Microsoft did something rather unexpected earlier this month. The software giant unveiled a revamped MSN, saving the online portal from oblivion -- its biggest merit lately is being the default website for Internet Explorer. The new MSN looks great, connects users to Microsoft's consumer-facing cloud services, and can be tailored to suit their preference. It also makes it easy to trigger a search across the InterWebs. Heck, I have even said it might work as the Bing landing page.
Fast forward to today and Microsoft announces that more than 10 million users have tested the new MSN, with more than 80,000 of them also submitting feedback. Those numbers look really good. And they should, considering the online portal's Microsoft-focused audience. The feedback it has received must have been good also, as Microsoft announces it is rolling out the new MSN in the next three days.
When I bought my first Chromebook, the 2012 Samsung model, I did it mostly for one reason -- price. I drove down to my local Best Buy and was blown away by how inexpensive it was; at $249 it looked like a MacBook Air and promised good battery life. Even though I knew the limitations of Chrome OS beforehand, I still handed over my money thinking I could find a place for it in my home. For the most part it was OK; I mean, it changed the way I thought about computing, but it soon became apparent that it could not replace my Windows machine. I didn't return it; I kept for basic typing on the go, but I later sold it as it collected dust. You see, my iPad Air when coupled with a keyboard-case was a better portable machine.
Now, in 2014, Chromebooks are making huge strides in homes, schools and the enterprise, but Windows still reigns supreme. While I do recommend Chromebooks for people low on cash that only have basic computing needs, today this changes. You see, HP announces the $199.99 Stream 11 laptop, and with a price that low, why would you bother with Chrome OS?
While we all await the arrival of the next Nexus from Google -- and the wait isn't likely to be very long now -- other low cost Android tablets are trying to attract both our attention and our cash. Asus has a good track record in this respect. Lest we forget, Asus was in fact Google's partner for the last Nexus tablet, though it looks like Google may be ringing the changes in terms of a hardware partner this time round.
Anyhow, what we have here is the MeMO Pad 8, the latest in a line of smaller format, lower cost tablets from Asus that are designed to cater to our desire for a larger than phablet screen that's still potentially pocket-friendly in size and wallet-friendly in price. The MeMO Pad 8 will set you back around £160.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has decided that mobile phones are completely safe to use in-flight, including during take-off and landing. Previous rules required passengers to either switch off phones, or flip them into airplane mode. The EASA's latest decision does not mean that there is an automatic right of mobile use afforded to fliers, but airlines now have the option to permit handset use on their flights. So if you've splashed out on an iPhone 6, bendy or otherwise, you can show it off to your fellow fliers.
While airplane mode blocks the ability to send and receive calls and messages, many passengers have found that they are asked to switch off entirely and refrain from using their handset in any way. The new ruling will arm passengers with more ammunition if they want to argue their case, but it's likely that many European flights will quickly bow to popular demand and permit the use of phones.
There are lot of ways to get your hands on a free tablet -- stick it on your birthday wishlist, win one in a competition, steal one. But there's also another option: get yourself to university. At least this is a path to a free tablet -- a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 specifically -- if you happen to be a first year student at the University of East London. 4,000 students will be handed a brand new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 when they start their studies. The venture will cost the university £2 million (around $3.25 million), but the vice-chancellor thinks that it is money well-spent.
It might not be the newest tablet on the market, but few students are likely to turn their noses up at the freebie. Professor John Joughin said, "We are delighted to be putting support directly in the hands of our students and providing them with a state-of-the-art learning platform for the duration of their studies", explaining that equipping students with the tablets will create a "level playing field for all of our students".
Apple and Google do not want the US Government to be able to access your private data, even when search warrants are involved. It's a bold stand they're taking, which has been applauded by privacy advocates and, quite probably, criminals as well. But, guess what? That does not sit well with the authorities. FBI Director James Comey is troubled by the idea that the all-mighty agency that he runs can be stopped dead in its tracks when trying to see your intimate photos, videos and whatnot. Imagine that.
Here's what the fuss is all about. If encryption is turned on, the encryption key, that is needed in order to access the data that is stored on an Android or iOS 8 device, is in the user's control, instead of Google's or Apple's. As such, this allows the companies to be unable to comply with search warrants. It's clever: you can't give what you don't have.
Flying is terrifying for me, which is arguably illogical. Plane crashes are fairly rare, but turbulence still causes me to wet my pants (no, not literally). What tends to calm me is knowing that a professional pilot is in charge of the plane, and is using the best technology.
Unfortunately my choice for the best tablet, the Surface Pro 3, was not previously permitted for use as an electronic flight bag for pilots during the entire flight (an EFB is a device used for performing flight management tasks). This changes today however, as both the FAA and EASA give Microsoft a big thumbs-up, and authorizes it for uninterrupted in-flight use.
