mardi 30 juin 2015

Google puts lipstick on Gmail -- adds new themes and emojis


I am definitely a Gmail power user. Not only do I use it for much of my personal email, but business communications too. Does it bother me that the search-giant scans the contents of my messages for advertising? Yes, a bit, but I realize there is no such thing as a free lunch.

What does really bother me, however, is how archaic Gmail looks nowadays. The appearance is boring and drab. To make matters worse, I know Google is capable of a beautiful redesign -- it is frustrating that the company just doesn't. Today, Gmail gets a little lipstick by way of new hi-res themes and new emojis.

"Themes can help you dress up your inbox, as well as distinguish between your home and work accounts, so they've been an important part of Gmail since they first appeared in 2008. Starting today there are hundreds more high-res options available (photographed by some fellow Googlers!). And of course, you can always upload your own. Once you've found the right photo, you can now use editing tools like blur, vignette, and text background to make your image and messages look great together", says Gaurav Vijay, Software Engineer, Google.

Vijay, using emoji, also says, "sometimes you just can't find the words to express how you’re feeling over email. But fret no more, because today’s Gmail update includes emoji for just about every occasion. Excited about this weekend’s barbecue? Finalize the menu, dress code and after-dinner plans with just a few characters:. Running a few minutes late? Let your friend know you’ll be there at . Whatever the situation, sending emoji is now a piece of ".

Cranberry Theme

While I could be considered a borderline millennial, I recognize the value in emojis beyond a passing fad. The symbols can truly enhance communications and they are certainly here to stay. Heck, as people grow up with emojis, and we see the symbols becoming more and more accepted, dare I say it -- they could be embraced in the business world one day too.

If you aren't familiar with emojis, I highly recommend reading this story from the Wall Street Journal by Joanna Stern, but I digress.

The new themes are actually pretty nice, and Google is promising literally hundreds of new additions. I managed to find the cranberry theme seen above and it looks wonderful on my big wide monitor. I am still hoping for a full-fledged redesign, though.

What theme will you select? Tell me in the comments. 

Photo Credit: Tim Masters/Shutterstock

DNS Jumper 2.0 brings turbo DNS testing

DNSJumper-300x181Sordum has released DNS Jumper 2.0, an update of its freeware DNS changer for Windows.

New startup options mean you can have the program load along with Windows, test for the fastest DNS server and apply it automatically, no more manual interventions required.

A "Turbo Resolve" feature aims to "drastically" reduce the time taken for the DNS speed test. It's disabled by default, but reduced the time from 8 seconds to around 4 on our test PC, without affecting the result.

This can now all be monitored and controlled from a system tray menu, without having to display the full interface.

There are new options to import and export the DNS server list, and the program gas seen a scattering of minor bug fixes and improvements.

Put it all together and DNS Jumper 2.0 is a great freeware DNS manager, available now for Windows XP to 10. Go grab a copy immediately.

Microsoft issues a surprise new Windows 10 release -- build 10159


Hey... wait a minute. Didn't we just get a new build of Windows 10 yesterday? Yes, of course we did. Less than 24 hours ago, Microsoft released build 10158 and today there is something of a surprise announcement for Windows Insiders who are signed up to the Fast Ring: another new preview version in the form of build 10159.

Microsoft has been criticized for the speed at which preview builds have been trickling out, and it seems that the company is listening to feedback. You'll notice that there is only a single digit build increase, but Gabe Aul reveals that this doesn't mean there's nothing to see. As well as more than 300 bug fixes, there is also "one very interesting change".

Aul is being a little cagey about just what is included in build 10159 -- in fact, he's being quite a tease. Pre-empting the release of the build to Fast Ring users he does not elaborate on what the "one very interesting change", but promises that the download will be made available later this afternoon (any clues in the screenshot?). What's the deal with two builds released in such quick succession? Aul explains:

We’d been using 10158 for almost a week and knew it was going to be a strong build, and the data backed that up so we released it yesterday. Hot on its heels though was build 10159, which in addition to more fixes (over 300 of them!), took in one very interesting change. We didn't want to wait with 10158 so we went ahead and released that build while we were still evaluating 10159. As it turns out though, 10159 is also a great build and passes our criteria for the Windows Insider Fast ring.

With build 10158 having only been released yesterday, it's quite possible that you're still in the middle of a download. Microsoft warns that if you are in the middle of downloading build 10158 when build 10159 is published, you may see an error 0x80246017. If this does happen, all you need to do is restart your computer and check for updates once again.

So, what do you make of this new surprise build? ditches passwords to increase security


Remembering all of the passwords required to gain access to all of your online accounts is a pain. You could opt to use a password manager, or you might decide to use the same password for everything. But Blogging platform has another option -- just don't use one!

