Mark Wilson

Windows 10 to include built-in two-factor authentication

Windows 10 to include built-in two-factor authentication

We've looked at the two public builds of the Windows 10 Technical Preview -- the initial, disappointing, embryonic build 9841, and the very slightly less disappointing build 9860 -- but of course the best is still to come. There are many features we expect to find their way into the final build, such as Cortana, and there are sure to be many surprises. One interesting inclusion is built-in two-factor authentication.

The presence of this valuable security feature is revealed by Jim Alkove in a post on the Windows blog in which he talks about the importance of identity protection and general security. He explains that Windows 10 will start to move users away from single factor authentication -- the humble password -- in favor of more secure options.

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Microsoft is killing Xbox Music free streaming

Microsoft ending Xbox Music free streaming from 1 December

Microsoft is pushing music fans towards Music Pass by cutting off one supply of free streaming music. On December 1st, the free streaming feature of Xbox Music will be no more, leaving Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and web users looking for new ways to satisfy their music streaming cravings.

In an announcement posted on the Xbox website, Microsoft explains that it wants to encourage music fans into signing up for a paid Xbox Music Pass. The posts explains that there is a free 30 day trial available, but once this is up, the charge is $9.99 per month. Is this likely to fly with users who have been enjoying music for free? That remains to be seen...

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Kinect apps come to the Windows Store, Kinect SDK 2.0 and adaptor kit launch

Kinect apps come to the Windows Store, Kinect SDK 2.0 and adaptor kit launch

Kinect has moved on. Once a peripheral that encouraged gamers to dance manically in front of their consoles, it has now evolved into something rather more sophisticated. As part of Kinect's on-going development Microsoft today released Kinect SDK 2.0 following the developer preview program from last November. Developers not only have scores of improvements to enjoy, but they now have the ability to deploy Kinect apps to the Windows Store.

This news goes hand in hand with the release of a new Kinect adaptor. The adaptor makes it possible to take an Xbox One Kinect and connect it to a PC or tablet. There's no need to choose between a Kinect for Windows v2 and Kinect for Xbox One as they both now perform identically.

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Google launches Inbox, the smart inbox that 'works for you'

Google launches Inbox, the smart inbox that 'works for you'

Hands up if your inbox is out of control? From that quick show of hands, it's clear that the idea of inbox zero has not caught on globally. We all have more email to deal with than ever before, even if most of it is junk. Google has a new solution to email overload. Inbox. This is, Google is quick to point out, not Gmail, although it is from the same people.

Available for your Android phone and the web, Inbox by Google helps to cut through the crap to ensure that you're free to focus on what actually matters. It expands on some of the ideas already found in Gmail, but is a completely separate tool. This is Google recognizing that people use email not only to communicate with others, but also to organize their lives and keep on top of a schedule.

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Here's what's new in Windows 10 Technical Preview build 9860

Windows 10 Technical Preview build 9860

Development of Windows has been criticized in the past for being slow. With the Technical Preview of Windows 10, it's just not possible to level the same complaint at Microsoft. It's only a couple of weeks since we got our grubby little hands on the embryonic build 9841 and tens of thousands of users have provided feedback. Now it's upgrade time. Build 9860 has been pushed out -- through Windows Update, no less... none of this messy ISO malarkey this time around -- so it's time to take a look at the work Microsoft has done.

When build 9841 was released, there was disappointment from many quarters -- including here -- at just how little had changed since Windows 8.1. Jumping up 19 build numbers might not seem like much, but there are now a couple of features that were talked about at the launch of the Technical Preview that were not available in the first release -- but still no Cortana.

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Google takes Firebase under its wing in latest cloud acquisition

Google takes Firebase under its wing in last cloud acquisition

Firebase, a company helping developers to produce apps and services that store and sync data in realtime, is the latest Google acquisition. With a user base of 110,000 developers three-year-old Firebase announced that it is joining Google and plans to continue the work it already does, but pointing out it will be possible to "do much more, much faster" with Google's resources and backing.

With Firebase's focus on the cloud and mobile, it is little surprise that Google's own announcement about the acquisition came on the Google Cloud Platform Blog. The two companies appear to be a good match, with Firebase's aim to "continue to be platform agnostic and provide clients for iOS, Android, the web, and more" being very much in keeping with Google's own ethos.

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Download Windows 10 Technical Preview build 9860 now!

Download Windows 10 Technical Preview build 9860 now!

Windows 10 Technical Preview has just been updated. We've been working with build 9841 for a little while, and now it's time for an upgrade.

Today, Microsoft releases build 9860 to people signed up to the Windows Insider Program, and there are a number of key additions. There's the Action Center to handle notifications, new animations, and improved multi-monitor handling.

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Log into Gmail with a USB drive -- Google adds support for Security Key

Log into Gmail with a USB drive -- Google adds support for Security Key

Two factor authentication (or two step verification, if you prefer) is very a la mode at the moment. Actually, it has been pushed by companies for some time, but a number of high profile security problems recently has brought it back to public attention again.

Enabling the security feature usually means entering a password as normal, in addition to a passcode sent to a mobile device. Today, Google makes things a little easier for, in its own words, "particularly security-sensitive individuals" by introducing support for Security Key.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook writes to employees after Q4 2014 earnings call

Apple CEO Tim Cook writes to employees after Q4 2014 earnings call

Still in buoyant mood after the launch of the iPhone 6, Apple Watch, and iPad Air 2 -- even the Mac mini -- Apple gave its Q4 2014 earnings call yesterday. CEO Tim Cook announced that the company generated $42.1 billion in revenue in the quarter and a net profit of $8.5 billion, up from $37.5 billion and $7.5 billion for the same period last year. Referring to the "biggest iPhone launch ever", Cook explained that Apple is due to enter the holiday season with its "strongest product lineup ever".

He explained that 60 percent of the quarter's revenue came from international sales, and sales have gone up in just about every area of the company with the exception of iPad and iPod sales. The iPhone remains the biggest seller (some 39.272 million units, up 16.2 percent), and Mac sales are also strong (5.52 million units, up 20.7 percent).

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The faces behind the biggest apps in the world [infographic]

The faces behind the biggest apps in the world

Whatever your mobile platform of choice, there are some apps which are all but impossible to avoid. Some -- like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube -- have reasonably dull histories; we all know the corporations behind their creation. But there are plenty of other big names with less well known histories. A new infographic from IrishApps.org reveals the stories behind some famous titles, and reveal the fortunes they have generated.

For example, did you know that Flappy Bird was originally going to be called Flap Flap, and was put together in just two days? Or that the founder of Summly was just 17 years old when he sold his app to Yahoo? How about the fact that the Ukrainian developer of WhatsApp is estimated to be worth $7 billion?

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Forget Mighty Mouse... forget Mickey Mouse... meet Music Mouse! [Review]

Forget Mighty Mouse... forget Mickey Mouse... meet Music Mouse! [Review]

Sometimes a device that does a single job just doesn’t cut the mustard. See those speakers cluttering up valued space on your desk? Be gone foul cones; your services are required no more! Are we foregoing music? Not a bit of it! We are switching to a wireless mouse with an integrated Bluetooth speaker! At least we are if it turns out to be any good...

Things don’t get off to a great start. The Seenda IBT-C04 Music Mouse looks reasonable enough, if slightly retro; but in the hand it's big and angular. There is a slight nod to ergonomics and even a slightly rubberized grip area where your thumb falls, but from the offset it's not comfortable. Perhaps the minor discomfort is made up for by the extra features.

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Apple solders RAM into new Mac mini to block memory upgrades

Apple solders RAM into new Mac mini to block RAM upgrades

This week, Apple unveiled a number of new and updated products. The latest additions to the iPad range were the crowd pleasers, while the iMac with Retina 5K Display was something of a headline-grabber. Yosemite was expected, but the Mac mini refresh came slightly out of the blue.

For anyone looking for a cheap way to get their hands on a Mac, it's a great starting point -- prices start at just $499. But you'd better make sure you select a model with enough RAM when you place your order -- Apple has taken steps that mean it is impossible for buyers to install more memory.

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5 essential tips for staying safe online

5 essential tips for staying safe online

The security of the internet is an on-going concern. Whether you're online for fun, or you're conducting business, there are all manner of pitfalls you may encounter. Issues such as viruses and malware are now widely known about, but these are far from being the only security issues to concern yourself with. Security has been thrown into the limelight once again by high-profile stories like the Fappening, problems with SnapChat, concerns about the Whisper app, and the POODLE SSL 3.0 vulnerability.

A large proportion of companies and individuals are aware of the importance of anti-virus and anti-malware tools, firewalls and the like. Security tools are all well and good, but there's also a lot to be said in favor of changing online behaviors; it's something that the online community and businesses are increasingly coming to understand. Much of what this entails -- taking care about the personal information you share and educating yourself about services before you use them -- is common sense, but it bears repeating.

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iMac with Retina 5K display has the world's highest resolution display -- and a hefty price tag

iMac with Retina 5K display has the world's highest resolution display -- and a hefty price tag

In addition to the expected iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, Apple today announced the latest update to the iMac range. The iMac with Retina 5K display's killer feature is the screen which packs a breath-taking 14.7 million pixels into its 27 inches. With a resolution of 5120 x 2880, the new iMac has two thirds more pixels than a 4K display, and four times the number of pixels found on a regular 27 inch iMac. Despite the colossal number of pixels involved, Apple has switch to ultra-efficient LEDs to keep power consumption, and heat production, down.

The system comes with AMD Radeon R9 M290X graphics as standard, but this can be upgraded to AMD Radeon R9 M295X graphics. This is backed up by 8GB of RAM and a 1TB Fusion Drive, and there is the option of upgrading various components if you're happy to part with a little extra cash.

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Twitpic really IS closing, and the deadline is tight to back up your data

Twitpic really IS closing, and the deadline is tight to back up your data

Twitpic was closing, then it wasn't. But now the champagne corks have been well and truly push back into the bottle after news of an acquisition turned out to be a false alarm. Users now have just one week to export their photos and data before Twitpic closes for good on 25 October. Company founder Noah Everett used the Twitpic blog to break the news, explaining that the photos and video sharing service will shut up shop in a week's time.

The last month and a half has been something of a rollercoaster ride for Twitpic and its users. After a trademark application dispute, the original closure announcement came on 4 September with the closure planned for 25 September. A lifeline appeared just two weeks later when it was announced that a buyer had been found.

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