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The iPhone XR has been incredibly popular since its release and we can see why. It is one of Apple's best devices by far and although it is much more affordable than some of Apple's other devices (we're looking at you XS Max) it does still carry a pretty hefty price tag.
Luckily, Mobiles.co.uk currently has two limited time deals on the XR which gives the device a light shove back into the affordable price range we like to see - it's not the quite second coming of Black Friday, but it isn't far off. Leading the way is the iPhone XR with 64GB of storage for £85 upfront and £38 a month with 30GB of data. That is incredibly cheap for this flagship device and we're confident to say it's our favourite deal on the XR out right now.
However, if you're willing to fork over an extra £40 upfront, you can get the 128GB of storage version of the smartphone with the same monthly costs and data caps. That is a whole load of extra storage for a very small additinal spend - well worth your consideration if you like having all your content saved.
You can see both of these deals below but of course if neither have them piqued your interest then take a look at our best iPhone XR deals page for all of the current options.Mobiles.co.uk's iPhone XR deals in full
- Or check out all of today's best mobile phone deals in the UK
The NHS has been ordered to halt its use of fax machines as part of a large-scale modernisation project.
The UK's health body will be officially banned from buying new fax machines from next month, with the aim of phasing out all such products by March 31 2020, according to new guidelines from the Department of Health.
Hospitals will instead be urged to upgrade to more modern forms of communication such as secure email.NHS fax ban
The change follows research from the Royal College of Surgeons earlier this year which found that nearly 9,000 fax machines were still in use across England, including 603 at Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Trust.
The RCS says it supports the government's decision, with the chair of the commission on the future of surgery Richard Kerr calling the NHS' continued use of outdated technology as "absurd".
“Advances in artificial intelligence, genomics and imaging for healthcare promise exciting benefits for patients,” he added. “As these digital technologies begin to play a bigger part in how we deliver healthcare, it is crucial that we invest in better ways of communicating the vast amount of patient information that is going to be generated.
“Most other organisations scrapped fax machines in the early 2000s and it is high time the NHS caught up."
- The best web hosting service for your website for 2019
It’s been so long since Doom first slipped into floppy disk drives the world over that there’s an entire generation of console and PC players out there who’ve never even heard of Doom, let alone played it.
And yet, despite its age, this dusty old relic lives on every shooter that’s come and gone since. Every single First Person Shooter that’s taken over the world – or failed miserably – can doff its cap to Id Software’s seminal piece of software.
Not many games can call themselves genuine milestones, but Doom can claim such a title with confidence. For its 25th anniversary, we look at how Doom helped change PC gaming forever.Bloody blueprint
There are just so many elements that programmers John Romero and John Carmack helped popularize back in 1993 – concepts that laid out a fundamental blueprint not just for shooters, but for western videogames as a whole in the decades that followed.
The use of immersive 3D graphics at a time where games were still resigned to flat 2D sprites in 16-bits. It helped set the groundwork for networked multiplayer matches. It promoted the use of mods (or ‘WADs’ as they were known back then). Even how it deftly juggled everything from realistic gun physics to intricate level design. There’s a reason why plenty of games that came after were called ‘Doom clones’.
Doom was a breath of fresh air in so many ways. Rather than burying the player in needless narrative and the crushing presence of lore, Id Software let the levels themselves tell the story for it.
The sharp corners and constrictive corridors that exploded out into open arenas. Secret rooms full of treasure and death. It was a nightmare and a playground all in one, offering a stark alternative to the repetitive tunnels of, say, Wolfenstein 3D.
From the use of disorientating ways teleports would whisk you to a new part of the map, or how some chambers would be near pitch black while others were bright with daylight. It featured a labyrinthine approach that fostered a sense of chaos, long before the randomised concept of procedural generation.
But by learning where every turn would take you, where every secret was hidden and where every shotgun could be found, Doom empowered you in a way few other games did at the time.History of violence
Of course, when you’ve created your own gaming subculture and established a flashpoint in the development scene, you’re always going to get copycats. However, among all those forgettable instalments you could finally see developers taking the principles Doom set in place and taking them one step further.
Marathon, for example – which arrived a good year later in 1994 – made a far smoother and more user–friendly take on networked multiplayer (a concept which Bungie would take countless steps further with Halo: Combat Evolved seven years later). It would take another five years for deathmatches to fund their feet online in 1999, but Doom’s influence was already spreading its roots.
In the same year, System Shock – the precursor to BioShock and its own gaggle of copycats – also dropped, and it too took considerable inspiration from Id’s seminal corridor shooter.
It took the sense of dread Doom had captured so well and made you even more vulnerable, placing more emphasis on puzzle solving and storyline. The result was a game that was well ahead of its time in the early ’90s, especially in regards to its 3D visuals and physics engine.
Right away, the formula of Doom’s DNA continued to thrive in the burgeoning ‘corridor shooter’ scene. Who would have thought it would be this genre that would help rejuvenate the Star Wars licence? Not only that, but those core tenants would evolve as a result. So, when LucasArts unleashed Star Wars: Dark Forces it presented a considerable step forwards for the genre.
Previously, shooters had mostly stuck to using an X–Y axis for movement (where you could look left and right, but not up or down). Thanks in part to the in-house Jedi engine, players in Dark Forces could look around in true 3D fashion, which – when coupled with the game’s innovative use of multi-tiered levels – created one of the most immersive shooters yet.
In the three years after Doom’s first release in December 1993, 3D graphics evolved in leaps and bounds, and studios began finding new ways to innovate in terms of both aesthetics and programming ideas. Duke Nukem 3D was less of trendsetter and more of a pastiche, but it still took countless features from Doom and riffed on them.
Levels were filled with secret rooms and shortcuts, weapons were over-the-top in their sheer violence and no one had managed to make a shooter quite as humorous as one starring the titular Duke. It was satire, but Doom’s legacy was there for all to see.
In the same year, Bethesda Softworks unleashed The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall on the world, finally freeing the corridor shooter from its traditional linear environments.
