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Software

SD Times news digest: Magellan 2.0, GitHub Enterprise on AWS Marketplace, and security patches for Git vulnerabilities

Magellan 2.0 is a group of vulnerabilities that exist in SQLite and were verified to be able to exploit remote code execution in the Chromium render process.

Users of SQLite as a component who haven’t updated the latest patch, or users of Chrome that are using versions prior to 79.0.3945.79 with WebSQL enabled may be affected. However, the team noted that it didn’t find the vulnerability to have a public full exploit code.

More information is available here.

GitHub Enterprise now on AWS Marketplace
GitHub Enterprise is now available from the AWS Marketplace, enabling customers to choose from the self-serve for standard purchases of GitHub Enterprise Cloud or custom orders.

The custom orders include GitHub Enterprise Cloud (SaaS), GitHub Enterprise Server (on-prem, including in your AWS VPC), premium support levels, or services.

“With over 42 million developers on GitHub, we have many users that also rely on Amazon Web Services (AWS). We’ve also received feedback that you may want to purchase GitHub Enterprise through the AWS Marketplace for compliance or budgetary reasons—and now you can,” GitHub wrote in a blog post.

Security patches for Git vulnerabilities
The Git project released a series of security patches to address multiple security vulnerabilities in versions 2.24 and older. Git especially recommends the updates for Git on Windows users.

The new releases contain partial support for rejecting pushes that exploit the vulnerabilities and the fixes will be included in the next patch release for users of GitHub Enterprise Server.

The full details on the patches are available here.

Google’s tips on website user experience
Google is releasing tips on how developers can improve their website user experiences. The company said the first step in improving the user experience of a website is to measure the site’s performance to understand what developments are needed and to track metrics on how the site performs in Google Search results using Search Console.

The next step is to design for optimal user experience by using one of three development frameworks: AMP, Responsive web design or Progressive web apps.

The last step is to keep mobile front of mind since the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device.

The detailed list of tips are available here.

VMware completes the acquisition of Pivotal
VMware announced that it completed the acquisition of Pivotal Software, a cloud-native platform provider.

“We believe that modern application development solutions and practices need to be easily accessible to everyday enterprises across the globe. With Pivotal’s developer capabilities as the foundation, we’ll focus on delivering consumable, enterprise-ready cloud native offerings to customers to help them achieve better business outcomes,” said Ray O’Farrell, the executive vice president and general manager of the Modern Applications Platform Business Unit at VMware.

According to VMware, Pivotal’s offerings will be core to the VMware Tanzu portfolio of products and services designed to help customers transform the way they build, run and manage their most important applications, with Kubernetes as the common infrastructure substrate.

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News

Grading the final tech IPOs of 2019

As the holiday slowdown looms, the final U.S.-listed technology IPOs have come in and begun to trade.

Three tech, tech-ish or venture-backed companies went public this week: Bill.com, Sprout Social and EHang. Let’s quickly review how each has performed thus far. These are, bear in mind, the last IPOs of the year that we care about, pending something incredible happening. 2020 will bring all sorts of fun, but, for this time ’round the sun, we’re done.

Pricing

Our three companies managed to each price differently. So, we have some variety to discuss. Here’s how each managed during their IPO run:

EHang priced at the bottom of its range, selling shares for $12.50 apiece
Sprout Social priced mid-range at $17 per share after targeting a $16 to $18 per-share price interval
Bill.com priced above its raised range, selling shares at $22 apiece after raising its interval from $16 to $18 to $19 to $21

How do those results stack up against their final private valuations? Doing the best we can, here’s how they compare:

EHang was worth around $680 million at its IPO price. The company’s final private valuation (likely set during its $42 million Series B) is unknown. However, we’d guess that the IPO was at a higher price, given the time between the private round and the IPO.
Sprout Social managed to slightly raise its valuation in its IPO. Worth around $814 million in the liquidity event, Sprout had been worth just over $800 million when private.
Bill.com was valued at around $1.6 billion in its IPO, comfortably above its final private valuation of $1.0 billion.

So EHang priced low and its IPO is hard to vet, as we’re guessing at its final private worth. We’ll give it a passing grade. Sprout Social priced mid-range, and managed a slight valuation bump. We can give that a B, or B+. Bill.com managed to price above its raised range, boosting its valuation sharply in the process. That’s worth an A.

