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Dell's Black Friday in July Mega Deals end today with huge £420 price cut for the XPS 13

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 02:01

Dell's Black Friday in July event runs all month, but today is the last day of its "Mega Deals" promotion – but it's ending in style by knocking an incredible £420 off the Dell XPS 13 (2019), which in our view is the best laptop money can buy right now.

That drops the price of Dell's flagship ultrabook to £999 – which is easily one of the best prices we've seen for the new laptop.

If that's still a bit too expensive, then don't worry, as Dell has some other compelling deals on more affordable laptops as well.

These deals end 11:59 tonight, July 19, and as we mentioned above, today marks the end of Dell's Mega Sales event – so don't hang around if you see a deal you like, as this could be your last chance!

Categories: Tech News

Google to plug Chrome loophole that exposes Incognito status to sites

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 22:25

In Google’s latest blog post, the tech giant has promised to put and end to a loophole in its Chrome web browser that compromised its users' privacy when using its ‘Incognito’ private browsing mode.

Currently, websites are able to detect when a user is browsing in Incognito Mode by scanning for the presence of Chrome’s Filesystem API (Application Programming Interface), which is disabled in this mode in order for the user’s browsing activity not to leave traces on their device.

A website can assume the user is browsing in Incognito Mode if it receives an error message when checking for the availability of this API. In Chrome 76, which is slated for release on July 30, Google promises that sites scanning for the API will no longer receive the error message.

Google claims it “wants you to be able to access the web privately, with the assurance that your choice to do so is private as well”, citing examples of political oppression and domestic abuse as valid reasons for wanting to privately browse the web.

Bypassing paywalls

As a byproduct of this modification to Chrome’s Incognito Mode, Google acknowledges that sites that use a metered paywall – those offering a finite amount of free articles before having to subscribe, for instance – will no longer be able to detect when people are circumventing the block via private browsing.

“Our News teams support sites with meter strategies and recognize the goal of reducing meter circumvention, however any approach based on private browsing detection undermines the principles of Incognito Mode. We remain open to exploring solutions that are consistent with user trust and private browsing principles.”

Porn sites and what they know about you

While this change may make it trickier for sites to know when you are indeed using Incognito Mode, it certainly doesn’t stop them continuing to track your usage when you do so.

The splash page for Chrome’s Incognito Mode specifically states that, while “other people who use this device won’t see your activity”, it “might still be visible to websites that you visit, your employer or school, and your internet service provider”.

For instance, a recent report jointly published by Microsoft Research, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania has found that a whopping 93% of the 22,484 pornography websites they analyzed were collecting user data and leaking it to third party data brokers.

Perhaps more shockingly, the report found that 45% of the studied sites used the visited sites to build a profile of the user’s gender, sexual identity and preferences which, for users in certain political environments, could be incredibly dangerous.

If you’re looking to hide your browsing habits from the sites you visit as well as the devices you browse on, you’ll need to go further than Chrome’s Incognito Mode. Services such as Tor and its Firefox-based browser offer a secure alternative, as does Opera’s integrated VPN.

Categories: Tech News

The Fujinon GF 50mm f/3.5 R is Fujifilm's most compact pancake lens yet

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 21:38

Measuring in at just 84 x 48mm and weighing only 335g, the new Fujinon 50mm f/3.5mm R is now Fujifilm’s most compact and lightweight pancake lens yet. 

When paired with the new GFX 100 medium format snapper, the lens is equivalent to 40mm (35mm equivalent) due to the camera’s crop factor, making it ideal for street photography. Moreover, the lens will fit so snuggly against the body of the GFX 100 that you’ll barely even know it’s there.

You won't notice the GF 50mm f/3.5mm R when using the GFX 100

This tiny addition to the GF range boasts nine elements – including one aspherical glass – arranged in six groups, and also features nine aperture blades for those blurry bokeh backgrounds.

Another appealing feature of the GF 50mm f/3.5mm R is its low focus breathing (that is smooth transition as your focal distance changes), making it a prime option for videography as well, especially when paired with the GFX 100’s uncropped 4K capabilities.

The new pancake lens was launched alongside the XF 16-80mm f/4 R, and like its companion, the 50mm is also dust- and weather-resistant.

It will be available for purchase from September 2019 and will set you back $1,000 in the US, £949 in the UK and AU$1,649 Down Under.

Categories: Tech News

Fujifilm's new XF 16-80mm f/4 R comes with a whopping six stops of stabilization

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 20:37

While images of the lens leaked online a day before the official launch, Fujifilm has taken the wraps off the new XF 16-80mm f/4 R OIS WR lens, and it seems this optic could be one of the best Fujinon lenses yet.

Weighing in at just 440g, the lens is 40% lighter than a similar lens for a full-frame camera, according to Fujifilm. There’s also 5x zoom, making it an ideal all-rounder. 

However, the headline feature for the XF 16-80mm f/4 R is its staggering six stops of image stabilization. That makes it perfect for low-light conditions, when the need for long shutter speeds becomes priority and camera shake is a massive problem.

Fujinon XF 16-80mm f/4 R on the Fujifilm X-T3 will add 6 stops of stabilization 

You won’t need to worry about image quality either. There’s 16 elements in 12 groups within this compact lens, including one ED (extra-low dispersion) glass that reduces field curvature and spherical aberration. Meaning your images will look sharp throughout the frame, even while focusing as close as 35mm away from your subject.

The lens has an effective focal range of 24-120mm due to the crop factor of the X-series cameras, with an effective depth of field of f/6. The aperture is also constant, so performance won’t change over the entire zoom range.

The lens is also dust- and moisture-resistant, so if you're snapping it onto weather-sealed cameras like the Fujifilm X-T30 or the X-T3 – which don’t have built-in image stabilization themselves – you’ll get a great kit that’s suitable for shooting in almost any environment.

The XF 16-80mm f/4 R will be available from September 2019 carrying a price tag of $799.95 / £769 / AU$1,449.

Categories: Tech News

Patent shows Sony’s PSVR 2 could have eye-tracking

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:45

 Leaks and patents have strongly hinted that Sony’s PS5 may be accompanied by an improved PSVR 2 headset, either at launch or later - and a new patent just made public suggest it could track eye movement and head motion.

Image credit: Sony/USPTO


What will that do for VR? According to one Sony Interactive Entertainment patent (image above), it will enhance immersion by refining what each eye sees - aka ‘parallax images’ - for improved stereoscopic depth. Sony is also developing tech to keep those images relative when you rotate/tilt your head.

But there are other possibilities for eye-tracking in VR, including alternative control methods and/or interface options - which would be a great accessibility option for disabled gamers.

Eye-tracking: not just in PSVR?

VR isn’t the only place Sony is investigating eye-tracking. 

Another patent lays out the specifics of an eye-tracking device that could be a plain camera - but given that the context of the patent is about “methods for returning accurate and relevant search results on an online platform,” it’s possible that the company could be working on a greater eye-tracking interface strategy among its other hardware.

Like, say, a PlayStation Move successor? Per the patent: “A range camera may instead be used with the present invention to capture gestures made by the user and is capable of facial recognition.”

And those applications could go beyond console peripherals: the connecting device could be “a general-purpose computer, a set-top box, or a hand-held gaming device.”

Of course, these are just patented concepts that may take years to implement into future devices like the next PSVR - if they're implemented at all.

  • What else is coming in the PSVR 2? Here's all we know
Categories: Tech News

Overclocked AMD Navi graphics cards with dual-fan designs are almost here

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 14:11

Aftermarket components maker ASRock has pointed out new AMD Navi-based graphics cards with dual-fan designs and out-of-the-box overclocking, HotHardware reports. And, MSI has teased its own design, also according to HotHardware.

AMD's Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT graphics cards are an affordable pair of high-power hardware, but were limited to blower-style designs and factory clock speeds at launch (except the Anniversary Edition). Clearly, that's changing soon.

We learned previously that AMD's add-in-board partners would release new designs in August, and the hope was that some of those new graphics cards would include different cooling solutions. 

The blower-style design seen on AMD's reference cards may offer consistent cooling in different setups, but that doesn't mean it's powerful cooling. We saw temperatures for the Radeon RX 5700 XT hit 81 degrees Celsius in our testing of the card. Overclocking would likely see the temperatures go even higher.

Enter partners

AMD's add-in-board partners can change things up. ASRock, for instance, will swap out the blower for dual fans in its Challenger series. In the case of the RX 5700 XT Challenger OC, this will let ASRock bump up some of the speeds a little. It will offer a base clock of 1,650MHz, game clock of 1,795MHz, and boost clock of 1,905MHz. That compares to the reference cards 1,605/1,755/1,905MHz.

MSI's Mech OC version of the new Navi cards don't have much in the way of details yet, but they'll similarly have dual fans and overclocking. Both cards should should arrive in the latter half of August.

