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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 11th Apr 2016

It happens to everyone at some point. You're doing something on your computer, whether it's an important project, some aimless browsing, or trying to beat your high score on Solitaire, and without warning everything freezes. You wiggle the mouse, click the buttons a few times, tap some keys on your keyboard and get nothing. Your 21st century piece of technology is as useless as a pet rock. What do you do next?

Restart

OK, this step is obvious. However, some people think they have to pull the computer's power plug or flip the switch on the power strip. Instead, simply hold the computer's power button for 5 to 10 seconds and it will restart with less disruption than a complete power loss.

There are a few things that can happen next when your computer comes back on. Let's look at the three most typical ones and what you should do next.

1. Computer starts fine

If the computer starts up fine, immediately back up your important information in case a serious problem is on the way. Otherwise, you could find yourself scrambling through more complicated ways to get files off a dead computer.

Then use the computer as normal until it freezes again, although it might not. Find out why a restart often makes problems disappear. If the computer does freeze again, then keep reading for more steps to take.

2. Computer asks you how to boot

While restarting, the computer might say there was an error with Windows and ask if you want to start normally or in Safe Mode. The first time, choose to start Windows normally. Then back up your data and keep using the computer to see if it freezes again.

If this is the second time your computer has frozen, choose to boot in "Safe Mode with Networking." Try using the computer like this and see if it freezes again. If it does, then you could be looking at either a software or a hardware problem.

If it doesn't freeze again while in Safe Mode, it's likely a software problem. Keep reading for tips to investigate both.

3. Computer freezes again immediately

If the computer freezes again immediately after it booting, whether in normal mode or Safe Mode, then you could have a serious software or hardware problem. However, it's most likely a hardware problem.

Now we're going to look at some ways to narrow down and fix the cause.

Basic software troubleshooting

An occasional or consistent computer freeze could be the result of a program acting up. Use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + SHIFT + ESC to open Windows' Task Manager and then select the "Performance" tab. In Windows 8.1 and 10, you might need to click the "More details" link at the bottom of the Task Manager to see it. Click here for more Task Manager tricks that you should know.

Start using your computer as normal, but keep an eye on the CPU, memory and disk categories. If the computer freezes, and one of these is really high, then that could be your answer. Make a note of which area was really high then restart the computer and open Task Manager again.

This time, however, choose the "Processes" tab. Sort the list by CPU, memory or disk, whichever was really high last time the computer froze, and see what process pops up to the top of the list as the computer freezes. This should tell you what software is acting up so you can uninstall or update it. Learn how to unravel what processes tell you about your programs.

You might also have hidden software, such as a virus, causing problems. Be sure to run a scan with your security software to uncover something that shouldn't be there.

In cases where your computer freezes during startup in normal mode, but boots OK in Safe Mode, the problem could be a program that's loading during the boot sequence. Use a program like Autoruns to selectively disable the programs that begin at startup and see which one is causing the problem.

If your computer is freezing during startup no matter what, and it's at the same point, then the problem could be corruption in Windows, or a hardware problem. A quick way to tell is to grab a Live CD for another operating system, such as Linux Mint or Tails, and boot with that.

If the other operating system boots OK, then you're probably looking at a problem with Windows and might need to reinstall. For those using Windows 10 (and 8), it has a Refresh/Reset feature that's supposed to return Windows to a factory state. It's under Settings>>Update and recovery>>Recovery. If Windows is having trouble starting, it should pop up a Recovery option during boot that includes this, or you might have to use a disc.

If the non-Windows operating system has trouble too, then it's time to look at your hardware.

Basic hardware troubleshooting

A computer that freezes both in normal mode and Safe Mode, or with another operating system, can often indicate a problem with your computer's hardware. It could be your hard drive, an overheating CPU, bad memory or a failing power supply. In some cases, it might also be your motherboard, although that's a rare occurrence.

