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Tech startups working to protect your privacy

Privacy

Addressing the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference over the weekend of 18 July, Edward Snowden entreated hackers, engineers and activists to fight surveillance by building a new generation of privacy tools for everyone to use. In fact, privacy startups are already hard at work building tools to help web users protect their privacy in areas such as analytics, encryption and search.

However, there is still much work to do to put these tools into the hands of the ordinary web user.

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Russia offers a $112,000 bounty to anyone who can crack Tor

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Russia's government has issued a 4 million rubles (about $112,000) bounty to anyone who cracks the Tor anonymity network's encryption protocols.

Tor, which began as a secret project from the US Naval Research Laboratory, works by piling up layers of encryption over data, nested like the layers of an onion, which gave the network its original name, The Onion Router (TOR).

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Windows Phone users -- put down those cheeseburgers and pick up a Fitbit

FatDudeBurger

Being a tech enthusiast is usually synonymous with being out of shape. Thinking back to the movie Revenge of the Nerds, it was clear that computer users were weaklings. As time marched on from the 80's, tech nerds went from simply being weak, to being fat too. Yes, we tech nerds like to sit in chairs and eat bad food. Of course, I'm generalizing; I am positive there are physically fit computer nerds. With that said, I have not encountered many.

Thanks to the smartphone, technology has become more and more mainstream and simple to use. An iPhone or Android device is in the hands of all ages. I have encountered many older people that have never owned a PC and likely never will, that own an iPhone or Android device. The mainstreaming of technology has brought the merging of previously non-tech things with tech. For instance, I recently saw a WiFi connected crock pot. The surprising trend, however, is technology and fitness. Dongles such as the Fitbit have been all the rage lately, but sadly, Windows Phone users were left out -- what else is new, right? Today, this changes as Windows Phone gains a Fitbit app!

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Logitech brings inexpensive H570e USB headset to the enterprise

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When I go to the grocery store, nothing drives me crazier than people using the speakerphone function of their phone to talk with their partner. When I hear "honey, should I buy 1% or 2% milk?" and then listen to the discussion, it makes me nuts. It's like, I just want to throw their phone into the live lobster tank. Does no one have a sense of privacy and consideration anymore?

This nonsense also happens in the workplace. It is not uncommon for an employee to run a video chat or web-based conference call through their speakers. They then shout at their computer, so the cheap mic picks up their voice. This is very inconsiderate; it negatively impacts the entire office's productivity, as attention is diverted from tasks. Today, Logitech wants to quiet these annoying coworkers with the H570e USB headset.

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Printworks gives Mac users a user-friendly, yet surprisingly powerful, design tool

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Belight Software has released Printworks 1.0 for Mac. Launching with a discounted price of $29.99 (normally $49.99), the app is a fully fledged desktop publishing and design tool aimed at the home and small business market.

The app’s main appeal is that it manages to wrap up all the core functionality required for designing a wide range of documents -- including flyers, newsletters and greetings cards -- in a user interface that’s simple to grasp and places all the key tools at the user’s fingertips.

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Convert web pages to PDF with wkhtmltopdf

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It can often be useful to keep a local copy of a web page, and your browser’s "Save Page As" option is a good place to start. But typically this saves an HTML file and a separate folder with its resources, or an archive format like MHT, not so convenient if you’d like to share the document with others.

Wkhtmltopdf is an open source tool which quickly converts HTML to PDF, ready for viewing just about anywhere. It’s written for the command line, but don’t let that put you off -- you’ll be using it productively in seconds.

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SlimClip -- a minimal iPhone case with clip-on functionality [Review]

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When I go for runs, my iPhone always comes with me, providing music and motivation through apps like Zombies, Run! Usually I just jam the device in my pocket, but that's not always possible, or practical. There are other ways to carry your phone with you, including using armbands, but SlimClip offers an alternative option.

The plastic case has a thin flap on the back. You lift this up to slide the iPhone into the enclosure, and the flap doubles as a clip so you can attach the device to your waistband. It's a simple, but very clever idea that works well.

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One in four IT professionals aren't aware of virtual security options

Security alert

Securing IT is essential for any modern business, but according to a new study carried out for security company Kaspersky Lab around one in four IT security experts have little or no understanding of the security options for virtual environments.

