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Apple shut down my iCloud account for five days, no warning, no explanation, no excuse

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It began subtly, in the way that computer problems can often creep up on you. I was trying to erase and restore an iPad Pro, the memory of which had gotten full. Never buy a 64-gigabyte anything, it’s a constant disappointment.

I’ve become practiced at this maneuver, having done it several times in the two-plus years of owning the iPad. And so the predictable set of steps was what I expected to encounter. Imagine my surprise, then, when I wasn’t able to erase the iPad because my Apple I.D. password suddenly wasn’t being accepted. 

I went to Apple’s iCloud site in the Safari browser on my MacBook to verify that I wasn’t having a senior moment about my password, a distinct possibility. I was greeted with a message I’d never seen before: “iCloud encountered an error while trying to connect to the server.” 

I have a second Apple iCloud I.D. that I use. I tested that one. It worked just fine. Moreover, a check of the iCloud status page showed no general outages. I deduced there was an issue with that one iCloud account itself.

icloud-connection-error.png

Friday March 12

It was early on the morning of March 12th. I reached out immediately to Apple support, via chat, and was told to await a call later on that morning, during normal support hours. 

Thus began what I would come to think of as the ‘855 Debacle, the numbers being the last three digits of my Apple support ticket. 

When I finally got someone on the phone, let’s call him Tim, he said that it looked like it was an issue of “maintenance” on the account. Tim asked did I want to wait to see if it cleared up, or submit an engineering request. I said I wanted to submit an engineering request. I’d never heard of anything like this, and I was certainly curious to have an explanation. 

Later in the day, a new advisor contacted me, let’s call her Joanne. Joanne said that an engineering request had been submitted and that it was going to take some time. How much time? I asked. Well, it was a Friday and she was leaving for the weekend. I’d probably hear something by the following Tuesday. Did she know anything about this supposed maintenance, I asked. No, she said. What kind of maintenance was it, I wondered. Was it planned, or unplanned? 

What I was driving at, was, if it was planned, shouldn’t someone have notified me? If it was unplanned, shouldn’t someone have alerted me? What kind of mega-corporation renders your service unavailable and has nothing to say about it? 

Joanne said she knew nothing further at this time, but would endeavor to get an answer. 

She promised to call.

I waited. As Friday descended into darkness, it dawned on me that iCloud Drive, which I use to keep files synchronized across three iPads, an iPhone, and a MacBook, would be unavailable without this primary Apple I.D. It was dawning on me that with days of unavailability, I would have a real problem. 

I went to the Apple Discussion Forums. Nothing helpful came up when searching on the mysterious server error message. So I waited. 

I improvised a form of sneaker-net to get around the lack of iCloud support, sending documents back and forth between my devices using AirDrop. Having to suddenly resort to this side channel began to drive me crazy. Would I really have to wait days, I wondered? 

Monday March 15

I tried to relax over the weekend. Frequently checking the iCloud site to see if things were back did not calm me down, and, of course, things were not back. By Monday, I had to take action. Early in the morning, I left a message in the Apple Discussion Forums asking if anyone had anything they could offer:

I have been shut out of my Apple ID — a second ID, not the one I’m using for this forum — for about three days now. I’ve spent hours in chat and on the phone, with the end result that I’ve been told that it’s a matter of “maintenance” being done, with no further explanation. I’ve been given no time frame for resolution, just the assurance I would hear from another support engineer in another couple of days. I opened a second case today and am going to speak to someone on the phone in the morning. I probably will be told the same thing. Has anyone had this kind of experience lately? (Posted to the Forum at 2:45 am on 3/15/21).

Nothing. I waited. And then I decided I had to communicate my frustration. So, I started a new support case. I left the following message: 

I have never been so disappointed and so frustrated with Apple. I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on Apple products over decades. My Apple ID is frozen now for three days, no one will tell me my, and it is destroying my business. And I’m told I just have to wait because of some vague engineering issue. This is the worst customer experience I’ve ever had with any product. Apple should be ashamed of themselves.

Later in the day, Monday, it was really beginning to steam me up that I had been waiting days. I decided to open a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in San Jose, California. I told the BBB, 

I have been shut out of my Apple iCloud account for three days. I have had multiple discussions with the company to resolve the matter and I have been told I will have to wait until they resolve it, with no clear date as to when the matter will be resolved. I have been given no explanation as to why this service is unavailable.

I was asking for restitution in the form of a refund. I pay $9.99 a month for the maximum two-terabyte version of iCloud Drive, the Apple storage function. So, I figured I was due some pro-rated amount for the downtime. All I really wanted was an explanation, and perhaps an apology.

It was now getting close to Tuesday. My frustration had turned to mild exhaustion. I resolved to simply sulk and see what engineering might reveal when I finally heard back.

Tuesday March 16

Tuesday rolled along with not a peep from Apple. In the meantime, I received word from the BBB that my complaint had received a response from Apple. It contained a reference to the EULA, the end-user license agreement, for MacOS High Sierra. It was pointed out that by using the software, I had decided to abide by the terms limiting what I could expect:

USE OF THE APPLE SOFTWARE AND ANY SERVICES PERFORMED BY OR ACCESSED THROUGH THE APPLE SOFTWARE IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK AND THAT THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO SATISFACTORY QUALITY, PERFORMANCE, ACCURACY AND EFFORT IS WITH YOU.

I didn’t respond immediately, even though I was amused that the company was referencing High Sierra, since my issue was not with the MacBook, and anyway, I was using MacOS Big Sur, not High Sierra.

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Later that evening, I opened another support case to tell Apple I hadn’t heard from Joanne, or anyone, all day. A new advisor came on the line, let’s call him Greg. 

Greg said, looking at the notes, he could see “they are aware of the issue with iCloud” and they “don’t have an ETA.” This time, Greg informed me that there was “something happening to multiple people that they need to fix.” He informed me I might have to wait more than a week. “It’s something internal,” Greg continued. “It is something internal on our side.” Greg told me he’d ping Joanne and I should wait to hear from her.

“They’re going to reach back out to Joanne,” he said. “You’ll notice when there’s a resolution because it will automatically sign you in” to iCloud, he assured me, “when they fix it…” I asked again if he knew anything more. Not much, Greg said, other than “chances are, it’s not very many people” who were affected. Well, being in this select group didn’t make me feel any better.

