pricing for the Galaxy Note 20 starts at $999.99, and pricing for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra starts at $1,299.99.

Caterpillar Cat S61


Image: Caterpillar

This rugged Android smartphone is manufactured by heavy equipment company Caterpillar and is designed to stand up to the abuse that electronics in the field inevitably take. It’s drop-proof to 1.8 meters, can be submerged in 5 meters of water for up to an hour, and meets the MIL-SPEC 810G standard for device hardiness; it also comes with a built-in FLIR thermal imaging camera, indoor air quality monitor, and laser measuring tool. It’s essentially built to be the ultimate device for professionals whose jobs entail tasks that would destroy lesser devices. Caterpillar offers free screen repairs.

The Caterpillar Cat S61 is available now from the Caterpillar site. It is currently priced at $729 USD.

iPhone 12 Pro

iPhone 12 Pro

Image: Apple

If you work in an Apple shop, the iPhone is the de facto device to choose because of the interoperability Apple has baked into its devices; the iPhone 12 Pro gives other reasons as well.  The iPhone 12 series is the first line of iPhones to have 5G, and the 12 series also sports a visual redesign, with flat aluminum edges reminiscent of the iPhone 4 and 5 series and the current iPad Pro design.

The 12 Pro also offers several new features, like being the first smartphone on the market to use 5nm design in its A14 processor, LIDAR-enabled cameras, a wide camera that captures 27% more light than the iPhone 11 Pro, and Apple claims it takes 87% better low-light photos. Creative professionals, and those who are looking for the latest, greatest iPhone should definitely put it on the short list.

The iPhone 12 Pro is available for preorders from the Apple site. Pricing for the iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999, and pricing for the iPhone 11 Pro Max starts at $1,099.

BlackBerry KEY2 LE


Image: BlackBerry

If you miss the days of smartphones with physical keyboards, the BlackBerry KEY2 LE is the device for you. The BlackBerry KEY2 LE is enterprise ready–it is immediately compatible with MDM solutions and has zero-touch deployment capabilities. It also has dual account support, enough battery life for 22 hours of mixed-use time, and a software locker where secure duplicates of apps can be stored. It’s not the newest device, but for those missing the days of tactile typing response, the BlackBerry KEY2 LE is ideal.

The BlackBerry KEY2 LE is available now from Best Buy and other retailers. Pricing starts at $399.

Google Pixel 4A 5G


Image: Angela Lang/CNET

If you’re a developer who works with Android, or just an Android aficionado who wants the newest of everything, this 5G-capable Pixel smartphone from Google should be your choice. Because the device is manufactured by Google, it’s usually the first to get the latest Android updates, and they run as close to stock Android as you can get. The Pixel 4A 5G is a solid phone despite being a budget device; it’s actually good for professionals because of its flagship-like features, Google Pixel update schedule, and the fact that it’s 5G capable without the nearly $1,000 price tag. 

The Pixel 4A 5G is currently in the waitlist stage, so if you’re interested in preordering once that’s available head over to Google’s Pixel 4A 5G page and hit the Join Waitlist button. The 4A 5G is scheduled for release in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom in November and is now available in Japan.  

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Best Mobile Holiday Gifts in 2020


If you’re at a loss for what to buy your on-the-go friend or loved one, start with this handy list, which includes the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and OtterBox phone cases.

It’s that holiday time of the year, where people start thinking about those in their orbits and what gifts to give them. For some, the task is simple. For others, however, it might as well be herculean–especially given we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. But don’t worry, if you have trouble finding gifts, TechRepublic has you covered. This time around we’re going to focus on those gifts pertaining to mobility–phones, laptops, and those things that help you while on the go. Hopefully this short list of ideas will jump-start your shopping for the season.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Image: Acer

For many, the most logical choice in laptops are Chromebooks because they were built with mobility in mind. ChromeOS is lightning fast, free of the complexity and vulnerabilities found in so many other operating systems, and they just work. So if you’re considering purchasing that loved one, friend, or co-worker a laptop, why not go for a Chromebook? You’ll get more bang for your buck and the recipient will be up and running (without problems) in no time. If this option sounds good to you, why not get the best in breed with the Acer Chromebook Spin 713. This laptop has a beautiful 6:3 touchscreen display, a brilliant backlit keyboard, an HDMI port, a 10 hour battery life, a 10th generation Intel i7 processor, 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, and 128 GB of internal SSD storage. The Spin 713 is a beast of a Chromebook that will satisfy any user looking for speed and reliability. 