Usually with hardware problem, the freezing will start out sporadic, but increase in frequency as time goes on. Or it will trigger when the computer is working hard, but not when you're doing more basic things. Fortunately, you can run some checks and see if that's the case.

Use a program like CrystalDiskInfo to check your hard drive's S.M.A.R.T. data for signs of impending failure. A program like SpeedFan can tell you if your computer processor is overheating, or if the voltages are fluctuating, which might be a problematic power supply.

If you want to go more in-depth, you can grab a diagnostic CD like FalconFour's Ultimate Boot CD. It has plenty of other tools for checking out your computer, including MemTest for putting strain on your computer's RAM to see if it's working OK.

Learn about more signs that your computer could be close to dying. If your computer is newer, it might still be under warranty, in which case you'll want to contact the manufacturer or seller.

For an older computer, you need to decide if it's less expensive to repair or replace it.

Source: usatoday.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 6th Apr 2016

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service with over 1 billion users, announced on Tuesday that every message sent using the service will be protected in a way that even WhatsApp would not be able to read it if it wanted to.

WhatsApp had started to move to end-to-end encryption in 2014, starting with encrypting WhatsApp messages sent between Android phones, but now all messages and phone calls sent with up-to-date WhatsApp software will be protected, the company announced on Tuesday.

The Facebook subsidiary is using encryption technology by Open Whisper Systems, which has the advantage that it is open-source and publicly vetted, which security experts believe make it less likely to be cracked. Open Whisper Systems' technology has been praised by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, for example.

"The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation," WhatsApp founder Jan Koum wrote in a blog post.

"As of today, the integration is fully complete. Users running the most recent versions of WhatsApp on any platform now get full end to end encryption for every message they send and every WhatsApp call they make when communicating with each other," Open Whisper Systems founder Moxie Marlinspike wrote in a blog post.

WhatsApp announced the change with a new security page featuring a white paper that explains the company's encryption on a technical level.

Whether personal communications should be encrypted in a way that even law enforcement cannot read it even with a warrant has become a hot issue in recent years, first spurred by Snowden's revelations, and more recently, when the FBI asked Apple to break its own security in order to get into a terrorist's encrypted iPhone.

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum was the first major Silicon Valley CEO to publicly back Apple CEO Tim Cook in that battle. Brian Acton, another WhatsApp founder, reportedly told Koum that day that "Tim Cook is my hero," according to Wired.

Earlier this month, Facebook shot back at Brazil for detaining a company vice president for 24 hours over law enforcement demands for encrypted WhatsApp messages.

Last month, The New York Times wrote that WhatsApp is fighting against United States government officials in a secret court case in which WhatsApp said that it technically could not implement a court-ordered wiretap because of its systems' encryption.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 6th Apr 2016

As the internet becomes dominated by images, Facebook is launching a system which can "read" photos and tell visually impaired people what appears in them.

The internet is changing. From a medium based almost entirely on text, it is now becoming increasingly picture-led. An estimated 1.8 billion images are uploaded every day to social networks such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Good news for aspiring photographers, bad news for blind or partially sighted users who often have no way of telling what is in an image - despite the available modern assistive technologies.

But a new service from Facebook, being launched on Tuesday, is attempting to remedy that.
Matt King, head of accessibility Jeffrey Wieland and data scientist Shaomei WuImage copyrightFacebook

Blind people use sophisticated navigation software called screenreaders to make computers usable. They turn the contents of the screen into speech output or braille. But they can only read text and can't "read" pictures.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), Facebook's servers can now decode and describe images uploaded to the site and provide them in a form that can be read out by a screenreader.

