Latest Technology News

Microsoft raises Azure availability, lowers prices

Cloud storage

Microsoft has announced service enhancements and a reduced price scheme for its Azure SQL database, as a result of customer feedback.

Microsoft has now promised to deliver a service-level agreement (SLA) of 99.99 percent availability, equivalent to a downtime of just 53 minutes per year.

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Goodbye Windows, I'm sticking with Chrome OS

HP Chromebook 11

Earlier this summer I wrote about moving to a Chromebook -- I'm working from my porch and I want something easily portable. I stated at the time that I was not sure where things would lead when the weather took a turn for the cooler. In previous years I've used a Windows 8.x (or 7) computer, as my office contains two desktops and a laptop running the Microsoft operating system as well.

Don't get me wrong -- I still see a need for the platform, but I simply don't see it for myself. I write in Word, which has a Chrome app. I edit images, which Pixlr handles quite well. Beyond that, I do little else outside of checking email and scouring the web for news.

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BBC aims to make programming sexy with new coding TV shows for kids

BBC aims to make programming sexy with new coding TV shows for kids

The BBC is looking to create a new generation of code monkeys with a programming push in schools throughout England. Of all the subjects available to study at school, computer science, IT, computing (call it what you will) isn’t exactly, you know, sexy and exciting, but the Beeb is hoping to change that. Back in the 1980s the BBC -- the UK's license free subsidized public service broadcaster -- spearheaded a drive to popularize computing in general, but particularly programming. Three decades later, the new initiative includes plans for not just one, but several programming-themed TV shows aimed at children.

The BBC has already held talks with Microsoft, BT, Google and Samsung, and has managed to sign agreements with between 10 and 20 partners to help with the new endeavor. In addition to the TV shows, there will also be a range of study guides and other material made available at BBC Bitesize, the broadcaster's online education resource. Jessica Cecil, controller of the BBC's coding and digital creative initiative, said: "It's about giving the next generation a chance to shape their world, not just be consumers in it."

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Microsoft lifts 2GB file size limit for some OneDrive users

Microsoft lifts 2GB file size limit for some OneDrive users

Cloud storage continues to increase in popularity, and as more and more demands are made of the various services that are available, limitations are easy to spot. One limitation that has irked OneDrive users for some time is the fact that it is only possible to synchronize files up to 2GB in size. Over on the OneDrive uservoice page, there have been numerous complaints from users as well as queries about when the limitation might be lifted. A couple of weeks ago Group Program Manager, Omar Shahine explained that: "It’s simply an old limit that we’ve been working on removing for far too long now. The good news is that we are actively working on this".

And work on it they did. Reddit user megaman821 noticed that larger than normal files had started to sync in his account: "I had some 2-3 GB files sitting in my OneDrive and today when I looked they were all synced. I don't know if this is a global rollout or only a few have it. Anyone else have their large files syncing?" The comment thread includes posts from users who find themselves in a similar situation, as well as those who still have the 2GB limit on their account. A quick poll in the BetaNews offices showed that it was certainly not a universal file size limit increase, so we reached out to Microsoft. A spokesperson said:

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Instantly generate sketched characters with DrawWiz

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DrawWiz is an easy-to-use app, Windows and Mac program which instantly generates professional sketches of female cartoon characters.

There's no artistic ability required, fortunately. The app provides hundreds of pre-drawn elements -- situations, face shapes, hair styles, eyes, nose, mouth -- and all you have to do is pick the ones you need.

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Your personal porn is public

stalker

The Internet is buzzing about celebrity nude photos pilfered from iCloud. The problem is bigger than Apple's security, if breached, which I doubt. Behavior is the larger concern, and how people adapt during the contextual cloud computing era. If your phone automatically syncs pictures or videos to any cloud service -- Google Photos, iCloud, OneDrive, or another -- you must assume that nothing is private.

That personal nude video you shoot on the HandyCam is very different from the one taken on Galaxy S5, iPhone 5s, or another device. I should be stating the obvious, but given pervasive attitudes about the Internet -- where people feel safe browsing in the sanctity of their domicile or WiFi coffee shop -- carelessness must be the presumption. These leaked celeb nudes, if real rather than Photoshopped, are good example. Simple rule: Don't shoot any photos or videos on a cloud-connected device you don't want everyone to see.

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Lumsing Prophet Bluetooth Speaker: a powerful wireless audio solution [Review]

Lumsing Prophet Bluetooth Speaker: a powerful wireless audio solution [Review]

We seem to have had something of a run on Lumsing products recently, but the focus has been on power -- both in-car and portable. Now it's time for something a little different from the same company: a wireless Bluetooth speaker. It can be used with phones, tablets, laptops and anything else that chucks out a Bluetooth signal; actually, there's a 3.5mm jack, so there is a wired option too. As this is, primarily, a wireless speaker, it should come as no surprise that it features a built in rechargeable battery. Charging comes via a USB port which you can connect to either a computer or a phone charger.

Let's skirt over the fact that the instruction manual provided with the speaker has a spelling mistake ("Propeht" rather than Prophet) and look at what the Prophet has to offer. This is a budget speaker, but its looks don’t give this away. The disc shape hides two speaker cones, surrounded by a silver trim. Smack in the middle of the speaker grill is a play/pause button which allows for music playback control, and also doubles up as a pick up/hang up button for your phone -- as well as play music from your phone, the Prophet can also be used to make (very loud) hands-free phone calls thanks to the built in microphone.

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Quickly retouch your portraits with Free Photo Blemish Remover

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High resolution digital photos are great for most purposes, but can be a little cruel for portrait shots, where every skin imperfection is suddenly blown up in extreme detail.

