dimanche 31 août 2014

Lumsing E-DR15 car charger: Splitting one cigarette lighter socket into three [Review]


A few years ago, the very concept of a three port extender for your car's cigarette lighter socket would have caused some raised eyebrows. Even if you were in a car packed full of chainsmokers, three lighter sockets would be deemed excessive.

Of course, these days, the lighter socket is less for lighting cigarettes and more for powering devices, so Lumsing's power splitter serves a clear purpose.

What it does is extend a single 12-24V cigarette lighter port to three (for a total output of 70w), and includes a USB 5V output for good measure. So you can charge up to four pieces of equipment at the same time. The manual makes some suggestions -- Sat Nav, air purifier, car charger, Bluetooth device, FM transmitter, iPhone, Android phone, MP3 player, Kindle, iPad... and so on.

The appliance is 3.70 x 1.61 x 1.30 inches/9.39 x 4.08 x 3.30 cm in size, weighs 3.60oz/102.05 grams, and is made of white plastic and stainless steel. It comes with two sticky pads on the bottom, so you can affix it firmly into position wherever you like. The cable is long enough to give you plenty of positioning room.

To use it, you just need to plug the end into your vehicle's cigarette socket. An LED will light up indicating there's power, and you can plug in your other devices. The LED is perhaps a bit too bright and distracting when driving at night, but you can always cover it up if that's a problem.

Not everyone will have a need for the E-DR15, but it will definitely come in handy for anyone planning a long journey in a car packed full of gadget loving passengers.

This model is available in white or gray, and although it's priced at £20 on Amazon.co.uk (it's out of stock at Amazon.com), it currently on sale for just £6.99.

WinLogOnView lists user logons for your PC


If your PC has several user accounts then you might occasionally like to know when they're being accessed, perhaps to confirm that your children are only using the computer at particular times.

You could install some heavy duty system monitoring package, or maybe enable a few Family Safety restrictions for that account. But NirSoft's WinLogOnView is a much simpler option which could provide everything you need in a tiny, portable package.

Launch WinLogOnView and it checks the Security event logs, detecting and displaying the date and time that any user has logged on or logged off from your PC.

The program displays this information as a table containing the following information: Logon ID, User Name, Domain, Computer, Logon Time, Logoff Time, Duration, and network address.

If your PC has several accounts then you should immediately be able to see how they're being used. Click a column header to sort by that field -- User Name, maybe, or Logon Time -- and you'll quickly discover who's using your system, and when.

Even if your PC has only one account, viewing all your system logons for quite some time (perhaps a month or more) will still let you see if the computer is being accessed at some unusual time.

There's also an option to display this same information for other computers on your network, as long as you've the security rights to do so (Options > Advanced Options).

All this works by using events which Windows records as a matter of course, so there's no need to set up any special monitoring component. Download and run the program and you'll get results right away.

But at the same time, the event logs won't always contain all the necessary information. One of our test systems displayed logon times, but no logoffs, so we were never able to see session durations.

Still, WinLogOnView delivers far more functionality than you'd expect from a 56KB download (yes, we really do mean 56KB), and on balance it's a quick and easy way to find out more about how a PC is being used.

vendredi 29 août 2014

IBM: Watson, go help those nice scientists with their research

Superhero child girl Box gloves Boxing

IBM's Watson supercomputer is set to tackle scientific research head-on after being re-programmed to analyze big data in the cloud.

Currently, the testing of scientific hypotheses and theories often takes days or months of arduous work, but with Watson's Discovery Advisor program, this can now be carried out at a significantly faster rate.

So far, the future does indeed look bright for the industry after initial tests involving research into p53, a protein related to several cancers, have yielded extremely encouraging results.

Dr Oliver Lichtarge, the principal investigator and professor of molecular and human genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine, said, "On average, a scientist might read between one and five research papers on a good day".

"To put this into perspective with p53, there are over 70,000 papers published on this protein. Even if I'm reading five papers a day, it could take me nearly 38 years to completely understand all of the research already available today on this protein.

"Watson has demonstrated the potential to accelerate the rate and the quality of breakthrough discoveries".

Mike Rhodin, the senior vice president of IBM's Watson Group, also hailed the machine's new abilities. "We're empowering researchers with a powerful tool which will help increase the impact of investments organizations make in R&D, leading to significant breakthroughs".

