jeudi 31 octobre 2013

Android 4.4 alert! Google takes the wrapper off KitKat

Android 4.4 alert! Google takes the wrapper off KitKat

Just in time for Hallowe'en, Google takes us all out of our misery and officially launches Android 4.4 -- or KitKat as it is rather sweetly known. As with the Nexus 5, we have known pretty much what to expect from KitKat for a little while now. Google's blog post heralding the arrival of the latest version of the OS is a little understated and doesn't give much away.

One thing is particularly interesting. Rather than blowing its own trumpet and boasting about rafts of new features -- although this will probably follow -- Google has chosen to highlight the fact that Android 4.4 can run comfortably on devices with as little as 512MB RAM. The blog post points out that it is not just the operating system that has been put on a diet (ironic when you consider the origins of the name) but all Google services such as YouTube and Chrome.

We'll have a full look at KitKat as soon as we can, but for now we can look forward to the immersive mode that removes distractions when watching a movie, a global contact search feature and a new launcher for Nexus 5. KitKat also features an updated version of Hangouts which includes support for SMS and MMS in addition to chat and video calling.

KitKat will come preloaded on the new Nexus 5, but will also be made available for Nexus 4, 7, 10, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One Google Play edition devices over the coming weeks. Notable by its absence from this list is the Galaxy Nexus -- it looks as though this device is entering its twilight years.

But for everyone with a compatible smartphone or tablet, expect to receive an OTA update in the near future. Unlike the Nexus 5, there's going to be no shortage of KitKat to go around.

via BetaNews

Google officially announces the Nexus 5 -- launch date: now!

Google officially announced the Nexus 5 -- launch date: now!

Ending months of rumors and speculation, Google puts all of our minds at rest and announces that the Nexus 5 not only exists (as if we didn’t already know following all of the leaked images!) but is launching now.

It does seem like an age since we first (apparently) caught a glimpse of this phone in a Nexus 7 video, but now we know it to be true. The Nexus 5 is here, and it looks like it's everything we could have hoped it would be.

So many leaks have sprung over the past few weeks that there is little we don’t already know about Google's latest phone. As the name suggests, this is a device sporting a 5 inch screen (well 4.95 inches, but it's as near as damn it) in-keeping with the naming convention used for the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.

As expected, there are 16 and 32GB versions, and they'll be priced from $349 and available to buy in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and Korea. The smartphone will be sold through Google Play, Sprint, T-Mobile, Amazon, Best Buy and RadioShack. Black and white models are available, but here are those all-important specs in full -- this time fully confirmed!

  • 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor

  • Adreno 330, 450 MHz GPU

  • 5 inch full HD screen complete with Gorilla Glass 3

  • Android 4.4 KitKat

  • 1.3MP front camera

  • 8MP rear camera

  • 2,300 mAH battery with up to 17 hour talk time

  • Weighs in at 130 or 4.59oz

You can find out more at Google Play -- hit the link to view the new Nexus 5.

via BetaNews

Fantastical 2 for iPhone gets bold iOS 7 redesign, many new features

Flexibits has released Fantastical 2 for iPhone, a major new update for its popular calendar app (which, despite its moniker, also works natively on the iPad). Fantastical 2, which is also available for Mac, is designed to work with existing calendar services -- including iCloud and Google -- but adds a more powerful front end for managing and viewing reminders.

Version 2.0 has been redesigned from the ground up to blend in with the new flatter look of iOS 7, but also ships with a number of major new features.

The Reminders tool has been revamped to allow users to view both events and dated reminders together in a single list. It also now supports adding reminders directly from either the main Reminders list or new event screen.

Reminders also now supports dates, times and geofences, which allows users to trigger alerts when they arrive at or leave a particular location.

Fantastical uses a natural language parser to help users more easily create new appointments, supporting both voice dictation and typed text. Version 2 introduces an extended keyboard with numbers and symbols on 4-inch screens for easier data entry.

Version 2 also adds support for new commands, such as trigger words for creating reminders (including "reminder", "todo", "task" or "remind me to"), recurring events ("second Friday of every month", "every weekend" and "last weekday of the month") and alerts ("alert 1 hour before" and "alarm 7AM").

Fantastical 2 also adds new event details for recording extra information such as a map of the event location and wider options for setting up recurring events. Similarly, users can now tap on a birthday for contact information or to send a quick greeting.

The new version also adds a weekly view, accessible simply by rotating your iOS device to landscape orientation, plus includes a new background app updater that pushes events, reminders and alerts to Fantastical from cloud-based services even if it’s not opened frequently. Support for TextExpander has also been implemented.

