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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 21st Mar 2018

"It is time. #deletefacebook."

After reports of Cambridge Analytica using Facebook's user information came to light, people across social media have begun to urge others to either #DeleteFacebook or #BoycottFacebook in response.

One surprising voice has joined this movement - WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton.

Mr Acton left the company in 2017, three years after Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19bn (£11.4bn at the then exchange rates) in 2014.

Skip Twitter post by @brianacton

Brian Acton@brianacton

It is time.

11:00 PM - Mar 20, 2018

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End of Twitter post by @brianacton

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"We all moved on from MySpace. We can move on from Facebook too."

This was a typical message found on Twitter in the wake of accusations over Cambridge Analytica using personal data from 50 million Facebook users to influence the US presidential election in 2016.

The #DeleteFacebook hashtag appeared to gain traction after one Twitter user quoted a BBC Stories tweet from 2017 - an interview with Theresa Wong about Cambridge Analytica, originally broadcast on BBC Two in the series Secrets of Silicon Valley.

Four quotes were taken from the interview to infer Facebook's role in Donald Trump's 2016 US election victory, such as "Facebook was our hands-on partner," and "Without Facebook we wouldn't have won," coupled with the call to #DeleteFacebook in response.

Skip Twitter post by @TedGrunewald

Theodore Grunewald@TedGrunewald

Replying to @mikells43 and 2 others

"Facebook was our hands-on partners."
"Without Facebook, we wouldn't have won."
"Facebook really and truly put us over the edge."
"Facebook was *the* medium that proved most successful for this [Trump] campaign."https://twitter.com/bbcstories/status/896752720522100742 …

3:49 AM - Mar 17, 2018

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End of Twitter post by @TedGrunewald

This seemed to be the starting point for people to begin expressing their desire to leave Facebook, with blink-182's Mark Hoppus amassing over 6,000 likes in 24 hours for simply tweeting the words "Delete Facebook".

But the irony of using one social media account to decry another was not lost on some people.

One comment on a Reddit thread about the #DeleteFacebook movement joked "the rally cry to delete from Facebook is now trending as a hashtag on Twitter - another social media site that gathers data on users".

And a person on Twitter suggested because Instagram is owned by Facebook, "if you delete one, you gotta delete the other".

Neither Twitter nor Instagram are accused of using personal data in a similar way to the dispute concerning Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, although one person suggested an extreme approach to data security as the solution.

Skip Twitter post by @SonnyBunch

Sonny Bunch✔@SonnyBunch

If you are worried about companies using data to target you, then you need to delete your Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and stop buying things from Amazon and stop searching with Google and cancel all your credit cards and stop donating to charity and cancel mag

1:10 PM - Mar 19, 2018

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A spokeswoman for Privacy International warned that privacy concerns extend beyond Facebook as "your data is being exploited all the time".

A person on the technology subsection of Reddit agreed, saying removing Facebook "doesn't solve the long term problem [because] consent to data use is very weakly protected online right now".

And one Twitter user seeking regulation of Facebook said having the ability to delete an account is "a privilege".

Skip Twitter post by @sheeraf

Sheera Frenkel✔@sheeraf

If you want to delete Facebook, go ahead. Just know that's a privilege.
For much of the world, Facebook is the internet and only way to connect to family/friend/business. That's why its important to have a real discussion re Facebook's security/privacy issues.

6:45 PM - Mar 18, 2018

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Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 21st Mar 2018

Image result for Is leaving Facebook the only way to protect your data

People increasingly want to know how much information tech firms have on them

Allegations that research firm Cambridge Analytica misused the data of 50 million Facebook users have reopened the debate about how information on the social network is shared and with whom.

Data is like oil to Facebook - it is what brings advertisers to the platform, who in turn make it money.

And there is no question that Facebook has the ability to build detailed and sophisticated profiles on users' likes, dislikes, lifestyles and political leanings.

The bigger question becomes - what does it share with others and what can users do to regain control of their information?

Want to see what you look like as a Hollywood star? Click here.

Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix told MPs it used data from "Facebook surveys"

We've all seen these quizzes - offering to test your IQ, reveal your inner personality, or show you what you'd look like if you were a glamorous actor.

It was information from one such Facebook quiz - This is Your Digital Life - that Cambridge Analytica is alleged to have used to harvest the data of millions of people.

Many such quizzes come with reassurances that your data is safe.

These games and quizzes are designed to tempt users in but they are often just a shop front for mass data collection - and one that Facebook's terms and conditions allow.

Privacy advocates Electronic Frontier Foundation said the way these quizzes collected data reflected "how Facebook's terms of service and API were structured at the time".

Facebook has changed its terms and conditions to cut down on the information that third parties can collect, specifically stopping them from accessing data about users' friends.

It is not yet clear exactly what information the firm got hold of - this is now subject to an investigation by the UK data protection authority, the ICO.

What can users do to protect their information?

  • Log in to Facebook and visit the App setting page
  • Click edit button under Apps, Websites and Plugins
  • Disable platform

This will mean that you won't be able to use third-party sites on Facebook and if that is is a step too far, there is a way of limiting the personal information accessible by apps while still using them:

  • Log into Facebook's App settings page
  • Unclick every category you don't want the app to access, which includes bio, birthday, family, religious views, if you are online, posts on your timeline, activities and interests

Digital fingerprints are getting bigger as people share more information online

There are some others pieces of advice too.

"Never click on a 'like' button on a product service page and if you want to play these games and quizzes, don't log in through Facebook but go directly to the site," said Paul Bernal, a lecturer in Information Technology, Intellectual Property and Media Law in the University of East Anglia School of Law.

"Using Facebook Login is easy but doing so, grants the app's developer access to a range of information from their Facebook profiles," he added.

How else can you protect your Facebook data?

There really is only one way to make sure your data remains entirely private, thinks Dr Bernal. "Leave Facebook."

"The incentive Facebook will have to protect people more will only come if people start leaving. Currently it has very little incentive to change," he told the BBC.

It seems he is not alone in his call - the hashtag #DeleteFacebook is now trending on Twitter in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

But Dr Bernal acknowledges that it is unlikely many will quit - especially those who see Facebook as "part of the infrastructure of their lives".

Can you find out what data on you is stored?

Mr Schrems has been involved in a series of complaints against Facebook since 2011

Under current data protection rules, users can make a Subject Access Request to individual firms to find out how much information they have on them.

When Austrian privacy advocate Max Schrems made such a request to Facebook in 2011, he was given a CD with 1,200 files stored on it.

He found that the social network kept records of all the IP addresses of machines he used to access the site, a full history of messages and chats, his location and even items that he thought he had deleted, such as messages, status updates and wall posts.

But in a world where Facebook information is shared more widely with third parties, making such a request gets harder.

As Dr Bernal says: "How do you ask for your data when you don't know who to ask?"

That is likely to change this summer with the introduction in Europe of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to make it far easier for users to take back control of their data.

The threat of big fines for firms that do not comply with such requests could make it more likely that they will share this information, which must be given to consumers "in a clear and readable form".

How long is data kept?

Can you remove your profile from social media?

Data protection laws in Europe suggest that firms should only keep user data "as long as necessary" but the interpretation of this can be very flexible.

In Facebook's case, this means that as long as the person posting something does not delete it, it will remain online indefinitely.

Can you delete historic data?

Users can delete their accounts, which in theory will "kill" all their past posts but Facebook encourages those who wish to take a break from the social network simply to deactivate them, in case they wish to return.

And it must be remembered that a lot of information about you will remain on the platform, from the posts of your friends.

One of the biggest changes of GDPR will be the right for people to be forgotten and, under these changes it should, in theory, be much easier to wipe your social network or other online history from existence.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 20th Mar 2018

Despite the failure of Google Glass, the company is still investing in augmented reality

Google invests $14.5m in UK-based augmented reality start-up Blue Vision

Blue Vision's augmented reality app in action

Google has confirmed plans to plough $14.5 million into augmented reality (AR) software start-up Blue Vision Labs.

GV, Google's investment arm, better known by its former name of Google Ventures, along with private equity firms Accel, Horizon Ventures and SV Angel have all invested in the company.

Based in the UK, the company is working on a collaborative augumented reality platform that will enable experiences similar to Nintendo's Pokemon Go.

The company explained that it will use the investment to create a new cloud AR platform that enables users to create and share interactive AR experiences using their smartphone cameras.

This will be one of the company's first major products since 2011. It is looking to tap into what it claims is the growing popularity of mobile AR gaming and AR entertainment applications.

It recently detailed the Blue Vision AR Cloud platform, which "enables the building of city-wide, shared and persistent applications where everyone sees the same thing for the very first time".

Peter Ondruska, co-founder and CEO of Blue Vision Labs, explained: "We are opening it for developers to help them redefine how people interact with their technology, their environment, and each other in gaming, social and collaborative AR applications that were previously impossible to build."

In the future, users of the platform will be able to interact with AR objects in real-life settings. These will be placed throughout the app by collaborators.

The experience will work in a similar way to Pokemon Go, but the main difference is that the designers of the latter are responsible for distributing objects.

Blue Vision Labs is also working on AR developer tools. "It took us years to perfect this technology and we are making it available today," wrote Ondruska in a blog post.

"With our easy-to-use SDK you can build shared and persistent AR experiences for multiple devices within minutes."

He said the company's recent investment will allow it to "empower developers to build widespread AR applications using our platform, and to grow our team".

Ondruska added: "We plan to use our underlying technology to open new possibilities in AI, machine learning, robotics, self-driving and other applications.

"Our goal is to enable a better future where both AR and robotics technologies can be enjoyed by everyone."

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 20th Mar 2018

It’s official. Discus has gone GLOBAL!

From our humble barn here in Hampton in Arden, we’ve only gone and become an international IT Support company.

But if you’re thinking that maybe we’ve opened a second office in some far-flung, sun filled paradise, hold your horses.

We haven’t.

But we DID have a call from Poland.

That makes us international? Doesn’t it?!

The Polish company manages the international IT support for a huge multinational business, and they needed some ‘remote hands’ in Birmingham.

So we jumped on a plane drove to Birmingham.

All of 10 minutes. Didn’t even need a passport.

Becoming an international IT Support business wasn’t quite as glamorous as I’d hoped it might be!

Still, it’s good to know that when our Polish friends turned to Google and asked for the very best IT Support company in the Midlands to work on their biggest client, they chose us.

Wherever you are in the world, your IT would be in safer hands with Discus, give us a call and we’ll dust off our passports.

Talk soon

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 19th Mar 2018

Image result for cambridge analytica

Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix has spoken of the firm's intricate data

Facebook and a US data firm, Cambridge Analytica, have been accused of "misleading" Parliament.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said both firms must answer more questions over claims that details from 50 million profiles were gathered without consent.

Facebook suspended the US company, saying it breached its policies.

Cambridge Analytica said it does not hold or use any Facebook data. Both companies deny any wrongdoing.

The data firm is primarily known for its role in US President Trump's election campaign, where it provided details on American voters.

Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital Culture Committee, said comments by Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix at a Commons hearing last month must be explained.

Mr Collins said reports by the Guardian and the Observer made it "clear that he [Mr Nix] has deliberately misled the committee and Parliament by giving false statements".

Cambridge Analytica has denied allegations that Mr Nix misled that committee.

Facebook claims Cambridge Analytica, among others, did not destroy all the data it obtained, which breached its policies.

'Avoided questions'

The claims against the company rose to prominence after a former employee told the Guardian about his time at Cambridge Analytica.