The supercomputer previously shot to fame in 2011 with a dominating performance on American quiz show Jeopardy, comfortably beating two of the show's most successful contestants.

Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.

Photo Credit: Sunny studio/Shutterstock

Could buying Cyanogen give Microsoft some smartphone credibility?

Could buying Cyanogen give Microsoft some smartphone credibility?

I'm not going to retread old ground too much here, but there's no getting away from the fact that Microsoft has something of an image problem when it comes to smartphones. But this could be set to change. The word on the grapevine is that Microsoft -- possibly in conjunction with the likes of Yahoo and Amazon -- is interested in joining forces with, or even, buying Cyanogen Inc, purveyor of some of the finest Android ROMs known to humanity. It's a branch of Android favoured by handset owners who live and breathe tweaking, who want an OS custom made to fit them like a well-tailored suit.

Little is known about what form any future arrangement might take, or how far talks have got so far. But we do know that Cyanogen Inc has met with Satya Nadella -- as reported by The Information. It would be interesting to see where this could go. There are two possible avenues that immediately spring to mind. The first -- and probably the least likely -- is that Microsoft might consider creating custom Windows Phone ROMs. This seems somewhat improbable, but there's another option: Microsoft could be looking to muscle in on Google's Android territory. This is not as far-fetched as it might first sound.

We have already seen Lumia devices running Android, and the HTC One (M8) -- a handset most readily associated with Android -- is available in a Windows Phone variant. Microsoft is not completely opposed to the idea of being associated with Android. While Cyanogen is based on Android, it is something of a different beast. As well as customization, there's a strong focus on performance but the number of supported handsets is slightly limited. Talks with Microsoft could mean that we see Cyanogen releases for more devices in the future.

With Windows Phone sales still struggling, and having invested heavily in Nokia, Microsoft is not going to let its baby go down without a fight. The release of Windows Phone 8.1 served as something of a life preserver, but looking to the future Microsoft just has too much ground to make up on Android; if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Photo credit: Tashatuvango / Shutterstock

Apple and Samsung may have to settle in patent litigation

business handshake

Apple and Samsung are reportedly close to reaching an amicable conclusion in a long-winded patent litigation battle after the US firm lost another court case against its rival.

The familiar US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled against Apple's bid to impose a sales ban on some older Samsung smartphones in the US and it follows the decision to drop all suits against each other in a range of different countries in the past few months.

Apple's latest attempt targeted specific features in nine Samsung devices and offered what is dubbed a "sunset period" to gives its competitor the opportunity to circumnavigate the features before a ban was enforced, according to Bloomberg.

In this case, Apple targeted the Admire, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S2, Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch, Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, Galaxy S3 and Stratosphere.

Samsung's argument in the current case is that Apple suffered no "irreparable harm" from such infringements and it repeated its assertion that Apple failed to draw a close connection between infringement of patented features and a loss of sales.

"Apple has provided no persuasive justification for depriving the public of product choices created by a thriving level of competition other than its claim that an injunction serves the public's interest in protecting innovation and patent rights", said Samsung's court filing.

Koh has overseen an increasingly fraught patent battle between the two companies that got underway in San Jose in 2012 and has stretched across four continents over time.

Both sides have taken out litigation against each other with neither winning a significant enough case to make it worthwhile and Koh, as well as several other judges, has pleaded with the two companies to settle instead of dragging it through the courts.

Whether or not this is the end of the squabbling remains to be seen and no-one would be at all surprised if it all kicks off between the two once more.

Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.

Photo Credit: EDHAR/Shutterstock

Google Authorship comes to the end of the line

Google Authorship comes to the end of the line

Continuing its propensity for terminating projects, Google has decided to kill of its Authorship program. The markup was introduced to provide online writers with a way to link their work to their Google+ profile and have their profile picture displayed in search results. But in its three year lifespan, Authorship did not really manage to take off, and Google Webmaster Tools' John Mueller announced that "we've also observed that this information isn't as useful to our users as we'd hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we've made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results".

Head to one of the Google Authorship support pages and you're greeted by the message: "Authorship markup is no longer supported in web search". This is an interesting move, especially considering how keen Google has been to push people into using Google+. Authorship not only enables writers to more visibly stamp their mark online, but also to gain a following. In practice it was found that Authorship did little to help drive traffic and "wasn't always easy to implement".

