mardi 31 mars 2015

Microsoft releases Music and Video Preview apps for Windows 10 -- drops Xbox branding


While I love Spotify, I recently invested in an Xbox Music Pass subscription. The reason why is quite simple -- cost. On March 14, which is Pi Day, Microsoft offered a steep discount on a year of the service. While the experience is sub-par on Android, it works brilliantly on Windows.

Today, Microsoft releases previews of both the Music and Videos apps for the Windows 10 Technical Preview. While there are many changes -- both visually and under the hood -- the most surprising is the apparent dropping of the Xbox branding. Is this the sign of a bigger change?

You can download the apps using the below links. Please note, you must be on Windows 10 Technical Preview 10049.

Download the Music Preview app (PC)

Download the Video Preview app (PC)

I eagerly downloaded both apps, but was far more excited for the Music Preview, as I actually use it. Typically, I will use VLC for watching locally stored video files and stream stuff from Netflix and Amazon Prime. Quite frankly, I have no use for Microsoft's Video app.


Microsoft shares the following about the Video app.


Features to try:

  • Browse and play video files (including MKV!) on your device: Try out filtering and sorting your collection and adding a folder of videos to include in your collection.

  • Browse and play movies & TV shows you’ve purchased from any Xbox Video device: Try starting a purchased video on one Xbox Video device and pick up playback right where you left off on another device.

What's coming next:

  • Discover great new movies and TV shows in the Windows Store Beta – until then you can still get them in the existing Video App or the new web Store at here.

  • Download movies and TV for offline play

  • New device management so you can play your downloads offline more reliably on the devices you care about

  • Improved search results

  • Movie reviews and cast information

  • Settings improvements

  • And much more!

Here's what we know isn’t working quite right yet:

  • Movies and TV shows downloaded in other versions of the app cannot be played in this preview app. They can only be streamed. This preview app only supports streaming at this time.

  • Playback of purchased content may take several seconds to begin.

  • Adding or removing folders from your video library can hang the app. Instead, use File Explorer to manage your video library.

  • Playback of movies and TV may fail with error 0x8004c029. If it does, go here to learn more about how to fix it.

  • Expired rentals incorrectly show a play button. Playing expired content will result in a playback error.

Microsoft shares the following about the Music Preview app.


Features to try:

  • Browse and play your music collection: MP3s on your device, songs you’ve put in OneDrive, or music you’ve added to your collection with an Xbox Music Pass will all show up in the Music Preview App. Try out shuffling, filtering, and sorting your music collection. And try playing a Radio station based on one of your favorite artists or bands.

  • Make playlists: Make playlists with all your music including music from OneDrive. Just create a new playlist and drag and drop the songs you want in that playlist. You can access all your playlists across your Windows devices, Xbox consoles and on the web at

  • Xbox Music Pass: If you have an Xbox Music Pass, you can browse our full catalog and stream or download music for offline use and discover new music with artist radio stations.

What's coming next:

  • Browse and buy music in the Windows Store Beta -- until then you can still buy music in the existing Music App

  • Right-click context menus

  • Better back button for easier app navigation

  • Dark color theme

  • Compact mode

  • Settings improvements

  • Improved support for accessibility

  • And much more!

Here's what we know isn’t working quite right yet:

  • After heavy use you may see galleries disappear and show a blank white page. Restarting the app will solve the issue.

  • Playback of Music Pass content may fail with error 0x8004c029. If it does, go here to learn more about how to fix it.

  • There are no playback controls on hover when the app appears in the taskbar.


So, is the Xbox Music brand going away? Time will tell, but I get a strong feeling that this may be the case. Gone is the "Xbox Music" logo in the music app and the iconic green and back colors in the app too. You can see side by side images above (click to enlarge). Hell, even the Xbox Music Pass is simply referred to as "Music Pass" in the settings.

Quite frankly, moving away from the Xbox Music branding is probably a smart idea, as some consumers could misunderstand it to only work on an Xbox console.

