Wayne Williams

Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 accolades are a bit rubbish

yawning

Considering the very rocky start Microsoft’s slate got off to after it launched in 2012 (middling reviews, a $900 million charge relating to Surface RT inventory adjustments when no one bought it, etc.), you can’t blame Microsoft for being a bit boastful now that it’s finally getting things right with Surface Pro 3.

So when Microsoft releases a video called 'Accolades -- Surface Pro 3' you’d expect it to be filled with, well, accolades for the Surface Pro 3. But instead of a video offering up quality trumpet blowing, we get the equivalent of someone tooting on a kazoo.

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My favorite tech products of 2014 [Wayne]

favorite

My colleague Alan Buckingham has already listed his favorite tech of the past year, and now it’s my turn. I’ve taken all sorts of new products for a spin over the past 12 months, so narrowing the selection down is actually pretty tricky. Apple disappointed me a little this year -- as the owner of an iPhone 5s I needed a big reason to upgrade to the iPhone 6, and a larger screen and Apple Pay wasn’t it. The iPhone 6 is an excellent phone, but I think I’ll hang on to the 5s for another year. Similarly, the iPad Air 2 just wasn’t different enough for me to consider that either. Thinner is a feature, not a benefit for me.

But fortunately, there was plenty of other new tech around that I did love, and here’s my top selection, in no particular order.

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Santa brought you a Chromecast? Here's what to do first

Chromecast Christmas

Google Chromecast is the perfect stocking filler -- it’s small, affordable, and guaranteed to be a hit with anyone who receives it as a gift this holiday season. Google is continuing to bolt on features (most recently it added a guest mode), so you’ll be able to do even more with it throughout the coming year.

The tiny powered dongle plugs into your TV set and lets you watch streaming video from the likes of YouTube, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and Google Play. You can even 'cast' content from your Chrome browser on to the big screen, and play your own videos.

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Happy holidays from all at BetaNews

reindeer santa claus christmas tree gift

A little last minute gift shopping and panic wrapping aside, we're all ready for Christmas here at BetaNews. The tree is trimmed, the eggnog is flowing, and we’ve got all the Santa tracking apps we need fired up and locked in on the jolly big man and his reindeer-powered sleigh.

Hopefully you're similarly prepared for the big day tomorrow, (even if you don't celebrate Christmas, we trust you've got something fun in mind to do) and we'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a merry Christmas. We’re crossing our fingers that you receive all the tech treats you're hoping for.

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BetaNews 2014 -- the top news stories, editorials and guides from the past year

2014

It’s that time of the year again when news sites and search engines look back at the stories and events that shaped the year. The top stories on BetaNews are obviously going to be different -- mostly -- from the top stories on other sites because we focus on technology. So in other words don’t expect Kim Kardashian "breaking" the internet to appear anywhere in our list. Although that’s not to say she won’t make an appearance somewhere…

Because BetaNews offers a mix of content, we’ve put together three top 10 lists -- News, Opinion/Editorial, and Guides. With news, it's not necessarily the biggest stories of year that make the list, but rather the content that was viewed the most. All three lists are presented, as ever, in reverse order.

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Microsoft's year-end sale delivers big savings on PCs, tablets, and more

Santa

If you’re thinking of treating yourself to a new PC or a Windows tablet, then Microsoft has some special deals that might be of interest. Its end of year sale offers some decent savings on PCs and tablets from the likes of Lenovo, Acer, HP and ASUS.

You can also pick up the HP Stream 7 Signature Edition Tablet for just $99, which is even more of a bargain than it first seems as it comes with Office 365 Personal, which by itself is worth $69.99.

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Nokia isn't totally abandoning HERE on Windows Phone, but Android and iOS will be its priority

Driving into sunset

Nokia’s HERE suite of driving and navigation apps first made its appearance on Windows Phone, and although it’s now being developed for other platforms, for many it remains best associated with Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

However, now that Nokia is no longer tied to Windows Phone, the Finnish company’s interest in developing for that platform is waning, and it will in future be focusing on Android and iOS -- which have a much larger user base.

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Canon i-SENSYS MF229dw: A great value multifunction printer for home and small business [review]

canon-mf229-front

There’s no shortage of cut-price mono laser printers on the market, but the multifunction Canon i-SENSYS MF229dw is the perfect example of why it’s worth paying a little extra to get a printer that can do everything you’d want it to, and more besides.

