A lot of people don’t like the power Google have online, and this won’t help the internet giant any further.
If you have an Android phone and a Google account, then you might have been tracked without you knowing. Now, this’ll be old news to some, but it seems like there’s a good number of people out there who still have no idea.
Not to worry though – you can stop being tracked really easily
First off, watch this short video which tells you about how you’re being tracked and how you can see where you’ve been – provided you had your phone in your pocket – via a section on Google Maps.
As you can see, you can go back in time and see where you’ve been on a Google Map, which may well give you the willies, but it is easy enough to fix.
First off, you should switch your location services off on your mobile. You’ll find that in your settings. Some apps ask you to turn your location on, but you don’t have to. Twitter doesn’t need to know where you are and if you’re using something like Tinder which requires your location to show you who wants to hump nearby, then only switch your location on when it is needed.
As the video shows, it is really easy to delete your location history, and you can find out more on that, here.
There’s a solar eclipse in the UK tomorrow and, as most of you will know, the air quality is so lousy that we won’t really be able to see it. Not to mention the fact that, for most of the country, it’ll be a partial eclipse.
That said, it is still reasonably exciting as these things don’t happen all that often.
However, you won’t want to stare directly at the sun because that’s a fool’s errand – a fool with magnificently sore eyeballs.
So where can you get some special solar eclipse glasses from then? Well, if you can get Amazon to deliver for tomorrow morning with your Prime account, then click here and order them fast. However, you might not trust the postal system to get them to you on time.
One sure fire way of getting them in your hand is to get down the magazine racks and pick up a copy of the Sky at Night magazine, where you can get some for free (unless they’ve all been nicked already). If you’re a welder, you don’t have to bother with all this and you can just gawp at the sun in your welding mask.
The last eclipse in 1999 saw petrol stations, newsagents and supermarkets selling the special glasses, so you might be in luck there.
It is worth remembering though, that any glasses you buy should be CE approved, unless you’re not too bothered about the wellbeing of your eyeballs.
If you prefer, you can make a pinhole camera to view the partial eclipse, with the help of this video below.
The state pension is something that most people in the UK take for granted. Everyone gets it, so if you’ve not been saving up, then at least you’ll be able to fall back on that, and maybe sell a few of your organs if you’re stuck… right?
Well, around 6.1 million people aged 40-65 could actually miss out of getting a full state pension because they haven’t made enough contributions, says a new study.
Thanks to needing to be in full-time work for 30 years, that means that 39% of women and 14% of men in this age group will fall short, and, seeing as the minimum number of years rising from 30 to 35 years next year, that could mean even more people missing out.
Provided you’ve made enough National Insurance contributions, there’ll be a new flat rate pension. This is bad news for certain regions, as the table shows below.
The study suggests that those who took time out from work to raise children are likely to be hit hardest, as well as people who have had long term illnesses. According to figures, 10% of people stopped working to look after a family member, while 11% took time out to retrain or study. It seems unfair that they should be penalised for those things.
Andrew Megson of Partnership, who conducted the study, said: “When people plan their retirement finances, many assume that they will be eligible for the full state pension. However, almost a third have not worked for the 30 years required and if they have not taken any action to ensure they either make voluntary contributions or receive the relevant credits they may well face a nasty shock in retirement.”
“Others who opted out of the state second pension may also find that the support that they receive from the Government is less than they hoped. Therefore, it is vital when planning your retirement finances to ensure that you not only understand how much you will receive as part of the state pension but consider making up the shortfall if at all possible.”
What Can You Do?
If you’re concerned about this, then you can make voluntarily payments to the National Insurance. You can find out more about this, here. There’s also a state pension calculator which will help. You can also get National Insurance credits if you’re unemployed or receiving benefits.
Or, if you prefer, you can get yourself a state pension forecast by calling 0345 3000168, go to gov.uk/state-pension-statement, or writing to The Pension Service 9, Mail Handling Site A, Wolverhampton, WV98 1LU,
You heard about Lenovo installing something that was annoying at best and intrusive at worst, with a thing called Superfish. One of our readers impishly pointed out it should’ve been called ‘SuperPhish’, arf!
Well, the company got in touch and wanted to clear some things up, so you can stop chewing your nails in worry.
