Tech News

How to make an emergency USB toolkit

Latest Tech News - 2 hours 49 min ago

Viruses, malware, accidental deletion or corrupted data can all put your valuable files at risk. The best insurance is to make regular backups, but what if you run into trouble in between backups, you’ve let your routine slide, or a friend has a crisis with their PC? That’s where an emergency USB toolkit of portable apps comes in, giving you everything you need to fix the damage.

When you install a program, not only are the files it needs to run saved on your hard drive, it also makes its own changes to the rest of your system – such as adding entries to the Windows registry. Portable apps don’t do this, meaning you can simply save them to a USB stick and use them on any PC by double-clicking the program’s EXE file

This makes them ideal for rescuing accidentally deleted files, and dealing with virus and malware infections in a hurry. They're also perfect for helping out a friend or family member without installing new software on their machine.

We've put together a collection of the best ones for use in emergencies, so let's get started.

First, you’ll need a USB memory stick (also known as a flash drive). 1GB will be fine. Plug it into your PC and open Windows Explorer, then right-click it in the menu on the left, select ‘Rename’ and call it ‘Emergency’.

If you’ve used the memory stick before, you can wipe it by right-clicking it and selecting ‘Format > Restore device defaults > OK’. Make sure there isn’t anything you want to keep on the stick first – there’s no going back.

Now let’s build our toolkit. One common PC disaster is accidentally deleting an important file – from your hard drive, an SD card or any other kind of storage. Piriform Recuva can help you get it back, but installing it after you’ve lost the files can result in them being overwritten. It’s much better to have it ready to run from your USB stick.

Download Recuva Portable, then right-click the downloaded ZIP file and select ‘Extract > Extract all’. Click ‘Browse’ and select your USB stick. Right-click and create a folder called ‘Recuva’ (this will make it easier to find in future), then open the new folder and click ‘Select folder > Extract’. Now if you ever need to restore a deleted file, just plug in your Emergency stick, double-click the file named Recuva.exe and follow the step-by-step instructions.

If you suspect your PC has a virus, McAfee Labs Stinger can help stop it in its tracks. Once it’s downloaded you can drag the EXE file straight to your USB stick using Windows Explorer (you might want to rename the file ‘Stinger’ for convenience).

When you want to run it, just double-click the file and click ‘Scan'. Bear in mind that you'll need an active internet connection so it can update its database of current threats before it gets to work.

If your PC is running slowly, you want to clear out temporary files that could pose a threat to your privacy, or leftover registry entries are preventing you installing software, CCleaner Portable can save the day. Download it, then extract the downloaded file to your USB stick just like you did for Recuva. To keep things tidy, we recommend moving it into a new folder called CCleaner.

To free up some extra space on your PC and remove temporary files that might compromise your privacy (such as tracking cookies in your web browser), double-click ccleaner.exe to run the program, then click ‘Analyze’ to search your hard drive for unnecessary files. Once it’s finished, look through the list and uncheck the boxes beside anything you want to keep, then click ‘Run Cleaner’.

To solve errors with the Windows registry (typically caused by entries left over by software uninstallers) select ‘Registry’ from the menu on the left and select ‘Scan for issues > Fix selected issues’.

The last app for your emergency USB toolkit is Emsisoft Emergency Kit. This will check your PC for programs that aren’t technically viruses , but are still malicious. When you double-click the downloaded file, Emsisoft will begin running an ‘installer’, but this just automates the process of extracting the files from a ZIP archive – it doesn’t make any changes to Windows. Choose your emergency stick as the destination, make a folder called Emsisoft and click ‘OK’.

Now, if you think a PC has a malware infection (you’re noticing unexpected changes to your web browser, for example), double-click ‘Start Emergency Kit Scanner’ and let Emsisoft update itself, then click ‘Scan’ and follow the step-by-step instructions to deal with the issue.

Congratulations, you now have a set of essential tools for dealing with PC emergencies. Label the USB stick and keep it somewhere safe – you never know when you’ll need it.

Categories: Tech News

VPNs are a hot topic following controversial US privacy vote

Latest Tech News - 5 hours 53 min ago

As you might expect, after the US Congress voted to cast aside ISP privacy rules – following the Senate’s lead in overturning regulations that prevent ISPs from sharing users’ browser data – there has been a major surge of interest in VPNs over in the States, with Google searches showing a marked uptick for the term.

As you can see in the Google Trends graph below, searches for ‘VPN’ (virtual private network) have witnessed a major spike following these votes, and indeed since earlier in the month when the controversy was merely brewing.

As of the week ending March 11, the Trends graph for the US showed the VPN search term at a rating of 79, with it then quickly accelerating up to 100, where it currently resides.

That means there are now roughly a quarter more searches being made by people curious about a VPN, likely having heard mention of the term in connection with the US legislation.

Curiouser and curiouser

Of course, curious is the key word here – this doesn’t necessarily mean tons of people who previously didn’t bother are going to start using a VPN. It just shows that there’s a lot of interest in VPNs, although exactly how that will translate to increased usage is anyone’s guess.

That said, it’s a fair indication that more people are going to be signing up to VPN providers, or considering other methods of keeping their browsing history secret from their ISP (like the Tor browser, for instance).

Be aware that if you are considering a VPN, you need to choose a quality provider – remember that while using a virtual private network may cover your surfing history from your ISP, it won’t hide it from the VPN firm itself. So the company needs to be one you can trust (i.e. an outfit with a transparent and watertight privacy policy for starters).

Reviews are always helpful, too, and we’ve got some recommendations on the best VPNs to use right here.

Meanwhile, the VPN providers themselves are certainly not being shy of taking advantage of this recent privacy storm, with Private Internet Access even paying for a full-page advert in the New York Times highlighting the 50 Senators who ‘voted to monitor your internet activity for financial gain’.