This is good news for AMD fans that want to get the new RX 5700 or RX 5700 XT but don't want to get stuck with the current versions. While we don't see the peak clock speed increased, higher base clocks should offer across-the-board improvements. 

And, the switch in designs may eventually let some board partners offer cards that are even cheaper than the reference models from AMD. That would be a further drop in addition to the one AMD already pulled on Nvidia after the announcement of the RTX Super graphics cards.

Be on the lookout for more new designs from the likes of Asus, Gigabyte, EVGA, and plenty more soon.

Categories: Tech News

Borderlands is free to play this weekend, ahead of Borderlands 3's release

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 13:47

Attention all vault hunters! Borderlands: Game of the Year edition is free to play this weekend for those with Xbox Live Gold, ahead of the release of Borderlands 3 in September.

From July 18 to July 21, those with an Xbox Live Gold subscription can play Borderlands: Game of the Year edition for free on Xbox One. 

This special edition sees the original Xbox 360 game enhanced to Ultra HD and includes all four add-on packs.

In addition, the GOTY edition includes local co-op support for up to four players on a single console and a mini-map – neither of which were available in the original version.

Check out the trailer below:

Borderlands: GOTY edition is only free to play for the set period, but if you decide you want to purchase the full game after that then you get 50% off the full price.

Even better, all your save data will transfer across to the full game.

Borderlands 3 is due for release on September 13 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

Categories: Tech News

Gears 5 is the 'largest Gears to date', according to The Coalition

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 12:51

We've been waiting a long time for Gears 5 to release and, according to developer The Coalition, the wait is going to be worth it.

In an interview with Game Informer, The Coalition's multiplayer design director Ryan Cleven revealed the next installation in the Gears of War franchise is going to be the biggest we've seen yet, primarily due to its wide and diverse range of modes. 

"Gears 5 is the largest Gears of War to date," Cleven said. "It's the largest campaign ever made, the largest PvE ever made, the largest versus ever made."

This isn't particularly surprising considering the vast number of single and multiplayer modes Gears 5 is bringing with it: Campaign, Escape, Horde, Arcade, Tour of Duty, Bootcamp, Escalation, King of the Hill, Arms Race, Dodgeball, Execution, Guardian, Team Deathmatch and Warzone. And, those are just some of the ones we know about at launch.

In addition, Gears 5 will feature new map-building and sharing tools which will keep players busy for hours on end. 

Can't wait?

Can't wait to get your hands on Gears 5's multiplayer modes? Well, you're in luck. The Coalition has confirmed that it will be hosting technical test sessions for some of Gears 5’s Versus multiplayer modes in July. 

These tests will take place across two sessions so if you can’t make one, be sure to block out your calendar for the other. The first session will run from July 19 until July 22, while the second will run from July 26 until July 29. 

Gears 5 will release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on September 10, 2019. 

Categories: Tech News

.cloud domains: a name that’s made for fame

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 12:42

Google, Facebook, Wholefoods, Virgin. Global fame might not be the end goal for all of us, but when it comes to naming your company or product, and choosing your domain name, there’s pressure to get it right. 

Not only will the right name resonate well with potential customers, it’s also an opportunity to show what your company represents. Furthermore, name recognition and a consistent brand experience will build trust with customers and draw in prospective customers.

As a result, choosing your company name isn’t something that should be taken lightly. With new businesses entering the market every day, and the UK claiming a new business “birth rate” of over 10% per year, how can you ensure you select the correct name?

This question is no stranger for .Cloud, the smart domain for modern business. Based on extensive experience with our customers, which are often new businesses, let us offer you a couple of tips so you can start your business off on the right foot.

Before diving into the more complex aspects of choosing a name, it’s important to get the basics right.

Domain name basics

Most potential customers will hear your business name before they know anything about your products and services. You want to avoid difficult names to spell, pronounce, explain or remember. In most cases, keeping your name short and memorable and avoiding complexity is best. 

Of course, there are always exceptions and reasons to break the rules, and if you do, weigh in the benefits and disadvantages. Keep in mind that dropping letters or using odd spellings can be tricky sometimes for your audience to remember and find you online, especially at the beginning when you are building up your online presence. 

You also want to avoid being too local, you need a name that grows with you. Often times, customers go with regional or country specific domain names and as they expand into new territories, they realize they need a more global sounding domain name. If you know from the beginning that your audience could potentially be global, choose a domain to match like .com or .cloud.

For many modern businesses, the domain name is the front door. People see your business name and domain name in the search results, online ads, and social media. You have seconds to capture their attention, so think about your name in this context. What does it say about you? Is it interesting and creative? Names that are too generic and boring might drive your audience away. 

Above all, choose a name that you absolutely love. This is your chance to be creative and pick a lasting name. Take the time to explore the options.

“Name”-storm

Perhaps you already have a name or idea in mind or maybe you don’t know where to start. Start by writing down all the ideas you have for your business. Next, turn to Google to research keyword suggestions, trends and popularity. 

There are also plenty of online tools to help you research, if you feel stuck. You will find a great resource in dictionaries, thesauruses and translators. Taking it a step further, you could use OneLook for example, which will let you match keywords with short phrases. Moby Thesaurus on the other hand will allow you to find synonyms and word associations. These tools will help you make your idea come to life.

Also, don’t underestimate baby name generators! Using interesting first names for companies and startups is becoming more and more popular – it might be the best match for you.  

Once an initial name is determined, it’s important to vet and secure it. Think about evaluating cultural sensitivity, trademarks and competition. Additionally, do an online check to see if corresponding domain names are available for your business name, as well as on social channels. It’s important to do this research so you can create a strong and consistent online presence. 

Be creative with new domain choices

These days there are many more choices with domain names. In the past several years many new domain extensions became available such as .cloud, .shop and .design. These new domains offer you a chance to be more creative, bold and modern with your domain name. Also, you can create a short and impactful domain name with two keywords, for example united.cloud.

Finally, after narrowing down your choices, we recommend getting feedback from your trusted advisors. We recommend asking your business partners, perhaps staff and maybe even a few of your customers what they think. Their feedback will show whether your name conveys the intended message, if it’s memorable and if it evokes a sense of trust.

If all these steps are confirmed, you have found your name! Don’t forget to register your preferred domain name so your business can have its place on the internet.

A name that fosters trust

There are some very important steps involved with choosing the right name, and taking your time upfront will pay off in the long run. Your name is your identity, and your domain name is your digital identity. 

They are both crucial for successful branding. Furthermore, as a new company, building trust with partners and customers is the key to becoming successful – especially as you will have to compete with already established brands. As a challenger, snapping the attention of the audience and creating a compelling story for your product is the foundation for building trust.

Your company is unique and your name should be too. Naming your company, and choosing a modern domain name is one way to be unique and memorable. Take your time to review the options and test whether your name evokes the right ideas.


Mou Mukherjee is the Head of Registry Services at .Cloud

Categories: Tech News

BT sells iconic London HQ tower for £210m

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 12:33

BT has agreed the sale of its central London headquarters to a private equity firm as it continues its restructuring programme.

Orion Capital Managers will acquire BT Centre for almost £210 million and has agreed to lease the 300,000 square foot office building for a period of 30 months while the company moves to a new headquarters in the capital.

BT HQ

A new site has yet to be confirmed, but BT has said details will be made available shortly.

The restructuring programme was announced by former CEO Gavin Patterson last year and will see 13,000 jobs cut, mainly in back office and middle management roles, and a move to base its operations at 30 sites around the UK.

It is hoped the changes will save £1.3 billion, allow the more streamlined company to react more rapidly to market trends, and means it can get closer to customers. There will be fewer leadership roles with greater responsibilities and more jobs will be created in engineering and customer service.

BT plans to invest up to £3.7 billion a year in its infrastructure as Openreach continues with the rollout of fibre to the premise (FTTP) EE presses ahead with its 5G deployment. BT believes it can be a leader in the field of converged networks that integrate fixed, mobile and wireless connectivity to deliver new experiences for businesses and consumers.

Categories: Tech News

Best waterproof speakers 2019: 10 outdoor speakers for any budget

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 12:25

Take it from us, if you're planning on spending a lot of time at the pool or beach this summer – or listening to music anywhere outdoors – you're going to want a waterproof speaker.

While no one ever really intends to get their portable speakers wet, accidents and bad weather can happen, and when it does the last thing you're going to want to worry about is whether or not your speaker still works when it's been left out of doors.

Thankfully, that's why there are a number of IP67 speakers out there, so even if you're not planning on taking a swim with a Bluetooth speaker strapped to your back, you're still going to love the peace of mind that a waterproof speaker can bring, which is why we've gathered up the best ones for you.

