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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 11th Jan 2016

When I first picked up Samsung's newest laptop, I almost sent it shooting out of my hand and into the ceiling. At first glance, it looked like a normal laptop, so I expected it to be heavy.

But it's deceptively light. And it totally tricked me into using more oomph to lift it than I actually needed.

It comes in two sizes: one with a 15-inch screen and another with a 13-inch screen. They both run Windows 10. The 13-incher weighs just 1.85 pounds. The 15-incher is a bit heavier at 2.84 pounds.

It's basically Samsung's answer to the new super-thin MacBook that launched last year.

The Notebook 9's shell is made out of magnesium, which keeps things light. It also has about 10 hours of battery life per charge, which is more than enough to get you through a day.

And that's really about it. The Notebook 9 isn't totally ready yet, but it should be out during the first half of the year. It's also impressive to see how far laptops have come in recent years.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 11th Jan 2016

If you use Twitter a lot, you're either really excited or really appalled by the idea that Twitter might soon ditch its 140 character limit.

Almost since the beginning, Twitter has required all messages be a maximum of 140 characters long. That's because Twitter was based on SMS, and SMS messages had to be that short to be sent.

(Actually, SMS allowed for 160 characters, but Twitter's founders wanted to allow room for Twitter handles before each message.)

So, we all went with it. And sometimes, that 140-character limit sparks creativity:

But more often, it's a pain.

It's led to never-ending tweet storms, which can be good and informative, but difficult to follow as each one lands between a jumbled feed of other tweets in your feed. For example, this one from Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen is insightful, but it's 13 tweets long!

Twitter's 140 character cap can also force you to quote a tweet to avoid hitting the limit, simply so you can have your own 140 characters on top of someone else's.

Often, it encourages people to screenshot a bunch of text and upload it as a photo which isn't fun to do, and it isn't actually useful for Twitter. Text, as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey points out, is much more useful when it isn't a .png or .jpg file. Currently none of this text gets indexed by Twitter — it can't be searched or analyzed.

The argument for keeping Twitter unchanged is that people tend to be long winded and overly wordy. Twitter users love that it's fast and brief; everything is to the point.

Yup, lifting the ban could make Twitter harder to skim. But it sounds like Twitter will still let you write speedy tweets if you want, and it may unfurl the extra text beyond 140 characters so it's there if you want to read more, but not forced upon you. Kind of like an article. You can see the headline, then click if you're intrigued and want to learn more.

Either way, if you're complaining about the idea of Twitter embracing change — and the company needs some strong innovation if it wants to onboard more users — then ask yourself:

"Have I ever tweetstormed, quoted someone else's tweet, or taken a screenshot of text and tweeted it?"

If you answered yes to any of that, then whether you admit it or not, you're already supporting a 140-character free Twitter.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 11th Jan 2016

Apple is expected to cut its iPhone 6S and 6S Plus production by 30 percent in the January to March quarter, Japan's Nikkei reported Tuesday.

The report said the cut is due to the excess level of inventories of the latest iPhone models, which in part was due to the higher exchange rate that made iPhones more expensive in emerging countries.

It added the iPhone production level is expected to get back to normal levels in the April to June quarter, citing foreign suppliers.

Nikkei's report is the latest in a series of gloomy projections that predicted a drop in iPhone sales in the coming months. Last month, a number of Wall Street analysts forecast that iPhone sales will drop for the first time ever, citing a decline in sales by some of the major iPhone component makers.

Gene Munster of PiperJaffray wrote in a note Tuesday that investor concerns of an iPhone sales drop is growing, with some thinking sales for the March quarter could be as low as 50 million units, way below the 58.5 million estimate.

But Munster added that suppliers and production cuts have historically had little correlation to actual reported units, and that Apple's own December guidance is still the best read on overall iPhone sales. Apple CEO Tim Cook said that iPhones would grow year-over-year, according to the note, and Apple hasn't missed a guide in nearly three years.