Apple is now advising its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus-toting customers to downgrade from iOS 8.0.1, which was only introduced yesterday, because the latest version of its mobile operating system contains some pretty nasty bugs that ruin the user experience.
Apple publicly admits that installing iOS 8.0.1 on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus may lead to a loss of cellular service and the inability to make use of Touch ID, neither of which plagues iOS 8. The older iteration, which was rolled out on September 17, is not without bugs, however Apple would rather you run into them again over not being able to make calls and use the fingerprint scanner.
Seven years after its inception, online image editing service Aviary has been acquired by Adobe. The Photoshop stalwart is no stranger to the cloud, but this latest purchase seems to indicate that the company is looking to expand further in this arena. Pay a visit to the Aviary website and the Adobe branding is already in place -- there's also a new entry on the Aviary company timeline that has been updated to reflect the acquisition. The Adobe-branded Aviary website makes clear the thinking behind the move: "accelerating delivery of mobile apps that integrate with Adobe Creative Cloud".
It seems that the main reason for Adobe's interest in Aviary is the fact that the ornithologically-named firm has developed a number of mobile SDKs. Aviary is already a popular tool, and Adobe is understandably keen to monetize the popularity of cloud apps and mobile services: Aviary is a ready-made package that encompasses both of these ideas perfectly. An announcement by Adobe explains that "the acquisition accelerates Adobe's strategy to make Creative Cloud a vibrant platform for third-party apps, through a new Creative SDK".
Turning on data encryption can make a huge difference in case your Android device is lost or stolen, as it will make it extremely difficult -- if not impossible -- for a third-party to access your files. It also gives you quite a bit of time to remotely wipe your device, which means that your photos, videos, texts and whatnot have a better chance of remaining private.
And if the local authorities want to take a peek, they are also out of luck -- it's good news for those involved in criminal enterprises, and others as well. All this sounds great from a privacy and security standpoint, except that encryption has never been enabled by default in Android. But that is soon about to change.
How do you view BetaNews and other websites? While desktop browsers are still the most popular way of accessing the web for most of the world, mobile internet use is rapidly gaining in popularity.
According to independent website analytics company StatCounter, the use of mobile devices to access the internet has increased by 67 percent worldwide over the past 12 months, from 17.1 percent to 28.5 percent (as you might expect, with its tech-savvy audience, BetaNews has a higher portion of mobile users, but more on that later).
It's very important for us to know that the things we store on our mobile devices are safe from prying eyes. It gives us a sense of security knowing that our private thoughts, photos, videos and whatnot will only be seen by us and the people we share them with. But what if it is the US Government that wants to take a look? If the authorities get hold of our devices, what's to stop them from using search warrants to see what's in there?
If we are talking about iOS 8 devices, then its security design is standing in the government's way. Apple has updated its Legal Process Guidelines to reflect that it will be unable to extract data that its customers store on devices running its latest mobile operating system, as the key which unlocks the treasure trove is solely in its users' control.
It is no secret that mobile data is still very expensive. Going overboard with audio and video streaming, browsing or app downloads will unavoidably lead to throttling, a pretty steep bill from the mobile operator or a brisk run through the remaining credit. But there is one way of giving mobile device users more breathing room, and that is through data compression. It offers obvious advantages, and comes with no major downsides. What's not to like about that?
That is the selling point that Norwegian browser maker Opera Software and Taiwanese processor maker MediaTek hope will impress new customers, as they announce their new partnership, which will see the former's Opera Max data-savings app being built-into the latter's 4G LTE-enabled offerings. The first fruits of this partnership are two 64-bit chips. The touted data savings are rather impressive.
Stock mobile keyboards tend to suck. There's always a deal-breaker somewhere that offsets all their strengths. There is friction when typing in multiple languages, the language support is limited, abbreviations and the like are a no-go, the layout can be unintuitive, there is a limited amount of customization options, or the touch vibrations are too harsh. Take your pick. I have ran into all of them. But, fret not, there are some solid keyboards out there.
The one keyboard which I am a huge fan of is SwiftKey. It shames every stock keyboard and it's generally better than any other third-party offering. With Google being the only mobile operating system maker to allow third-party keyboards, it has only been available on Android. But, now that Apple has followed suit, you can get your hands on SwiftKey on an iPad or iPhone too. And you should, first of all because it's free!
When Microsoft introduced the first Surface Pro to the world, the reception was tepid at best. This is understandable, as it was expensive, had a small screen and ran a much maligned operating system in Windows 8. In a short time however, Microsoft transformed the negative perceptions with a new CEO, Windows 8.1 and eventually, the much improved Surface Pro 3. Yes, the 3rd iteration was the game-changer that the world was waiting for.
Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 3 was initially only available in the USA, Canada and Japan; it only expanded to countries like Australia, Germany and China on August 28th. Apparently, people across the globe like what they see, as sales are strong and Microsoft's hybrid computer is in short supply. I guess Apple is not alone in its success.