Wayne Williams

Everything you need to know about Windows 9 ('Threshold')

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At launch, Windows 8 was a mess. It was a brave and -- arguably -- necessary attempt by Microsoft to re-invent its operating system and keep it relevant as the world transitioned towards mobile computing, and tablets in particular. But the first release was seriously half-baked, and left many Windows users scratching their heads in confusion. Windows 8.1 improved things massively, and Update made the OS even better, especially for previously neglected keyboard and mouse users. But Windows 8.x’s poor market share tells a clear story -- the OS has flopped badly, and it’s time for Microsoft to chalk it up to experience and move on.

Windows 9 (aka Threshold) is expected to be the operating system that Windows 8.x should have been, just as Windows 7 was the OS Vista should have been. According to The Verge, we’ll get our first proper look at the next Windows iteration on September 30, but we already have a fairly good idea of what to expect.

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The story-driven Superhero Workout app makes getting fit super-fun

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There are hundreds of fitness apps available for iOS and Android and, I suspect, like fitness equipment, many people buy them with the best of intentions, but then never use them. I’m a prime example. Although I use running apps like Zombies, Run! and Runtastic on a regular basis, most of the workout apps I own see far less action (the one exception being Runtastic PushUps which I use daily).

However, Six to Start -- the creator of story-driven apps like Zombies, Run! and The Walk -- has come up with a workout app that people will actually want to use. Superhero Workout uses camera-based motion tracking to record the reps as you exercise, and marries it with a thrilling sci-fi story. Punches become plasma blasts, abdominal crunches charge your AEGIS One battlesuit’s reactor, and you can brace yourself from incoming debris with a wall sit...

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Microsoft updates Bing Maps, adds loads more 3D cities and Streetside views

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Microsoft’s Bing Maps team has made a major update to its service, adding Streetside views (its version of Google’s Street View) to 64 new cities, and 3D maps to 29 new cities.

Among the new cities gaining Streetside views are Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Las Vegas, and Chicago. All of the Streetside additions are in the US. The new list of 3D cities also focuses on American locations, including Atlanta, Denver, and New Orleans, but Copenhagen in Denmark and Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria in Canada are also included.

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Once a fantasy from a galaxy far, far away, holograms are finally nearing reality

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The original Star Wars movies are packed with iconic scenes and futuristic technology, such as the moment when R2-D2 projects a hologram recording of Princess Leia into thin air for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Forget FaceTime and Skype, this is how we should be communicating with each other in the 21st century.

A little over three decades after Star Wars first hit the cinemas, hologram technology is slowly beginning to edge its way from the realms of science fiction and into science fact and it may not be long until we're able to project holograms straight from our mobile phones.

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Would you use a tablet to make a phone call?

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Phablets -- super-sized phones -- serve a useful purpose. They allow consumers to carry just the one device that can be used as a smartphone and act as a tablet. However, while phablets are growing in popularity worldwide, in Asia tablets with cellular voice capabilities are gaining traction.

According to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, in Q2 2014 nearly 25 percent (around 3.5 million units) of all the tablets shipped in the Asia/Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) region had cellular voice capabilities, allowing users to make calls by holding a tablet up to their faces. And we’re talking devices with screen sizes of 7 inches and up.

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HTC One (M8) for Windows is the Windows Phone you've been waiting for

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Earlier today the first pictures of HTC One (M8) running Windows Phone 8.1 appeared on the web. The leaked images looked genuine, but we were waiting for official confirmation of the device before sharing the news, and the Taiwanese firm has just provided that.

The HTC One (M8) is one of the best -- if not the best -- Android phones available and the Windows Phone variant keeps everything that’s good about it, including the all-metal unibody design, tapered edges, and curved back, 5-inch 1080 by 1920 display, 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, and Duo Camera setup.

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New ransomware charges $300 (early bird special) to unlock your files

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PandaLabs has discovered a new strain of ransomware which it is calling Trj/Crypdef.A. The new variant works like other forms of ransomware in that it locks infected computers and encrypts a user’s files before demanding a ransom to get control back.