Facebook introduces scrapbooks for photos of your kids

Facebook introduces scrapbooks for photos of your kids

Facebook is about more than being social; it's about presenting a version of yourself to other people. When you share a photo of your meal, you're making a statement: "look at this delicious expensive meal I can afford", "look at the fancy restaurant we're visiting", or "gosh, aren't I healthy for making this salad?". But of course Facebook is not just filled with photos of food -- there are also photos of kids, presenting an image of family life.

Starting today, Facebook is rolling out a new scrapbooking feature designed specifically for pulling together photos of your child. The idea is to make it easier to collect together photos into one place so you can view all of your memories without having to jump from place to place.

In a blog post (with the slightly uninspiring title of "An Optional Way to Organize Photos of Your Child on Facebook" -- sell this stuff! Be proud of it!), father and Facebook product manager Dan Barak introduces the new pilot, explaining that by using a special tag it is possible to add photographs to a customizable scrapbook. As it is likely that it will not just be you taking and managing photographs, you can share ownership of the scrapbook with your partner.

Facebook has created a video that shows off how the feature works:

To help keep the scrapbook truly personal, only you and your partner are able to add photos to it. Only your chosen tag automatically adds a photo to the scrapbook, so you don’t need to worry about friends adding other pictures unvetted.

The feature is rolling out to Facebook on the desktop, on Android and on iOS. To get started with your scrapbook, go to your profile and click About followed by Family and Relationships. You should see an invitation to start a scrapbook, so click Get Started and follow the instructions.

Microsoft Surface 3 vs Surface Pro 3: Which is best for you?

Surface 3 + Surface Pro 3

Before Microsoft announced Surface 3, choosing a Surface tablet was ultimately a matter of deciding which Surface Pro 3 model fits you best, depending on your budget and needs. But now that there's a new kid on the block, which is offered in four, very distinct trims, finding the right Surface just got trickier.

Just like its older brother, the new Surface 3 features a high-resolution display, promises great battery life, offers a decent amount of storage, packs an x86 processor and runs Windows 8.1. The optional Type Cover keyboard makes an appearance as well, and so does Surface Pen. But there are some differences, of course. So which one should you buy?

First, let's go through the specs.

Surface 3: 10.8-inch display with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,280 (3:2 aspect ratio); 1.6 GHz quad-core Intel Atom X7-Z8700 processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.4 GHz); 2 GB or 4 GB of RAM; 64 GB or 128 GB of internal storage, respectively; battery life: up to 10 hours of video playback; Wi-Fi 802.11ac (4G LTE is optional); Bluetooth 4.0; full-size USB 3.0 port; mini DisplayPort; microSD card slot; 3.5 MP front camera; 8 MP rear camera; stereo speakers; Windows 8.1. There's also a typical suite of sensors. Physical dimensions: 267 x 187 x 8.7 mm and 622 grams (10.52 x 7.36 x 0.34 in and 1.37 lbs).

Surface Pro 3: 12-inch display with a resolution of 2,160 by 1,440 (3:2 aspect ratio); fourth-generation 1.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i3, 1.9 GHz Core i5 or 1.7 GHz Core i7 processor; Intel HD Graphics 4200, HD Graphics 4400 or HD Graphics 5000, respectively; 64 GB (Core i3), 128 GB (Core i5), 256 GB (Core i5) or 512 GB (Core i5) of internal storage; 4 GB (64 GB and 128 GB) or 8 GB (256 GB and 512 GB) of RAM; battery life: up to 9 hour of web browsing; Wi-Fi 802.11n (Core i3) or 802.11ac (Core i5 and Core i7); Bluetooth 4.0; full-size USB 3.0 port; mini DisplayPort; microSD card slot; 5 MP front and rear cameras; stereo speakers; Surface Pen; Windows 8.1 Pro (64-bit). It also packs the usual suite of sensors. Physical dimensions: 292.10 x 201.42 x 9.14 mm and 790 grams (11.50 x 7.93 x 0.36 in and 1.76 lbs).

Now that the specs are out of the way, let's compare the two and find one where they shine.


Many users will be considering a Surface device for resource-intensive applications, and that requires plenty of processing power. Here, Surface Pro 3 wins, hands down.

Surface Pro 3 is equipped with high-end Core i processors, which are designed to offer a good balance between performance and battery life, while Surface 3 is equipped with an Atom processor that prioritizes battery life over outright speed. Not to mention that Surface Pro 3 can be had with a very powerful Core i7 processor, which furthers the performance gap.