Mr Collins also criticised Facebook, saying his committee had "repeatedly" asked the firm about how companies accessed user data from the website and if information had been taken without users' consent.

He claims that the firm "deliberately avoided answering straight questions" from the committee by sending witnesses who claimed not to know the answers.

"This also creates a false reassurance that Facebook's stated policies are always robust and effectively policed."

He also claimed Facebook had failed to supply evidence of the relationship between the social media platform and Cambridge Analytica.

"The reputation of this company is being damaged by stealth, because of their constant failure to respond with clarity and authority to the questions of genuine public interest that are being directed to them.

"Someone has to take responsibility for this."

A spokesperson for Facebook said that the data collection was not a hack or a breach.

"People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked," the company said.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 19th Mar 2018
  •  

Image result for adrian lamo

Adrian Lamo, a computer hacker best known for passing on information that led to the arrest of Chelsea Manning, has died aged 37.

In online messaging conversations, Manning confided in him, describing confidential military material Manning had sent to Wikileaks.

Wikileaks published the video of a US helicopter strike that killed seven people, including a journalist working for the Reuters news agency.

The cause of Lamo’s death, confirmed to the BBC by the Sedgwick County coroner in Kansas, has not yet been made public.

On Facebook, his father Mario wrote: “With great sadness and a broken heart I have to let know all of Adrian's friends and acquittances [sic] that he is dead. A bright mind and compassionate soul is gone, he was my beloved son.”

Lamo's own record as a hacker included some high-profile targets, such as Microsoft and the New York Times.

'Thrust upon me'

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper in 2011, Lamo described his decision to give up Manning as “not one I decided to make, but was thrust upon me”.

Lamo said he would have "lasting regret" if Manning was handed a long sentence.

Manning, known at the time as Bradley Manning, was eventually sentenced to 35 years in prison. However, President Barack Obama later commuted her sentence and she was released in May 2017.

She is now attempting to become the Senator for Maryland, her home state.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Friday described Lamo as a “petty conman and betrayer of basic human decency”.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 19th Mar 2018

 

Image result for mark zuckerberg

Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is facing intensified calls to appear in person at investigations into the social network's conduct.

His company has been accused of failing to properly inform users that their profile information may have been obtained and kept by Cambridge Analytica, a data firm widely-credited with helping Donald Trump win the 2016 US presidential election.

Facebook said on Friday it had blocked Cambridge Analytica from Facebook while it investigated claims the London-based firm did not, as promised, delete data that was allegedly obtained using methods that were in violation of Facebook's policies.

Both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook deny any wrongdoing.

Despite pledging that in 2018 he would "fix" his company, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has managed to avoid engaging with the site's growing number of critics - instead sending lawyers or policy bosses to various committee hearings.

The 33-year-old's recent remarks on some of Facebook's controversies have been communicated in the relatively safe space of a blog post or video message published on his Facebook page.

With the building row over how Facebook data may have been used to fuel highly-targeted political propaganda, several influential figures on both side of the Atlantic this weekend said it was time for Mr Zuckerberg to step up to publicly defend - or at least justify - his creation.

Some called for investigations into whether Mr Zuckerberg's company may have violated laws governing disclosure of a data breach - and also rules on properly obtaining a user's consent to collect personal information.

"This is a major breach that must be investigated," demanded Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

"It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves. I've called for more transparency and accountability for online political ads. They say 'trust us'."

She added: "Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary."

'High on themselves'

That sentiment was backed by Adam Schiff, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is already investigating social media manipulation in the run up to the 2016 presidential election.

"I think it would be beneficial to have him come testify before the appropriate oversight committees," he told the Washington Post.

"And not just Mark but the other CEOs of the other major companies that operate in this space."

On Sunday morning TV, Florida senator and former presidential hopeful Marco Rubio told NBC's Meet the Press he felt technology companies acted as if they are "above" regulations.

"Their growth has been a lot faster than perhaps their ability to mature institutionally from within on some of these challenges that they're facing," he said.

"I think another part about it is sometimes these companies grow so fast and get so much good press, they get up high on themselves that they start to think that perhaps they're above sort of the rules that apply to everybody else."

Skip Twitter post by @alexstamos

Alex Stamos✔@alexstamos

Replying to @alexstamos

There are a lot of big problems that the big tech companies need to be better at fixing. We have collectively been too optimistic about what we build and our impact on the world. Believe it or not, a lot of the people at these companies, from the interns to the CEOs, agree.

6:01 PM - Mar 17, 2018

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End of Twitter post by @alexstamos

The man in charge of Britain's investigation into Russian meddling in the democratic process said he too wanted to press Mr Zuckerberg on the issue.

"I will be writing to Mark Zuckerberg asking that either he or another senior executive from the company appear to give evidence in front of the committee as part our inquiry," said Damian Collins MP.

"It is not acceptable that they have previously sent witnesses who seek to avoid asking difficult questions by claiming not to know the answers."

 

Media captionIn the age of big data, is our democracy open to manipulation?

Mr Collins also said he would be recalling Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix to parliament to answer more questions.

"It seems clear that he has deliberately misled the committee and parliament," Mr. Collins said.

Cambridge Analytica and Mr Nix have denied any wrongdoing.

Deleted tweets

In an attempt to get out ahead of a story in the New York Times and Observer newspapers, Facebook made an announcement late Friday night, California time, that it was blocking Cambridge Analytica from using Facebook while it investigated claims the inappropriately-obtained data had not been deleted as promised.

This was followed by remarks from Alex Stamos, the firm's chief security officer, who wrote and then deleted a series of tweets. He objected to the word "breach" being used to describe how data from as many as 50 million peoples' user profiles may have been obtained without explicit user consent.

"I have deleted my tweets on Cambridge Analytica," he later wrote.

"Not because they were factually incorrect but because I should have done a better job weighing in."

Christopher Wylie, a Canadian data analytics expert who worked with Cambridge Analytica, revealed how it and its partners harvested data belonging to mostly US voters. Over the weekend, he announced he had been suspended from Facebook.

Skip Twitter post by @chrisinsilico

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View image on Twitter

Christopher Wylie@chrisinsilico

Suspended by @facebook. For blowing the whistle. On something they have known privately for 2 years.

11:37 AM - Mar 18, 2018

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End of Twitter post by @chrisinsilico

On top of its initial statement, Facebook on Sunday said it was conducting a "comprehensive internal and external review" into whether the data, gathered via an app created by Global Science Research (GSR), still existed.

GSR was set up by University of Cambridge associate professor Aleksandr Kogan and his colleague Joseph Chancellor. According to the Guardian, Mr Chancellor was given a job at Facebook as a researcher just months after GSR carried out the data-gathering exercise that Facebook now says violated its policies.

Facebook has not commented on the calls for Mr Zuckerberg to appear in front of the several committees expressing a desire to hear from him.

But one analyst warned that this controversy is a direct threat to Facebook's business model, and therefore Mr Zuckerberg will be expected to put investors at ease, sooner rather than later.

"This has potential to grow into something a lot more onerous," said Daniel Ives from GBH Insight.

"So he has to get ahead of this storm before it turns into a hurricane."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 13th Mar 2018

March 9, 2018 from Liz  Mobile Phone & Tablet

Twitter has regained its importance since Donald Trump’s election as the president of the USA.  The US president likes to spread his opinion and often uses the social media platform, Twitter to do it. So that you don’t ever miss any of his ( and other important ) tweets ever again, there is now Twitter bookmarks.

With the new bookmarks feature, you can save tweets and read them later. Read on to find out how this works and what benefits it has. 

The message service Twitter has been around for almost 12 years. The service has been under enormous pressure for just as long, due to profit issues. In the battle for user numbers, Twitter had repeatedly made changes. Recently, the number of characters was doubled from 140 to 280 – with success. The message service achieved its first quarterly profit at the end of 2017.