I might have gone through the roof after getting off the call, except that suddenly, my iCloud account started working again. My iOS devices, like a chorus from a Greek drama, produced alerts all at once asking me to sign in to iCloud: “Update Apple ID Settings” “Some account services will not be available until you sign in again.” In the depths of my frustration, it was a moment of clouds parting, sun shining in. 

So, now services were back, and I felt some relief, but I still wanted answers. I set up a new call for Thursday, March 18th. 

Thursday March 18

When Thursday rolled around, a senior advisor called, let’s call him David. 

David said they had been “having issues with some services.” I brought up the fact that there had been some talk of a “maintenance issue.” Did he know anything about that? He didn’t, but he said he was taking over ownership of the case from Joanne, and would reach out to engineering to find out what the maintenance had been. He said he would follow up with an email to me once he heard from engineering.

Apple sent a survey following the call, for me to fill out, to which I replied with this comment:

I still have no idea why my Apple ID became inoperable. I was not given any explanation, nor any warning of the interruption of service. Apple displayed no urgency in resolving the matter, instead telling me to wait days and days for a resolution.

I waited almost a week, and when I didn’t hear back from David, I sent a message to him, via the link in the follow-up email, asking if he’d heard anything. David wrote back saying the engineering department was still researching the matter. He also left me a voicemail. 

A pattern during all of this was that the Apple Support people seemed genuinely caring, concerned, and willing, if ineffectual. In my brain, David was becoming a brother in arms, trying to get answers, and engineering was becoming my tormenter.

Despite all that, I still wasn’t getting answers as to what had happened. I left more messages for David. 

Tuesday March 23

Just when you think it’s safe to go back in the water, as they say, something happens again. March 23, after suddenly not being able to load anything in Finder on the MacBook from iCloud Drive, nor on iPad from iCloud Drive, I once again went to iCloud dot com in Safari on the desktop, with something of a lump in my throat. 

Once again, it gave a cryptic error message, “There was a problem loading the content of this folder.”

Apple WWDC 2021

I opened a new support ticket. A senior advisor came on, let’s call her Phyllis. Phyllis took a look at the notes of the ‘855 case and mumbled something about engineering doing maintenance on the account. To her credit, Phyllis seemed just as interested as I was. “Partitions…” she noted. There was something about partitions. Phyllis excused herself to check the non-public discussion board.

She came back after a little while, saying, “Interesting: When your other advisor contacted engineers,” I assume, referring to David, “the response came back that there had been a migration in progress, but that the migration had been generating errors, according to the notes in the internal system.” My mind raced. New questions. What the heck kind of migration?

Phyllis noted that the last note that had been left internally was the day before, March 22. It said something about “nested folders on iCloud Drive…” Something from engineering about if there are too many nested folders in a customer’s iCloud Drive account. 

Again, engineering seemed to be a shadowy presence, holding lots of cryptic information, revealing nothing but throwing out insidious little breadcrumbs.

How many folders might be too many nested folders? It wasn’t clear. Phyllis noted that I had 48 gigabytes of data just within the Documents folder alone. Was that unusual? I asked, rather limply. Phyllis went through the sizes of other data, such as the Books files — I have a lot of ebooks in the books program, all sync’d to the cloud. Preview — also, a lot of PDFs. I couldn’t deny it, I am a digital pack rat. 

But then, that’s why I was paying Apple $9.99 a month.

Phyllis noted that the ‘855 case was already in “escalation mode,” and repeated that it was “due to maintenance.” After again reflecting out loud on how long things had been going on for, Phyllis remarked, with some wonderment, “I’ve never seen it where it doesn’t perform when it’s in escalation mode.” 

She said she was going to take ownership of the case. Phyllis had me go through the remote diagnostics process, whereby a system log is packaged into a large file and sent to Apple via file transfer. “Gathering System Diagnostic…” 

Again, her manner very sweet, very concerned. “I’m going to mark this as business critical,” she said, “because I feel you need those documents for your job.” My heart swelled with affection for this Phyllis. We uploaded the diagnostics so she could use them, and wished each other a good night.

A day later, Phyllis emailed me that she was waiting to hear from engineering. I proceeded to email and leave messages for another week or so, while also trying to get some information from David. The problem of iCloud Drive persisted on and off during the week.

Friday April 2

Around April 2, after several days of things being relatively okay, I again had an iCloud-related issue. I couldn’t download a file that was stored on iCloud. I opened a new support ticket. I got passed to a few people, and then to a new senior advisor, let’s call him Justice. 

Justice looked at the notes from the ‘855 ticket. “Okay so it’s been going on for almost a month now,” he observed. Well, I appreciated his seeming incredulity. Again, a comrade in arms. 

“I know you’ve been working with them for quite some time now,” said Justice. Justice had me take screen recordings on the MacBook and the iPad of the problem. It was a Friday. Justice said he would be off until Monday, but he would plan to contact me then.

After getting off the phone, received the support survey link in text message. I filled out the survey, declaring myself “somewhat dissatisfied” because the issue was not revolved. I also left the following feedback:

This same issue has been going on for three weeks. It is very frustrating and is impacting my productivity. Despite the professionalism of Apple Support personnel, I still have no idea why my services have been affected for three weeks. I’m very disappointed with this quality of service from Apple.

Still fuming, I remembered Apple’s unanswered reply on the Better Business Bureau Web site. I went and fired off my rebuttal to Apple’s legalese: “This response from the vendor did not address the concern,” I wrote. 

There are two reasons the response is erroneous. 1) The response from Apple Inc. describes a software license for macOS High Sierra. None of my devices from Apple use macOS High Sierra. My Apple MacBook Pro uses macOS Big Sur. The iPads and iPhone involved in the incident use iOS, not macOS. Therefore, the reference is erroneous. 2) The response does not address the product impacted, Apple iCloud Drive. That is the service for which I pay $9.99 per month. That is the service that is impacted and for which I was seeking a refund. The response by Apple does not address Apple iCloud Drive at all, therefore it doesn’t address the complaint.