Also, Surface Pro 3 can be had with 8 GB of RAM, twice as much than Surface 3 offers in its flagship model, which will make multitasking easier. Even the base Surface Pro 3 model comes with 4 GB of RAM, while the base Surface 3 only offers half as much.

That said, Surface 3 will be able to handle typical Windows software, like Google Chrome and Office. It just won't be able to handle all your virtual machine instances or development software as well as (or even remotely close to) Surface Pro 3.


If you ignore the x86 processor found in Surface 3, the smaller Surface looks more like a typical tablet than a mobile device that might replace an ultrabook or smaller laptop.

It will run all the Windows programs that users want, naturally, however it is limited in the productivity department by its smaller 10.8-inch display. In practice, you'll be able to browse the web, write an Office document and handle all your email, but you may want to connect it to a bigger screen to increase productivity.

However, Microsoft is trying to make Surface 3 appeal to more consumers by bundling a one-year Office 365 subscription with each purchase. That's not the case with Surface Pro 3; you'll need to buy one separately. Having used Office 365 for a few good months now, it's hard not to see the value in it (hey, on top of Office, there's 1TB OneDrive storage thrown in for free), especially for folks with tight budgets (like students).

Meanwhile, Surface Pro 3 is designed as a "tablet that can replace your laptop". It's got a bigger display, akin to what you can find on a popular ultrabook like Apple's larger MacBook Air, it comes standard with a stylus (Surface Pen, optional on Surface 3), the kickstand can be angled in any number of ways (Surface 3's kickstand only has three positions), and the optional Type Cover keyboard is larger, and, most likely, more pleasant to type on, and also comes with a larger touchpad area.


Even though on the surface both Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 are capable of meeting the needs of a road warrior, only Surface 3 also gives the user the option to connect to a 4G LTE network. This can be a major advantage for those who don't want to use their smartphone to tether or are unable to do so.

Also, no matter which Surface 3 model you choose, you get Wi-Fi 802.11ac as standard. This isn't the case with the base Surface Pro 3 model, which gets the slower Wi-Fi 802.11n. The speed difference can be substantial, as long as you have a solid Wi-Fi 802.11ac router.

Both slates offer a full-size USB 3.0 port, and a mini DisplayPort to connect an external display. It's worth pointing out that Surface 3's connectivity can be enhanced using a Surface Pro 3 Docking Station (it goes for $199.99).

Mobile Credentials

Let's talk about portability and battery life.

Both Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3 promise similar battery life, except that whereas Surface 3's battery life is quoted for video playback, Microsoft rates Surface Pro 3's battery life for Wi-Fi browsing. As such, we can't really compare the two directly, as it'd be an apples to oranges comparison. However, both devices should offer great battery life when used accordingly.

When it comes to portability, Surface 3 is the clear winner. It's both smaller and lighter, which means that it won't take as much room in a briefcase or backpack. Even with the optional keyboard on, it won't be much bigger or heavier than Surface Pro 3, sans its Type Cover keyboard.

That said Surface Pro 3 packs a bigger punch, which will make it easier to work with heavy software on the go, if you ever need or want to do so. It's something to keep in mind, as battery life is likely to be similar and the extra bulk isn't intimidating.

The Elephant in the Room

It's the cost. Surface 3 is priced like a high-end tablet. The base model kicks off at $499, and for the money you get the 64 GB version with 2 GB of RAM. Step up to the 128 GB version with 4 GB of RAM, and you'll have to shell out just $100 more ($599). The 4G LTE option adds $100 to the cost, for either model.

For a Type Cover keyboard, Microsoft will ask $129.99 (once it's available, of course). The stylus is a $49.99 option, which, depending on your needs, you may or may not want to get. Type Cover, however, is a must-have from my point of view.

Now let's look at Surface Pro 3. The base model, which offers 64 GB of internal storage, Core i3 processor and 4 GB of RAM, costs $799. There's no 4G LTE option, but Surface Pen is included. Type Cover also costs $129.99. You may be able to get Surface Pro 3 for less, seeing as it's quite old at this stage and there's plenty of stock.