The site has been anti-password for some time; users log into their accounts using an existing Twitter or Facebook account. For people who are not social network users, however, there's a new option. Working in a similar way to the 'I've forgotten my password' system used by many sites, Medium allows users to log in using nothing but their email address -- and says the system is more secure than regular passwords.

Ditching passwords as well as Twitter and Facebook-based logs might seem as though it would open up accounts to unauthorized access, but Medium says that this is far from being the case. Passwords can be very easily compromised, but by emailing time-limited login links to users, Medium thinks it has come up with a solution.

When the time comes to log in, user can request that an email be sent to them. The email contains a unique link that when clicked, logs the users into his or her account. If the link is not clicked within 15 minutes, it expires and each link can only be used once. This means that unless someone else has access to your email account, only you will be able to see the link, and only you will be able to log in.

As well as increasing security, the new login option means that those who shun social networks can use the site, as can those who are unable to use the likes of Twitter and Facebook due to local censorship.

For now the option can be used on the Medium website as well and in the iOS app. Android users will have to wait for an app update to be released -- and this should be happening soon.

Photo credit: shutteratakan / Shutterstock

Samsung technology will double battery life


Samsung's flagship devices already have great battery life, hitting well over 10 hours of usage without a problem, but the company wants to double the numbers with a new technology being worked on in-house.

The prototype adds a graphene layer on top of silicon anodes, adding 1.8 to 1.5 times greater density to the battery. In early tests with large scale batteries, Samsung is noting double the amount of life.

"The graphene layers anchored onto the silicon surface accommodate the volume expansion of silicon via a sliding process between adjacent graphene layers. When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities of 972 and 700 Wh l−1 at first and 200th cycle, respectively, 1.8 and 1.5 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries", writes Nature Journal.

Samsung's high-end Galaxy Note 4 already averages around 18 hours battery life, making it a big seller in the productivity market. Even the smaller Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge hit 11 hours on average, three more hours than Apple’s iPhone 6.

Considering one of the most wanted features on modern smartphones is a killer battery, Samsung might be onto something with this new technology. It is not only useful for smartphones however, with Samsung’s ambitions stretching into electric cars.

Samsung has already partnered up with leading automotive suppliers to build batteries for electric cars, and this new technology might woo big electric car fans like Tesla Motors and Toyota -- although Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been critical of "battery innovations" in the past.

There was no planned smartphone Samsung will test the innovation out on first, meaning it could be a few years before double the life is available.

By that time, we might need double the life to sustain the 4K screens bleeding normal smartphone batteries dry.

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

Apple releases iOS 8.4, OS X 10.10.4 Yosemite -- here's what's new

Apple pushes iOS 8.1.1 update to speed up older iPhones and iPads

Just as expected, Apple today released iOS 8.4, officially launching its Apple Music streaming service and the Beats 1 radio station. Also new for today is an update for OS X 10.10 Yosemite, which comes with a significant number of bug fixes and improvements in tow.

Apple Music and Beats 1 are introduced through the redesigned Music app. Upon launch, it promotes the company's new streaming service, inviting users to a free, three-month trial. There is a new icon as well as a new user interface -- if you want to keep listening to your existing music collection, you can do so as easily as before. The new Music app is not all that is new in iOS 8.4, as the new release also features a number of bug fixes and improvements targeting iBooks and other parts of the operating system.

Among the biggest changes in iBooks, users can now listen to audiobooks, pre-order books from the library, turn off the auto-night theme and enjoy a new Chinese font. Outside of the two aforementioned main areas of interest, iOS 8.4 also fixes a location data issue with GPS-equipped accessories, a bug which caused deleted Apple Watch apps to re-install and, finally, that nasty Messages bug, which can crash your iPhone.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the Yosemite update, which brings the OS X version number to 10.10.4, comes packed with improvements, the most notable of which target networking, Migration Assistant, Photos, iCloud Photo Library and Mail. There is also a very long list of security updates included in this release, which can be checked out here in detail.

You can check out the complete changelogs for iOS 8.4 and OS X 10.10.4 Yosemite in the slideshow below.

iOS 8.4 changelog - 1
iOS 8.4 changelog - 2
OS X 10.10.4 Yosemite changelog

Apple DID conspire to inflate ebook prices, must pay $450 million


On the same day that Apple Music launched, Apple received some bad news from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a 2 to 1 vote, judges ruled that the company did conspire with publishers to inflate the prices of ebooks sold through iBookstore, agreeing with a 2013 ruling.

The judges found that Apple had violated federal antitrust law in coming to arrangements with five publishers, resulting in book prices jumping from $9.99 to between $12.99 and $14.99. Two years ago US District Judge Denise Cote said that Apple was "central" to a price-fixing conspiracy. The ruling having been upheld today, Apple will now have to pay $450 million.

The case centered around Apple's dealings with Hachette Book Group Inc, HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group Inc, Simon & Schuster Inc, and Macmillan. The collective stood accused of working together to push up prices to a level that they were all happy with. Apple's civil liability in the case has been upheld, as has an earlier injunction which places limitations on the agreements the company can enter into with publishers.