Via: Torrent Freak

Categories: Tech News

Samsung Galaxy S8 lets you use two sets of wireless headphones at the same time

Latest Tech News - 6 hours 7 min ago

The new Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus are packed full of the latest technology, but one of the more interesting inclusions is support for the new Bluetooth 5.0 standard. 

As well as the expected increases in range and data throughput, Bluetooth 5.0 also means that the S8s will support playback through two pairs of wireless headphones simultaneously. 

The feature, which Samsung is calling ‘Bluetooth Dual Audio’, will allow two people to listen to the phone’s audio at the same time. 

Share the choons

This should be an interesting inclusion for anyone who’s looking to share music or video playback with someone else without disturbing those around them, such as on a long plane or train journey. 

Previously you’ve been able to achieve this same effect via certain headphones such as the Marshall Mid headphones which allow you to wire a second pair of headphones into the Marshall headphones, which are tethered to the phone via Bluetooth. 

However, the S8’s implementation is in theory much more convenient. It’ll be a feature that we’re looking forward to testing in our full review. 

Categories: Tech News

Did Apple Music really have 10m more monthly users than Spotify in March?

Latest Tech News - 6 hours 36 min ago

Spotify is generally thought of as ruling the roost when it comes to music streaming services, but a recent report has claimed that Apple Music had 10 million more monthly unique users than Spotify in March 2017 in the US. 

The report, which comes from Verto Analytics, goes on to claim that although Apple’s service has much fewer sessions per month per user (12 compared to Spotify’s 51), Apple Music is leading the way in terms of both smartphone and tablet users. 

There are a couple of things to consider when viewing reports such as this, which could explain why appears to be out of step with our anecdotal experiences. 

Unpicking the numbers

The first thing to consider is that Apple Music comes pre-installed on every iPhone, and that the service comes with a 3 month free trial. Meanwhile Spotify only gives 30 days for free. 

This disparity, combined with the fact that Spotify has much more monthly sessions, indicates that although lots of people are occasionally opening the Apple Music app, people are returning to the Spotify app much more frequently over the course of the month.

This could explain why Apple Music’s numbers are so high in this report while Spotify still appears to dominate the streaming landscape.

Secondly we should consider how Verto acquired this data. According to their own research methodology, this was based on recording the usage data of a select sample of users. If this sample is of a biased selection of users then the overall data will be inaccurate. 

Our scepticism is shared by MusicAlly, which notes that Apple claimed that it had 20 million paying subscribers in December 2016 with 50% of these located outside of the US. If both these figures are true then Apple Music would have had to have gained around 30 million users to reach the numbers reported by Verto. 

Without Verto sharing their workings we might never know where these numbers have come from, but from our perspective they should be taken with a pinch of salt. 

Categories: Tech News

Self-assembling chips could help us keep pace with Moore's law

Latest Tech News - 6 hours 39 min ago

Moore's Law, the observation that the number of transistors in a chip doubles every two years or so, has held for about half a decade.

In the early 2000s it began to falter, as chip manufacturers began to bump up against fundamental physical limits. But ways were found to bypass those limits, and transistor density continued to double roughly every two years. 

While Intel has been talking about keeping the law alive in increasingly-difficult circumstances by making bigger improvements less often, a team of engineers at MIT believes that they've found a smart way to make smaller microchip patterns than ever.

Three-stage technique

Their approach uses a three-stage technique. First an electron beam is used to write a pattern of lines onto the surface of a chip. Then, a mix of materials known as a "block copolymer" is laid down. 

This mix will naturally segregate itself into predictable patterns. By adjusting the size of the block copolymer, different patterns can be created. “One half is friendly with oil, the other half is friendly with water,” explained Do Han Kim, leader author on a paper describing the discovery. “But because they are completely bonded, they’re kind of stuck with each other.” 

Finally, a thin, protective polymer film is formed on a surface by heating it up and allowing it to condense, just like water vapour from a hot shower condenses on a cold mirror. This top coating forces the block copolymers to assemble in a certain way, guided by the underlying pattern, and it can be etched on to build another layer over the top.

Cost-effective

While there are other ways to achieve this kind of fine patterning, the team says that none of them are as cost-effective for large-scale manufacturing as this method. Most facilities already perform the etching step, and adding the other steps should be relatively easy. 

“You wouldn’t need to change all those machines," said Karen Gleason, MIT's associate provost. "And everything that’s involved are well-known materials.”

“Being able to create sub-10-nanometer features with polymers is major progress in the area of nanofabrication,” said Joerg Lahann, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the work. 

“The quality and robustness of this process will open an entirely new area of applications, from nanopatterning to nanotribology.”

The full details of the research were published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Categories: Tech News

Is the PC market finally starting to turn a corner?

Latest Tech News - 6 hours 57 min ago

It’s been a depressing picture of doom and gloom when it comes to predictions of PC sales for a long time now, but things are starting to turn around, with more positive estimations beginning to creep out – in this case, from Compal Electronics.

Who? Yes, perhaps that’s a name you haven’t heard before, but Compal is a major ODM (original design manufacturer). That means it makes notebooks (as well as other hardware like displays) for a number of leading PC vendors including the likes of Lenovo, HP and Dell, so it's a firm at the very heart of the industry.

And according to Ray Chen, president of Compal, notebook and desktop PC shipments are expected to reach 40 million units this year.

That represents a growth of 10% compared to 2016, which is a major uptick that flies in the face of the sort of figures we’re used to seeing. Although he clarified that there will be a dip in the numbers for the first quarter, before momentum and growth gathers throughout the rest of 2017.

As DigiTimes spotted, this positive prediction was aired at an investor’s conference earlier this week, where Chen also noted that the DRAM and SSD shortage would remain a bugbear throughout this year.

