Author Archive: Matt

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.

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By November 29, 2013 Read More →

Cybersecurity: Who is Watching You Online?

Internet securityThe recent news involving the NSA and the implications for online privacy have put cybersecurity in a brand new light. Whenever you hop online with your Web browser of choice, chances are someone somewhere is keeping tabs on your Internet surfing habits. More than 85 percent of adults use the Internet, according to Pew Internet, and a variety of people are eager to collect their personal details—whether it’s to better track their shopping habits or to sell the data to a bounty of rogue marketers, debt collectors or even hackers in search of a ripe target.

Who Watches Over Us?

The vast majority of online tracking is done courtesy of “cookies” and “beacons”—tiny files that appear on your computer whenever you visit a website. While these files are intended to help your computer remember things like login details, organizations can use them to do things like create targeted advertising campaigns based on your browsing habits.

Third-party tracking files are among the most intrusive of the breed. These files assign a unique ID number to your computer, enabling the creator to build a substantial profile based on your visits to affiliated websites with the same technology. This allows retailers to provide predictive marketing based on consumer shopping habits. Forbes notes how this already resulted in one case where Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant long before her father did. Some tracking companies go as far as hiding these files in advertisements, free software and even other tracking files.

How to Watch the Watchers

Despite the growth of the digital security industry, it’s a field that generates a surprisingly small amount of interest from today’s young job seekers. A recent Raytheon poll found that only 24 percent of recent graduates have an interest in cybersecurity as a career. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t interested in enhancing their privacy by monitoring and curbing the usage of cookies and other tracking data.

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, recently unveiled an add-on that sheds light on how first and third-party websites track and collect your data. Lightbeam creates a real-time graphic visualization of third-party entities on the sites you visit. This gives you an opportunity to see who’s collecting your data, how it’s being collected and where they connect to your online activity. In keeping with consumer desire for enhanced privacy, the data Lightbeam collects and displays is stored locally on your computer by default, according to Mozilla.

With identity theft a constant and prominent concern, companies like LifeLock provide a service to those looking to keep their credit ratings safe from fraud. For a small monthly fee, the company keeps an eye out for potentially fraudulent applications for loans, credit cards and other lines of credit and alerts customers to these attempts. The company’s confidence regarding its identity theft protection services extend to its $1 million guarantee in the event of a successful theft.

Posted in: Editorial, News
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By November 28, 2013 Read More →

Buying a New Mobile? Here Are Some Options

Set of touchscreen smartphonesIt can be challenging to renew lists of the best mobile phones available because their rate of release is so fast today. However, October saw the release of very few new phones. Now that the market has settled after the storm (or lack of, according to some) caused by the new iPhone releases, we can better assess the new phones that have been released of late.

The following are the best of the new bunch. If you’re low on funds this month, be sure to check out Virgin Media’s SIM only deals.

Google Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 promises to provide the smoothest and purest Android experience possible. You’ll be able to enjoy the new Android 4.4. KitKat and rather than waiting for the carriers to release updates, you’ll be able to download them directly from Google. There’s a 2.23GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU, along with a gorgeous 4.95-ich 1920/1080 display, with a pixel density of 445 pixels-per-inch.

There’s an 8MP rear camera and a 1.3MP front camera. The phone comes in two options for internal storage: you can choose 16GB or double up to 32GB.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The new Galaxy Note 3 improves upon its predecessor massively. More of a ‘phablet’ than a phone, it’s the only handset that is compatible with Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear smartwatch (support for other Samsung devices will arrive at the end of the year).

Equipped with Jelly Bean, the Galaxy Note 3 has a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, a 5.7 inch 1920 x 1080 display screen, 3GB of RAM, a whopping 13MP rear camera and a 2MP front camera.

HTC One

Similar to the new Galaxy S4, the HTC One offers an aluminium chassis, a full HD screen and a simplified version of Sense 5.0 with Android Jelly Bean. Users will be able to create video highlight reels to share with their friends. There’s an ultrapixel camera that out-performs just about any other phone camera in low-light conditions.

HTC hasn’t had a great track record, but this model truly takes the cake and silences all critics. Although the battery life still leaves much to be desired, the HTC One is still the best phone HTC has released thus far.

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Having just been released, the new Xperia has a bunch of new features under its hood. It now boasts the sharpest LCD panel on the market, as well as a 13MP camera that can capture HDR video.

It fits perfectly into your hand, being nice and slim at 6.5 millimetres. Still, it’s a hardy phone that features tempered glass along with a dust- and waterproof build. It can be submerged in up to 1 metre of water and still work, too.

Buying a new phone these days is tough, as the majority become outdated within a few months. The trick is to select a phone that will last a long time along with updates from the manufacturer. Resist the hype and do your research!

