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December, 2012

The techs to watch in 2013

Monday, December 31st, 2012

ChipmakingWith the January sales looming, you might be wondering whether it’s time to grab a bargain, or whether you should  hold out a little longer and see what technologies the new year brings. I’ve been closely watching the industry in 2012, and keeping track of announcements for the coming year – and below you’ll find my predictions of what’s going to happen in various areas of technology in 2013.

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Instagram scam: how the media was sucked in

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Instagram

And so, with all the predictability of an EastEnders plot line, Instagram has started back-pedalling on the controversial “we own your photos” policy that it had no intention of implementing in the first place.

It was such a predictable PR stunt that we told you exactly how it was going to pan out yesterday morning:

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Posted in: Newsdesk, Rant

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Mobile repeaters and mobilesignal.co.uk: a warning

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

MobileSignal

Those living in mobile reception blackspots may well be tempted by one of the dozens of websites offering to sell you a signal repeater. These devices promise to improve your mobile reception by capturing weak signals through a high-gain aerial and boosting them through an amplifier. There’s only one problem: they’re often illegal.

Our Real World Computing wireless expert, Paul Ockenden, has warned readers off these questionable repeater devices in the past, and suggested legal ways to boost your mobile reception.  Telecoms regulator Ofcom has revised its advice on mobile repeaters since Paul wrote that column in 2010, but the core guidance remains the same: installing or using a repeater is a criminal offence unless it is CE marked and specifically authorised for use in the UK, because they can cause interference.

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HP EliteBook Revolve review: first look

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

EliteBook Revolve

If you’re not already sick of hybrid laptop/tablets — like PC Pro’s features editor David Bayon — HP’s adding another one to the pile here in Frankfurt: the business-focused EliteBook Revolve.

Unsurprisingly given the name, the Revolve’s 11.6in touchscreen display pivots on a hinge on the rear, swivelling round to be laid flat against the keyboard, turning the device into a tablet. The display is a fraction smaller than the keyboard part, giving it a stacked looked when folded up.

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Does the Windows 8 hybrid overcomplicate a simple problem?

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Microsoft Surface with Windows RT

I’m not sure exactly when I lost patience with Microsoft and Windows 8 — most likely when using the Surface for the first time. It’s always been an OS with a split personality, but from the start we were promised the hardware would make it all seem natural. It would innovate, the OS ushering in a new era of mobile computing.

With a few exceptions – touchscreen Ultrabooks are undoubtedly cool – the new era hasn’t started well. (more…)

Sony VAIO Tap 20: a day with the world’s biggest tablet

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

big vs small

Steve Jobs famously said a 7in tablet was too small — but for some, even a 10in like the iPad is a touch too tiny.

The assortment of 7in tablets are perfect for average people with normal hands, but while the rest of us consider whether the Nexus 7’s portability is more useful than the iPad, monstrously large people — such as 6ft 5in man-mountain Mike Jennings, PC Pro’s senior staff writer — are left prodding at minuscule icons with their sausage-like fingers.

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The USB stick that thinks it’s a keyboard

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

USB

To Covent Garden, where James Lyne – director of technology strategy at Sophos – has been presenting a review of the security landscape during 2012, and a look forward to next year’s threats. The review is an annual event, and always entertaining thanks to Lyne’s bona fide geek credentials: this year’s talk included references to Anonymous masks, the obligatory Gangnam Style allusion and several exhortations to “[verb] all the things”.

Predictions for 2013 include increasingly sophisticated and targeted attacks, on mobile platforms as well as PCs. No surprises there. More interestingly, Lyne also expects to see a rise in ransomware, which locks away your files and provides the decryption key only on payment of a fee. So far, malware ransoms have typically been around the £200 mark, but Lyne reckons criminals will soon start to recognise high value targets (such as company CEOs) and demand much higher fees for the return of sensitive documents. He describes this type of attack as “irreversible”, as there’s nothing third-party software can do to recover your files if they’ve been strongly encrypted: the only defence is to keep backups. You’ve been warned.

The part of the talk that particularly struck me, however, relates to the little device pictured above, which Lyne demonstrated with glee. Fully assembled, it looks just like a regular USB flash drive. Or, from the internal microSD slot, you might assume it was some sort of card reader. In fact – believe it or not – it’s a keyboard. (more…)

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Posted in: Random

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Do we need the Snooper’s Charter to save lives?