The ransom demand says "By purchasing a license from us, we are able to rescue your files 100% guaranteed for a very low early bird price of only $300". Don’t think $300 is a bargain? Well, in five days the demand goes up to $600, and after ten days it will cost you $1,000 to unlock your system and restore your files.

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Get started with Raspberry Pi

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We’re big fans of the Raspberry Pi here at BetaNews. The super-cheap credit card sized computer was created to help get kids back into programming, just as they did in schools in the 1980s and 1990s, but the ARM GNU/Linux board has found an appreciative audience outside of the education system, with over 3 million Pis sold since 2012.

Getting started with the device is easy enough, and there’s plenty of help and advice available on the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s website, but if you want a simple, straightforward guide then Manchester based NeoMam Studios has put together an infographic covering setting up, getting started and more.

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Microsoft pulls download links to Windows 8.1 August Update, recommends users uninstall some updates

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The August Update for Windows 8.1 (once rumored to be Update 2) has been pulled from the web and is currently no longer available for download after Microsoft received complaints that it was causing errors and system instability for some users.

If you attempt to visit the original download links you’ll be met with a message stating "The resource you are looking for has been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable".

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Microsoft considering rebranding Internet Explorer

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In a Reddit AMA yesterday, the Internet Explorer team discussed the negative reputation surrounding Microsoft’s browser and confirmed that internally they had considered changing the name.

Front-end Engineer Jonathan Sampson admitted, "I remember a particularly long email thread where numerous people were passionately debating it. Plenty of ideas get kicked around about how we can separate ourselves from negative perceptions that no longer reflect our product today".

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Chrome to start protecting users from additional malicious downloads

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Google’s Safe Browsing service protects users from malicious websites and warns against potentially dangerous downloads in Chrome. According to Google, over three million download warnings are being viewed every week, and because it’s available for other browsers, this technology is helping to keep 1.1 billion people safe.

From next week, Google says it will be protecting users from additional malicious software, delivering warnings whenever you attempt to download something that might try and make unwanted changes to your browser or computer.

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What motivates modern hackers?

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Ever wondered why hackers do what they do? Thycotic, a software firm specializing in privileged access password protection, conducted a survey of 127 hackers at Black Hat USA 2014 to try and understand their thinking.

The company found that more than half of the hackers (51 percent) were driven by the fun/thrill, while 19 percent were in it for the money. Few hackers fear getting caught with 86 percent confident they will never face repercussions for their activities.

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Four simple steps for securing your smartphone or tablet

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A friend of mine bought a new iPhone 5s recently, used it for just over a week, and then 'lost it'. It might have been stolen or simply misplaced, she has no idea. All she knows for certain is she no longer has it in her possession. That’s bad enough, but she spent much of the first week copying over photos and other personal data to it from her old phone, but didn’t devote any time -- at all -- to protecting the device.

So in other words, if someone else has her iPhone now -- which it’s pretty safe to assume is the case -- they also have access to everything on it, which could be potentially catastrophic for her. The thing is, it’s so easy to protect a smartphone these days it amazes me so many people don’t bother to take the following simple steps:

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Gartner: Now is the time to prepare for Windows 7's end of life

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Although Windows XP’s end of life date was set in 2007, many firms failed to completely remove all trace of the aging OS by the time the deadline arrived. In fact, it’s claimed that around 53 percent of businesses still have XP running somewhere in their organizations.

End of support for Windows 7 is set for January 2020 (some way off still, and Microsoft may push it back further), but Gartner says firms need to start planning for it now if they want to avoid finding themselves in a similar situation as many did with XP.

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Watch Sony's PlayStation briefing at Gamescom 2014 LIVE

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Gamescom 2014, Europe's largest gaming event and tradeshow is taking place in Cologne, Germany right now, and Sony’s PlayStation Briefing will, like Microsoft’s Xbox press conference, be one of the highlights.

The PS4 is currently ahead of the Xbox One in terms of sales, but can it keep that momentum going? We’ll find out what games will be coming up for the console later today. Expect to see some gameplay footage for upcoming role-playing game Bloodborne (a PS4 exclusive), and interesting sounding horror game, A Million Ways To Die. We’ll also hopefully see some footage from Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.

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