Embracing more of a traditional RPG setup, Daggerfall was a revelation in its approach to ‘open–world’ level design (an entirely new term at the time) and grander storytelling.
In all honesty, it was a world away from the flat The Elder Scrolls Arena in 1994, but even as an antithesis to the speed and mechanical purity of Doom (especially with its heavy focus on story and world-building), it still owed much to Doom’s pioneering presence.Mod scene
Of course, another big game launched in 1996, and it just happened to be from the makers of Doom itself. Quake was a giant leap forwards in every way for the genre, taking countless elements that made Doom so quintessentially addictive and making it even more irresistible.
While Doom employed the use of flat sprites in a 3D environment, Quake’s new engine used fully-rendered 3D assets, and the difference was night and day. It made for more intricate levels, far more detailed enemies and set the stage for some of the decade’s best online multiplayer arenas, including the still-brilliant Quake 3 Arena.
By the late ‘90s, Doom’s popularity continued to grow, despite its age. Why? Because of how its developer had embraced the huge modding community. The programmers of tomorrow were building their own levels, playing with the game engine and finding new and ingenious ways to play online.
John Cormack even went as far as releasing the source code for Doom in 1997. This set a precedent for fan-made content and informed everything from the rise of Counter–Strike out of Half-Life and the sheer volume of mods for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim years later.
Just before the Millennium, the blueprint for networked multiplayer had evolved once more, as online matchmaking became an affordable and technically proficient means of connecting shooter fans.
Within the space of a month in 1999, the PC gaming community saw deathmatches taken to new heights with Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament. Inspired by both the deep creativity of the modding community and the groundbreaking work of Id, these two games made online multiplayer fast, fun and endlessly replayable.
The advent of online multiplayer played right into one of Doom’s most misunderstood traits: that movement, momentum and positioning are far more important than firepower alone.
For the likes of Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena, speed was everything. Jump pads, teleporters and collecting health/shield power–ups tapped directly into Doom’s focus on tactical movement. Doom was always about survival: learning to use every resource at your disposal to go from desperate survivor to untouchable god.Doom eternal
Of course, in the modern era, shooters have taken on a very different guise, where various new systems and ideas and have long weighed the genre down. XP progression, crafting mechanics, over–the–top set–pieces and convoluted stories all convalesce to pull the genre in countless directions.
It’s a good thing in its own way, as games should always be moving forwards, and it’s the prerogative for developers to push the envelope, but it does make you long for a shooter that’s free from over–complication.
With only six weapons to its name, Doom didn’t need a Matrix–style rack of upgradeable weapons, skill–trees and myriad characters. It just needed a problem-solving mind and an itchy trigger finger. So it’s fitting that 25 years on, Doom feels more relevant than ever. There’s a purity to its simplicity. It can be an arcade blaster for some, but for others it’s a far more nuanced creature filled with strategies, secrets and more.
The 2016 reboot has retained some of that purity with its focus on unbridled creative violence and the strategy of momentum, movement and positioning – and its sequel, 2019’s Doom Eternal looks to continue that mantra – but even it has lost some of the magic that spartan early ’90s approach bestowed upon its predecessor.
Being a product of inferior technology and limited resources has resigned plenty of games to irrelevance as the medium continues to grow and change, but Doom’s characteristics have somehow defied age. Every pixel has its place, and every element has its purpose, even now, 25 years later. Here’s to another 25 years of blowing us away, Doom.
- The best PC games 2018: the must-play titles you don’t want to miss
Coding is an essential skill, but it can seem pretty dry to kids if they only see their creations on a screen. That's why programmable robots are so popular, letting young engineers see the results of their work in the real world, roaming around the kitchen floor and chasing the family cat.
There are so many DIY bots around, it can be tough to choose the best one for the junior coder in your life, so we've rounded up the very best options for a range of budgets and ages.
Cozmo is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but despite its diminutive size it's a surprisingly smart little bot. It's aimed at kids aged eight and up, but there's plenty to keep older children (and adults) entertained too.
Once it's connected to a smartphone, you're ready to start taking care of your new friend by attending to various 'needs', Tamagotchi-style. For example, its 'Energy' need can be satisfied by interacting with its three power cubes, while 'Fun' is fulfilled by playing with it, teaching it expressions and words.
Perhaps its best feature, however, is the Code Lab, which lets youngsters create their own programs using simplified building blocks. It's a great way to introduce the fundamentals of coding in a way that never feels like homework.
While the aforementioned Cozmo is an adorable little bot that provides a great gateway to coding, the Vector is less of a toy and more like a cross between a pet and a virtual assistant.
Vector is considerably larger than Cozmo, and doesn't require a smartphone app (other than for the initial setup). Instead, all the processing happens within the robot itself, which connects directly to your home Wi-Fi network.
In action, it has real personality (thanks to an animation expert from Dreamworks) and is capable of learning faces and playing games. Four near-field microphones enable it to respond to voice commands, and an imminent software update will make it compatible with Amazon Alexa.
Open source platforms like Raspberry Pi have opened up DIY computing, but the learning curve is pretty steep – particularly for kids. That's where LittleBits comes in, providing kits and instructions that let everyone enjoy the fun and challenge of building their own robot.
Not only can young engineers make their own R2-D2 using instructions provided in the companion app (accompanied by the iconic John Williams soundtrack), a recent update means they can also customize and re-program it using MIT's Scratch code platform.
Ambitious droid builders can even incorporate other components into their projects, with impressive results. To get an idea of what's possible, take a look at the LittleBits Droid Inventor Kit Competition. It's inspiring stuff.
Orbotix, the company behind the enormously popular Sphero BB-8 toy, has branched out into DIY coding with SPRK+ – a little bot that resembles a Raspberry Pi trapped in a hamster ball.
SPRK+ connects to a phone or tablet via Bluetooth (it's compatible with iOS, Android and Kindle devices), and allows users to either run ready-made programs or create their own. There are also various challenges to complete, including a raft rescue (the ball is waterproof), and young programmers can share their creations with the SPRK+ community.