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Theresa May and the Sun have teamed up to deliver the Home Secretary’s message on the importance of the Communications Data Bill – AKA the Snooper’s Charter – in an interview article that borders on gratuitous with its level of scare mongering.
The Home Offices uses the article to ram home why it believes additional surveillance measures are needed with  a piece headlined “Track crime on net or we’ll see more people die” and littered with emotive reasoning.
“The people who say they’re against this bill need to look victims of serious crime, terrorism and child sex offences in the eye and tell them why they’re not prepared to give the police the powers they need to protect the public,” the piece asserts. “ “Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles will want MPs to vote against this bill. Victims of crime, police and the public will want them to vote for it. It’s a question of whose side you’re on.”
The warning comes as Whitehall waits for a parliamentary committee report into the draft DCB, with many people expecting a negative response and Nick Clegg reportedly ready to oppose the surveillance legislation.
Yet despite calls for clearer evidence on why and how the changes would make a difference, there is again very little actual fact in the claims that the bill would save lives..
In its evidence that the legislation is relevant, the article cites two cases that have been helped using technology, one in which a child pornography ring was partially brought to justice because of IP addresses being identified, and another in which police tracked down a suicide attempt and cut the would-be victim down before he died.
“Cops were provided with the IP addresses of everyone who had been accessing the site and many people were identified from the data and prosecuted,” the example suggested adding that although some were arrested ”others escaped because internet access companies had no record of who had used the IP addresses”.
The second example, has little to do with terror, organised crime or paedophiles, which is apparently the whole point, and the first could have been dealt with under existing laws.
As Big Brother Watch said in its blog on the subject “In this case, it would be proportionate to go to internet service providers and ask for the IP address of any computer accessing the website, and for data to be retained about that use. Those people could be identified and prosecuted without needing to record every website visit of every person.”
IP addresses are already routinely kept by ISPs under data retention guidelines from the European Union that are in effect in the UK. Although not all ISPs are covered by this – and the government doesn’t disclose the list of those that are – it’s understood that larger ISPs are all required to keep the data. The Home Office could quite easily extend that list to all UK ISPs.
For those that are required to keep the data it’s not “random” as the report suggests, but, according the ISP Association, is a legal requirement.
Using IP address information, therefore, really doesn’t go any way to justifying the bill, and in fact if the government really wanted to make its point surely it would be better to highlight the cases where authorities couldn’t solve a case because they didn’t have access to data.
But the confusion over using lack of IP address seems even more bizarre given that over at the Department of Culture Media and Sport, officials have enough confidence in current IP address information to base the policing of copyright protection measures in the Digital Economy Act on IP addresses, it rather begs the question of whether IP addresses are reliable or not – the government appears to want them to both at the same time.Theresa May and the Sun have teamed up to deliver the Home Secretary’s message on the importance of the Communications Data Bill – AKA the Snooper’s Charter – in an interview article that borders on gratuitous with its level of scare maysunmongering.

maysun

Theresa May and The Sun have teamed up to deliver the home secretary’s message on the importance of the Communications Data Bill – AKA the Snooper’s Charter – in a scare-mongering article.

The Home Office uses the article to ram home why it believes additional surveillance measures are needed with an emotive piece headlined: “Track crime on net or we’ll see more people die” — and illustrated with a photo of the bus torn apart in the attacks on 7 July 2005.

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How to “fix” an unresponsive home button on an iPad/iPhone

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

iPad 3 iPhoto

Last week, my iPad 2’s home button – the physical button in the bottom bezel – started behaving erratically. It would take two or more presses to return me to the home screen, or occasionally register double-clicks when I only tapped once.

So I did what any member of modern society does: I moaned about it on Twitter. Before you could say “trip to the Apple Store”, my old chum and editor of iOS magazine Tap, Chris Phin, shot back “Google ‘recalibrate home button’”.

I did as I was told, and followed the top result detailing a simple procedure to supposedly recalibrate the home button. In a nutshell, you launch “one of the stock apps” (such as Weather or Calendar), hold down the top power button until the “slide to power off” prompt appears, release it  and then quickly press and hold the home button down until both the power-off prompt and app disappear.

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