Of course, there's nothing stopping you from spending upwards of $1,949 on Surface Pro 3 (without a keyboard, I should point out), to get the top-of-the-line model with 512 GB of internal storage, Core i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM.

So, if cost (and the added mobility) is a major concern, Surface 3 makes more sense. The $300 price difference, which isn't small, between the base models can go towards a Type Cover keyboard, extended warranty and other things.

Fundamental Differences

Going by the specs alone, Microsoft has introduced Surface 3 for people who want Surface Pro 3, but do not need the extra performance offered by the Core i processors nor the larger display.

Those can be folks who work more on the go (hence the 4G LTE option), don't run heavy software, and who, when they're at the office, connect their Surface to a proper monitor (which Surface 3 can handle, of course). If that's you, maybe Surface 3 should be your first option.

Surface 3 retains all the other benefits provided by Surface Pro 3, like the compatibility with the docking station, Surface Pen support, and more, but offers them in a much more portable package. What's not to like?

Meanwhile, Surface Pro 3 is aimed at folks who are looking for a tablet (let's say hybrid device) that they'll be using more at the office than on the go (or, if it's more on the go, they don't mind/they need the extra screen estate), which can run heavier software, and that they can store lots of data on. They also have to look past the higher asking price.

Basically, Surface Pro 3 is more like a Swiss Army Knife, while Surface 3 looks more like a camping knife, in comparison. Personally, I prefer the Swiss Army Knife, even though the camping knife looks quite good for considerably less money (metaphorically speaking, of course). How about you?

Project Spartan: fat, chunky, and devoid of style and features

Project Spartan: fat, chunky, and devoid of style and features

After all of the talk, some action. Microsoft has been gentling building the hype about Spartan for some time now, but it's only with the release of Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 10049 that we get to, officially, go hands on. This is the web browser that's replacing Internet Explorer, the default web browser in Windows 10, so it has quite a role to perform.

It's a browser that's "built for the modern web" -- whatever that means -- and it sees Microsoft trying to shed the shackles of IE and move forward. Microsoft has been talking the talking for months, but does Spartan walk the walk? No. Spartan, at the moment, appears to be a joke. Let me elaborate.

Of course there are the usual caveats of "this is pre-release software", "it's an early build", and "it'll all change by the final release". As when I have looked at Windows 10 previews, there will undoubtedly be suggestions that any criticism I may level at Spartan should be delivered to Microsoft rather than aired in public. I'm doing both. Anything I say here is also fed back to Microsoft. This article is a platform for me to share my thoughts with you and to see what you think.

It has been suggested that Microsoft's Technical Preview software is not meant for review. This is not a review, it's a recounting of my experience. It may be the same as yours, it may differ; I'd like to compare notes. If I have problem with Spartan but you don’t, why is that? Is there a difference with our setups, or is it just a peculiarity?

You might think Spartan is brilliant. You're wrong, of course, but I'd still like to hear why.

So what issues do I have with Spartan as it stands? Where shall I begin?

I realize, as I hope I have made abundantly clear, that this is pre-release software. It's meant to be the merest taster of what's to come, and our opportunity to shape the direction in which things might travel. That said, I fail to see why MS bothered with releasing it in its current form; there's nothing to it.

I realize that there's something of a clue in the name Spartan (should we see it as a reference to sparseness, or the city of Sparta rather than yet another Halo link?) , but the interface is bare to the point of uselessness. It's like Microsoft just took the Windows Phone version of Internet Explorer and made it bigger. Windows 10 introduced the idea of (lots of) white space, and it's a theme that continues here. There's a place for white space, but here it seems to serve only to make interface elements huge.

Spartan's toolbar is decidedly overweight; let's compare it to Chrome. In the space Chrome houses tabs, the toolbar and the favorites bar, Spartan doesn’t even have room for the tabs and toolbar -- this duo is around 50 percent fatter than the three program elements in Chrome. A bold new design it may be, but it certainly could not be described as anorexic. Everything is so big and chunky. On the plus side, this makes it fat-finger friendly, but it's sure as heck not pretty or an efficient use of space. With everything being so stripped back, options are very few and far between making the browser very hard to personalize.