When it comes to coding, SPRK+ offers three levels of complexity: Draw (simply sketch a path for the bot to follow), Blocks (drag and drop chunks of code) and Text (write your own code from scratch). This is pretty unusual, and means this little bot will grow with its owner for years to come.
Reach Robotics, the company behind Mekamon, describes it as "Pokémon in real life". The spider-like robot is controlled using a smartphone app, and can go into battle against other Mekamon or virtual enemies you can see on your phone's screen.
Mekamon V2 is great fun, with bags of character, but you can add a personal touch with MekaMotion, which lets you use the robot like a stop-motion puppet. Pose the robot manually like a clay figure to create a series of 'frames', then replay them as an animation. The app is still in development, and new programming options will be coming very soon as well.
It's quite a pricey device, but it's solidly built and Reach is committed to backwards compatibility, so it'll keep receiving new features and updates for years to come.
This fun toy is designed for kids aged three to six, introducing the fundamentals of coding in a way that encourages them to think independently and solve problems by experimenting.
The Code-a-Pillar is made of detachable sections that represent chunks of code, and rearranging them will cause the cute bot to take a different route. The set includes one sound segment, three straights, two left turns and two right turns, but others (including a 180-degree turn and extra sounds) are available to buy separately once the little person in your life is ready to try something more complicated.
The Code-a-Pillar works equally well on hard floors and carpet. Provided you have enough floor space, it should give youngsters a head start in understanding programming principles, without even realizing they're learning.
There’s a lot more to SEO than keyword optimization and link building. There are plenty of other things website owners can do that make a big difference in how your site ranks in search results. Choosing the right web host and designing your website the right way can boost your traffic tremendously. Here’s how.
- The best web hosting service for your website for 2019
There’s a concept in the SEO industry that focuses on page-load speed: The faster the better. While it’s absolutely true that your website should load quickly, speed exclusively isn’t the point. At the end of the day, SEO is about the users who visit your site. It’s about their needs and whether your site actually delivers on what it promises.
Did the visitor see what they wanted? Did the right stuff load quickly? Your website’s visitors should see your site’s core content quickly. Some of the ancillary content can take longer to load—that’s okay. This is a concept called First Meaningful Paint, and it’s a factor in how your site ranks because it’ keeps your visitors happy and Google likes that.
So, while our actual page-load process may be three seconds long, your visitors may see all of your meaningful content in one and a half seconds. That’s because the elements that take longer to load are not essential to the immediate visitor experience. Sometimes the Facebook pixel loads really late, for instance. Or a tracking pixel loads later. And that’s perfectly okay. From the user’s perspective, the load time was still under 2 seconds.
Once the user is on your site, keeping them there is really important. If Google sees users going to that page and then coming back right away within a certain amount of time, then that’s a signal that the website didn’t deliver what the user was looking for. Having a slow website or irrelevant content could bounce your users right back to the search results, and you don’t want that to happen.Uptime is central (and that means so is the right host)
Another critical aspect of providing a premium user experience is uptime. If Google or a user is requesting your site and it’s consistently timing out or the server can’t return a result, then your website’s user experience is lacking, to say the least. Ensuring that you have as close to 100 percent uptime is crucial to providing a great user experience for every visitor.
Additionally, there are two load-time factors that Google uses to measure your site and both can be affected by your web host. The first is DNS lookup, and the longer it takes your host to complete DNS lookup the longer it takes for your host to begin loading your page. Long look up times can hurt your site rank.
Second is page load time. If your host uses a slow server, you’re in trouble. If your server takes longer than 100 milliseconds to load the first byte, that’s not good for your site traffic. The time it takes the server to answer a browser’s request should ideally be half of that, 50 milliseconds tops.Need a new SEO strategy? Here are some ideas
If you’re ready to create an SEO strategy that goes beyond keywords, do these four things:
- Keep your site secure. We’ve all seen it or heard the stories. An unsuspecting business owner gets hacked on a regular basis, hackers maliciously adding links to the site without the website owners’ knowledge. Google, of course, sees a website with these irrelevant links and penalizes the website’s search rank for it. You’ll have to work to proactively keep these bad links away or choose a hosting provider that can help you keep them at bay.
- Measure your site’s loading times and time to first byte. Tools.pingdom.com is a free tool you can use to find out how long your site really takes to load and communicate with browsers. You can even test from different regions. GTMetrix and Yslow are also good and if you use Google Chrome, and are a bit more technical, Lighthouse is a great tool with list of actions items to increase performance.
- Consider managed hosting. Having managed hosting can make managing your user’s site experience easier. It addresses a lot of the issues website owners commonly have. With managed hosting, you are paying someone else to worry about the SEO-critical backend of your site so you can focus on other things, like creating great content.
It also means you’re prepared for the unforeseen, like a spike in traffic or a visit by hackers. Again, this allows you to hone-in on providing great content and doing great work for your users instead of keeping your website from breaking down. Given how important website performance is for SEO, it’s an essential piece to the puzzle.
Ty Lampella is VP of Marketing for DreamHost.
- The best free web hosting of 2018
Smartphones have become so important nowadays that we can safely say that they are almost a part of us. Given the fact that the entire mobile industry is evolving at an incredibly fast pace, it's important to analyse what is the current state of smartphones (both from a hardware point of view and from a software one) in order to better understand what will happen in the next couple of years.The development side
When it comes to architectural development, the mobile industry is incredibly hard to predict: if we take Apple into consideration, we can safely say that their development plans have been quite static, while its Chinese competitors (Huawei especially) have been pushing new technologies, embracing a more "desktop" approach in terms of both technologies and materials.
With this in mind, we can still trace a general prediction line in terms of hardware development, especially given the fact that (as pointed out by many industry analysts) Virtual Reality and Machine Learning seem to be the biggest development trends that every major player wants to embrace in his future plans.What's so big about virtual reality?
We've seen a small introduction to VR applied to mobile with Apple's Animoji, which are indeed a simplified version of SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) applied to an internal mobile environment. Many mobile app development companies have stated the fact that Virtual Reality could be implemented in many technical, educational and entertainment-related apps.
Although the main problem is related to the fact that, in order to properly experience VR, the currently available peripherals are pretty bulky and expensive, we can easily say that there are indeed several signals of startups within the mobile development industry moving towards this matter.The market value and the future of this industry
When it comes to industry insights, there are several aspects that should be considered, ranging from prices for tools, materials and everything in between. With this in mind, the mobile industry, of course, relies on the fact that there are several limitations due to the current state of processors, RAM and such.
Today, the market value, within the mobile sector, is pretty much based on the fact that there are several startups who are covering just the software development side of the mobile industry. With all that being said, we can easily say that the future of mobile will pretty much be a startup matter.
Paul Matthews, Business Writer
- Can't wait for your next smartphone? These are our top picks for the best smartphone
British businesses feel let down by a lack of Government support when it comes to cybersecurity protection, according to research published today.
A new study found that many companies feel that the government needs to do much more to help them feel secure in their online operations as cyberthreats become more prevalent across the world.
Nearly a third (31 percent) of the firms surveyed said that the government failed to offer businesses enough guidance or support on cybersecurity, despite high-profile initiatives such as the work of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).
UK business security
The report, carried out by RedSeal, found that nearly seven in ten (68 percent) of businesses suffered at least one cyberattack in the past year.
Of those hit by an attack, two-thirds (67 percent) had suffered a financial loss, 37 percent lost customers, and nearly half (43 percent) suffered damage to their reputation.
More worryingly, the data also revealed that one in five (19 percent) of those surveyed admitted they had no plan in place to deal with a cyberattack.
"The number of high profile breaches has meant that 2018 has become the year where businesses are left wondering what more they can do to protect themselves, how to remain resilient, to keep operating and minimise customer damage," said Ray Rothrock, CEO of RedSeal.
- Looking to stay safe online? The best antivirus software for 2019
O2 is to seek “tens of millions” of pounds in compensation from Ericsson after the Swedish telecoms equipment manufacturer was blamed for Thursday’s outage
The day-long O2 outage impacted all of the operator’s 25 million customers, as well as an additional seven million customers using Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile and giffgaff, all of which use the same mobile infrastructure.
Issues were first reported at 05:30am on Thursday 6 December and it became clear the outage was the result of a glitch in software used by network equipment partner Ericsson and was affecting operators in other countries.O2 compensation
Ericsson confirmed the outage was caused by a node failure and appears to have been related to an expired certificate in the versions used by the affected operators. It has been suggested that O2 was affected because it was using the latest version of Ericsson’s software whereas other operators using the same kit used an older edition.
Services were restored by early Friday morning with O2 promising to compensate customers frustrated at being disconnected for an entire day. O2 has said it will credit pay monthly subscribers’ accounts for the two days of disruption while pay-as-you-go customers will get ten per cent off data when they top up.
The Daily Telegraph says O2 and its parent Telefonica are preparing for meetings with Ericsson during which it is expected to demand a significant share of cash Ericsson has set aside for compensation. It is claimed the total bill could be £100 million.
Both firms have apologised for the disruption and have promised to carry out a full review with Ericsson to determine how such a disastrous outage was able to take place.
- Here are the best O2 mobile phone deals for December 2018
The future of one promising VR headset has been put into jeopardy, as StarVR has announced that it is putting the release of its developer headset “on hold”.
The news comes just a month after the company’s StarVR One developer program started accepting sign-ups.
StarVR’s woes appear to be due to the fact that Starbreeze, one of its main stakeholders, has filed for reconstruction – the equivalent of going into administration in Sweden – all while going through the process of the company going private. While the issues are ironed out, StarVR has delisted itself from the Taipei Exchange Emerging Markets.A safer future?
Though it’s long been gestating, StarVR is one of the more exciting virtual reality headsets in development. Its advanced set-up includes a wider field of view than other headsets, as well as eye-tracking for more immersive interactions with its software.
StarVR has been focussing on public installations, such as arcades and galleries, rather than the home space – and if, as we’re regularly told, that’s where the future of VR sits, it could be a troubling development for the long-term, competition-filled health of virtual reality.
But all hope is not yet lost for StarVR – around two-thirds of the company is owned by Acer, which may yet be able to rescue the VR hopeful.
Shared by leaker @UniverseIce (who has a solid track record), it’s not clear exactly where the image came from but as it shows the Sony Xperia XZ4 in a case it’s probably a render made by a casemaker who may or may not have inside information.
You can see in the image that the Sony Xperia XZ4 has a triple-lens rear camera and quite a tall, narrow design, which probably points to a 21:9 aspect ratio – something which has been rumored before.
You can also see that all the buttons are seemingly on the right edge, there’s a port (likely a USB-C one) on the bottom edge, and the camera sticks out slightly from the back.
The Sony Xperia XZ4 could have a super-wide 21:9 screen. Credit: @UniverseIceIt's all lining up
There’s not much else to take from this image but it lines up with what we’ve seen before, so while we’d certainly take it with a pinch of salt with no dissenting designs there’s a good chance this is the real deal.
With the phone possibly landing at MWC 2019 in February we’d expect to keep seeing more of it in the coming weeks. Hopefully we’ll learn more about the specs too.
One source claims that it has a 6.5-inch screen, and we can take an educated guess that it will use a Snapdragon 855 chipset, but that’s about all we’ve heard specs-wise.
Google has announced an update for its Project Jacquard smart jacket that will sound an alarm if you're in danger of leaving your phone (or jacket) behind.
Google added a 'find your phone' feature last year, which works a little like a key tracker, letting you use a gesture on the jacket to start your phone ringing at full volume.
The new feature, Always Together, is an extension of this, triggering an alarm automatically whenever your garment and your handset are too far apart. If that happens. a notification will appear on your phone, and the jacket's tag lights up and vibrates.