$849 at Amazon

iPhone 12, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, more flagship phones


Apple iPhone 12

Image: Apple

This one is tricky. Why? First and foremost, which platform are we talking about? Android? iOS? At least on the iOS side, the decision is (mostly) made for you. You buy the latest, greatest version of the iPhone. Simple. Get an iPhone 12 Pro for $999 or an iPhone 12 Pro Max for $1099 via Apple’s website.

But what about Android? This is where it gets confusing. You’d think the most obvious choice would be to go for the Google Pixel–for the longest time, that phone was the gold standard. That’s not the case now. In fact, the Google Pixel 5 took a bit of a step back (at least in “flagship” standards) by using a not-so flagship CPU and the same long-in-the-tooth camera sensor they’ve been using for the last couple of iterations. Even so, the Pixel 5 is a good buy at $699. 

However, if you’re looking at true flagship specs, you’ll want something like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (priced around $994), which has 12 GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 865 Plus CPU, 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB of internal storage, and a brilliant 6.9-inch AMOLED display. Or, maybe you’ll want to look at the OnePlus 8 Pro, which sells for a respectable $799 and includes a beautiful 120Hz OLED display, a Snapdragon 865 CPU, 8 or 12 GB of RAM, and 128 or 256 GB of internal storage.


OtterBox phone case

Image: OtterBox

Personally, I like my phone without a case, but I’m insanely careful with my device. For those on your list who are always on the go and accident prone, a phone case is a very good idea. The case you purchase will depend on the phone it will serve, but if you’re unsure of what case to buy, one of the best brands on the market is OtterBox. The OtterBox cases are incredibly good at protecting those devices and OtterBox has a case for nearly every flagship device on the market–even newer devices like the Google Pixel 5 and iPhone 12. If you want the best protection for your recipient’s phone, you cannot go wrong with OtterBox. 

$50 at OtterBox

Sony True Wireless Earbuds and AfterShox earbuds


AfterShox Aeropex airbuds

Image: AfterShox

Another tricky purchase is earbuds. Here’s the thing, most people want what’s popular–that’s why you see so many AirPods in the wild. But, there are two very important things you should consider with earbuds:

  • Does your recipient demand very good audio quality?
  • Does your recipient use earbuds for exercise and how much do they sweat?

If you answer yes to the first question, you might get away with AirPods, if the recipient in question has an iPhone, and isn’t a true audiophile. If your recipient listens to vinyl and looks at tube amplifiers the way you look at new cars or a rack of brand new servers, the AirPods will not do. Instead, look toward the Sony WF-1000XMS True Wireless Earbuds. These earbuds offer brilliant sound (as far as earbuds go), noise cancelling, 24-hour battery life, touch interaction, AlexaVoice control, and a mic for phone calls. The one drawback with the Sony’s is that they are not designed for workouts. You sweat in this and they’ll die a premature death.

If your recipient primarily uses their earbuds for exercise, I’m going to recommend the same brand I’ve been using for years and have yet to have a single failure. That brand is AfterShox. These are bone-conducting headphones (not in-ear buds) that sit outside your ear and conduct sound via your skull. Although they may not be audiophile quality, they laugh at sweat. I’ve been using the AfterShox Titanium, but will soon upgrade to the AfterShox Aeropex, because the new version offers even better waterproofing and dual Bluetooth device connectivity. That’s right, the Aeropex can connect to two different devices simultaneously.

Cost: Sony WF-1000XMS – $228, AfterShox Titanium – $79.99, and the AfterShox Aeropex – $159.95.


Sonos Move Bluetooth speaker

Image: Sonos

While we’re talking about speakers, why not get your recipient a Bluetooth speaker? Some simply don’t like wearing headphones and would much rather enjoy the more rich aural experience that can be delivered with an actual speaker. If that sounds like your recipient, consider the incredible sounding Sonos Move. This Bluetooth speaker delivers quite the sonic punch and can also deliver music from a large array of sources, using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The Move also makes use of voice command, so you can control the music without having to have your phone in hand. The battery life on the Move should get you around 11 hours and the case is incredibly durable (but not waterproof).

