mercredi 31 décembre 2014

Windows Store attracts a third more active users in 2014

thumbs up

The Windows Store might still be a bit of a mess, and there aren’t anywhere near as many decent apps as those found in the Apple App Store and Google Play, but things are definitely improving.

Changes to the store in 2014 resulted in 30 percent more active users, and over 110 percent year-over-year increase in app downloads and gross sales. Microsoft says it has seen an 80 percent increase in registered developers and a 60 percent increase in app selection too, which is good news for the platform. The software giant has also revealed big plans are afoot for 2015.

Enhancements next year include expanded payment options in emerging markets with carrier billing, and more monetization options. According to Microsoft, in-app purchasing and in-app advertising currently account for 35 percent and 58 percent of Windows Store revenue respectively. The software giant plans to focus its attention on in-app advertising going forward, which is good news for developers, but less so for consumers.

Microsoft also intends to continue working to improve app discovery next year, which is something it was particularly poor at in the beginning (personally, I think splitting "New" from "Rising" would help tremendously here).

The next version of Microsoft’s operating system, Windows 10, will include a unified store for both Windows and Windows Phone apps, so making sure the Store is as efficient and as cleanly presented as possible will be essential.

Photo credit: Lighthunter /Shutterstock

Want to launch your own DDoS attacks? Just buy them from Lizard Squad

Lizard Squad start to sell DDoS attck service

You know what it's like. You have a niggling desire to launch a DDoS attack on a website but there are a couple of problems. You might not know how to do it, you might not want to run the risk of getting caught, or you might, you know, be too lazy to do it yourself. Never fear, Lizard Squad is on hand to help you out.

The hacker collective hit the headlines over the holidays after taking out the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. It then claimed to have had a (small) hand in the hack of Sony, but now the aim appears to be to monetize the whole venture. Lizard Squad has launched a service called LizardStresser that could be used to launch DDoS attacks.

Referred to as a "booter", LizardStresser is a service you can sign up for on a monthly or lifetime (five years really) basis. There are a number of packages available that can be used to "stress test" a particular server for anything from a couple of minutes to several hours at a time. As soon as one attack, er stress test, is over, more can be launched straight away at no extra cost, providing you are within the same billing cycle. With monthly fees ranging from just $2.99 up to $69.99, and lifetime subscriptions costing between $29.99 and $309.99, it's all very affordable stuff, ripe for abuse.

Of course, LizardStresser tool is not being directly marketed as a DDoS weapon. Take a look at the terms of service -- yes, even a DDoS tool has such a thing -- and you're told that:

Permission is granted to stress test dedicated servers and networks owned by you. This is the opportunity to make your firewalls better, not to misuse against the law.

Furthermore, the tool may not be used to "intentionally send a ddos flood to an IP address not owned by yourself". All clear? Jolly good.

LizardStresser was launched via Twitter to a flurry of interest:

The group was quick to boast about the power of the attacks that could be launched:

Lizard Squad has previously claimed that its aim is merely to highlight security issues, and the terms of services play up to this idea. But in reality it is hard to pretend that this is anything other than a DDoS for hire available to anyone willing to hand over the cash.

Photo credit: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

mardi 30 décembre 2014

Apple's 14-day returns on iTunes could kill devs and musicians

Apple offers refunds for apps and music bought through iTunes

From now on, if you buy an app, music track or book from iTunes and change your mind, you can get your money back in the first two weeks, no questions asked -- if you are in the EU, anyway. Distance selling laws mean that a 14-day cooling off period is in place, so it is possible to get a refund on anything bought through iTunes in this timeframe.

It doesn’t matter if you don't like an app or album, something doesn't work as it should, or you just need your money back after an impulse purchase, the cash will be returned to you without question. One the face of it, this is great news for consumers, but the outlook is potential less rosy for app developers, authors and musicians.