Our aim here is to help you get the most for your money. We've tested a not-so-insignificant amount of portable speakers in our time, and have found a handful that can resist the wonders (and terrors) of the elements. Stick with us and we'll be sure to find an outdoor speaker that works for your budget and requirements.

What is a waterproof (or water-resistant) speaker?

While waterproof and water-resistant aren't synonymous, they roughly translate to "water won't ruin it". 

Waterproof is the better of the two, as it usually carries an IP67 rating that means it can withstand to float in around a meter of water for a half-hour before it bites the dust. 

Water-resistant, on the other hand, means it could survive a splash or two, but it's not the kind of thing you'd just want to casually throw in the pool.

Of course waterproofing isn't the only thing we looked for when picking out this list of top portable speakers. We also considered factors such as sound quality, price and feature set, all of which helped establish a set of criteria that we could measure all speakers against. What you see below is the result of that effort – our definitive list of the 10 best wireless portable waterproof speakers.

Outdoor speakers FAQ: quick questions answered
  • Can you put an indoor speaker outside? It's possible, depending on the type of power output. A wireless speaker can be put anywhere, providing it's near enough to its source device – smartphone, computer, or otherwise. Keep in mind indoor speakers won't usually be waterproof, though.
  • What's a good wattage for outdoor speakers? 5W might be suitable for a quiet picnic, but you'll want more for a bustling BBQ or party out of doors. For comparison, most smart TVs come with maximum 10W speakers.
  • How many outdoor speakers do I need? This depends on the volume of the device and where you're putting it. For covering various spots around a garden or yard, you may want several.
The best waterproof speakers of 2019

Image Credit: Ultimate Ears

The original UE Wonderboom has been at the top of our best outdoor speaker list since its debut and for good reason: It’s rugged, plays louder than its diminutive sound suggests, and could be paired to other UE Wonderboom speakers to amplify sound. And although the UE Wonderboom 2 looks nearly identical to the original, Ultimate Ears packed in a slew of upgrades that make the Wonderboom 2 even better, like the increased battery life (up 30% compared to the original), better bass response, and the new Outdoor Boost feature that helps the speaker get even louder than before.

Combined, these seemingly minor upgrades not only keep the UE Wonderboom 2 on our list of the best outdoor speakers for another year, but they help to make it one of the best portable speakers you can buy period.  

Read the full review: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2

Image credit: Denon

If you want a waterproof speaker that doesn't look like a waterproof speaker, get the Denon Envaya DSB-250BT.

It'll fit into a classy living room but has IP67 water resistance, letting it withstand a full-on dunk. This is also the best-sounding speaker of its size, with meaty bass and audio balance you might expect from a hifi master like Denon. There's an Envaya Mini if you want something smaller, too.

Any complaints? To make the water resistance work, the speaker has rubbery panels instead of clicky buttons, and they aren't half hard to depress sometimes. But if that isn't a minor quibble, what is?

Read the full review: Denon Envaya

Image credit: JBL

The JBL Charge 4 may seem like a boring update on paper, but it’s still one of the best outdoor speakers around. For the money, you get a speaker that sound great, is tough as nails, acts as a charger for your phone, and lasts all day.

For the money, the JBL Charge 4 is a definite no-brainer. For just $150 (£160, AU$200), you get a speaker that lasts all day, sounds great, can put up with all kinds of abuse, and tops your phone up in a pinch. Yes, there are better sounding speakers but you’ll have to spend much more money. (One of our favorite speakers, the UE Megaboom 3, sounds worse and costs more money.) 

Read the full review: JBL Charge 4

Image credit: Anker

You might not have ever heard of Anker before, but it's sweeping Amazon as one of the highest-rated electronics manufacturers. 

Its flagship waterproof speaker, the Anker Soundcore Flare, combines the best features of its competitors into an affordable package that’s tough to beat. For the price, the Flare offers good sound, a tough waterproof build and excellent user experience. The LED light show is a bit of a gimmick, sure, but it's certainly fun and can be disabled entirely. While other outdoor speakers may sound better, you’re going to have to spend much more money.

Read the full review: Anker Soundcore Flare

Image credit: Ultimate Ears

The UE Boom 3 is one of the best outdoor speakers money can buy in 2019. This is a speaker that can get loud and not distort at higher volumes; be light enough to carry on the move but remain durable enough to tumble in a bag unprotected. 

It's waterproof as well as dust-proof, and  has a one-touch mix button that lets you pull up your favorite playlists without needing to pick up your smartphone. 

There are certainly more detailed speakers out there (see: Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin down below), but at a price that's relatively affordable to all, the UE Boom 3 hits all the right notes for the third year in a row. 

Read the full review: UE Boom 3

Image credit: TechRadar

If you still don’t know about Fugoo, you’re certainly missing out on some of the best outdoor speakers in the world. The Fugoo Style not only offers the longest battery life of any speaker on this list (40 hours!), but it also comes in at a tiny one pound.

Fugoo’s design philosophy is to offer different ‘jackets’ (Style, Tough or Sport) to fit around its ‘core’ speaker to fit different styles. The Fugoo Style waterproof speaker offers a great blend of size, sound fidelity and battery life for an affordable price.

Read the full review: Fugoo Style

  • This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the UE Wonderboom 

Image credit: Ultimate Ears

The UE Megablast is at the very peak of Ultimate Ears’ line of waterproof speakers. Its larger size means that the Megablast can get loud and can last up to 20 hours at a sensible volume.

Bass is stronger and richer than its smaller UE Boom 3 and Wonderboom 2 brothers, and this is the speaker for anybody who wants to really blare their music at a party. For people who want to save some cash, however, the other Ultimate Ears speakers cost much less and sound nearly as good. Still, it's not a bad option if you want a personal assistant with you at the beach.

Read the full review: Ultimate Ears Megablast

Image credit: JBL

In terms of sheer audio prowess, the JBL Boombox was a pleasant surprise – it's a monstrous outdoor speaker that not only gets loud, but stays pretty crisp when pumping the volume. It’s heavy, and not the easiest thing to carry around, but it’s rugged enough to handle any pool or tailgate party.

That said, we can’t recommend the Boombox as a speaker for the home. You can find comparable sound in form factors that take up less real estate, but if your plan is to hit whatever patio, pool, beach or tailgate party you can find, then this one should be in the running to play the tunes.

Read the full review: JBL Boombox

Image credit: Tribit

If you believe the old adage about getting what you pay for, you might not expect much from the Tribit XSound Go’s sound quality. Thankfully, that adage has never been less applicable: the speaker gets loud enough to fill up a medium-sized room, and at full volume, there’s only a little distortion on the highs.

Honestly, the Tribit XSound Go shouldn’t sound this good for the price, but it does. The speaker impressed with balanced sound, is near distortion-free at high volumes, and lasts and incredible 20+ hours of playtime at medium volume. Plus, the speaker is IPX7 water and dust resistant so it’ll put up with a day at the beach or pool without a problem. While it’s design may be forgettable, you won’t care once you hear how good the XSound Go sounds.  

Read the full review: Tribit XSound Go

Image credit: Braven

Last on our list is the Braven Stryde 360 that, in all fairness, is a solid outdoor speaker that is average in just about every way. Sound quality is good but the speaker struggles with bass response. Battery life is an average 12 hours and its design doesn’t particularly stand out. For the price, there are better options - see: any of the speakers above - but if you've gotten this far and still haven't found what you're looking for, the Braven could be it.

Read the full review: Braven Stryde 360

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the UE Roll 2 
Categories: Tech News

Why Microsoft could be dropping the ball on software piracy

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:54

Search for “cheap microsoft office” on Bing, Microsoft’s own search engine and you might be surprised to see what gets displayed. Outside the usual Microsoft adverts and search results are a bunch of websites all vying for your attention.

An advert pointing to Getmsoffice.com also offers a direct download button to Softwarekeep and is the most prominent one above the fold. The second organic result on the SERP (search engine results page) is for a website called softwareonlinedeal.com, the fourth is softwareproworld.com.

(Image credit: Future/Desire Athow)

The common denominator of these websites? They all sell Microsoft Office for cheap, absurdly cheap. Softwareonlinedeal sells Microsoft Office Professional 2019 for $189.99 for a download and product key. Microsoft sells it online for $439.99 – that’s a near 57% discount.

But there’s even better (or worse depending where you stand). TechRadar has been able to find a working copy of Microsoft Office 365 for five devices and 5TB for Mac and PC for a grand total of £1.35 (about $1.68). In comparison, Office 365 Home with six users and 1TB storage each costs $99.99 per year; that’s a near 100% discount given the fact that you’re provided with a lifetime subscription; one that doesn’t expire.

At the time of writing, the vendor claimed to have sold more than 50,000 keys, although likely to have been under several accounts (the vendor we found had only about 540 keys available with less than 100 positive feedback registered).

