Latest Technology News

Google Camera goads iPhone

Google Camera Ugly Dolls

Android phones running stock or manufacturer-installed KitKat 4.4+ get a big photo-shooting upgrade today. Google Camera is now available from the Play store. The app replaces the standard shooter on Nexus devices and places a separate camera app on others. The headline feature: Lens Blur, which does exactly what the name indicates. You shoot the image, and then use the app to either blur the foreground or background. Photographers call the capability "bokeh", and it usually requires a specialized lens on dedicated hardware to produce well. The blurred effect is highly desirable for portraits. Can you say selfie?

Google does what Apple should -- use software development wits to add hardware smarts. This is exactly the kind of thing I would expect from the fruit-logo company first. But that's a number recently missing from the iOS crop. Google is by no means first to offer software blur, but in my testing delivers arguably the best effort. Hell, the new camera app even shames newfangled hardware mechanisms. HTC One M8 uses two lenses and feature UFocus to produce bokeh. In my testing, on The One and Nexus 7, blur is surprisingly comparable.

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Google scanning and analyzing the numbers on your house -- strengthens reCAPTCHA

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The greatest dream for many people is home and land ownership. House prices, at least in the USA, are extraordinarily expensive, putting this dream out of reach for many. For those that do achieve the dream, there are many hurdles that must be faced afterwards -- utility bills, property taxes and maintenance to name a few.

Well, homeowners have one more thing to worry about -- the visibility and legibility of their house numbers. You see, Google is now using a sophisticated algorithm to scan Street View data and detect those numbers. The end result is better accuracy in Google Maps, and a stronger reCAPTCHA.

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Bluhell Firewall: a simple but effective ad-blocker for Firefox

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Building the perfect ad-blocker is a complex business, not least because your users can have very different ideas on how it should work.

Some developers try to address this with layer after layer of features. You’ll be able to whitelist this, blacklist that, and add custom filters for just about everything else. Sounds great, until you have to spend an age learning how everything works, and start to notice how all these layers are slowing you down.

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Logitech Harmony Smart Keyboard now controls Amazon Fire TV

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It's been a busy couple of weeks in the home theater market, with a few major releases, including the Roku streaming stick, but also Amazon's much anticipated Fire TV and the latest offering from Harmony. The Logitech-owned company offers a number of smart remotes, but now also has the Smart Keyboard, designed to control your home theater.

The introduction of Amazon's Android-based box seemed to offer a challenge, as the remote is Bluetooth, but Harmony has stepped up and made it work.

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EssentialPIM adds support for cloud sync, Pro users gain PGP encryption

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Astonsoft has released EssentialPIM Free 5.8 and EssentialPIM Pro 5.8, major new versions of its personal information manager tool for Windows.

Also available in portable form as well as on Android and iOS, version 5.8’s headline feature is integration with the new EPIM Cloud feature, allowing data to be synced using the cloud.

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Getac launches rugged Windows tablet for mobile workers

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With tablets becoming more common in the workplace, the problem with normal models is they're not robust enough to cope with the demands of utility workers and field service operatives.

We saw Dell address this market a few weeks ago with a tough convertible system and now rugged systems specialist Getac is launching a new Windows 8 tablet specifically aimed at mobile field workers.

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FilExile deletes files or folders that Explorer won’t touch

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Deleting files from Windows Explorer is usually very easy. Select your target, tap "Del", click the "Yes, I really mean it" button and the object disappears forever. (Or is sent to the Recycle Bin, anyway.)

Sometimes you’ll get an "in use" error, though, usually because the file is locked by Windows or the system. It’s best to find out why -- the file could be important -- but if all else fails, a specialist tool like Unlocker can help you to delete it anyway.

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Don’t waste another $6 million on your financial close -- Automate for better accuracy and efficiency

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Every member of the finance department knows the importance -- and the effort it takes -- to perform the monthly, quarterly and year-end close in order to create corporate financial statements. The tabulation and documentation demand complete accuracy and coordination between all the moving parts of an enterprise.

For large organizations, it's a tremendous process challenge just to consolidate information from so many geographic locations, departments and corporate silos in a relatively short period of time.

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Stickeez boosts ad revenue for mobile developers

Mobile apps

In-app adverts provide a useful revenue stream for developers, allowing them to monetize what would otherwise be free products.

With Gartner predicting that over 94 percent of app downloads will be free by 2017, revenue from in-app ads is likely to become even more critical in the future.

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BitTorrent joins forces with Netgear, brings Sync to NAS

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BitTorrent has been busily updating its Sync ever since the service first debuted. The organization bills this as having no cloud involved, describing it as "being more private and secure than the public cloud".

Now BitTorrent is joining forces with Netgear for the first NAS integration of its Sync program. "NetGear is our first partner to launch a native BitTorrent Sync app, which can be accessed from the ReadyNAS Add Ons page today", says Erik Pounds.

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Mobile kingpins embark in fight against smartphone theft

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Even though technology has advanced tremendously in recent times, smartphone theft or loss continues to be an area which has received little attention from the big players in the industry. And, it is not difficult to see why, as they stand to profit from people's misfortune or mistakes.

While we can track smartphones and delete any personal data remotely, most handsets do not have a kill switch, which means the people who stole or found a handset may be able to use it freely. However, that is set to change, as CTIA has revealed top players in the mobile industry have, finally, decided to fight on behalf of consumers, by employing countermeasures.

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How to slipstream Windows 8.1 Update into a custom installation ISO

Windows 8.1 Update

Microsoft’s tiled operating system is best viewed as a work in progress. The tech giant made major changes from Windows 8 to 8.1, and has just released the mandatory Update, which adds tweaks and new features aimed primarily at keyboard and mouse users.

The downside of these changes is that if you ever have to reinstall Windows you’ll need to update your computer with the Update and other security patches and so on afterwards. Fortunately, you can create a new, more up to date installer by slipstreaming (integrating) the Update with the original disc files.

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Defraggler adds Quick Optimize feature for SSD drives, disk performance graphs

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Piriform has released Defraggler 2.18 and Defraggler Portable 2.18, minor updates to its Windows freeware defrag tool.

Version 2.18 builds on the previous release by adding additional functionality to the recently introduced Statistics tab as well as implementing a new Quick Optimize feature for sold-state storage drives.

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Toshiba offers 4K in new Satellite P55t laptop

Toshiba Satellite P55t 4K

The displays of mid-range and high-end laptops have reached a point when distinguishing pixels is no longer easy. We can thank high resolutions for that. Nowadays, even small laptops can tote 1080p, and some offer even more than that. Manufacturers can start focusing on other aspects, as any improvements in this area are purely incremental. And, there is only so much the human eye can see, after all. (But, we can all enjoy battery life improvements, for instance.)

Toshiba has not yet given up on competing in the specs race though, as it just unveiled a new laptop, called Satellite P55t, sporting a display resolution of 3840 by 2160, commonly referred to as 4K. The new offering has a price to match the prowess of its 15.6-inch screen, as it costs $1,499 when it goes on sale later this month, on April 22. That is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination.

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Big Data is the new Artificial Intelligence

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This is the first of a couple columns about a growing trend in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it is likely to be integrated in our culture. Computerworld ran an interesting overview article on the subject yesterday that got me thinking not only about where this technology is going but how it is likely to affect us not just as a people. but as individuals. How is AI likely to affect me? The answer is scary.

Today we consider the general case and tomorrow the very specific.

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