They say that Superfish was “previously included on some consumer notebook products shipped in a short window between September and December to help customers potentially discover interesting products while shopping. However, user feedback was not positive, and we responded quickly and decisively.”
And so, this is where we’re at, according to Lenovo:
“1) Superfish has completely disabled server side interactions (since January) on all Lenovo products so that the product is no longer active. This disables Superfish for all products in market.
2) Lenovo stopped preloading the software in January.
3) We will not preload this software in the future.”
So there. The company assure customers that there’s no need to fret about the security of your computer.
They continue: “We have thoroughly investigated this technology and do not find any evidence to substantiate security concerns. But we know that users reacted to this issue with concern, and so we have taken direct action to stop shipping any products with this software. We will continue to review what we do and how we do it in order to ensure we put our user needs, experience and priorities first.”
“To be clear, Superfish technology is purely based on contextual/image and not behavioural. It does not profile nor monitor user behaviour. It does not record user information. It does not know who the user is. Users are not tracked nor re-targeted. Every session is independent. Users are given a choice whether or not to use the product. The relationship with Superfish is not financially significant; our goal was to enhance the experience for users. We recognize that the software did not meet that goal and have acted quickly and decisively.”
Would you believe it! Adobe’s Photoshop is now 25 years old! In all that time, it has changed the way we view things – some tasteful, some awful, some so funny you wish you could Photoshop the urine from your trousers from laughing at a model with three limbs.
Anyway, Photoshop isn’t cheap to those who want to play around with photo editing software now and again, rather than spend their time using it like a pro. Of course, there’s people who will swear by it, but if you’re looking for a free alternative, then there’s a number of programmes you can try.
Whether you’re looking de-wrinkling yourself or just cropping photos and making a collage of something, there’s a load of options you can get stuck into.
Naturally, if you know how to get cracked products from torrents, then this might not be the best list for you. Indeed, there are other round-ups of alternatives available online for paid-for products, but for the best free PS alternatives, these could be just the trick for you.
Seven Best Free Photoshop Alternatives
This open-source programme is a good all-rounder and available for OS X, Windows and Linux. It takes a little while to get your head around it, but once you do, you can manage all manner of things with it. Very good indeed and
A capable, solid image editor with resizing and touch-up tools for you to use. This one is liked because it is more straightforward than some others, so won’t batter your brains with impenetrable jargon.
Pixlr has a decent tool for everything you’re likely to want to do to an image unless you’re a graphic designer. However, some of Pixlr’s advanced apps ask you for an annual subscription.
PicMonkey is free, browser-based image editor with a solid feature set for simple photo touchups, adding text to images and adding frames. Images can be taken from a computer or various cloud services, including Dropbox and Flickr. A paid-for upgrade removes the ads and gives access to more fonts and effects.
tor is a free image editor that’s available on just about any platform either in app or web app from. It has a good selection of tools, each with an easy-to-use sliding scale of effect. Batch editing is a bonus, as are the filter tools.
Easy to use and great for simple cropping and photo manipulation. You can’t do gigantic amounts with it, but if you want something simple to sort out some pictures, this freebie is the job for you.
A browser equivalent of Photoshop is a decent photo editor. Again, some of the more advanced features will cost you, but if you want to resize something, crop it or another basic edit, then this is worth checking out.
Lenovo have been accused of something pretty grim, and if true, they’ll have some tough questions to answer. Users on the Lenovo forum have been talking about a bit of adware which goes by the name of ‘Superfish’. It seems that this adware has been hijacking browsers to place third-party adverts on Google searches and websites without the permission of the users.
That’s pretty bad, but the accusations get worse.
This apparently happens by utilising self-signed certificates to trick browsers into showing them on your computer and one person has claimed that the program intercepted a connection to their bank, which means that Superfish could well be collecting data without authorisation.
A number of posts prompted Lenovo employee Mark Hopkins to try and set the record straight. He said that Lenovo has removed Superfish from laptops and that the company have requested that the developer publishes a patch to plug the security gap. He said: ”Due to some issues (browser pop up behaviour for example), with the Superfish Visual Discovery browser add-on, we have temporarily removed Superfish from our consumer systems until such time as Superfish is able to provide a software build that addresses these issues.
