Mark Wilson

Alienware Alpha is the next-gen console ready to take on PS4 and Xbox One

Alienware Alpha is the next-gen console ready to take on PS4 and Xbox One

It must be coming up to Christmas; Alienware, the game-focused arm of Dell, is beginning to ship its new gaming console. The Alienware Alpha is described as the world's first PC gaming console, and it has been designed to blend the power of a gaming rig with the ease of use of a console. With prices starting at $549, gamers have the ability to customize their hardware to suit their needs. The Alpha runs Windows 8.1, and it includes either 4GB or 8GB of RAM, as well as a USB adapted Xbox 360 controller.

The price of the console is bumped up for anyone opting to increase the size of the hard drive or speed of the processor, but the aim here is to blow the Xbox One and PS4 out of the water with raw power.

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Twitter now lets you share public tweets via Direct Message

First Twitter makes all tweets searchable, now they can be shared via DM

You're probably well aware that Twitter features a search option at the top of the page which you can use to track down individuals or topics. Less well-known is the dedicated search page which is the Twitter version of Google (complete with advanced search parameters), albeit one that is -- obviously -- limited to searching within the confines of Twitter itself.

A couple of days ago, this search engine became slightly more useful when Twitter announced that it was indexing every single tweet that has been sent since 2006. Creating a somewhat Shakespearean internet-within-the-internet, Twitter is a valuable resource not only for information but also social commentary. Another update today makes it possible to share any interesting tweets you discover via direct message in addition to the recently added URL sharing option.

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Google Contributor lets you pay to hide adverts on websites

Google Contributor lets you pay to hide adverts on websites

Online ads have been seen as the scourge of the web since they were first dreamed up. There are various ways you can avoid them, but they exist for a reason -- to generate revenue. Google may have come up with a solution that keeps everyone happy, website owners and visitors alike. Google Contributor is described as "an experiment in additional ways to fund the web" and it makes it possible to kill ads without killing revenue.

It's invite only at the moment, but once Google Contributor is properly up and running, web users will be invited to make a monthly "contribution". This will enable them to browse participating sites without being bothered by ads; instead you'll see a thank you message or just empty space.

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Microsoft Research makes great strides in automatic image captioning

Microsoft Research makes great strides in automatic image captioning

Microsoft Research is home to all manner of interesting projects and experiments, and one of the latest that the team is keen to share news about is automatic image captioning. There are no prizes for guessing what this is -- it's very much what it says on the tin -- and the technology has now reached a stage where the automatically generated captions for an image are at least as good as those thought of by people.

A team of just 12 worked on the project, and the results are pretty impressive. The system analyzes an image and identifies its key components. After determining objects and characteristics, these can then be evaluated in relation to each other to help decide what is important, and what can be ignored.

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Apple no longer offering 'free' apps in the App Store

The end of 'free' apps in the App Store

Take a browse through Apple's App Store and you'll notice something interesting: there are no free apps for Mac, iPhone and iPad any more. Or at least you'd be forgiven for thinking that was the case. Rather than trying to entice people into downloading apps by emblazoning a sexy "Free" button next to them, Apple now opts for a more descriptive "Get" button.

This does not mean that free apps now cost money, but it does mean that the apps you download may cost you money further down the line. Confused? The rewording of the download buttons seems to have come about because of regulators in Europe expressing disapproval that apps previously labeled as free could lead to large bills via in-app purchases.

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Mozilla, EFF and others join forces to encrypt the web with free security certificates

Mozilla, EFF and other join forces to encrypt the web with free security certificates

It has been a long time coming, but the web is slowly transitioning away from HTTP to HTTPS. Google has done it with Gmail, and Yahoo did the same with its webmail service, and security advocates would like other websites to follow suit. The problem, for smaller sites at least, is the cost involved. But a new venture between Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Mozilla, Cisco, the University of Michigan and IdenTrust will eliminate the cost obstacle when it launches next summer.

The partnership has brought about the creation of Let's Encrypt, a new certificate authority that will provide free security certificates to those who need them. It is hoped that handing out cost-free certificates will encourage more sites to adopt the HTTPS protocol. But Let's Encrypt does not just eliminate the financial hurdle.

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Tech companies like Facebook and Google lead the way in delivering LGBT equality in the workplace

Tech companies like Facebook and Google lead the way in delivering LGBT equality in the workplace

US technology companies are setting a benchmark for those in other sectors to reach for when it comes to LGBT equality in the workplace. These are the findings reported in the thirteenth edition of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. The HRC rates workplaces on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion and equality, and this year's report shows that there is now greater awareness and understanding of the transgender community.

The index rates companies using a variety of factors including the presence of non-discriminatory policies, the existence of transgender-inclusion healthcare, and whether or not there are guidelines in place to encourage transgender inclusion. This year there are a record number of businesses attaining a 100 percent rating, and 14 of these fall into the hardware, software and data services areas of the tech sector.

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Republicans vote against USA Freedom Act that would have limited NSA surveillance

Republicans vote against USA Freedom Act that would have limited NSA surveillance

A bill that could have curtailed the surveillance activities of the NSA has been rejected by the US Senate. The USA Freedom Act was blocked as a bloc of Republican senators voted against the Obama-backed bill. After the Edward Snowden revelations, there have been many vocal calls for the powers of the NSA to be reined in. This was the bill that was supposed to deliver, but right wing opponents referred to it as a "gift to terrorists".