The move isn't perhaps entirely surprising. As recently as June, authors' profiles picture were stripped from search results on mobile devices and because of Google desire to create a unified experience on mobile devices and desktop computer, this mean they also disappeared from other search results. Search Engine Land takes an in-depth look at the history of Google Authorship, explaining that back when the service launched, Google was excited at the prospect of helping authors remain associated with their work.

The article speculates that searchers gained little from the inclusion of author photos and bylines -- the thinking being that in a bunch of search results, it is the headline and optioning sentence that grabs attention. There have also been studies that show that only a small percentage of sites managed to use the markup correctly. This has ended up being another Google service that has been unceremoniously shown the door after a seemingly endless period of "testing". Who knows what will be next to be trimmed.

As a writer or reader will you mourn the death of Google Authorship?

Photo credit: 1000 Words / Shutterstock

Display your external IP address on the desktop with Mr.IP

Mr.IP_Discovering your external IP address is generally very easy. Just visit a site like WhatIsMyIP and it'll give you the IP address, location, ISP, and a whole lot more.

If you need speedy access to this address all the time, though, it might be simpler to use Mr.IP, a tiny free tool which permanently displays your internet -- or external -- IP on the desktop.

The program arrives with an installer, but it doesn’t contain adware or anything significant. Install it, copy the program files to a USB stick, and we found they could be used on other PCs without difficulty.

On launch, Mr.IP displays your internet IP address in a tiny always-on-top window above the system tray. Double-clicking this copies your IP address to the clipboard, and you can close the window if it gets in the way.

Right-clicking the window title bar displays options to refresh the IP, or undock Mr.IP's window, allowing it to be positioned elsewhere.

The interface is a problem. It's poorly designed; the window is way too large for the font used (or the font could be increased for easier viewing). It's also ugly. The title bar should really go, and there's no control over how it looks, a problem when normally it's always in view.

Fortunately there is another option. Click the minimize button to the right of the window and it'll close. The IP address won't permanently be on display, but just hover the mouse cursor over Mr.IP's system tray icon and it'll be displayed as a tooltip.

There are some more advanced features, too. The program can be set up to launch along with Windows, to automatically refresh your IP address every few hours, even to send an email alert when your address changes (no SSL/ TLS support, though, so Gmail can't be used).

Mr.IP would benefit from an interface redesign, but if you need an easier way to find your external IP then it already works well enough. Grab a copy now, maybe they'll fix the visuals later.

Smartphone shipments show strong growth as Android dominates emerging markets

Mobile graph

More than 1.25 billion smartphones will be shipped worldwide in 2014, up 23.8 percent over last year, despite a slowing of growth in more mature markets, according to the latest data from IDC's Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

Growth in mature markets has slowed to 4.9 percent but emerging markets are surging ahead with 32.4 percent growth. Since these emerging markets have accounted for more than half of smartphone shipments since 2011 this is perhaps not too surprising.

"The smartphone market, which has experienced runaway growth over the last several years, is starting to slow. Mature markets have slowed considerably but still deliver strong revenues with average selling prices (ASPs) over US$400. Meanwhile, many emerging markets are still barreling along, but with ASPs of less than US$250", says Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team. "The key for vendors now is to maintain a presence in the higher-margin mature markets, while establishing a sustainable presence within the fast-growing emerging markets. To enable this strategy, operating system companies are partnering with OEMs to provide low-cost handsets".

Looking ahead to the end of the year, IDC expects emerging markets to account for 73.5 percent of all smartphone volume shipped. This is being driven by Android devices which are expected to take up 88 percent of the volume. Further ahead, emerging market smartphone volume is expected to reach 1.4 million units by 2018, accounting for 79.5 percent of worldwide volume.

"The support that Google's Android platform has received from over 150 handset manufacturers has allowed it to gain the share it has in emerging markets", says Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "The lack of constraints around hardware and software specifications has helped bring to market many low-cost products, a lot of which could be considered borderline junk. With Google's recent announcement of Android One, they hope to change this by laying out a set of standards for manufacturers to follow".

Aside from growth in volume shipments, IDC sees a move towards larger screen mobiles, or phablets, which it expects to grow from 14 percent of the market this year to 32.2 percent in 2018. Apple's expected entry into this field should give it the ability to drive replacement cycles in mature markets.

More information about the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker is available on the company's website.