Performance

Trading just wrapped, so how have our companies performed thus far in their nascent lives as public companies? Here’s the scorecard:

EHang’s Friday closing price: $12.90 (+3.2%)
Sprout Social’s Friday closing price: $16.60 (-2.35%)
Bill.com’s Friday closing price: $38.83 (+76.5%)

You can gist out the grades somewhat easily here, with one caveat. The Bill.com IPO’s massive early success has caused the usual complaints that the firm was underpriced by its bankers, and was thus robbed to some degree. This argument makes the assumption that the public market’s initial pricing of the company once it began trading is reasonable (maybe!) and that the company in question could have captured most or all of that value (maybe!).

Bill.com’s CEO’s reaction to the matter puts a new spin on it, but you should at least know that the week’s most successful IPO has attracted criticism for being too successful. So forget any chance of an A+.

Image via Getty Images / Somyot Techapuwapat / EyeEm


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Fortnite gets lightsabers, courtesy of ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ promo

The final installment of the sequel trilogy is getting a lot of creative promotion — even by Star Wars standards. With The Rise of Skywalker out in just under a week, J.J. Abrams (and some spotty server issues) paid a visit to Fortnite. The director showed off an exclusive clip from the upcoming film featuring the familiar trio of Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron.

That and watching a bunch of stormtroopers dance around is all well and good, but the real fun came next. Darth Galactic Empire Lord Palpatine-Sidious kicked off a final segment that found players rushing to grab the latest Fortnite weapon: a lightsaber.

good update imo pic.twitter.com/LgbG0iU4bF

— andrew webster (@A_Webster) December 14, 2019

As The Verge notes, there are a bunch of other in-game Star Wars challenges added to the title as part of the promo, but honestly, lightsabers. Just lightsabers. The game now sports a variety of different colors of the iconic kyber crystal-powered weapon, including a crossguard version like the kind sported by Kylo Ren in the new films.

The lead up to the film has seen a slew of different Star Wars add-ons, including skins of Stormtroopers, main characters Rey and Finn and a TIE Interceptor-style glider.


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7 SUPER TECHNOLOGIES YOU MUST SEE


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BRAIN TIME ► https://goo.gl/tTWgH2

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Adobe turns it up to 11, surpassing $11B in revenue

Yesterday, Adobe submitted its quarterly earnings report — and the results were quite good. The company generated a tad under $3 billion for the quarter, at $2.99 billion, and reported that revenue exceeded $11 billion for FY 2019, its highest-ever mark.

“Fiscal 2019 was a phenomenal year for Adobe as we exceeded $11 billion in revenue, a significant milestone for the company. Our record revenue and EPS performance in 2019 makes us one of the largest, most diversified, and profitable software companies in the world. Total Adobe revenue was $11.17 billion in FY 2019, which represents 24% annual growth,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen told analysts and reporters in his company’s post-earnings call.

Adobe made a couple of key M&A moves this year that appear to be paying off, including nabbing Magento in May for $1.7 billion and Marketo in September for $4.75 billion. Both companies fit inside its “Digital Experience” revenue bucket. In its most recent quarter, Adobe’s Digital Experience segment generated $859 million in revenue, compared with $821 million in the sequentially previous quarter.

Adobe gets its company, snaring Marketo for $4.75 billion

Obviously buying two significant companies this year helped push those numbers, something CFO John Murphy acknowledged in the call:

Key Q4 highlights include strong year-over-year growth in our Content and Commerce solutions led by Adobe Experience Manager and success with cross-selling and up-selling Magento; Adoption of Adobe Experience Platform, Audience Manager and Real-Time CDP in our Data & Insights solutions; and momentum in our Marketo business, including in the mid-market segment, which helped fuel growth in our Customer Journey Management solutions.

All of that added up to growth across the Digital Experience category.

But Adobe didn’t simply buy its way to new market share. The company also continued to build a suite of products in-house to help grow new revenue from the enterprise side of its business.