You are provided with a login, password and sign-in URL via eBay’s message system. We were able to login and download Microsoft Office from what appeared to be the genuine backend of an Office 365 Education account (Office 365 A1 Plus for students).

Office is not the only Microsoft product that gets incredible discounts. We bought a Windows 10 Professional license key for £1; you get a key and a Google Drive link to download the right ISO. We didn’t download or install it but given that the vendor had plenty of good feedback, it's likely that it would have been a positive experience. You can even contact the seller by WhatsApp.

(Image credit: Future/Desire Athow)

Ebay has, at the time of writing, hundreds of listings for extremely cheap Microsoft Office and Windows 10 licenses, openly available for sale. Clearly, this is piracy at an industrial scale that cost Microsoft tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Microsoft’s stance on this is clear; “With the exception of Product Key Cards distributed with Certificates of Authenticity (COA’s), Microsoft does not distribute products keys as standalone products. If you see a listing on an auction site, online classified ad, or other online page advertising product keys, it’s a good indication that these keys are likely stolen or counterfeit”, says the relevant Microsoft page.

When we reached out to Microsoft’s PR team with our findings, the response was as follows: “We encourage customers to purchase genuine Windows and Office 365 from Microsoft or from one of our trusted partners. According to industry experts, use of pirated software, including non-genuine Windows and Office 365, results in a higher risk of malware, fraud public exposure of personal information, and a higher risk for poor performance or feature malfunctions.”

That is a less aggressive tone compared to the Microsoft of yesteryear that talked of the billions of dollars of potential revenue lost to piracy. What has changed then?

A new philosophy

Microsoft has matured after enduring some of its toughest years during the Ballmer years. Under the stewardship of Satya Nadella, the company regained a sense of purpose after a short mid-life crisis and emerged as a very different, more accommodating company. Integrating a Linux kernel into Windows 10 or embracing Android like its own operating system would have been seen as acts of heresy only a few years ago, and yet they happened.

Under this new CEO, hell froze several times while the company’s share prices rose from $37.50 to almost $138, becoming the only company with a trillion dollar market share and, perhaps more importantly, untarnished by the privacy morass that has proved to be more than a spot of bother for the GAFA quartet (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon).

Ironically, Microsoft is where it is because it failed to come up with a real alternative to Google’s Android and had to double down on businesses, public sector and enterprises. Not having to make money selling your user data was a powerful catalyst and a force of change for Microsoft. For the better, in the hindsight.

Nadella’s promotion - he was the Executive Vice-President of Cloud and Enterprise group - also meant that Microsoft’s transformation into a services-first company was only going to accelerate.

(Image credit: Shutterstock.com)

With business and the cloud as the absolute priorities, one might argue that software piracy amongst consumers was considered as being of lesser importance. We cannot and will probably never be able to prove this however, there are some hard-to-ignore evidences on which our conclusions are based.

Software piracy, as a theme, is seldom mentioned on Microsoft’s own website. The last major content piece on counterfeit software and fraudulent subscriptions dates from April 2018 and mentions the tens of thousands of people that report such practices to Microsoft every year.

Important anti-piracy documents no longer exist; Microsoft has abandoned initiatives such as play it safe, a global initiative launched in 2013 to bring awareness to issues related to software piracy and closed its intellectual property crimes newsroom.

It descends into the farcical though once you actually try to report counterfeit software on Microsoft’s website. The de-facto page is this one which appears in the 2018 blog post mentioned above. A quick look at what you can report leaves the astute observer with no doubt as to how old that page is.

(Image credit: Future/Desire Athow)

The newest operating system mentioned there is Windows 8, which is two generations old. Ditto for Windows Server and Office (both from 2012). No mention of Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Office 2016 and other newer products. That is perhaps the most striking example of Microsoft’s apparently sloppy approach to tackling software piracy. But is it all bad?

When software is no longer software

Microsoft built its success on lines of codes stored locally but it is building its future on lines of code secured in data centers. The concept of software piracy is fast becoming as obsolete as the concept of using a piece of software without connectivity. Microsoft is not alone in doing that; software-as-a-service or subscription is fuelling the growth of Adobe, Bitdefender and the likes.

Perpetual software licenses will likely be an anachronism within a decade and perhaps, no proof is more powerful than the vanishing search volume for the word “crackz” which refers to software used to crack copyright protected software. By 2014, a decade after the term reached its peak, it had all but disappeared. SaaS is subscription and you can’t crack that.

There’s a massive loophole though, especially when it comes to Microsoft software. Windows 10 licenses - essentially a string of alphanumeric characters - are widely available, more often than not because businesses purchased computers that are then decommissioned (although there’s a myriad of other reasons - MSDN/OEM/Volume Key).

They will all, sooner or later, have to contact Microsoft servers for activation and to get features or security updates. The same goes for Microsoft Office 365; the ones on sale are often educational licenses that are usually free in the UK and in the US if you are a student or have children who attend school. Vendors selling these licenses are openly flouting the terms and conditions much to the chagrin of legitimate Microsoft resellers.

Perversely, it creates confusion amongst users: a post on popular UK deals forum, Hotukdeals, summarizes it perfectly. “I buy a Windows key from the biggest store front on the net, I pay for it with my PayPal account connected to my credit card, I put it on my computer connected to my internet and my IP address, I then use said internet connection to activate said key on Microsoft's servers. If it activates, then it's legal”. That comment was upvoted several times, meaning that readers mostly agreed with it.

So why isn’t Microsoft cracking down on piracy as it used to?

One explanation could be that Google, with ChromeOS and G Suite, is a small but growing threat in a world where consumer technology often permeates into businesses. Pirated content could be seen as a proxy or a buffer, a way of doing guerrilla marketing to prevent others (Libreoffice anyone?) from winning hearts and minds.

Another way of putting it is one extra Office 365 user usually means one fewer G Suite one. For Windows 10 though, it is probably more a case of encouraging users to move from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 (which still account for around 40% of the global desktop market share) can only help.

This brings us to this conclusion: Microsoft must be seen to be growing in absolute numbers as this helps the business case (and share price). 

Back in 2015, Microsoft revealed its ambitions to reach the lofty goal of one billion Windows 10 users by 2018. Within 12 months, it was clear that was never going to happen. Windows 10 Mobile vanished, leaving it to get these users exclusively from mobile devices (not including Hololens).

And while Windows 10 was not mentioned at all during the last three earnings release, the revenue generated from Windows OEM has increased during each quarter. There were 600m MAU (monthly active users) in November 2017, 700m by June 2018 and reaching 800m by March 2019. The impending Windows 7 End of Support on January 2020 will likely to be a catalyst for enterprises and for consumers as well.

A special kind of freemium

Microsoft’s attitude to piracy can therefore be interpreted as a tacit acknowledgement of its usefulness as a marketing tool. Cracking too hard on it could be bad publicity and Microsoft could always start turning the screws should Windows or Office revenues start to dwindle.

Doing so will likely to drive users of counterfeit software in the arms of Google, not something desirable in the short term. Gazing at our crystal ball, we can see that “Windows 365” and “Microsoft 365” will run almost entirely as subscriptions and that, like Adobe with Photoshop, there will be a time where you won’t be able to buy or use any Microsoft product on a perpetual license and without web connectivity. 

There have been reports of Windows 10 and Office 365 users of counterfeit software that have lost access to their services altogether so it looks like there are random, rather than systematic, anti-piracy measures that take place from time to time. After all, even back in 2007, it used data provided by its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) software to help bring down a counterfeiting ring in China.

Categories: Tech News

PS Plus v Xbox Live Gold v Nintendo Switch Online: which one is right for you?

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:43

In this interconnected age, it can be difficult to keep track of which online subscription service offers the best bang for your buck. While services like Hulu and Netflix are arguably similar, games consoles are a little more varied in their options. 

Each of the big three consoles has an online subscription service, and each offer things slightly differently. 

Here's our guide to Xbox Live Gold, PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Switch Online memberships. 

PS Plus v Xbox Live Gold v Nintendo Switch Online: price

PS Plus v Xbox Live Gold v Nintendo Switch Online

Beginning with Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft's offering is priced at $9.99/£6.99/AU$10.95 per month, while offering savings of 50% for an annual membership. Silver membership is free, but only really offers access to your friends list and the Xbox Store.

If you've been looking to jump into the company's game subscription, Xbox Game Pass, there's a handy $14.99/£10.99/AU$15.95 membership which bundles both Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass into a handy monthly fee known as Game Pass Ultimate.

PlayStation Plus offers a similar pricing model to that of Xbox Live Gold. It costs $9.99/£6.99/AU$10.95 per month, while you can buy it quarterly or annually at an incremental discount. Features are comparable too, but we'll get to those shortly. 

Finally, the new kid on the block is Nintendo Switch Online. It's by far the cheapest of the three, costing $3.99/£3.49/AU$5.95 per month or $19.99/£17.99/AU$29.95 annually. 

