Mihaita Bamburic

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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Nokia launches Windows Phone 8 Pocket Magnifier app for the visually impaired

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Nokia has launched a new Windows Phone 8 app aimed at the visually impaired. The offering, called Pocket Magnifier, was developed in collaboration with the UK Royal National Institute of Blind People, and is available exclusively for the Finnish maker's Lumia lineup.

As the name implies, Pocket Magnifier works like a digital magnifier glass that folks can point at various items for magnification. The app has a couple of features that are meant to augment this functionality, so let us take a look at them.

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Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's Devices & Services arm to close next month

Delay Businessman Business Clepsydra Sand Glass

When the sale of Nokia's Devices & Services, the company's phone-making arm, to Microsoft was announced in September last year, the process was expected to complete by the end of Q1 2014. As the initial deadline is rapidly approaching, the Finnish manufacturer reveals the software giant will have to wait a little more to get control of the business.

"Nokia today announced that it now expects the transaction whereby the company will sell substantially all of its Devices & Services business and license its patents to Microsoft to close in April 2014", says Nokia. "This compares with Nokia's previous expectation on the transaction closing in the first quarter of 2014, which Nokia communicated when the company first announced the transaction on September 3, 2013. Nokia and Microsoft remain committed to the transaction".

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SmartMio Q&A: Electronic muscle stimulation in the wearables era

SmartMio

Wearables make up for an exciting market which offers huge opportunities for innovation and turning otherwise bland devices into modern gadgets. We have smartwatches which augment smartphones, activity trackers which monitor our sleeping habits and physical activity, and glasses which let us take photos and receive navigation directions at the blink of an eye.

Part of the wearable wave are also electronic muscle stimulators, like SmartMio. It works like a traditional EMS, but instead of controlling it manually through physical toggles and buttons, users have a much more powerful mobile app at their disposal. I chatted with the CEO of the company behind SmartMio, Alex Pisarev, to learn more about its wearable strategy and future plans, how the device works and what benefits users have.

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Microsoft: Going through your 'private' emails is like searching 'ourselves'

Spying

Microsoft has admitted to going through one of its own users' personal emails (a blogger who has leaked pre-release Windows builds and, allegedly, intended to sell the software giant's IP) without asking for a court order, as this practice is covered by its permissive privacy policy.

To assuage concerns that it may, in the future, not go through its own users' emails without justification, Microsoft has issued a statement which details the steps the company will have to complete, and the obstacles it sets for itself, for such things to happen again. This reminds me of the for-the-sake-of-doing-it surveillance reform that US President Barack Obama unveiled to minimize the controversial NSA mass surveillance practices, that also has similar measures in place to prevent abuse. Neither promise is reassuring.

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Avast: Here is what might happen after Microsoft drops Windows XP support

XP

You are likely well aware by now that, come April 8, Microsoft will officially drop support for its dated Windows XP. Considering that the operating system will celebrate its 13th birthday this year, the company's decision is hardly surprising. Users have had plenty of time to plan for this moment, and move to newer, better versions of Windows.

Yes, there are still many Windows XP users, as the operating system's market share tops nearly 30 percent, far more than the newer Windows 8.x branch, combined. As a result, the extent of the public support cutoff is huge, even effecting security companies which have declared their commitment to supporting Windows XP past its due date. In a blog post, Avast details potential issues users might encounter starting next month.

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Check whether two-factor authentication is available for your Internet accounts

Security Lock

Relying on passwords alone to keep your Internet accounts safe can get you in a lot of trouble. They may be comfortable to use, but hackers can easily bypass or crack them. Or, even worse in my opinion, steal personal information without you even knowing. A recommended method for minimizing such risks is to enable two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication is an added security layer that requires you to use a password and a security code, in order to log in. It is a feature available in the account's settings that is usually not enabled by default. The security code can be delivered via SMS, email or a dedicated app. I have it turned on for every Internet account that supports it.

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Sony rolls out Android 4.4 KitKat for flagship Xperia smartphones

Google starts the KitKat rollout for Nexus 7 and 10 owners

Most Android smartphones and tablets do not run the latest-available version of Android, as vendors choose older iterations, even for their flagship products. As a result, it can take many months -- or it may never even happen -- for a software upgrade to finally close the gap.

One of the vendors that finds itself in this situation quite often is Japanese maker Sony, which cannot seem to release a high-end device, like the Xperia Z, Xperia Z1, Xperia Z Ultra or Xperia Z Compact, without shipping it with a dated version of Android. Luckily, KitKat commences its much-awaited roll-out for the company's most-recent flagship smartphones and tablets.

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OneNote for OS X is nice, but Evernote's better [Review]

OneNote for OS X

For jotting down digital notes, I prefer Evernote over any other app, including Google Keep and Microsoft OneNote. The main thing I like about it is the superb platform availability that allows me to use the service on every laptop, smartphone and tablet that I own. The sharing feature is also great; my girlfriend and I can seamlessly share and edit each other's notes and notebooks.

While Google Keep is not yet a strong contender for me, OneNote can be as good as Evernote. Some would argue it is even better. Because both my girlfriend and I use Windows Phone 8 smartphones, Microsoft's app would appear to be a natural choice. But, the lack of support for OS X means OneNote is a no-go, as I cannot use it on my MacBook Air. Until now.

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Boot Camp supports only Windows 8.1 on Apple's new Mac Pro

macprofeature

Even though Windows 8.1 is not Microsoft's most-popular PC operating system at this point -- Windows 7 takes that title -- Apple has decided it should be the only choice users of the new Mac Pro can have in Boot Camp.

This may come as a surprise, considering Windows 8.1's low adoption among PC users, but the company's decision is to be expected. Boot Camp gradually drops support for older versions of Windows in newer Macs, as shown by the software's support page.

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