Facebook says it has now trained its software to recognise about 80 familiar objects and activities. It adds the descriptions as alternative text, or alt text, on each photo. The more images it scans, the more sophisticated the software will become.
Some of the objects the new technology can recognise are:

Transport - car, boat, aeroplane, bicycle, train, road, motorcycle, bus

Environment - outdoor, mountain, tree, snow, sky, ocean, water, beach, wave, sun, grass

Sports - tennis, swimming, stadium, basketball, baseball, golf

Food - ice cream, sushi, pizza, dessert, coffee

Appearance - baby, eyeglasses, beard, smiling, jewellery, shoes - and selfie

The man behind the development is Matt King, a Facebook engineer who lost his sight as a result of retinitis pigmentosa - a condition which destroys the light sensitive cells in the retina.

"On Facebook, a lot of what happens is extremely visual," King says. "And, as somebody who's blind, you can really feel like you're left out of the conversation, like you're on the outside."

The technology that King and his team have developed uses Facebook's in-house object-recognition software to decipher what an image contains. It has been trained to recognise items such as food and vehicles.

"Our artificial intelligence has advanced to the point where it's practical for us to try to get computers to describe pictures in a meaningful way," King says.

"This is in its very early stages, but it's helping us move in the direction of that goal of including every single person who wants to participate in the conversation."

The system currently describes images in fairly basic terms such as: "There are two people in this image and they are smiling."
Facebook screenreader recognising a pizzaImage copyrightFacebook

The screenreader can recognise such foods as ice cream, sushi, pizza, dessert and coffee

Last month, Twitter added a similar function which enables users to manually add their own descriptive text to images. Although the descriptions may be better, it requires users to actively choose to do it, whereas Facebook's new system automatically tags every photo.

King and Facebook would like the system to go one step further and use face recognition to identify people in a picture by name with help from their database of users, but others are resisting the idea on privacy grounds.

For King, it is a matter of principle - he says sighted and visually-impaired people should have equal access to the content posted online. Sighted people know who is in many of the photos they see, so blind people should also be allowed that same privilege, he believes.

"I feel I have a right to that information," he says. "I am asking for information that is already available to other people to be revealed to me. So I see it as a matter of fairness."

Jeff Wieland, head of the Facebook accessibility team, says the social networking site is investing in accessibility and devising strategies for different communities, to allow them to engage with it.

He says the site is "going to have dedicated teams thinking about how to get all these different communities on-board and connecting with each other. That is the chance for us to be equalisers and to really empower the world".

Hear more from Matt King in Default World, first broadcast on the BBC World Service on 2 April as part of the Identity season. An edited version will be broadcast as an Analysis documentary on BBC Radio 4.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 6th Apr 2016

Sony's next major update to the PlayStation 4 debuts tomorrow. It includes a number of new features, but the most important addition is Remote Play for PCs and Macs. New Remote Play apps for Windows and Mac will allow PlayStation 4 players to stream games to their Mac and PCs, and Sony is allowing up to 720p resolutions to be streamed remotely. You'll be able to use a DualShock 4 controller on a PC or Mac to play games, connected through a USB cable.

Alongside the Remote Play features, the new 3.50 firmware update also includes the ability to set yourself as offline, enable friend online notifications, and game event scheduling. Sony is also enabling the ability for all members of a party to see what each person is playing to easily join a friend's game. The 3.50 update will be available tomorrow, and Remote Play apps for the Mac and PC will be available at Sony's website.

Source: theverge.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 6th Apr 2016

We haven't seen much from HP recently that catches our eye, but the new Spectre laptop certainly got our attention.

HP claims it's the thinnest laptop in the world, beating the MacBook Air at its own game. And just as its exterior is luxurious, its specs are premium, too.

It's not priced for the budget laptop shoppers, but it's not designed for them, either. Rather, it's for people who care about how their laptop looks as much as how well they perform.

It's absurdly thin at 10.4mm, which is thinner than the 11-inch MacBook Air (17 mm) AND the 12-inch MacBook (13 mm).

At 2.45 lbs, the HP Spectre is heavier than the 11-inch MacBook Air (2.38 lbs) and the 12-inch MacBook (2.03 lbs).

Despite its sleek design and slim weight, it has similar specs you'd find on thicker laptops.

