It's been a busy week for Microsoft -- and not necessarily for the reasons the company might have expected. For anyone unwilling to wait until April to receive Windows 8.1 Update, a few methods emerged that made it possible to grab a copy of the eagerly awaited update ahead of the official launch. While some of these options appear to have been stopped in their tracks, where there's a will there's a way, and numerous users -- my good self included -- jumped on the downloads as soon as possible. Some were impressed while others -- yep, me again! -- we not. Perhaps it is little wonder that Windows XP usage continues to grow faster than that of Windows 8.x. This lead to analysts suggesting that the decline of the PC will be slowed rather than avoided by the continued popularity of XP.
Windows 8.1 Update wasn't that only Microsoft download that was on the agenda this week. Brian had details of how Windows RT users can update their copies of Office 2013 to SP1. At the top of Microsoft, a quick reshuffle saw a change of faces in a number of key positions as well as the departure of some well-known characters. Skype.com rolled out around the world and gained HD video calling as well. It is normally Microsoft that is to be found on the giving-end of a smeary advertising campaigns (hello, Scroogled), but after the Oscars it was Nokia poking fun at Ellen DeGeneres' blurry selfie that was taken on a Samsung device.
Windows 8.1 Update. Windows 8.1 Update 1. Windows Feature Pack. Windows 8.1 Service Pack 1. Call it what you will, the big update to Windows 8.1 is just around the corner and it promises much. Or at least it did. It was revealed yesterday that it was possible to get hold of the update ahead of schedule with a quick and simple registry edit -- or by downloading the necessary files from the numerous mirrors that quickly sprang up -- and it appears that this is final code; the RTM version that will hit Windows Update for the masses very soon. Was it worth the wait?
This update was Microsoft's chance to put things right, to win back people who hated Windows 8 and have failed to be won over by 8.1. I make no secret about having a love-hate relationship with Windows 8.x. There have been parts of Windows 8 -- particularly the Metro/modern side of things -- which I disliked from day one, but for the most part I have been able to just avoid using them. Microsoft has even acknowledged that people want to avoid the Start screen whenever possible, and has provided tips on how to do so.
The internet is awash with porn. If you want to find something a little titillating, have a taste for the weird, or just want some good old fashion hardcore, you don’t have to look too far to satiate that desire. But if you have been looking to Vine to get your kicks -- and seriously, there must be some better places to look! -- you're going to have to turn your attention elsewhere, as a complete porn ban has been put in place.
It does not matter if you want to share porny videos of yourself with a loved one privately, everything that falls into the category of "Pornography and Sexually Explicit Content" is outlawed. Vine's terms of service state in no uncertain terms that "You may not post Content that... Is pornographic or sexually explicit", and the Vine Rules make it abundantly clear what is permitted and what is not.
Yahoo has been splashing the cash once again, this time placing its bets on Vizify, a company set up to make it easier to create visualizations from social media data.
The outfit has been up and running since 2011, but as a result of Yahoo's acquisition the service will be "sunsetted". It seems that the startup has been swayed by the idea of teaming up with Yahoo with a view to expanding its audience to one of hundreds of millions and will now be working closely with the search giant on projects that are yet to be revealed.
Benchmarks are important. With so much choice in the world of computers, smartphones and tablets, a key factor for potential buyers to bear in mind is raw performance. A few months back benchmarking stalwarts Futuremark took the unusual step of delisting a number of handsets produced by HTC and Samsung after tests appeared to show that the phone artificially boosted performance when they detected benchmarking software was running. Now it looks as though this apparent cheating has come to an end.
Back in October, results published on Anantech showed how a number of popular phones seemed to be cheating the system, giving consumers a false representation of real-world handset performance. Now, according to new tests carried out by Ars Technica it would appear that handsets are behaving in a far more reasonable fashion after being updated to KitKat.
This is a personal account of the way I have noticed the technology markets changing over the years. It is not gospel, and you are welcome (encouraged, if you like) to disagree… It's not all that long ago that brand loyalty was a given; it was almost the default setting for many people. If you got into computing -- and it was something you "got into" rather than just having as part of your life -- you stuck loyally to whatever brand you chose at the start. We could go back to the 70s and look at the birth of personal computing, but as this is my personal account, we'll have to start in the 80s.
I did just manage to sneak into the 70s -- being born in 1979 puts me in the difficult-to-comprehend position of being 34 years old but having seen five decades -- but an interest in computing didn't emerge until some time in the late 80s. I remember there being several computing camps: BBC, Amstrad, Spectrum, Vic and Commodore to name a few. My decision was made for me at an early age when my dad decided to invest in a Commodore 16 Plus 4 (the Plus 4 referring to the fact that the OS featured four built-in applications including a spreadsheet tool, the absurd simplicity of which was not lost on me even at a young age).
There are few people who like ads. Sure, they can be works of art -- certainly there are some advertisements that are infinitely better than a lot of the dirge pumped out by television networks -- but while advertisements on television can be fairly easily avoided (thank you TiVo -- other PVRs are available!) it is a different matter on a computer or mobile device. "Opting" to watch a mindblowing ad for Apple, Guinness or Honda is one thing, but to have unavoidable -- and usually crappy -- advertisements forced upon you whilst browsing the web or using an application is an entirely different matter.