Fantastical 2 for iPhone (and iPad) is available as a paid-for purchase through the App Store. For a limited time only, it’s on special offer at $2.99. Mac users can also download a 14-day trial of Fantastical 1.3.10 – the full version costs $14.99.

via BetaNews

You are dead! Papa Sangre II arrives in time to scare up Halloween [Review]

I like unusual games, and the original Papa Sangre really appealed to me. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s essentially a sound-only game for iOS in which you listen for 3D audio clues as to where you are and the direction you need to be going in. The follow up, The Nightjar (featuring the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch), added more of a story to the proceedings, and now in time for Halloween, Papa Sangre returns.

I was one of the beta testers for the new game, and I’m pleased to report Papa Sangre II is a massive improvement over the original. The rebuilt binaural processing Papa Engine does an amazing job of recreating a 3D soundscape in your mind and the addition of actor Sean Bean’s vocal talents, a choice of control systems and some inspired levels -- one moment you’re escaping a burning house, the next shooting ducks in the dark -- combine to create a very rewarding experience.

In Papa Sangre II you are dead. There’s no way to sugar coat it. But by following Sean Bean’s instructions, and collecting memory fragments from dead souls, you might be able to find a way back to the World of the Living.

The improved control systems -- you can choose Gyro (point in the direction you want to go), Swipe (drag your finger on screen to change direction) or Tilt (angle the device where you want to face) -- mean you can play it anywhere. I prefer to use the Gyro mode while seated in a swivel chair in the dark (or with my eyes closed), as I find it’s so much easier to follow the sounds. With the original Papa Sangre it could be difficult sometimes to work out if a sound was in front, or behind. There’s no such confusion in the sequel -- you know exactly where the sounds are coming from (provided you have your headphones on the right way round).

You walk or run by tapping the bottom half of the screen (left, right, left, right) and interact with items or your surroundings using the hand icons at the top of the screen. It’s very intuitive and you don’t need to see the screen to use it.

The biggest complaint I had with first game was the lack of variety in levels. That’s definitely not an accusation that can be leveled at Papa Sangre II. As well as trying to escape a burning building, or shooting incoming ducks, other challenges have you rescuing a dog from an ice field, using a Geiger counter to avoid radioactive steam blasts, making your way through a thunderstorm, and swimming under water (not all at once, thankfully).

The game is very challenging at times, and it can be frustrating repeating levels that you can’t seem to master, but that just makes it all the more rewarding when you finally make it through.

The fact the game takes place in your mind, means it’s surprisingly scary at times. Inching forward trying not to make a sound while something is growling by your shoulder really does get the blood pumping.

Obviously this is not a game for everyone, but if you fancy trying something different and giving your imagination a workout, I can definitely recommend it. Papa Sangre II is available in the Apple App Store now, priced at $3.99/£2.49.

via BetaNews

Technology companies shouldn't neglect the importance of silver surfers

Silver surfers are a more important market than generations X and Y yet are often ignored by technology companies according to new research by Gartner. With many markets now having an aging population, technology designers and marketers need to refocus on the opportunities offered by older users.

Speaking at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo on Australia's Gold Coast, vice president and Gartner Fellow David Furlonger says, "In recent years, technology decision makers have focused their work largely on the perceived wants and needs of younger demographics. They have created and sold products targeted explicitly at an already-saturated market of financially poor 'digital natives' in Generations X and Y. This emphasis on the young is unsurprising, since many technologists are themselves part of these younger age groups. However, it is a very serious mistake, because it neglects the most promising technology market demographic of all: the affluent, increasingly technologically sophisticated older generation we are calling the 'silver surfers'".

Research elsewhere by Australian mobile company Optus shows that the older generation is increasingly active on social media with more than three quarters of silver surfers in the country using Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family.

Technology is able to improve quality of life for the older generation too and research by Gartner and others shows that individuals in in this age group are quick to recognize the potential it has to change their lives. This represents an opportunity for companies to design and sell devices specifically for the needs of this market, a step that most have not yet taken.

"The consumerization of technology has made it far more accessible, especially in terms of usability, to people who may find PCs more difficult to manage," says Furlonger. "However, technology designers and manufacturers have largely ignored this huge and growing market, and by doing so, have neglected one of their most important sources of future growth and revenue. The younger market has only linear growth potential and decreasing purchasing power, while the silver surfers offer exponential growth opportunities and growing purchasing potential".