"Overall, this data point, albeit old, lends us confidence that March may not be as bad as expected assuming that if iPhone demand is up slightly in December and the overall smartphone market is stable with a large upgrade base of existing iPhone users, we would expect narrower change in the December and March growth rates," Munster wrote.

Apple stock finished Tuesday's regular trading session down 2%. Apple wasn't immediately available for comment.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Jan 2016

It's very easy to turn your TV into a roaring fire (and not by setting light to it)

As the cold winter nights draw in, you might want to warm up your house with a real fire. But don't despair if you don't have one – a few household bits of technology will have you sitting cosily in front of some burning logs in no time.

If you have a smart TV or a set-top box connected to your television, then you can quickly fire up one of the many fireplace that are online, and pretend that you're watching a burning fire rather than a video of one.

The best way to instantly give your living room a log fire is to use Netflix's 'Fireplace For Your Home'. That series – which comes in three parts, each with different music – shows a burning fire from its beginning as logs into a full-blown and cosy hearth.

For 2015, Netflix has uploaded new episodes of Fireplace For Your Home in 4K, making them extra realistic. The fires are much the same, but can be seen in much more detail – and the company has also added a birchwood edition, for a little more variety.

YouTube has a huge range of other fireplaces, if you're looking for a free option. The best one is probably PBS Newshour's, which was the first ever in 4K when it was uploaded last year.

Finding a fireplace on YouTube is much riskier, since lots of the ones uploaded there tend to have little watermarks in their corners to say who they were made by, spoiling the realism. PBS Newshour's does feature a Christmas greeting at the start, but is otherwise believable – though it is perhaps let down a little by not showing the fire from the very beginning, as Fireplace In Your Home does, and starting in media res.

None of the videos promise any heat, though the experience of watching them can induce a feeling of cosiness and warmth.

Another option for increasing the realism of your virtual fireplace is to install Philips Hue lightbulbs. They are smart and wi-fi controlled, so you can do what you want with them, and they can show a range of colours.

Downloading the app OnSwitch and using it with smart lights means that you can create the feel of a candlelit room with none of the danger or bother. OnSwitch is free to download but makes you pay for some purposes – but that doesn't include the candlelight option.

Source: independent.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Jan 2016

I am delighted to present my eighth annual Boxing Day Family Puzzler - a festive quiz that rewards intuition and inspired guesswork as much as knowledge and memory.

No-one should be expected to rack their brains on Boxing Day, so in this game no-one is expected to know any of the answers.
The questions relate to events in the past 12 months and all the solutions are numbers. Contestants must use wisdom and judgment to get as close to the right figure as they can.

There are 20 questions and, to make it fair, each player/team should write their guesses down before revealing them. One mark for the closest answer and three if, by some fluke or genius, you get it spot on.
Good luck.

