Wayne Williams

Watch Sony's PlayStation briefing at Gamescom 2014 LIVE


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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Watch Microsoft's Xbox briefing at Gamescom 2014 LIVE


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

The Xbox One is losing ground to Sony’s rival PS4, which is massively outselling it at the moment, but with the right games, Microsoft’s console could be right back in the running. At Gamescom we’ll get to find out what is coming up for the Xbox One.

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Average US internet speeds -- how does your state compare?


While my colleague Mark Wilson endures glacially slow internet, I’m lucky enough to be on a super-fast 100Mbps connection (but even that’s a bit slow for me -- I’ll be upgrading to 152 Mbps early next year).

The average connection speeds for most internet users is a lot slower, but getting better. Broadview Networks took a look at the average internet speeds in America, and listed the results by state, showing average speed in Q1, and comparing the results quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year.

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Google's Nest Thermostat can be easily hacked to spy on owners

Nest spy

When Google bought Nest Labs for $3.2 billion seven months ago, I described the move as the start of a home invasion. Google already knows a lot about you, including where you live, what your interests are, where you go on the Internet and in the real world (via Android), and its acquisition of Nest, which makes smart thermostats and (not so smart) smoke detectors, meant it would potentially also know what you get up to in your own home.

As it turns out, Google using Nest products to find out what customers are doing is just one worry. A team of researchers has discovered an easy hack that allows anyone to gain control of Nest’s smart thermostat and turn it into a spying device which can reveal when you’re at home or away, and even divulge your Wi-Fi credentials.

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Xbox One launching in India exclusively through Amazon


Microsoft is slowly expanding the number of territories in which it’s possible to buy its new game console, a move which will no doubt help in the sales battle against rival Sony’s PS4. The Xbox One is set to go on sale, officially, in China in September, and it will be launching in India soon too.

Rather than pushing the console out to brick and mortar stores in India, Microsoft has chosen instead to launch it exclusively through Amazon.in. While it might seem a rather strange move to limit the console’s availability to a single online retailer, it actually makes a lot of sense. The Xbox 360 flopped badly in India at launch, and Microsoft will be keen to avoid a repeat of that experience.

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Forget fancy features -- most smartphone users just want better battery life

dead battery

Smartphone makers would do well to take into account the results of a new poll from price comparison and switching service uSwitch.com which found that just 3 percent of Smartphone users are interested in quirky or unique features, such as Amazon’s Fire phone’s face tracking.

While gimmicks like that might help differentiate one device from another, what most smartphone users want is a phone that is easy to use and doesn’t require constant charging -- and preferably with built-in fingerprint scanning security.

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Apple and Samsung agree to drop patent cases outside the US

apple samsung

Apple and Samsung have been waging a global patent war since 2011. Apple famously won $1.05 billion in damages in an American court two years ago (a verdict still being challenged by Samsung), but the two companies have been continuing to sue each other since, including fighting a range of infringement cases in nine other countries.

Finally, though, it seems as if peace has broken out between the two smartphone giants, with news today that Apple and Samsung have agreed to end all patent litigation outside the United States.

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Microsoft has no plans -- at all -- for a Windows 8.1 Update 2


Microsoft has confirmed that it will be delivering an update for Windows 8.1 on August 12, as part of Patch Tuesday, and as I reported yesterday, it will be a pretty unexciting release.

Anyone hoping that Microsoft was going to surprise us all with a feature packed update will be doubly disappointed as not only is the August update not the rumored Update 2, but Microsoft has no plans -- zero, zip, zilch, nada -- to release an Update 2 at any point in the future. Clear signs that the tech giant is focusing all its attention on Windows 9 (aka Threshold) now.

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Second generation ransomware now in the wild


Ransomware is a particularly nasty form of malware that locks your computer, encrypts your files, and then demands a ransom to free your data. Payment is usually made using untraceable currencies like Bitcoin. In a lot of cases it’s easy enough to remove the malware without paying anything, but doing so won’t get your files back.