“We’re rapidly evolving our CXM product strategy to deliver generational technology platforms, launch innovative new services and introduce enhancements to our market-leading applications. Adobe Experience Platform is the industry’s first purpose-built CXM platform. With real-time customer profiles, continuous intelligence and an open and extensible architecture, Adobe Experience Platform makes delivering personalized customer experiences at scale a reality,” Narayan said.

Of course, the enterprise is just part of it. Adobe’s creative tools remain its bread and butter, with the creative tools accounting for $1.74 billion in revenue and Document Cloud adding another $339 million this quarter.

The company is talking confidently about 2020, as its recent acquisitions mature and become a bigger part of the company’s digital experience offerings. But Narayan feels good about the performance this year in digital experience: “When I take a step back and look at what’s happened during the year, I feel really good about the amount of innovation that’s happening. And the second thing I feel really good about is the alignment across Magento, Marketo and just call it the core DX business in terms of having a more unified and aligned go-to-market, which has not only helped our results, but it’s also helped the operating expense associated with that business,” he said.

It is no small feat for any software company to surpass $11 billion in trailing revenue. Consider that Adobe, which was founded in 1982, goes back to the earliest days of desktop PC software in the 1980s. Yet it has managed to transform into a massive cloud services company over the last five years under Narayan’s leadership.

Adobe could be the next $10 billion software company


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Software

Facebook’s tumultuous times: new OS in the works amid another breach

In a year where data breaches at Facebook have seen no signs of slowing down, another blow has been dealt. 

A reported 267 million Facebook user IDs and phone numbers were exposed online for anyone to access without a password or any authentication. Most of the records affected users from the United States. 

The UK technology research company Comparitech partnered with security researcher Bob Diachenko, and found that the trove of data is most likely the result of an illegal scraping operation or Facebook API abuse by criminals in Vietnam. 

“The information contained in the database could be used to conduct large-scale SMS spam and phishing campaigns, along with other threats to end users,” said Paul Bischoff, editor of Comparitech, which has been helping write up Diachenko’s discoveries of unsecured databases for about a year.

Upon investigation, the database was first indexed on December 4th. The troves of data were then posted on a hacker forum that made the data available for download. 

As soon as the breach was discovered on December 14th, Diachenko skipped Facebook and notified the ISP so that access could be removed. The database was made unavailable two days later. 

However, Diachenko said Facebook’s API could  have a security hole that would allow criminals to access user IDs and phone numbers even after access was restricted. The data could also have been scraped from publicly visible profile pages using bots. 

Meanwhile, Facebook announced that is working on its own OS to separate itself from reliance on the modified Android OS currently running on Facebook’s Oculus and Portal devices. 

“We really want to make sure the next generation has space for us,” Facebook’s head of hardware, Andrew Bosworth, told The Information. “We don’t think we can trust the marketplace or competitors to ensure that’s the case. And so we’re gonna do it ourselves.”

The company is hoping the operating system will free it from Google and Android, however with the number of privacy concerns from Facebook over the last couple of  years, it may be hard to gain trust from the industry.

Facebook has already tried to develop and release its own cryptocurrency Libra this year, which has been slow going due to concerns the industry has surrounding the company. ”

“So now no one stopping from collecting personal data,” a user commented on the reports about Facebook’s OS.

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Software

Mozilla Web DNA survey shows the biggest pain points for web developers

Mozilla is hoping to shape the future of the web by releasing the results of its first ever MDN Web Developer Needs Assessment (Web DNA). 

Mozilla put the survey together as a means of representing the “voices of developers and designers working on the web.” They surveyed over 28,000 developers and designers from 173 countries.  

“The input provided by survey participants is already influencing how browser vendors prioritize feature development to address the needs of designers and developers, both on and off the web. By producing this report annually, it will be possible to track changing needs and pain points over time, enabling all stakeholders to see the impact of their efforts on the future of the web,” the Mozilla Web DNA report stated

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After analyzing the results of the survey, Mozilla determined 28 discrete developer needs, sorted into 14 themes. 

According to Mozilla, four out of the top five needs relate to browser compatibility. Documentation, debugging, frameworks, security and privacy are also in the top 10.

