Mihaita Bamburic

How to create a bootable Windows 8.1 Update USB drive

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Even though Windows 8.1 has been designed to work fine on touch-enabled devices as well as traditional PCs, many argued that Microsoft was still not doing enough to please those who are exclusively relying on a keyboard and mouse to navigate through the operating system. Luckily for them, Microsoft has listened to user feedback and introduced Windows 8.1 Update, during the latest Build conference.

Microsoft has revealed that Windows 8.1 Update -- well, the Update bit anyway -- will roll out to consumers starting April 8. The refreshed operating system as well as the individual update are already available though, to MSDN and TechNet subscribers. Here is how you can create a bootable Windows 8.1 Update USB drive.

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Yahoo touts more security improvements

Cloud Security Communications

Security has taken center-stage at Yahoo, as the company continues to roll out encryption for its cloud services and its site in an attempt to keep users and their personal information safe from prying eyes.

"Hundreds of Yahoos have been working around the clock over the last several months to provide a more secure experience for our users and we want to do even more moving forward", says Yahoo chief information security officer Alex Stamos. "Our goal is to encrypt our entire platform for all users at all time, by default. Our broader mission is to not only make Yahoo secure, but improve the security of the overall web ecosystem".

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Nokia unveils three new Lumia Windows Phone 8.1 smartphones

Nokia Lumia 930

Now that Windows Phone 8.1 is official, Finnish maker Nokia just announced three new Lumias rocking the new tiled smartphone operating system. The Lumia 930 acts as the company's new flagship, while the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 are its low-end offerings.

The Lumia 930 is the natural successor to the Lumia 920 and Lumia 925, strongly resembling the Verizon-exclusive Lumia 929 in both specifications and appearance. The Lumia 635 is the successor to the Lumia 625, with the Lumia 630 introducing dual-SIM support into the mix, a first for the platform.

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Meet Windows Phone 8.1

Windows Phone 8.1 Launch

Today, at the Build conference in San Francisco, Microsoft takes the wraps off Windows Phone 8.1, the first major update for its smartphone operating system since late-October 2012. The much-awaited release should finally give the software giant's competitor a clear advantage in the race against main rivals Android and iOS, that dominate the smartphone market from afar.

Microsoft has thrown a lot of features at Windows Phone 8.1, some of which we had been expecting to arrive with Windows Phone 8. A lot is riding on this release, as the platform is at a critical stage now. Its market share fails to top 4 percent due to low consumer adoption, Microsoft is set to become the largest Windows Phone vendor, manufacturers have shown little interest in it as they focus their efforts on Android instead, and the competition is more fierce than ever. Windows Phone 8.1 is the release which sets the tone for the platform in 2014, and, naturally, our expectations are high.

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BlackBerry and T-Mobile part ways

Breakup Smartphones

It is unusual for a smartphone manufacturer to announce it no longer wants to have its devices available at a major mobile operator's stores. Yet this is what the troubled BlackBerry has done.

BlackBerry revealed that it will not renew its agreement with US mobile operator T-Mobile once the license expires later this month, following the controversy triggered by the latter's attempt to move BlackBerry customers to other brands. This decision will effectively put an end to new sales of BlackBerrys at T-Mobile, come April 25.

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Bill Gates loves his new iPhone 5s, can now beat Bono at Candy Crush

Bill Gates

Bill Gates just took a bite out of a forbidden fruit. Microsoft's founder has been seen using an iPhone 5s while departing for a philanthropic endeavour, despite his role at the software giant and having a no-Apple-device-allowed policy in his family.

Gates's kids were taken by surprise, after asking to use iPhones since 2007 and being told "No", but said they understand and support his choice as Apple's smartphone "is pretty cool". Gates' decision to buy an iPhone 5s, in white with, naturally, a (Product) Red case, was fueled by Bono's taunts, as U2's lead singer repeatedly teased Gates for not being able to beat him at Candy Crush.

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Motorola matters once again in Europe

Motorola Moto G

Before Motorola brought the Moto G and Moto X to Europe, the company's presence on the old continent was lackluster at best when it came to smartphones. The best consumers could get, and only in a small number of markets, was the dated Razr HD that seemed to be aimed solely at the brand's fans and keeping the Motorola name alive. The maker had thrown in the towel, trailing behind the likes of Apple and Samsung.

The Moto G and, later, the Moto X have put Motorola back on the smartphone map. "Motorola was nowhere in Europe before the Moto G launched in November last year, but the new model has since boosted the manufacturer to 6 percent of British sales", says Kantar Wordpanel ComTech strategic insight director Dominic Sunnebo. "It highlights the speed at which a quality budget phone can disrupt a market".