A number of factors are driving technology adoption by older groups, these include increased availability of broadband and Wi-Fi connections, along with social networks and targeted forums. All of this helps meet the need for social interaction as increasing numbers of older people find themselves living apart from their families in a way unknown to past generations.

Gartner says that designers can help by delivering clean, simple, uncluttered user interfaces, without confusing fonts, colors or special effects. Straightforward navigation and simple checkout processes are crucial for older customers too.

Companies also need to recognize that silver surfers select and buy technology in a different way. Trust and reputation are important as are recommendations from family and friends. Perceived value -- the contribution technology can make to a person's life rather than just the price -- is important too.

"The silver surfer demographic is huge and growing, and clearly has both the ability and the desire to spend significant amounts of money on technology," says Furlonger. "However, to date, most technologists and technology manufacturers have failed to deliver products and services that meet the needs of this market and its various sub- or microsegments, and marketers have largely failed to target it effectively. To do so will require fundamental changes in their approach to product and service design, marketing and sales".

The full report is available on Gartner's website and you can see a video of Furlonger introducing the research on YouTube.

Photo Credit: arek_malang/Shutterstock

via BetaNews

WinZip extends cloud support, introduces Express Add-Ons

22 years old and still going strong, veteran archiving tool WinZip has today been updated to version 18. And this time, it’s mostly about the cloud.

This starts with support for more services; you can now directly add files from (or save archives to) your Box, CloudMe, Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, SugarSync or ZipSend accounts.

There’s easier navigation of your online services, too, with Corel claiming you can "access and manage your cloud files as easily as you access the files on your computer".

A new Cloud Links feature makes it easy to share links to your cloud files via email, instant messaging and social media. And WinZip Pro gains new options to back up to any connected cloud account, desktop folder, or even between cloud accounts.

The other big news in this release is the introduction of "WinZip Express Add-Ons", application extensions which bring common WinZip features to Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, Photos and SharePoint. Once installed, right-clicking a file in Explorer, say, opens a WinZip dialog with basic archive, encryption and sharing tools, while the Outlook add-on helps you send large files.

The Explorer add-on is free for a limited time with the purchase of WinZip 18, while the others are currently $9.95 each (click Buy Now > Get More Add-ons within the program for more information).

And if you’re more interested in the archiving basics, Corel also says WinZip 18′s core engine has been optimized to cut file sizes even further. Which works for us. A trial edition is available now.

via BetaNews

mercredi 30 octobre 2013

The numbers increase: 38 million user accounts affected by Adobe hack

Back at the start of the month, Adobe reported that the company’s network had suffered a breach and that as a result the accounts of 2.9 million customers had been compromised. Sounds bad? It's worse than first thought. And not just a bit worse; much, much worse. Upon further analysis of the figures Brian Krebs of KrebsOnSecurity puts the numbers at 38 million user accounts.

We reported the security breach at the time, and it is amazing to discover that the figure of 2.9 million affected users is in fact more than ten times as high. So how could the figures have been misread to such an extent? Apparently, many of the directories of data were password protected, making it difficult to give precise numbers at the time.

In fact it was not just user accounts that were compromised. Source code for a number of Adobe applications -- including Acrobat, Reader and Photoshop -- was also obtained. As recently as this weekend, an unencrypted file seemingly containing data obtained from Adobe appeared on; an encrypted version of the file had previously been made available but security firms were unable to crack the password.

A spokeswoman for Adobe, Heather Edell said that the investigation is ongoing and that the attackers gained access to "many invalid Adobe IDs, inactive Adobe IDs, Adobe IDs with invalid encrypted passwords and test account data". She went on to say: "Our investigation is still ongoing. We anticipate the full investigation will take some time to complete".

Have you been contacted by Adobe to let you know that yours is one of the affected accounts? Share your experiences in the comments.

Photo Credit: David Evison/Shutterstock

via BetaNews

IObit Advanced SystemCare 7 now available

IObit has announced the release of Advanced SystemCare 7, its flagship PC maintenance suite. The package now integrates IObit’s Driver Booster, which locates and reports on missing driver updates.

The Program Deactivator aims to free up system resources by disabling startup entries and scheduled tasks for programs you’re not using, and a ManageMyMobile feature helps you "manage, clean, optimize and back up your Android device", or so IObit claims. In reality it just allows you to remotely install the company’s Advanced Mobile Care Android app, so doesn’t add much to the suite, although it may be helpful if you didn’t know the app existed.

Most of the existing modules have seen some enhancements. The Cloned File Scanner can now remove duplicates with a click. Privacy Sweep offers more control, including the ability to clear only browser history more than a week old. The program is better at clearing malware, includes various bug fixes, and there’s full support for Windows 8.1 and Internet Explorer 11.