Although two judges today found against Apple, one disagreed saying he wanted to overturn the 2013 ruling. US Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs thought that rather than being anti-competitive, Apple was actually fighting Amazon's market monopoly. He said " Apple took steps to compete with a monopolist and open the market to more entrants, generating only minor competitive restraints in the process".

Photo credit: 360b / Shutterstock

Rdio shoots to thrill as AC/DC rocks onto the service


Many may argue that they don't make bands like AC/DC anymore, and perhaps they'd be right. The Australian group shaped the youths of many of us with their hard sound and clever lyrics. Nobody will forget original singer Bon Scott or replacement Brian Johnson who raised the band from its ashes after the tragedy of Scott's death.

But now you can hop onto the Highway to Hell and take a ride using Rdio, the music streaming service that aims to compete in this market with many formidable rivals. The music site has announced the whole epic catalog is available to its users.

"The group’s 17 studio albums, four live albums and two soundtracks are all here, starting from 1975’s debut High Voltage and running all the way to last year’s Rock or Bust. This is an influential and extensive discography that has allowed AC/DC to sell more than 200 million albums across the world", Rdio announcers.

You'll even get the iconic Back in Black which helped shape a generation. If you don't have an account with Rdio there are free and paid versions available, so head over there and grab one if you want to annoy your neighbors. No school boy outfit is required to listen. Let there be rock.

The first 3D-printed supercar can reach 60 mph in 2.2 seconds

The Blade 3D-printed supercar

A San Francisco-based firm has become the first company to create a 3D printed supercar, which can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.2 seconds.

The Blade, created by Divergent Microfactories, was developed using a series of chassis parts held together by carbon rods, instead of coming out as a single unit, and was put together like a Lego set.

The Blade only weighs 1,400 pounds and is made out of carbon fiber. But in addition, Divergent had said that the method also helped to reduce the weight of the chassis by as much as 90 percent.

Despite its light weight, the supercar features a 700HP engine capable of running on both CNG and gas.

More than being just a game changer in the production of vehicles, Divergent also said that 3D printing reduces pollution, materials and capital costs associated with building automobiles and other structures.

"Society has made great strides in its awareness and adoption of cleaner and greener cars", said Divergent Microfactories CEO Kevin Czinger. "The problem is that while these cars do now exist, the actual manufacturing of them is anything but environmentally friendly".

Divergent intends to sell a limited number of high-performance vehicles, which it hopes will encourage others to set up microfactories to 3D print their own low-cost vehicles.

Check out the video below to learn more about how the Blade was made.

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

Linux Mint 17.2 'Rafaela' available now for download


If you have never tried Linux Mint, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. It is a fantastically refreshing distribution -- built on the dependable Ubuntu -- that makes using a Linux-based operating system an absolute treat.

Typically featuring two desktop environments -- Mate and Cinnamon -- users can select an interface that meets their needs. Cinnamon in particular is very pretty, and has a traditional start menu that Windows defectors will appreciate. Today, Linux Mint 17.2 'Rafaela' reaches a "final" release. If you are using Linux Mint already, you should definitely upgrade, while Linux-curious outsiders should consider it too.

The "shipping" Linux kernel is 3.16 and not 4.x, but advanced users can upgrade manually if they want. My advice is to stick with official upgrades from Mint to guarantee the most stability.

Huge work went into improving the performance of Cinnamon in particular. Users should expect to see less taxing CPU usage, which in turn, may make the desktop environment appropriate for less powerful systems too.

Mate users will not get anything to be particularly excited about. Maybe it is time to give Cinnamon another try.

One of the strongest aspects of Linux Mint, the update manager, gets a very smart update. "Packages can now be aliased and presented under a different name than their package name or source package name. When this is the case the original package names also appear in the interface as secondary information. This is used by Linux Mint to group related packages together or to present them with simpler and more understandable names. For instance, updates for "cjs", or "muffin" which are essential to Cinnamon are now presented as "cinnamon-cjs" or "cinnamon-muffin" and appear just beside other Cinnamon updates", says The Mint Team.

Linux gamers with NVIDIA graphics will be very happy. The Mint Team explains, "the NVIDIA drivers were upgraded from version 331.113 to version 346.72 to support recent NVIDIA chipsets. MDM was given better support for NVIDIA Prime. On NVIDIA Optimus equipped computers, you can now switch between your Intel and your NVIDIA card with a simple log out. You no longer need to reboot. A system tray icon also indicates which GPU is active and you can click on it to switch to the other one".

What makes this a particularly great operating system choice is the long support. Believe it or not, 17.2 will get updates and support through 2019.

So what are you waiting for? It is time to give this awesome operating system a spin. You can download it here. If you are on Linux Mint 17 or 17.1, you can hopefully expect an update in the next few days.