lundi 31 mars 2014

LaCie Fuel expands iPad capacity by 2TB

Whatever size tablet you opt for, there’s a good chance you’ll fill the available space in no time at all. Apps, photos, and HD movies all consume a sizable amount of space, forcing you to manage your storage wisely.

If you own an iPhone or iPad you can boost your device’s available capacity with an LaCie Fuel 2.5 inch wireless drive. The LaCie Fuel offers wireless streaming to up to five devices without an internet connection, and Airplay compatibility for mirroring content on a larger screen. It can also create its own Wi-Fi network and act as a hotspot when connected to the internet via Wi-Fi.

Of course it's the size of the drive that really matters, and Seagate Technology has announced it is set to double the available maximum capacity from 1TB to 2TB, providing users with more than enough space to store over 1,000 HD movies.

The 2TB LaCie Fuel can be preordered through LaCie for $249.99 (USA only) and will be available globally in April.

Make sense of 'unknown devices' with Hardware Identify

Utilities developer has announced the availability of Hardware Identify, a tool which attempts to list the various devices on your PC -- even if Device Manager (or other system information tools) currently show them as "unknown".

Download, unzip and launch the program, and within a few seconds it displays a table listing all your hardware. Details include the device name, manufacturer, error code (if there’s currently a problem), class (USB, System, Port, Mouse and so on), driver version and hardware IDs. Clicking any column header sorts the list by that field.

The table can be filtered in various ways. For example, click in the list box at the bottom left of the window, select "List hardware with no drivers installed" and click "Show Hardware" to see those devices.

If you still can’t figure out what a particular device is, right-clicking it and selecting "Lookup Selected Device in Database" might help.

And there’s also a right-click option to search Google for drivers, using either the device name or hardware ID (the cryptic USB\VID_8087&PID_8008&REV_0005|USB\VID_8087&PID_8008 – type string).

As usual with this kind of tool, you shouldn’t expect too much. We tried to "lookup selected drive in database" and were regularly pointed at three, four, maybe five devices, with no clue which was the right one.

There were also some small but irritating bugs (the program allows you to spend an age resizing each table column, but then restores the defaults if you resize the Hardware Identify window).

The program is only at version 1.0, though, and with an automated mechanism in place for users to "improve the database", Hardware Identify should only get better from here.

Backupify expands cloud support

Moving data to the cloud and running software as a service can make businesses complacent about backup as they feel their data is already safe with their provider.

However, a recent report by Forrester warns that organizations relying on cloud services may be at risk, "SaaS is an increasingly popular method of deploying new services, but many organizations don't realize that they could be at risk of losing critical data. Many SaaS providers will not restore lost data for users or will only do so for an exorbitant fee".

Leading backup provider Backupify already supports Google Apps,, PipelineDeals, and Smartsheet. It's using World Backup Day to announce that in 2014 it's set to add 13 other cloud services to its platform by the year end. Slated for release this year are cloud-to-cloud backup solutions for Box, Dropbox, Netsuite, GitHub, Zendesk, Concur, ServiceNow, JIRA, Workday, Asana, Egnyte, Office 365 and Basecamp.

The company also has a set of open APIs allowing developers to create backups for other cloud applications quickly and easily.

"We know companies are rapidly moving to the cloud and migrating critical company information into cloud applications," says Rob May, CEO of Backupify. "With that exponential growth, customers are increasingly thinking less in terms of any one single application -- they want a 'single pane of glass' in order to more efficiently and effectively protect all their data across a growing number of different applications. We’re responding to our customer’s needs by taking a more integrated approach to managing their data".

Backupify will allow companies to log in to a single platform to backup and manage the data they store across multiple SaaS applications.

You can get more information, sign up for a free trial and download the full Forrester report on the Backupify website.

Image Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock

World Backup Day 2014 -- Do you know where your files are?

Backing up files is one those New Year’s resolutions/good intention things that we all think about, but often don’t get around to doing. Despite the multitude of options available, it never ceases to amaze me every time I hear someone lament lost Word docs, photos or the like.

It's precisely that sort of disaster which World Backup Day 2014 aims to help users avoid. To drive the point home, the website cites some statistics -- 30 percent of people have never backed up their files, 113 phones are lost or stolen every minute, 29-percent of disasters are caused by accidents and one out of every ten computers is infected with a virus.