Friday April 9

A week later, I was notified of a new response from Apple. This time, they offered me the iCloud Drive legalese.

Apple: “DOES NOT GUARANTEE, REPRESENT, OR WARRANT THAT YOUR USE OF THE SERVICE WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR-FREE, AND YOU AGREE THAT FROM TIME TO TIME APPLE MAY REMOVE THE SERVICE FOR INDEFINITE PERIODS OF TIME, OR CANCEL THE SERVICE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT.” 

Well, sure, I thought. But I also thought to myself that interestingly, such a disclaimer makes no mention of any obligation to disclose or make clear when the service is unavailable. Again, the issue was not even so much the failure of a paid service, but rather the complete lack of disclosure of any kind before, during or after the incident.

Weeks went by, I emailed and left messages for David, Phyllis, and Justice. Nothing. I still had a warm good feeling about Apple Support, knowing that somewhere, David, Phyllis and Justice probably really would like to be able to get an answer from engineering, just as I did. 

Monday May 10 

We were now into May, with no answer and increasingly little response from my messages to David, Phyllis, and Justice. On May 10th, I called the main Support number, and passed to a new senior advisor, let’s call her Dianne. 

Dianne looked at the case notes. She noted there were no replies from engineering of late. Dianne remarked that there can sometimes be a matter of data corruption. It seemed to her, she said, that the matter was connected to trying to recover data or data loss in some form. She offered that she could try to send in another request. “I see multiple requests,” she noted. “David made a lot of requests. They — meaning, engineering — would come back with replies like ‘it’s fixed’.”

When pressed for an answer as to what happened, said Dianne, engineering would reply by apologizing for any inconvenience. “It seems to me like we will not get an answer,” Dianne told me, and I had to agree with her. I  thanked her for trying and we wished each other a good night.

The next day, I sent in a request for comment to Apple’s public relations line. A PR rep, let’s call him Carson, wrote back sounding most interested, and asking for the details. I shared the case numbers, and a summary of what had transpired, somewhat shorter than this article. 

Carson apologized for the inconvenience, and said he would look into the matter. He asked about my deadline for publication, and I said I was flexible; I was most concerned to learn something that might be of use to readers if they ever found themselves in this situation. He promised to follow up once he found out more.

Monday May 24

I followed up on May 24, and Carson said he was still checking.

I haven’t heard back from anyone since. I still have no explanation what went wrong. Happily, iCloud Drive has not lapsed back into craziness, so that the frustration of March and April is starting to seem a distant memory. 

Lacking any feedback from Apple, I’ll offer what takeaways I can piece together from all of this.  

Failures can happen, but Apple apparently considers days worth of failures no big deal, even though in any sane operational environment, such an extended period of downtime would be deemed a serious matter, even if it only affects a minority of users, or even just one user. 

It appears Apple is relatively unconcerned that some individuals who depend on iCloud to get work done may be hampered. That’s particularly interesting in a world of increasingly remote work, where iCloud could be a real resource for those working from a home office. 

Another observation I’ll offer is that when Apple systems experience failures, it appears that systems staff are not prepared with engineered solutions to ameliorate the matter for customers.

I’ll add that Apple operations engineering appears to function in a way that is more or less divorced from Apple support staff. Support staff appear to have to go begging for a coherent answer from systems engineers, who appear to treat such requests as unimportant. 

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Finally, the most interesting aspect of all this is that an instance of “maintenance” is not regarded as something that the customer needs to be alerted to. There appears to be no mandate for maintenance notification or maintenance explanation. 

Unlike the real world, where planned maintenance comes with warnings, and unplanned maintenance comes with explanations, apologies, etc., for Apple systems engineering, it seems the customer end of the bargain, the customer experience, is basically irrelevant. 

The subtext is that Apple’s iCloud is lacking in some very basic principles of operations discipline that pertain to customer experience. That’s a disturbing phenomenon given that Apple is releasing more and more devices into the wild that are strictly appendages to a cloud service, such as AirTags.

The prospect is there for a world filled with black-box devices running on an unstable cloud service, which could bring a new level of headache for users. 

Be that as it may, since Apple’s best practices are unlikely to get better anytime soon, the best customers can do is drive defensively. 

Apple’s iCloud, as with all consumer digital services, is a best-effort facility. You should expect it may well fail, and fail hard, at some point in your use of the service. You should be prepared with alternatives. 

[Editor’s note: ZDNet’s recommendations for Best cloud storage services includes OneDrive, Box,  iDrive, and several other popular storage alternatives to Apple iCloud.)

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/apple-shut-down-my-icloud-account-for-four-days-no-warning-no-explanation-no-excuse/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

ZDNET

Using the Galaxy Book Pro 360 for a month: A great Swiss knife that could be sharper

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on

20210614-060515.jpg
Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet

There is a certain art to making great notebooks. They have generally been outshone by smartphones in recent years, but they still have a longer history of craftsmanship, often have longer life cycles, and have separate, dedicated fan bases all their own. And after years of slow demand, notebooks are starting to see a revival thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid this climate, Samsung, known more for its smartphones than laptops, has launched a refresh of its notebook series, the Galaxy Book Pro and the 2-in-1 Galaxy Book Pro 360.

Having used the 15.6-inch Galaxy Book Pro 360 for a month, I feel it is by far Samsung’s best notebook. With the Pro 360, the South Korean tech giant has succeeded in imprinting its own look for laptops when it comes to design, taking cues from its latest smartphones and tablets. 

The laptop is also incredibly light and compact. The integration of its own apps, along with the AMOLED screen and S Pen support, are done well to give the notebook Samsung’s own flavour. All of this is offered at a starting price of $1,300.

That being said, the Galaxy Book Pro 360 is far from perfect. It has shortcomings, with some feeling minor while others definitely needing improvement for any future editions of the notebook series.

PORTABILITY AND DESIGN

Portability is hands down the best thing about the Pro 360. The 15.6-inch model weighs 1.4 kilograms, but it always felt lighter when it came to actual day-to-day use. The overall design of the notebook really accentuated this feeling and made the device feel more compact than it actually is. The Pro 360 always felt light, sturdy, slid in my bags smoothly, and was never once a burden to carry around. The laptop sat comfortably on almost any surface I placed it on, whether it was on a restaurant stand or a table at home crowded with other devices.

