Wayne Williams

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

PC problem

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

safety

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?

Hacker detection

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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Watch Microsoft's Xbox 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 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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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