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July, 2011

Join PC Pro at Byte Night 2011

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Byte Night 2010

“You’ll enjoy it!” said Eleanor, in her bouncy, enthusiastic way. I had, and still have, my doubts. The idea of sleeping under the London sky on an October night isn’t my normal recipe for a fun evening, which generally involves good company, even better beer and a nice warm bed to collapse into afterwards.

But Eleanor, the London rep for Byte Night, has her way of winning arguments. The concept of the night, she explained, was to raise awareness of the thousands of young people who sleep rough each night.

Click on this link to sponsor PC Pro at Byte Night 2011

(more…)

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Binatone Android home phone and £99 tablet review: first looks

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Binatone’s a name usually associated with landline phones but, with that market dwindling, the firm has decided that Android is the way forward. Google’s Open Source OS is present in three of its new products.
The most intriguing is its iHomePhone 2 – an Android device that, as the name suggests, replaces your landline handset. It’s an unusual idea, but one Binatone seems confident can work, with the £99 inc VAT gadget allegedly aimed at both techies and novices.
The glossy handset sits in a circular cradle and certainly looks the part but, when we got our hands on the device, we found problems. The 2.8in resistive screen is grainy, pallid and comes with its own stylus, and the inclusion of Android 2.1 means it’s already behind the curve.
It’s clear the hardware underpinning the iHomePhone 2 isn’t up to task, either. Even an empty notification bar took far too long to judder towards the bottom of the screen and, when we pressed the “Home” button, the desktop took several seconds to load – a lifetime on a phone.
Still, Binatone is clearly excited about the product, enthusing that it’s more of a “living room ” device than a mere phone. To that end, the firm’s PR demonstrated Android’s stock eBook-reader app and its FM Radio software – although both of these came with obvious caveats: we don’t know anyone who’ll want to squint at a 2.8in screen and, with no WiFi syncing to the dock, it’ll have to be attached to the device to play audio through the speakers.
There’s no access to Android’s Market either – instead, the iHomePhone uses Giga Store. Binatone claims thousands of apps are available but, the ubiquitous Angry Birds aside, we couldn’t see anything we recognised.
The firm also used its recent event to announce its latest tablet device. The HomeSurf 705 is, as the name suggests, a 7in Android tablet – and, like the iHomePhone, it comes with an eye-catching price of just £99 inc VAT.
It also shares many of the same faults: no access to the Android Market, with the Giga Store making another appearance, and a reliance on Android 2.1, with no plans for the device to be upgraded in its lifetime.
Binatone wasn’t able to confirm what hardware underpins the HomeSurf but, during our time with the product, it proved sluggish and unresponsive. It’s not as slow as the iHomePhone but, of course, it’s no iPad.
Still, at least the basics are present and correct: an 800 x 480 native resolution across the screen, 2GB of internal memory, and a microSD card slot. We’re not hopeful but, at £99 inc VAT, it could prove to be a tempting bargain – look out for our full review soon.
Binatone’s third new product is its new eBook reader, the ReadMe Mobile. Again, it’s running Android 2.1 and, again, it comes with several quirks: its 7in, 800 x 480 is a TFT panel that’s not touch-enabled and, unlike other eBook readers, it’s horizontally orientated – although, once is weak processor has stirred into life, it’s possible to switch to portrait mode.
Doing this, though, renders its qwerty keyboard somewhat obsolete – a feature Binatone claims many of its customers have wanted for a long time. Beside the keyboard sits a touchpoint, similar to the BlackBerry Bold, and four cursor keys. They’re used for navigating the interface, but working our way through the interface proved tortuous and the buttons themselves felt weak.
There’s the issue of battery life, too: Binatone’s spokesperson answered the question “will it let you read Lord of the Rings” with an enthusiastic “absolutely not!”, and confirmed an estimated lifespan of two and a half hours.
Combine this with the £129 inc VAT price and, well, we’re not sure why you’d buy this over the firm’s HomeSurf tablet, which includes the same Android eBook app. Still, will reserve final judgement until our review – watch this space.
In the mean time, do you want an Android home phone, a £99 inc VAT tablet, or an eBook reader running Google’s Open Source OS? Let us know in the comments.

Binatone iHomePhone2

Binatone is a name usually associated with landline phones but, with that market dwindling, the firm has decided Android is the way forward.

Of three new Android products shown off at a launch event, the most intriguing is its iHomePhone 2 – an Android device that, as the name suggests, replaces your landline handset. It’s an unusual idea, but one Binatone is confident can work, with the £99 inc VAT gadget ambitiously aimed at both techies and novices.

(more…)

“Obscene” Whitehall IT spending or sloppy journalism?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Woman using laptop

Given our ongoing wrestling match with the Cabinet Office over Sir Philip Green’s report into Government IT spending, a story in today’s Daily Mail caught my eye (or more precisely, the eye of Sky News reporter Roddy Mansfield, who alerted me to it).

“Whitehall is wasting an ‘obscene’ amount of public money on IT systems, a report by MPs admits,” the Daily Mail writes.

“The report cites some Whitehall departments who blow an average of £3,500 on a desktop computer, while they can be bought for as little as £250 on the High Street, 14 times cheaper.”

A scandal, I’m sure you’ll agree. Until you do what the Daily Mail’s journalist should have done in the first place, and examine the figures.

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Just how popular is Google+?

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

gp

We keep getting told that Google+ is Facebook’s biggest threat, that it’s on the rise faster than a 1990s house price and the only way is up. We’re told it already has 10 million profiles – or is it 20 million?

But is Google+ really catching on? I mean really, as in outside this little tech industry bubble we love to confine ourselves to? (more…)

Google+: big companies can cause big problems

Monday, July 25th, 2011

GPlusIn its first three weeks of availability, Google+ reportedly attracted 20 million users. That’s a pretty impressive launch – especially since it’s been accompanied by what can only be described as a negative marketing campaign. Even as millions of users have poured onto the service, Google has insisted on calling it a “limited field trial”. At this rate, by the time they officially make it available to the public, everyone will already be on it.

Everyone, that is, except for Mr Matthew Brock of Swiss Cottage. I have it on good authority that the gentleman in question, an old friend of mine, is giving Google+ a miss. (more…)

Google Chromebook and Office 2010? Thanks a bundle, Currys

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Have you seen those new Google Chromebooks? You know, the ones with the cloud-based Chrome OS operating system, where all your apps are run over the internet? It seems some people just can’t get their head around the concept. Including high-street retailer and Chromebook seller, Currys.

Currys Chromebook

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Dell claims its customer support has improved by 90% – do you agree?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Dell customer supportCustomer support is about as sexy as cauliflower cheese, but anyone who’s suffered a bad experience will know just how infuriating it can be. What’s even worse is when it appears that companies just don’t care, which is why my hellishly early interview with Tim Griffin this morning – who has overall responsibility for Dell’s global customer support – was so welcome.

For a start, it’s refreshing that Dell is so open to the fact that its support hasn’t always been great. “We’ve obviously not fared too well in your own surveys over the past couple of years,” Griffin said, referring to PC Pro’s annual reliability and service survey, “and it’s something we’re very cognisant of.”

(I’ll interrupt myself here to say that if you haven’t already taken part – and we do rely on a huge number of responses to make our results significant – then you have just over a week to do so. And you’ll be in with a chance of winning one of our £4,500-worth of prizes too.) (more…)

How phone-hacking feds have been fooled by the cloud

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Jude Law story

I was in a meeting last week where both of the staff from my client had a strong affinity for the word “layman”. Whenever I strayed into territory they preferred to find too technical, they would say “well, I’m just a layman…”. I’m thinking of a particular conversation about their server hard disk running out of space. “What” they asked “you mean the memory? We bought some more of that, didn’t we?”

I despair of the whole concept of the “layman”  - they seem to stop being laymen and turn into the copyright-smashers from hell when it comes to downloading the illegal copies of movies that make up the bulk of the space consumed on their file server, after all.

Now, I’m sure we all have our stories about wilful ignorance in pursuit of a bit of nerd-baiting, but this particular BBC article caught my eye, because it implies that the “layman” state of mind is doing a good deal more damage.

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How a spell checker can boost your web profits

Monday, July 18th, 2011

spelling

It must be summer because the stories about how moronic our offspring are and how much better things were in the age of steam are surfacing. Indeed spelling mistakes could apparently cost companies “millions of pounds”.

Whilst you might imagine such hyperbole coming from one of the beleaguered red tops, in fact this is a claim made by an online entrepreneur. With a keen eye for a marketing opportunity, the Confederation of British Industry has swooped in to link these spelling mistakes to the lack of skills of school leavers.

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How developers game search results in the Android Market

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Android’s Market is one of the most open and accessible software stores around today and, while that sounds great on paper, this unregulated approach inevitably comes with its own pros and cons.
In some instances, con is the right word. Take Spider Wars, an unremarkable game that’s getting a leg up the Market’s search results by piggy-backing on a host of other popular titles and companies.
The scam itself – if it can even be called that – is simple. Head to the game’s page and, after a description of its mechanics, there’s a list of words. A lot of them are familiar: the first block lists top games and franchises such as Star Wars, Worms, Minesweeper and Dune.
The second block is potentially more useful to developer No Sushi Prod, and starts with a who’s who of top Android and iOS titles: Gameloft, Angry Birds, Doodle Jump, Cut the Rope, Tiny Wings, Polarbit and Kairosoft, with the latter the search term that tipped me off.
There’s also a list of popular social networks and services, from Twitter, Facebook and Gmail to Google+ and Google Maps.
They’re all terms designed to rocket Spider Wars towards the top of the Market’s search results, and No Sushi Prod certainly isn’t alone: “Flying Penguin best free game” clumsily shoehorns Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Tiny Wings and Fruit Ninja into its description alongside a downright suspicious number of five-star reviews.
A search for Rovio throws up other dubious results alongside Spider Wars: Revenge of the Pigs shamelessly rips off Angry Birds, KG Dogfighting uses the old keyword trick, and Harp of Innocence has the biggest string of keyboards I’ve yet seen, ranging from Angry Birds and Facebook to Kung Fu Panda, World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero.
It’s a shady practice but, unfortunately, one that’s as widespread as it is dishonest. It’s one of the tricks that firms can get away with thanks to the unregulation of the Android Market, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for unscrupulous developers when you’re searching for a new game.
If you’ve seen this happening elsewhere – or have spotted any other dirty tricks used by eager developers – then let us know in the comments.

Android Market

Android’s Market is one of the most open and accessible software stores around. While that sounds great on paper, this unregulated approach inevitably comes with its own pros and cons.

In some instances, con is the right word. Take Spider Wars, an unremarkable game that’s getting a leg up the Market’s search results by piggy-backing on a host of other popular titles and companies.

The scam – if it can even be called that – is simple keyword stuffing. Head to the game’s page and, after a description of its mechanics, there’s a list of words. A lot of them are familiar: the first block lists top games and franchises such as Star Wars (itself, evidently, a great inspiration for the game), Worms, Minesweeper and Dune.

The second block is potentially more useful to developer No Sushi Prod, and starts with a who’s who of top Android and iOS titles: Gameloft, Angry Birds, Doodle Jump, Cut the Rope, Tiny Wings, Polarbit and Kairosoft, with the latter the search term that brought Spider Wars to my attention.

There’s also a list of popular social networks and services, including Twitter, Facebook and Gmail. (more…)

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Posted in: Software

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