Not only does this alert you if you're about to head out without your phone, it'll also let you know if you've accidentally left your $350 (about £275, AU$485) jacket hanging off the back of a restaurant chair.Arm signals
Project Jacquard, a collaboration between Google and Levi's, is designed with urban cyclists in mind. Rather than fumbling with their phone or trying to use voice commands on a noisy street, riders can change music and get directions by tapping and swiping on their sleeve.
The jacket first appeared at Google I/O 2016. A beta version of the garment was released a few months later, and it went on general sale in 2017 online and in selected Levi's stores.
Grandma's Spritches. Hand Buttersacks. Nutty Loispers "then Wholes". These are some of the wacky monikers that an AI system has given to cookies and biscuits after being 'fed' 1,228 classic recipes, and asked to rename them.
AI researcher Janelle Shane trained the machine to come up with these new cookie names, having carried out similar experiments in the past with metal band names, guinea pig names, and paint colors.
"The problem is that it doesn't know what any of these words mean – it's just picking letter combinations that seem likely to it."Anyone hungry?
So, the resulting names give us an insight into what human cookies 'sound' like to an AI network – and with creations like Canical Bear-Widded Nuts, Apricot Dream Moles, and Bars*, they don't exactly sound appealing.
Although the experiment was intended as a bit of fun, it does demonstrate the teething problems that AI technology must overcome in the future if it is to be further integrated into our everyday lives.
While it can predict sales, translate languages, power our smartphones, and control our smart homes admirably, it still has quite a way to go when it comes to 'sounding' convincingly human.
Now, who wants a delicious Sugar Person Sugar Mast?
Starting today, Amazon is trialling a new crowdsourcing program for its Alexa smart assistant - one that will look to users like you to fill in the gaps of its knowledge. (No pressure.)
The Alexa Answers program has begun inviting select customers to take part in the beta, which allows you to browse through unanswered questions on various topics - science, technology, trivia, and the like - and offer your two cents.
Those answers are then offered up to other users who can vote the suggestion up or down in order to rate its accuracy or helpfulness. There's no claim to fame for upvoted answers, sadly, but Alexa will let you know if its used "an Amazon customer" as a source.
There are naturally filters for keeping out profane language; there will always be those determined to muck around, though we imagine Alexa will be able to prevent 'unhelpful' users from submitting ever more answers.
- The best Alexa skills and commands: what to ask your new Echo speaker
For a smart assistant whose main use is in offering information to those who need it, Alexa sure can get things wrong.
Alexa uses a variety of sources for gathering information from across the web - via Bing searches, online dictionaries, or crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia - with the margins for error that entails.
The key thing to remember is that the internet is littered with mistakes and misinformation, and that inevitably trickles down to the answers users find on Google, Wikipedia, social media, and naturally AI like Alexa or Siri. Amazon already relies on human-sourced reviews for rating and advertising its products, so the Alexa Answers program is in some ways just a natural extension of that philosophy.
Whether adding another human element to the mix will make things better, or worse, will depend on how motivated users are to help.
- Best Amazon Alexa deals this Christmas 2018: this year's stocking filler?
Via The Verge
Founded in 1988 by two Czech students, Avast has grown into world-class security giant with over 1,700 people in 25 locations, serving more than 400 million users around the globe.
The company has proved its antivirus credentials by automatically protecting its users from many devastating real-world attacks, including WannaCry, BadRabbit and Petya. There was no re-engineering involved, no emergency updates required-- the software just did its job and kept its users safe.
In recent years Avast has further expanded its range by acquiring fellow Czech-based security company AVG, the popular VPN provider HideMyAss!, and CCleaner developer Piriform.
The company may be well known for its consumer-friendly free antivirus, then, but Avast now offers so much more. Whether you're looking for a handful of endpoint protection tools for a small business, or a managed security platform to cover a global enterprise, there's a solution for you here.Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus
Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus is Avast's top-of-the-range endpoint protection solution, a comprehensive security suite which uses multiple advanced shields to keep attackers firmly locked out of your network.
This starts with the core antivirus engine which scans every point of entry to your system - the applications you run, the files you download, the URLs you click and the email attachments you receive - to detect and block threats before they can do any harm.
Avast's business experience means the protection goes way beyond consumer antivirus apps. For example, a SharePoint module scans every file you upload and download, preventing infected documents from being shared across your organisation.
A powerful firewall monitors network traffic, intelligently blocking suspect connections. The module takes most of the key decisions on its own, so doesn't require any network expertise, although more experienced users can customise its operations to suit their needs.
There are multiple layers of protection to keep you safe online. An accurate spam and phishing filter prevents your employees from seeing dangerous links; if they do click a link elsewhere, its URL and certificate is scanned to ensure it's safe; and Avast's Real Site uses the company's own encrypted DNS system to ensure you're protected from fake websites.
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Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus isn't just about preventing and responding to attacks. It also bundles a host of valuable tools which can improve your business processes to help avoid future privacy and security risks.
An easy-to-use password manager can generate secure passwords, autofill login forms and sync passwords between devices, for instance (Windows, Mac, iOS and Android), greatly reducing the chance of accounts being hacked.
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The Wi-Fi Inspector looks for network vulnerabilities such as insecure router passwords, helping you find and close security holes before they can be exploited.
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Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus can run and work its security magic on Windows, Mac and Windows Server.
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We’re reaching a point where combustion engines can’t be made any more efficient or cleaner, and that’s why car makers are looking at alternate technologies to ensure an environmentally-friendly future. While some car manufacturers have gone down the route of full electric vehicles, Toyota doesn’t believe in investing all its resources into just one technology.
One particular technology that Toyota is committing itself to is Hydrogen Fuel Cells, which takes in hydrogen from a tank in the car and oxygen from the air outside to form a chemical reaction that generates electrodes to power the car. The resulting chemical reaction has only one waste product - clean water.
We were invited to the Toyota office in Dubai to experience all of this first-hand with the new Toyota Mirai which uses both hydrogen and electric power. Although the Toyota Mirai is a production car that is on the roads in Japan and parts of Europe, it’s still in a test phase in the UAE. Toyota is initially targeting government and the transportation sector where this technology makes more sense, rather than the retail consumer.