There's a family plan option too, which is ideal if you have a group of up to eight friends looking to take their consoles online - this retails at $34.99/£31.49/AU$54.95 for the year. Amazon Prime members can even snag an annual membership for nothing at the time of writing. 

PS Plus v Xbox Live Gold v Nintendo Switch Online: features

The oldest of the services, Xbox Live's paid Gold Membership offers plenty for your monthly fee. Arguably the most reliable connection of the three, Xbox Live connects players with gamers across the world - so if you're looking to command a pirate ship with your buddies in Sea of Thieves, you'll need to stump up for a membership.

Thankfully, there are plenty of other reasons to subscribe. Firstly, players can grab themselves four free games every month as part of Games With Gold. This month features Game Of The Year contender Inside, so it's worth checking back each month to see what's on offer. 

Of the four games, two are Xbox One titles while the other two are backwards compatible Xbox 360 (and occasionally original Xbox) classics. You'll also earn some great discounts in the store, and these often apply to DLC, movies and TV shows as well as games.

PlayStation Plus began as a premium membership during the PlayStation 3 era, but is now required for online play on PlayStation 4. Thankfully those monthly fees look to have been reinvested, as PlayStation Network has come on leaps and bounds since the last generation.

As with Xbox Live Gold, PlayStation Plus offers free games each month (albeit down to two with the removal of PlayStation 3 and Vita titles earlier this year). Don't panic though - huge AAA-calibre titles such as Bloodborne have been released as freebies in the past, so it's unlikely you'll feel short changed. Similar discounts are offered in the PlayStation store, and you can see what's new from a PlayStation Plus icon right on your home screen.

In true Nintendo fashion, Switch's online service feels a little bit all over the place. Your subscription allows you to play online in titles such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, but the console's portable nature can make connection a little spotty.

The extra features are curious, too. You can use Nintendo's smartphone app for voice chat in certain titles, but in testing we found it less useful than simply using Discord to party up. There are exclusive offers for subscribers, but these run the gamut from nice little curios (like Tetris 99) to exclusive peripherals like NES controllers for the Switch.

The big draw here, though, is the Nintendo Switch Online app. Longtime Nintendo fans will love being able to play NES games on the Switch, and they've been retrofitted with new online leaderboard functionality in many cases. That means you can play the original Legend of Zelda or Super Mario Bros 3 on your TV or on the console's handheld screen. New titles are being added, and SNES games are rumored to make an appearance next.

PS Plus v Xbox Live Gold v Nintendo Switch Online: cloud saves

PlayStation Plus offers 100GB of cloud-storage for your saves as part of it's membership, but it's worth noting that Xbox Live offers cloud saves and these aren't linked to any paid membership and are available by default for silver members upwards.

Nintendo Switch Save Data can be backed up to the cloud if you have a membership, a huge boon for anyone that's ever dropped their Switch or lost it on public transit, but it only works on supported titles - so if your console takes a bath you'll have to start your Pokemon: Let's Go adventure all over again. 

Categories: Tech News

Huawei ban: the global fallout explained

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:29

Update: The pressure looks like it’s eased off a bit for the time being, with the US government having relaxed sanctions on Huawei, and the UK greenlighting its involvement in the country’s 5G infrastructure at a parliamentary level.

Huawei has filed patents for its own mobile operating system nonetheless, as it takes precautionary measures in case a life without Android ends up being its reality, while chipmaker Broadcom is feeling the knock-on effects with a lower revenue forecast. 

Huawei has found itself at the center of a global tussle between the US and China after Trump administration placed the Chinese brand on the 'entity list', limiting the business US companies could do with it, and leading to worldwide implications.

It led to Google blocking Huawei's future access to Android updates, UK-based chip designer ARM has ceased all activities with the brand, and multiple retailers and networks around the world have had to stop dealing with Huawei for fear of sanctions from the US government.

There have been a few reprieves though, as on May 20 the US Commerce Department issued a temporary license for Huawei to work with businesses in the US, meaning US companies can resume partnerships with the brand on a short term basis.

Read more about the Huawei ban:

 While the WiFi Alliance and the SD Association, the standards-making bodies that govern the technology used for connectivity and mobile storage ejected Huawei preventing the company its chance of shaping the future of these technologies, the Chinese company has since been reinstated. 

By July, things took a turn in Huawei's favor, with President Trump suggesting the Huawei ban could soon be over at the G20 summit in Japan, and by mid-July, some US companies were permitted to trade with Huawei

In isolation, this isn't the silver bullet Huawei need, as the specifics of this relaxation to the ban are still unclear, but by mid-July, reports hinted that within two to four weeks, Huawei and US companies could resume trading

In the face of all of these setbacks, Huawei's founder Ren Zhengfei maintained a positive outlook for the brand, stating: "We will certainly be able to continue serving our customers. 

"Our mass production capacity is huge, and adding Huawei to the Entity List won't have a huge impact on us. We are making progress in bidding worldwide."

What does the ban mean if I have a Huawei phone?

Perhaps the most useful piece of information about current Huawei phones is Google's statement issued to TechRadar:

"We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications. For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices," a spokesperson told us.

That's good news if you’ve just spent large amounts of money on a Huawei P30 Pro: as alluded to above, current devices from the Chinese brand will continue to get security updates and access to the Play Store for the foreseeable future, as Google has promised not to leave those out in the cold.

The temporary lifting of the ban will also allow the two brands to prepare better Android support for current and future models, meaning that Huawei will be able to do business as it has been – so current customers will be able to benefit for longer. Google has since resumed its relationship with Huawei, to enable it to deliver benefits for longer.

Huawei has also said to TechRadar that it will continue to do all it can to support the phones currently out in the wild, and is looking at other implications of Google's decision.

The company told us: “Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefited both users and the industry.

The Honor sub-brand of Huawei is also subject to the same constraints. Image credit: TechRadar 

"Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally.”

Huawei Australia has echoed the sentiment, also claiming that “those that are planning to buy a Huawei device in the near future” will not have to worry about the sanctions, according to Huawei Australia’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Jeremy Mitchell.

We've asked for comment regarding the recent lifting of the ban, but Huawei declined.

With recent developments, it is looking more likely that the flexible Mate X to launch with 'full fat' Android, along with the upcoming Mate 30-series. It's spent enormous sums marketing that model since the unveiling in February and is keen to lock in its reputation as a technological leader. 

It looks like the bendable phone will, at least, be delayed though - the CEO of UK network EE said, during the launch of its 5G networks, that the brand had temporarily paused stocking the phone while it worked to understand the implications of the trade ban.

UK retailer Dixons Carphone has followed suit, halting plans to bring the 5G handset to launch as planned while the UK gears up to enter the next phase of connectivity.

So while the fact remains that current models will be offered speedy updates, it's unclear how long these will last for, and the fact networks are already getting jittery about the sanctions isn't going to make anything easier for Huawei.

While most smartphone brands will honor security updates for two to three years after launch of a new handset, one might expect this to be much shorter in the case of Huawei phones, given these restrictions from Google.

What about future Huawei phones?

Image credit: TechRadar

If it happens, the move from Google means it will no longer work with Huawei directly on issuing updates to its system, and won't give the company access to the Google Play Store.

This is a potentially critical blow to the Chinese brand, which only recently spoke out about its plans to be the world's largest smartphone manufacturer.

This means that if Huawei wants to keep using the Android operating system, it will need to use the Android Open Source Platform (AOSP), which is a free system that any brand can use as an underlying foundation for its products.

However along with the Google Play Store it won’t have access to the core Google apps like YouTube, Google Maps and Chrome – these are core elements of Google's business that it's not duty bound to make available to anyone.

Without access to the Play Store, Huawei would be forced to work directly with developers to get them to create versions of their wares for its phones. This situation would be similar to that of Amazon’s Fire OS, which is based on AOSP but has its own app store, as the retail giant seeks to control the platform its Fire tablets and Echo devices run on.

If Huawei does have to use AOSP, the consequences could be devastating, as access to a fully-stocked app store is crucial to the success of any modern smartphone – Nokia and Microsoft failed to make Windows Phones a viable alternative to Android and Apple’s iOS, even though both brands poured millions into developer tools and enticing the top app creators onto their platform.

However, Huawei has claimed that it's been developing its own alternative to Android for nearly seven years, calling it a 'Plan B' that’s ready to go should it lose access to the services listed above.

Naming it the HongMeng OS (or possibly Ark OS , or Harmony OS - a name registered in Europe by the company), and stating its alternative operating system will be launched either at the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020, and would work across "mobile phones, computers, tablets, TVs, cars and smart wearable devices."

More recently, Huawei is reported to have filed "Hongmeng" trademarks in the EU as well as multiple countries, including Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Cambodia, and Peru. 