The overall aesthetic of Pro 360 is great too. A lot of its looks are carried over from the latest Galaxy S smartphones, especially for its edges. The haze finish of the Pro 360 also matches that of its latest phones and makes the notebook look premium without being gaudy. The hinge is also relatively sturdy when taking into account the device’s thinness and weight.

As a long time user of the LG Gram 16 series and having dabbled in using Lenovo and HP laptops in the past with similar or even smaller screens, in terms of portability alone, I feel Samsung has matched them or done even better.

On the flip side, I do think Samsung put portability as its utmost priority when designing the Pro 360 and, in doing so, some of the notebook’s features elsewhere have been affected.

KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD

The keyboard and touchpad are great and some of the best from Samsung. The touchpad under the keyboard is larger than usual and so are the adjacent spaces where your palm sits. I didn’t like this at first but, over a month, I felt less joint pains in my wrist and fingers. By comparison, I do think it is a better option than other notebooks that offer little space under the keyboard, which forces you to type with your hands held in the air for a long time.

The keyboard also comes with a fingerprint button on the far top right which also acts as an on and off button. The enter and shift keys are narrow, but the overall experience is great and the keys are large and register well. However, the keyboard does lack the typing satisfaction of an analog or a gaming keyboard due to how thin the keys are. This is likely a compromise to make the device thinner and lighter but it wouldn’t hurt to improve on this for later iterations.

HARDWARE AND BATTERY

In terms of CPU and RAM, my review unit for the Pro 360 was the most decked out version, packing an Intel Core i7-1165G7 and 16GB. Practically, there wasn’t a time when I felt the notebook was slow. The Pro 360 also turned on and off extremely fast and the booting time was one of the best I’ve seen.

Battery on the Pro 360 is also solid. A session per charge on average lasted between eight to 10 hours, even when some of the settings were put on maximum. 

For ports, Pro 360 offers one Thunderbolt 4 port, two USB-C connectors, a headphone socket, and microSD slot.

Due to the portability of the laptop, this did result in the laptop overheating at times. When this occurred, it was very noticeable as the Pro 360 would heave loudly. Fan and cooling systems on PCs usually work best when they have space to breathe, so I think the noticeable overheating wasn’t caused by the fan design but by how thin the device is.

Surprisingly, audio is the best I’ve experienced out of a Samsung device. The sound is clear, well-tuned, and has great bass, which seems like a jump from those in the company’s past smartphones.

AMOLED SCREEN

The AMOLED touch screen is gorgeous to look at and generally great to use. The colours are crisp, and the contrast ratio combined with a 16:9 screen ratio really shined when I watched movies.

That being said, the screen is generally dim, even when the brightness setting is set to maximum. This became a problem in outdoor and bright environments where there was sunlight. Even within indoor environments, I wish the screen was generally brighter, which would have been a huge plus to show off the screen’s other strengths.

The FHD resolution (1920 x 1080) resolution of the screen isn’t bad, but coupled with the 16:9 ratio and the very thick black empty space at the bottom of the screen, it did give an uneven screen experience depending on what I was doing. Occasionally, for data and graphic-intensive tasks, the screen looked almost pixelated, while normal web browsing sometimes felt a little cramped while using the Pro 360 in notebook mode due to the 16:9 ratio, though I did get used to it quickly. Even a slight change to 16:10 ratio, I feel, would have provided a greater sense of openness.

The screen can handle casual games, but the latest Triple A games, such as Resident Evil Village or Doom Eternal, are really a no-go, though I do think Samsung never intended for the Pro 360 to handle them. For future iterations of the Pro series, Samsung should definitely offer spec options for a 2K or QHD resolution screen, or even offer a Pro Ultra model for those who are willing to pay extra for the best hardware. After all, while the Pro 360 isn’t a gaming notebook per se, it is a “Pro” model, which invites expectations of providing the best of the best.

Using the AMOLED screen as a vertically held tablet offered the best experience. The problems I mentioned before, such as visibility, were not there anymore as the device was held closer to my eyes. There was also just a general satisfaction offered by the large, gorgeous screen when using it like a traditional canvas or paper.

Overall, while the AMOLED screen is great, it doesn’t match Samsung’s own high standards set by its counterparts in the smartphone and tablet space, especially in brightness. The low brightness could have been for cost reasons or battery concerns, but I think it has more to do with fear of image retention, also known as burn-in, which larger OLED screens are more susceptible to due to having more icons on screen.

S PEN EXPERIENCE

The S Pen, which is included with the laptop, really brought out the best in this 2-in-1 notebook. In terms of size and weight, it really resembles a real pen and is very convenient to use. The screen’s response time to the pen does seem just a tad slower than that of the Galaxy S21 Ultra or the more recent Note series phones however, but the overall precision of the S Pen did feel close to scribbling on real paper. The larger screen on the notebook, which can be folded all the way back, also invites more use of the S Pen when it is used as a tablet or in calendar mode.

The S Pen can also be attached to the magnet underneath the front covering over the screen. This kind of magnet is placed in every laptop so that they can be folded shut properly, so I am unsure whether it was Samsung’s intention to have the stylus be attached this way or it was just a happy accident. 

The S Pen can be attached to where the magnet is while you are using the Pro 360 for something else, which can be convenient at times. But the magnetism isn’t strong enough for you to just thoughtlessly stick the pen on the cover and carry around the notebook willy-nilly, so you will need to put the pen in a separate compartment in bags or your jacket pocket when on the move. When using the device, I did wish there was a dedicated port for the pen in the vein of the Galaxy Note smartphones so that this wouldn’t be a worry.

spen-laptop.png
Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet

SAMSUNG APPS

It’s great that tried-and-true Samsung apps are now included in Samsung’s notebook line, especially if you already have a bunch of the company’s devices and need a Windows notebook. As a long time user of the Galaxy Note series, it was great to have apps like Samsung Notes offered on a bigger screen.

But the important question here is: Does the Pro 360, with its inclusion of Samsung apps and what the company calls the expansion of its ecosystem, succeed in offering something more than your usual PC experience to draw in others besides Samsung fans?