Capacity conundrum

The SSD supply problem is something we’ve been hearing a lot about recently, and while there could be more notebooks shipped in 2017, it’s unlikely that manufacturers will be switching to larger solid-state drives with these devices. Most laptops are likely to continue to run with 128GB or 256GB SSDs.

Earlier this month, analyst firm IDC predicted that the overall PC market would remain roughly stable through to 2021, dropping by just under a single percentage point. Again, that’s a welcome improvement on the big slumps forecast repeatedly in recent times, and a lot of growth is expected to come from 2-in-1 detachables.

These hybrids have long been held up as a bright spot in the PC industry, with hybrid 2-in-1s (like Microsoft’s Surface devices) not just proving popular with consumers, but also with manufacturers as they can command a greater premium and increased profit levels compared to a traditional notebook.

Via: MS Power User

Categories: Tech News

Get an Xbox One S with two games for a measly £189.99 with this great deal

Latest Tech News - 6 hours 59 min ago

Been holding off buying an Xbox One S? Whether you've been eyeing up a PS4 instead, or waiting for more news on Microsoft's Project Scorpio, you'll find it hard to resist this deal from Tesco Direct on the Xbox One S – it's an absolute steal.

It's selling the console, plus two games (the excellent Forza Horizon 3 and everyone's favorite block builder, Minecraft) for a measly £189.99.

The usual Tesco asking price for the console is £209.99, but apply the voucher code TD-NHTX at checkout and you can knock £20 off for that £189.99 asking price.

Get it here.

Gaming goodness

Considering Minecraft and Forza will cost you together around £50, you're essentially getting the console for £140. When you consider that it's also doubling up as a decent 4K Blu-ray player, it's a serious bargain.

But you'll have to move fast to get it at that price – that voucher code expires on 31/03/2017, so you've got just a day to make your move.

The Xbox One S is a great bit of kit – a vast improvement over the original Xbox One, while Forza Horizon 3 is about as good a driving game as money can buy at the moment. And Minecraft? Well, Minecraft is Minecraft, right?

Categories: Tech News

Android could overtake Apple in overall app sales this year

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 23:34

 The projected sales of all Android apps could beat out earnings from Apple’s App Store for the first time ever this year, according to a forecast by specialised market research group App Annie.

The report suggest that Apple’s App Store will pull in $40bn (£32bn, AU$52bn) by the end of 2017, an increase of $6bn from last year’s figures, while Google Play is looking at raking in $21bn (£17bn, AU$27bn). The combination of this rather strong projected earning from Google Play with other popular Android stores, such as Samsung’s and Amazon’s, is expected to bring that total up to $41bn. 

Impressively, while the Apple App Store is predicted to double the earnings of the Play Store, the amount of the applications actually downloaded is only around a quarter of Google’s. This could indicate a number of things, amongst them is the possibility that Android users are more likely to download free apps and are less likely to splurge on in-app purchases, or that there are more free options.

Also worth noting is the continuation of money-making potential that games tend to see over other apps, with less games being downloaded compared with the percentage of revenue they rake in, and this trend is expected to exaggerate over the next five years.

App Annie’s study considers the market's growth up until 2021 and has predicted that Apple will keep its lead over Google regarding their respective stores, but that the margin between overall Apple to Android apps will continue increasing up to $18bn (£14bn, AU$23bn). 

Categories: Tech News

The best Samsung Galaxy S8 pre-order deals in Australia

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 20:53

So the Samsung Galaxy S8 has finally been announced by Samsung, and as expected the prices are expensive. Extremely expensive. The Samsung Galaxy S8 will have price of $1,199 if you want to buy it outright.

That said, the price seems somewhat justified for what could be a stunning phone – with an amazing new screen and the Bixby smart assistant, it looks like a genuine step forward from last year's Samsung Galaxy S7.

If you want to read more about the new handset itself, you can check out our hands-on review of the phone right here. In this story, we’re going to look at your best options for buying the Samsung Galaxy S8 in Australia either outright or on a contract.

Pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy S8 officially open on Friday, March 31, though below you'll see the best S8 deals so far – we've included a table that'll automatically update with the cheapest deals as they feed through to us from the various sites and networks, but we've also included an overview of each carrier's current plan offerings. 

The Samsung Galaxy S8 will officially be released in Australia on Friday, April 28 and comes in three colours: Midnight Black, Maple Gold and Orchid Grey.

Telstra deals

Although Telstra's plans tend to be more expensive than the competition, often offering less data per month, the S8 plans from Australia's biggest telco are actually quite competitive. It's also hard to argue with the quality of the Telstra's service and the extensive coverage it provides in both rural and metro areas. 

The entry level plan at Telstra will net you a Samsung Galaxy S8 for $80 per month (on the $55 S plan with $25 handset repayments) with a measly 1GB of monthly data on a 24-month contract. That's a total price of $1,920 over two years. 

For just $15 more per month on the $95 L plan, you can get a handset with 12GB of monthly data. Total cost is $2,280 over two years.

If that still isn't enough monthly data to satiate your download needs, the XL plan will get you 25GB for $135 per month, for a total cost of $3,240 over 24 months.

Optus deals

Surprisingly, Optus has revealed Samsung Galaxy S8 plans that are slightly more expensive than Telstra's plans, often with similar or even less included data. 

Optus' entry-level plan is $82 per month (the $40 My Plan Plus with $42 handset repayment) with 1GB of data on a 24-month contract. Total cost is $1,968.

For $94 per month over 24 months, you can get a handset with 7GB of monthly data. By comparison, Telstra offers 12GB of data for $1 more per month. 

At the high end of Optus' plans, you can get an absolutely staggering 100GB of monthly data for $160 per month over 24 months. Total price is $3,840.