The Mirai can be filled up with hydrogen instead of petrol, and takes about as long to fill up as a standard fuel tank on a regular car. The current model of the car has a tank capacity of 4.5kg that, according to Toyota will allow about 500kms of driving on a single tank. It makes sense for Toyota to target the public transportation sector with the Mirai as you don’t need to wait half an hour for the car to charge which eats up into profits.
Another argument that Toyota is making against full-electric cars is that the battery powering such cars takes up the biggest cost, and has a lifetime of about a decade. Obviously a lot depends on conditions such as how often and how much you drive, as well as the climate of the country.
But it’s not just all electric cars that Mirai needs to compete against. Hybrids with combustion engines such as Toyota’s Camry can offer significant gains in terms of mileage- upto 26kms/litre which, judging by current hydrogen prices, provides double the range of what the Mirai can offer at similar costs. It’s obviously not as clean as Hydrogen but many businesses prioritize profit margins over eco friendliness.
Our experience of driving a Mirai wasn’t much different than driving a regular car, which is what Toyota was aiming for. The car is obviously much quieter, but not to the extent of a Tesla. It’s also nowhere near as powerful as a Tesla but our guess is that Toyota wasn’t going for the performance crown with the Mirai. That being said, it did have more torque than you’d expect.
A small screen in the car shows energy consumption or regeneration while you’re driving the car or braking. At slower speeds, we could see the car running purely on the battery but stepping on the accelerator showed the hydrogen fuel cell being utilized. Applying the brakes showed the battery recharging itself using kinetic energy - a standard affair in electric and hybrid cars.
Besides giving us the opportunity to drive the car, Toyota also demonstrated filling the car up at a hydrogen station which has been set up by Toyota for such purposes. The process of refuelling is similar to that for traditional cars – you open a flap on the side of the car and insert a nozzle to pump it full of hydrogen.
Toyota obviously has their work cut out for them and a very challenging task to have the infrastructure ready for hydrogen refueling. Besides the test station set up by Toyota, there isn’t any other station currently in the UAE. But as Toyota explained, the process of creating hydrogen fuel is easier for oil producing countries through the “fracking” process.
Whether hydrogen fuel cells manage to make a dent in the industry or not remains to be seen but it’s always good to have multiple technologies being looked at and worked on, so kudos to Toyota for taking the initiative.
The Honor View 20 has been officially confirmed ahead of its 'true' release (later in December for China, and January for the rest of the world) and we got to try out a couple of the new features.
Well, only one really, as the 48MP camera - easily the headline element of the announcement - was on show to try, with the rest of the phone locked away.
In terms of the design, the Honor View 20 was shrouded in a polystyrene sheath, so seeing the actual design was rather tough - although one key feature did stand out: the Honor View 20 will only have a single camera sensor.
That's right, the handset that's meant to embody the best that Honor can muster is only going to have a single sensor (if this is the final design, of course - it could be that this is just a demonstration unit, and nobody was able to confirm this).
If it is a single sensor, that would be something of a surprise, given Honor and parent company Huawei have been lobbing multiple cameras on the rear of the phones for years now.
The overall design of the phone looks fairly standard from Honor, with the same luminescent design on the rear shimmering away in the small cutouts we could make out.
The volume buttons and power key are located on the right-hand side of the phone, with simple slimline keys on offer. We can’t say much else about the phone, as even the effect of the All-View display was diminished somewhat by the fact it was locked away in a plastic prison.
It does look bezel-less, indeed, but that feeling has been diminished by the sheer volume of notched-up phones that are doing the rounds right now - the View 20 does move the technological advances in screen technology along, but it doesn’t feel seismic.
It will be interesting to see how the pinhole camera could get in the way of apps or movies - it’s small, sure (4.5mm as an opening, according to Honor) but at least the notch was shoved away to the side of the screen.
The quality of the 48MP sensor seems OK in the limited tests we had - zooming in on the small items used to show off the phone’s prowess was impressive enough, but nothing earth-shattering - hinting that there might still be some development work to do to improve things before the official launch and the phone goes on sale.
You can see that there's an impressive amount of zoom on offer here, although apparently the demo units we saw didn't extend as far as they will at release.
Even still, you can get pretty close with the image, although it's a touch grainy as you might expect.
We compared the View 20’s photography to that of the iPhone XS Max, and it was hard to discern any real difference at this point when looking at an optician’s chart.
There wasn’t much more to test here, as the phone was hidden away from us so much - but we’ll be waiting for a more in-depth look at the phone as soon as we can get our hands on it.
What we do know is that Honor is banking on the advanced image recognition that the brand has been putting together for its recent range of phones (including the impressive performance on the likes of the Huawei P20) so it might well be able to offset any loss in image quality with onboard smarts.Early thoughts
If the Honor View 20 had launched in January this year, it would have been a very strong contender for phone of the year, with loads of top-end tech shoved in. The All-View display and pinhole camera does look a lot cleaner than the notch, and the 48MP camera is innovative.
However, it’ll be a shame if it does only come with a single sensor - adding a monochrome option in there, at least, would help with low capabilities, which is one of the worries with this phone having so many pixels shoved in.
Is this going to herald the start of a new high-spec war with phone manufacturers? As long as it yields genuinely decent phones, and not specs for the sake of it, we’re excited about what could be coming.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday is now the precursor to the seasonal shopping season. With the increase in transactions comes an increase in fraud, which hardly surprises security professionals in retail and other relevant markets. But despite the marketing from vendors promising all the answers around combating holidays-inspired fraud and cybercrime, these campaigns hardly address the biggest challenges imposed upon retailers every single day.
The fact is that cybercrime is not seasonal. Certainly, there are more opportunities on which bad actors can capitalise during this time of year. Retailers, however, require intelligence that equips them with an ongoing decision advantage over all relevant threats and adversaries—not just those that peak during the holiday shopping season.Security is not a seasonal engagement
Most retailers anticipate and plan for the holiday season’s spike in cybercrime long before the inundation of holiday-centric campaigns even begins. It’s highly unlikely that these campaigns will suddenly convince retailers to stray from their existing strategies—many of which are time-tested, require intense preparation, and are based on ongoing research and analyses spanning years’ worth of holiday seasons.