Obviously it’s a mono printer, so the one thing it can’t do is output color pages, but aside from that it can print single and double-sided, scan (in 24-bit color), copy pages, and fax documents. It’s a wireless printer, and you can send photos and documents to print directly from iOS and Android devices.

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Get a classic Start menu in Windows 10

classic shell

Windows 10 is very much a work in progress, but one feature that’s definitely going to be around in the final release is the Start menu. Microsoft has done a clever job of blending the traditional Start menu with the divisive Start screen found in Windows 8.x. I’m a big fan of this approach, and the menu is customizable too, so if you really, really hate the tiles, you can turn them off.

However, for some people nothing less than a classic Windows 7 style Start menu is going to be acceptable. If you count yourself in that number, the good news is you can now get a traditional Start menu in Windows 10 thanks to Classic Shell.

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BuQu's PowerArmour case protects iPhone 6, doubles battery life

BuQu

There are just two things I’d improve about Apple’s new iPhone -- its durability and battery life. Both are reasonable, but could be better. This is where BuQu’s PowerArmour case comes in. It will protect your device from drops, and provide up to 100 percent extra battery life. What’s not to love?

The Apple certified "Made for iPhone" case has an integrated 2,800mAh battery that keeps your phone charged at all times, and is sourced from the same manufacturer that provides batteries for Apple’s devices so you know it’s going to last.

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Hub It can now charge your devices wirelessly

qi_wireless_charger_phone_charging_white

I reviewed Hub It a couple of weeks ago, and described it as an "essential, fully customizable sync and charging station for all your devices". I liked it so much in fact, I persuaded its creators, Eggtronic, to giveaway two to BetaNews readers. Enter here (but be quick, the giveaway ends soon).

The product comes with three USB 3.0 ports, as well as connectors for Micro USB, Mini USB, Apple 30 pin and Apple Lightning, but you’re not limited to those options. The station makes use of hot switchable cartridges so you can choose exactly which connectors it offers. And from today, you can add Qi wireless charging to the list.

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AOC's new computer screens can reduce eye fatigue and retinal stress

AOC flicker free

If you sit in front of a computer screen all day, as so many of us do, there’s the risk of developing eye fatigue and headaches. Taking regular breaks can help, but you have to remember to do so.

Monitor-maker AOC says it has found a way to reduce the risks of spending so much time in front of computer screens and is debuting two new displays which offer Anti-Blue Light and Flicker FREE technology that it claims can combat eye-related issues such as retinal stress and macular degeneration.

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BT in talks to acquire EE for £12.5 billion

BTHQ

There’s been plenty of speculation over the past few weeks as to which mobile provider British Telecom was sweetest on -- EE or O2 (its ex) -- but today we learn the object of BT’s affection is definitely the Deutsche Telekom and Orange S.A  joint-venture, as the telecoms giant confirms that it has entered into "exclusive negotiations" to buy EE for £12.5 billion.

There’s a long, long way to go before the companies tie the knot, but if things go ahead, part of the purchase price will be paid in BT shares. Upon successful completion of the proposed transaction Deutsche Telekom stands to own a 12 percent stake in the company, and Orange would gain 4 percent.

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What to expect in the next Windows 10 build

9901 leak

Microsoft plans to launch the next build of Windows 10 in January, and we’ll start to see some focus on the consumer side of things. The company is holding an event at its Redmond campus on January 21 to talk about the "next chapter" of the OS.

But while the tech giant isn’t releasing any new builds for a few weeks at least, there have been several leaks on the internet that reveal what we can expect to see when it does. Here’s what coming to a PC near you soon.

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37 percent of young people have sent naked photos of themselves, often to total strangers

Sexting

UK-based anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label has published its annual study into how people aged 13-25 are currently engaging with (and abusing) smartphone technology. The Wireless Report (2014) reveals worrying details on the increase in the number of cyberbullying cases which includes death and physical assault threats, and exposure of information, including sharing of naked photos without the subject’s permission.

The report, which was compiled from the results of a survey advertised as being about smartphone apps (without mention of bullying, abuse or sexting) reveals some striking statistics.

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