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January, 2014

Windows 9: what changes would you make to Windows 8?

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Windows81

Windows 8 has been much criticised — with a lot of the complaining coming from our podcast. While some of the grievances levelled at the OS, such as the focus on Metro at the expense of desktop users, are fair, suggestions that Windows 8 is the new Vista may be taking it a bit too far.

Microsoft has made a few improvements in Windows 8.1, with more planned for its next update, and Windows 9 is widely expected to be discussed at Build in April — and to arrive as early as next year, as Microsoft hopes to ditch the 8 brand and get a fresh start. (So maybe it is the new Vista, then?)

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Splunk and the Squeaky Dolphin: when Big Data goes rogue

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

squeakydolphin

Poor Splunk.

The oddly named firm’s products analyse “Big Data”. As it claims on its website: “by monitoring and analysing everything from customer clickstreams and transactions to network activity and call records—and more—Splunk turns machine data into valuable insights no matter what business you’re in.” Even if that business is snooping.

It should come as no surprise, then, that it’s found a place in the biggest Big Data haul: GCHQ apparently uses its data-sentiment analysis software to figure out what people are thinking online. (Indeed, Splunk advertises on its site that the US Department of Defense and Homeland Security use its products, so it really should come as no surprise.)

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Posted in: Newsdesk

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Stone Classmate 3 review: first look at the Intel-designed hybrid

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

IMG_1735Intel recently updated the reference designs for its Classmate PC series — small, tough laptops designed for students.

British PC maker Stone was one of the first to show off hardware based on the updated designs with the Classmate 3 – a “semi-rugged” 10in hybrid device that runs Intel’s Bay Trail T processor and Windows 8.1 Pro. Since it’s aimed at students, Stone debuted the new laptop at educational technology show BETT, where we took a look at the device.

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Why is BT shovelling more money into inner-city fibre?

Friday, January 24th, 2014

BT engineer duct

How about this for a coincidence? Just moments after I appeared on Radio 4’s You and Yours, reiterating my long-running complaint about being left on the fringes of BT’s fibre rollout, a BT press release lands in my inbox trumpeting how the company plans to spend an extra £50 million extending its fibre network. I had no idea I was that influential.

It turns out that I’m not. Because none of that £50 million will be spent in my area, nor any town or village that has yet to see a shiny new fibre cabinet arrive at the end of the street. BT’s ploughing another £50 million into cities: areas that BT’s own press release concedes “already have access to ultra-fast speeds”.

Head, meet desk.

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Posted in: Newsdesk

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Dell Chromebook 11 review: first look at the £159 laptop

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Dell Chromebook 11 three quarters

The Dell Chromebook 11 represents the company’s first foray into Google’s OS, and it’s being cautious: this isn’t a laptop aimed at the mass market but at schools, colleges and universities. That’s why its debut show is the education technology show BETT, where we got our hands on it.

Even though it’s being marketed as an education device, it will be on sale from Dell direct, and for an incredibly cheap £159 if the original press release is to be believed. (Just note that it’s £159 plus VAT, this being an education-targeted machine.)

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Sorry, Stan Collymore, you can’t beat Twitter racists with an algorithm

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Collymore BBC report

Twitter is, once again, taking a mauling in the mainstream media for failing to tackle abuse. I’ve just watched ex-footballer Stan Collymore on the BBC Breakfast sofa, describing how he received racist abuse and death threats for daring to suggest a Liverpool player dived for a penalty. Earlier this week, Olympic medallist Beth Tweddle took some appalling, misogynistic abuse in a live Twitter Q&A about women in sport. Twitter’s ability to amplify the opinions of the dregs of our society remains undiminished.

Twitter, Collymore and others argue, is not doing enough to tackle the abusers. I wholeheartedly agree. What I don’t agree with is Collymore’s assertion that tackling racist comments is a simple matter of tapping out a few lines of code:

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Free alternatives to LogMeIn (updated)

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

LMI-Gone

This post was updated on 28/1 with additional content.

I’ve been using the free LogMeIn remote access service for several years now. I’ve never felt the need to pay for the commercial service, as mostly what I use it for is connecting to my home PC while I’m at work – or vice versa – and copying whatever files I need into Dropbox.

Now it’s been announced that the free service is being discontinued on 28 January – next week, in other words, meaning us free users don’t get a sunset period so much as an abrupt flicking off of the lights. As of next Wednesday, the service starts at $49 a year for two computers. As LogMeIn points out, this gets you not only basic remote access, but also “premium features like remote printing, file transfer and cloud data access, plus desktop and mobile apps to improve your experience.”

I don’t need any of that, however: for what I need, I’d be fine with one of the numerous lightweight VNC variants, or Windows’ built-in Remote Desktop Connection tool… if only they’d work through the Dennis Publishing firewall. Since they don’t, I’m left looking for a properly free alternative to LogMeIn that I can switch to next week. Here’s what I’ve found.

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Posted in: Software

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Do parents understand web filters? Research says most do, actually

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Good parenting“Parents are unaware of internet filters,” according to the headline on a government press release that’s landed in my inbox.

This claim is (apparently) based on an Ofcom report, which certainly makes for interesting reading, but which doesn’t entirely back up that headline. The disconnect is clear from the first sentence from the DCMS release:

Around one in eight parents that do not have family friendly internet controls did not know they existed or did not know how to install them, says a new report.

Let’s unpick that, since the headline will clearly be parroted in news stories elsewhere.

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Google in my Nest? Not a chance

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Nest

I very much like Nest. I like its approach, which it’s neatly boiled down to “reinvent unloved but important home products”.

I like Nest’s products: a smoke alarm that issues verbal warnings — children are more likely to wake up to a human voice than a beeping alarm, apparently — and glows softly as you pad underneath it at night. I also like its learning thermostat, which reacts to how and when you use your heating and allows you to start warming your home as you, say, make your way back from the airport.

It applies clever design and technology to forgotten appliances you use every day which is, if you think about, everything innovation in tech should be.

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Posted in: Newsdesk, Rant

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How to convert your handwriting into a font

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Template

Remember that feeling after the school summer holidays, when you’d sit down at your desk, pick up your pen and… nothing. Six weeks of kicking a football around the park meant your handwriting would regress to the level of a toddler with no thumbs, and it would take days to get the muscle memory back.

Well, if you’re anything like me, that’s now a permanent condition. I write lists with a pen, I address envelopes with a pen, I sign my name with a pen — for everything else, there’s Word. So when I stumbled across a site that turns handwriting into fonts I figured it was a no-brainer: a way to further reduce the amount of time I have to spend scrawling illegibly.

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