To combat these problems, the site asks everyone to take its pledge -- "I solemnly swear to backup my important documents and precious memories on March 31st". This pledge can also be shared via both Facebook and Twitter -- sadly there have been only 822 people counted as of this writing.

The site also offers tips on local and cloud backup, covering multiple platforms and services. While a second copy is a great start, having three is best. Such things as fire and theft can wipe out original and local copies, so consider an external drive or NAS, plus a cloud service like CrashPlan or Carbon, both of which will backup files in the background automatically.

Image Credit: Marynchenko Oleksandr/ Shutterstock

vendredi 28 mars 2014

Shazam! Rdio deepens its partnership with music ID service

Rdio is already partnered with Shazam, the app that allows you to identify that song you're hearing and are dying to know -- on the radio or TV, it can’t help with the one stuck in your head. That app hasn’t been invented yet, but I personally hope it is soon.

Now Rdio announces it has expanded the partnership beyond previous bounds. Until now users of Shazam could add songs they discovered to an Rdio playlist. Now customers of the app will be able to add any song to that list.

"Users can add any song, from anywhere in Shazam, to their 'My Shazam Tracks' playlist, whether they Shazamed the song or found it in Pulse, Shazam’s music discovery feed of popular and trending music. We're excited for you to try it out and see how much this opens up your playlist possibilities", Rdio explains in its announcement.

The new Shazam update, which provides this added functionality, is available now for both Android and iOS -- sorry Windows Phone fans. There are free and paid versions and some instructions you'll need to follow to connect your Rdio account, but the app will walk you through those.

Photo Credit: ra2studio /Shutterstock

Microsoft promises not to read customer emails again

After repeatedly bashing Google for going through its user's personal messages in the whole "Don't Get Scroogled by Gmail" campaign, Microsoft went one step beyond automatically scanning messages for keywords in order to serve up adverts, which Google does, and actually read a user’s private email, which Google doesn’t (as far as we know anyway).

Microsoft felt its actions were justified -- it was trying to prove a blogger had leaked pre-release Windows builds -- but users were rightly concerned that Microsoft had shown it was willing and able to read their personal emails should it choose to. The statement the company issued in light of the concern over its practices was hardly reassuring, and suggested Microsoft would do it again should the need arise. Today, Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft, has posted a follow up blog that essentially says Microsoft made a mistake and will be making changes to ensure reading customer emails in this way won't happen again.

"Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required", Smith says.

In addition to changing the company policy, Smith also says "in the coming months we will incorporate this change in our customer terms of service, so that it’s clear to consumers and binding on Microsoft".

There’s still no hint that Microsoft actually regrets its action in the previous case -- "our own search was clearly within our legal rights" Smith says, repeating the point made in the original statement -- but at least this is a step in the right direction.

In addition, Microsoft says it will be partnering with The Center for Democracy and Technology and The Electronic Frontier Foundation to help identify, flesh out and discuss these important customer privacy issues like this in the future.

Photo Credit: auremar/Shutterstock

Create interface mockups in minutes with Pencil

It’s no secret that interface design is difficult. Very, very difficult. Even the biggest and best companies regularly make big mistakes.

There are ways to improve your chance of success, though -- and you could start by creating a prototype of your app, program or website in the open source Pencil.

The core of the program works much like many other diagram tools. Drag and drop shapes onto the page, add text, set colors and more, then join them up with connectors.

Pencil doesn’t just come with the usual flowchart symbols, though. It also has web elements (headers, text, hyperlinks, panes and tables); desktop widgets (labels, buttons, checkboxes, radio buttons, combo boxes); and a host of other components for Windows, Android and iOS interfaces.

Putting these together is straightforward. You might start with a frame, then add a few buttons. Click any of these and you can set their properties (size, text, font and more). Drag in whatever other elements you need, then rearrange and reorganize them as required.

As you drag elements around, they "snap" into place at key alignment points, so it’s easy to (for example) make a row of buttons line up. There are other options to control shape height, width, spacing and alignment. Once you’re happy with a part of your interface -- a title and set of radio buttons, perhaps -- you’re able to "group" these elements, and drag them all around together.

Creating one screen is easy enough -- but it’s just the start. Pencil allows you to build further designs on new pages, then link them all together. Export the document as an HTML file and you’ll be able to click on a button, say, and be taken to a separate page showing what happens next, a useful simulation of your program flow.

If you don’t need this kind of interactivity, then your document can be exported in several other formats: PDF, ODT, multi-page SVG, and individual PNG files.