All this is presented in what IObit describes as a Metro-style interface, which has apparently been optimized for "easier and smoother use". It doesn’t seem particularly Metro/ Modern UI-like to us, but that’s not really a problem: it’s simple to find and access the tools you need, and that’s what really matters.

As with previous editions, most of IObit Advanced SystemCare 7′s functionality is available in the free edition. The commercial PRO build does have some extras, though -- a Registry cleaner, Disk cleaner, memory optimization tool, browser tweaker and more -- and can be yours for only $12.95 from the Downloadcrew Software Store.

via BetaNews

Enterprise storage gets serious with Ceph's scalable software solution

Unless you're heavily into the world of data storage you probably haven't heard of Ceph. It's an open-source distributed storage system for Linux platforms designed to deliver performance, reliability via a software defined system that's also very scalable. It's self-managing and self-healing and can be accessed via big data tools like Hadoop and Samba.

Now that you know what it is you'll be interested to learn that Inktank, the company behind Ceph, has launched Inktank Ceph Enterprise. This is a subscription product that builds on Ceph's open-source roots to provide the most stable version of the product with a new graphical management console and a suite of support services.

"Inktank Ceph Enterprise is an important development that should help enterprise customers evolve their Ceph deployments, be they public, private or hybrid cloud environments," says Simon Robinson, Research Vice President at analyst firm 451 Research. "Having the backing of Ceph experts behind their Ceph deployments should help customers as they look to improve business continuity service levels, drive greater agility and improve operational efficiency across their cloud estate".

It can be used in cloud deployments or as a replacement for traditional storage solutions. Offering web-scale technology with long-term support available from a commercial vendor, it allows businesses to benefit from the economics of modern data storage. By using commodity hardware it can lead to significant cost savings compared to legacy systems.

Inktank Ceph Enterprise is supported on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.3, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.4, CentOS 6.3, CentOS 6.4, and Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Its pricing model is based on the amount of storage deployed.

"The launch of Inktank Ceph Enterprise makes Ceph a viable, sustainable storage platform within the enterprise", says Bryan Bogensberger, CEO of Inktank. "Inktank customers now have the tools, code and peace of mind required to get serious about replacing expensive, proprietary legacy storage hardware and satisfying their emerging cloud and big data storage needs with the transformative Ceph distributed storage system".

Photo Credit: kubais/Shutterstock

via BetaNews

Google donates 17,000 Nexus 7s to Hurricane Sandy communities

Google donates 17,000 Nexus 7s to Hurricane Sandy communities

It may be a year since Sandy struck, but the effects of the storms are still being felt. To mark the anniversary, Google is donating 17,000 Nexus 7 tablets to communities still feeling the impact of the hurricane. The devices, worth a total of $2.7 million, have been donated to community centers, libraries and other centers in the affected areas in New York.

The tablets were donated to the non-for-profit service the New York State Community Action Association who worked with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to store and distribute the devices. The Nexus 7s will be used in a number of ways including being loaned out as e-readers in areas where libraries are yet to re-open.

Small businesses and libraries will be able to use the tablets in training, while community centers can use them to help with communication and to help improve technology skills.

Susan Molinari, Vice President for Government Relations at Google said:

We believe that technology can and does play a compelling role in rebuilding communities to make them more resilient and stronger. Increasingly, more and more people are using technology and the Internet to educate themselves or provide for their families. Our hope is that these tablets will be a resource to do just that.

The website of New York Governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, includes a spreadsheet that lists all of the locations where tablets can be found.

via BetaNews

Tidy up the Windows 8.1 Apps screen by removing unwanted shortcuts

When you install an app or desktop program in Windows 8.1 it gets added to the Apps screen. From here you can add it to the Start screen by right-clicking to summon the Customize menu, and then selecting "Pin to Start". You can also "Pin to Taskbar" if you want regular quick access to it while working in the desktop.

The Apps screen, which you can set as your default view, can be ordered by Name, Date Installed, Most Used, or Category -- to make it easier to find the apps and desktop programs you want. You can also have desktop programs show up first when the Apps screen is sorted by Category. To do this, right-click the taskbar and select Properties. Click the Navigation tab and tick “List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it’s sorted by category”.

So far, so good. What you will find, however, is the Apps screen will start to get cluttered with shortcuts you have no interest in. Links to documentation or web pages, for example, readme files, licenses, options to check for updated versions and so on. If you install a lot of software, these can quickly fill up the Apps screen.