In the latest statement to TechRadar, Huawei said: "We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally," which sounds like it already wants to generate some positive hype around its alternative OS.

However, Huawei also said it would rather continue working with brands like Google and Microsoft (whose Windows operating system runs on Huawei laptops) to offer the best experience - a sentiment it has since offered around all its suppliers, hinting strongly that it hopes to resume actions when this ban is lifted.

Huawei is also claiming that it can still create smartphones and other equipment with the components it has stockpiled before the ban, as well as creating new partnerships around the world. 

The brand has continued to state it believes working with international partners remains the best course of action - although has confirmed it's looking at how to manage as much as possible within its own country.

The Google Play Store is a key part of attracting users. Image credit: TechRadar.

"Huawei has been working hard on developing its own AppGallery and other software assets in a similar manner to its work on chipset solutions." Ben Woods, Chief of Research at CCS Insight, told TechRadar. "There is little doubt these efforts are part of its desire to control its own destiny."

If Huawei loses access to the Google Play Store, it would take an enormous amount of investment to attract developers to create app options that would keep users of its smartphones happy – and you have to wonder whether the brand would feel it was worth continuing to make phones at all when faced with that kind of hurdle.

The same would also apply to Honor, the sub-brand of Huawei phones, in the future. Honor might have tried to distance itself from its parent company, but it’s been confirmed that it will be subject to the same sanctions.

However, the launch of that brand’s Honor 20 smartphone went ahead as planned and made no mention of the issues facing its parent company – so it’s clear that devices currently created and in the supply chain are still going to be supported in the Android ecosystem.

Since the news of the Android suspension, more details have emerged about Huawei's plans for the App Gallery on the HongMeng OS: it's been reported that the brand is offering app developers access to Chinese users, as well as financial incentives to networks to add its app portal to phones.

Developers would be able to simply and quickly tweak their Android apps to work on Huawei's platform, and theoretically have access to a huge Chinese user base - although it remains to be seen whether Huawei phones will continue to be sold in strong enough numbers worldwide for developers to update and maintain their apps.

What of the ARM news, is it truly damaging?

A huge issue facing Huawei is that chip designer ARM isn't going to work with the brand for the short term. That may seem odd, as it's a Japanese-owned brand headquartered in the UK, but as its designs use US-based technology, there's a fear this could fall foul of the trade restrictions.

If the Huawei ban means it can't use ARM reference designs in its chipsets, it would be incredibly difficult and costly for the brand to replace them - and it may prove to be impossible, which would cast further doubt over the future of Huawei's phone arm.

A Huawei spokesperson told the BBC: "We value our close relationships with our partners, but recognize the pressure some of them are under, as a result of politically motivated decisions. 

"We are confident this regrettable situation can be resolved and our priority remains to continue to deliver world-class technology and products to our customers around the world.” 

The upcoming Kirin 985 chipset is not believed to be affected, which would mean Huawei looks set to be able to release another cycle of smartphone before the ban truly causes issues, but partners and networks are already starting to react to the US' trade license suspension.

However, the loss of ARM support might take a little longer to be felt than previously thought: Huawei has apparently been granted a permanent license over key ARM technology from a few months ago, after it saw potential trouble ahead.

This would allow it to keep using these key chip designs for the foreseeable future in its phones, laptops and infrastructure equipment, and the brand has also told TechRadar that it believes it can create ARM-based chipsets for use in its laptops as well, to replace any issues with Intel chip supply.

What about other brands? What does this mean for the wider smartphone world?


While these sanctions don’t currently affect other brands, the message being sent is clear: global politics can have dramatic implications for the manufacturing and marketing of consumer devices that have become indispensable for billions of people.

The Huawei news has sent the some technology stock prices downwards too, affecting the market as a result of the US ban. 

While there’s currently no issue with brands headquartered in other parts of the world, a similar sanction could see other smartphone manufacturers forced into a costly rethink.

A few years ago Samsung seriously threatened a breakaway move from Google’s Android operating system, as it felt the search giant had too much control over the operating system on its Galaxy smartphones.

It worked to develop the Tizen OS, which is still used on devices like Samsung's Galaxy smartwatches, triggering negotiations with Google about allowing more freedom for manufacturers.

(It’s worth noting that while Samsung did release smartphones based on Tizen, they were budget models, and didn’t come anywhere close to the success of its Galaxy phone range).

The big beneficiary here could be Apple – President Trump has long advocated for the brand to move its operations from China to the US, and exempted Apple from the trade tariffs imposed on China so that the brand wouldn’t have to raise its prices.

Huawei has been a thorn in Apple’s side of late, with the rise of the Chinese brand seeing it usurp its Cupertino-based rival in the worldwide rankings and become a serious competitor in the premium smartphone space – and Trump clearly wants to see the US tech giant do more of its business back home.

Worries of China responding with a sanction on Apple's phones could follow, but Huawei's founder has spoken out, saying that he hopes this does not happen.

The Chinese government also doesn't want Apple moving its operations from the country - it would not only be incredibly costly for Apple, which would still need to source many components from Asia to build future iPhones, but also affect the Chinese economy too by losing such a big customer.

The loss of Huawei as a major player in the global smartphone market could also have a wider impact on the smartphones other vendors are pushing out. The Chinese brand’s aggressive development of new technological capabilities has forced rivals to significantly improve their devices and push out new advancements of their own, and any diminution of its influence would likely slow the rate of development.

Huawei’s smartphone camera prowess has arguably kickstarted a race to offer cameras that deliver ever-better sharpness, color and overall image quality in the last two years – the quality of the pictures it's possible to take on a premium phone has improved dramatically as the brand's P series has relentlessly pushed the boundaries of what’s possible.

The company is also in a race with Samsung to bring out the first widely available foldable phone – and the Huawei Mate X’s mere existence surely forced the South Korean brand to speed up its development of a bending handset, meaning consumers will get access to the technology earlier (although Samsung probably would have rather waited to deliver the Galaxy Fold…).

Meanwhile, companies in Huawei's supply chain could suffer, and chipmaker Broadcom has adjusted its revenue forecast, as it predicts lower sales due to the ongoing issues with Huawei.

Should I buy a P30 or P30 Pro (or any Huawei phone)?

If you’re wondering, whether you should buy a P30 or P30 Pro with everything that's going on, Huawei clearly thinks you should. 

It's been indignant in the face of the bans, with its P30 Pro price holding firm. Considering it was launched four months ago, that's unusually bold for Android smartphone pricing. Its CEO has also claimed that Huawei's new operating system, whatever it ends up being called will be faster than Android.

The brand has also opened its largest flagship store outside China, in Madrid, hitting the point home that it’s serious about its European, and the US sanctions placed against it won’t change that. 

Huawei has, additionally, confirmed it will be rolling out the Android Q update to the P30 Pro (and a number of its other handsets) too, and that apps and services won’t be switched off for existing Huawei devices, which guarantees a degree of future-proofing for the flagship. 

In turn, we can’t categorically say whether you should or shouldn’t buy a P30 Pro, or another Huawei smartphone, but things are looking up for the tech giant.

The recent ban lifting means there's a real chance that negotiations can be entered into with the US government, allowing the brand to prove itself 'safe' and move out from the middle of the trade war between China and the US. This is far from certain, but things certainly look a lot less bleak for the brand, especially if Trump's statement that Huawei could included in a trade deal with China turns out to be true.

Google has also confirmed that it's ‘reviewing’ the situation, and the implications of the US sanctions – it doesn’t want to limit the reach of its Android ecosystem, and US brands like Qualcomm are going to be severely impacted by the Huawei restrictions, so will likely lobby to have this decision re-examined.

However, if Google is forced to cut Huawei off from future Android security updates and access to the Play Store, then it could not only make things difficult for Huawei, but may cause consumers to view any Chinese brand with suspicion – and given the proliferation and technological prowess of the latest phones coming out of that country, that would also have a huge impact on the industry.

So while this move seems to only affect Huawei right now, it's going to have a knock-on effect for the entire industry, and may have implications when it comes to the next smartphone you buy. It could even mean the rise of a new mobile operating system, and potentially a serious challenger to Android. 

Categories: Tech News

Slack password reset coming to thousands of users

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:00

Slack is set to reset password for thousands of users as it looks to respond to a data breach.

The popular messaging app has confirmed it will reset the passwords of users it believes could be affected by a historical data breach.

Around one percent of all Slack users are thought to be affected by the attack - equivalent to over 65,000 customers.

Breached

Slack was hit by a cyberattack back in 2015 when hackers to its user profile database. This included access to the scrambled passwords of users, however the hackers inserted code that scraped the user’s plaintext password as it was initally entered.

Slack said it did not believe accounts were compromised in the attack, but did not provide any further details as to why this would be - although it said that accounts that require single sign-on through a company’s network are not affected.