$399 at Sonos

Apple Watch Series 6 or Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2


Samsung Galaxy Active 2

Image: Samsung

Here’s another instance of what you buy depends on the recipient’s phone of choice. If you’re buying for an Apple fan, you’ll want to go the Apple Watch (from $399) route; if the person you’re buying for is an Android user, your best bet is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 ($249 on Amazon). Both watches will make the recipient of your gift incredibly happy. Although the Apple Watch does offer a few more interesting features (such as measuring blood oxygen level), both deliver a great experience and keep the wearer informed and in touch. Since pairing a Galaxy Watch Active2 to my Google Pixel phone, I’ve missed fewer calls, recorded more workouts, and remained better apprised of my schedule. The only time that watch leaves my wrist is for charging.


Google Pixel charging stand

Image: Google

The vast majority of flagship phones include wireless charging, so why not gift your favorite person with a wireless charging stand? My personal favorite is the Google Pixel Stand. It’s a bit pricey, but it holds the phone without worry it’ll slip and slide off. If your phone is a Pixel, it includes a few extra features such as a slideshow of memories from Google Photos, ambient light that mimics sunshine, and more. As far as charging, the Pixel stand can handle up to 10W charge for Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, and Pixel 5, and will charge your Pixel 3, Pixel 4, or Pixel 5 in portrait and landscape modes. But the Pixel stand isn’t just for Pixel phones–this handy device will charge any Qi compatible device.

$79 at Google Play Store


PhoneSoap 3

Image: PhoneSoap

This might seem a bit of a stretch, but given the current state of the world, you cannot be too careful. That’s why I’m including a sanitizing phone charger in the mix. These devices use UV light to sanitize germs from your smartphone, while charging them at the same time. Most of these devices will work with both iPhone and Android phones, but will also sanitize anything that’ll fit in the small compartment. There are a number of such devices to choose from, but one of the most highly rated is the PhoneSoap 3, which claims to kill 99.99% of all bacteria and germs. The lights used in the PhoneSoap 3 are UV-C, which have been used for years and are capable of killing or inactivating microorganisms and viruses.

$80 at PhoneSoap

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Homebrew: How to install reconnaissance tools on macOS


We’ll guide you through the process of using Homebrew package manager to install security tools on macOS to perform reconnaissance, discovery, and fingerprinting of the devices on your network.

Illustration: Lisa Hornung, Getty Images/iStockPhoto

For years the message was that Apple devices were impervious to common viruses. Evidenced through the classic “I’m a Mac” ads, Macs were not immune to malware: It’s just that with such a negligible (but growing) market share, threat actors did not really target Apple devices as much as devices running Windows, which posed a much larger target—with greater rewards for their efforts.

SEE: iPhone 12 event: What Apple announced at its 2020 Hi Speed event (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Fast forward to modern times, and well, malware affects every device, regardless of the operating system, applications, or hardware type. With changes like always-on connections, a never-ending variety of software choices from corporate developers to one-person studios, the reliance on network-connected access for just about every service, and the explosive growth of computing devices in general are all adequate reasons any organization should work diligently to secure its resources.

The first step to any protection policy or plan is to first identify those resources: What they are, where they are, why they exist, who should have access to them, when they should be used, and how they are being accessed. Once you have identified these answers, then hardening can begin. 

The tools listed below provide the means necessary to answer the above questions with the Homebrew app, aiding you on your quest to discover the nodes and services on your networks so a plan can be created to determine the security posture of your organization.

SEE: How to install common security tools via Homebrew on a Mac (TechRepublic)


A content scanner that uses built-in wordlists to determine files and directories—including hidden ones—on web servers. It may be paired with wordlist generators, such as CeWL, to generate custom wordlist files for better scanning results.

brew install dirb


A script to aid in the enumeration of many different types of DNS records, including checking for cached records and brute-forcing records, locating zone transfers, and resolving wildcards for a domain, among others.

brew install dnsrecon


A tool used to locate, identify, and brute force directories and files, subdomains, and Amazon S3 buckets on websites and web servers.

brew install gobuster


A network discovery tool that sends ARP packets to a target device or IP range and sniffs the network for responses to identify the nodes on the network.

brew install netdiscover


The purpose of this app is to identify which, if any, web application firewalls are being used to protect a web-based app and to determine if it is working correctly in stopping requests—regular and malicious ones—from compromising the application.

brew install wafw00f


The goal of this app, as the developer states, is to answer the question, “What is that website?” And with more than 1,800 plugins, variable settings to tune performance, and a slew of other features, it can answer that question stealthily and precisely.