Image result for twitter

Thanks to Twitter Bookmarks you will now find tweets better.

Twitter bookmarks to tag tweets

Twitter keeps you up to date with the latest news. If you’re not online all the time, you may lose track of the news. Twitter bookmarks will now help against this. With them you can easily save tweets and read them later in peace.

Until now, you could only mark tweets with the public “Like it” button and save them for later retrieval. However, you don’t automatically like everything you want to read, so many users were not satisfied with this form of tagging.They needed a more private way to store messages. With the new Twitter Bookmarks this is possible. In contrast to the “Like” button, the author of the tweet will not get a message if you set the new Twitter bookmark.

Twitter bookmarks – how does it work?

One question remains: Where do you find the Twitter Bookmarks and how can you save tweets with them? First you have to update Twitter to make the bookmarking function possible.

If you want to save a tweet, click on the newly introduced “Share” icon in the selection “Add tweet to bookmarks”. You will find the “Share” icon on the right underneath the tweet. As soon as you have time to read your marked messages, you will see your personal list. There you will find all tweets saved with Twitter Bookmarks. And best of all, this list is only accessible via your user profile. This means that it is not open to the public, but your very own private reading list.

Favourites used as a bookmark feature

Until this update, which Twitter has now rolled out to all users, you could only save tweets with an asterisk under the “favourites”. However, the author of the tweet received a notification. Nevertheless, many users use this option as a bookmark function to find tweets and read them later. Recently when Twitter turned the star into a heart, many users asked themselves whether they marked a message with the heart for later reading only or whether the heart is equivalent to a “like”.

In order to clarify the situation, the message service is now introducing the Twitter bookmarks. These are available for the iOS and Android versions of Twitter, Twitter Lite and  mobile.twitter.com, say Twitter in its company blog.

If you need help setting up your smartphone, make sure you come to your local TrustATec partner and we can help you with our Android Smartphone set up service

Source: trustatec.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 13th Mar 2018

For the last four weeks, I've been living in an Orwellian nightmare. One in which I have to watch every word I say because "they" are always listening. And by "they", I mean Alexa, Siri and Google.

It seemed like a good idea - get seven smart speakers and test them in a real house to see how they affected our listening habits and daily routine.

At times, they've been pretty helpful. If we're running low on biscuits, one of us can bark, "Hey Siri, add Hob Nobs to the shopping list" and a reminder appears on our phones.

During Storm Emma, Google kept me up-to-date on train cancellations, while our kids amused themselves for hours by asking Alexa what noise a cat makes.

Thankfully, none of the devices started spontaneously laughing in the middle of the night - but they were all prone to bouts of madness.

I once asked Alexa "what's the weather in Yemen" and got the reply: "'Das wetter' is German for 'the weather'."

And when I told Google to "play music in the kitchen", it responded by streaming Lee Brice's Songs In The Kitchen to a speaker in the dining room (congratulations, Lee, on your new royalty stream).

To find out which smart assistant was the smartest, I put each of the speakers to the test - posing 50 random questions on music, sport and general knowledge. Like all good quiz show hosts, I only accepted their first answer.

Alexa fared best, with 37 correct answers, followed by Google on 32, and Siri, which scored a lowly 27.

Apple's assistant was hobbled by its lack of integration with other apps - meaning it couldn't read my calendar or look up recipes.

When it came to music-related queries, however, Siri had more success.

For instance, the HomePod was the only speaker that could parse the command "play the James Bond theme next". Its competitors all tried to find a song called "James Bond Theme Next", failed, and gave up.

You can find the full list of questions, and how the speakers responded, here.

As you'll see, none of them are perfect - but smart speakers look set to replace the smartphone as the tech giants' biggest growth products.

Choosing the right one can be tricky. So here's our guide to the speakers, and how they might fit into your lifestyle.

Short presentational grey line

Apple HomePod (£319)

Apple has arrived late to the smart speaker market, but not through laziness.