Pencil has a few problems. Some of its interface elements are a little dated, there’s very little documentation, and it has a few minor bugs.

The wide range of shapes and excellent alignment tools are major pluses, though, and on balance Pencil gets a thumbs up from us.

Opera Next 21 sports hardware-accelerated Aura shell, promises more responsive UI

Opera has moved version 21 of its web browser for Windows and Mac from the Developer (alpha) stream to the Next (beta) stream with the release of Opera Next 21. Most of the changes are system ones, designed to improve performance, but some other interesting tweaks have been implemented.

The move to the Next stream is part of the browser’s rapid-release development cycle, which brought Opera into line with rival browsers Chrome and Firefox.

The chief change in Opera 21 is added support for Aura. Aura is part of the open-source Chromium project and provides a hardware-accelerated rendering of the browser. The net result is that UI animations are less taxing, resulting in a leaner, faster feel when using it. Opera adds that it "gives us a solid foundation on which to make future UI changes".

One other advertised change allows developers and advanced users to force Opera’s Address Bar to always show the full URL – simply open Settings, tick "Show advanced settings" and then tick "Show full URL in combined search and address bar" from within the User interface section.

Users should also note that changes introduced in previous Developer builds -- such as experimental access to features for improving start-up times where users have a large number of tabs loaded -- should still be present.

Opera Next 21 is available now as a freeware download for Windows and Mac, and installs alongside other versions of the browser, including Opera 20 FINAL. Also available is Opera 12.16 FINAL.Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

HTML to PDF Tools: a different kind of PDF converter

There are lots of HTML to PDF conversion tools around, and most work in the same way: they’ll process the HTML code, convert it into an image, and save this as a series of JPEGs in the finished PDF.

This works, but the results are basic, image quality will be lost, and there can be various other problems (you might have to install a virtual printer driver, there could be dependencies on other software).

This "virtual printer" approach still works well in many situations, but if you need something more, you might be interested in the free HTML to PDF Tools.

The program’s first advantage is that it’s portable (well, sort-of). It comes in the form of a 201KB, which downloads a supporting DLL when first launched, or if the DLL is updated. There’s no adware, no virtual printer driver or anything else installed on your PC, and it doesn’t have any annoying dependencies (you won’t need to have a particular version of a browser installed, for instance).

Once the initial download is complete, HTML to PDF Tools displays a straightforward tabbed interface. Getting started is as easy as entering a source URL in one box, a destination PDF name in another, and clicking "Convert". The program downloads the relevant page, converts and saves it for you, and asks if you’d like it displayed.

Click "Yes" and you’ll quickly realize what makes Free HTML to PDF different. Its finished documents aren’t just static images, they actually work like the original site: you can select text, or click links and be taken to the appropriate web page.

The program embeds graphics at their original resolution, too, rather than just resizing them, so there’s minimal loss of image quality.

Elsewhere, a second "Merge Web Pages" tab allows you to enter multiple URLs --, -- and saves all of these to the same PDF.

There’s also an "HTML to PDF" tab, where you can enter HTML, JavaScript or CSS code, then have it rendered and saved to PDF.

Finally, a Settings tab gives you control over the finished PDF document. You’re able to set "Page Size", margins, a zoom level, header, footer and more.

While this sounds great (and often is), the program also has plenty of issues.

HTML to PDF Tools can only render regular text, image and graphic content. If your target URL makes heavy use of Flash, say, those areas will be left blank in the finished page.

The program makes no effort to fit HTML content to your PDF document. If the source page is too wide, it’ll just be truncated at the right side. You’ll have to manually experiment with different paper sizes and zoom levels to get better results.

HTML to PDF Tools doesn’t remember the URLs or file names you specify. If you have 10 URLs you’d like to regularly save via the "Merge Web Pages" dialog, then you’ll need to manually enter them, each and every time.

The lack of helpfulness continues elsewhere. Every time you run a conversion, for example, you’re asked whether you’d like to display the finished PDF, and must click "Yes". Why not have an option to remember that, so the next time it happens automatically?

And it looks like there are some bugs, too, with two of our test conversions displaying cryptic error messages. These aren’t quite as bad as they seem, though -- we just clicked "Convert" again and the PDF was produced correctly.

These various hassles can be annoying, particularly if you need to regularly convert lots of pages.