“As for units already in market, we have requested that Superfish auto-update a fix that addresses these issues.”
Lenovo have stopped preloading Superfish into new consumer laptops as of January 2015, and they’re investigating what is happening with the systems that are already out there.
HOW TO REMOVE SUPERFISH FROM YOUR COMPUTER
First, hit Start/Windows and open Control Panel. Hit ‘Select Uninstall a program’ or ‘Add or Remove Programs’ and then select ‘WindowsShopper’ and press ‘Remove’ or right-click to select ‘Uninstall’.
There are associated programs that come with Superfish, such as Yontoo – remove that in the same manner as above.
If you’re using Windows 8, select ‘Control Panel’ from the Charm bar settings and click ‘Uninstall a program’ and remove the unwanted application from there.
To remove it from your browser, do as follows.
Google Chrome: Hit the 3-bar icon, top right of the window. Select ‘Tools’ then ‘Extensions’ before selecting the ‘Superfish WindowShopper’ extension and click the bin icon to get rid of it.
If you’re on Internet Explorer, in the browser, go to ‘Tools’, ‘Manage Add-ons’, ‘Enable or Disable Add-ons’ and disable the unwanted app. With Firefox, again, go to ‘Tools’, then ‘Add-ons’ and the ‘Extensions’ and select ‘Windows Shopper’ and remove it.
Any other troubles, employ a Spyware removal tool to get rid of it.
The owner of British Gas, Centrica, have said that they’ve had a big fall in profits thanks to nice weather and the drop in oil prices. Seeing as they stuck our bills up, seemingly needlessly for so long, it’d be funny if they expected anyone to feel sorry for them.
Centrica’s full-year operating profits fell by 35% to £1.75bn, which means that British Gas profits from residential business fell by 23% to £439m. Isn’t it awful when you’re still making a profit, but not as much as you normally do?.
Giving everyone the doe-eyes, Centrica said the price of oil and gas had forced them to write off £1.4bn from their balance sheet and that they were going to have to put off capital investment in the North Sea. They added: ”Other companies are doing the same thing. It’s difficult, but it is what we have to do to position the company sustainably.”
Oh, BOO HOO.
On Radio 4, Centrica honcho Iain Conn, said that “2014 was not the year we had planned it to be”, adding that his company continued “to face a number of challenges as we enter 2015, particularly the significant further reductions in wholesale oil and gas prices since the middle of December”.
Quick reminder. The company still have £1.75bn in profit, so when they’re complaining about people’s bills being £10 lower than they were 2014, like it’s our fault, don’t feel too bad. It seems, as a nation, we don’t, as for the last couple of years, British Gas have been losing a lot of customers, with 368,000 leaving them in 2014. The reason customers left? British Gas whacking everyone’s bills up.
So there you have it. British Gas’ owners want you to feel bad for them. If you want to kick them while they’re ‘down’, then here’s how to switch your energy account and get with a company that’s less emo.
A couple of days ago, we pointed out that there’s a lot of people losing money because The Big Six energy companies are ripping you off. Well, according to the Competition and Markets Authority, over 95% of households in the UK are indeed paying too much.
They’ve said that everyone could save £234 a year by switching their supply of gas and electricity.
As ever, the ones being hammered hardest are the poor and old, because they either think switching is impossible, or that it’ll be too difficult to do or they haven’t even considered it at all. With the Big Six charging the highest prices and not likely to help you out, then people are being stung via their ‘standard tariffs’.
The watchdog is going to continue to look into this in a bid to find out why people don’t shop around and whether or not the Big Sixers are actively trying to keep everyone “disengaged so as to retain them on high tariffs”.
The CMA are also looking at the possibility that the energy companies are ‘discriminating’ against loyal customers (or indeed, those disengaged) and weighing-up whether the businesses might “exploit and influence” the behaviour of their customers to their own advantage.
With more than 90% of UK households signed-up with the Big Six firms – British Gas, SSE, ScottishPower, E.On, EDF Energy and Npower – this is of course, a big problem. Many customers are with this shower after companies inherited them after the energy market was privatised over a decade ago.