The company said it had become aware of the attack after being recently contacted through its bug bounty programabout a list of allegedly compromised Slack account passwords.

Slack was recently valued at over $20bn after going public back in June, and counts over 10 million active daily users worldwide, including the likes of the BBC, Lyft and 21st Century Fox.

It recently revealed a number of security upgrades to its platform, including the launch of Enterprise Key Management to give an added layer of protection. The new service will allow businesses admins full control over the encryption keys used to encrypt the files and messages within their Slack workspace.

Categories: Tech News

Best website builder for musicians in 2019

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:54

A host of different services will now let you put a website online, quickly and easily, no coding skills required – but if you're looking for something to show off your talents as a musician then you need a more specific set of features.

Primarily, a way of uploading and sharing your tunes in a simple and secure way, even if it's just snippets of songs rather than whole tracks or indeed albums.

If you're a musician for hire then it can be useful to have some kind of booking system in place as well, or at least a contact form. On top of that, there are all the extras you might be interested in, like support for your own domain name or gallery pages to show just how many people came to your last gig.

Here are our picks for the best website builder for musicians to create a presence online.

Bandzoogle

You won't find too many website builder services aimed specifically at musicians, but Bandzoogle gleefully jumps in to provide a bespoke service specifically for bands and artists. While it lacks some of the polish of the big names, because it focuses on the musician niche in particular, it has everything you should need.

That includes, of course, the ability to upload your own tracks and let visitors stream them from your website. You can get tracks organized into entire albums if you really want to go to town, or just share single tracks. And then, as well as that, you've got simple ways to post gig dates, blog updates, and so on.

Whether you need to build a contact form or a video diary, Bandzoogle makes it easy, no coding required – you can really make a site that's as simple or as complex as you like, and the end result is something that looks like you hired a specialist.

You've got over 100 themes to choose from (there is even one for crowdfunding), they're all straightforward to edit and tweak, and connecting up social accounts (including the likes of SoundCloud and Bandcamp) only takes a few clicks as well. As an added bonus, you can sell merchandise and tickets right through Bandzoogle as well.

Wix

Check out any list of website builders for any purpose and Wix is likely to feature on it, but not only does this service earn that high reputation, it also has some useful tools for musicians – not least the ability to upload your own tracks so visitors to your website can listen to them without any extra software or browser extensions.

Platforms that you're probably already using, like Bandsintown and Songkick, can plug directly into your Wix site: you can set up integrations like these in just a few clicks. What's more, you can add on an e-commerce portal to your site, for the purposes of shifting albums, T-shirts, or whatever else you need to sell.

Wix has a very solid selection of templates, with more than 500 to choose from, and if you delve into the music section you'll see there are options for solo artists, bands, DJs, producers, or anyone else connected to the industry. Have a click around these templates to see the kind of sites it's possible to create.

After that you've got all the features Wix has become known for: a site editor that's a breeze to use whether or not you know what CSS stands for, custom domain name support, easy blogging and simple social media support, and a free tier that lets you work out whether Wix is for you before you part with any cash.

Music Glue

Music Glue is a little different to the other website builder services we've featured here: it focuses first and foremost on the merchandise and ticketing aspects of the music business, and indeed powers the online stores for some of the biggest names in the industry. Its pricing system is unusual too, taking a 10% cut of whatever you sell rather than a flat fee.

That does at least mean you won't be out of pocket if your online marketplace doesn't attract much attention to begin with. There are no additional fees for payment processing, and customers can rock up with debit or credit cards, or PayPal.

Music Glue is less impressive on the website building side, although you do get the basics – a choice of themes for the site attached to your online shop, the option to bring over your own custom domain name, tools for tweaking the code and layout of your site, and so on. It's possible to plug in social media accounts and even set up a mailing list.

If your priority is the mechanics of selling music and tickets to your audience, then Music Glue is a good bet, and has some very famous clients on its books, as we mentioned. If you don't really have anything to sell right now and want to spend more time fiddling with a site design and layout, then maybe look elsewhere.

Difymusic

French site builder Difymusic isn't the most well-known service out there, and doesn't have the same breadth of tools and features as some of the big names – but where it really comes into its own is in getting your music online quickly and easily.

If you'd rather just get your stuff up quickly with a few pictures and links, rather than spend ages choosing a theme and editing HTML, Difymusic could be for you. It relies on plug-ins – like Spotify or SoundCloud for getting your music up, for example – but it supports an awful lot of them, so you're bound to find something that works.

If you want to sell merch and tickets, then you can pay to add that on your main site, with a one-time €9.99 setup fee (about £9 or $12) and then 5% commission based on sales, but the basics are free. Connect up your Facebook page and your YouTube channel and you're good to go in just a few minutes.

Admittedly the choice of templates and editing options aren't very strong, but the designs you can play around with are decent enough, and certainly won't put anyone off your music. Difymusic lets you get started quickly, and scale up as required.

Tumblr

Tumblr isn't a website builder in the conventional sense – it's more of a half blogging, half social media platform – but if you take a longer look at what Tumblr has to offer, it's actual very appealing for musicians. For one thing, it's completely free to use, plus it already attracts a busy community of creatives.

You can post up to one 10MB MP3 file every day, as well as links, text posts, videos, photos and more. Those MP3s appear as streamable files for visitors to your site – they can listen to the tunes in their browser, no plug-ins or extra software required, so it's a great way of showcasing your talents without paying anything.

If Tumblr was simply a blogging platform and that was it, we probably wouldn't recommend the service, but it also supports pages alongside your blog (for a gallery or a contact form), custom domain names (so you can pay extra for whatever URL name you like), and posting from mobile apps too.

On top of all that there are a host of themes to choose from, some of which cost money, but many are free, and a lot of them would suit a musician's portfolio. If the theme isn't exactly to your liking, you can tweak it with the integrated options or your own CSS, and switching between themes whenever you like is simple, too.

Categories: Tech News

Best DDoS protection of 2019

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:30

In October 2016 DNS provider Dyn was hit by a major DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack by an army of IoT devices which had been hacked specially for the purpose. Over 14,000 domains using Dyn's services were overwhlemed and became unreachable including big names like Amazon, HBO, and PayPal. 

According to research by Cloudflare the average cost of infrastructure failure to businesses is $100,000 (£75,000) per hour. How then can you make sure that your organization doesn't fall victim to this kind of attack. In this guide you'll discover major infrastructure providers who have the necessary digital muscle to protect against attacks designed to flood your network capacity. 

You'll also discover which providers can offer protection against more sophisticated application (layer 7) attacks, which can be carried out without a huge number of hacked computers (sometimes known as a botnet). 

Project Shield

Project Shield is the creation of Jigsaw, an offshoot Google's parent company Alphabet. Development began several years ago under George Conard in the wake of attacks on election monitoring and human rights related websites in the Ukraine.

Project Shield is able to filter potential malicious traffic by acting as a reverse proxy which sits between a website and the internet at large, filtering connection requests. If a connection seems to be from a legitimate visitor Project Shield permits the connection request. If a connection request is determined to be bad e.g. multiple connection attempts from the same IP address, then it is blocked. This system makes Project Shield extremely easy to implement simply by changing your servers DNS settings. 

Any power users reading may wonder how filtering traffic via a proxy will work with SSL. Fortunately, Jigsaw has thought of this and has put together a comprehensive tutorial to make sure secure connections to your site work seamlessly. Several other tutorials are also available in the support section.

Currently Project Shield is only available for media, election monitoring and human rights related websites. The primary focus is also on small under resourced websites which cannot afford expensive hosting solutions to protect themselves for DDoS. If your organization doesn't match these requirements you may have to consider an alternative solution such as Cloudflare. 

Cloudflare

Anyone who has used the Internet in the last few years will be familiar with Cloudflare as many major websites make use of its protection. Although Cloudflare is based in the US it maintains over 180 data centers around the world: an infrastructure to rival Google's. This maximizes your sites chances of staying online.

Every Cloudflare user can choose to activate the 'I'm under attack' mode which can protect against even the most sophisticated of DoS attacks by presenting a Javascript challenge. As a matter of routine Cloudflare also acts as a reverse proxy sitting between visitors and your site host to filter traffic in much the same way as Jigsaw's Project Shield. In March 2019, Cloudflare introduced Spectrum for UDP, which provides DDoS protection and firewalling for unreliable protocols.

Visitors making connection requests have to run a gauntlet of sophisticated filters including site reputation, whether their IP has been Blacklisted and if the HTTP header seems suspicious. HTTP requests are finger printed to protect against known Botnets. As an industry giant, Cloudflare can easily leverage its position by sharing intel across the 7+ million websites it manages.  

Cloudflare offers a free basic package which includes unmetered DDoS mitigation. For those who are willing to pay for a Cloudflare business subscription (prices start at $200 or £149 a month), more advanced protection is available such as custom SSL certificate uploads. 