As part of the survey, developers were also asked what was missing from the web. The top responses were access to hardware (12.4%), browser compatibility (8.6%), access to filesystem (4.7%), performance (3.4%), PWA support (3.4%), debugging (3.3%), and access to native APIs (3%). It should be noted that there were other responses, but only these seven had 3% or more people mention them.

Mozilla also wanted to see the biggest pain points of the main languages used on the web: JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and WebAssembly.  For JavaScript, the majority of respondents (37.4%) said that lack of browsers/engine adoption/support for a given feature of the language was a major paint point.  For HTML, the majority (35.3%) said there actually were no pain points, but following that at 31.5%, the next pain point was again the lack of browsers/engine adoption/support for a given feature of the language. For CSS, 44.4% of developers and designers have challenges with creating the layout specified. Finally, in WebAssembly, 51.4% of respondents claimed a lack of tooling support as the biggest pain point.

Another interesting finding of the Mozilla Web DNA report is that some of the key barriers to adopting new technologies are lack of broad interoperability across browsers, documentation and training, and support for legacy browsers. 

“This study was an opportunity for participants to influence how organizations like Mozilla, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and the W3C prioritize feature development and standards. The first version of the Developer Needs Assessment ended with valuable information that organizations can use to create a better experience for developers and designers who work on the Web. Since this was the first time the study was conducted, the findings are new to the organizations behind the work. We’re still evaluating how best to use the results to influence feature development and standards,” Mozilla wrote in the report.

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This Week in Apps: Apple Arcade’s new franchise, Fortnite takes on Google Play, the Disney+ app footprint

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with 194 billion downloads last year and more than $100 billion in consumer spending. People spend 90% of their mobile time in apps and more time using their mobile devices than watching TV. Apps aren’t just a way to waste idle hours — they’re big business, and one that often seems to change overnight.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you to keep up with the latest news from the world of apps.

This week, we’re taking a look at Apple Arcade’s new gaming franchise, Fortnite maker Epic Games calling out the Google Play Store for its monopolistic practices, Android’s new AR features, Disney+’s one-month app footprint, and more.

Headlines
Apple Arcade scores a big sports game franchise, “Ultimate Rivals”

Apple Arcade launched in September offering over 100 games for $4.99 per month. Since launch, the service stays fresh by adding new releases on a regular basis. This week, Apple touted one of Arcade’s biggest wins to date — an all-new sports franchise from Bit Fry Game Studios, called “Ultimate Rivals.” The new game brings together athletes from across hockey, basketball, football, baseball, and soccer to play in a licensed video game that’s a first for the mobile gaming industry. The debut title in the franchise, out now on Apple Arcade, is “Ultimate Rivals: The Rink,” which lets players choose from over 50 athletes to compete in two-on-two hockey matches.

For example, you could pit Alex Ovechkin and Alex Morgan against De’Aaron Fox and Jose Altuve or Skylar Diggins-Smith and Wayne Gretzky, Apple says.

The game was made possible by Bit Fry’s groundbreaking licensing deals with nine pro sports organizations,  the NHL, NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), NBA, National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), MLB, MLB Players Association (MLBPA), NFL Players Association (NFLPA), Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), the USWNTPA, as well as Wayne Gretzky.

Next spring, the Bit Fry will launch “Ultimate Rivals: The Court” as the next title in the series.

The franchise is a big win for Apple Arcade, which doesn’t yet have many sports-themed titles. In fact, with the addition of “Ultimate Rivals,” it now has only a half dozen. And because of the numerous pro sports deals, the game has the potential to appeal to a wider audience.

Fornite tries to bypass the Google Play Store’s 30% cut


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Software

SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Ray

Ray is an open-source distributed framework that makes it easy to scale applications and to leverage machine learning libraries. The project was developed by the distributed programming platform company Anyscale.

Ray includes three libraries for accelerating machine learning workloads: Tune, RLlib and Distributed Training. According to the company, the machine learning libraries give developers the ability to include hyperparameter search, reinforcement learning, training and serving.

It also offers the ability to scale anywhere since users can run the same code on their laptop, on a powerful multi-core machine, on any cloud provider, or on a Kubernetes cluster, the team explained.

“Our mission is to help more developers, enterprises and organizations solve their problems without having to worry about scalable infrastructure and without needing to be experts in distributed computing,”  said Robert Nishihara, co-founder and CEO of Anyscale.