How To Switch
If you want to switch accounts, then you can use an Ofgem-approved price comparison site. Find out about those by starting here. Before doing that, get in touch with your current supplier and ask for an ‘annual summary’, so you’ll have all the info you’ll need to get a better deal. You can also call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.
Basically, when their 30-day free trial ended, they were faced with the regular £79-per-year subscription. Naturally, in the small print of the T&Cs, it says that, once your free trial period ends, you’ll be switched to the yearly rate.
Problematic TV personality Giles Coren found out about all this and wasn’t happy, taking to Twitter to vent some spleen. He said: “You bastards Amazon! I can’t believe you’ve been screwing me for £79 a year for Prime! I had no idea.”
“I mean, Amazon offer a free trial in 2012, then quietly start charging £79 and never tell me. That’s what sicko porn sites do! I’ve heard…” He added: “I apologise for all these retweets re @amazon scam, I know it’s losing me followers. But this cynical corporate rape is too scummy to ignore”
The problem is, the service was £49 per year, but then it was increased to £79 last year, which no-one seemed to know about.
If you think you’ve signed up for an Amazon Prime content and are in your free period and don’t want to end up paying for the service, here’s what you should do.
Go to Amazon and hit ‘My Account’ at the top right corner of the page and, in there, go to ‘Settings’ and then hit ‘Account Settings’. There’ll be a column called ‘Manage Prime Membership’. You want to be hitting that, obviously.
Once you’ve done that, a new page will pop-up, which will tell you whether or not you’ve signed up to Amazon Prime, how long you’ve been a member for and who is paying for it.
Here, you’ll see a button to stop your Amazon Prime membership. Importantly, if you think you’ve been incorrectly charged for the service, you can apply for a refund on the customer services page.
It is official too. An Amazon spokesperson said: “Customers who sign up to a free trial of Prime receive an email informing them of the duration of the free trial and how to avoid continuing to paid Prime Membership.”
“Customers who become full Prime members can cancel their membership at any time and we will refund the full membership if the customer has not made any eligible purchases or used any Prime benefits. So as long as you haven’t used the free delivery, downloaded or streamed any videos through the service, or borrowed a Kindle book, you can simply cancel the membership and reclaim the subscription.”
The Big Six energy companies are a pain in everyone’s backside, despite the fact they’ve lowered everyone’s bills by a small amount.
However, there’s more they could do, as it looks like somewhere in advance of 13 million homes are losing £200 per year because they’re on variable rate energy tariffs. That’s billions per year, when you tot it up.
With these deals, people are paying out more than they need to. If they switched to a fixed rate deal or changed to a smaller energy company, you could be saving as much as £250 per year.
These figures are coming to light as the inquiry by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) continues, due to be published soon. It won’t surprise a soul when we all find out that the Big Six are continually not passing on savings to their customers.
This estimate comes from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which is being referred to as the £2.7billion rip-off. Today, they’re launching the ’Power to Switch’ campaign, in a bid to get people to move away from tariffs that are needlessly expensive.
Of course, one of the simplest ways of switching is to use a price comparison site (preferably one that has been approved by Ofgem) and you can be saving money with half a dozen clicks. Before you do that though, you’ll need your ’annual summary’, which you can request from your energy supplier.
That means, when you go to the comparison site, you’ll have all the correct information about things like annual usage, your tariff and all that, so it can work out which new deal would be best for you and highlight the amount you could be saving. Or, if you prefer, you can phone the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234. If you’re doing it online, then start here.
If you have a Facebook account, chances are, you’ve got a load of important photos on there. Your graduation day might be on there. That night out you had with pals you haven’t seen for a decade. That time your mate shot themselves through the foot when you went clay pigeon shooting. Cherish memories.
Well, you might want to back those photos up because a security researcher has just discovered that he can delete all your Facebook memories with four lines of code.
Someone called Laxman Muthiyah was mucking around with Facebook’s Graph API. On their blog, after musing about whether or not they could delete other people’s photos, they wrote: “I decided to try it with Facebook for mobile access token because we can see delete option for all photo albums in Facebook mobile application isn’t it? Yeah and also it uses the same Graph API. so took a album id & Facebook for android access token of mine and tried it.”