Apart from a horrible design, image rendering really isn't very good. A quick comparison between the Meet Project Spartan page in both Spartan and Chrome shows that Microsoft's new browser displays images in a fuzzy, smudgy way. It's almost as though really bad ant-aliasing has been enabled; things are so much clearer in Chrome.

Microsoft proclaims that Spartan lets you "do cool things like write or type on a webpage". What is this? A browser for 7 year-olds? Then there are compatibility issues. Google+, for instance, simply doesn’t work -- so much for Spartan switching engines as and when required.

I had been planning a week -- or at least a few days -- of using only Spartan, but at the moment, it's pretty much unusable. I can only hope that it comes on in leaps and bounds because at the moment, it's a joke.

This is meant to be about ditching Internet Explorer. I should be excited... but I need something to be excited about.

Firefox 37 implements new HeartBeat ratings system

Firefox 37

Mozilla has released Firefox 37.0 FINAL for desktop, with Firefox for Android 37.0 due to follow in the coming days.

The new release debuts the Heartbeat user rating system, plus a number of incremental improvements and tweaks. Version 38 has also been made available in Beta and includes some more radical changes, including a new tabbed-based preferences UI.

The new Heartbeat user system will appear on a random subset of users’ browsers each day, asking them to both rate and then help promote Firefox through other channels via a series of buttons, which comprise donating to Mozilla, liking or following Firefox on Facebook and Twitter, contributing to Mozilla and signing up for Firefox news via email.

Users unhappy at being interrupted in this way should browse to the about:config screen, then set the string value for browser.selfsupport.url to "".

Other new features include Bing search now performing secure searches using HTTPS, improved notification about user availability in Firefox's new Hello chat tool, and the opportunistic encryption of HTTP traffic where a server supports HTTP/2 AltSvc.

A number of changes see various TLS security improvements as well as improved performance of WebGL rendering on Windows through newly added support for Direct3D 11. The update also includes the now customary extending of support for various HTML5 and CSS controls.

Developers gain access to an experimental add-on -- Valence -- that extends Firefox’s debugging tools to other browsers, including Chrome and Safari. Within Firefox itself, there’s a new Inspector animations panel to control the animation of elements, plus a new Security Panel has been added to the Network Panel.

Firefox for Android 37.0 is also slated for release shortly -- this will add support for sending video to Matchstick devices, and promises an improved download performance alongside a new download manager back-end. Other notable changes include the URL bar now displaying the page address rather than its title.

Also available is Firefox 38.0 Beta 1, which sees tab-based preferences make an appearance alongside a new Reading List tool and the addition of Suggested tiles to the New Tab page. The Hello chat tool also gains an active tab and window sharing during conversations.

Firefox 37.0 FINAL and Firefox 38.0 Beta 1 are both available now for Windows, Mac and as free, open-source downloads. Firefox 37.0 FINAL for Android should be available shortly.

50 shades of gray -- hands on with Windows 10 Build 10049, the dullest Windows ever


We might have waited ages for a new build of Windows 10, but a mere fortnight later and Microsoft has rolled out yet another update, again initially only to Windows Insiders on the Fast ring.

The star of this build is Project Spartan, Microsoft’s new web browser. It’s an early version, but it’s a good look at what the tech giant has been working on, and of course it comes with the new rendering engine. That’s not all that’s new in this latest OS build, however. Let’s take a more detailed look.

Since Spartan is the main (almost only) addition in Build 10049, let’s look at that first. The browser looks much as you might expect it to, with big square tabs at the top, and the address/search bar just underneath. To the right is a button for reading view (displays just the story, removing any distractions from around it) and a star so you can add a page to favorites or reading list. There’s a button for accessing favorites, reading list, history and downloads, one for making web notes, and another for providing feedback. As you use the browser, you’ll be asked questions, such as how easy it was to find certain features.

A More button gives you access to additional options, including Settings, which lets you customize the browser. Unlike Internet Explorer, Spartan is pretty basic which, it could be argued, is no bad thing in a browser. It does what you want it to, and it’s easy to use. Do I see myself using Spartan as the default browser? No, but it has potential and it’s not (in my opinion at least) awful like the Modern version of IE found stinking up Windows 8.x. That said, while the browser’s project name is quite exciting, Spartan looks as boring as hell.

