Nick Peers

Symantec unveils Norton Security 2015 Betas

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Symantec has unveiled the first public betas of its forthcoming Norton security products. Norton Security 2015 Beta and Norton Security with Backup 2015 Beta reveal the company’s attempt to harmonize its two main security products.

Both products sport a redesigned user interface based on the old Norton 360 product, plus sport a number of major new protection and performance improvements.

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Start Screen Unlimited injects essential shortcuts into the Windows 8 Start screen

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Microsoft has had a hard job convincing people of the merits of the Windows Modern UI in Windows 8, so any help it can get to make the Start screen in particular more useful has got to be a good thing. With that in mind, it can only applaud Russian software developer Greatis Software.

The folk at Greatis are the brains behind a collection of gadgets and tools for making the Start Screen that bit more useful. Step forward, Start Screen Unlimited Lite 2.0.

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Skype for iPhone adds voice message playback support, offers extended profile view

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Microsoft is rolling out Skype for iPhone 5.2, the second significant update to its iPhone client since version 5 was released less than a month ago.

It seems Microsoft has been stung by the negative reaction to the redesigned Skype, and version 5.2 is quick to add another three new features in response to user feedback.

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Facebook Messenger update includes new dedicated iPad build

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Facebook has unveiled Facebook Messenger 7.0 for iOS and Android, a major new version of its dedicated messaging app for Facebook users.

Version 7.0 is notable for being the first version to include a native iPad build, coming three years after Facebook originally acquired the app’s forerunner, Beluga. The app also includes improvements to its video functions.

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TripAdvisor for iPhone adds offline support, improves mapping features

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TripAdvisor LLC has unveiled a major update to its iPhone app with the release of TripAdvisor for iOS 9.0. The free travel planning app gets -- according to TripAdvisor -- it’s "biggest update ever" with the new release.

The major highlight of version 9 is offline support, but other new features include a shortcut for returning to the home screen and the ability to now find and reserve tables at restaurants.

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Secryptor Basic offers cross-platform file encryption with a Dropbox twist

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Privacy’s a big thing nowadays, and with the US government in particular leaning on big businesses to make it easier for user’s private data to be shared, you’ve a right to feel uneasy. Whether you’re looking to encrypt files on your PC or even add another layer of encryption to files before uploading them to the cloud or sharing via email, a raft of free tools are emerging to help you do just that.

One of the latest to hit the market -- albeit in somewhat unfinished form -- is a free tool for Mac and PC called Secryptor Basic 1.0.

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Stella makes it easy and fun to emulate classic Atari 2600 VCS games

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When it comes to tapping into our fondness for old computing and gaming platforms, Stella has always been at the forefront. This cross-platform Atari 2600 VCS emulator first saw the public light of day back in 1996, and now -- 18 years later -- it may just have delivered it most significant update yet with the release of Stella 4.0.

Version 4, also available in 64-bit form, sees the emulator ported across to SDL2, which brings many new features and performance improvements.

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Media Browser offers a great media streaming solution for shared households

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In recent years there has been a lot of love shown for Plex, the slick and frankly brilliant media sharing solution that encompasses just about any platform. But it’s not the only media server in town.

It’s lurked in the shadows for some time, but now there’s a serious competitor starting to eye up Plex’s crown, and that solution is Media Browser.

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WinZip for iOS 3.5 adds Google Drive and OneDrive support, makes zip file management easier

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WinZip has released WinZip for iOS 3.5, a major update to its iOS app for managing zip files on an iPhone or iPad. The latest version of the app, which is heavily discounted to just $1.99 until July 2nd, allows users to zip, extract, encrypt and share zip files safely.

Version 3.5 opens with added support for two new cloud-based storage accounts, with users now able to directly access both Google Drive and OneDrive accounts in addition to Dropbox.

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Avast 2014 R4 promises improved security, new anti-spam library

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Avast Software has released the fourth update to its Avast 2014 range of products with the unveiling of build number 9.0.2021 for Avast Free Antivirus 2014, Avast Internet Security 2014 and Avast Premier Security 2014.

As with the previous few updates, R4 contains no new features, but does include several important security enhancements among other tweaks and optimizations that once again make it essential for existing users.

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Opera Mini 8 for iPad and iPhone reveals complete redesign, new compression mode

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Opera Software ASA has unveiled Opera Mini 8.0, a major new version of its speed-optimized browser for iPhone and iPad. The browser, which uses compression technologies to speed up data transfer and browsing, gets a major overhaul with this new release, the first for over two years.

It’s also joined by a new version of Opera Developer 24.0 for Windows and Mac, which adds a new Tab Preview feature.

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Blender 2.71 adds new Cycles Rendering features, improves Animation and Modelling

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NPO The Blender Foundation has released Blender 2.71, an update to its cross-platform, open-source 3D graphics tool. Version 2.71, also available in 64-bit and portable form on Windows, includes new features and continues to build on the recently revamped user interface.

Areas that enjoy significant changes include the Cycles renderer, Animation, Modelling, Sculpting-Painting, Game Engine and Freestyle NPR Rendering tool.

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CCleaner optimizes memory usage, adds support for forthcoming Chrome 64-bit browser

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As the month draws to a close, Piriform issues its regular update to its freeware Windows cleaning utility with the releases of CCleaner 4.15 and CCleaner Portable 4.15.

Highlights in the latest release include support for the forthcoming 64-bit build of Google Chrome, plus an improved secure wipe algorithm as well as memory and architecture optimizations.

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Acronis True Image for Mac launches, offers local and cloud-based drive imaging

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Backup specialist Acronis has unveiled Acronis True Image for Mac 1.0, a brand new build of its well-known drive imaging software for Macs running OS X 10.8 or later.

The new release is described by Acronis as offering "dual-protection data backup" for Mac, a reference to its ability to back up to both local drives -- including network attached devices -- and the cloud through its own Acronis Cloud service.

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Paint.NET 4.0 is here at last, offers major new features, performance improvements

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It’s been a long wait -- nearly six years in fact -- but dotPDN LLC has finally unveiled Paint.NET 4.0 FINAL, the first major update to its popular freeware image-editing tool for Windows since version 3.5 was released in October 2008.

The new build comes with the promise of major performance improvements, particularly on multi-core processors, anti-aliased selections, a revamped user interface, a number of new features and revised system requirements that lock out Windows XP and Vista users.

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