Virgin Mobile deals

Offering the cheapest Samsung Galaxy S8 plans around, Virgin Mobile's entry-level plan will bag you a handset and 500MB for $70 a month on a 24-month contract. Total cost is $1,680 over two years. 

For $77 a month, you can get your hands on Samsung's latest flagship with 4GB of monthly data on a 24-month contract. Total cost is $1,848 over two years.

If you really want value for money though, you'll want to look at Virgin Mobile's top tier plan, which offers a massive 20GB of monthly data for $105 per month over 24-months. Total cost there is $2,640.  

Samsung Galaxy S8 pre-order deals: free gifts

If you need some extra sweetening on these Samsung Galaxy S8 deals, here it is: all pre-orders made before Thursday, April 27 through either Samsung or one of its operator or retail partners will come with the new Samsung Gear VR headset at no extra cost. 

Not only that, customers will also receive a $50 voucher for use in the Oculus Store. 

These are the best plans currently available for the Samsung Galaxy S8 in Australia. That said, Vodafone has yet to reveal its plans for the handset, so make sure you check back here over the coming days to see what the telco will be offering. 

Categories: Tech News

Arizona Sunshine is one of the best VR games you’ve never heard of

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 19:38

For the uninitiated, Arizona Sunshine is a game on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive that thrusts players into the zombie apocalypse and forces them to survive while they travel across the wilderness of Arizona. 

In the campaign, you trek through the deserts and canyons of the arid landscape, fighting your way through the various dimly lit mines and other environments packed with zombies. 

The narrative is told through voice overs, as the main character finds other survivors and tries to survive in the harsh landscape, all while zombies are nipping at his heels. Despite the gloomy premise, it's a story that doesn't quite take itself seriously, with the hero throwing out some one-liners after kills – yet it manages to keep things pretty tense throughout.

That tough-to-achieve balance – alongside some neat innovations – is what makes Arizona Sunshine a breath of fresh air in the increasingly stale genre of first-person shooters in VR. 

Arizona Sunshine a breath of fresh air in the increasingly stale genre of first-person shooters in VR

At GDC this year, there were close to a half-dozen of these titles, all made by prestigious studios, all floating around the convention center. Keeping them separate became a job in and of itself, but Arizona Sunshine was the one that shone brighter than them all.

While other games go about trying to reinvent the wheel when implementing FPS combat in VR, and in the process over-complicating it and making their titles a chore to play in VR, Arizona Sunshine sticks with a tried and true set up, focusing on ease of use and simplicity in its gameplay ... which is very much appreciated, especially when wearing a VR headset and having so much blood and guts hurled at you.

Breathing life into the genre

Vertigo Games, the studio that makes Arizona Sunshine, are no strangers to working on VR titles. Back in 2014, they launched the incredibly serene World of Diving. While fully playable without a VR headset, playing it with one is a wholly immersive experience as you dive and explore the ocean, photographing marine life and searching undersea shipwrecks. 

After that, they tooled around with Skyworld, a 'tabletop' strategy game where you capture several points on the map while building your empire and, along with that concept, they built Arizona Sunshine.

While Arizona Sunshine’s concept is a dime a dozen nowadays for entertainment in general, the execution is rock solid, and offers some of the most satisfying action for a VR game. It does this in a few ways. First, it presents it in a way that's exciting and also feels surprisingly tense – the mines are dark, and you have to utilize a flashlight to keep track of your surroundings. Second, unlike other VR titles that are released in Early Access, the developers chose to launch Arizona Sunshine as a full game and gradually release updates based on feedback from players and new gameplay modes for the core game.

During my play session, I got to experience the new horde mode map set in the Mines, which is playable online and locally for up to four players. As is the case for most horde modes in other titles, you'll have to fight waves of enemies and last as long as possible. But what made this horde mode special is that there’s an increased focused on movement and verticality. 

For the most part, many VR levels are fairly flat and don’t really offer much in exploring multi-floor areas. The increased movement with the new locomotion system offers players more of a chance to evade the overwhelming zombies hordes, which makes this side mode surprisingly creepy and unnerving.

Staying up to date with Arizona Sunshine

As one of the few VR games to not have been released in Early Access, the developers have to be more mindful of consumer feedback. After the launch of Arizona Sunshine in late 2016, the team at Vertigo Games have been steadily releasing new updates and hotfixes to improve the overall experience.

"The full launch we did was in December, we didn't go early access like other VR titles," said Director of Business Development John Coleman.  It's less about having features that wildly change the game, like you'd see in other Early Access titles, but more so giving players more stuff to do with the existing playstyles".

Moreover, the developers are open to allowing new peripherals and devices to work in conjunction with their titles. For instance, the 3D Rudder device, which gives players a physical pad to control movement in VR games, works with the expanded locomotion updates from Vertigo Games. 

Coleman went on to add that this is a part of Vertigo’s vision for developing games, always being mindful of the player’s experiences. “In general, our philosophy is to give players options and 3D Rudder provides another option in terms of locomotion and control scheme,” Coleman said. “We are still evaluating how players are using locomotion in general and how they interact with peripherals like 3D Rudder as we think about designing future content.”

It'll certainly be interesting to see where things go from here. Usually in the case of early VR titles, there's a lot to keep track of when it comes to feedback and expectations from the audience. These early titles for the building VR market are the ones that keep people playing, and with continued support for these titles, the developers aim to have their players coming back for more.

Arizona Sunshine is out now on Steam, and playable on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

Categories: Tech News

How the FCC internet privacy rules rollback puts a price tag on your data

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 19:35

The internet is changing. Or, at least, how data collected through the internet is handled is changing.

Last week, the US Senate voted to overturn a set of rules governing how internet service providers (ISPs) can collect and use information on their customers, laws that were approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under President Barack Obama, just days before Donald Trump was voted into office. 