So what else has changed in build 10049? Well some of the included apps have had a makeover and now appear in white and gray, rather than dark as they did previously. Calculator, Alarms & Clock, and Voice Recorder all sport the lighter look, and frankly it’s dull, dull, dull. Microsoft might be shooting for classy here, but the end result is just bland. A few color accents would make a massive difference. Would it hurt to make the record button in the Voice Recorder red, rather than gray?


Windows XP was, at launch, described as a Fisher Price operating system with its bright, colorful (and child-like) buttons. Windows 10 seems to be the flip side of that, with each new version becoming more boring, and depressing -- visuals wise -- than the last.

There’s no option to switch between the light and dark themes in the apps, but hopefully that will be introduced in a later build.

And the option to make everything look and feel a lot happier would be good too!

Have you tried Build 10049 yet? What’s your view of it, and Spartan? Do you think it’s classy, or 50 shades of bland? Comments below.

British Airways frequent flyer Executive Club accounts compromised


Tens of thousands of British Airways frequent flyer accounts have been compromised in a cyberattack, forcing the company to freeze the accounts and issue an apology, the media have reported.

British Airways sporadically responded to tweets from concerned customers, The Register reports. In one such exchange it said:

"We’re sorry for any concern. We’ve become aware of some unauthorized activity in relation to your account and have frozen your Avios as a precaution. We’ll be sending you more details via an email".

The company said only a small portion of its millions of customers were affected, and that personal information, such as names, credit card information addresses was not stolen in the attack.

However they won’t be able to use their accumulated flight time for some time now.

The company, which has millions of customers, expects to resolve the problem in a few days.

"British Airways has become aware of some unauthorized activity in relation to a small number of frequent flyer Executive Club accounts", a company spokesman said in a statement sent to IB Times UK.

"We would like to reassure customers that, at this stage we are not aware of any access to any subsequent information pages within accounts, including travel histories or payment card details".

"We are sorry for the concern and inconvenience this matter has caused, and would like to reassure customers that we are taking this incident seriously and have taken a number of steps to lock down accounts so they can no longer be accessed", the spokesman added.

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

lundi 30 mars 2015

Syrian Electronic Army hacks Hostgator, FastDomain and more for hosting terrorist sites

Syrian Electronic Army hacks Hostgator, FastDomain and more for hosting terrorist sites

It has been a little while since we heard anything from the Syrian Electronic Army, but now the group has made an appearance once again. SEA has hacked five big-name hosting companies -- Bluehost, Justhost, Hostgator, Hostmonster and FastDomain -- all part of the Endurance International Group.

SEA launched the attacks on the five hosts for "hosting terrorists websites" (sic) adding to the list of high-profile name it has already targeted -- a list that includes names such as Skype, Facebook, PayPal, Twitter and Microsoft. No sites were mentioned by name for having gained SEA's attention.

At the moment, it is not clear whether any particular demands have been made of the websites in question. The group took to Twitter to boast of the attacks, posting screenshots of the sites it had managed to commandeer. Bluehost was singled out for particular attention, with a tweet warning: "Next time... we will change the DNS".

The Hacker News reports that SEA took control of Bluebox's Twitter account and used it to post tweets, but these have now been removed. The Syrian Electronic Army supports the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is well-known for attacking Western websites. For now, it appears that the attacks have come to an end, but there's nothing to say something similar won’t happen again soon.

Photo credit: Duncan Andison / Shutterstock

Microsoft brings mobile device management to Office 365

Microsoft brings mobile device management to Office 365

Microsoft has announced that mobile device management is now available in Office 365 for commercial customers. The feature is built into the office suite and allows administrators to control access to Office 365 data by Android, iOS and Windows Phone tablets and phones.

Security is very much at the heart of Office 365's mobile device management, and it includes a remote wipe feature. For businesses who have embraced the BYOD philosophy, this will bring peace of mind as it allows for the remote removal of Office and associated files even on personal devices.