Samsung obviously wants its ecosystem to come together with Microsoft’s, and apps like Links to Windows and Your Phone are there for that. The Pro 360 succeeds in bringing them together, yes, but I didn’t feel that their convergence brought more to the table than what each company already offers on their own. In other words, the whole didn’t seem greater than the sum of its parts.

CONCLUSION

Overall, I’ve loved using the Pro 360. It is a great multi-tasker and, if anything, it shows that Samsung is excellent at designing great hardware for mobile devices. Notebooks have not been Samsung’s strong suit, but, with the Pro 360, the company has really stepped up its game and succeeds in integrating its expertise from smartphones to the laptop space.

The best time I had with the Pro 360 was for Zoom calls, which included a three-hour Bat Mitzvah for a friend’s daughter. The Pro 360’s strengths, like its portability, AMOLED screen, hardware, and audio really came together for video calls. If you are looking for a general-purpose notebook above the cut for entertainment, work, and for some light creative work, that is offered at a compelling price, the Pro 360 is a great option for you. But if you are looking for the ultimate experience in a notebook, the Pro 360 doesn’t really fit the bill. 

20210614-064009.jpg
Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet  

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ZDNET

Using the Galaxy Book Pro 360 for a month: A great Swiss knife that could be sharper

Published

on

20210614-060515.jpg
Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet

There is a certain art to making great notebooks. They have generally been outshone by smartphones in recent years, but they still have a longer history of craftsmanship, often have longer life cycles, and have separate, dedicated fan bases all their own. And after years of slow demand, notebooks are starting to see a revival thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid this climate, Samsung, known more for its smartphones than laptops, has launched a refresh of its notebook series, the Galaxy Book Pro and the 2-in-1 Galaxy Book Pro 360.

Having used the 15.6-inch Galaxy Book Pro 360 for a month, I feel it is by far Samsung’s best notebook. With the Pro 360, the South Korean tech giant has succeeded in imprinting its own look for laptops when it comes to design, taking cues from its latest smartphones and tablets. 

The laptop is also incredibly light and compact. The integration of its own apps, along with the AMOLED screen and S Pen support, are done well to give the notebook Samsung’s own flavour. All of this is offered at a starting price of $1,300.

That being said, the Galaxy Book Pro 360 is far from perfect. It has shortcomings, with some feeling minor while others definitely needing improvement for any future editions of the notebook series.

PORTABILITY AND DESIGN

Portability is hands down the best thing about the Pro 360. The 15.6-inch model weighs 1.4 kilograms, but it always felt lighter when it came to actual day-to-day use. The overall design of the notebook really accentuated this feeling and made the device feel more compact than it actually is. The Pro 360 always felt light, sturdy, slid in my bags smoothly, and was never once a burden to carry around. The laptop sat comfortably on almost any surface I placed it on, whether it was on a restaurant stand or a table at home crowded with other devices.

The overall aesthetic of Pro 360 is great too. A lot of its looks are carried over from the latest Galaxy S smartphones, especially for its edges. The haze finish of the Pro 360 also matches that of its latest phones and makes the notebook look premium without being gaudy. The hinge is also relatively sturdy when taking into account the device’s thinness and weight.

As a long time user of the LG Gram 16 series and having dabbled in using Lenovo and HP laptops in the past with similar or even smaller screens, in terms of portability alone, I feel Samsung has matched them or done even better.

On the flip side, I do think Samsung put portability as its utmost priority when designing the Pro 360 and, in doing so, some of the notebook’s features elsewhere have been affected.

KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD

The keyboard and touchpad are great and some of the best from Samsung. The touchpad under the keyboard is larger than usual and so are the adjacent spaces where your palm sits. I didn’t like this at first but, over a month, I felt less joint pains in my wrist and fingers. By comparison, I do think it is a better option than other notebooks that offer little space under the keyboard, which forces you to type with your hands held in the air for a long time.

The keyboard also comes with a fingerprint button on the far top right which also acts as an on and off button. The enter and shift keys are narrow, but the overall experience is great and the keys are large and register well. However, the keyboard does lack the typing satisfaction of an analog or a gaming keyboard due to how thin the keys are. This is likely a compromise to make the device thinner and lighter but it wouldn’t hurt to improve on this for later iterations.

HARDWARE AND BATTERY

In terms of CPU and RAM, my review unit for the Pro 360 was the most decked out version, packing an Intel Core i7-1165G7 and 16GB. Practically, there wasn’t a time when I felt the notebook was slow. The Pro 360 also turned on and off extremely fast and the booting time was one of the best I’ve seen.

Battery on the Pro 360 is also solid. A session per charge on average lasted between eight to 10 hours, even when some of the settings were put on maximum. 

For ports, Pro 360 offers one Thunderbolt 4 port, two USB-C connectors, a headphone socket, and microSD slot.

Due to the portability of the laptop, this did result in the laptop overheating at times. When this occurred, it was very noticeable as the Pro 360 would heave loudly. Fan and cooling systems on PCs usually work best when they have space to breathe, so I think the noticeable overheating wasn’t caused by the fan design but by how thin the device is.

Surprisingly, audio is the best I’ve experienced out of a Samsung device. The sound is clear, well-tuned, and has great bass, which seems like a jump from those in the company’s past smartphones.

AMOLED SCREEN

The AMOLED touch screen is gorgeous to look at and generally great to use. The colours are crisp, and the contrast ratio combined with a 16:9 screen ratio really shined when I watched movies.

That being said, the screen is generally dim, even when the brightness setting is set to maximum. This became a problem in outdoor and bright environments where there was sunlight. Even within indoor environments, I wish the screen was generally brighter, which would have been a huge plus to show off the screen’s other strengths.

The FHD resolution (1920 x 1080) resolution of the screen isn’t bad, but coupled with the 16:9 ratio and the very thick black empty space at the bottom of the screen, it did give an uneven screen experience depending on what I was doing. Occasionally, for data and graphic-intensive tasks, the screen looked almost pixelated, while normal web browsing sometimes felt a little cramped while using the Pro 360 in notebook mode due to the 16:9 ratio, though I did get used to it quickly. Even a slight change to 16:10 ratio, I feel, would have provided a greater sense of openness.