brew install whatweb


RidEnum attempts to enumerate user accounts and can also perform brute-force attacks against the accounts found, by way of specifying a password list file using Python libraries.

brew install ridenum


Another Python-based script, PolEnum works by querying Windows devices to obtain the password policy, password, and information from a device, regardless of what the source machine is.

brew install polenum


In keeping with its name, this app performs recon on email servers and retrieves those details, such as MX records and server response codes, and verifies email addresses, outputting information into TXT of JSON files for reuse in other applications.

brew install simplyemail


This open-source tool is used to automate the information-gathering process by leveraging the SNMP protocol, which provides information on computers, appliances, printers—basically, any networked devices with SNMP enabled. 

brew install snmpcheck

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Best Laptops: Holiday Gift Guide


With options from Apple, Dell, Acer, and more, you’ll find the best laptop to fit your gift-giving needs.

The holidays are upon us once again, which means it’s time to start shopping for gifts. With so many people working from home, you might consider getting your loved one a new laptop to make their workday smoother. Whether you’re buying for a Linux lover, Apple aficionado, Chromebook connoisseur, or Windows whiz, this gift guide can help you figure out the perfect laptop to buy this holiday season. 

Dell Latitude 9410 Business 2-in-1

Image: Amazon

The Dell Latitude Business 2-in-1 laptop is a great choice for those working from home or who have to travel a lot for work. The Latitude runs on Windows 10 Pro and is the world’s smallest 2-in-1. It features a 10th Generation Intel Core  i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB PCIe NVMe Class 35 SSD storage, and a 14″ FHD touch anti-reflective and anti-smudge touch display. Pricing starts at $1,829. 



Acer Swift 3

Image: Amazon

Acer’s Swift 3 won PC World’s Editors’ Choice Award in 2020. With an ultra-thin design (it’s only 0.63 inches thick and weighs 2.6 lbs), 8 GB of RAM, a 512 GB NVMe SSD hard drive, 14″ 16:9 FHD IPS screen, long-lasting battery (up to 11.5 hours), and Alexa built in, this laptop is perfect for business or personal use. It also includes Windows 10 Home and features two built-in microphones as well as an HD webcam with Super High Dynamic Range to help make video conferencing as clear as possible.    

$655 at Amazon


Apple MacBook Pro

Image: Apple

For those Apple enthusiasts on your list, consider the Apple MacBook Pro. With a 16″ Retina display, 2.6GHz 6‑core 9th‑generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD hard drive, and four Thunderbolt 3 ports. Pricing starts at $2,399, but Apple offers several upgrade options if you want to really impress your gift recipient. 



Apple MacBook Air 2020

Image: Apple

The MacBook Air 2020 brings all the things Apple lovers enjoy, while adding some new features. The MacBook Air has a 2 TB SSD hard drive, 13.3″ high-resolution Retina display, and is very lightweight and thin. New features include faster graphics, extra storage capacity, the Magic Keyboard, a 20% larger Force Touch trackpad to allow more room for multi-touch gestures, stereo speaker improvements, and more. Pricing starts at $999.



Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition

Image: Dell

The Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition comes with Ubuntu Linux 20.04 pre-installed and is one of the best ultrabooks on the market. The 13″ laptop is perfect for any user, but open source enthusiasts in particular will love it. This laptop comes with an 11th Generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB NVMe SSD hard drive. Pricing starts at $1,049, but if you want to add features, several upgrades are available from Dell. 



Google Pixelbook Go

Image: Best Buy

The Google Pixelbook Go could be the perfect gift for just about anyone on your list. This 13.3″ touchscreen Pixelbook features an Intel Core m3 processor, 8 GB memory, a 64 GB SSD hard drive, and built-in virus protection and Google Assistant. Also, this laptop is lightweight and versatile. Pricing starts at $649. 

$649 at Best Buy


Acer Chromebook 714

Image: Amazon

Acer’s Chromebook 714 features an 8th Generation Intel Core i3, a 14″ Full HD Touchscreen, 8 GB of RAM, Bluetooth, built-in virus protection and Google Assistant (internet connection required), and a long-lasting battery (up to 12 hours). For the price, it’s definitely a good option for your gift list.