With the power of Ray, Anyscale has been able to simplify distributed programming, according to the founders. Applications built with Ray can be scaled out from a laptop to a cluster, eliminating the need for in-house distributed computing expertise and resources.

“Ray is one of the fastest-growing open source projects we’ve ever tracked, and it’s being used in production at some of the largest and most sophisticated companies,” said Ben Horowitz, cofounder and general partner, Andreessen Horowitz. “Its massive popularity is both a testament to the importance of the problem it is tackling and how well the team behind it has executed on building a product that works and does what it claims. We look forward to working with Robert, Philipp, and Ion to bringing Anyscale to users around the world.”

The founders of the open-source project also announced a $20.6 million round of funding for Anyscale. The series A funding was led by Adreessen Horowitz with participation from NEA, Intel Capital, Ant Financial, Amplify Patners, 11.2 Capital and The House Fund. The company plans to use the funding to expand its leadership team and contribution to the open-source community.

“With this investment, we’ll fortify our ability to continuously improve Ray and grow our team to make this mission a reality,” said Nishihara.

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News

Gift Guide: Gifts for the commuters in your life

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2019 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’re here to help! We’ll be rolling out gift guides from now through the end of December. You can find our other guides right here.

Remote working has become a new normal in the life of an employee. Spurred by ubiquitous broadband and mobile connectivity, lighter and smaller computers, and everything you need in the cloud, a lot of people have felt a lot less of a need to be in the same physical space as everyone else, day in day out, to get things done.

And yet, there remains a critical mass of people in and near big towns and cities who continue to commute.

For this guide, we’re focusing on commuters who eschew cars for all the obvious reasons — traffic, parking, gas costs, and more traffic — and instead opt for buses, trains, subways and bikes to travel to their “offices” — be they actual offices, or cafes or other workspaces — on a regular or semi-regular basis.

Daily commutes around most of the world’s metro areas can stretch into more than an hour per day on average, according to research from Moovit. In other words, these are presents that go to the heart of how your special people spend significant chunks of their days, weeks, months and years.

This gift guide is to help make that time more well spent. 

These products are the epitome of the genre-crossing, “prosumer” lives many of us seem to live today: they straddle the worlds of practicality and of fun, presents that might help them work during their commute, or get their minds off work, or to make their work trip a little safer or easier. Happy shopping (and hopefully, happier commuting).

This article contains links to affiliate partners where available. When you buy through these links, TechCrunch may earn an affiliate commission.

Smart bike lights

There’s been a big shift in these over the last decade or so. The bike lights of yesterday were barely-visible front and rear lights, semi-permanently attached to your handlebars and backseat, powered by batteries that always seemed to run out. Today, you can buy much brighter LED-based lights, which work on USB chargers to keep doing their job and easily attach and detach wherever you choose to buckle them.

Smart lights are the next gear up on that trajectory, with app-based controls and so.much.more. UK company See.Sense’s version packs a strong punch: on top of the being brighter, easier to remove and recharge, the lights link up with an app to alert you when someone appears to be stealing your bike, and they sense when you are cycling faster and slower and blink more rapidly when there’s more traffic to make sure the cyclist is better seen. The downside is that hills won’t be the only steep thing on your horizon.

Price: $120 on Amazon for a Front/Rear set

Bike-mounted speaker

A worrying number of cyclists get around the streets with headphones in their ears to pick up navigation instructions, listen to music or podcasts, or talk on the phone. This is not ideal, though, as it means they cannot fully hear the noise of traffic in their midst. A bike-mounted speaker is a way to let the rider continue to listen to their audio, but not at the detriment of hearing other important traffic noises.

This Celtic Blu speaker is one of the more fancy of the dozens of bike speakers that are on the market today. Alongside the basics of offering a Bluetooth connection to play music or other media from your phone and being waterproof, it doubles as a charging bank for other devices, can work as a microphone to take calls, and has an additional set of controls that you access from the handlebars to adjust sound, answer calls and other actions more safely. The downside is that it’s one of the bigger of the speakers,  potentially taking up space you migh have mounted a water bottle.