Removing unwanted shortcuts is very easy. Just right-click one and select "Open file location". File Explorer will launch with that shortcut selected. Tap delete to send it to the recycle bin. When you go back to the Apps screen the shortcut will have vanished.

Naturally, you should only remove shortcuts this way. If you want to remove an app or desktop program, right-click it and select the Uninstall option.

via BetaNews

mardi 29 octobre 2013

Microsoft security report warns of risks from unsupported operating systems

Microsoft has released its latest Security Intelligence Report detailing the threat intelligence gathered from more than a billion systems worldwide.

With Windows XP support due to end in April 2014 the report takes a close look at the risks posed to consumers and businesses of using unsupported operating systems. According to StatCounter, XP and older systems still account for around 21 percent of those in use.

The main threats facing XP users are the Sality malware family which can steal personal data and lower system security settings, the Ramnit family that infects executable, MS Office and HTML files, and variants of the Vobfus worm which can download other malware onto a PC and spread itself via removable drives.

The report finds that in the first half of 2013 almost 17 percent of computers running up to date Microsoft security products encountered malware. Although encounter levels were similar for both operating systems, XP machines were six times more likely to be infected than those running Windows 8.

"The data help illustrate the positive impact that security innovations in newer operating systems are having. Modern operating systems such as Windows 8 include advanced security technologies that are specifically designed to make it harder, more complex, more expensive and, therefore, less appealing for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities," says Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing.

Obviously Microsoft has an interest in persuading XP users to upgrade but there are some compelling statistics. Microsoft warns that in the two years following XP SP2 going out of support malware infections jumped by 66 percent compared with those for SP3.

Rains adds, "We truly want people to understand the risks of running Windows XP after support ends and to recognize the security benefits of upgrading to a more modern operating system -- one that includes the latest in security innovations, provides ongoing support and can in turn better protect them".

You can see an overview of the findings in the slideshow below:

via BetaNews

Samsung smartphones capture record market share, leave iPhones behind

According to new quarterly reports from IDC and Strategy Analytics, Samsung has increased its lead on the smartphone market in Q3 2013. The South Korean maker's shipments were higher than those of the next four-largest vendors, combined, according to the IDC data.

Samsung's smartphone shipments surpassed 80 million units (IDC -- 81.2 million; SA --88.4 million), leading to a market share above 30 percent (IDC -- 31.4 percent; SA -- 35.2 percent). Once again, the two research firms, both of which count shipments, provide different data sets for both shipments and market share. However, both reports say that in Q3 2013 smartphone shipments reached record levels (IDC -- 258.4 million; SA -- 251.4 million).

Meanwhile, main rival Apple shipped 33.8 million iPhones (a figure which the company makes publicly available) which represents a 25.7 percent increase from the 26.9 million units in Q3 2012. Its market share, however, dropped. IDC shows a decrease to 13.1 percent from 14.4 percent while SA reveals a drop to 13.4 percent from 15.6 percent, in the said time-frames.

"Beyond Samsung and Apple at the top of the rankings is a tight race of vendors trying to break out from the pack", says IDC research manager Ramon Llamas. "In 3Q13, Chinese vendors Huawei and Lenovo moved past LG, and not far behind are two more Chinese companies, Coolpad and ZTE. Any of these vendors could change position again next quarter. But in addition to having close shipment volumes, they all have one key ingredient in common: Android. This has been a huge factor in their success, but it also speaks to the challenges of differentiation on the world's most popular platform".

By contrast, SA's report places LG above Lenovo in the top five-largest smartphone vendors list.

Even though Samsung has a number of popular smartphones on the market, like the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S3, IDC says that the growth of the South Korean maker comes from its "long line of mass-market" devices "that helped fuel volumes to reach a new record level". SA adds that demand for the Galaxy S4 "softened", which represents an opposite trend compared to the Galaxy Note 3.

According to IDC, Apple's higher market share stems from the launch of the new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, and the decreasing demand in older models. That said, the research firm points out that the effectiveness of the fingerprint sensor and high pricing of the iPhone 5c did not go hand in hand with consumers, leading to "mixed reactions". SA is confident that the company's market share will bounch back in Q4 2013, following demand of the iPhone 5s.

It is worth noting that LG has dropped to third place in both reports, while neither HTC nor Sony have managed to make it into the top five even though both companies launched new flagships -- One and Xperia Z1, respectively -- that were well received. Both Huawei and Lenovo shipped a significant number of smartphones in the Asia/Pacific region, where other makers are still struggling to be successful.

Photo Credit: maraga/Shutterstock

via BetaNews