Of course, a good chunk of that is impenetrable techspeak to most people, but basically, what this means that, Facebook access tokens is the line of characters that allows an app to gain access to your profile. Laxman used such a token for the Android app and a random photo album ID and, lo and behold, it transpired you could get in and start mucking around with people’s stuff.
For those who like to get under the hood of things, click here to see Laxman’s workings-out. Or, if you prefer, you can watch a video of it instead of reading all that pesky text.
Now, Laxman has reported this to Facebook and they promptly fixed the bug. However, that’s not to say that they’re aren’t other flaws in the security of social networks.
So, with that, it is advised that you back your photos up if you don’t want them vanishing off the internet. There’s a number of cloud services like Google Drive and the iCloud to store your photos, but as we know, they’re not guaranteeing your stuff is locked-down either, what with the recent Fappening occurrence.
The best bet, if you have a load of photos, is to store them on your hard-drive or buy an external drive to keep them in. A bit of a faff, sure, but if you’re determined to keep hold of those photos from when you ran through a field covered in brightly coloured powder for charity, then you’ll need to do something about it.
Landlords can be tricky customers and sometimes, thoroughly useless. Showers that don’t work for months and kitchen’s made entirely of damp once it has defeated the magnolia that was painted over the mould, 2 weeks before you moved in.
There’s been something doing the rounds on Facebook about one particular landlord in Leeds called Simon Macbeth. An entire website has been set up to besmirch his name. If the anecdotes on the site are indeed true, then it sounds like a pretty sorry situation for a number of tenants.
We should point out, in case lawyers and litigious people are watching that this is only one side of the story.
However, there are problem landlords out there who completely steamroller their tenants and, with that, we’d like to offer some advice on how to avoid these situations and what your rights are.
According to the government, as a tenant, you have the right to “live in a property that’s safe and in a good state of repair”, “live in the property undisturbed”, “be protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent” and “if you have a tenancy agreement, it should be fair and comply with the law.”
In the case of the aforementioned website, tenants in this case are ‘excluded occupiers’, which means you live as a lodger in the property of the landlord. This means the rules are different. The contract you sign with this type of landlord won’t be an AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancy). This means you can be evicted with much less notice. It is advisable that, if you’re becoming an excluded occupier, that you have a written agreement, which you read thoroughly and both sign. This is a licence, rather than the normal tenancy agreement. In it, you should set up the house rules in advance of moving in.
Legally, you don’t have the right to exclude your landlord from the room you’re renting, so if this is a problem, then be aware of this fact before agreeing to move-in with a live-in landlord. In fact, most rights favour a live-in landlord, so this is something to give great consideration to if you’re agreeing to complete a move like this.
WHERE TO SEEK HELP WITH YOUR TENANCY RIGHTS
Shelter have a great tool on their website which will help you to establish your legal position with your tenancy. Click here to use the Shelter tenancy rights checker. You can also go through the government’s private renting complaints procedure, which you can find more on here.
You can also complain about your landlord to the National Landlords Association and the Residential Landlords Association. There’s also a government report on How To Rent which is worth familiarising yourself with if you suspect your landlord isn’t great. If you’re becoming a lodger, and your landlord won’t provide a contract, then Shelter have a ‘lodgers agreement’ which you can use.
CHECK YOUR LANDLORD
If you’re suspicious of your landlord or, indeed, want to run checks on anyone you’re going to be paying rent to, then it is worth running some Google (other search engines are available) searches on them and using the valuable Rental Raters tool. Rental Raters is, in essence, a TripAdvisor-style site where you can look up reviews of landlords before moving in with them.
Research has decided that teenagers are buggering up their sleep patterns thanks to the use of smartphones and tablets. Apparently, the more they use them, the worse their sleep is going to be. Seeing as teenagers pretty much have their hands grafted to their phones, they’re going to end up looking like Nosferatu.
A study of around 10,000 16- to 19-year-olds suggested that over two hours of screen time after school was strongly linked to delayed sleep and a shorter kip – many of the kids tested said they frequently got less than five hours sleep per night, according to the BMJ Open report.
On average, girls said they spent around 5-and-a-half hours a day watching TV, using smartphones and computers, and other devices, and boys did the same for around 6-and-a-half hours a day in front of a screen. The most common thing they’re all doing is chatting online and playing video games.