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives followed the Senate's lead in voting to overturn the rules, meaning those Obama-era FCC laws will soon be repealed.

What's more, Ajit Pai, the newly appointed head of the FCC, is opposed to strengthening privacy regulations, meaning this could spell the end of internet privacy as we know it, or at least for the next few years.

But what does all this really mean for your data? And how could repealing the rules change the internet as we know it? We took a deeper look at the laws and asked some experts to find out.

What are the FCC's ISP laws?

The laws in question dictate how ISPs can share user data, most notably with advertisers, who could pay money for access to that data in an attempt to more effectively advertise to users. The data in question is fairly definable, and it's separated into two main categories, dubbed “sensitive” and “non-sensitive.” Here’s breakdown of the type of data that falls into each category.

Sensitive data:

  • Location
  • Any children's information
  • Health
  • Financial
  • Social Security
  • Web history
  • App usage

Non-sensitive data:

  • Name
  • IP address
  • Physical address
  • ISP subscription level

In the FCC's rules, the data in the sensitive category can’t be used or sold to advertisers and other parties. If an ISP did want to use sensitive information, they first would have to get your permission. Under the repeal, however, some of the data in the sensitive category can be used by ISPs and sold to the highest bidder. Most notably, that includes browsing history.

In basic terms, the rollback of the rule is a bad thing for privacy advocates or really anyone who would prefer to keep their browsing history to themselves. It is, however, a good thing for ISPs, who can sell your browsing history to the highest bidder and potentially make a lot more money from it. Unfortunately, both the FCC and Congress are squarely in favor of ISPs, meaning that privacy is set to fall by the wayside. 

There's another problem with the repealing of the rule in that it will prevent the FCC from adopting similar rules in the future. In other words, if the bill passes – which it most likely will – the FCC will have a much harder time reviving privacy protections.

It's important to note that the FCC rule was voted on in October 2016, and while it was approved it hasn't yet gone into effect. So, while ISPs already technically have the power to sell user browsing history, this rollback blatantly gives them the green light to do so, and it prevents changes from taking place in the future.

Before the FCC rules, ISPs were governed based on Section 222 of the Communications Act, a much vaguer set of restrictions on what communications companies can do with customer information. 

"We supported the FCC’s broadband privacy rules because they were clear and strong; without them, the privacy protection framework for ISPs will revert back to the previous [Customer Proprietary Network Information] rules, overseen by a Chairman [Ajit Pai] who seems disinclined to enforce established pro-user policies," said Denelle Dixon, Chief Business and Legal Officer at Mozilla, in an interview with TechRadar.

What are Chairman Pai's arguments?

A quick history lesson on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Pai has been a member of the FCC since 2012, however before that he served as a lawyer for the Department of Justice and Verizon.

You may have heard Pai's argument for rolling back the rule is that it's overreaching when it comes to the commission's authority, and that ISPs like Verizon and Comcast shouldn't be regulated differently than so-called "edge" providers, like Google and Facebook, which are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Pai isn’t alone in this thinking. 

"The major ISPs in the United States have published privacy notices in place that detail their policies and procedures," said Samuel Cullari, counsel at the law firm Reed Smith, in an interview with TechRadar. Cullari previously worked as a Deputy General Counsel for Comcast. "Much like other businesses that maintain customer data, ISPs take customer privacy seriously. If they didn't, they would lose their customers."

Of course, there are some problems with that argument. For starters, if you don’t like Google’s search engine, you can simply use another one. It’s not that easy when it comes to your ISP. That’s because in many areas, there’s a monopoly. 

For example, many Comcast users can only use Comcast as their service provider because there simply aren’t other options in their area. In fact, the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress report highlights that 51% of households have access to only one high-speed broadband provider, meaning that if an ISP is selling personal data, customers can’t simply vote with their dollars and choose another provider.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

ISPs and edge companies also see a completely different view of your internet activity. Edge companies only see traffic that you give them. ISPs see everything you do. On top of that, generally speaking edge companies offer free services, while ISPs charge a hefty fee for what they offer.

The FTC itself also lacks some authority. Not only is the FTC unable to create new laws, but it also can’t regulate Title II communications companies like ISPs thanks to net neutrality laws that were put into place by the FCC in 2015.

The future of internet privacy

The rule rollback sets an unsettling precedent for the internet and internet privacy in general. 

As mentioned, the new proposition essentially means that the FCC can't create and implement new laws in the future, which is a major problem considering the FTC's current inability to launch its own rules against ISPs. 

"The precedents are already set. The US intelligence community and Department of Homeland security already command a combined yearly budget over $120 billion a year," said Lynda O’Conner, author of Democracy Betrayed: The Rise of the Surveillance Security State, in an interview with TechRadar. "Hundreds of thousands of officers and agents conduct surveillance on all parts of our lives, and they are rarely if ever taken to task."

In other words, citizen privacy isn't necessarily high on the list for government agencies, and the new rules only strengthen this point.

It's really a pessimistic viewpoint, but reality nonetheless. The fact is the people who control internet privacy laws also stand to gain from reducing privacy on the internet. That's where agencies like the FCC and FTC are supposed to come in, and that's why this decision sets a problematic precedent for US citizens, who generally expect to have government agencies on their side. 

Not only that, but the rules are as good as repealed; all that needs to happen now is for President Trump to sign a document.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the members of Congress who voted against the FCC's rules routinely get donations from major broadband companies, and you can see exactly how much in this report from The Verge.

The internet is set to change as a result of the repealed rules. As broadband providers gain access to personal data, they could start challenging the likes of Facebook and Google in the advertising world. Only time will tell if that proves to be true, but, put bluntly, it would be surprising if it wasn't. 