Answers at the bottom

1) The Queen became Britain's longest-reigning British head of state this year. During the course of her 63 years on the throne, how many Christmas puddings has she given to her staff?
Christmas pudding genericImage copyrightiStock
2) In June, the northern England railway company First TransPennine Express published an audit of lost property found on its trains in a year. Among the odder items were a 6ft inflatable dinosaur, a bag of haggis and a framed picture of Mary Berry. Of the 28.6m passengers that year, how many left behind their false teeth?
3) As a nation we are increasingly shopping online - but someone still has to deliver the goods. According to the Department of Transport, the number of miles driven by vans in the UK has risen 70% in the last 20 years. How many miles is it expected to be in 2015?
4) A teenage boy band member was hospitalised in July after wearing a case-load of clothes on to an Easyjet flight rather than pay £45 for the excess baggage. James McElvar, from the group Rewind, became violently sick and required oxygen on the journey from Stansted to Glasgow. How many layers did he have on?
5) In May this year, Steve Easton (no relation) from Camberley in Surrey had a sneezing fit and, much to his amazement, the sucker from the end of a child's dart shot out. He'd been suffering from a blocked nose and head-aches, unaware of the item stuck in his nasal cavity. How many years had it been up there?
6) Jeremy Clarkson left the BBC's Top Gear programme in controversial circumstances this year, only to announce he is to present a motoring programme on Amazon Prime. What is Clarkson reportedly getting paid (in pounds) for each episode of the new show?
7) Liverpudlian showbiz legend Cilla Black died at the age of 72 this year. A chart-topping singer, she went on to become the face of Saturday night TV. How many couples did our Cilla send on blind dates?
8) The Office for National Statistics announced this year that the UK population had exceeded 64.5m. How many of those did they calculate were aged 100 or more?
9) On an average day, 205 billion emails are sent and received around the world. According to a Direct Marketing Association tracking study, what percentage of British emails are deleted before they are even opened?
10) Australian David Richards - known locally as Christmas Lights Man - broke his own record this year for the number of individual lights on an artificial tree. How many?
11) At the UK General Election this year, 34,244 Conservative votes were cast on average for each Conservative MP elected. What was the equivalent figure for UKIP?
12) The average day in Britain sees 2-3mm of rain. According to the Met Office, how many millimetres fell in Honister Pass in Cumbria on 5 December this year?
13) The most viewed YouTube clip of 2015 was Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth performing See You Again. How many views has the official video had since being posted in April?
14) In 1964, 93% of UK births occurred within marriage. Including civil partnerships, what is the percentage now?
15) The amount spent globally on eradicating poverty is estimated to be $66bn. According to the UK Ministry of Defence, what is the amount spent globally on the military (in dollars)?
16) On Anglesey, what percentage of the population has not been online for at least three months, according to official statistics this year?
17) The most-watched TV show of 2015 was the final of the Great British Bake Off in October, won by Nadiya Jamir Hussain. According to market research, by what percentage did baking product sales increase during the series?
18) In his autumn statement George Osborne announced an extra 3% on stamp duty for new buy-to-let landlords. What percentage of MPs are already landlords?
19) In the Rugby World Cup this year, the teams racked up 2,439 points. How many came from drop goals?
20) The new Bond film, Spectre, broke box-office records around the world when it was launched in October. In it, 007 is seen drinking his favourite vodka martini as well as champagne, fine wine and single malt whisky. On average, across all the Bond films, how long elapses between each of 007's alcoholic drinks (in minutes and seconds)?

Answers: 1. Queen's Christmas puddings: 95,800 2. False teeth: 8 3. Delivery miles: 46.9 billion 4. Layers of clothing: 12 5. Years item stuck up nose: 44 6. Clarkson cash: £833,333 7. Cilla's blind-date couples: 746 8. 14,450 9. Emails deleted: 21% 10. Christmas Lights Man's Christmas lights: 518,838 11. UKIP votes: 3,881,129 12. Honister Pass rain (mm): 341 13. See You Again views: 1.25bn 14. Percentage of births: 53% 15. Global military spend: $1776bn 16. Anglesey offline: 41% 17. Bake Off baking increases: 214% 18. MP landlords: 21% 19. Drop goals: 24 20. Bond's drinks interval: 10m53s

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Jan 2016

Hamburg conference hears that Red Star intranet allows Pyongyang to control citizens’ access to websites

North Korea’s homegrown computer operating system mirrors its political one – marked by a high degree of paranoia and invasive snooping on users, according to two German researchers.

Their investigation, the deepest yet into the country’s Red Star OS, illustrates the challenges Pyongyang faces in trying to embrace the benefits of computing and the internet while keeping a tight grip on ideas and culture.

The operating system is not just the pale copy of western ones that many have assumed, said Florian Grunow and Niklaus Schiess of the German IT security company ERNW, who downloaded the software from a website outside North Korea and explored the code in detail.

“[The late leader] Kim Jong-il said North Korea should develop a system of their own. This is what they’ve done,” Gunrow told the Chaos Communication congress in Hamburg on Sunday.

North Korea, whose rudimentary intranet system does not connect to the world wide web, but allows access to state media and some officially approved sites, has been developing its own operating system for more than a decade.