A consumer rights directive was passed in 2011, but only came into effect more recently. Apple has updated its terms and conditions in numerous European countries (including the UK), and the new policy includes a "right of cancellation" that reads: "If you choose to cancel your order, you may do so within 14 days from when you received your receipt without giving any reason, except iTunes Gifts which cannot be refunded once you have redeemed the code".

This is a marked change from the way things were dealt with previously; refunds were possible, but Apple would look at each request individually. The new policy effectively means that everything in Apple's digital stores can be bought on a trial basis -- great if you want to try out something new without the risk of being out of pocket, but it's a system that is open to abuse.

Fancy listening to an album? Hand over your cash and it can be yours in a matter of moments. When that final track comes to an end it might be a month until you want to listen to it again -- why not just get your money back and 'buy' it again if you do need another fix. You can basically rent content free of charge.

The same goes for apps and games. You might part with your cash to try out a particular title and then opt to get a refund. Game progress, apps settings and files can be stored in the cloud so the next time you buy it, you can pick up from where you left off.

It might seem cynical to point out the flaw, but it exists, and it will be used. Developers will suffer -- it's unavoidable. In the case of music, there would be nothing to stop you from simply retaining the tracks -- DRM be damned! It will make sales figures very difficult to keep track of, making charts all but meaningless. An app may have been downloaded so many thousands of times, but how many times has it been returned and re-downloaded?

But for developers and artists, it is the potential loss of revenue that's the serious issue here. Smaller developers in particular could really suffer. Most people might think nothing of spending a buck, Euro or quid on an app, discovering it does suit their needs and chalking it up to experience. The developer can learn from any feedback and make changes for future versions, using the income from the initial sales to fund work. But if there is the option of getting one's money back, well... why not? Artists' and developers' pockets will be hit, and development and output are at serious risk of stalling.

What's a win for consumers isn't necessarily a win overall.

Photo credit: Sam72 / Shutterstock

Social networks are simply not important in the workplace

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks are not important at work

Surveys often reveal facts that are largely common sense, and this is certainly true of a study by the Pew Research Center -- the findings being that is seen as "very important" to workers. Nearly half of the 1,066 people surveyed said internet, email and cell phones made them more productive, while just 7 percent said the opposite was true.

So far, so predictable. But the same study also reveals that just 4 percent of workers feel that social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are "very important". These are findings that Facebook would almost certainly disagree with, as would Twitter and LinkedIn, despite reports suggesting that Facebook is valuable to business users.

In most areas of work, employers discourage use of, and even block access to, social networks. It is, of course, not just a case of social networks being seen as poor additions to a worker's arsenal, but also that they serve as a distraction. The same could be said of email -- where there is always time for the occasional personal email throughout the day -- but in terms of importance to getting a job done, social networks rank very poorly.

Part of the reason behind this could be that 46 percent of those questioned said that their employer blocked access to certain websites, or has rules about what employees could post online. While 23 percent of employers encourage workers to promote their company online, the lack of value placed on social media suggests that this promotion is either not being done, or it happens through other channels.

The way social networks are perceived may change if Facebook's plans to launch a business-centric version of the social platform comes to fruition.

Photo credit: Rawpixel / Shutterstock

Windows Phone is stuck in the low-end market

smartphone help

At the end of 2014, the Windows Phone landscape is dominated by low-end smartphones. Of the ten most-popular devices that the platform has to offer, just two are high-end handsets -- however, neither is a current-day flagship. If it is not clear enough by now, Windows Phone is nothing more than a low-end affair, after more than four years down the road. Is that a bad thing?

Nokia Lumia 520 is the most-successful Windows Phone around, accounting for a whopping 25.4 percent of Windows Phones in use. Put differently, it is as popular as the following nine most-popular Windows Phones put together. Altogether, the top ten makes up 67.2 percent share in this market, according to information revealed by AdDuplex.

