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February, 2014

Hour of Code: five steps to learn how to code

Friday, February 28th, 2014

ClassroomNext week sees the Hour of Code concept arrive in British schools. Imported from across the Atlantic, the Hour of Code aims to show children “how fun coding is in just one hour”, so that Britain has a future generation capable of programming more than the timer on a microwave oven.

Whilst the ukcode.org website claims that more than a million students in the UK have already tried the Hour of Code, some (perhaps, most) schools will inevitably be unprepared, so here’s how parents, teachers or indeed anyone can get started in programming.

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Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review: first look

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

When Sony unleashed the first Tablet Z back at MWC 2013, it was the thinnest, lightest tablet around; now it’s the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet’s turn to take over. Sony’s new top-end Android tablet is lighter and slimmer than the original, and by a noticeable margin.

In fact, at 426g, the Wi-Fi version of the Z2 weighs a full 69g less than the Z, and itmeasures 0.5mm thinner, at 6.8mm from front to rear. Quite how Sony’s engineers have managed it, we’re not sure.

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Sony Xperia Z2 review: first look

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Sony Xperia Z2Sony has carved out a niche for itself over the past couple of years with its waterproof range of smartphones; its latest flagship, the Sony Xperia Z2, builds on that position of strength. Like the Samsung Galaxy S5, however, it doesn’t deliver anything particularly radical, with Sony preferring to make smaller, evolutionary changes over its predecessor, the Xperia Z1.

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Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 review: first look

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Samsung Gear 2

Samsung’s assault on wearable technology has continued at this year’s MWC conference in Barcelona, with the launch of three new wrist-bound devices.

The Samsung Gear 2 – the successor to the Samsung Galaxy Gear – is the most fully featured of the bunch, benefitting from a new design, along with a completely revamped software platform. The Gear 2 no longer sports Android, but Tizen – an open-source, HTML 5-based operating system designed specifically for wearable devices.

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Nokia XL review: first look

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Nokia XL

The Nokia X made all the headlines in the build-up to MWC, but it’s the largest of the company’s three new smartphones – the Nokia XL – that makes the most sense.

It runs the same mangled version of Android as the Nokia X, and features the same limited 4GB of storage expandable via the microSD slot, but for only €16 more, you get a bigger 5in screen and 256MB more RAM (at 768MB).

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Samsung Galaxy S5 review: first look

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung has launched its latest Galaxy S5 smartphone at the Barcelona MWC trade show, boasting a smart new design and a number of new features. Surprisingly, the firm has chosen not to boost the screen resolution of the phone, sticking with 1,080 x 1,920, and has only slightly increased the size of the display, from 5in to 5.1in.

Instead, Samsung is pinning its hopes on going “back to basics” with the new handset. “We’ve decided to … focus on the features and things that matter the most to our customers – namely the camera, ability to view and download data and content quickly, and their health and wellbeing,” said Simon Stanford, of Samsung UK.

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Nokia X review: first look

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Nokia X

The Nokia X – alongside its siblings the X+ and XL – is perhaps the oddest product the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer has released in recent times. It’s Nokia’s very first Android handset, yet it arrives only a few months after the announcement that Microsoft had bought the company.

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Censorship by copyright: Myles Powers and abuse of DMCA takedowns

Monday, February 17th, 2014

mylespower

One of the problems inherent in any form of censorship — even censorship that’s valid in the first place — is function creep.

Come up with a clever way to block illegal images of child sexual abuse, and someone will want to use it to block piracy websites, and so on. Force ISPs to install parental-control filters, and soon the infrastructure is being used to block extremist videos and other “harmful content”. And so on. It’s all well-intentioned, but censorship with good intentions can still go wrong.

Here’s one such example. The wonderfully named Myles Power is a science blogger from Middlesbrough. His website features oodles of educational YouTube videos, from how to extract DNA from strawberries to making a basic jet engine at home.

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Turn an old smartphone into an in-car entertainment system

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Dashboard satnav

We’ve all got an old smartphone that’s keeping a box of matches and the instruction manual for the washing machine company in a kitchen drawer. Why not put the thing to good use and turn it into an in-car satnav and entertainment system?

You can use pretty much any last-generation smartphone for this project, either Android or iPhone, although there are a couple of specialist pieces of equipment you’ll need for the perfect set-up.

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Apple’s OSes set to surpass Windows

Friday, February 14th, 2014

If anyone doubts how substantially Apple and the mobile revolution (or whatever you want to call it) have changed technology, here’s a chart for you, nicked from analyst Benedict Evans:

BenedictChart

This shows sales of all Apple iOS and OS X devices — iPads, iPods, iPhones and Macs — versus sales of PCs running Windows (the orange line), and versus Windows PCs and Windows Phone handsets combined (the blue line).

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