Posted in: Editorial, Phones
By November 28, 2013 Read More →

Top 10 Most Distracting Mobile Apps

dontdrivedistracted-568pxFrom the statistics that have recently been released, half of young drivers are reckless enough to use their mobile phones whilst on the road. Stats from a poll of 1000 drivers have shown that 50% admit to reading text messages whilst driving as well as 74% agreeing that smartphones are distracting to young drivers. As this information has come out, it is startling to know how often this is occurring. This insightful infographic has been devised by ingenie to highlight the facts as part of the #DontDriveDistracted campaign. Be sure to take part and pledge through Twitter, Instagram or Vine by using the hashtag.’

Posted in: Editorial
By November 28, 2013 Read More →

New HTC One coming with microSD slot and Dual-SIM

g254234-2HTC are bringing a new version of the ever-popular HTC One to the UK and the new version is going to add Dual-SIM and a microSD memory card slot!

On the Official HTC Store the new version is available for pre-order but there’s no word on when the devices will start shipping.

This is a nice little enhancement to what’s already an awesome, award-winning phone. Further information from the Official HTC Store include:

Memory: Internal phone storage: 32GB / RAM: 2GB / Expansion card slot supports microSD™ for up to 64GB additional storage (card not included)

Dual-sim

Unlike other dual-sim Smartphones, HTC’s dual active solution offers complete flexibility:

  • Receive calls from either sim card at any time
  • Switch seamlessly between both sim cards while you talk
  • HTC Sense helps you manage calls, texts and data between sim cards s effortlessly
  • On-board Dual Network Manager allows you to select a preferred network and personalise the name of each SIM, eliminating any complexity
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By November 27, 2013 Read More →

The Benefits of Year-Round Cyber Security Coverage

DEU Brauchtum Liebe BrueckeIn recent years, online security has become a huge issue for casual computer users and businesses alike. While cybercrime can have a devastating effect on individuals, the effects on businesses can be crippling and even bring an organisation grinding to a halt, depending on the severity of the activity.

While most businesses are aware of the huge problems that cybercrime can cause and have various types of security software and cyber security measures in place to combat such potential attacks, many do not have proper year-round cyber security coverage and monitoring in place, which could cause problems. Nobody knows if and when cyber security threats will arise, and without constant security and monitoring, the security of your business could remain at risk even if you do have measures in place.

Why you should opt for year-round security

Many businesses carry out security testing on a periodic basis in the hope that this will enable them to avoid the risk of cyber threats. However, this actually leaves your business open to lengthy periods where threats could become an issue and new vulnerabilities could be introduced.

This is why it is important to ensure that assessments are carried out on a more regular basis and security monitoring becomes a constant rather than periodic process. So what are the benefits of year-round cyber security coverage? Well, some of the key benefits include the following.

  • Increased peace of mind: there is no doubt that cyber threats have become a huge issue and problem for organisations. However, by ensuring you have access to year-round cyber security coverage, you can benefit from greater peace of mind rather than being continually concerned about the possibility of new vulnerabilities slipping through the net.
  • Increased protection: the effects of cybercrime on businesses can be devastating, affecting everything from the running and finances of the business to the security of sensitive or even classified information. With year-round security, you can ensure your organisation benefits from increased protection, minimising the risk of falling victim to cybercriminal activities.
  • Minimising on the risk of both external and internal breaches: with the right year-round security system, you can ensure your organisation is protected against both external and internal breaches, which means a heightened level of protection for your business.

By opting for managed security services from professionals with expertise and experience in this field, you can ensure that your organisation’s cyber security systems are running at optimum levels at all times. The right provider can ensure you are protected against the ever-increasing threat of cybercrime.

Choosing the right company to provide your managed security services means that you can benefit from rapid response to make sure that your network is always secure and protected. You can also benefit from the expertise, knowledge and skills of professionals to ensure that all of your company’s cyber security needs are met and maintained. You can find out more about managed cyber security services, here.

By November 26, 2013 Read More →

Sony Xperia Z Ultra unboxing and hands-on

sony-xperia-z-ultra-1Hot on the heels of our Sony Xperia Z1 review we have its big brother, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra.

With its 6.4″ screen, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is the largest of the ‘Phablet’ form devices to hit the market and just tops Samsung’s Galaxy Mega 6.3.

However, unlike many of the other phablet devices on the market, the Z Ultra follows other devices in the range and is IP58 rated making it both dust and waterproof and able to submerge in water to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. Making it possibly an ideal device for using in or around the pool when you’re on your holidays.

At just 6.5mm thick, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra packs quite a lot in to its slim chassis. Inside we get a 2.2GHz Quad-core CPU, 16GB internal storage, 2GB RAM, 8MP camera and all of the usual bells and whistles in terms of GPS, WiFi, etc.

As always, we’re kicking off with an unboxing and hands on video. Here you’ll see the hardware in more detail and I’ll show you what the OS/UI is like before running that ever controversial benchmark test.

By November 24, 2013 Read More →

Kindle Fire HDX WiFi issues

Kindle-Fire-Wi-Fi-password-promptI got my hands on a new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ a few days ago and you may have seen me experiencing some issues with connecting to the App store during the recording of my Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ unboxing video.

Since then I have been really struggling with the HDX. Despite its dual-band dual-antenna WiFi, it’s consistently dropping its WiFi connection and even when it reports connected to WiFi the connection is either poor or non-existent.

Now, it’s entirely possible that I just have a faulty unit and my Kindle Fire HDX WiFi issues could well be just a fluke. However, Googling for WiFi problems on the Fire HDX does yield rather a large number of results and there seem to be quite a few people out there with the same problem. Helpfully, one site suggests downloading the latest firmware for the Kindle and whilst there is a System Update available for my HDX, guess what, I can’t download that without an internet connection!

So as it stands, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ may well be a super looking, light and powerful tablet with an incredible screen, but I’ve so far been able to do very little with it.

Obviously I’ll be speaking to Amazon support about it and will report back, but if anyone else out there has the same problems and better still knows the solution, I’d love to hear from you!

By November 23, 2013 Read More →

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ unbox & hands-on

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9Back in October of this year, Amazon announced that the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ would be available here in the UK in time for Christmas and just a few days ago, in a further announcement we learned that the HDX had commenced shipping.

With the HDX Amazon not only do we get an amazing hi-res IPS display with a staggering 2560 x 1600 resolution but there’s also a 2.2GHz Quad-core CPU, 2GB RAM and 16, 32 or 64GB storage.

Dispite the heavyweight specification the Fire HDX is still able to boast its “lightest large-screen tablet” status, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” is astonishingly light at 374 grams.

In another innovation, the HDX also has a “Mayday button” a revolutionary on-device tech support system which is free, 24/7, 365 days a year.

In the video below I get hands-on and set up my new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ and have a look around that new Fire OS 3.0 Mojito UI.

By November 22, 2013 Read More →

Nexus 5 Camera Fix

Nexus 5 Camera FixPossibly one of the most disappointing things about the otherwise-excellent Nexus 5, apart from the battery life, is the camera. Whilst it may be 8 megapixels and offer an optical image stabilizer,  the image quality still leaves much to be desired. This is a real shame when pitched against excellent cameras in the Xperia Z1, Nokia 1020 and the HTC One.

Many other reviewers are calling the Nexus 5 camera ‘terrible’ or ‘awful’ but personally I don’t think it’s quite as dire as others are making out but certainly think that it really lets the Nexus 5 down.

Nexus 5 Camera Fix

There is potentially good news for Nexus 5 owners. Thanks to one of the developers over on on the xda-developers forum, Jishnu Sir,has been working on a Nexus 5 Camera fix and has released a camera patch which is said to improve the camera quality in a number of key ways:

  • Sound Recording now in Stereo with the secondary Mic.
  • Faster Focusing for the camera.
  • Front Camera also records 720P [email protected] 20 Mb/s.
  • Front camera Audio [email protected] 192000 Kb/s.
  • AntiBanding default set to 50Hz
  • Focus Range Adjusted.
  • Enhanced Smooth Zoom.
  • Turned Edge Enhancement ON.

So that’s definitely good news. However, if you want to apply the Nexus 5 Camera Fix package you’ll have to have a Nexus 5 with an unlocked bootloader in order to install it. This will certainly deter many a Nexus 5 owner.

However, what it does point to, is that the Nexus 5 camera can be improved with a software patch and reveals that the camera hardware, optics, sensor etc. are actually quite good.

So there are now calls for an official update to be released for the Nexus 5 to address the issues about and, hopefully go even further with help from the manufacturers and development team.

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By November 21, 2013 Read More →

SlingPlayer 3.0 rolls out

SLING MEDIA INC. SLINGPLAYER 3.0Sling Media have just released an important update for Slingbox customers, offering SlingPlayer 3.0 and a SlingPlayer for Roku boxes.

A new version of SlingPlayer for iPhone and Android smartphones is available today as part of the Roku channel introduction. Sling Media will also introduce an app for Windows 8.1 in December.