Of particular interest to many users will be the conditional access options. These make it possible to limit data access to email and documents so that non-compliant and unauthorized devices are cut out of the loop entirely. The feature is powered by Microsoft Intune and Microsoft Azure Active Directory, and can be tailored to suit individual needs.

From a device management point of view, there are great new powers for administrators. Microsoft explains:

You can set and manage security policies such as device-level pin lock and jailbreak detection to help prevent unauthorized users from accessing corporate email and data on a device when it is lost or stolen. Additional settings and rich reporting are also available within the Office 365 admin center so you can gain critical insights about devices accessing your corporate data.

Available at no extra cost, the mobile device management features may prove to be a draw for enterprise customers who are yet to switch to Office 365. The rollout starts today, and it's hoped that the feature will be available worldwide in the next four to six weeks, bringing increased control and security to users.

Microsoft has produced a video that shows off the features and benefits of mobile device management in Office 365:

Internet of Things brings a sense of purpose to cloud, mobile and Big Data


Since Cloud, Mobile and Big Data technologies started to go mainstream, individual strategies to support each of these technologies have been evolving and remain separate strategies today.

However the arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the strategic agenda very quickly. IoT as a 'collective & strategic' term has caught the interest of the enterprise and the consumer alike. IoT allows companies to effectively define one strategy that potentially embraces elements of cloud, mobile and Big Data. In short, IoT has brought a stronger sense of purpose to cloud, mobile and Big Data.

Intelligent technologies

Let’s take the supply chain, for example. In the past, it was important for organizations to understand the physical flow of goods based on information that had been manually entered into IT systems.

However, this had the potential to be inaccurate or out of date. Today, the introduction of IoT based technologies has the potential to transform end-to-end visibility across global supply chains. Billions of connected devices associated with global supply chains will transform the amount of information that can track shipments in real time.

Digital information coming from these connected devices will drive increased levels of pervasive shipment visibility and this in turn will allow organizations to move towards more intelligent value chains.

The dawn of devices

The exponential growth of connected devices holds the potential to revolutionize the exchange of digital information across the supply chain. Analyst firm IDC estimates there will be 200 billion connected devices by 2020, and Cisco estimates the market size at $14.4 trillion (£9.6 billion).

IoT has many applications in the supply chain, for example warehouse stock levels can be continually monitored so that stocks can be replenished whenever sensors detect a near out of stock situation.

Alternatively 'tagged' goods in a warehouse can help to guide pickers to their exact location using augmented reality technologies such as wearable devices. One German based automotive supplier has created a virtual supply chain based on IoT technologies that is used to replicate the physical movement of goods from one of their plants.

Each shipment has an RFID tag attached to it and these tags can be read not just in the factory but whilst traveling across third party logistics networks to an end destination in real time.

SAP has built a supply chain demonstrator based on a connected vending machine, using their HANA based technology to monitor consumer-buying trends. Not only can the vending machine recognize each consumer, but based on previous purchasing history it can make real time suggestions for next purchases or offer tailored promotions.

The vending machine also monitors its stock levels and can automatically place orders for new stock to be delivered to the vending machine as required.

With a global network of connected vending machines, confectionery manufacturers for example can analyze consumer buying patterns, or trends across different regions around the world and then optimize product mix for each machine based on hyper-local preferences.

The 'Digital Nervous System'

The key challenge moving forwards is how companies capture and analyze a whole host of critical information from a variety of products, appliances and equipment and then communicate status updates and information as we approach the next phase in the evolution of the internet.

In this next phase of development, wireless and machine-to-machine technologies will help to connect globally dispersed machines and form the digital nervous system of the new world.

To be prepared, organizations across the supply chain need to ensure business networks can support disruptive technologies by synchronizing the flow of data and transactions from different types of sensors attached to logistics drones, 3D printers and even wearable technologies. Once a remote device captures information it will need to be transferred to other business systems, such as a cloud based B2B integration platforms or ERP environments.

This automated flow of information into back end enterprise systems will significantly improve the efficiency of tomorrow’s supply chains.

In a global economy, the key challenges faced by organizations of all sizes are working seamlessly with trading partners located anywhere in the world and responding quickly to any form of supply chain disruption.