This latest version, written around 2013, is based on a version of Linux called Fedora and has eschewed the previous version’s Windows XP feel for Apple’s OSX – perhaps a nod to the country’s leader Kim Jong-un who, like his father, has been photographed near Macs.

But under the bonnet there’s a lot that is unique, including its own version of encrypting files. “This is a full blown operation system where they control most of the code,” Grunow said.

The researchers say this suggests North Korea wants to avoid any code that might be compromised by intelligence agencies.

“Maybe this is a bit fear-driven,” Grunow said. “They may want to be independent of other operating systems because they fear back doors,” which might allow others to spy on them.

Grunow and Schiess said they had no way of knowing how many computers were running the software.

Private computer use is on the rise in North Korea, but visitors to the country say most machines still use Windows XP, now nearly 15 years old.

The Red Star operating system makes it very hard for anyone to tamper with it. If a user makes any changes to core functions, like trying to disable its antivirus checker or firewall, the computer will display an error message or reboot itself.

Red Star also addresses a more pressing concern - cracking down on the growing underground exchange of foreign movies, music and writing.

Illegal media is usually passed person-to-person in North Korea using USB sticks and microSD cards, making it hard for the government to track where they come from.

Red Star tackles this by tagging, or watermarking, every document or media file on a computer or on any USB stick connected to it. That means that all files can be traced.

“It’s definitely privacy invading. It’s not transparent to the user,” Grunow said. “It’s done stealthily and touches files you haven’t even opened.”

Nat Kretchun, an authority on the spread of foreign media in North Korea, said such efforts reflected Pyongyang’s realisation that it needs “new ways to update their surveillance and security procedures to respond to new types of technology and new sources of information”.

There is no sign in the operating system of the kinds of cyber-attack capability North Korea has been accused of, the researchers say.

“It really looks like they’ve just tried to build an operating system for them, and give the user a basic set of applications,” Grunow said. That includes a Korean word processor, a calendar and an app for composing and transcribing music.

North Korea is not the only country to try to develop a bespoke operating system. Cuba has National Nova, and China, Russia and others have also tried to build their own.

Source: theguardian.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Jan 2016

Which of the band's hits is the most popular?

All of The Beatles' studio albums were made available to stream on Christmas Eve (December 24), and now the most popular tracks over the first few days have been revealed.

Of course, other streaming services may vary, but on Spotify the most streamed track in both the US and the UK was 'Come Together', taken from 1969's Abbey Road, Billboard reports.

The top 10 Beatles tracks in the US are as follows:

1. 'Come Together'

2. 'Hey Jude'

3. 'Here Comes The Sun'

4. 'Let It Be'

5. 'Twist And Shout'

6. 'Blackbird'

7. 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'

8. 'In My Life'

9. 'She Loves You'

10. 'Help!'

The top 10 Beatles tracks on Spotify globally are as follows:

1. 'Come Together'

2. 'Let It Be'

3. 'Hey Jude'

4. 'Love Me Do'

5. 'Yesterday'

6. 'Here Comes The Sun'

7. 'Help!'

8. 'All You Need Is Love'

9. 'I Want To Hold Your Hand'

10. 'Twist And Shout'

Bringing The Beatles' music to streaming platforms has proven complicated since the rights to their albums and songs are held by different sources, including the band members, their estates, Apple Corp and Universal.​

Meanwhile, Andy White, who played drums on The Beatles' first hit 'Love Me Do', recently passed away at the age of 85.

Source: digitalspy.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Jan 2016

Last week, it was reported that Yahoo had become the latest company that promised to alert users who it suspected were being spied on by state-sponsored actors. Twitter, Facebook and Google had previously assured their users that they would also warn them of any potential government spying. The UK, it seems, isn’t happy about this, and is pushing through a bill that will see the bosses of any company that warns its members that British agencies are monitoring them face up to two years in prison.
Specifically, UK ministers want to make it a criminal offence for tech firms to warn users of requests for access to their communication data made by security organizations such as MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (the Government Communications Headquarters).