Almost half of respondents (46 percent) said that virtual environments can be adequately protected by conventional security solutions and 36 percent believe that security concerns in virtual infrastructures are significantly lower than in physical environments.

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Nokia X lineup gets new software update

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Even though Microsoft is planning to downsize its Nokia X efforts (to the point where there will likely be no new device announced), the software giant is still supporting its Android lineup by rolling out a new software update.

The update introduces the multitasking functionality from the Nokia X2 lineup, giving users the ability to easily switch and close running apps. It can be triggered by tapping on the App Switcher icon, after swiping down from the top of the display.

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The trick to making a great 'mobile first' app

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There are now more than one million apps in the Apple app store but a study by Deloitte's showed that 80 percent of apps get less than 1,000 downloads each. If we assume (very, very conservatively) that those apps cost an average of $10,000 to develop -- that is at least $8 billion being wasted making apps no one uses.

In reality, the cost is often over $100,000, which makes the wastage around $80 billion. That is a lot of marketing and development dollars being spent that could have been better used on something else.

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Cortana embarrasses Siri in new Windows Phone ad

Cortana vs Siri

Even though Cortana shares some major design traits with Google Now, there is no denying that the new Windows Phone 8.1 personal assistant actually feels more like a Siri rival. That is due to their uncanny wittiness and human-like personality, two things that are just not there in Google's (clinical, albeit mighty powerful) offering.

Cortana is gunning for Siri as the latter is a more talked-about personal assistant than Google Now is (and will likely ever be). So it should come as no surprise that, in a new Windows Phone 8.1 ad titled Happy Anniversary, Microsoft pits the two against each-other. And, obviously, Cortana embarrasses its opponent.

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Xbox One now available for pre-order in China

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On Friday, China Telecom, the country's third biggest telecommunications company, said it would start selling the Xbox One in China from September, although no pricing details were revealed.

Today JD.com Inc, China's second largest e-commerce company (by market share), confirmed it has started to accept pre-orders for the games console.

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BlackBerry: Apple and IBM partnership is like 'two elephants dancing'

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BlackBerry isn’t losing any sleep over the recent enterprise tie-up between IBM and Apple as their CEO John Chen compared it to a couple of large mammals taking to the dance floor.

Chen, talking to the Financial Times, likened the partnership to when "two elephants start dancing" and thinks that the firm he is slowly rebuilding has enough in the bag to compete with anyone that challenges it in the enterprise market.

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How network convergence can improve the mobile experience

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Network convergence has been defined as the integration of voice, video and data in a single network. This convergence allowed enterprises to deliver more, and even better services, at a much lower cost to customers. While network convergence has evolved over the years to include teleconferencing, streaming media, and HD video, the latest addition to network convergence is mobility and this includes smartphones, tablets, laptops or any other wireless capable device.

For an enterprise to leverage the advantages of mobility, such as increased employee satisfaction, improved productivity and overall agility, the network should be capable of providing a hassle-free and seamless user experience. Here are a few key things that network admins need to keep in mind when deciding to bring mobility into the enterprise mix.

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Wilson's Weekend Whine: slow connections are dividing the web -- and making me mad

Wilson's Weekend Whine: slow connections are dividing the web -- and making me mad

The inspiration for this weekend's whine, along with the reason for its slight delay are one and the same thing. An appallingly slow (often non-existent) internet connection. Well, actually it's a combination of things, a slow internet connection being just one of them. Most people -- myself included in the past -- don't give a second thought to living online. Web pages are there ready be accessed on demand. Movies are just waiting to stream. Facebook and Twitter posts stream by. And so on. At least that's how it should be. If you live out in the sticks, it's a very different story -- and it stops me from banging about Edward Snowden and the NSA.

Look at the headlines and you’d be forgiven for thinking that everyone in the "developed world" is working with a blisteringly fast connection. Forget cables, we just have our brains connected directly to the internet. But we don’t. Here in the UK, there is a very noticeable digital divide, and I know it's a similar story in many other parts of the world. I've been fairly lucky in the past. Moving house at the turn of the millennium happily coincided with the arrival of broadband in the area. Hooray! 4Mbps of downstream -- more than acceptable nearly 15 years ago. A house move later, and things jumped to 8Mbps.

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