$600 at Amazon


Dell G5 Special Edition Gaming Laptop

Image: Dell

The Dell special edition gaming laptop features a 15″ screen, Next Generation AMD Ryzen 4000 Series Mobile Processors, AMD Radeon graphics, dual-fan cooling, up to 1 TB NVMe SSD, and much more. This laptop might be just the thing you need for the PC gamers in your life. Pricing starts at $870. 


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Best Holiday Gifts for Apple Fans in 2020


If you’re shopping for just the right gift for the Apple lover in your life, search no further. You’ll find curated tech gifts in various price ranges, including the new iPad Air and a MacBook cover.

The 2020 holiday season will prove unusual and unique. For the first time in most everyone’s memory, few will be rushing to physical stores and malls to browse and enjoy holiday cheer. Instead, the year is likely to see record spending for online gifting, as the pandemic encourages everyone, regardless of habit and preference, to safely shop from home. Don’t despair, as you need not go it alone. Here are gift recommendations at a variety of price points for the Apple fan in your life that are sure to bring a smile this year.

ColorKit for MacBook

Image Credit: Twelve South

A thin but protective, colorful wrap that adds personality and protection to a MacBook is a thoughtful gift sure to be appreciated by any MacBook user. The cover, available in aqua, black, coral, forest green, and deep rose, protects the top, bottom, deck, and keyboard of any Apple MacBook. This is an inexpensive way to help someone you care about stand out from the crowd, while also preserving the finish of their Apple MacBook.

$30 at Twelve South


Anker PowerPort Speed PD 5 Charger

Image: Anker

Apple users can never have enough chargers. In many homes, the pandemic has increased competition for chargers, which unofficially went missing more in 2020 than any previous year, thanks to so many people working, studying, and remaining at home.

Apple’s default chargers are fine, if straightforward and expensive. Anker offers a compelling alternative in its PowerPort Speed PD 5 charger, which provides 60-watts of power and can charge multiple Apple products (Apple Macs, iPhones, iPads, and more) simultaneously. If you’re feeling particularly generous, add an Anker Powerline+III USB C to USB C 6-foot charge cable for $29.99 more for charging a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro.

$50 at Anker


Incase Compass Brief messenger bag

Image: Incase

The pandemic has changed the way people work, and while a majority of Americans continue working remotely, many are hitting the road and working abroad. Help the Apple lover in your life go mobile by providing a carrying case to help safely shepherd their 13″ MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, and a few necessary accessories like the charger and cable, from site to site by wrapping an Incase Compass Brief messenger bag. 16″ versions are available, too, so size accordingly. Both sizes are available in black or navy.

$50 at Incase


Apple AirPods

Image: Apple

AirPods offer Apple users an easy way to better use Mac laptops and desktops, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and even Apple TVs. And, no Apple user is going to say no to AirPods–even if they already have a pair. In an age when more people than ever are taking FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom meetings, listening to audiobooks, music, and podcasts while exercising in the neighborhood, and keeping up in socially-distant safe ways with family and friends, AirPods are a no-brainer 2020 gift. If you really feel like splurging, consider the noise-cancelling AirPods Pro for $249.

$159 at Apple


Apple iPad Air

Image: Apple

Make an Apple fan’s holiday by gifting a new Apple iPad Air, now available in a rainbow of colors from $599 for 64 GB editions. With a 10.9-inch all-screen Liquid Retina display, Touch ID, a 12MP image, and 7MP FaceTime HD cameras, as well as a fast A14 Bionix CPU, the iPad Air can be propped on a desk for hosting video conferences or taken to a comfortable chair for reading reports, responding to email messages, or completing training programs.



Apple iPhone 12 Po

Image: Apple

Want to be a popular Santa? Give Apple’s new iPhone 12 Pro. Potentially one of the most requested gifts of 2020, the iPhone 12 Pro offers power and performance in a sleek, attractive shell. Extending the success of Apple’s iPhone line, the new 12 Pro model provides 5G connectivity, a beautiful edge-to-edge Super Retina XDR display, and a protective Ceramic Shield face. Starting at $999, multiple options and colors are available to help match your selection to your recipient’s specific tastes.



Apple 13″ MacBook Pro

Image: Apple

The MacDaddy gift of 2020 in my book is a standard 13″ MacBook Pro. Invest in your gift recipient’s future with Apple’s base professional laptop, which is among the most capable laptops on the planet. With a 1.4GHz quad-core CPU, 256 GB storage, and 8 GB RAM, the hearty MacBook can handily address a wide range of tasks.

$1,300 at Apple

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