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Beware of third-party Google-branded Windows Phone apps

Beware

The official launch of major Google apps on Windows Phone would qualify as the biggest news of the week, next to the release of Office for iPads. Such an event seems highly unlikely, as the search giant is focusing its mobile development efforts on the more popular platforms, namely Android and iOS.

Imagine my surprise when, only moments earlier, in group chat my colleague Alan Buckingham mentions these five Google apps, that seem legit at first glance: Hangouts, Voice, Maps, Search and Google+. They are now available in the US Windows Phone Store. Did the search giant just have a change of heart? The answer appears to be negative, as, first-off, Google does not sell such apps for $1.99 a pop, it makes them available for free. But, what is so special about them anyway? It is not like these are the only third-party Google apps in Store.

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Office Mobile free on Android, iPhone is a clever bait

Bait Sea Hook Fishing

Microsoft made Office Mobile available for free since launch, on both Android and iOS. But, in order to take advantage of its features, users had to tie the app to an Office 365 subscription. So it was free, but not void of additional costs.

Yesterday, Microsoft launched Office for iPad and announced a subscription is now no longer necessary to get the best out of Office Mobile, which was just updated on both platforms to reflect this decision. While this only applies to home users -- which means a subscription is still needed for non-personal (commercial) use -- it is certainly a welcome change. But, it also means Windows Phone just lost one of its most important advantages over its main rivals.

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Microsoft Azure opens its cloud doors in China

Cloud

After announcing the upcoming rebranding of Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure, the software giant has revealed its cloud platform is now broadly available in China. 21Vianet is responsible for the operation in the local Asian market.

"This significant milestone makes us the first global company to make onshore public cloud services available to customers in China", says Microsoft corporate vice president of Cloud & Enterprise Marketing Takeshi Numoto. Microsoft Azure has been available to local customers since June 6, last year, but only as a public preview.

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South Korean mobile operators jump the gun on Samsung Galaxy S5 launch

Start Track Run Line

Mobile operators in Samsung's home country of South Korea have decided to give themselves a head start on the Galaxy S5 launch, by making the smartphone available starting March 27. Its official worldwide launch is slated for next month, on April 11.

SK Telecom, KT and LG UPlus are the local mobile operators in question, with SK Telecom being the largest one in South Korea. Two weeks ahead of the official launch, the smartphone is on sale for ₩866,800 (roughly $809 or €587).

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HTC is (too) confident reviewers like One (M8)

HTC One (M8) first video ad

The first ad a company releases for its new product reveals the marketing strategy it pursues. In HTC's case, the first video advert for the new One (M8) tells us nothing concrete about the smartphone.

The ad features actor Gary Oldman, who, while saying "blah" countless times as if he has got nothing interesting to tell us, refers us to the good old Internet to make up our own minds about the One (M8), a smartphone which, per the man's words, "is designed for people who form their own opinions". No wonder the ad is called "Blah Blah Blah - Go Ahead, Ask The Internet".

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Meet HTC's new One (M8)

HTC One M8 Official

After a string of unexciting smartphones, last year, HTC wowed Android fans all over the world with the One. For the first time, in my opinion, a smartphone powered by the little green droid looked attractive. It did not take part in the silly specs race, as, at the time, the display was not the largest in its class, the processor was not the fastest around and it was not even the most compact Android smartphone given its specs. However, it performed well and offered unique software features, which, combined with the stunning looks, made it one of the best-received smartphones of the year. Sadly for HTC, it was not quite the sales success the company hoped it would be.

Because the original One set the bar so high, it will be interesting to see how its successor will stack up. It has pretty high expectations to live up to. Luckily, we do not have to wait long to find out, as HTC just took the wraps off the new One (M8). The name is not as inspiring, but it does pack a fair punch.

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HTC confirms new One, will be available in a Google Play Edition

Shouting Screaming Man Suit Businessman Megaphone

HTC might have jumped the gun today, ahead of the official unveiling of the new One flagship. The Taiwanese maker just released a number of branded apps on Google Play, meant to bring new features quicker to its Android devices, one of which confirms the soon-to-be-announced smartphone and the availability of a Google Play Edition.

The app in question is called HTC Gallery. According to its description, it "provides you with a range of fast and easy ways to locate your photos", and looks like a replacement for Android's built-in Gallery app.

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BatteryBox can charge one Apple MacBook Air or 8 iPhones in one go

BatteryBox

Battery life continues to be the weak spot of mobile devices. Smartphones, tablets and laptops can quickly run out of juice, rendering them useless in mere hours. In places with access to the power grid the battery can be easily recharged, but that may not be the case in other locations. I often find myself in this position while traveling. Tethering makes it even worse.

Road warriors can turn to external batteries, which usually pack a decent charge, but also see a noticeable degradation in performance over time. BatteryBox is a new entry in this market that is touted to keep power-hungry devices running for many hours in one go, while never losing capacity.

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