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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.

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What you really want is iPhone 6 with sapphire display

iphone 5s sepia wanted 2

What do you want to see most on the new iPhone 6 (if you care about Apple's upcoming device, that is)?

That was the question posed by Usell.com in a poll of a thousand mobile owners across the US, and the resoundingly top response was the much talked-about sapphire screen. 45 percent of respondents said they wanted a super-tough sapphire display, with 50 percent of Android and iPhone users saying they would ditch their current smartphone for the iPhone 6 if it came with such a screen.

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Best Windows 8 apps this week

sniper

Ninety-sixth in a series.  Welcome to this week's installment of the best new apps and games for Microsoft's Windows 8.x operating system.

Microsoft  removed 1500 apps from the store this week that did not meet quality guidelines and resulted in a bad user experience as a consequence. Users who purchased these apps are eligible for a refund according to Microsoft's announcement.

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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.

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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".

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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, among top mobile platforms -- 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.

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British parents set to spend millions on back to school gadgets

School children laptop

More than a quarter of British parents say they'll be buying new gadgets for their kids ahead of the autumn return to school, with an average spend of £329 per family making a massive nationwide total of £659 million.

This is among the findings of a new survey by comparison and switching site uSwitch.com which finds that the average school bag now contains around £130 worth of tech.

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Easily inspect DXF files with de-caff DXF Viewer

de-caffDXFViewer-200-175

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.

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Uber is stealing drivers away from Lyft

Driving Navigation Car Driver

Ride sharing startup Uber has been caught using "brand ambassadors" to steal drivers away from its biggest competitor, Lyft.

Uber provides teams of independent contractors with credit cards and "burner" phones (essentially phones that can be bought without signing a contract) who then order rides from Lyft and charm the drivers over to Uber.

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Understanding Snapchat's valuation

Snapchat - Valuation

Snapchat's valuation has soared from about $2 billion last year, when it reportedly declined an acquisition offer from Facebook, to $10 billion in its latest round of funding. Let's compare Snapchat's valuation and engagement metrics to those of other social networks/apps and attempt to understand the rationale behind this valuation.

While Snapchat is still a pre-revenue company, they are preparing to roll out their first monetization attempt this November. The service, called Snapchat Discovery, will allow users to view publications or video clips from advertisers. At this point, Snapchat may successfully monetize their user base before Whatsapp does. Of course, there are various monetization models available to both, that have already been validated by Asian messaging apps.

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Google, Nvidia and VMware team up to bring graphics-intensive apps to Chromebooks

VMworld2014-Acer-Chromebook-CAD

VMware, Google and Nvidia are all teaming up in a scheme which will allow high-end graphics intensive applications to be used on a lowly Chromebook.

How will that work? Obviously a Chromebook doesn't have the horsepower to run heavyweight programs such as, say, Photoshop or AutoCAD, but the laptop won't be running it in this case. The software will run in the cloud, on powerful machines in data centers, and be streamed to the notebook.

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Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn Beta 1 is here -- Unity not invited to the party

unic

Linux distributions and goofy names go together like peanut butter and jelly. There is a method to the madness though, as code names make it easier to search for version-specific issues. Still, I wish the names would be a bit less silly. Case in point, the new version of Ubuntu, 14.10, is code-named "Utopic Unicorn". Sigh. Whatever.

Regardless of what it is called, Ubuntu is a great distribution, especially for beginners. Today, Canonical announces that Beta 1 of 14.10 is available for immediate download. However, only the alternative flavors are available; the default Unity version no longer participates in official beta releases. Gentleman, start your downloads!

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