The screen can handle casual games, but the latest Triple A games, such as Resident Evil Village or Doom Eternal, are really a no-go, though I do think Samsung never intended for the Pro 360 to handle them. For future iterations of the Pro series, Samsung should definitely offer spec options for a 2K or QHD resolution screen, or even offer a Pro Ultra model for those who are willing to pay extra for the best hardware. After all, while the Pro 360 isn’t a gaming notebook per se, it is a “Pro” model, which invites expectations of providing the best of the best.

Using the AMOLED screen as a vertically held tablet offered the best experience. The problems I mentioned before, such as visibility, were not there anymore as the device was held closer to my eyes. There was also just a general satisfaction offered by the large, gorgeous screen when using it like a traditional canvas or paper.

Overall, while the AMOLED screen is great, it doesn’t match Samsung’s own high standards set by its counterparts in the smartphone and tablet space, especially in brightness. The low brightness could have been for cost reasons or battery concerns, but I think it has more to do with fear of image retention, also known as burn-in, which larger OLED screens are more susceptible to due to having more icons on screen.

S PEN EXPERIENCE

The S Pen, which is included with the laptop, really brought out the best in this 2-in-1 notebook. In terms of size and weight, it really resembles a real pen and is very convenient to use. The screen’s response time to the pen does seem just a tad slower than that of the Galaxy S21 Ultra or the more recent Note series phones however, but the overall precision of the S Pen did feel close to scribbling on real paper. The larger screen on the notebook, which can be folded all the way back, also invites more use of the S Pen when it is used as a tablet or in calendar mode.

The S Pen can also be attached to the magnet underneath the front covering over the screen. This kind of magnet is placed in every laptop so that they can be folded shut properly, so I am unsure whether it was Samsung’s intention to have the stylus be attached this way or it was just a happy accident. 

The S Pen can be attached to where the magnet is while you are using the Pro 360 for something else, which can be convenient at times. But the magnetism isn’t strong enough for you to just thoughtlessly stick the pen on the cover and carry around the notebook willy-nilly, so you will need to put the pen in a separate compartment in bags or your jacket pocket when on the move. When using the device, I did wish there was a dedicated port for the pen in the vein of the Galaxy Note smartphones so that this wouldn’t be a worry.

spen-laptop.png
Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet

SAMSUNG APPS

It’s great that tried-and-true Samsung apps are now included in Samsung’s notebook line, especially if you already have a bunch of the company’s devices and need a Windows notebook. As a long time user of the Galaxy Note series, it was great to have apps like Samsung Notes offered on a bigger screen.

But the important question here is: Does the Pro 360, with its inclusion of Samsung apps and what the company calls the expansion of its ecosystem, succeed in offering something more than your usual PC experience to draw in others besides Samsung fans?

Samsung obviously wants its ecosystem to come together with Microsoft’s, and apps like Links to Windows and Your Phone are there for that. The Pro 360 succeeds in bringing them together, yes, but I didn’t feel that their convergence brought more to the table than what each company already offers on their own. In other words, the whole didn’t seem greater than the sum of its parts.

CONCLUSION

Overall, I’ve loved using the Pro 360. It is a great multi-tasker and, if anything, it shows that Samsung is excellent at designing great hardware for mobile devices. Notebooks have not been Samsung’s strong suit, but, with the Pro 360, the company has really stepped up its game and succeeds in integrating its expertise from smartphones to the laptop space.

The best time I had with the Pro 360 was for Zoom calls, which included a three-hour Bat Mitzvah for a friend’s daughter. The Pro 360’s strengths, like its portability, AMOLED screen, hardware, and audio really came together for video calls. If you are looking for a general-purpose notebook above the cut for entertainment, work, and for some light creative work, that is offered at a compelling price, the Pro 360 is a great option for you. But if you are looking for the ultimate experience in a notebook, the Pro 360 doesn’t really fit the bill. 

20210614-064009.jpg
Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet  

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Using the Galaxy Book Pro 360 for a month: A great Swiss knife that could be sharper

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20210614-060515.jpg
Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet

There is a certain art to making great notebooks. They have generally been outshone by smartphones in recent years, but they still have a longer history of craftsmanship, often have longer life cycles, and have separate, dedicated fan bases all their own. And after years of slow demand, notebooks are starting to see a revival thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid this climate, Samsung, known more for its smartphones than laptops, has launched a refresh of its notebook series, the Galaxy Book Pro and the 2-in-1 Galaxy Book Pro 360.

Having used the 15.6-inch Galaxy Book Pro 360 for a month, I feel it is by far Samsung’s best notebook. With the Pro 360, the South Korean tech giant has succeeded in imprinting its own look for laptops when it comes to design, taking cues from its latest smartphones and tablets. 

The laptop is also incredibly light and compact. The integration of its own apps, along with the AMOLED screen and S Pen support, are done well to give the notebook Samsung’s own flavour. All of this is offered at a starting price of $1,300.

That being said, the Galaxy Book Pro 360 is far from perfect. It has shortcomings, with some feeling minor while others definitely needing improvement for any future editions of the notebook series.

PORTABILITY AND DESIGN

Portability is hands down the best thing about the Pro 360. The 15.6-inch model weighs 1.4 kilograms, but it always felt lighter when it came to actual day-to-day use. The overall design of the notebook really accentuated this feeling and made the device feel more compact than it actually is. The Pro 360 always felt light, sturdy, slid in my bags smoothly, and was never once a burden to carry around. The laptop sat comfortably on almost any surface I placed it on, whether it was on a restaurant stand or a table at home crowded with other devices.

The overall aesthetic of Pro 360 is great too. A lot of its looks are carried over from the latest Galaxy S smartphones, especially for its edges. The haze finish of the Pro 360 also matches that of its latest phones and makes the notebook look premium without being gaudy. The hinge is also relatively sturdy when taking into account the device’s thinness and weight.

As a long time user of the LG Gram 16 series and having dabbled in using Lenovo and HP laptops in the past with similar or even smaller screens, in terms of portability alone, I feel Samsung has matched them or done even better.

On the flip side, I do think Samsung put portability as its utmost priority when designing the Pro 360 and, in doing so, some of the notebook’s features elsewhere have been affected.

KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD

The keyboard and touchpad are great and some of the best from Samsung. The touchpad under the keyboard is larger than usual and so are the adjacent spaces where your palm sits. I didn’t like this at first but, over a month, I felt less joint pains in my wrist and fingers. By comparison, I do think it is a better option than other notebooks that offer little space under the keyboard, which forces you to type with your hands held in the air for a long time.

The keyboard also comes with a fingerprint button on the far top right which also acts as an on and off button. The enter and shift keys are narrow, but the overall experience is great and the keys are large and register well. However, the keyboard does lack the typing satisfaction of an analog or a gaming keyboard due to how thin the keys are. This is likely a compromise to make the device thinner and lighter but it wouldn’t hurt to improve on this for later iterations.

HARDWARE AND BATTERY

In terms of CPU and RAM, my review unit for the Pro 360 was the most decked out version, packing an Intel Core i7-1165G7 and 16GB. Practically, there wasn’t a time when I felt the notebook was slow. The Pro 360 also turned on and off extremely fast and the booting time was one of the best I’ve seen.

Battery on the Pro 360 is also solid. A session per charge on average lasted between eight to 10 hours, even when some of the settings were put on maximum. 

For ports, Pro 360 offers one Thunderbolt 4 port, two USB-C connectors, a headphone socket, and microSD slot.

Due to the portability of the laptop, this did result in the laptop overheating at times. When this occurred, it was very noticeable as the Pro 360 would heave loudly. Fan and cooling systems on PCs usually work best when they have space to breathe, so I think the noticeable overheating wasn’t caused by the fan design but by how thin the device is.

Surprisingly, audio is the best I’ve experienced out of a Samsung device. The sound is clear, well-tuned, and has great bass, which seems like a jump from those in the company’s past smartphones.

AMOLED SCREEN

The AMOLED touch screen is gorgeous to look at and generally great to use. The colours are crisp, and the contrast ratio combined with a 16:9 screen ratio really shined when I watched movies.

That being said, the screen is generally dim, even when the brightness setting is set to maximum. This became a problem in outdoor and bright environments where there was sunlight. Even within indoor environments, I wish the screen was generally brighter, which would have been a huge plus to show off the screen’s other strengths.

The FHD resolution (1920 x 1080) resolution of the screen isn’t bad, but coupled with the 16:9 ratio and the very thick black empty space at the bottom of the screen, it did give an uneven screen experience depending on what I was doing. Occasionally, for data and graphic-intensive tasks, the screen looked almost pixelated, while normal web browsing sometimes felt a little cramped while using the Pro 360 in notebook mode due to the 16:9 ratio, though I did get used to it quickly. Even a slight change to 16:10 ratio, I feel, would have provided a greater sense of openness.

The screen can handle casual games, but the latest Triple A games, such as Resident Evil Village or Doom Eternal, are really a no-go, though I do think Samsung never intended for the Pro 360 to handle them. For future iterations of the Pro series, Samsung should definitely offer spec options for a 2K or QHD resolution screen, or even offer a Pro Ultra model for those who are willing to pay extra for the best hardware. After all, while the Pro 360 isn’t a gaming notebook per se, it is a “Pro” model, which invites expectations of providing the best of the best.

Using the AMOLED screen as a vertically held tablet offered the best experience. The problems I mentioned before, such as visibility, were not there anymore as the device was held closer to my eyes. There was also just a general satisfaction offered by the large, gorgeous screen when using it like a traditional canvas or paper.

Overall, while the AMOLED screen is great, it doesn’t match Samsung’s own high standards set by its counterparts in the smartphone and tablet space, especially in brightness. The low brightness could have been for cost reasons or battery concerns, but I think it has more to do with fear of image retention, also known as burn-in, which larger OLED screens are more susceptible to due to having more icons on screen.

S PEN EXPERIENCE

The S Pen, which is included with the laptop, really brought out the best in this 2-in-1 notebook. In terms of size and weight, it really resembles a real pen and is very convenient to use. The screen’s response time to the pen does seem just a tad slower than that of the Galaxy S21 Ultra or the more recent Note series phones however, but the overall precision of the S Pen did feel close to scribbling on real paper. The larger screen on the notebook, which can be folded all the way back, also invites more use of the S Pen when it is used as a tablet or in calendar mode.

The S Pen can also be attached to the magnet underneath the front covering over the screen. This kind of magnet is placed in every laptop so that they can be folded shut properly, so I am unsure whether it was Samsung’s intention to have the stylus be attached this way or it was just a happy accident. 

The S Pen can be attached to where the magnet is while you are using the Pro 360 for something else, which can be convenient at times. But the magnetism isn’t strong enough for you to just thoughtlessly stick the pen on the cover and carry around the notebook willy-nilly, so you will need to put the pen in a separate compartment in bags or your jacket pocket when on the move. When using the device, I did wish there was a dedicated port for the pen in the vein of the Galaxy Note smartphones so that this wouldn’t be a worry.

spen-laptop.png
Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet

SAMSUNG APPS

It’s great that tried-and-true Samsung apps are now included in Samsung’s notebook line, especially if you already have a bunch of the company’s devices and need a Windows notebook. As a long time user of the Galaxy Note series, it was great to have apps like Samsung Notes offered on a bigger screen.

But the important question here is: Does the Pro 360, with its inclusion of Samsung apps and what the company calls the expansion of its ecosystem, succeed in offering something more than your usual PC experience to draw in others besides Samsung fans?

Samsung obviously wants its ecosystem to come together with Microsoft’s, and apps like Links to Windows and Your Phone are there for that. The Pro 360 succeeds in bringing them together, yes, but I didn’t feel that their convergence brought more to the table than what each company already offers on their own. In other words, the whole didn’t seem greater than the sum of its parts.

CONCLUSION

Overall, I’ve loved using the Pro 360. It is a great multi-tasker and, if anything, it shows that Samsung is excellent at designing great hardware for mobile devices. Notebooks have not been Samsung’s strong suit, but, with the Pro 360, the company has really stepped up its game and succeeds in integrating its expertise from smartphones to the laptop space.