Photo Credit: 3Dstock / Shutterstock

Project Wing is Google's drone-based goods delivery system

Project Wing is Google's drone-based goods delivery system

Drones tend to be associated with surveillance and crowd control, but Google is the latest firm to express an interest in using the unmanned machines as a delivery service. Facebook has previously talked about using drones to "deliver the internet to everyone", and Amazon has also toyed with the idea, but now the search giant wants a piece of the action. The company's development team, Google X, has been beavering away on a delivery system powered by drones, and details of how it works have now been released.

Unlike other drones that tend to take a quad-copter design, Google's take on the idea sees a merging of a plane with a helicopter. Fitted out with a single wing and four propellers which move into different positions when flying, the drones have a housing unit for packages in the center of the wing. The Atlantic has a great deal of background about the project and it looks as though rather than being used to ship things that shoppers have bought, it is more likely to be used to help in disaster areas where aid is needed.

Tests in Australia have already shown that the drone system can be used to deliver "a first aid kit, candy bars, dog treats, and water", but the hope will obviously be that they could be used to deliver other goods quickly and efficiently. Although Google is publicizing its drones, it is still very much a work in progress. Partners are being sought to work with Google, and interested parties are invited to get in touch.

Think the whole things sounds like a little pie in the sky? Google has a video for all the unbelievers to help show that it is serious.

Photo credit: vipman / Shutterstock

Nokia's powerful HERE comes to Samsung Galaxy smartphones

Samsung Galaxy HERE

HERE may be commonly associated with Windows Phone, but that is not stopping Nokia from also offering its powerful software on Samsung's Galaxy smartphones as well as the new Gear S smartwatch. Microsoft should be worried, as one of the main differentiating features of its Windows Phone -- the exclusive availability of the HERE suite -- just vanished into thin air.

HERE is making its way to Galaxy smartphones with virtually all of its core features intact. That means turn-by-turn navigation in nearly 100 countries, detailed offline maps for up to 200 countries, live traffic information in more than 40 countries, and directions when using public transportation in more than 750 cities from more than 40 countries. It's pretty much the whole shebang.

"We believe that maps and location-related functionality are essential for any operating system. HERE aims to deliver fresh maps, platform services and location cloud experiences to as many people and businesses as possible, independent of the device and operating system they are using", says HERE Sean Fernback. "Partnering with Samsung for the Tizen OS, and providing maps and location services for the first time with the new Samsung Gear is another huge step for us in that direction".

On Android (excluding Nokia-branded X devices), HERE is available exclusively on Galaxy smartphones. This appears to be long-term deal. "Samsung is committed to providing consumers with the best possible mobile experience and we always look for partners to help expand the capabilities of our smart wearable devices", says Samsung's Chan Woo Park. "We are thrilled to partner with HERE and bring innovative, personalized mapping pedestrian navigation services to our Tizen-powered smart wearable devices starting with the Samsung Gear S". I wouldn't be surprised to see HERE on the upcoming Galaxy Note 4 too.

HERE is touted to play nicely with Samsung's Car Mode and Glympse and, of course, with the Gear S smartwatch, which will fetch routes from Galaxy smartphones. The software will be available when Gear S launches, for free of course, in beta form.

HERE Samsung Galaxy offline

This is not the first time that HERE makes its way to smartphones other than Windows Phones in recent times (obviously, not including Nokia's own non-Lumia devices), as HERE Maps had been made available on iPhones also, but it is the first time that virtually all of the core HERE features are offered outside of the tiled smartphone operating system (again, not including Nokia's own non-Lumia devices, like X handsets).

Update: HERE will eventually make its way to other Android devices, according to a HERE employee, but non-Galaxy users will have to wait until "later this year" for the app to show up.

Easily inspect DXF files with de-caff DXF Viewer


DXF is a very popular CAD file format which has been around since 1982, so you might expect there to be plenty of good viewers around by now.

Unfortunately, the reality is very different. DXF can be complex, and while there are free viewers to be found, they're generally of not much use.

We didn't have much hope for de-caff DXF Viewer, then. But it didn't take long to realize this program is a little different.

This DXF Viewer doesn't just leave you guessing on what it can and can't do, for instance. The program website actually lists the entities it supports (all the basics, but not so much from AutoCAD R13/ 2013), so if you have specific needs then you can check them in seconds.

The viewer is convenient to use, too, arriving in the form of a 2MB Jar file which should run on any system with Java 6 or later.