Most importantly, it runs Intel's full-size Core i processors, not the mobile Core m processors that are designed for super-slim and portable computer that run a lot slower.

The hinges retract into the Spectre's body to eliminate extra bulk that hinges usually add.

It has a full HD 1080p 13.3-inch screen, which the MacBook Air can't boast.

The Spectre also exclusively uses the new USB-C standard for charging and connecting other devices.

You might need adapters to plug peripherals like monitors or hard drives, which might be a hassle, but transitioning to new, better standards is rarely easy.

The base model of the HP Spectre is priced at $1,169, which is about the same price as the 13-inch MacBook Air.

So far, it only comes in the copper/gold color option. HP says it uses the color scheme for "warmth" and to make it feel like a piece of jewelry.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 5th Apr 2016

A new update to Google Search has made it possible for people to vote for their favourite contestants on reality TV shows, The Next Web reports.

The update, which is being rolled out in Asia across mobile and desktop, reportedly allows people to search for a show and simply tap on the contestant they want to vote for.

It will reportedly work in conjunction with existing voting mechanisms, such as texting and placing votes through an app.

The Next Web suggests that reality TV fans will be able to vote for shows such as "The X Factor" and Asian versions of shows like "Got Talent" and "Idols."

TV shows such as "Vietnam's Got Talent" and "The X Factor Indonesia" have already trialled the voting mechanism, according to The Next Web. The producer of these shows, FreemantleMedia, is planning to expand the feature to India and Thailand.

Although the feature is launching in Asia, it's likely that Google will expand it to other regions if it proves successful. Business Insider has contacted Google to find out when this could happen.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 5th Apr 2016

Satya Nadella is busy bringing you new devices and apps to infuse everything you do with computer-aided intelligence.

These include using a personal assistant (Cortana) to manage your calendar, having chat bots interact with you on the internet, and using the HoloLens virtual-reality glasses to impose a 3D virtual world onto your real world.

Yet when it comes to balancing work with family and personal life, the CEO of Microsoft doesn't think our obsession with our devices is helping.

Nadella doesn't believe in work-life "balance" but in work-life harmony, he tells Business Insider.

"There's no such thing as balance. It's how do I harmonize my work and my life?" he says.

We all spend tons of time at work and thinking about work, so it's important that our work be meaningful and fit in with our core values. But when it comes to spending time with the family, we all need to focus less on our phones and more on the real world.

That means not thinking about "the last email" you got from work, he tells Business Insider.

But it also means putting down that phone and paying full attention to your family and friends.

It's something that he's working on himself (emphasis added):

When I'm with my family, doing something, say, even this weekend, tomorrow when I'm there with my daughter, I'm present. What does that presence mean? A lot of us have the residual effect of the last email, the last thing. You've got to get very, very good, I think, in modern life to not have that residual effect spoil your presence. I see people over a dinner table all on their cellphone — that's when I say, wow, that's tragic.

Nadella calls our need for our phones "information anxiety," and he's hoping that Microsoft's new generation of smarter talking software and devices will help us solve that.

"So I'm running late to a meeting. The personal assistant realizes that, automatically on my behalf reschedules or notifies the person because it knows my calendar. I'm not doing some texting and driving. That's one trivial example," he says.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 5th Apr 2016

British police tricked a suspected terrorist into handing over his unlocked iPhone by posing as company managers at the suspect's workplace, according to CNN.

Last Friday, a 25-year-old delivery driver from Luton, England, was convicted of planning a terror attack on American soldiers stationed in Britain. Junead Khan was planning to target United States Air Force bases in East Anglia, and communicated online with an ISIS fighter in Syria, The Guardian reports.

Securing evidence from Khan's iPhone 5s was an important part of his conviction. However, police had to figure out a way to get Khan's phone, while gaining access to his password. Data that could contain vital evidence in law enforcement investigations can be permanently inaccessible if the suspect refuses to surrender the password.