Even among retailers that are seeking to work with third-party security or intelligence providers, most strive to establish long-term partnerships, not seasonal engagements. As a result, it can be easy for such retailers to overlook third-parties that might appear to deliver value for only two or three months out of the year. Regardless of the actual value a vendor or solution can deliver, any holiday-centric outreach efforts—particularly those launched during the holiday season—are likely to be perceived as neither timely nor relevant enough to be feasible for most retailers.FUD for sale during the holidays
Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) are heavily sprinkled throughout fraud-related campaigns from vendors targeting those in retail during the holidays; in fact, the campaigns often resemble the pattern of marketing that comes on the heels of large breach disclosures.
This approach compounds the stress most retailers are already facing at this time of year in warding off fraud and cybercrime. It’s also likely that those companies that have been stung by large-scale attacks and data leaks are in for another bout of naming-and-shaming and held up as examples of what not to do during the busy shopping season. For those who might already be facing an uptick in fraudulent purchases, the deluge of holiday fraud-centric content serves as little more than a harsh reminder of what they are already experiencing.Fraud is a year-round fight for retailers
These holiday-centric campaigns often focus heavily on fraud, which has long been considered one of the most persistent and dynamic threats to retailers. Many fraudsters are highly flexible and are known to continually adapt their tactics to circumvent new anti-fraud measures. Consequently, mitigating fraud effectively requires abundant subject-matter expertise, unfettered access to the proper tools and technologies, and substantial resources as part of a truly systemic and cross-functional strategy. It’s also not something that retailers are going to suddenly start doing better because they read an article that pitches vendor solutions or reiterates the heightened risk of fraud during the holidays.
Although the holiday season is upon us, it’s important to remember that security and intelligence professionals in the retail industry are concentrating on far more than just seasonal threats. Return fraud, for example, might peak between November and January, but that doesn’t mean retailers are not actively striving to combat other types of fraud year-round. As such, vendors seeking to generate interest and cultivate relationships with prospective customers should recognise that, regardless of season, retailers will always be susceptible to a broad spectrum of cyber and physical threats.
Rather than be dealt the usual barrage of campaigns touting various easy fixes to seasonal cybercrime, what retailers truly need is relevant, actionable intelligence that can help them gain a decision advantage over the threats and adversaries they face year-round—not just during the end of year holiday shopping season.
Josh Lefkowitz, Chief Executive Officer at Flashpoint
- Interested in protecting yourself online? Check out the best antivirus
Xiaomi claims that it has sold 700,000 units of the Poco F1 smartphone in India, and to celebrate, has announced a permanent price cut of Rs 1000, applicable on all variants of the device. The announcement came via company's Twitter handle yesterday.
The Poco F1 is touted to be Xiaomi’s most powerful offering in India, being the only one to run on Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 processor. It has been set up as a rival to the OnePlus 6T, which is priced at Rs 37,999 onwards.
Post-cut, the 6GB RAM base variant of the Poco F1 (with internal storage of 64GB) will be available for Rs 19,999. The other two variants- 6GB/128GB, and 8GB/256GB- will be priced at Rs 22,999 and Rs 27,999 respectively. The base variant also now tops the list of most powerful smartphones under Rs 20,000.
The Poco F1 is now the cheapest smartphone powered by the Snapdragon 845. For those unaware, it features a 6.18-inch full HD+notch display with 19:9 aspect ratio and 2246x1080 pixel resolution. At the back is a dual camera setup, with one 12MP Sony IMX363 sensor with dual LED flash, and another 5MP secondary Samdung sensor. The selfie camera features a 20MP sensor and support for IR face unlock. The device has a 4000mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support.
Features AND affordability: the case for a true rivalry with the OnePlus 6T just got stronger.
Things have been quiet on the Ben Affleck front since his appearance in Justice League last year, but now the star has returned with his first Netflix Original film, Triple Frontier.
Directed by J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year), the film follows a team of former US Special Forces operatives who plan to steal millions of dollars from one of the most dangerous drug cartels in South America.
Based on Triple Frontier's thrilling first trailer, which arrived today, it appears the team's plan quickly spirals out of control, leaving them to fend for their lives in hostile territory with no back up from Uncle Sam this time around.
Affleck leads a star-studded cast of actors in the film, including Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Pedro Pascal (Narcos) and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy).
Sure to be a hit with fans of Narcos and Sicario, Triple Frontier is scheduled to land in theaters and on Netflix in March 2019 – you can check out the film's trailer below.
Hey there party people - we're back once again, with the ill behavior, to buy our loved ones the things they'll actually enjoy.
You're here, clearly, for one thing: your friend / partner / parent / offspring are runners and you've got no goshdarn idea what to actually buy them because either you don't think you're good enough to know, or the idea of lacing up trainers and letting people SEE YOU run fills your very nights with terror.
Well, here's tip one: if you're sure you can't get them socks, you're mega wrong. We runners love socks, and the more expensive they are, generally, the more we'll love them. In fact, go nuts with all running gear - get the size right and we're jubilant that it's not slippers.
But perhaps you want to be a little more targeted, feel like you're getting them something they REALLY want. Have they been dropping hints about finally getting a running watch? Keep moaning about their headphones? These are the gifts to go for.
Or perhaps you've already forked out for their 'big present' and you're looking for some decent stocking fillers - I've got you covered there too.
Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list - when it comes to reviewing and ranking tech in my 'day job' we're always superbly thorough and compare many models.
THIS list, however, is made up of things I've tested out or would buy myself and can vouch for - most of it I've stress tested it and it's still going, so that's got to be a good thing, right?
I hate fitness trackers. They're just pointless - they need charging all the time, they give you data about your life you don't know what to do with... in short, they're gamifying things without a victory, where actual running watches do all that and so much more.