Various bits of research in recent years has shown that the quality of sleep has got worse since gadget use became more frequent.
Dr Mari Hysing and colleagues at Uni Research Health, Bergen said: ”We know that sufficient sleep is essential for good physical and mental health. Logging off may be one important step toward securing a good night’s sleep.”
However getting anyone to stop using their phone is nigh-on impossible, unless you rule your loved-ones with an iron fist. So with that, instead of stopping phone use, here’s some apps that can aid you for sleeping or at least, get you up in the morning if you’re a dozy berk.
Best Apps For Sleep
The blue light in your phone or tablet might be messing around with your natural (circadian) rhythm and is making your sleep go wonky, according to some recent research. So, the Twilight app, according to the makers: “makes your device screen adapt to the time of the day. It filters the flux of blue light emitted by your phone or tablet after sunset and protects your eyes with a soft and pleasant red filter. The filter intensity is smoothly adjusted to the sun cycle based on your local sunset and sunrise times.” Less blue light equals a better sleep, apparently.
This app describes itself as “an alarm clock and sleep cycle tracker, wakes you gently in optimal moment for pleasant mornings”. It has a load of graphs and whatnot, to see how well you were sleeping in the night, which you can pore over in the morning to see if you can fix future sleeps. If you have bother waking up, the alarm clock has puzzles to complete, or it’ll keep beeping at you.
Sleep Cycle is a popular iOS app that keeps an eye on your sleeping habits and wakes you up at the optimum time of the morning. This app will also advise where you place your iPhone at night, to ensure a better sleep. Again, it is another app that features graphs and the like, so you can study your sleeping patterns.
One sleeping app that is popular with both Android and Apple-fans, is Sleep Bot, which again, tracks your sleep patterns and gives you stats. However, this one auto-records your sleep so you can listen to yourself snoring or muttering about that hot stuff in the office. Basically, it’ll let you know if you’re having breathing problems, which you can then fix and hopefully, have a better rest in the night. This app even has tips to help improve your sleep hygiene and offers advice on how to fall asleep faster and more deeply.
F.lux is another ‘blue light’ designed to help you prepare for sleep. It adjusts the colour of your display, making it ‘warm’ in the evenings and looking more like sunlight during the day.
This app was created by Colin Espie, Professor of Sleep Medicine and Professor at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, and has a load of good reviews on the NHS website, which is quite the thing. With this app, you log in weekly, for your personalised session with the virtual ‘Prof’, where you’ll get a load of advice about ways of helping you sleep better – things to do during the week to aid your snoozing and all that. This one has add-ons though, which aren’t cheap.
Do you have any tips for sleeping that don’t involve ignoring your phone or getting blind drunk every night? Feel free to share them in the comments.
In an age when Nando’s sell their sauces in supermarkets, it is remarkable that Maccies hadn’t gone into full marketing mode and started selling their signature gloop in the shops… until now that is.
The yellow slop, which has mustard, onion, relish, garlic and other stuff in it (feel free to speculate in the comments), has been in Big Macs for years and now, for a limited time, human beings will be able to buy the secret sauce in takeaway tubs.
There’s one catch – this is only going to be happening in Australia. If you have any Australian mates, get in touch with them during February, so they can stock-up on it and send you a load in the post (if you’re that keen on having some, separate from a burger, that is).
Aussie McD’s are selling special sauce in 25ml tubs for a bargain 50 cents. That’s a bargain, eh?
“Big Mac sauce is one of the most iconic McDonald’s ingredients and people often ask us where they can buy it, so we’re excited to be the first country in the world to offer tubs of Big Mac sauce to our customers,” said McDonald’s CMO Australia Mark Lollback.
The Aussie wing of Maccies are also auctioning off a 500ml bottle of the special sauce on eBay. At the time of writing, it had reached AU $23,100, which in Sterling, is just shy of £12,000. If that all sounds stupid to you, you could just make your own.
How to make Big Mac sauce
Half a cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of French dressing
4 teaspoons of sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon of white vinegar
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of very finely chopped white onions
1/8 teaspoon of salt
Mixing them all up in a bowl and leave it overnight in the fridge so they all merge together. Stir it now and then. Bingo bango. You have your own Big Mac sauce.