Still, some take a more optimistic approach, and argue that the fight for internet privacy isn't over just yet. 

"Thousands upon thousands of American citizens called their members of Congress to oppose this [Congressional Review Act], and many, from both parties, listened," said Mozilla's Dixon. 

"As we head towards other internet policy tipping points, such as with the future of the FCC's net neutrality rules, internet users will be more and more active, vocal, and effective at holding their elected representatives accountable to serve the public interest."

Categories: Tech News

Facebook Live now supports 360-degree video for a more immersive view

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 19:16

Facebook Live is adding a whole new way to stream events and daily goings-on as the streaming platform opens up 360-degree video to all users.

So long as you've got the equipment handy, you can now broadcast 360-degree video live on Facebook almost exactly the same way as a normal airing, including the option to choose what audiences and regions your stream reaches, as well as see comments and reactions.

The news comes to us courtesy of Insta360, which develops its own line of 360-degree cameras for Android and Apple devices.

In the video below, the company shows how to get started with 360-degree streaming on Facebook Live, using its own Insta360 Nano and accompanying app to create a fully functioning livestream in just a few short steps.

In addition to the usual Facebook Live settings, you can change the connection quality up to (or even above) the recommended dose of 4Mbps to help customize a nice balance of good picture and smooth performance.

To use 360-degree video on Facebook Live, you'll need to make sure your compatible camera has its firmware updated to support Facebook Live or set it up manually via the social media site. 

Top Image Credit: Insta360 (via YouTube)

Categories: Tech News

Google Calendar is now an official Apple iPad app

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:17

Things are looking up for busybodies who rely on Google's Calendar app on iOS, but wish they had a bigger screen.

Google Calendar has now been optimized on iPad, finally allowing iOS users a proper app for accessing their synchronized schedules on Apple's line of tablets.

While Google Calendar has had tablet compatibility for a while on Android, iOS users have until now been stuck with a iPhone version of the app on their iPad.

Though totally functional, the blown-up smartphone version on iPad was a less-than-optimal experience with a lot of wasted space that sort of negated the purpose of a tablet.

Starting today, iPad users can update their Google Calendar app to version 2.0.0 (no need to download a new, separate app) to enjoy a better-looking, full-screen digital log of all their upcoming appointments, travel dates, reminders, to-do lists, and more.

iPads aren't the only non-Android devices taking advantage of Google's timekeeping app. Amazon's Echo smart speakers can also keep you on schedule using Google Calendar, complete with Alexa acting as your personal voice-activated secretary.

Categories: Tech News

Samsung's newest Wi-Fi hub comes with smart home brains

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 16:54

Although it’s been a big day for Samsung rolling out two new smartphones, an accompanying desktop dock, its own version of Amazon Alexa, a new 360-degree camera and a smart connected home app, the Korean electronics firm had room for one more thing with a new Wi-Fi mesh system.

Concisely named the Connect Home Smart Wi-Fi System, it aims to take on Google WiFi, Orbi, Amplifi, and a growing family of other Wi-Fi mesh systems. One key feature Samsung’s solution has over other rivals is an integrated SmartThings hub that you can use to control your Internet-connected gadgets.

Samsung claims the Connect Home Smart will work with hundreds of third-party smart home devices through a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth 4.1 signal. The Philips Hue and Ring doorbell were name-dropped as compatible appliances. It’s also compatible with Z-Wave’s and Zigbee’s security devices as well.

On the Internet-connectivity side of things, the Connect Home Smart isn’t designed to cast a Wi-Fi net over your entire house from a single router. Rather, it uses multiple, smaller modules to create a home network. Each individual unit covers a 1,500 square-foot area.

The Connect Home Smart will come in two variants. The regular version will feature a 710MHz quad-core processor and dual-band 802.11ac radio that operates at AC1300 (866Mbps) speeds. Meanwhile, the Pro is a step quicker in all regards with a 1.7GHz dual-core chip and AC2600 (1.7Gbps) radio.

Despite these differences, both the Connect Home Smart and its Pro variant are equipped with 512GB of RAM and 4GB of storage.

Unfortunately, Samsung has yet to announce pricing or availability, but we’ll update this post with the information as soon as it’s available.

Categories: Tech News

Android founder's mystery phone runs on Android, Google exec teases

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 15:25

Ever since reports first emerged that computer engineer and Android co-founder Andy Rubin was making a new high-end phone, it's been speculated whether or not his mystery handset will use the operating system he helped create, or venture out into something new.

It seems the former is the case, as a remark from Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt claims the phone designed by Rubin's new company, Essential, will be available for "Android users."

This tweet comes as a response to a glimpse at the so-called Essential phone, teased by Rubin himself. While giving us little to go off, it appears the phone rocks one of those bezel-less, edge-to-edge displays that's become so in vogue these days.

While Schmidt calling the Essential phone an Android is a clear enough indicator that it will use a familiar OS, it's still no replacement for an official reveal and so we still suggest taking it with a grain of salt until announcement day.

Thankfully, reports say that it won't be long before we hear more about Essential's entry into the smartphone market, claiming that the device will also feature a robust artificial intelligence, hardware add-on capabilities, and a slick ceramic back.

  • Will the Essential be any match for Google's own Pixel phone?
Categories: Tech News

New Samsung Gear VR price: Here's how much it costs

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 15:02

We knew that Samsung Gear VR would get an upgrade this year that would bring a controller similar to the one found on Google Daydream with it. 

But, until now, we didn’t know how much it’d cost us. 

The answer is $129. That will get you the headset and the new controller but, if you just want the controller by itself, it can be purchased separately for $39.

While the hardware inside the headset is the same as last year’s model, the controller promises to make the headset more gamer-friendly. 