Moving forwards, the IoT will help to establish intelligent digital networks that potentially minimize disruptions to ordered goods, mitigate instances of downtime and allows companies to scale their supply chains according to economic conditions or consumer demand.

Today’s digital networks are in a state of transformation. The rise of the Internet of Things has brought a sense of intelligence and awareness to many pieces of the connected device puzzle. Alongside this, the emergence of the connected or digital consumer is leading to demand for greater customization of products, swift delivery of goods and an experience that is smooth and seamless.

Everything from connected power utilities to connected transport infrastructures and connected industrial equipment will contribute to accelerate the growth of the British economy, and organizations should be prepared to tackle the associated challenges in order to reap the rewards.

Mark Morley is Director for Manufacturing at OpenText.

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

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge comes out unscathed after brutal drop test

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge unboxing and hands-on videos

We love watching smartphone drop tests. It does not even have to be a smartphone that we want to buy, watching it fall and meet the pavement is just too entertaining to pass. Some might even call it addictive. And predicting the extent of the damage, based on the build material or how exposed the display is, is part of the fun. Getting it right can be rewarding.

Samsung's new Galaxy S6 edge comes with all the right ingredients for a drop test that could end in massive damage. It's got a glass back, the main camera does not sit flush with the body, the surrounding frame is made of metal and, to top it all off, the display is curved on both sides. Before watching the so-called drop test, I expected to see a broom being used at the end.

It's probably not fair to call this Galaxy S6 edge experiment a drop test, as it's more of slam test. The person in the video clearly wants to take Samsung's flagship to the limit, more than once.

And, much to my surprise, Galaxy S6 edge holds up extremely well. There's no crack to be seen anywhere on the body, it wakes up from sleep and the display still responds to the touch. After being slammed to the ground three times, I'd say that's pretty impressive for a smartphone of this build.

A few days back, I stumbled upon a video review of the seemingly sturdier Galaxy S6 where, after just a minor fall, the glass covering the camera lens had cracked. So I imagined Galaxy S6 edge would fare much worse (given the "edge" display).

I was wrong, indeed, but it's worth pointing out that not all units are created equal. As is always the case with these kind of incidents, whether your device survives with no visible damage or ends up with a shattered display is a matter of luck. Some fare better than others, case in point being the Galaxy S6 edge unit in the drop test compared to the Galaxy S6 unit in the review I just mentioned.

For your own comfort, you might want to invest in insurance and/or a good case. You never know when bad luck will hit.

Audacity adds real-time effects preview, updates noise removal tool


Open-source sound recording, editing and mixing tool Audacity 2.1.0 has been released, and comes with a slew of significant updates and improvements.

Version 2.1.0 debuts one major new feature: a Real-Time Preview for effects, which is accompanied by a major upgrade to the Noise Removal tool. It also offers various effects upgrades and redesigned Meter Toolbars.

Audacity’s developers have claimed they’ve waited "a long time" for real-time previews of effects, which have been added to LADSPA, VST and Audio Unit (OS X) effects. The real-time preview is accompanied by support for saving and loading user presets and saving effect settings across multiple sessions. Latency compensation is not yet supported.

The Noise Removal tool has been renamed to Noise Reduction to highlight the improvements that have been implemented to the filter.

Other changes to Audacity’s effects include being able to sort and group items in the Effect, Generate and Analyze menus according to name, publisher or effect type.

The Change Speed effect has new time controls allowing users to enter changes in multipliers, while a new Crossfade Tracks effect replaces the previously separate Cross Fade In and Cross Fade Out options.

The user interface gains redesigned Meter Toolbars, which now shows separate Record and Playback Meters at half-height by default. Users can now select frequency when in spectrogram view and create or adjust frequency selections via a new Spectral Selection Toolbar (accessible via the View > Toolbars menu).

Timer Record now saves recordings automatically into an existing project, while the Transcription Toolbar can low loop play and cut-preview.

The update is rounded off by a number of bug fixes for both user interface and effects, but as with all new releases, a number of known issues remain -- see the release notes for a detailed breakdown.

Audacity 2.1.0 is available now as a free, cross-platform download for Windows, Mac and Linux. A portable build of Audacity 2.0.6 is also available -- this should be updated to the latest release shortly.