The HomePod has been in development since 2012, and boasts a unconventional design - with seven tweeters (the speakers that produce treble) arranged in a circle to project music into every nook and cranny of your house. The bass is also punchy and well-balanced, even at low volumes.

I found it worked better with acoustic, singer-songwriter material. Playing Regina Spektor's Samson, the HomePod championed the singer's vocals without losing the detail in her piano work. On a busier song like Stevie Wonder's Superstition, however, it struggled to pick out the star's intricate drumming.

It's also an incredibly insistent speaker - demanding your attention with a very "forward" soundstage. We found that was great in the hustle and bustle of a family kitchen, but less attractive when listening to music in bed at night.

One important note: You can't set up the HomePod unless you have an iPhone or an iPad. The speaker is then tethered to that device and certain functions, like updating your shopping list, only work when they can "see" each other.

HomePod is also completely loyal to Apple Music. You can't ask Siri to stream from Spotify or Deezer - although you can access them on your phone and beam them to the speaker.

Best for: Apple enthusiasts; audiophiles

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Amazon Echo Plus (£139)

If you want a speaker that comes with a free light bulb, then Amazon's Echo Plus is your only choice.

The speaker aims to be a "home hub", controlling all sorts of connected devices, from your lights to your kettle. I wasn't able to test those abilities, though, as the BBC budget didn't stretch to buying me remote control curtains.

As a music player, the Echo Plus is competent but unspectacular - but it'd make an ideal replacement for a kitchen radio.

Alexa will happily stream from Spotify and Deezer, as well as Amazon's own Music Unlimited service - which you get at a discount if you purchase an Echo device.

It's particularly good at finding the music you want, even if you have a terrible memory. I managed to get Alexa to cue up Girls Aloud's Love Machine by asking, "What's the song that goes, 'Let's go, Eskimo?'"

One word of warning: Amazon's streaming service doesn't have a parental filter, so you're stuck with the explicit versions of the songs in their catalogue.

And now that Amazon has leased Alexa to other speaker manufacturers, there are better devices in a similar price range.

Best for: Casual listening, smart assistant abilities

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Ultimate Ears Megablast (£199)

The Megablast is a long, tall cylinder of fun, available in a range of colours (our review unit was a lurid yellow, which I became weirdly fond of).

It gives out a bassy, fulsome sound; which goes up really, really loud without losing any finesse. You can use Alexa to play songs from Amazon Music Unlimited (but not Spotify yet), or simply use it as a bluetooth speaker to stream music directly from your phone.

Best of all, you can unplug it and take it to a party, with a generous battery life that means you won't be left tuneless when the clock strikes midnight. And it's waterproof, so it won't go kaput if you spill your drink.

On the downside, the microphone is poor at picking up your voice commands - especially when music is playing. And the charging port is awkwardly placed at the bottom of the speaker, meaning it has to be laid on its side when its plugged in, ruining the sound. (Ultimate Ears sells a separate charging dock, pictured above, for £35 if this is a deal-breaker).

Best for: Portability, volume

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Sonos: One (£199)

presentational grey lineSonos are masters of multi-room audio, but the One is their first foray into smart speaker territory.

There's an intriguing set-up, where you're asked to wave your phone around the room while the unit emits a series of sci-fi bleeps and bloops.

This helps the speaker adapt to its environment and, to be fair, it performed admirably in our cluttered bedroom, with a weighty, dynamic delivery that belied its tiny size.

Superstition, which confounded Apple's HomePod, sounded bright and lively, with a deep, funky bass and plenty of breathing room for Stevie Wonder's vocals.

Best of all, Sonos welcomes all music streaming services - with 49 currently available in the UK, including Apple Music (not all of them can be controlled by Alexa, though).

You can also chain two Sonos speakers together to get stereo, while the Sonos app is the only one that allows you to tweak settings like treble and bass to tailor the music to your tastes. And if you buy multiple units, you can scare your family by playing ghost noises in the attic while you're in the kitchen.