To that end, Samsung also promised 20 new games when the controller and headset launch on April 21, and an additional 50 games with controller support in the next few months. 

The new Gear VR will be compatible with multiple mobile phones from the South Korean manufacturer including Galaxy S7, S6 and Galaxy Note 5 – thankfully, the exploding Note 7 is not on the list. Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and  Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus will also be supported. 

As an added bonus, Samsung is giving away a new Gear VR and controller for free to everyone who pre-orders either of the new phones. 

Not a bad deal if you ask us. 

Categories: Tech News

Download of the day: CCleaner

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 14:00
CCleaner

CCleaner is a free Windows optimization tool that blitzes clutter and unwanted files from your computer, leaving it in tip top condition and faster than ever.

Not only does it delete temporary files and empty your Recycle Bin, it also clears out cookies from web browsers, cleans up leftovers from uninstalled programs, and deleted unused registry entries.

You can also use CCleaner to manage the programs that run when your PC starts up, and uninstall any that you don't use.

Why you need it

If you've ever despaired at the slow speed of your computer, it could be time for a system clean out. That's because the more you use your PC, the more clutter it accumulates. Temporary internet files, cookies and redundant files can all clog your machine up and leave it running about as fast as a sloth in slo-mo.

That's where CCleaner comes in. This handy little program analyses problem areas and, with your permission, banishes files that have reduced your computer to a crawl. It's remarkably thorough and can delete gigabytes of unnecessary and unwanted files on its first run.

But don't worry, it's also particularly smart. It steers well clear of important system files, and avoids cookies that look like they contain login information (unless you say otherwise), so you won't have to type out your passwords all over again. It also shows you exactly what it plans on deleting before it starts, so you know what to expect once you set it on its way.

Download here: CCleaner

Categories: Tech News

Samsung Gear 360 livestreamer shoots 4K video and won't shun iPhone users, either

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 12:27

It's not all phones at today's Samsung Galaxy showcase – alongside the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, the company also showed off its new Gear 360 livestreaming camera.

As the name suggests, the pistol-grip shaped camera lets you livestream 360-degree video – perfect for sharing with a Gear VR headset. If you're shooting a standard flat video, it'll capture it in 4K resolution (a step up from the 3840 x 1920 resolution of last year's model), while 360 video is captured in 2K.

These are captured with a pair of 8.4 megapixel fish eye cameras, combining for 15MP stills – an admitted step down from the 30MP shots of the original Gear 360 camera.

iPhone love

Straight out of the box though, the new Gear 360 camera will work with iOS devices. If you've an Apple device running iOS 10 or above, it'll happily pair with the Gear 360 for instant feedback on your livestreamed video.

The pistol-grip shape is also a change from last year's tripod-like model. Though it's easier to hold, it does mean battery life drops down to 1160mAh against last year's 1350mAh.

Set for release "this Spring", there's no pricing details to share yet, though Samsung has teased that it may come in cheaper than the $349 you were expected to cough up for last year's model.

Categories: Tech News

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus release date, news and features

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 12:17

Update: Check out our hands on Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review for our thoughts on Samsung's new phablet flagship.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus has landed! The bigger brother to the Samsung Galaxy S8, the S8 Plus boasts a bigger screen and battery while keeping everything else the same.

Its 6.2-inch screen size puts a bigger phone display in your hand without extending the actual body size all that much. It favors getting rid of bezels and the home button over dramatically increasing the phone’s dimensions.

With a better screen, faster chipset, new sensor technology and smarter software, Samsung gave its already trendsetting curved phone a makeover.

Is it enough to make you forget about the Galaxy Note 7 recall? Can it compete with the iPhone 8? Let’s explore.

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? Samsung's new, curvy, big-screen flagship phone
  • When is it out? Release date April 21 in US, April 28 in Europe
  • What will it cost? £779.99 (around $960, AU$1,260)
Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus release date and price
  • S8 Plus pre-orders from March 30 in US, March 29 in Europe
  • S8 Plus release date April 21 in US, April 28 in Europe

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus release date is set for April 21 in the US and April 28 in Europe.

You can pre-order the S8 Plus from March 30 if you're in the US. 

Meanwhile, Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus pre-orders begin on March 29 in Europe, but if you place you order before April 19 you could get the handset in your hands up to eight days before the official release date.

We also still don't know the SIM-free Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus price in the US, but in the UK you're looking at a lofty £779.99 (around $960, AU$1,260).

Networks around the world have also started revealing their contract deals for the phones, so check with your local operators for more details.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus design and display

Samsung's 'Infinity Display' is the hallmark of this new Android smartphone. It has a 6.2-inch display that stands out from every other flat phone.

It's bigger without actually pushing the dimensions, too big. It's a good size for anyone who was able to handle the Note 7, as it's a bit taller now due to its 18.5:9 screen ratio.

Once again, the front and back are covered in Gorilla Glass and wrap around until they meet at a ultra-thin frame.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus power

Samsung has a new chipset for the Galaxy S8 as well, utilizing 10 nanometer technology, making the phone more powerful and efficient. 

Like with the Galaxy S7, there will be two different processors in different parts of the world. Which one you get really depends on where you live.

The US will get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 while the rest of the world will get Samsung’s own Exynos 8895 chip, which tends to be slightly faster.

Both are powerful enough to run desktop virtualization. Samsung is picking up where Microsoft left off by allowing Galaxy S8 users to turn their smartphones into a desktop experience. Samsung worked with Microsoft to make sure that Office works seamlessly with Samsung DeX.

Thankfully, DeX is Google Android that has been tailored for a desktop experience instead of using Samsung’s proprietary Tizen OS.

All phones with have 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. You can always expand that storage size thanks to a microSD card slot.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus camera

The Galaxy S8 Plus has the same 12MP camera as last year's phones, but don't worry too much, Samsung promises it'll still look better than before.