The bill passed the House of Representatives in May and had the backing of many of the biggest technology companies. One of the main aims of the USA Freedom Act was to stop the collection of domestic phone records, but there were also implications for the agency's online dragnet-style data trawling. Now it seems that the fight for privacy starts afresh.

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PayPal comes to Pebble so you can pay while tracking perambulatory progress

PayPal comes to Pebble so you can pay while tracking perambulatory progress

Wearables are starting to come of age, and they're now about much more than just tracking blood pressure and distance while running. Today Pebble continues the expansion of its range of apps with the launch of a dedicated PayPal app. It allow for payments to be made at participating retailers and shows payment notifications so there's no need to rely on a phone.

Pebblers -- as PayPal insists on calling owners of the smartwatch -- now have the ability to make PayPal payments without having to reach into their pockets. The app can be used to pay with a payment code, or to check in to make a payment.

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IBM Verse aims to transform email with advanced analytics and a social focus

IBM Verse aims to transform email with advanced analytics and a social focus

There are now many names vying to control your inbox. It is not enough to have your email delivered to the inbox of your choice now the battle is to present email in the most understandable, the most accessible, and the least cluttered way possible. IBM Verse is the latest kid on the block, as it looks to divert attention away from Google Inbox and Microsoft Clutter.

Billed as a "new way to work", IBM Verse is more than just another inbox tool -- it is a combination tool that manages email, tasks, collaboration and more. It clearly has enterprise markets in its sights as it brings communication, tasks, sharing and social features under one roof. To further differentiate it from other comparable services, IBM Verse uses advanced analytics to completely tailor itself for individual users.

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Microsoft unveils Office 365 Video for secure enterprise video sharing and streaming

Microsoft unveils Office 365 Video for secure enterprise video sharing and streaming

Microsoft is giving Office 365 users an early glimpse of what it hopes will become the future of enterprise video sharing. Office 365 Video harnesses the power of SharePoint and Azure Media Services to create a tool that gives businesses a one-stop-shop for uploading, sharing, delivering and streaming videos.

A number of possible scenarios are set out by Mark Kashman, a senior product manager in the Office 365 group. From providing employees with access to training videos to delivering CEO messages, this is a flexible tool that has been designed with security and simplicity in mind. Office 365 Video is not expected to launch until early next year, but a sneak peak is available right now.

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Microsoft gives developers beta access to Bing-powered OneNote Search API 

Microsoft gives developers beta access to Bing-powered OneNote Search API 

Microsoft has launched a beta version of the OneNote Search API. The API is a collaboration between the OneNote and Bing teams, and has led to the creation of what has been dubbed a "personal search engine for your private notes and memories in the cloud". As the API is powered by Bing, it brings the same power and features to those looking to perform searches in OneNote.

This means that searches can be filtered according to relevance, spelling mistakes are overlooked, and more. Personal indexing means that searches are limited to just those notebooks that a user has access to, and developers are invited to sign up for beta access right now.

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Apple pushes iOS 8.1.1 update to speed up older iPhones and iPads

Apple pushes iOS 8.1.1 update to speed up older iPhones and iPads

It seems that Apple is in update mode today. As well as the launch of the OS X Yosemite 10.10.1 update, today also sees the release of iOS 8.1.1. The focus this time around is not really on delivering exciting new features, or even fixing glaring problems, but keeping owners of older devices happy. Aging iPads and iPhones are in for a treat as there are performance boosts to look forward to.

Pre-iPad 2 owners miss out, but the update is available for iPad 2 and newer a well as iPhone 4s and newer. Apple is yet to publish a changelog for the update, but check for an update on your idevice and you'll see a brief description about what to expect.

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Apple releases OS X Yosemite 10.10.1 update with Wi-Fi and enterprise fixes

Apple releases OS X Yosemite 10.10.1 update with Wi-Fi and enterprise fixes

It's only a few weeks since Apple launched Yosemite and there's already an update available. Today, Apple pushes out the OS X Yosemite 10.10.1 update to address issues that had been found in the initial release. This is a fairly minor x.1 update, and there are only ten entries in the changelog for most users, while enterprise users have two more updates and additions.

Described -- of course -- as "recommended for all OS X Yosemite users", the update fixes a problem with Time Machine that made older backups invisible. It also addresses issues with the Notification Center, and problems with entering Japanese text. It "improves the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac".

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Could Facebook at Work put the work back into social networking?

Could Facebook at Work put the work back into social networking?

There are some people who just can’t get enough of Facebook. Sharing the occasional thought or ponderance is not enough for many who feel the need to live out their entire lives on Zuckerberg's social network. A lot of workplaces -- perhaps sensibly -- block access to sites such as Facebook, but new reports suggest that the social giant is keen to enter the office on legitimate terms with Facebook at Work.

At the moment, Facebook is the bane of network admins' lives as employees find new ways to bypass restrictions that may be put in place. But the Financial Times says that it may soon be welcomed with open arms as a work-centric version of Facebook is rumored to offer Office- and Google-baiting document collaboration, and LinkedIn-aping professional networking.

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