In the top ten, only Lumia 920, Lumia 710, Lumia 720 and Lumia 925 did not launch as low-end devices. However, none of them has been released within the last year and a half. (In fact, Lumia 710 -- which runs Windows Phone 7 -- arrived more than three years ago.)

The most-recent is Lumia 925, which Nokia introduced on the market in June 2013. Lumia 920 is more than two years old, having launched alongside Windows Phone 8 in late-2012. The leader of the pack, Lumia 520, was unveiled at MWC 2013 (held in February) -- it leads the pack in every market detailed by AdDuplex (in US, as Lumia 521).

When Microsoft revealed the Windows Phone Store Trends for December 2014, the company advised developers to target low-end smartphones, as low-memory devices (with 512 MB of RAM or less) are responsible for 71 percent of app downloads -- Lumia 520 alone accounts for more than 25 percent of all Windows Phone app downloads.

Needless to say, the ten most-popular Windows Phones are Nokias, which account for a whopping 95.51 percent of Windows Phones used today. The next most-popular vendor is HTC, followed by Samsung and Huawei. Other vendors are rising in popularity, but their share of the Windows Phone market is close to naught (0.21 percent, to be exact).

This explains the lack of interest a lot of vendors -- other than Nokia/Microsoft -- have in Windows Phone. When the market is singlehandedly dominated by a single brand, it is tough for newcomers to strive -- so most players naturally want to stay away from the platform. What company wants to fight for scraps, after all, especially in such as a small market, of around 10 million unit shipments per quarter?

Similarly, for platform vendors with low market share, competing against such a dominant leader -- which is now Microsoft, after it bought Nokia's Devices & Services phone-making business -- makes little sense, especially when they are better positioned on other platforms -- Samsung leads the pack on Android, and Huawei and HTC are also stronger there -- and not even Nokia has made any profit within the last year (possibly, even longer) of Lumia sales.

Now, let's take a look at the software side of things.

Undoubtedly helped by its availability through the Preview for Developers program, Windows Phone 8.1 has managed to rise to 57.9 percent share in the Windows Phone market, followed by Windows Phone 8 with 27.1 percent and Windows Phone 7 with 15 percent.

Windows Phone 8.1 should capture the 27.1 percent share currently held by Windows Phone 8 once all Windows Phone 8 devices are upgraded to the latest version of the tiled operating system. Once that happens, it will be easier for developers to develop apps for the platform.

However, it is surprising, to say the least, that there are still so many Windows Phones in the wild running Windows Phone 8, when virtually all smartphones running this version of the tiled OS should have the software update to Windows Phone 8.1 available by now.

Are Windows Phone 8 users not updating their smartphones on purpose, or is there something else going on? Either way, this is a problem that must be taken care of before Windows 10 comes along. (It can be more easily explained in US, however, as follows.)

In US, AdDuplex's data makes it clear that the lack of software updates to Windows Phone 8.1 is the reason why Windows Phone 8 still holds 47.5 percent share of the Windows Phone market, while Windows Phone 8.1 is only at 46.6 percent share. Devices like Lumia Icon and Lumia 928 are still awaiting the said software update, after all.

Photo Credit: kraphix/Shutterstock

Could Android apps save Windows Phone?

Android apps on Windows Phone

The mobile market is a four horse race... if we're being polite, that is. Really it's a battle between Apple's iOS and Google's Android. BlackBerry desperately neighs about its importance to the enterprise market, while Windows Phone stamps its hooves trying to gain attention as it's hauled off to the glue factory via the knacker's yard.

Microsoft's mobile OS may have gained ground in some parts of the world, but the reality is that it's struggling. Whenever we talk about Windows Phone it feels like the same topic comes up again and again, forcing us to re-tread old ground, bang the same drum. The app situation is dire; it's all but impossible to paint it any other way. But could opening up the ecosystem to Android apps save it from a slow and painful death?