AWS Shield

AWS Shield protection is provided by the good people of Amazon web services. The 'Standard' tier is available to all AWS customers at no extra charge. This is ideal as many small businesses choose to host their websites with Amazon. AWS Shield Standard is available to all customers at no extra charge. It protects against more typical network (layer 3) and transport (layer 4) attacks when used Amazon's Cloud Front and Route 53 services.    

This should put off all but the most determined hackers. However, your bandwidth e.g. 15Gbp/s will still be limited by the size of you Amazon instance making it feasible for hackers to carry out a DoS attack if they have sufficient resources. Worse still you remain responsible for paying for the extra traffic to your instance.

To mitigate this Amazon also offers AWS Shield Advanced. A Subscription include DDoS cost protection, which can save you from a huge spike in your monthly usage bill if you are the victim of an attack. AWS Shield Advanced can also deploy your ACL's (Access Control Lists) to the border of the AWS network itself giving you protection against even the largest of attacks.  

Advanced Subscribers also benefit from a round the clock DRT (DDoS response team) as well as detailed metrics on any attacks on your instances. The piece of mind afforded by AWS Shield Advanced is expensive however. You must be willing to subscribe for a minimum of one year for a price of $3,000 (£2,200)  a month. This is in addition to data transfer usage costs which you can cover on a 'pay as you go' basis. 

Microsoft Azure

Like Amazon, Microsoft offers the option to rent service space via their service Azure. All members benefit from basic DDoS protection. Features include always on traffic monitoring and real time mitigation of network (layer 3) attacks for any public IP addresses you use. This is the very same type of protection afforded to Microsoft's own online services and the entire resources of Azure's network can be used to absorb DDoS attacks.  

For organisations in need of more sophisticated protection Azure also offers a 'Standard' tier. This has been widely praised for being very easy to enable, requiring just a few clicks of your mouse. Crucially Azure does not require you to make any changes to your apps although the standard tier does offer protection against application (layer 7) DDoS attacks via the app gateway web app firewall. Azure monitor can show you real time metrics if an attack does take place. These are retained for 30 days and can be exported for further study if you wish.  

Azure constantly checks web traffic to your resources. If these exceed a pre-defined threshold, DDoS mitigation is automatically launched. This includes inspecting packets to make sure they aren't malformed or spoofed as well as using rate limiting.  

Standard protection is currently $2,944 (£2,204)  per month plus data charges for up to 100 resources. Protection applies equally to all resources. In other words you cannot tailor DDoS mitigation for individual ones. 

Verisign DDoS Protection

Update: Verisign's security services are transferred to Neustar, but the features and functionality mentioned in the review stayed relatively the same.

Verisign is almost as old as the Internet itself. Since 1995 it has grown from a simple Certificate Authority to a major player in the Network Services industry.  

Verisign DDoS protection operates in the Cloud. Users can choose to redirect connection attempts with a simple change of their DNS (Domain Name Server) settings. Traffic is sent to Verisign for checking to prevent network attacks. Verisign analysis all traffic thoroughly before redirecting.  

As Verisign operates two of the thirteen global route name servers it should come as no surprise that the organization also maintains several dedicated DDoS "scrubbing centers". These analyze traffic and filter out bad connection requests. The combined infrastructure runs to almost 2TB/s and can block even the most overwhelming DDoS attacks.  

This is largely achieved via Athena, Verisign's threat mitigation platform. Athena is broadly divided into three elements. The 'Shield' filters network (layer 3) and transport (layer 4) attacks via DPI (Deep Packet Inspection), blacklists & whitelists and site reputation management. The Athena 'proxy' inspects HTTP headers for bad traffic during initial connection attempts. The 'proxy' and 'shield' are supported by Athena's 'load balancer' which helps to prevent application (layer 7) attacks.

The customer portal displays detailed reports on traffic and allows you to configure your threat management, for example by creating connection blacklists. For users who are reluctant to deploy everything to the Cloud, Verisign also offers OpenHybrid which can be installed onsite. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons (Antoine Lamielle)    

Categories: Tech News

Google brings an AR art gallery to your pocket – and it's all about color

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:28

After a fix of color in your drab, monotonous life? It can be hard to get away from the office to wander an art exhibition – but Google's Arts & Culture app is hoping to bring an equivalent experience to your smartphone, all through the medium of AR (augmented reality).

Google's app is dedicated to showing off paintings and sculptures through your smartphone, and works alongside a number of high-profile museums and galleries.

The latest addition to the app, The Art of Color, consists of four AR 'rooms' that you can navigate in 3D with life-size paintings. 

It's part of the app's Pocket Gallery, which first began its life in December 2018, with an AR collection of 36 paintings by the 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (who painted the famous Girl With A Pearl Earring).

This time there are paintings by a variety of artists, all "captured in high resolution and selected according to each piece’s color palette" – with each room themed around particular shades, like "Blues & Greens", or "Black White and Gray".

Featured artists include Rembrant, Hokusai, Georgia O’Keeffe and Bridget Riley, with works having been selected through Google's Art Palette Tool – this allows you to search for artworks through the shades and tones of color in an image. You're restricted to artwork uploaded into the tool, but it's an intuitive way of discovering pieces of art in the style or mood of your liking, that makes use of Google's online algorithms.

You can download the app on either Android or iOS now.

Putting the AR in ART

Google's attempts at opening up access to canonical artworks is to be lauded, though the worlds of art and tech often have an uneasy relationship.

Image Credit: Google

Traditional institutions are fighting to stay relevant in an increasingly digital media landscape, and are hoping that these kind of initiatives will increase interest in their collections – rather than make in-person exhibitions less necessary for accessing that art in the first place.

We've seen similar enterprises from BBC's Civilizations AR app, while the growth of AR-led headsets like the Magic Leap One show a promising future for AR experiences in people's homes, beyond squinting into a smartphone. With over 5 million downloads for the Android version of the Google Arts & Culture app, it looks like the art world has already snuck into a lot of people's pockets.

Categories: Tech News

Sky Sports introduces 360-degree holograph tech for The Open golf

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:01

Sky Sports claims that revolutionary new technology used during its coverage of The Open golf this week will reveal to viewers the secret to a perfect pro golf swing.

During broadcasts from the 148th Open Championship in Royal Portrush, Sky's pundits will be making use of its new ‘Sky Scope’ feature which allows presenters to analyse the techniques of star players using holograph replicas of each golfer.

Players such as Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and John Rahm have been visiting Sky’s mobile capture facility during practice session downtime to have special filming sessions. 

The footage is used to create lifelike holographs which are then transported to Sky’s Open Zone studio, allowing the Sky Sports team to analyse, track and pause the players movements in 360 degrees.

Volumetric capture the flag

The new Sky Scope’ tech uses volumetric capture, similar to that used in high-end VR productions and has been developed as part of a partnership between Sky Sports, robotic camera control rig maker MRMC and VR production studio Dimension. 

Jason Wessely, Head of Golf at Sky Sports, said: "We're always looking at how we can use innovative technology to bring golf fans closer to the action - nowhere more so than at The Open, where we first introduced our interactive studio, the Open Zone.

"The technology that MRMC have provided will allow us to analyse the golf swings of the world's best players in a way that hasn't been possible before. I know that the Sky team can't wait to showcase this ground-breaking TV innovation."

Categories: Tech News

Samsung Galaxy A80 with rotating camera launched in India at Rs 47,990

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 09:19

Samsung has launched the world's first phone with a 48MP rotating camera, the Galaxy A80 in India. As a result, you get a notch-free screen to watch content and play games without any hindrances in sight. Samsung goes for a triple camera setup housed in a rotating module to cover both the sides at any given time which is quite an eye-catcher.

Samsung Galaxy A80 is priced at ₹47,990 and will go on sale starting August 1 across all major online and offline retail stores along with Samsung's e-Shop and Opera House. Interested buyers will have an option to choose between three colour variants-- ghost white, phantom black and angel gold.

Samsung Galaxy A80 specifications

The Galaxy A80 has an aluminum chassis with a Gorilla Glass 6 back and is 9.3mm thin. On the front, there's a 6.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a Full HD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels) resolution display which is further topped with Gorilla Glass 3. The slightly higher pixel ratio gives it a 20:9 aspect ratio. Also, there's a fingerprint sensor embedded into the display.

It is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 chipset with an octa-core CPU and Adreno 618 GPU. This is further paired with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Samsung Galaxy A80 runs on Android 9.0 Pie-based OneUI.

The triple camera setup consists of a primary 48MP sensor with an f/2.0, an 8MP ultra-wide lens accompanied by a time-of-flight 3D sensor. As the camera is housed in a rotating shell, the same can be used for selfies.

Samsung Galaxy A80 comes with 3,700mAh battery which supports 25W fast charging.

Categories: Tech News

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