Mark Wilson

Apple releases surprise update for no-longer-supported OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

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When it comes to supporting older operating systems (or not), it is usually Microsoft that we are talking about. But this week Apple took its users by surprise by releasing an update to Snow Leopard -- the lengthily-named Mac App Store Update for OS X Snow Leopard.

If you are wondering why an OS update should come as a surprise, it is because support for Snow Leopard came to an end in the latter half of 2013. It is an update that is ostensibly about ensuring continued access to the Mac App Store, but it also helps to give Snow Leopard users an easier path to upgrade to El Capitan.

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Microsoft's Q2 earnings are hugely impressive, buoyed by cloud revenue

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Microsoft's cloud first, mobile first philosophy seems to be paying off. The company today announced its Q2 2016 earnings, with profit and revenue exceeding predictions. Revenue fell very slightly to $25.69 billion, but this was still higher than analysts expected; the slight drop has been partially blamed on a decreased interest in Windows.

Confidence in Satya Nadella's leadership seems high, with stock prices rising by more than 26 percent in the last year. His belief in the cloud appears to be paying off, with Microsoft's Intelligent Cloud business generating revenue of $6.3 billion. Overall, the company expects its entire annual cloud revenue to hit $9.4 billion, up from $8.2 billion.

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Live video streaming spreads to all mobile Facebook users

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Lights! Camera! Action! Facebook is home to pictures, videos, comments, news, train-of-thought ramblings, and much more. Until recently, videos have been limited to those that have been pre-recorded, but that's about to change.

Facebook recently opened up the ability to share a live video stream to a limited number of people, and the social network is about to expand this. Starting today, live video sharing is being made available to US iPhone users, and it won't be long before the feature is available globally, and also to Android users.

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Brace yourself for a Windows 10 crapware explosion -- pre-installing TripAdvisor is just the start

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Yesterday, TripAdvisor made a couple of announcements. The first was innocuous enough, letting people know that there was now a TripAdvisor app for Windows 10 available to download for free. Lovely stuff, if you like that sort of thing. The second announcement is less pleasing. It will be "pre-loaded on millions of Windows 10 compatible devices".

This is clearly going to be something that divides opinion, but I don't think I'm alone in thinking that padding out Windows 10 Mobile with crapware might not be the best way to attract users. There's no denying that TripAdvisor can prove useful -- it's helped me to make dining decisions on more than one occasion -- but pre-installed apps are rarely, if ever, a good idea, and Microsoft is hardly in a possible to put a (nother) foot wrong with Windows 10.

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Google Cardboard by the numbers: the stats surrounding foldable virtual reality

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In many ways, virtual reality has come a very long way over the past couple of decades or so. But while old VR headsets looked rather techy and somewhat futuristic -- something that is still true of Oculus Rift -- there is also a cheap, simple version made out of little more than cardboard.

Google Cardboard provides smartphone users with a quick, easy and, most importantly, cheap way to transform a handset into a virtual reality unit. Just over a year and a half since the origami VR kit launched, Google shares some statistics about how it has been received and used.

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Google Play introduces new option to 'like' reviews or mark as spam

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Reviews in Google Play are a useful way to decide whether an app is worth downloading, and to determine whether the developer description is accurate. For some time it has been possible to flag up reviews as unhelpful, but starting today Google is removing this option to take a more positive approach.

Gone is the 'mark as unhelpful', replaced instead by a less prominent Spam option. Now dominant is a Facebook-inspired thumbs up button to indicate that you 'like' a review, or show that it is otherwise imbued with positive virtues. Before you get too excited, it's not yet possible to comment on reviews.

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Bittium Tough Mobile is ready to take on Blackphone for the most secure phone crown

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Surveillance, privacy concerns and other issues have brought security into sharp focus for mobile users the world over. Apple, Google and Microsoft all offer encryption options, but for those with real security and privacy worries, the likes of Silent Circle's Blackphone 2 and the ARCHOS GranitePhone have a healthy following. Now there's a new security and privacy-focused handset vying for attention: the Bittium Tough Mobile.

At Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona next month, Bittium will show off not only its secure smartphone, but also its Bittium Secure Suite device management and encryption software. With these and Bittium SafeMove -- a secure remote access tool -- the company hopes to increase business and enterprise confidence in mobile and the Internet of Things.

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Apple crumbles as iPhone sales growth slows dramatically

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The golden days may be over for Apple when it comes to the iPhone. While rumors may be circulating about the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 5se, it's the sales of current devices that are of interest to not just Apple, but its investors. Today, Apple announced its earnings for Q1 of the 2016 fiscal year -- and it seems as though the iPhone is starting to lose its shine.

While sales have continued to grow, growth has slowed so dramatically that this is slowest period of growth since the iPhone first appeared in 2007 -- rising from 74.5 million a year ago to 74.8 million. And this is not the end of the bad news for Apple; revenue for Q2 is expected to be lower than last year, and we could even see a drop in iPhone sales.

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6 essential security tips for Data Privacy Day

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Data Privacy Day may not sound like the most exciting event to add to your calendar, but it serves as a hugely important reminder of the value of security. January 28 is the big day, and there has never been a better time to ensure that you are following best practice -- and there's no reason not to get started ahead of time.

35 years ago, Data Protection Day was launched, and over the years this evolves into Data Privacy Day. The aim is to improve privacy and security awareness online, on mobile, and on computers in general. Whatever you use your phone, computer and other devices for, there's plenty you can do to increase your security and privacy.

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Politicians question Google's 'sweetheart' tax deal

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Late last week, Google agreed to pay £130 million in back tax in the UK. Despite being heralded as a 'major success' by the Tory chancellor George Osbourne, the feeling among politicians is that Google should still pay much more tax. The deal struck between the search giant and HMRC has also been dismissed as "only a start", "breathtakingly complacent", and in need of further explanation.

MP John McDonnell was granted a Commons urgent question on the tax deal, leading to an impassioned debate. MPs said that it appeared the government was giving Google preferential treatment, and that had smaller businesses failed to pay taxes in the same way, they would have found themselves in court rather than at the center of a headline-making deal.

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In defense of Microsoft: there was no Surface failure at the NFL playoffs

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Brace yourselves: I'm about to stick up for Microsoft. While I'm happy to criticize the company for its failings (and maybe kick it when it's down from time to time), complaints that cropped up over the weekend seem completely unjustified. I'm talking about this weekend's NFL playoffs.

I'm far from being a football (or indeed sport of any description) fan, but my news timeline has been filled with headlines about how Microsoft suffered embarrassment when its Surface tablets (now famously used on the sidelines and mistakenly referred to as iPads) failed during the Broncos-Patriots game. Except the problems that led to an information blackout was absolutely not the fault of Microsoft, or its Surfaces.

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The clock is ticking for the US to relinquish control of ICANN

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The US is not afraid to throw its weight around; it likes not only to be involved in things, but to be in control. For decades, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) -- the non-profit organization that manages IP addresses and domain names -- has been overseen by the US Department of Commerce, much to the chagrin of people around the world. Most upset are those who point to the independent nature of the internet, and the need for any body with global power to be similarly indpendent. Later this year ICANN is set -- at long last -- to completely separate from the US government.

While this does hinge on US government approval, by the end of September, ICANN could instead be in the hands of businesses, individuals, and multiple global governments. While the changing of hands should not alter the way ICANN operates, it is hoped that it will go some way to restoring faith that may have been lost after revelations about online surveillance by the NSA and other US government agencies.

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With Windows 7 in its death throes, Microsoft reveals the Skylake systems that retain support

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Windows 8.1 is old, Windows 7 is all but decrepit, and Microsoft is now all about Windows 10. The somewhat aggressive pushing of Windows 10 to consumers has been criticized, and this reached something of a head last week when Microsoft announced that nextgen CPUs will only support Windows 10.

Building on this announcement, Microsoft has published a list of more than 100 Skylake systems that will offer Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 support -- until July 17, 2017, that is. In spite of Microsoft's eagerness to push consumers and businesses to Windows 10, there are still dozens of systems from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and NEC that can be configured with the older operating systems.

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Google agrees to pay £130m back tax in the UK

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Following an audit of its accounts, Google has agreed to pay £130m ($185m) in back taxes in the UK. The company says that it wants to make sure that it pays the right amount of tax after it faced criticism for not paying its fair share and for having a complicated tax structure.

HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) has been investigating Google for six years. It is one of many large companies to have been criticized for using offshore operations to funnel funds and reduce tax bills. The £130m covers ten years' of underpayment, and Google says it will continue to pay more tax in the UK.

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Privacy ombudsman could handle European complaints about US surveillance

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The importance and awareness of online privacy issues have been brought into sharp focus in the 21st century. It's not entirely down to Edward Snowden, but the revelations from the former NSA contractor are a constant reference point for those concerned with privacy, security and freedom of speech.

One of the greatest problems facing anyone trying to tackle the problem of privacy on the web is dealing with the ideologies of different countries, and how this affects data sharing. A level of surveillance that is deemed acceptable in the US, for instance, may be considered completely objectionable in another. The latest suggestion to help overcome this seemingly insurmountable problem is to set up a privacy ombudsman that would be able to handle European complaints and queries about US surveillance.

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