What's your gender? For some people it's a simple question -- nothing more than checking one of two boxes. But it can get more complicated than simply indicating that you're male or female. Many people feel that gender is not important and would prefer to keep this information to themselves. This is now a wish that Google respects on Google+.
In fact Google is going far beyond this. Starting today Google+ includes support for an infinite number of gender identifies. So whether you would rather not disclose where you fit onto the gender spectrum, or want to proclaim it outside of the confines of the usual binary options, now you can.
The Pirate Bay has hit turbulent seas once again. Earlier today torrent users noticed that the site appeared to be offline. This in itself was nothing particularly unusual -- all sites have occasional downtime -- but it soon transpired that the site was down around the world. The Pirate Bay has already been blocked by many ISPs around the world, but it was clear that this was something different.
Now it seems that the reason for the disappearance of the Pirate Bay is a raid by Swedish Police. And it is not just the main site that's gone -- the same fate became the site's forum (Suprbay.org) and associated sites Bayimg.com and Pastebay.net.
Coming to the end of 2014, it's time to start looking to what the year ahead may have to offer. After gazing into its crystal ball, Juniper Research has compiled a list of what it expects to be the biggest technology trends of 2015. Topping the list is a focus on security. Juniper Research predicts that there will be greater interest in encryption and tokenization, as cloud storage providers battle to regain customer trust.
The launch of Apple Pay will help to drive an increased interest in biometrics to help with security, but 2015 is also predicted to be the year that wearables really take off. Now that Apple has entered the arena, there should be a greater focus on aesthetics and smaller players will increase in popularity. Tied in with both security and wearables is a predicted jump in the use of NFC -- for payments, authentication, health and more.
Google has opened up its arms to Microsoft License Mobility for Google Cloud Platform. Product manager Martin Buhr said that customers had been asking for improved support for Windows-based workloads, and now these wishes are being met. There are several key improvements to Google Compute Engine that help to make Windows on Google a reality.
Microsoft License Mobility is the big news, meaning that Google now supports SQL Server, SharePoint and Exchange Server without the need for extra licenses. The second announcement is the availability of a beta version of Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter Edition on Google Compute Engine which opens up the opportunity to run Windows applications in the cloud.
Today marks the start of the 2014 Computer Science Education Week. As part of this, the second annual Hour of Code is being used to introduce school children to the basics of programming. Students around the world are encouraged to take part in the event which is organized by non-profit Code.org.
The venture has the backing of Barack Obama who is keen to nurture the next generation of coders and computer scientists. And there's no reason to be put off. To quote the president, "becoming a computer scientist isn't as scary as it sounds. With hard work and a little math and science, anyone can do it".
There are positives and negatives to being a tester of early versions of Windows. On one hand it means being able to try out new features before they are officially released, but on the other it means putting up with a variety of problems. Preview builds of Windows used to be all but unheard of, but now anyone can get their hands on early bits to get a taste of things to come.
The preview program for Windows 10 has been slightly different to the way things worked in previous early versions of Windows. This time around it is even possible to upgrade to new builds without the need to reinstall from scratch, and it's looking as though it will also be possible to upgrade to the RTM version when it is released next year.
Ralph Baer, the man credited with helping develop the world's first commercial video games console, died this weekend at the age of 92. He may not have been exactly a household name, but without Baer, video gaming as we know it might have taken a very different turn. Without him, the Xbox One and PS4 might not yet exist.
The German-born electronic fanatic and inventor's work led to the creation of the Odyssey console. The games unit was launched by Magnavox in 1972, managing to pre-date Pong, and Baer went on to invent the first light gun for games as well.
Gamers today found that they were unable to connect to the PlayStation Network. In what appears to be a hack attack, the gaming network as well as the PlayStation Store were knocked offline. Claiming responsibility this time is the hacking outfit Lizard Squad.
Sony has not revealed any details about what has happened yet, but it's clear that the outage did not come as a result of routine maintenance. Lizard Squad tweeted a message that seemed to claim responsibility for the downtime: "PSN Login #offline #LizardSquad".
It's not long since Windows 10 build 9879 was released and more recently build 9888 leaked online. I'm not going to link to the download as it's not an official release, but it's easy enough to get hold of -- you know where to look, I'm sure. So far the builds that have seen the light of day, officially or unofficially, have been rather light on features, but build 9888 includes what everyone has been chomping at the bit for: Cortana.
Was it worth the wait? Is a voice activated digital assistant appropriate for the desktop? Should anyone care? My answer to all three of these questions is a resounding 'no' -- with some possible exceptions in the case of the last question. Let me elaborate.
The Street Fighter franchise is one that has been quiet for a while now, but Street Fighter V is on the way. Capcom has confirmed that work is currently underway on the latest instalment of the game, bringing an end to months of speculation and rumor. But that is not the end of the news.
It has been revealed that Street Fighter will appear exclusively on PS4 and PC. Owners of Microsoft's Xbox One console will miss out this time around, but there's an interesting feature for anyone who does buy the game on the two supported platforms -- cross-platform play.
Usually it's the big guys, or at least national and international organizations, that stand up to fight against the government. But on Monday, a nurse from Idaho will continue to fight the case she brought against Barack Obama and government intelligence agencies. Anna Smith says her Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the NSA collected data about her from phone records.
A district court ruled against Smith when she first started to fight the case, but now she has the backing of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho.
Amnesty International hit out at a court ruling that found communication surveillance carried out by UK secret services did not breach human rights. Amnesty UK and Privacy International brought the case to court following revelations by Edward Snowden that showed GCHQ (UK secret services) and the NSA had been spying on people by monitoring their correspondence.
But a panel of judges found that the actions of GCHQ do not contravene the European Convention of Human Rights. Amnesty said the result was "disappointing if unsurprising" and indicated that it will appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
It's looking like the latest store to fall victim to cybercriminals is women's clothing chain Bebe Stores. Signs of the problem emerged earlier this week when fraudulent charges started to crop up on people's credit cards. What linked each of the victims was the fact that they had shopped in Bebe Stores.
KrebsOnSecurity reports that stolen customer details have been made available for sale on the "cybercrime shop" Goodshop. The timing is interesting as the data seems to have been put up for sale immediately after Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- a period when sales are much higher than normal.
Microsoft Azure RemoteApp has been available since the beginning of the year as a preview service. It's a relatively simple concept (although the technology behind it is rather more complex) that allows for the deployment of Windows apps to the cloud so they can be accessed from anywhere -- even Macs and mobile devices.
Today Microsoft announces that Microsoft Azure RemoteApp will officially launch as a pay-as-you-go service on December 11. Anyone who is already working with the preview will be automatically moved to a 30-day trial version, and after this time a subscription will be needed.
Small is beautiful, and this is something that the Raspberry Pi demonstrates perfectly. But now there's a little competition. The Creator CI20 is a new diminutive micro-computer which offers more power than an existing Raspberry Pi, as well as a choice of operating systems -- Android or Linux.
The company behind the barebones computer is another UK chip manufacturer, Imagination, and at just $65, it's a perfect stocking stuffer. Or at least it would be if units were going to ship before January 2015. Like the Raspberry Pi, the Creator CI20 is a fully loaded board designed for use in all manner of DIY computing projects.