While Windows Phone undoubtedly has its supporters, Microsoft has been flogging a dead horse for some time now. Having invested in the Lumia name, and currently working on bringing its desktop and mobile operating systems closer together, Microsoft clearly has no plans to pull the plug on Windows Phone any time soon. But something definitely needs to be done.

A recurring rumor that Microsoft might be considering adding Android app support to Windows Phone has resurfaced. This is something that may make many ears prick up with interest. The possibility that all of those apps that are currently missing from the Windows Phone Store could just be enough to make people give Windows Phone a second chance. So how likely is this? Could we see the like of Gmail on a Lumia handset (outside of a browser)?

Rumors like this are easy to dismiss as mindless ramblings or wishful thinking, but the rumor comes from a fairly reliable source -- Tom Warren from the Verge. Writing on Twitter he suggests that Android app support is indeed on the way to Windows Phone:

Interest was piqued among his followers. Questioned about his source, Warren -- usually very dependable when it comes to Microsoft news -- didn't give much away, but added: "I know they're still working on the technical implementation. They wouldn't be doing that for nothing".

Reference to Windows Phone while at the same time reviving the long-dead Windows Mobile moniker, oddly, raised fewer questions. A slip of the tongue or a reference to an as-yet unknown shift in direction for Microsoft's mobile vision? We already know that Satya Nadella's new view is focused on mobile first, cloud first, and that Windows 10 aims to blur the boundaries between mobile and desktop.

Microsoft is not going to throw away its efforts and just ditch Windows Phone, as much as many people think it should -- too much time and money has been invested in it. But there are clearly limits to how much effort can be put into convincing developers that the platform is viable and worth producing apps for. Adding support for Android -- just as BlackBerry did... although perhaps we shouldn't read too much into that! -- could be the Elastoplast Microsoft needs to keep the platform alive, bringing more of the apps people want to Lumia handsets to produce a larger user-base.

On one hand creating a user-base by providing access to Android apps will get Microsoft what it wants -- more users. But on the other, it may not be enough to encourage development specifically for Windows Phone (or Windows Mobile for that matter). Which is more important -- users using the apps they want, or native apps? Where there is already an app crossover, it is often the case that the Android version of an app is better, has more features, looks nicer. Would developers be even less likely to bother producing apps specifically for Windows Phone? Would it mater at the end of the day?

Are collaborations like this a good idea? Windows Phone has been on life support for some time now. Microsoft is unlikely to pull the plug and let its baby die, but it's clear that something needs to be done to prop it up until the operating system has a better sense of direction. Maybe then it will be a serious contender in the race.

Photo credit: Kirill__M / Shutterstock

Next Lock Screen: Microsoft's take on the Android lock screen

next lock screen

Next Lock Screen is an Android lock screen "built for busy professionals".

That sounds very familiar, but what’s a little more unusual is that Next is from Microsoft Garage, an "idea factory" where employees work on whatever "wild ideas" they like.

Lock screens aren’t exactly revolutionary, of course, and Next opens much like any other. Once running you’re able to see and scroll through your calendar, as well as viewing missed calls and text messages, Facebook Messenger/ WhatsApp/ WeChat notifications, and even the weather, without unlocking your phone.

In theory you can also just swipe to join a conference call, with the app automatically locating and entering your pin number/ meeting ID. But this only works if Next detects the invites, they contain a phone number and the pin number/ ID, and they’re from a supported service (GoToMeeting or Lync), so don’t expect too much: just try it and see.

Next’s Lock Screen has a Launcher area which you can populate with your preferred apps. These are presented in three location-based contexts: "At Home", "On the Go", "At Work". Once you’ve told Next you’re at home or work it remembers those locations and only displays related apps, a neat time-saving touch.

There’s also an option to customize Next Lock Screen with your own custom image. You’re able to have one picture displayed all the time (from local photos, images, or various cloud storage providers), or Next can display a separate image for its "At Home", "On the Go", or "At Work" modes.

This kind of app isn’t for everyone. Being able to launch apps and unlock your phone with a simple tap means it’s easy for this to happen by accident, for instance. And as there’s no extra security layer, no pin code or anything similar, a snooper could be browsing your phone without any hassle at all.

Next Lock Screen’s good looks and solid core functionality have earned it a 3.9 star rating at Google Play, though, and if you’ll use its location-based modes then it’s deserves a closer look.

lundi 29 décembre 2014

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 accolades are a bit rubbish


Considering the very rocky start Microsoft’s slate got off to after it launched in 2012 (middling reviews, a $900 million charge relating to Surface RT inventory adjustments when no one bought it, etc.), you can’t blame Microsoft for being a bit boastful now that it’s finally getting things right with Surface Pro 3.

So when Microsoft releases a video called 'Accolades -- Surface Pro 3' you’d expect it to be filled with, well, accolades for the Surface Pro 3. But instead of a video offering up quality trumpet blowing, we get the equivalent of someone tooting on a kazoo.

The video essentially shows the Surface Pro 3 from the front, then we get a glimpse of the kickstand in use, followed by someone drawing a circle with the pen, and after a little spin around the device, the video finishes with the user detaching the tablet from the type cover. Finally we get the tagline -- "The tablet that can replace your laptop" (not, interestingly, just a MacBook).

In-between all that we get quotes flashing up on screen. The 'accolades'. These consist of "…the most beautiful thing Microsoft has ever produced" (The Verge), which is a bit of an odd choice ("Microsoft has made something stylish for a change" is hardly the greatest selling point ever). This is followed by "Gadget of the year 2014" and "Computer of the year 2014" (both from Stuff) and "One of the best inventions of 2014" (Time).

It’s all a bit meh. The Stuff awards are fine, but using both and presenting them separately, is pretty rubbish.

Surface Pro 3 is a good product, and it deserves the many accolades it has received. But the selection pulled here seem like the work of an intern in a rush to get home for the holidays.

It bugged me, as you can tell (I'm easily bugged), so I've picked some genuine accolades that Microsoft could use next time.

"A super-lightweight cutting-edge mobile device" (ZDNet)

"A futuristic machine, a marvel of engineering" (The Verge)

"The Surface Pro 3 is an awesome device" (Forbes)

"Surface Pro 3 puts Microsoft ahead of the competition" (BetaNews).

No need to thank me Microsoft. I'd bill you for my time but it took less than a minute.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

My favorite tech products of 2014 [Wayne]


My colleague Alan Buckingham has already listed his favorite tech of the past year, and now it’s my turn. I’ve taken all sorts of new products for a spin over the past 12 months, so narrowing the selection down is actually pretty tricky. Apple disappointed me a little this year -- as the owner of an iPhone 5s I needed a big reason to upgrade to the iPhone 6, and a larger screen and Apple Pay wasn’t it. The iPhone 6 is an excellent phone, but I think I’ll hang on to the 5s for another year. Similarly, the iPad Air 2 just wasn’t different enough for me to consider that either. Thinner is a feature, not a benefit for me.

But fortunately, there was plenty of other new tech around that I did love, and here’s my top selection, in no particular order.


I finally got Google’s streaming device, and I’m a big fan. It’s great that you can cast YouTube and Chrome tabs to the big screen, but it’s the fact that you can do much more with it that really makes the dongle so worth owning. I use it to stream my own videos, and lots of other content including photos.

If you’ve just got one for Christmas, check out my guide here.

Samsung U28D590D UHD 4K 28-inch monitor

au_LU28D590DS-XY_001_Front_blackI’m a lover of multi-monitor setups, and the U28D590D is the centerpiece of a three screen strip that utterly dominates my desk. But Samsung’s UHD 4K monitor on its own is a fantastic piece of kit. It offers a native resolution of 3840×2160 pixels and has a very clean design. On the rear are two HDMI 1.4 sockets and a Display Port 1.2 input, and you really need to be using the latter to get the most from it. HDMI gives you 30fps, but Display Port doubles that. I wasn’t sold on the idea of 4K to be honest, but the U28D590D has definitely changed my mind.

Hub It

HUB_IT_many_devices_3I know I’ve banged on about this quite a lot over the past few months, but the Hub It sync and charging station is a great piece of kit. It sits on my desk and lets me charge everything I could possibly want to without giving it a second thought. Its modular nature -- you choose which connectors (in addition to USB) it offers -- means it’s highly customizable. If you have lots of gadgets that require different charging methods -- mini USB, micro USB, Lightning, Qi wireless charging -- it’s superb.

Gigaset QV830 8-inch Android tablet

Budget tablets have never appealed to me, purely because if you’ve got a decent tablet, the failings of the cheaper model will be amplified in comparison. But Gigaset’s 8-inch tablet is a decent offering, at a very affordable price (£69.99), and I find it useful as a backup device.

22094_cosmos90_full_left_web.jpegCelestron Cosmos 90GT Wi-Fi refractor telescope

I’ve always been fascinated with astronomy, but never owned a decent telescope -- until now. The Cosmos 90GT is a great beginners scope that ties in with the Cosmos TV show, but comes from a respected telescope manufacturer. If you’re a lazy would-be astronomer who wants to see the stars without having to spend hours hunting for them, then this is ideal. You hook it up to your tablet, configure it, then use the app to control everything. Locate a celestial body on the app, and tap it to send the telescope there.

The product comes with its own Wi-Fi, so you can connect to it, and control it, from anywhere.


Google Cardboard is a fun project that lets you turn your smartphone into a cheap virtual reality setup that can give you motion sickness and headaches, but which does just enough to get you excited about owning an Oculus Rift. I don’t use my cardboard creation very often, but I do enjoy dipping into the virtual worlds it makes possible.

woojerWoojer , a wearable subwoofer that lets you feel sound, is similarly something I don’t use much, but which I do get more use from than I perhaps would have expected to.

Finally, Jawbone UP24 deserves a mention. I’ve only had the wearable since Christmas (it was a present) but as someone who likes to track their activity, I’m really appreciating it so far. The sleep tracking is a little iffy -- I spent over an hour being unable to get back to sleep last night, and my lack of movement had the device declaring I was experiencing deep sleep at that point, although of course there’s no way for it to be able to tell the difference. Shortcomings aside, it’s a good little tracker.

What new tech (hardware or software) have you acquired that you love this year?

Photo Credit: iQoncept /Shutterstock

Samsung unveils a better Galaxy Note 4 -- faster download speeds in tow

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 N910 Black

Samsung has unveiled a new version of its Galaxy Note 4, featuring support for LTE Advanced Tri-Band Carrier Aggregation and Category 9 cellular networks. Dubbed Galaxy Note 4 LTE-A, it promises much faster download speeds over 4G LTE compared to the regular models, which the South Korean maker announced in early-September.

Galaxy Note 4 LTE-A is capable of offering download speeds of up to 450 Mbps. To put things into perspective, that is 50 percent faster than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805-equipped Galaxy Note 4 -- which is no slouch to begin with -- and a whopping 200 percent faster than the Exynos-powered model.

However, Galaxy Note 4 LTE-A will only be able to reach those kind of download speeds later in 2015, when 4G LTE Category 9 cellular networks are expected to be commercially available. That being said, the phablet does have another trick up its sleeve, which it will be able to use much sooner.

Because it features LTE-A Tri-Band Carrier Aggregation, Galaxy Note 4 LTE-A can connect to three cellular network bands at the same time, and, as the name of the technology implies, aggregate them into one, juiced-up connection.