But if you’re only running the occasional conversion -- and you’d like more dynamic PDFs, with selectable text and clickable links -- then HTML to PDF Tools could provide everything you need.

Maintaining IT security is getting harder -- and it's your fault

Keeping systems secure is more difficult than it was a year ago and this is partly down to human error. So says a new study by security awareness company KnowBe4.

The rise of ransomware, the adoption of BYOD, and rapid changes in technology all make it harder for enterprises to guard against threats both inside and outside the organization.

The study, carried out among IT managers, finds that 51 percent of respondents are finding security harder to maintain now than a year ago while 40 percent find it's about the same. Less than 10 percent say are finding it easier.

Many of the risks come from human error. BYOD in particular is more difficult for IT managers to monitor and secure. User smartphones, tablets and laptops can create potential for undetected entry to a corporate network. "The human factor is a leading source of security threats for today’s IT Manager," says Stu Sjouwerman, CEO and Founder of KnowBe4. He advises, "To maintain security, every company should adopt the 'defense-in-depth' strategy and create a strong first layer that includes up-to-date security policies, procedures and security awareness training as this affects every aspect of an organization's security profile".

In the government sector, insider threats are seen as nearly as great a problem as external ones. In the survey 53 percent of defense IT pros named careless and untrained insiders as their top security threat. KnowBe4's study shows 60 percent of IT Managers are looking to Security Awareness Training to help solve security issues in addition to using it to support compliance.

Sjouwerman stresses how important it is to educate employees to recognize potential network security threats, "Cybercriminals are constantly devising cunning new ways to trick users into clicking their phishing links or opening infected attachments".

KnowBe4 offers a free test for companies to see what percentage of their employees are susceptible to phishing attacks.

Image Credit: Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock

jeudi 27 mars 2014

DiskAid speeds up device cloning, improves backup and restore options

DigiDNA has released DiskAid 6.6, a new build of its tool for converting spare storage on an iOS device into an external hard drive for wireless or USB access from a Windows or Mac computer.

Version 6.6 speeds up cloning one device to others, improves support for restoring device backups and allows users to manually add or remove contacts on the iPhone via USB.

DiskAid is primarily used to facilitate the transfer of data from one computer to another using an iPad or iPhone’s spare drive capacity as the intermediary. It eliminates the need for a USB drive, while users can also access files directly from their iOS device using the companion FileApp file management tool.

Other supported features allow users to transfer data from phone to computer, including music and video, and SMS texts. Version 6.6 introduces a number of new improvements, starting with the cloning feature, which now allows users to clone a device to one or multiple devices in a single operation.

Users also now gain the choice of restoring all or just a selection of data sets from a device backup. A progress bar is now also displayed when loading datasets, part of an improved reporting of an operation’s progress.

Version 6.6 also allows users to now manage -- and change -- the backup password, plus alter the default backup location via DiskAid’s Preferences dialog.

A new feature makes it possible for users to now manually manage -- through adding or removing -- contacts on the iPhone via USB, eliminating the need for cloud syncing. The update is rounded off with a number of bug fixes.

DiskAid 6.6.0 is available now as a free, function-limited trial for Windows and Mac. The full version, which allows copying of more data between devices, can be purchased for $29.90.

Windows' future is looking increasingly bleak

Analyst Gartner has just released its latest worldwide devices forecast, which shows, unsurprisingly, traditional PC shipments declining, and tablets, mobile phones, and ultramobiles (hybrid and clamshell) all growing. In total, device shipments are set to rise 6.9 percent, up from the 4.8 percent growth achieved last year.

There are few surprises in the report. Shipments of mobile phones, the most popular device type in the market, are expected to reach 1.9 billion units in 2014, a 4.9 percent increase from 2013. The worldwide tablet market is forecast to grow 38.6 percent in 2014, shipments of traditional PCs are forecast to total 276.7 million units in 2014 (a 6.6 percent decline from 2013), and ultramobiles are set to grow from 21.1 million in 2013 to 37.2 million this year. Gartner has also forecast shipments by operating systems, and while Windows still shows growth, overall it's far from happy times ahead for Microsoft.

The meteoric rise of mobile devices shows Microsoft was right to try and counter the threat of Android and iOS with a new touch-friendly OS. No one argues with that, but unfortunately the tech giant's move came a little too late in the day, and the gamble to produce an OS designed to run on touch and keyboard and mouse systems really hasn't paid off. Windows 8.x growth is plateauing, and Windows tablets and phones are hardly taking the world by storm.