A June report by David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, revealed that Twitter’s policy requires it to notify its users of requests to access their data “unless persuaded not to do so, typically by a court order.” But a note to the bill would make this illegal.

The note says it “will ensure that a communication service provider does not notify the subject of an investigation that a request has been made for their data unless expressly permitted to do so.”

The controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, nicknamed the snooper’s charter, was unveiled by home secretary Theresa May in November. Part of the proposed legislation would require tech firms to store users’ data for up to twelve months, including a record of every internet site visited, and allow government agencies unfettered access to the data. While the bill is being put forward as a deterrent against terrorism, online monitoring at this level has been banned in the US, Canada, and every other European nation.

The bill could also allow the UK government to demand that companies weaken the encryption on messaging services such as WhatsApp and iMessage to enable agencies to evesdrop on conversations, a proposal that Apple is strongly against. “We believe it would be wrong to weaken security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers so that it will also be weaker for the very few who pose a threat,” Apple said. “In this rapidly evolving cyber-threat environment, companies should remain free to implement strong encryption to protect customers.”

Source: techspot.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Jan 2016

By Joseph Menn

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday it will begin warning users of its consumer services including Outlook.com email when the company suspects that a government has been trying to hack into their accounts.

The policy change comes nine days after Reuters asked the company why it had decided not tell victims of a hacking campaign, discovered in 2011, that had targeted international leaders of China's Tibetan and Uighur minorities in particular.

According to two former employees of Microsoft, the company's own experts had concluded several years ago that Chinese authorities had been behind the campaign but the company did not pass on that information to users of its Hotmail service, which is now called Outlook.com.

In its statement, Microsoft said neither it nor the U.S. government could pinpoint the sources of the hacking attacks and that they didn't come from a single country.

The policy shift at the world's largest software company follows similar moves since October by Internet giants Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and most recently Yahoo Inc.

Google Inc pioneered the practice in 2012 and said it now alerts tens of thousands of users every few months.

For two years, Microsoft has offered alerts about potential security breaches without specifying the likely suspect.

In a statement to Reuters, Microsoft said: "As the threat landscape has evolved our approach has too, and we'll now go beyond notification and guidance to specify if we reasonably believe the attacker is 'state-sponsored'."

In a blog post published late Wednesday, Microsoft said: "We're taking this additional step of specifically letting you know if we have evidence that the attacker may be 'state-sponsored' because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cybercriminals and others. (http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2015/12/30/additional-steps-to-help-keep-your-personal-information-secure/)

The Hotmail attacks targeted diplomats, media workers, human rights lawyers, and others in sensitive positions inside China, according to the former employees.

Microsoft had told the targets to reset their passwords but did not tell them that they had been hacked. Five victims interviewed by Reuters said they had not taken the password reset as an indication of hacking.

Online free-speech activists and security experts have long called for more direct warnings, saying that they prompt behavioral changes from email users.

Source: foreigndesknews.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 14th Dec 2015

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed the world of animal linguistics, and for reference we illustrated how different languages represent (in writing) the sounds that animals make.

However, this is a horse of a different color. Or, um, cow…

The BBC, in whom I often trust in matters of international politics and world events, reports that cows “moo” differently depending on region. That is to say that cows have regional accents and dialects.

My thoughts then turned to the bovine linguist involved in this study, and I’ll be the first to say, he’s legit. We’ve really got a case of heifer phonetics here!

“Farmer Lloyd Green, from Glastonbury, said: “I spend a lot of time with my ones and they definitely moo with a Somerset drawl. I’ve spoken to the other farmers in the West Country group and they have noticed a similar development in their own herds.” – BBCNews

It does make me think. How little we truly know about ourselves, and even less about the world around us. I’m sure that the phonetics professor involved had never really considered aviary or livestock speech when making his career choice, but here he is reporting to the world about the “twang” of local cows.

Just another testament to how the study of languages (human or otherwise) can creep into any profession! Perhaps more agricultural majors should think about a minor in linguistics!

Source: leaflanguages.org
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