But the Moov Now was the first that I actually want to keep on my wrist - for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it has a six month battery life, so no need to charge. Secondly, while it does track steps and sleep you can 'activate' it to help you run faster, get fitter, do HIIT workouts and even monitor swimming through a clever app.
My main reason for loving it, however, is that it's got a brilliant cadence training program that forces you to learn to stride more quickly (and efficiently). If your running partner wants to get faster in races, tell them to use this for a few weeks and watch their times tumble.
I didn't want to put this in the list this year because, well, the Moov Now is a few years old and should have been superseded. You can't fault things that work though, and this is still a neat and inexpensive buy.
It's still number one in our list of best fitness trackers too - and while it might not stay there for long, it's still a cracking buy.
I really wanted to replace this from my list last year - but there's every reason to buy the Garmin Forerunner 235 watch. Firstly, while it's getting older (and older), the price is coming nicely down and the fact it's still working well is helping it remain front and center as a popular watch.
The tracking is accurate. You can get updates from your phone when you're running so you don't need to dig it out, and it even keeps your steps counted and sleep quality monitored too.
It comes with a heart rate monitor built in, but I'd still recommend buying a separate HRM strap as well as the wrist-mounted sensor can be prone to spitzing out at times.
This is a strong choice as a present for someone looking to make the upgrade to a 'proper' running watch - the Polar M430 is also definitely worth a look as an even cheaper option though.
I tried Zwift Running a little while ago, and while I found it a really engaging way to get over the mundanity of treadmills. Plonk an iPad in front of you on a treadmill (or run in front of a TV with Apple TV) and you’ll see your avatar following your speeds through a virtual world.
However, it was quite expensive to get into - even if you have an iPad already, you either need a compatible treadmill or a footpod from Stryd, which wasn't cheap.
Well, now Zwift has launched its own, and for $29.99 (around £25 / AU$40) you’re getting speed and distance data, and a calibration directly set up for the Zwift experience.
I’ve not tried it myself yet, but I’m definitely going to be picking one up in the new year for when I’m bored senseless on a treadmill and it’s too icy to step outside.
This is a no-brainer for me: yes, it’s expensive but at the same time it’s an indispensable part of my running arsenal. The vibration can go to crazy-strong levels, and it honestly feels like someone gets inside your tired muscles and washes them clean after - check out my more in-depth look to see just how enamored I am.
Garmin did a really great thing this year: added Spotify to its newer running watches. This was previously only available on the ‘only so-so for running’ Samsung Gear S3 or Gear Sport, or the Apple Watch if you have an Apple Music subscription.
Now, it’s on a ‘proper’ running watch with the Garmin series - the Fenix 5 Plus and 645 Music are the two with the internal capacity to store tunes, and I’ve gone for the former simply because the latter didn’t impress me on battery life in my heavy testing.
The Fenix 5 Plus is a bit overkill (plus it's heavy and rather expensive) for most users though, so while it’s frickin’ awesome to be able to ditch the phone and still be able to track technical interval sessions with ease, I’m hoping that for 2019’s gift guide I’m going to have something more affordable to recommend.
The first versions of these headphones were something that I lauded a few years ago when I put them on the for the first time: the fit meant that, finally, I had some Bluetooth headphones that would not fall out.
These upgraded versions are very much worth buying for the runner in your life: they’ve got the same strong fit, but also have upgraded sound quality, more tactile buttons for skpping tracks (a godsend when you’re trying to sprint through a session and need to jump to a more energetic song) and voice information on connection and battery life where previously it was just beeps.
A little more expensive, yes, but there’s also a notable improvement in sound quality, particularly in the bass elements.
We all need a phone as runners, but your intended giftee probably already has a smartphone and you're not willing to buy them a new handset just to let them run better.
However, this phone from Nokia is a strong choice for two reasons: firstly, it's got a microSD card slot so you can load it up with music from that dusty old MP3 selection (sadly this isn't Spotify compatible), and with monster battery life you'll easily be able to get through any distance of run without it losing charge.
Secondly, it's pretty darn cheap as you can see with the prices below - yes, it's a secondary phone, but it'll also be a great festival / leave in the car / crap, my iPhone is out of battery handset to have around.
Thirdly, it's a proper unit - accidentally chuck this onto a path mid run and you won't need to worry about it being instantly covered in smashes.
I’m a creature of habit - I’ve been rocking up to Parkruns for a few years now wearing an assortment of superhero running tops, and I still love it now.
The newer versions for this year are out, but there are loads to choose from and will always see you stand out in a race (people get bored of calling out names, but they’ll always cheer for a chap in a Spiderman top at mile 22 of a marathon).
I used the Bowflex SelectTech 560 models for a little while, and although they're really handy to have in the house, the fact these models were Bluetooth enabled seemed rather pointless, as the rep counting just didn't really work (nor did I find I needed it).
But I was impressed with the form and functionality, so if your runner has a gym membership simply to lift weights here and there, variable dumbbells that let you select a different weight with a quick twist are a real win - and you can do 95% of the workouts you get in the gym with little space and travel needed. An expensive choice but an easy win.
It looks like a belt. It kind of is. But it's a perfect stocking filler - it's a band that flips around your waist to hold your phone, keys and cards.
Previously I used the Running Buddy, a magnetic purse that clipped onto your shorts really strongly, but could pull them down if you ran too fast. Don't ask how I know that*.
The Flipbelt is so unobtrusive I forget it's there half the time - you can slip a phone in with ease, there's a clip for keys and you can even buy running water bottles to slip in as well.
*(on an unrelated note, maybe buy them some shorts with a strong drawstring.
- Gareth Beavis is TechRadar's Running Man of Tech, testing the latest in fitness technology in a never-ending quest to run further and faster and bringing you the results in a weekly column.
- If you want to say hi, he's @superbeav on Twitter
- You can see his stumblings on Strava
- And for more data, follow him on Smashrun - if you want to sign up, please use this link (once you see the service, you'll work out why...)
- And if you want to get the full lowdown on the latest and greatest running tech, read the rest of the Running Man of Tech story here