Android’s growth on the other hand is nothing short of spectacular. Google's mobile OS shipped 879.8 million units last year, and is expected to break the billion and reach 1,171 million this year, continuing to grow to 1,358.3 million in 2015. Gartner says iOS tablet growth has slowed in North America and Apple will need to reinvigorate its replacement cycle, but still shows iOS/Mac OS growing from 241.4 million in 2013, to 286.4 million in 2014 and reaching 324.5 million in 2015.

So what's happening with Windows? Gartner says 324.1 million units were shipped in 2013, and the number will grow to 339.1 million this year, reaching 379.3 million in 2015. Still ahead of iOS/Mac OS, but with the gap closing significantly.

Let's put that in percentage terms. From 2013 to 2015, Gartner sees Android growing by 54.39 percent. In the same time frame iOS/Mac OS will grow by 34.42 percent. And Windows? 16.67 percent -- and that’s with it appearing on a broad range of devices from various big manufacturers.

Worldwide Device Shipments by Operating System (Millions of Units)

Operating System












iOS/Mac OS












Source: Gartner (March 2014)

Windows is still growing, but the future for the operating system doesn’t exactly look rosy. While businesses and power users will still turn to Microsoft’s brand for productivity purposes, casual users are looking elsewhere, and will continue to do so. Windows XP is set to come to its end of life very shortly, and you can bet far more of those migrating users will switch to Android devices than upgrade to Windows 8.x.

A few years ago, the suggestion that Windows could be so easily deposed from the top of the OS tree would have had you laughed out of town. Now, for the first time in twenty or so years, Microsoft is looking increasingly vulnerable in an area where it has dominated for so long. Chrome OS is not, as of yet, posing any real threat to Windows, but the fact it exists on products from the likes of Acer, HP, ASUS and LG, shows the potential for disruption.

These are tough times for Microsoft, and things look set to get even tougher in the coming years.

Photo Credit: rnl/Shutterstock

The cheap, cheerful and lovable Microsoft Wireless 1850 mouse [Review]

What can you get for $15 these days? Not a lot, really. A few Starbucks, perhaps, a burrito and a couple of slices? Or you can get yourself a cheaper, almost throwaway, replacement mouse to chuck in your laptop bag. This is the bill that the Microsoft Wireless 1850 fits. The mouse was announced just recently, and we've got our hands on one to put through its paces. To cut to the chase, this is a perfectly acceptable mouse, but it ain't going to blow your mind.

This is a mouse designed with the pocket in mind in more ways than one. Yes, it's super low-cost, but it's also super lightweight; and I mean that both in terms of mass and features. Oh, at this point it's worth highlighting something I touched upon the other day when talking about the price of digital downloads. While in the US this mouse costs $14.95, over here in the UK it has a £16.99 price tag. Sure, US buyers have to factor in taxes, but $14.95 should translate into about £9, so the trip across the ocean from One Microsoft Way has resulted in the price almost doubling!

Still, whatever way you look at it, this is a cheap mouse, you just happen to get a better deal if you find yourself on the right side of the Atlantic. While a range of colors is promised for later in the year, Flame Red, Orchid Pink, and Pantone Purple (plus Wool Blue for the US market), it is the Coal Black that's available at the moment. At first glance, this is a simple mouse. At second, third and indeed fourth glance, it is also a simple mouse. But there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. This is a mouse that's here to get a job done with no unnecessary messing about.

The symmetrical design means it can be grasped by right-handed users and southpaws with equal comfort, while the ambidextrous out there will be able to throw the mouse between hands with gay abandon. The mini USB wireless receiver slips into a perfectly-sized cutout in the battery compartment, but there's none of the fancy magnetic holding it in place, just good old friction.

The peripheral does feel good in the hand, but while the scrollwheel is comfortable to use, it does have a slightly cheap feel to it. This isn’t a sense one gets from the mouse on the whole, also it is clearly a basic, plasticky affair. The wheel is rubbery, but has no textured grip. It's a personal thing, but I prefer my scrollwheels to have a bit of grip rather than being smooth.

Ultimately this is a mouse that achieves what it sets out to. It is cheap, comfortable and portable. It's light enough and small enough to take around without it being too noticeable and -- perhaps more importantly -- it's cheap enough that you're not going to shed any tears if it should get mislaid. It's basic, but gets the job done. Literally. The pointer moves around the screen and everything!