There are groups of people who are happy to endure these adverts because they fund apps, and make it possible for developers to provide their hard work free of charge -- you may fall into this group and have perhaps been able to configure an automatic ad filter for your eyes. But there are larger legions for whom ads are just plain, damned irritating. In some instances it is possible to pay to avoid them, but this is not always the case. If BlackBerry and Yahoo get their way, advertisements are going to become rather more noticeable.
Webcam porn! Spying! Cell phones! Bitcoin controversy! Just another normal week in the world of tech news! Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox disappeared offline amid concern about missing millions and then filed for bankruptcy. After panic spread through Mac users following the discovery of a serious SSL bug in Mavericks, Apple released an update that plugged the hole -- but it was also discovered that iOS 7 has a keylogging vulnerability. Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Office 2013, but anyone using Office 365 will need to force the installation of newer updates in order to reap the benefits.
Security updates are all well and good for operating systems and applications, but it will do little to protect you against the wandering eyes of government agencies. As if everything we have already learned about the activities of the NSA et al, this week's revelations about what the UK's GCHQ has been getting up to is sure to raise ire. Not content with logging emails and web searches, the UK intelligence agency apparently spent a number of years tapping into the webcam chats of millions of Yahoo users. There may be little good news in this revelation, but it was at least slightly amusing to find that the surveillers were rather taken aback by the amount of pornographic content they encountered. It makes ya proud!
Once dismissed as little more than a hobby for Apple, Apple TV seems to have quietly gathered momentum. Talking at a shareholder meeting in Cupertino, CEO Tim Cook revealed that the company has managed to net over $1 billion through the devices, leading him to quip "it's a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days." It's difficult to tell just how many sales this translates into as the figure includes content sales as well as device sales.
But while $1 billion may sound impressive, it is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions that Apple rakes in from its other product lines. The last figure released suggested that over 13 million apple TV boxes had been sold by May last year, but the sales figures released today relate to the fiscal year that ended in September. For anyone thinking about jumping on the bandwagon, Apple has a new incentive -- a $25 iTunes gift card for anyone who buys a set-top box by 5 March.
Spotify is all about streaming music, creating playlists and sharing them with others. Who doesn't relish the idea of creating the ultimate mixtape and sharing with not just their best friend, but the whole world? Music fans love it, and so do the musicians who earn royalties from making their work available.
But Ministry of Sound felt a little differently about things. Back in September, the dance brand took Spotify to court, claiming that the music streaming service was refusing to delete playlists created by users that mimicked the tracklisting of Ministry of Sound releases.
Service Pack 1 has just started to roll out to Office 2013 users, but Office 365 users have been left out in the cold. You might think that as a subscriber your software is kept constantly updated -- and this is true to a point. But talking to Paul Thurrott, Microsoft reveals that a "handful of updates are totally new in SP1" and these have not all made their way to Office 365 yet. Unless you follow the little trick that Paul has shared, that is.
Unlike many applications Office 365 does not have a built-in means of forcing an update check -- so we have to force a forced update! The steps are very quick and simple to follow, and you can grab yourself a copy of SP1 in next to no time.
It sounds like something from a James Bond film -- or something from a creepy news story about a landlord stalking one of his tenants -- but the headline relates to a real story. We're all only too aware of the activities of the NSA and other governmental agencies monitoring the telephone and internet activities of people around the world, but the latest revelations see things taking a turn for the seriously sinister.
The UK intelligence agency GCHQ, between 2008 and 2010, tapped into the webcam chats of millions of Yahoo users.
The latest breed of virus is airborne. We're not talking about a 24 hour bug that does the rounds at the office, but a computer virus. A team of researchers at the University of Liverpool, UK, demonstrated how a virus known as Chameleon was able to spread undetected over Wi-Fi by exploiting vulnerabilities in access points.
For town and cities where there are large numbers of routers and access points in close proximity, this represents a serious security risk as there is potential for a terrifying number of infections to be made in very little time.
Do you rue the day you signed up with your phone provider? Maybe you've found a better offer elsewhere and want to take your cell phone to another company. Now, if you're in the US, you are able to -- legally -- unlock your mobile and take it to whatever network you like. The bill was approved yesterday, having been brought about by a massive petition that gathered over 100,000 signatures. A 2012 ruling made unlocking illegal by closing a DMCA exemption loophole that had been permitted in 2006 and 2010.
In other parts of the world it is common practice to unlock phones and move them between providers, so it's understandable that US residents felt they were getting a poor deal. Now the bill has been approved, handset owners are able "to legally unlock their cell phones so that they can use it on other cellular networks." But this does not mean there is going to be a free-for-all; unlocking must be carried out "without violating anti-circumvention provisions".
One of the largest Bitcoin exchanges that exists, Mt. Gox, is currently offline. It is not entirely clear what the full story behind the disappearance of the site is, as the situation is still evolving. There have been rumors of Bitcoin theft, but nothing has yet been verified. Mt. Gox vanished off the face of the internet, and initially visitors saw nothing more than a blank page but a statement has since been added to the site.
Pay a visit to the Mt. Gox website now and you'll be greeted by a message explaining that the site is currently not operational: