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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Nov 2015

So you know how you've been using your computer all these years? With files, folders, a mouse and all that?
It's wrong. All of it. And well overdue a rethink.

That's the view of Finnish techie Kristoffer Lawson and his team.

"Solu" (that's Finnish for "organic cell") is a new type of computer that has just been announced.
It's a little device with a stylish wooden finish that looks a bit like an expensive coaster.
It can be used independently as a standalone touchscreen device, a bit like a smartphone - although it doesn't have cellular capability yet.

It can be hooked up to a bigger display at which point the handheld device is used as a controller. Various gestures - swiping, tapping, pinching - are used to control what happens on the bigger screen.

It's a neat interaction, let down by the fact the device doesn't connect to the screen wirelessly - it instead requires an HDMI cable and a power source if you want it to last longer than six hours or so.

Software subscription
Solu's main selling point is its software. It looks nothing like any computer you've ever used before.

Running on a heavily-modified version of Google's Android operating system, the Solu software does away with many of the conventions we're used to in home computing.

The most noticeable is file management. No folders to be seen here - instead an interface that looks like a mind map, with projects and ideas grouped in little orbs and clusters. It provokes better focus, the team says.

And when it comes to collaborating, there's no emailing documents back and forth. Instead, Solu uses cloud computing to help people work together on documents at the same time, in a way that's far more aesthetically pleasing than what's out there right now.

You can see what colleagues are up to on shared files, and when something is being edited by a co-worker, it lights up on your screen too. It's smart, it's pretty intuitive, but you can't imagine any serious business using it at scale.

But here's a nice idea: you don't buy any software.

Instead, you pay a monthly subscription fee (the amount hasn't been decided yet, but they're hoping for around $20 a month) and you can use whichever programs you like. Developers will get a slice of that fee if you use their program. Think Spotify, but for software.

But nice ideas don't guarantee success. And while making technology predictions can leave people with egg on their faces, I think it's pretty safe to say Solu is unlikely to get off the ground.

Let's start here: Solu is being launched as a crowdfunded Kickstarter campaign. If you "buy" one today - through Kickstarter - you won't get it until May 2016.

That's pretty typical for crowdfunded technology, but alarm bells begin to ring when such lofty promises are being made.

Desperately unintuitive

For starters, despite it now being "on sale", the product is nowhere near ready.

As well as minor tech fails during the launch presentation - which can be attributed to dodgy wifi at the venue - one of the apps, a kind of stripped-down accounting program, appeared so desperately unintuitive that the company's chief operating officer, on stage to demonstrate how simple it was, ended up asking Lawson how to use it.

The device itself looks neat but falls short of the promise of an edge-to-edge touch surface. The only devices made so far are prototypes that are way off feeling like a product just a few months away from hitting the market.

To give you an idea: after one crashed, one of the team's developers admitted that right now the only way to restart it was by connecting it to his normal laptop.

The future version will solve that problem, I was assured. It will also have a better touchscreen. And might have cellular capability.

Its cost is competitive - 349 euros (£257) or 299 euros if you buy it early. It's low because, like a subsidised mobile phone, Solu's profitability will come from the monthly subscriptions rather than the hardware sale.

You get three months of subscription included when you buy the device. Great! How much will it be after that? They couldn't tell me. It hadn't been worked out yet.

How long is the battery life? Not sure.

If it sounds like I'm being too hard on an ambitious team that is at the early stage of an innovation - let's look at it a different way.

Most Kickstarter launches consist of a good pitch and slick video explaining an idea. This was something on another level of reality. In a huge hall in San Francisco, with free drinks, food and a fella playing an organ, the Solu team boldly declared the end of computing as we know it. Apple and Microsoft, they said, should watch out.

The confidence is both admirable and alarming.
Because for Solu to succeed, Lawson and his team need to convince people to ditch an operating system they're used to, on hardware they trust, and instead go for a mobile device that does less than the mobile you currently have in your pocket. The software subscription service is nice, but there's no word on whether major developers actually want to do business on Solu's terms.

Not only that, but for the collaboration features to be effective the team needs entire businesses to buy in to the Solu vision.
Lawson is right in that we do need to take a hard look at some of the computing conventions that are inefficient and frustrating. But unfortunately for him and his team, Solu isn't going to be the solution to that problem.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Nov 2015

It turns out driving directly toward huge, looming storm clouds is a great rhetorical device to employ on a road trip to see cloud infrastructure—and also a great way to be faced with the cruel truth of your own mortality.

Somewhere in Arizona, we pulled off the interstate when the combination of hydroplaning and hail became too hazardous. While we waited the storm out, I started to think about the terminology I'd probably have to use for this series.

One of the bad habits of network-infrastructure enthusiasts is we sometimes take for granted that most people don't actually remember that the Internet is composed of objects. We are kind of curmudgeons about this. We are basically that “old man yells at cloud” Simpsons meme, but for IBM commercials.

But, the curmudgeon gruffly acknowledges, most people don't interface with or experience The Cloud as objects, and differentiating between the different types of objects that make up that network isn't always easy. It probably doesn't help that as a whole, these different objects are described in a bunch of mixed metaphors that all kind of work, but don't really work great together.

The other tricky thing about differentiating the various sites and objects that make up the Internet is that they're almost all really boring-looking, windowless buildings with large, complicated HVAC systems. But these buildings do slightly different things. What follows is a brief overview of a few of the most important:

Internet Exchange or Carrier Hotel: Let's take it as a given that the Internet is a network of networks. People and companies running applications connect to the Internet using a variety of service providers (Level 3 Communication, Comcast, Sprint, Verizon). All these networks have to, at some point, talk to each other.

If I want to watch something on Netflix and I'm connected to the Internet via Time Warner, but Netflix is connected to the Internet via Cogent Communications, my HTTP request for netflix.com has to leave Time Warner's network, travel through Cogent's network, and then come back to me via those networks. This happens at an Internet exchange, or IX. Basically, they're buildings where cables and routers connect other networks to each other. Sometimes, they're called carrier hotels, because they're where all the “common carriers,” as it were, “check in” with each other (come for the network infrastructure, stay for the dad-joke terminology).

Internet exchanges are scattered all over the place (TeleGeography maintains a pretty cool map of them), but a lot of them end up in areas where there's a lot of “Internet backbone,” another vocabulary word that infrastructure enthusiasts use but never really explain particularly well. Basically, “Internet backbone” is a word for a really large concentration of network infrastructure (i.e., fiber-optic cables) converging in a particular area due to various political, historical, and environmental conditions. Lots of Internet traffic moves through these areas. It might be more accurate to call Internet backbone “Internet spinal cord” or even “Internet spinal fluid” for biological-metaphor accuracy, but that sounds kind of gross.

Colocation Data Center: Data centers are not in and of themselves cloud infrastructure, and data centers have been a thing long, long before people excitedly talked about The Cloud. The premise of colocation is kind of what it sounds like: Companies put their servers in the same place. In general, co-located servers are hardware that individual companies bring into a data center—they own the equipment, and they put it in a particular data center.

One distinguishing trait of cloud infrastructure compared to vanilla co-location is partly that data doesn't really live on a single server. Databases are distributed across multiple servers, stored in fragments sometimes called “shards” (a term that apocryphal rumor I desperately hope is true attributes to the MMO Ultima Online). If you are using cloud infrastructure and you're not a giant company like Amazon, you usually don't own any of the hardware—it's more like you're renting it. If, in your life, a Man from Sales named Chad (he is, always and forever, named Chad) ever tells you about “platform as a service,” this is literally all he means.

Purpose-Built Data Centers and Retrofitted Data Centers: This is a distinction between basically building an entirely new building from scratch just to be a data center and taking a building previously used for something else and making it a data center. Giant companies that build their own data centers, like Google, often do both. Sometimes they make entirely new buildings from scratch, like one we were driving out to see in Iowa, and sometimes they repurpose old ones, like this paper mill in Finland. There are different tradeoffs to either approach.

This is, admittedly, a broad brush-strokes overview of network infrastructure, and I'd hesitate to really reduce whatever The Cloud is to the objects and buildings we happened to be driving out to see.

Whether we accept the metaphor of The Cloud or install a browser plugin to taunt it, it is part of a fundamental change in how people live with and perceive the Internet. It has less to do with marketing-speak, and more to do with the fact that while waiting out a flash flood in Arizona, I could look on my phone at a radar map of that flash flood. The Cloud facilitates a particular kind of time travel, not one of paradoxical leaps forwards or backwards but a flattening of space-time into a constant real-time now.

Somewhere, in a sleepless haze of writing terminology notes, I'd written “TIME MACHINES OF THE AMERICAN WEST.” When the rain let up, we were about six hours behind schedule, and we had a lot of time machines to go see.

Source: theatlantic.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Nov 2015

Facebook is ruining all of our lives.

Okay, so that's not completely true, but a new study from the cheerily-named Happiness Research Institute suggests that staying off Facebook can actually make you happier.

Not that this isn't something we haven't already heard before. Many times. But, hey, let's reinforce it, shall we?

This study surveyed 1,095 people in Denmark -- so, for what it's worth, maybe Facebook is just ruining the lives of Danish people. The sample group, comprised of individuals who were an average age of 33, was divided into two halves: One carried on with their Facebook use as usual, while the other stopped using the social media site entirely, per Phys.org.

A week later, 88 percent of those not on Facebook said they were happy, compared to the 81 percent still on Facebook. Also, 84 percent of the nonusers said they appreciated their lives, while only 75 percent of the Facebook users felt that way.

Based on those numbers alone, we're not really sold on Facebook being so bad. But then, there's this: A mere 12 percent of the people who didn't use Facebook said they described themselves as "dissatisfied," whereas 20 percent of the Facebook users indicated they felt that way. The Facebook users were also 55 percent more likely to feel stressed, says Quartz.

To add insult to injury, the people who didn't use Facebook said that after the week was over, they had a better social life and less trouble concentrating, whereas the Facebook users experienced no change in either area.

Happiness Research Institute CEO Meik Wiking told The Huffington Post that he and his team "were quite surprised with the results." When asked how his study differs from similar ones, Wiking said that "other studies are just a snapshot in time," covering merely a day or an afternoon as opposed to a series of days.

"If you don't follow people all the time, you can't say that they are happier," he said. "There's no way to tell if that person is more inclined to feel happy than another."

Wiking said that he actually deleted the Facebook app and encourages current users "to post not only the great things that happen, but perhaps a more nuanced view of how their life actually happens."

The moral here is: Use Facebook at your own risk and maybe find some other ways to spend your time. There's always Netflix and chilling.

Source: huffingtonpost.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Nov 2015

Smartphones, tablets and e-readers should have an automatic "bedtime mode" that stops them disrupting people's sleep, says a leading doctor.

Prof Paul Gringras argued the setting should filter out the blue light that delays the body clock and keeps people awake later into the evening.

The doctor, from Evelina Children's Hospital in London, said every new model was "bluer and brighter".

He said manufacturers needed to show more "responsibility".
As it gets darker in the evening, the body starts to produce the sleep hormone melatonin - which helps people nod off.

Certain wavelengths of light, those at the blue-green end of the spectrum, can disrupt the system.
Prof Gringras was part of a study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, analysing the light emitted by devices.

It concluded there was a clear trend for new devices to be bigger, brighter, have higher levels of contrast and emit more blue light.

The professor of children's sleep medicine told the BBC News website: "That is great for use in the day, but awful for use at night.

"There is converging data to say if you are in front of one of these devices at night-time it could prevent you falling asleep by an extra hour."

He said some sleep-aware apps had already been designed to reduce blue-green light emissions.
And that a bedtime mode could automatically filter out the blue as software such as f.lux already does.

He said there needed to be "more responsibility from manufacturers" and the "key is to automate it".

Prof Gringras added: "It's not good enough to say do less and accept this is the world we live in, they're fun devices but we do need some protection on what they do at night-time."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 11th Nov 2015

The internet activity of everyone in Britain will have to be stored for a year by service providers, under new surveillance law plans.

Police and intelligence officers will be able to see the names of sites people have visited without a warrant, Home Secretary Theresa May said.

But there would be new safeguards over MI5, MI6 and the police spying on the full content of people's web use.
Mrs May told MPs the proposed powers were needed to fight crime and terror.

The wide-ranging draft Investigatory Powers Bill also contains proposals covering how the state can hack devices and run operations to sweep up large amounts of data as it flows through the internet, enshrining in law the previously covert activities of GCHQ, as uncovered by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The draft bill's measures include:
Giving a panel of judges the power to block spying operations authorised by the home secretary
A new criminal offence of "knowingly or recklessly obtaining communications data from a telecommunications operator without lawful authority", carrying a prison sentence of up to two years
Local councils to retain some investigatory powers, such as surveillance of benefit cheats, but they will not be able to access online data stored by internet firms
The Wilson doctrine - preventing surveillance of Parliamentarians' communications - to be written into law
Police will not be able to access journalistic sources without the authorisation of a judge
A legal duty on British companies to help law enforcement agencies hack devices to acquire information if it is reasonably practical to do so
Former Appeal Court judge Sir Stanley Burnton is appointed as the new interception of communications commissioner
Mrs May told MPs the draft bill was a "significant departure" from previous plans, dubbed the "snooper's charter" by critics, which were blocked by the Lib Dems, and will "provide some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight".
'Better balance'
But Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights campaign Liberty, said: "After all the talk of climbdowns and safeguards, this long-awaited Bill constitutes a breath-taking attack on the internet security of every man, woman and child in our country.
"We must now look to Parliament to step in where ministers have failed and strike a better balance between privacy and surveillance."

And Mr Snowden warned the communications data covered by the proposed legislation was "the activity log of your life".
In a message on Twitter he said: "'It's only communications data' = 'It's only a comprehensive record of your private activities'."
Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
Media captionAndy Burnham: ''We support the government in its attempt to update the law in this important and sensitive area''
The proposed legislation will be consulted on before a bill is formally introduced to Parliament in the New Year, Mrs May said. It will then have to pass votes in both houses of Parliament.

It would order communications companies, such as broadband firms, to hold basic details of the services that someone has accessed online - something that has been repeatedly proposed but never enacted.

This duty would include forcing firms to hold a schedule of which websites someone visits and the apps they connect to through computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Police and other agencies would be then able to access these records in pursuit of criminals - but also seek to retrieve data in a wider range of inquiries, such as missing people.

Mrs May stressed that the authorities would not be able to access everyone's browsing history, just basic data, which was the "modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill".

But investigating officers will not have to obtain a warrant, just get their request signed off by a senior officer, just as they do now - some 517,000 such requests were granted last year.

If officers want to mount more intrusive spying operations, including accessing the content of emails, hacking into computers and tapping phones, they will still need a warrant from the home secretary or another senior minister - 2,700 such warrants were signed last year.

But the draft bill proposes giving a new panel of judges, known as the Investigatory Powers Commission, the ability to veto such requests.

When police or security agencies apply to intercept someone's communications, their plans would have to be first signed off by the home secretary but then approved by one of these judges.

In urgent situations, such as when someone's life is in danger or there is a unique opportunity to gather critical intelligence, the home secretary would have the power to approve an interception warrant without immediate judicial approval.

The judges would also be able to refer serious errors to an outside tribunal which could then decide to tell the individual their data has been illegally collected.

The bill does not propose forcing overseas companies to comply with these orders.

The bulk collection of internet messages flowing through the UK by GCHQ, as revealed by Edward Snowden, is currently in a legal grey area, covered by legislation originally meant for other purposes.

The security services argue they need access to large amounts of data to help them monitor suspected foreign terrorists or criminals deemed to pose a threat to the UK.

The new bill would aim to put bulk collection on a firm legal footing, with the home secretary given the power to issue warrants, as set out in the graph below.

Graphic showing the process for securing authorisation to collect bulk data under the new draft bill - 4 November 2015
The estimated cost to taxpayers of implementing the Bill is about £247m over the next 10 years, including storage of internet connection records and the new warrant approval regime.

The draft bill is a response in part to a review by the government's terror watchdog, David Anderson QC, who said in June the UK needed a "comprehensive" new surveillance law to replace the current "fragmented" rules.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's PM programme, Mr Anderson gave Mrs May's proposals "four stars" but said it would be for Parliament to determine the extent of surveillance powers and safeguards.

He said: "This isn't a licence for the police to simply prowl over everything you have been doing, but I quite accept that a lot of data is being kept by these service providers and under the government's proposals it would be kept for a very long time."

This creates "obvious risks" he said, adding: "I simply wouldn't vote for this unless I had been very substantially satisfied that those risks had been minimised."

Labour's shadow home secretary Andy Burnham backed the draft bill, saying it was "neither a snooper's charter nor a plan for mass surveillance".

Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said it was a "much improved model" of the legislation he blocked during the coalition government but said the "devil would be in the detail".

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 10th Nov 2015

Apple CEO Tim Cook is out beating the drum for the 12-inch iPad Pro tablet, which launches later this week, and he doesn't really see why anybody would need a full personal computer anymore.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Cook said, "I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?"

He continued: "Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones."

But recent history is against him. The iPad has seen seven straight quarters of declining sales — measured against the previous year — dipping below 10 million for the first time since mid-2011, and analysts seem to have given up on it. The overall tablet market has been declining for the last year, too.

Meanwhile, Apple's Mac business has been doing better than ever before — last quarter, it sold a record 5.71 million Macs.

The iPad Pro is Apple's latest attempt to reverse this trend. Like the Microsoft Surface, which Cook once derided for being like a combination refrigerator and toaster, the iPad Pro comes with an optional attachable keyboard. You can also buy a stylus for it, to sketch on the screen. It's also got a larger screen than previous iPads, coming in at almost 13 inches diagonally.

Cook also admitted that the larger iPhone screen, introduced with the iPhone 6 in 2014, might have hurt iPad and iPad Mini sales. But he said that Apple doesn't mind as long as it's cannibalizing itself. ..

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 10th Nov 2015

Google has long been ahead of the curve on artificial intelligence (AI), and things just got a lot more interesting.

Today, the tech giant released TensorFlow, a new AI system that's used in everything from recognizing speech on a noisy sidewalk to finding photos of your pet dog Fluffy.

And in a rare move for Google, it's making its software open source, meaning anyone can access and edit the code.

The software passes complex data structures, or tensors, through a neural network, or artificial brain, hence the name Tensor Flow. This process is a core part of deep learning, a powerful AI tool that is used in many of Google's products.

Google says the new program is five times faster than its first-generation system, and can be run on thousands of computers or a single smartphone. Google uses it in everything from Search to Photos to Inbox. For example, it's what lets Google Translate detect foreign words on a street sign and translate them in real-time, as shown above.

The reason for making TensorFlow open source is to spur innovation and make it easier for researchers to share their ideas and code, Google spokesperson Jason Freidenfelds told Business Insider.

Currently, Google has only released a version of the new technology that runs on a single machine, but it plans to release a multiple-machine version in the future, Freidenfelds said.

But Google is not making everything open source. "It's sharing only some of the algorithms that run atop the engine. And it's not sharing access to the remarkably advanced hardware infrastructure that drives this engine," Wired's Cade Metz reported.

According to Google, TensorFlow can also be used for other types of machine learning, or for things you might use a supercomputer for — from protein folding to analyzing astronomy data.

"We've seen firsthand what TensorFlow can do, and we think it could make an even bigger impact outside Google," the company wrote on its blog. "We hope this will let the machine learning community — everyone from academic researchers, to engineers, to hobbyists — exchange ideas much more quickly, through working code rather than just research papers."

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 10th Nov 2015

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Facebook said on Monday it would appeal a court ruling ordering it to stop tracking the online activities of non-Facebook users in Belgium who visit Facebook pages, or face a 250,000 euro ($269,000) daily fine.

Belgium's data protection regulator took the U.S. company to court in June, accusing it of trampling on EU privacy law by tracking people without a Facebook account without their consent.

At stake is the so-called 'datr' cookie, which Facebook places on people's browsers when they visit a Facebook.com site or click a Facebook 'Like' button on other websites, allowing it to track the online activities of that browser.

"We've used the 'datr' cookie for more than five years to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world," a spokeswoman said.

"We will appeal this decision and are working to minimize any disruption to people's access toFacebook in Belgium."

The Brussels court ordered Facebook to stop tracking non-Facebook users in Belgium within 48 hours or pay a daily fine of 250,000 euros to the Belgian privacy regulator, said Margot Neyskens, spokeswoman for Bart Tommelein, Belgian secretary of state for the protection of privacy.

"Facebook can not follow people on the internet who are not members of Facebook which is very logical because they can not have given permission to follow them," Tommelein said in an emailed statement.

Facebook says the cookie only identifies browsers, not people and helps it to distinguish legitimate visits from those by attackers.

The company has also argued that since it has its European headquarters in Ireland it should be regulated solely by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.

That argument was rejected by the Belgian privacy regulator.

Tommelein said the fact that the Brussels court had ruled meant it had jurisdiction over the company.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti, Editing by Jane Merriman and David Evans)

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 9th Nov 2015

The BBC has launched a new feature that lets you buy and keep digital copies of old BBC programmes.

BBC Store, debuted on Thursday, lets people download series boxsets or single episodes produced by the BBC. Once purchased, either from the BBC Store website or through iPlayer, people can stream that programme at any time from mobile, tablet, or smart TV.

Launch programmes for download include dramas like Doctor Who, Luther, Peaky Blinders, and Sherlock, nature documentaries from Sir David Attenborough, and classic comedies like Fawlty Towers and Black Adder. The BBC plans to add to the online collection every day.

Announcing the new BBC Store, head of iPlayer Dan Taylor-Watt says in a blog post:

The licence fee covers the cost of making most programmes available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after they’ve been on TV, which will remain the case. What we’re adding is the ability to enjoy BBC programmes after the 30 days are up – by buying them to keep and watch whenever, wherever you like.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Thu 5th Nov 2015

Actually no,

Both Sophos and Webroot use the same Web GUI to create their console. Webroot have a different approach to preventing against Malware. Webroot are the only company to use 100% cloud definitions. As far as we know whilst having a cloud lookup as part of Sophos solution they still download definitions to the endpoint client. Sophos are a bigger company than Webroot but Webroot’s solution is lighter and faster and their journaling and rollback capability is what sets us apart.

Webroot technology is based on a Cloud Security Architecture created by a company called Prevx. Their approach is to prevent the execution of Malware and keep track of changes made by new and unknown threats.

Source: webroot.com
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