That's because the company is putting its new camera's might behind the post-processing software. It should make your low-light photos even better.

The Plus is is also getting a new multi-frame shot mode where multiple photos can be combined to make a better photo. The phone will take the best parts of each shot and will stitch them together to make the best shot possible.

The front-facing camera does see a new sensor. It's 8MP, up from last year's 5MP. It'll also debut front-facing auto-focus in an effort to make your selfies more in focus.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus battery life

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus packs in a 3,500mAh battery. That's actually 100mAh larger than the Note 7, but Samsung is promising this one won't explode.

The company says it has an 8-point plan that prevents a repeat of its Note 7 battery failures. Barring another mishap, you should have a day-plus of battery life.

Categories: Tech News

The best free DVD ripper 2017

Latest Tech News - Wed, 03/29/2017 - 12:11
Back up your movies

The idea of ripping DVDs is very much like ripping CDs, although it's shrouded in slightly more controversy. It involves using software to convert the contents of a DVD into a video file that can be easily stored on your hard drive, or moved to other devices so you can watch it on the move. It might seem like something that is incredibly complicated, and it can be. But with the right software you can create backups of your favorite DVDs with ease.

It's important to note that the nature of DVD ripping software means it's a segment of the software market that's home to a lot of malicious software. It can be difficult to navigate your way through the seemingly endless choice of titles and know which are legitimate, so we've done the hard work for you. Here we present five of the best free DVD rippers which get the job done without being blighted by malware, adware and other nasties.

Is ripping DVDs legal?

As with CDs, there are no international copyright laws that cover ripping DVDs. For example, in 2014, UK copyright law was changed to legalize personal backups, but that decision was overturned by the High Court in 2015. Make sure you check out intellectual property law in your country before you start ripping.

1.  WinX DVD Ripper Free Edition

Not only for movies, this DVD ripper can also handle ISO images and whole folders

When you install the free version of WinX DVD Ripper, you'll notice that it's actually the Platinum Edition in trial mode. Don't worry though – once the demo expires you'll lose action to some of the features (mainly speed-related and a couple of specific DRM cracks), but you'll still have a powerful DVD ripper on your hands that you can use indefinitely.

WinX DVD Ripper can be used to rip directly from DVDs, but it also works with ISO images, and folders of DVD files. Once your input has been analyzed – a process that doesn't take long – you can take your pick from a raft of ready made profiles. These profiles help you to quickly output a video that is suitable for playback on specific mobile devices or, say, ideal for uploading to Facebook

You can choose to rip the built-in subtitles or embed your own, and you can select which audio tracks should be included; it's all beautifully simple and pleasingly fast.

Download here: Win X DVD Ripper Free Edition

2. Freemake Video Converter

DVD ripping made simple, with a simple interface and step-by-step instructions

Freemake is a name synonymous with powerful, high quality freeware, and Freemake Video Converter doesn't let the side down. The clean, clear interface is a joy to use, and you're never left feeling in any doubt about what you're meant to do.

Fire up the software, switch to the DVD section and choose your drive from the list. After disc analysis you'll need to indicate which of the video track you're interested in. You can even take things a step further and clip out segments of a video rather than grabbing the whole thing. Shortcuts at the bottom of the screen provide access to popular output formats (AVI, MKV, device-specific formats); just make your selection, hit 'Convert', and you're done.

Note that Freemake Video Converter will try to install some potentially unwanted extra components, so be sure to select the 'Custom' option and opt out of these.

Download here: Freemake Video Converter

3. HandBrake

You might already use HandBrake for converting files, but it's also a capable DVD ripper

HandBrake is not only a free DVD ripper (or video transcoder, as it prefers to be known) but also an open source one, so it's totally free in every sense of the word.

More than a decade in the making, the software finally reached version 1.0.0, It is – or at least looks – a little more complicated that some of the others we're looking at here, but don’t let that put you off. By default there's no support for bypassing copy-protection, but this is something you can get around with a little research if necessary (bearing in mind IP laws in your country).

As with other programs, there are a number of presets ready for you to choose from, but you can also manually tailor each ripping session if you prefer. If you're working with ISO images or disc folders, it's possible to queue up multiple encoding jobs to run consecutively to save having to be around when each finishes. The sheer level of control makes HandBrake well worth a try.

Download here: HandBrake

4. MakeMKV

Rip DVDs and Blu-rays with a simple interface and no awkward configuration options

If you've used DVD ripping software before, MakeMKV might look a little familiar – it bears more than a passing resemblance to DVD Decrypter. As well as handling DVDs, the program, is also capable of ripping Blu-ray discs, and the process works in exactly the same way in each case (although it's worth noting that Blu-ray ripping is only be free while the program is in beta).

The great thing about MakeMKV is that there is so little to think about. Fire up the program, analyse your disc, choose which of the track you would like to rip, indicate where the output file should be saved, and then hit the 'Make MKV' button. That's really all there is to it. There's no messing about, no complex configuration – just analyze, rip and go. 

Download here: MakeMKV

5. DVDFab HD Decryptor

Limited ripping options, but handy if you just need to copy a disc in a hurry

The full version DVDFab itself isn't free of charge. It installs as a trial version, but the DVDFab HD Decrypter – which you need for DVD and Blu-ray ripping – remains free forever.

The free portion is rather limited, allowing you to rip discs in Full Disc or Main Movie modes only. This means that the free version is nowhere near as versatile as the other programs we've covered here, but it still has its place.

For example, it can be useful if you want to extract the video files from a disc and maintain their original formats when transferring them to your hard drive. You're then free to import the files into another program for further work if you want, or just use your favorite DVD software to watch the videos without the need for a disc to be inserted.

Download here: DVDFab HD Decryptor

Categories: Tech News

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