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September, 2013

Tesco Hudl review: first look

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Tesco hudl

Tesco threw its hat into the low-cost tablet market today with the launch of the colourful Hudl. As we reported last week, it’s a compact, 7in Android tablet, but now we know the price: it’s going to cost £119 or, if you’ve got a big enough Tesco Clubcard stash, an even more tempting £60-worth of points.

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Driven to despair by Google Drive

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Google Drive

Last month I wrote a disappointed blog post about how Google seems to be losing sight of the user focus that once made it great. Over the weekend I experienced another example of this.

First, a bit of background. I love Dropbox. Everybody loves Dropbox. But over the years I’ve found its free space allowance a bit of a squeeze. I’ve tried SkyDrive as an alternative, but I don’t like the online interface. I’ve tried Barracuda Networks’ Copy service, which certainly gives you plenty of space – but it hasn’t proved wholly reliable when it comes to syncing file A to computer B.

So last week, when Google announced that anyone setting up Quickoffice before 26 September would get an extra 10GB of storage for the next two years, I decided to switch to Google Drive as my everyday tool for keeping my work PC, home PC and laptop in sync.

Big mistake. Huge.

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iOS 7 on iPhone 4S and iPad 2: life on the edge of Apple’s lifecycle

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Photo 19-09-2013 10 27 43

Apple has released iOS 7 as a free upgrade to existing iPhone and iPad users. But how does Apple’s revamped OS work on two of the oldest supported devices: the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2? PC Pro editor Barry Collins is installing iOS 7 on both, and will post updates on his experience of life on the edge of Apple’s lifecycle. (more…)

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Posted in: Hardware

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Farewell to the Windows Experience Index

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

The Windows Experience Index in Windows 8

When the Windows 8.1 Preview appeared back in June, a few sharp-eyed souls noticed that the Windows Experience Index (WEI) – introduced in Windows Vista – had quietly vanished. Now we can see that it’s not in the RTM either. After seven years, it looks like Windows’ built-in benchmark has finally been laid to rest.

The idea behind the WEI, as originally implemented in 2006, wasn’t a bad one. After five years of XP, it provided a handy, albeit rough, guide to the hardware demands of Microsoft’s next-generation OS. A still-live page on the Microsoft website helpfully explains that Vista systems scoring 1.0 to 1.9 will support “business programs, web browsers and email programs”, with performance and graphical capabilities improving as you move up the scale.

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The secret bandwidth deals that let BT undercut rival ISPs

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Cables infrastructure 3d background

How does BT manage to make its fibre broadband deals so cheap? Yes it’s an enormous ex-monopoly with considerable financial power, but it’s also using a crafty piece of internal accounting to keep down its bandwidth costs, according to an industry source.

My source tells me that, in those areas of the country where there’s sufficient market competition for regulator Ofcom not to impose pricing controls, BT Wholesale strikes “secret” deals with ISPs for backhaul bandwidth.

These deals are bound by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which means that ISPs cannot compare the price they’re being charged for bandwidth by BT Wholesale. And there’s one ISP whose bandwidth bills every ISP would like to take a look at: that of BT Retail.

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Posted in: Newsdesk

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Nokia Lumia 1020 review: first impressions

Friday, September 13th, 2013

1020 in gripIt’s been available in the US for a month or so, but the Nokia Lumia 1020 has only now arrived this side of the pond. Just in case you hadn’t heard, this is Nokia’s answer to the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, and the natural successor to the 41-megapixel 808 PureView we reviewed last year. We picked up a review unit at a press event yesterday, and have spent the intervening time frantically snapping away to bring you our first impressions.

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Photoshop’s new Generator tool: first look

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Adobe Generator

Just a few months after the initial release of Photoshop CC, Adobe is rolling out its first major feature upgrade. In Adobe’s words, the new Generator tool provides “real-time asset generation”. That is to say, its basic function is to produce and maintain web-friendly versions of your graphics.

For example, let’s say you’ve designed a set of icons as PSD files, making generous use of layer effects, text, masks and so forth. Traditionally, if you wanted to use these online you’d need to drop by the Save for Web dialogue to export a PNG or JPEG copy of each one – and update this copy each time you made a change to the originals.

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Has the NSA really broken “strong” encryption?

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Keyhole

It’s been reported that GCHQ and the US National Security Agency have managed to crack the encryption systems we use to protect emails, personal data and financial transactions. If this means HTTPS, SSL and so forth are no longer secure, it’s a huge deal. You may not be immediately alarmed about the idea of spy agencies accessing your supposedly private data, but if they’ve found a technique for getting around strong encryption, it could sooner or later find their way into less well-meaning hands.

Frustratingly, however, we don’t know the specifics of what’s really been broken. The original report in The Guardian – based on revelations from US whistleblower Edward Snowden – describes specific intelligence programmes; but the central allegation rests on a mysterious “breakthrough”, of which no details are provided.

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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013) review: first look

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013)

In among the heap of product announcements at IFA this week, another has quietly slipped under the radar: Amazon has launched a new version of its superb Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader. The announcement was pretty low key, and the reason became patently obvious as soon as we got our hands on one for a brief demonstration.

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Reasons why smartwatches’ time will come

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

SWATCH1

Last night, Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Gear watch; and the general response was “meh”. Friends, colleagues and PC Pro commenters all seem to have quickly concluded that the device is a gimmicky, impractical gadget.

To which I say, hold on. The “smartwatch” idea is a pretty new one, and such ideas can take a while to show their full potential. My initial reaction to the original iPad was decidedly dismissive; even the first-generation iPhone attracted plenty of doubt, and not just from me. Yet as Apple iterated the hardware and invested in the software, we shortly all came to realise that actually these gadgets were just what our lives had been missing all along.

(more…)

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