FOSTER CITY, Calif., Nov. 18, 2013 Sling Media Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar Corp. (NASDAQ: SATS), today unveiled three new clients that further enhance discovery, navigation and the social experience customers now enjoy with content, giving Slingbox customers the ultimate video experience both inside and outside of the home. SlingPlayer 3.0 and the SlingPlayer channel on the Roku® streaming platform are both available for download today. A new version of SlingPlayer for iPhone and Android smartphones is available today as part of the Roku channel introduction. Sling Media will also introduce an app for Windows 8.1 in December.

“With today’s announcements, Sling Media has clearly brought the Slingbox experience into the living room, changing the way our customers discover, navigate, view and socialize around content,” said Michael Hawkey, VP and General Manager of Sling Media. “With SlingPlayer 3.0, we’re giving customers the tools they need to turn traditional prime time into Prime Time Social Time. Our customers have been asking for Roku support and a Windows 8.1 app. We’re pleased to deliver the Roku channel today and the Windows 8.1 app in the very near future.”

SLINGPLAYER 3.0

SlingPlayer 3.0 combines the core value proposition of viewing live or recorded TV anywhere with powerful, seamless discovery and second screen enhancements that customers are now asking for. SlingPlayer 3.0 turns the iPad into the first screen and second screen at the same time.

Features include:

  • Content discovery – SlingPlayer 3.0 offers a visually appealing interface that enables users to seamlessly find content they want to watch from the vast number of shows on TV at any given time. Filters are provided in conjunction with customers’ personal TV lineups for easy management as well as third-party services that provide users with tools to quickly discover content they may be interested in.
  • Sports experience – SlingPlayer 3.0 greatly enhances the sports fan’s experience providing an easy and visual way of finding which channel the game is on, no more cumbersome surfing of the grid guide. In addition, once a game is selected, either for viewing on iPad or on the TV, fans can enjoy live statistics on individual and team leaders, get game scores and engage their social networks to comment or call out their favorite team or player.
  • Social – SlingPlayer 3.0 uses social media for both discovery and engagement. Users can filter live TV programming based on their personal social media network likes and once tuned to a show, users can join the Twitter conversation with a live feed of content-relevant tweets or let everyone know what they’re watching via Facebook posts.
  • Second Screen Control – Slingbox customers can use SlingPlayer 3.0 as a powerful second screen companion. Users now have the ability to cast their Slingbox experience to a TV from their mobile device, making SlingPlayer 3.0 the ultimate remote control inside the home, in addition to being able to watch your home TV on a connected device from anywhere in the world.
  • Split-Screen Navigation – This split screen framework empowers Slingbox customers to browse for other content, view show details, engage with social networks or see live sports stats while simultaneously watching video on the iPad.
  • Compatibility – SlingPlayer 3.0 requires iOS 7.0 or higher.

SLINGPLAYER CHANNEL ON ROKU
Slingbox customers can now watch their live or recorded TV through a Roku streaming player connected to a TV in another room in the house or in a remote location. Customers will use either SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone or Android phone to initiate the video and send it to the TV with a tap of a button. They will also need to install the free SlingPlayer channel, from the Roku Channel Store. Roku devices supported at launch include the Roku 3, Roku 2, Roku 1, Roku LT (models 2400X and 2700X), Roku 2 XS, Roku 2 XD and Roku 2 HD players as well as the Roku Streaming Stick. Support for the Roku HD (model 2500X) and Roku LT (model 2450X) will be added later this month.

“Roku offers consumers the most choice of any streaming device,” said Ed Lee, vice president of content acquisition, Roku. “This partnership with Sling Media will bring even more value to Roku customers by giving them additional ways to enjoy live or recorded TV on their Roku players.”

Features include:

  • Sling to a Big Screen – Use Slingbox to send your TV to another TV via a Roku player. Use cases would include households with a second TV in the home (bedroom, basement, office, back porch etc.), in vacation homes or in college dorm rooms.
  • Smartphone Remote Control – The authentication and navigation of live and recorded TV played via Roku is all done via the SlingPlayer client on iPhone or Android phone. Customers must be on the same network as their Roku and once video is initiated on the phone they can “send” to the TV with a single tap. Changing channels, accessing the guide or DVR, etc. is all done via the phone commands.
  • Value – The SlingPlayer channel on Roku adds value to existing cable/satellite subscriptions, bringing live TV to additional TVs inside a home or in remote locations that have may have broadband, but not a cable/satellite/telco service.

SLINGPLAYER FOR WINDOWS 8.1
Sling Media is developing an app for Windows 8.1 customers who own a Slingbox. This new app will deliver an enhanced SlingPlayer experience across Windows 8.1 devices including Surface, desktop PCs, laptops and convertible devices. Sling Media expects the Windows 8.1 app to be available in December.

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