Price: $80 on Amazon

Streaming, podcast or audiobook gift cards

Streaming services from Spotify, Apple, Amazon and others have been growing in ubiquity by leaps and bounds, but if your commuter isn’t already subscribing to one of these, or if they’re only using the free tier, giving them a chance to test out the premium service with a giftcard could be a welcome present. It can also be one to personalise: find a mix of podcast programs you think your commuter might like to hear, or pick out a selection of books for the listening, to give alongside the card. (See some book recommendations here and here.)

Price: Audible starts at $15/month; Spotify Gift Cards are widely available from retailers including Amazon.

Wireless ear buds and headphones

Airpods Pro

I personally worry about how safe these are for cycling, so I won’t endorse them for bike usage. But they have quickly become one of the must-haves for commuters on other transportation modes who are mad as hell about tangled cords and not going to take it anymore. Apple’s Air Pods Pro, at $249, are a noticeable improvement on the previous generation of their wireless buds, and the world has noticed: they have been a huge sell-out success, with orders now only shipping in January. There are dozens of others now on the market if you don’t want to wait, or pay the premium to own an Apple product.

Price: Airpods Pro, $249 on Amazon | For a more classic (and cheaper) headphone style, try these from Sony.

E-Reader

No, not everyone has one of these. Yes, they are still a huge seller for Amazon, underscoring their enduring popularity. We like the Kindle Paperwhite (pictured above) or the Kindle Oasis, the latter of which is around $145 more but brings in a bigger screen, an adjustable-warmth backlight, and physical page turning buttons.

Read some of our book recommendations here.

Price: Kindle Paperwhite, $105 on Amazon | Kindle Oasis, $250 on Amazon

Panniers

I’m a bike commuter myself and have been toughing it out (literally and figuratively) with a pair of Ortlieb Back-Roller Classics for years. These monsters are so durable that the set I have now are as old as my oldest child (14) and they still look nearly new.

But I’m going to be honest. They’re not beautiful, and even with two inside pockets, they can be hard to peer inside when you’re looking for something smallish. (The blood has rushed out of my hands more than once thinking I’d somehow lost my wallet or phone, only to find them deep down inside the bag.)

The cool thing is that there is now a huge range of options on the market for new bags, whether you want them for leisurely use, for work commuting, for a fashion statement, to make them easier to carry when you’re off your bike, or all of the above.

Arkel’s bag is laptop-focused (but sells as a single); Timbuk2 (pictured above) if you’re after a “tandem” style; and if you are looking for a stylish pannier to replace purely functional ones used by your commuter, you can consider the Norfolk model from Brooks or the Sac from Linus.

Price: Arkel Commuter bag, $189 | Timbuk2 Tandem bag, $129 on Amazon | Brooks Norfolk, $120 on Amazon | Linus Sac, $70

Activity tracker

These are not just for the people who cycle, run or walk to work. While a lot of a commuter’s journey might take place sitting or standing on public transportation, there is actually quite a bit of walking that comes at the start and finish of the route. A good activity tracker can help a person track how they rack up the miles and feel a little better about all the hours they subsequently spend sitting at a desk.

You can go for a premium Apple Watch starting at around $400, or you can opt for a basic Fitbit at under $100.

Price: Apple Watch, from $384 on Amazon | Fitbit Inspire, $80 on Amazon

Privacy Screen

Borrowing one from Zack, who has a much more extensive list of privacy-related gifts, to draw one out for those who pull out their laptops during their morning commutes, whether it’s to work or do something else. Whatever it is: wandering eyes sitting nearby can see what you’re doing. A special screen that blocks all angular views except straight on in front on the machine is a good way to keep the nosey parkers out of your business.

Price: Around $17 on Amazon.

Touchscreen gloves

Not strictly (nor even loosely) a gadget, but something that will help you keep using your screen-based companions as the weather turns cooler. You can buy beautiful leather, cashmere-lined versions of these; or you can buy them in acrylic. You can go colourful or stay basic in black. People lose or rip gloves all the time, so even having an extra pair is not a bad thing.

Price: Downholme Leather/cashmere gloves, $60 on Amazon here | knit gloves (a little more modest but still perfectly good),  $8 on Amazon.

 


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