Compared to the Snapdragon 805-powered Galaxy Note 4 -- which can only connect to up to two bands simultaneously -- the new model is better equipped to maximize the transfer speeds offered by today's fastest 4G LTE cellular networks, which enable download speeds of up to 300 Mbps.

One thing that Samsung is not clear on is which processor powers the new Galaxy Note 4 LTE-A. Is it still Snapdragon 805, or has Qualcomm supplied its newer Snapdragon 810? Given Samsung's track record, I'm inclined to believe it is the latter.

There is no official word yet regarding where Galaxy Note 4 LTE-A will be available, and how much it will cost when it goes on sale.

Book wakeup calls from strangers with Wakie


There are a vast number of alarm clock apps available for every platform, most of which are tired variations on the same thing: choose a skin, set a wakeup sound/ method, and that’s about it.

Wakie is an iOS and Android alarm clock app with a difference. Forget custom audio files or complicated snooze functions, instead you’re called by another Wakie user, who chats, sings songs, ask you questions, or otherwise gets your day off to a much more interesting start.

If this idea makes you a little uncomfortable, then you’re not alone, but the app does include some important safeguards.

The calls are routed through Wakie, so the caller never gets to see your phone number or find out who you are.

Calls are automatically cut off after 60 seconds, too. There’s no time for your chat to get awkward, and even if it did, you can just hang up.

The developer also says the app "learns" who you like to connect with, so presumably will try to match you with your preferred gender/ age range, most of the time.

Alternatively, if you don’t need to receive a call, you can volunteer to make one yourself. Just click “Wake Someone Up” and you’ll be sent push notifications whenever someone needs a call. (You’ll need an internet connection to wake someone up, although not to be woken, as you’ll receive a regular phone call.)

There are some restrictions and issues. In particular, Wakie only works in a few countries at the moment: the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Hong Kong and Singapore. More English language countries are due to be added soon, with further expansion to follow.

As the system relies on other people calling you, your alarm time won’t be as precise as with automated apps. The official FAQ says they could be out by plus or minus five minutes.

But the good news is that, if there’s no-one around to make your call, Wakie does have an automated system which steps in, makes the connection and plays you a pre-recorded message.

There’s no telling quite what sort of call you’re going to get with Wakie, and that’s probably the point. If you want complete safety then stick to your phone’s built-in alarm app; but if you’re happy to gamble with a random caller -- who, even if they turn out to be an idiot, will still at least wake you up -- then this is certainly a more interesting and personal way to start your day.

dimanche 28 décembre 2014

Access to Gmail is blocked in China

Access to Gmail is blocked in China

China is one of the more 'interesting' counties when it comes to its attitude to allowing unfettered access to the internet. The Great Firewall of China is famed for the restrictions it places on the online activities of Chinese citizens. New data seems to suggest that Google's Gmail is currently blocked in the country.

Dyn Research, a web traffic research company, reports that Gmail traffic is being blocked at the IP level rendering Google's email service inaccessible within most of China. The disruption appears to have started late on Christmas day and is still on-going.

You can see the drop in traffic for yourself thanks to Google's Transparency Report. The interactive graph shows that there was a sharp drop in Gmail traffic as Christmas day drew to a close. There is a bit of fluctuation for a while, but then there is a prolonged period of flat-lining. There's no sign of things improving.

Speaking to Mashable, Dyn Research's vice-president of data analytics Earl Zmijewski said that "China has a number of ways they can block content. One of the crudest ways is to just block an IP address, and when you do that, you block all the content available at the IP".

A tweet from the company confirmed its findings of an IP level block on Gmail when the site is served from Hong Kong:

Hong Kong is significant as Zmijewski explains that a lot of Chinese Gmail traffic is routed through IP addresses in the region.

China has a history of censoring and blocking web access. News agencies and other online services find that they have a constant game of cat and mouse if they are to evade the firewall or censors. Google has not yet indicted whether it will take any steps to get Gmail up and running in China.

Photo credit: ArtisticPhoto / Shutterstock