The FBI recently tried to make Apple create software to help it break into an encrypted iPhone belonging to a deceased terrorist earlier this year. The FBI retreated from this legal battle after an unnamed third party helped it hack into the device instead.

To get around any encryption issues in Khan's case, investigators went undercover, a source close to the investigation told CNN. According to the source, cops pretended to work for his company as managers and challenged him on where he was on a certain day. Khan then got out his iPhone to prove where he was.

"The undercover officers asked to see his iPhone and Khan handed it over," CNN reports. They then arrested him — and kept the iPhone accessible by changing the settings before it automatically locked.

"Via that phone we knew that they'd been in contact with Daesh fighters in Syria via text message, via emails but also using social media applications but also there was a vast amount of extremist and terrorist material on there in relation to how to make a bomb, for instance, but also material that related to atrocities overseas," Dean Yaydon, head of Counter Terrorism Command at the Metropolitan Police, told CNN.

The episode is reminiscent of the 2013 arrest of Ross Ulbricht, the convicted owner of Silk Road, then the world's largest online drugs marketplace. Ulbricht's laptop was encrypted, meaning that law enforcement had to get it off him while he was logged in, and before he had a chance to close or lock it.

So they swooped in undercover, targeting him while he sat at a library. Ars Technica reports that two disguised cops staged an argument, and when Ulbricht turned to look, they grabbed the laptop and arrested him. After that, one FBI agent had to keep pressing buttons to prevent it from going to sleep — because without the password to wake it back up, it would be useless.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 5th Apr 2016

Nest, a smart-home company owned by Google's holding company Alphabet, is dropping support for a line of products — and will make customers' existing devices completely useless.

It's a move that has infuriated some customers, and raises worrying questions about the rights of consumers in the ever-more connected future.

In October 2014, Nest acquired Revolv, a smart-home device maker, nine months after it was itself bought by Google. The terms of the Revolv deal were not disclosed, and as Re/code reported at the time, the deal was an acqui-hire — buying a company for its talent rather than its products or users.

Nest cofounder Matt Rogers praised Revolv as "the best team out there," and Revolv immediately stopped selling its $300 (£210) home hub, which could be used to control lights, doors, alarms, and so on.

Revolv's team was to work on "Work with Nest," Nest's API program, but customers' existing Revolv products continued to be supported — until recently.

Just over a month ago, Revolv updated its website to announce that it is closing down completely, pulling the plug on its existing products in May. "We’re pouring all our energy into Works with Nest and are incredibly excited about what we’re making," wrote Revolv founders Tim Enwall and Mike Soucie. "Unfortunately, that means we can’t allocate resources to Revolv anymore and we have to shut down the service."

Shutting down Revolv does not mean that Nest is ceasing to support its products, leaving them vulnerable to bugs and other unpatched issues. It means that the $300 devices and accompanying apps will stop working completely.

As one customer puts it, Google parent company Alphabet is "intentionally bricking" the devices on May 15, 2016.

Arlo Gilbert, CEO of medical app company Televero, is infuriated by Nest's decision. He has written a Medium post about the impending closure, labelling it a "pretty blatant 'f--k you' to every person who trusted in them and bought their hardware."

Gilbert questions the grounds on which Nest can disable devices altogether. "When software and hardware are intertwined, does a warranty mean you stop supporting the hardware or does it mean that the manufacturer can intentionally disable it without consequence?" he writes. "[Nest CEO] Tony Fadell seems to believe the latter. Tony believes he has the right to reach into your home and pull the plug on your Nest products."

Business Insider reached out to Nest for comment, and a spokesperson said that "Revolv was a great first step toward the connected home, but we believe that Works with Nest is a better solution and are allocating resources toward that program."

The spokesperson declined to say how many customers would be affected, although it may not be huge. Re/code reported in 2014 that relatively "small numbers" of people downloaded the Revolv app. And it's possible that the reason for the shutdown is because the Revolv device is reliant on Nest's server support, which it is no longer willing to provide. (The spokesperson also declined to provide a technical explanation.)

But the case raises broader questions about the extent of ownership in the digital age and whether this could set a precedent for other devices going forwards.

"Which hardware will Google choose to intentionally brick next?" asks Arlo Gilbert. "If they stop supporting Android will they decide that the day after warranty expires that your phone will go dark? Is your Nexus device safe? What about your Nest fire alarm? What about your Dropcam? What about your Chromecast device?"

Tech companies are sometimes accused of "planned obsolescence" — creating a product that has an artificially limited lifespan, and will eventually become obsolete or break down. But Revolv's devices aren't stopping working naturally: Nest is deliberately pulling the plug.

Nest has been criticised by activists for this decision. Jim Killock, executive director of UK-based digital rights organisation Open Rights Group, said the shut down was "a pretty appalling way to treat customers."

He told Business Insider: "It raises significant questions about the transparency of products that bundle services with hardware, which is an increasingly common arrangement. If hardware may cease to be functional beyond a certain date, this needs to be clear at the time of purchase. Relying on a warranty provision to disable a product would seem to be an unclear and rather dishonest approach."

The closure of Revolv comes as parent company Nest faces its own problems. CEO Tony Fadell's leadership has come under criticism in recent months, with the company "plagued by a string of product problems, employee departures, and disorganization," former employees told Business Insider's Jillian D'Onfro.

Just days ago, news broke that two "key Nest veterans" are leaving, Re/code reported, the latest in a line of departures.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 5th Apr 2016

John Lewis has opened applications for the firm's JLAB 2016 startup accelerator programme that aims to give newly formed technology companies the chance to gain commercial insight from one of the UK's biggest retail brands.

It will be the third year that John Lewis has accepted applications for the programme, which it runs in association with L Marks, with the aim of producing a product or service that will change for the better the way consumers shop.

"We've learnt from [previous JLAB programmes] and developed it and hope it is the best yet," John Lewis IT director Paul Coby told V3.

Coby said that the retailer received 180 applicants for last year's programme and is expecting a similar number this year.
Based in John Lewis' London headquarters, participants will work with senior mentors from John Lewis for 12 weeks, assigned according to specific industry expertise.

"Each year we highlight areas we want them to look at; there are some absolutely brilliant technologies out there whether it be focused on location services, big data or the Internet of Things. The startups really know the technology, but we can show them how the retail side works in the real world," Coby explained.

"The great thing is with JLAB is the startups don't just meet the technology people like me, they meet the buyers - those in the electrical and home technology departments, the director of retail development and director of John Lewis online - who all help to choose the finalists," he added.

The startups will also receive public feedback using customer panels.

Only five startups are selected to complete the 12 week JLAB programme which commences in July 2016, and one of the companies will get six months' free office space, as voted for by John Lewis Partners.

All of the five startups participating in JLAB will have access to capital from the dedicated microfund attached to the programme.

Each team will be eligible to apply for funding of up to £100,000 from the total pot of £200,000, in exchange for equity in their company.

Coby told V3 that there had been several success stories with JLAB, including the winner from last year, smart home technology company Peeple.

Chris Chuter, CEO of Peeple, said that JLAB had turned the startup into a global company.

"Working with John Lewis and L Marks took us to the next level, and helped us better understand and create a product for the international market," he said.

Coby said that John Lewis had invested in four out of the five startups that participated in last year's programme, one of which has an RFI out with another IT company to provide support in John Lewis stores.

"One of the great things is you can see how these companies are moving from startups to companies that are developing products and competing in the market," he said.

The categories for this year's programme include products or services for health and well-being, simplifying customers' lives, enhancing in-store customer experience, technology for kids, and a wildcard of "innovations that are so out of this world they can't be classified".

The winner will be announced at an event in September 2016.
Startups can enter for free at JLAB.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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