The developer hasn't wasted any time on building a flashy interface, but that's fine with us; just click File > Open, browse to your target DXF and it should open.

Our test files were all displayed correctly, and proved easy to navigate. Clicking and dragging with the mouse spins the model, rotating the mouse wheel zooms in and out, and a toolbar offers plenty of other zoom, rotation and viewing options.

That's probably already enough for a novice user, but if you're interested in the file or model structure then there's much more to explore. Selecting the Layers tab on the right lists the model's layers and makes it easy to turn them on and off individually. Clicking View > Model displays thumbnails of the various named views, and the DXF Tree allows you to zoom in on individual elements, perhaps one of the entities, and inspect its properties in-depth.

Once you've found the view you need, solid export options then allow you to save that image as a BMP, GIF, JPG, PNG, PDF, Postscript or SVG file.

As with any DXF file viewer, there are no guarantees. If your target files make heavy use of AutoCAD's encrypted entities or other recent features then the program may not tell you very much.

We found de-caff DXF Viewer delivered great results with simpler drawings, though, and its various viewing modes and export options are another plus. If you ever need to inspect a DXF then this is the program we'd try first.

jeudi 28 août 2014

Twitter Analytics now lets everyone check the popularity of their tweets

twitter_analyticsFor a while now, verified users and advertisers have been able to check statistics about their Twitter account so they can see how many times individual tweets have been viewed, check what types of tweet encourage the most engagement, and so on. Now Twitter Analytics is available to everyone -- free of charge.

It doesn’t matter if you have a blue verified tick next to your name or not, now you can use the analytics dashboard to check the performance of tweets. While this is useful tool for businesses, for the average Twitter user it is a tool that will satisfy an idle curiosity and provide a way to while away the time obsessing over what key phrases yield the greatest return.

For those with a fascination for figures, the ability to see how many people view individual tweets is a dream come true. It might not be quite as in-depth as you might expect, or hope, but it strikes a good balance between providing useful information and remaining easy to use. Of course, additional data would be great, but it would end up complicating things. There's an eye-pleasing graph that shows at a glance how many hits your tweets have earned you.

Further graphs to the right of the pages give an overview of your account's performance over the past four weeks. The dashboard shows not only how many tweets have been favorited, how many have been replied to, how many have been retweeted, and how many tweeted links have been clicked, but also how this compares to the previous month. If you have time on your hands, you can scroll back through your entire timeline to check the performance of individual posts, but sadly there's no search or filter function. There are also some interesting breakdowns of follower details which could eliminate the need for third party follower tracking tools.

It certainly all makes for interesting reading. From my own stats, it's easy to see that tweets that ask a question, feature an exclamation point, or make reference to the iPhone fare particularly well. You must excuse me... I'm off to obsess over stats for a bit...

Circular-faced LG G Watch R to be unveiled at IFA 2014

Circular-faced LG G Watch R to be unveiled at IFA 2014

IFA 2014 kicks off in Berlin next week, and one of the devices that will be on display is the LG G Watch R. LG is looking to expand further into the wearable market with another Android Wear watch and the killer feature this time around is a round display. The circular Plastic OLED face has be been designed to make use of the entire surface -- there is no bezel whatsoever. In terms of looks this could be what sells LG G Watch R, as it's a device that's likely to appeal to those pandering for a more traditional look to their wearable tech.

Measuring just 1.3 inches, the svelte display is far from cumbersome, overcoming another obstacle that puts some potential buyers off investing in wearable devices. Despite the fairly diminutive proportions, the watch doesn't scrimp on specs. It's not up there with Android handsets, but the 512MB RAM and 4GB of storage are more than acceptable. Powered by 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and driven by a 410mAh battery, the watch is capable of running for half an hour when submerged in one metre of water -- so it should survive a trip to the pool providing you stick to surface swimming.

As with other watch of its ilk, the LG G Watch R has a firm focus on fitness. There's a bundle of LG health and fitness apps as standard, and these take advantage of the heartbeat monitor. There are numerous other on-board sensors -- compass, gyroscope, accelerometer and barometer, and the touchscreen has a resolution of 320 x 320. The leather strap adds to the traditional look, and customization is possible by switching out the strap, or by changing the look of the digital watch face.

There's no word on pricing yet, but all will be revealed at IFA 2014 next week.