The best time I had with the Pro 360 was for Zoom calls, which included a three-hour Bat Mitzvah for a friend’s daughter. The Pro 360’s strengths, like its portability, AMOLED screen, hardware, and audio really came together for video calls. If you are looking for a general-purpose notebook above the cut for entertainment, work, and for some light creative work, that is offered at a compelling price, the Pro 360 is a great option for you. But if you are looking for the ultimate experience in a notebook, the Pro 360 doesn’t really fit the bill. 

20210614-064009.jpg
Image: Cho Mu-Hyun/ZDNet  

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/using-the-galaxy-book-pro-360-for-a-month-a-great-swiss-knife-that-could-be-sharper/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Nationally-known Australian company lawyered up to resist ASD help

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Image: Getty Images

The Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo, has spoken out against hacked organisations that refuse assistance from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), likening it to refusing to cooperate with an air crash investigation.

One such example was discussed in evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) on Friday.

“It was a nationally-known case involving a nationally-known company that [ASD director-general Rachel Noble] and I are declining to name at this point,” he said.

According to Noble, the ASD first learned of the attack from media reports.

“We try to reach out to the company to clarify if the media reports are true, and they don’t want to talk to us. So then we keep pushing,” Noble said.

“Sometimes we have to use our own very senior level contacts, sometimes through people in this building [Parliament] who might know members of boards or chairs of boards, to try and establish trust and build a willingness to cooperate.”

When a hacked company cooperates, ASD can typically map their networks and identify the criminality involved on the first day.

When the Victorian health system suffered a ransomware attack in 2019, for example, the malware was quickly identified, and the network was back up and running in four days.

“What we left them with was also tools, training, and capability to identify, to protect themselves from a similar attack attack, but more quickly identify it happening again,” Noble said.

However the unnamed company lawyered up, and it took a week for the ASD to get even basic network information.

“Five days later we’re still getting a very sort of sluggish engagement of trying to get them to help provide data to us and deploy some of our tools so we can work out what’s happening on their networks. That goes for 13 days,” Noble said.

“This incident had a national impact on our country. On day 14, we’re able to only provide them with generic protection advice, and their network is still down. Three months later, they get reinfected, and we start again.”

Noble says this is why the ASD needs the powers which would be granted by legislation currently being reviewed, the Intelligence and Security: Review of the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020.

“This legislation actually just gives us the authority, through Home Affairs, more leverage to expect these critical infrastructure providers to actually have better cybersecurity standards in the first place,” she said.

“The best part of this legislation, from my point of view, is if they look after themselves, it doesn’t become work for my people. And if their defences are much higher, they’re keeping the low level crims out, and then we might be able to focus on the much more sophisticated highly organised criminal syndicates or state actors.”

Unregulated libertarian cyberplanes endanger the commons

Pezzullo says Parliament has a duty to “think about the regulation of cyberspace in the way that you would think about the regulation of other commons”.

“Every time one of our planes go down, of course we collaborate with the investigators, and we work out where all the bodies were, and the wreckage of the parts, and we help with the safety investigation,” he said.

Not only do we learn lessons from crashes, he said, but we also regulate the movement of aircraft through our skies.

“The development of the internet’s been organic. It’s been driven by a somewhat unusual combination of libertarian impulses on the one hand, and profit-driven motivations on the other hand,” Pezzullo said.

“Every time you connect, you are flying unsafely through airspace. We would not tolerate our airspace being ungoverned and unregulated by the state.”

See also: How the FBI and AFP accessed encrypted messages in TrojanShield investigation

Noble spruiked the advantages of cooperating with the ASD.

“Our people in ASD are in hand-to-hand combat with criminals and state-based sectors every single day. We have the benefit of top secret intelligence provided to us from around the world, not just our own intelligence that we can gather, [and] 75 years of investment in technical capability to analyse and unpack it with an incredible posture and ability to understand, through our cyber defence capabilities, what’s happening on Australia’s internet.”

Why would businesses refuse assistance? Apart from potential philosophical objections, Noble offered a range of theories.

First, there’s what she called “ICT professional hubris”. Organisations want to believe they’ve got the technical skills and don’t need help.

“We understand that people feel that way. That’s usually before they’ve actually fully appreciated what they’re dealing with,” Noble said.

Second, the scenario Noble believes brings the lawyers into the room is when the organisation doesn’t have an incident response plan. They don’t know how they’ll manage public communication, relations with their suppliers and customers, potential brand damage, and other commercial interests.

Third, there are questions of liability, ranging from matters of directors’ duties and whether they’ve been negligent, to acting on ASD advice which then has an adverse effect on the company.

As PJCIS chair Senator James Paterson noted, some submitters to the inquiry have said the protection from liability offered in the Bill may not be sufficient.

Pezzullo said this review of critical infrastructure law shouldn’t be seen as a standalone action. There’s work being done as part of the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy “that goes precisely to the question of corporations law, directors duties, [and] better practice regulation in this field”.

“In fairness to the executive management teams that are grappling with this, things like insurance products, the actuarial costing and pricing of the risk, the depth of the reinsurance pool, the case law, is not particularly well formed,” Pezzullo said.

“We really are in the early days of flight. It’s just that the adversaries learned how to fly and they got better planes at the moment than most firms.”

Disrupting the Cyber Pirates of the Caribbean

On the broader question of dealing with malicious actors online, Pezzullo said governments needed to go on the offensive.

Police and intelligence agencies, sometimes with the assistance of military cyber forces, are striking at these actors in the “havens”, but some are beyond reach.

“Regrettably states — some states — either turn a blind eye to their activities, or actively enable and sponsor them. Regrettably, state protection emboldens these malicious actors,” he said.

One model to tackle this challenge might be the global counterterrorism model that was put in place after 9/11 to deal with al Qaida, but Pezzullo proposed something quite different.

“Another model that I would suggest to this committee that is worth reflecting on, as you consider this bill and consider your report, is the campaign that was mounted in the 17th, 18th, and then in the beginning of the 19th century, to clear the world’s oceans of pirates, including the pirates of the Caribbean, who were defeated by Her Majesty’s warships of the Royal Navy, in concert with bringing law to a lawless ocean,” he said.

“This is a problem with which we can deal, just as Britain overcame piracy. But we need the tools to do so, including the requisite legal authorities.”

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