A new wave of even more dangerous ransomware is now beginning to appear in the wild. Kaspersky recently highlighted a worrying new threat called CTB-Locker (aka Critroni), nicknaming it "Onion", because it uses the anonymous TOR network. Trend Micro reported another wave of ransomware called Crytoblocker, described as the potential successor to CryptoLocker, and Synology customers are now experiencing a targeted customized ransomware attack.

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Microsoft's '3 Reasons Windows 8.1 is better' won’t convince anyone to switch


Microsoft continues to try and change opinions regarding its tiled OS, and today the company introduces a new video showcasing three reasons Windows 8.1 is better. It doesn’t say what it’s better than -- Windows 8, possibly, or Windows 7 -- but it does show how you can use Windows the way you want.

The minute long video is fast paced, colorful, and set to a pumping music track ('Sassy Gang' by Mike Sampey and Mark O'Grady). Frankly if you’ve never used the tiled OS before you probably won’t have a great idea of what is going on, but the flashy captions might help you make some sense of things. As for the three reasons? They are, in order, The Desktop ("it comes up automagically!"), The Apps (which you can pin to the desktop or the Start screen), and The Navigation (the ease with which you can switch between desktop and full screen apps).

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Home phone maker Gigaset launches new range of tablets in the UK

QV830_black_FR_Large_Crop - reduced size

Gigaset (previously Gigaset Siemens) is launching a range of affordable Android tablets in the UK. This is the first foray into the tablet market for the home phone specialist which will initially be offering two devices -- an 8 inch model and a 10 inch one.

The smaller tablet, the QV830, is available to buy from Curry’s now, priced at £99.99, while the larger QV1030 will be available shortly. The price for that model has yet to be confirmed.

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Windows 8.1 Update 2 arriving this month -- don’t get too excited

windows update

In the (nearly) two years since launch, Microsoft has made sweeping changes to its tiled OS. The road from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 Update, has been an interesting, not to mention bumpy one. I was never a great fan of Windows 8, but I love the operating system it’s become.

However, poor market share, and negative word of mouth has meant that Microsoft has to move on and away from 8.x as quickly as possible and, as a result, any future changes and additions -- including the reintroduction of the Start button -- will be rolled into Windows 9 instead of appearing in the next 8.x Update, as had originally been rumored.

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Turn a Raspberry Pi into your own personal cloud

Pi cloud

Tonido lets you transform a PC (spare, or otherwise) into a web server so you can securely access your files from anywhere, share content with friends, and stream music over the internet. You can expand the software’s functionality by installing plug-ins and there are free apps available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

The company has also just introduced Tonido Personal Cloud Server for Raspberry Pi, so you can now turn your credit card sized device into a personal cloud, and remotely access all the files held on any storage connected to it.

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Windows 8.x loses market share for second consecutive month

Wrong way sign

Windows 9 can’t come soon enough for Microsoft, as Windows 8.x continues to lose market share, according to the latest usage data from Net Applications.

Last month I reported that in June Windows 8.x had gone into reverse gear, losing market share for the first time, and posed this question -- "Statistical anomaly or downward trend?" It’s too early to call it a "trend" but anyone who expected the tiled OS to make a recovery in July will be disappointed by the latest set of figures. There’s a striking difference this time around too -- both Windows 8 and 8.1 show drops in July. Ouch.

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How to access Windows 8.x emoji on a desktop PC


The touch screen keyboard available on Windows 8.x tablets -- like Microsoft Surface, for example -- gives you access to a wealth of emoji you can use in chats, emails, comments and so on. As well as the usual smileys, there are hand signs, hearts, cartoon characters, vehicles, weather symbols, and many more to pick from. Just select the character set you want at the bottom of the keyboard.

If you’re not using a touch screen device, but still want to access these characters you can.

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