Some photo editors have "beautifying" modules to help clean such problems, or you can often fix them yourself with a little painting or clone work. Free Photo Blemish Remover is another option, a specialist tool which can remove image imperfections with a click.

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Turn your Surface Pro 3 into a desktop with the Docking Station [Review]

Surface Pro 3 Docking Station 1

Earlier this year, Microsoft successfully blurred the lines between laptop and tablet with the Surface Pro 3. Yes, the company had attempted it twice before, but the small screens on the previous models made it a less-than-ideal laptop replacement. On the Surface Pro 3, stretching the screen to 12-inches and making it lighter finally achieved the portable productivity nirvana of which many of us dreamed.

While this was great for many, others like me had a dilemma; we do much of our computing at home. Sure, I need a portable machine for travel and working in, let's say, Starbucks; however, at home in my office, I want to use a big 27-inch screen, keyboard and mouse. This was achievable by using Bluetooth peripherals and connecting my monitor directly to the Surface. Sadly, this proved clunky and I needed a better way. Supposedly, that better way is now available with the official Docking Station, so I bought it. The question is, how is it?

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Windows 8.x gains usage share at the expense of Windows XP

Businessman rise stairs chalk

New data which was just posted by web analytics company NetMarketShare shows us that, in August, Windows 8.x managed to gain precious usage share in the desktop operating system market. This happened mainly at the expense of the 13 year-old Windows XP, which is seeing its usage share slowly decrease as new devices, toting newer OSs, are brought into the fold.

The good news, however, comes from the rise in usage share of Windows 8.1, which is now at 7.09 percent, up from the 6.56 percent from July. Windows 8 also grew, to 6.28 percent from 5.92 percent, but this is of a lesser importance, as its successor's fate is far more important. Meanwhile, Windows XP decreased to 23.89 percent from 24.82 percent. Still, it is obvious that the oldest of the three still has a terribly long way to go before it reaches similar usage share levels (we're looking at a couple of years, at least) as Windows 8.1 touts now.

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Microsoft defies court order and refuses to hand over emails to US government

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Back in July, a New York court ruled that Microsoft should provide access to emails stored at a datacenter in Ireland. The company has been quite vocal in opposing requests to hand over this information, and continues to stand its ground. Although a court order requires the emails to be handed over, Microsoft remains defiant. In a blog post entitled "Your email belongs to you, not us" (forget "all your base are belong to us"), Microsoft's Chief Privacy Officer, Brendon Lynch, reiterates the company's position.

"Microsoft is committed to delivering meaningful privacy protections that build trust with our customers, and we know how much you value the contents of your email. We believe your email belongs to you, not us, and that it should receive the same privacy protection as paper letters sent by mail -- no matter where it is stored. This is the crux of our legal challenge to a U.S. government criminal search warrant for a customer's email stored in our datacenter in Dublin, Ireland".

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Intel reveals its first 8-core desktop CPU

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Despite continuing reports of its death, the desktop computer still has a place in the world, particularly amongst power users and gamers. It's these people that Intel has squarely in its sights with the new Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition processor.

Intel’s first 8-core desktop CPU features 16 computing threads which, along with support for the latest DDR4 memory, will enable some of the fastest desktop systems yet seen. Combine this with the new enhanced Intel X99 Chipset and you also have robust overclocking capabilities which will allow enthusiasts to tune their systems to extract maximum performance.

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Lenovo introduces the EMC-based VNX5150 Storage Array

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Lenovo hopes to put a smile on the face of penny-pinching small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) through a new storage area network (SAN) solution based on EMC's VNX unified storage family.

The Lenovo|EMC VNX5150 Storage Array is a dual-processor SAN that offers full redundancy for all major components as well as dual paths of connectivity throughout for a price that SMBs will be able to afford.

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Here's what you can expect to see at IFA 2014

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The rejuvenation of the tech scene at this time of year is heralded by one of the oldest and largest trade shows on the circuit, with Germany taking centre stage for Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin -- known simply as IFA.

At IFA 2013, ITProPortal witnessed the unveiling of the Sony Xperia Z1, realized that convertible laptops are here to stay, and learned that no-one is impressed by Samsung's Galaxy Gear. This year we're looking forward to seeing the year's developments in wearable tech. And I'm not just talking smart watches. This year we're talking infrared thermometers, Bluetooth home cinema speakers and something called the "D30 Smart Skin".

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The Fappening is more than just nude celebrity pics

AppleSnake

Sometimes I wish the internet could just be a place to exchange wholesome information, such as cooking recipes and tips on Linux, but sadly, there is a dark side. There are deviant people lurking on the web doing all sorts of horrible things. Yesterday, a hacker leaked the private pictures and videos (nude and semi-nude) of many celebrities, and they have spread across the net. For these celebrities, who are real people, I am sure it has been a very trying time; their privacy has been destroyed and I offer my sympathies. For the many people (if they can be called that) viewing and spreading the pictures, the occasion has been dubbed "The Fappening"; a way to proclaim their...enjoyment...of the photos. At least once a celebrity has confirmed that the photos of her are legit and not fakes.

If you choose to search for, and view, these leaked photos, I am not going to judge you for eating the forbidden fruit. However, I won't even mention the victims' names to help you look. Quite frankly, my concern is not just for the celebrities, but more for the public as a whole. For those who were considered paranoid about distrusting the cloud, this justifies their concerns. While I don't think it is time for people to run away from the cloud overall, I do think people should be wary of using cloud storage services for intimate photos.

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