One small niggle: Sonos has programmed Alexa to speak over the start of your music, so you constantly miss the first five seconds your favourite album.

Best for: Stereo, choice of streaming services, multi-room audio

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Google Home (£129)

It looks like an air freshener. An air freshener on the Starship Enterprise, but an air freshener nonetheless.

Still, I was quite enamoured with the Home's sleek, matte white finish and the easygoing, friendly voice of its virtual assistant.

It transpires that her dialogue was written by Emma Coats, a former Pixar employee who drew up the film studio's 22 rules of storytelling - which explains why Google feels more engaging than its competitors.

There are a few neat touches to the AI, too. When you ask Google to "flip a coin", for example, you hear the sound of a coin being tossed before learning the result. Even better, the Google Home enables you to make voice calls to any UK landline or mobile number - for free.

Sadly, though, the device isn't up to much as an actual speaker. It had the worst sound of all the units we tested, and was prone to distorted bass even at low volumes.

Best for: Personality, design

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JBL Link 300 (£249)

Luckily, fans of Google's voice assistant have some alternatives. Sonos are promising a Google-enabled speaker later this year and JBL will release their Link 300 in the next couple of weeks.

It's a chunky little device that works best on pop and hip-hop, with an eloquent sound that emphasises the low end thanks to a circular resonator on the back that pumps out the bass.

One neat feature is a wi-fi light that shows the strength of your internet connection (something I'd like to see on more devices, given the patchy wi-fi in our house).

In the end, this became our go-to speaker in the living room and kitchen, despite an infuriating five-minute fight to make it play the Hamilton soundtrack.

It turns out you had to say "OK Google, play 'Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording'" - a command that's as intuitive as a lead wetsuit.

Best for: Google smarts with better sound.

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Amazon Echo Show (£199)

The Echo Show has a 7-inch screen, which displays song lyrics while you listen. It's a bit of a gimmick, but it was a big hit with our kids.

The device also came in handy in the kitchen, where we used it to display recipes and set timers without having to touch the screen with our sticky fingers.

All this functionality comes at the cost of sound quality, though. Don't expect anything beyond your average clock radio.

Best for: Karaoke night

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 13th Mar 2018

Auction being kicked off earlier than expected

Image result for bidding auction

Ofcom has confirmed plans to start its 4G and 5G wireless spectrum auction next week

The auction, which will see Ofcom offer up 40Mhz of frequency in the 2.3GHz band (which will be immediately available for 4G services) and 150MHz in the 3.5GHz band (which will be used for 5G services), will begin on 20 March, ISPreview reports. 

The auction will run for "a number of weeks", Ofcom has confirmed, after which it'll be able to confirm which of the six bidding operators - BT-owned EE, O2, Three, Vodafone Hull-based ISP Connexin and Airspan Spectrum Holdings - have been successful. 

This 20 March start date is earlier than expected, with Ofcom last month announcing that the auction would go ahead in April.

This confirmation came after Three failed in its last-ditch attempt to force a change to the bidding rules. The operator had called for Ofcom to impose a 30 per cent spectrum cap, slamming the watchdog's 37 per cent cap as "meaningless" and bad for competition. 

BT-owned EE, which owns 43 per cent of available spectrum at present, also launched legal action in the direction of Ofcom in an attempt to stop it from imposing the same cap on the 3.4GHz 5G band.

Ofcom confirmed at the end of last month that it will impose a cap of 255MHz on the "immediately usable" spectrum, which means that BT-owned EE will not be able to bid for any.

A cap of 340MHz has also been placed on the overall amount of mobile spectrum a single operator can hold as a result of the auction.

Philip Marnick, Ofcom's spectrum group director, said last month: "We're pressing ahead with the auction to make these airwaves available as quickly as possible.

"This will benefit today's mobile users by providing more capacity for mobile broadband use. It will also pave the way for 5G, allowing operators to launch the next generation of mobile technology." 

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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