EU sets out to prove it’s bigger than Google

November 28th, 2014 No Comments By Thewlis

google EU sets out to prove it’s bigger than GoogleIt’s not that they have a Thing against Google or anything, but the European Parliament has overwhelmingly backed a motion urging competition regulators to break up Google.

The resolution, passed by 384 votes to 174 yesterday, was not actually calling for fisticuffs, but rather was an official shout out to the European Commission, who are being asked to consider proposals to unbundle search engines from other commercial services. In simple terms, the EU parliament doesn’t mind Google being a search engine, but it’s all the added everything, including mail, social media, digital media and shopping that they have a problem with, on the basis that Google then controls the life of millions of Europeans. Of course, the resolution doesn’t name names, it just refers to search engines with bundled products; however Google owns the search services in Europe with an estimated 90 per cent market share.

German conservative lawmaker and co-sponsor of the bill Andreas Schwab  said: “Monopolies in whatever market have never been useful, neither for consumers nor for the companies,” adding that he had nothing against Google and was a regular user. Bet his search history isn’t scrutinised at all.

Part of the problem is that Google is currently subject to an EU investigation into complaints that it unfairly demoted rival services- if found guilty, Google could face fines of up to £3bn. Google declined to comment.

Lobbying group Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Google, eBay Facebook, Microsoft and Samsung, said unbundling was an “extreme and unworkable” solution that made no sense in rapidly changing online markets.

“While clearly targeting Google, the parliament is in fact suggesting all search companies, or online companies with a search facility, may need to be separated. This is of great concern as we try to create a digital single market,” it said.

So can the EU break Google?  Well, as we all know, the elected politicians in the European parliament have practically zero power, and as such the resolution they passed with great aplomb is actually non-binding on the European Commission itself. However, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has said she will review the case and talk to complainants before deciding on the next step. Which could be absolutely nothing, although it is worth noting that Ms Vestager’s predecessor Joaquin Almunia rejected three attempts by the company to settle the investigation into its allegedly shady dealings.

So for now it’s Google 1, EU 0 (x100).

Syrian Electronic Army attack OK magazine

November 28th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

hackers Syrian Electronic Army attack OK magazineA number of websites have fallen prone to being attacked by the SEA.

The Syrian Electronic Army (who sound like more like an underground rave set-up than terrorists) claimed to have hacked a number of websites.

The SEA exploited a fault with a content delivery network and soon visitors to the Independent, OK magazine and the Evening Standard websites were given a blank screen and a javascript popup telling them they had been hacked.

The Syrian Electronic Army are a pro-Assad Syrian hacker group. Of course they’d head straight for OK magazine.

The ad network were first in line for blame, due to the sporadic nature of the outages, which are difficult to replicate and spread over a number of sites.

The Independent reckon the hack came via the Gigya CDN, but stress no information on users was compromised.

Ernest Hilbert, a security consultant at Kroll Cyber, agreed that “it was Gigya. It is a DNS takeover, and this is what the Syrian Electronic Army does. Normally, you type in a URL, it goes to a domain name server, and it says ‘those words equal this website’.

“But not every user can get in through one connection, particularly at bigger sites. A CDN means that, because you can’t all fit in through the same door, it sends you to another one, another version of the content. And one of those versions, which hosts copies of all these affected sites, appears to have been compromised by the Syrian electronic army.”

This isn’t the first time the SEA have done this. They have form going back to 2011. They did The Sun and the Sunday Times in June, and The Guardian in 2013, when it sent spoof emails to staff encouraging them to reset passwords through a malicious link. Fancy that!

iPhone users most prone to accidents

November 28th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

apple logo on broken screen computer wallpaper 1920x1200 3209 300x187 iPhone users most prone to accidentsiPhone users are bloody clumsy, according to a new report.

Almost half of all users of the iPhone admitted to accidents such as sitting on it, dropping it in the loo or knocking booze over it.

The report from Lightspeed/ GMI also revealed that one fifth of the Britons had damaged their phone to the extent it needed replacing.

27% had sat on the thing, another eight had stood on it and, well, 1% admitted to microwaving it. The clots.

Android users are nearly as clown-handed with their handsets, with 41% claiming a mishap, Windows phone users followed with 38%.

The only thing on phones that people said they would pay to get fixed was the call function. As in, the actual point of the handset. Which is some good news. 63% would live happily with a cracked screen and 45% aren’t that arsed about software updates either.

The brilliantly named Ralph Risk, marketing director Europe at Lightspeed GMI, said: “Manufacturers might want to think about ways to make phones more appealing – particularly as the market is at saturation point” (water resistance, smash proof and drop proof features were all found to be appealing to users).”

“Technical gizmos are all well and good, but there’s a real opportunity to make them people-proof too… throw in a no-quibble replacement insurance policy for the chewed, cooked, squashed, soaked or dropped phone, and there may be a new revenue stream for manufacturers,” he said.

GMI’s online panel had previously done a survey in October 2014 with 1,000 respondents who all owned smartphones. 54.5% were Android users, 29% had an iPhone, Windows phone users accounted for 9.5% and the likes of Blackberrys counted for 7%.

All hail! The external hashtag for Macs!

November 27th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

As most people know, in the last few years, the hashtag has become a hugely popular symbol, thanks to Twitter. However, Mac keyboards don’t have one.

So someone called Ben Gomori has decided to come up with one and is raising funds on Kickstarter to create the HashKey, a dedicated one-key external keyboard that only has a hashtag button on it.

3c0f326df04ed9e02d04678daf133187 large 500x281 All hail! The external hashtag for Macs!

Naturally, there’ll be dweebs out there spitting tea from their nostrils and yelling “URGH! THERE IS A SHORTCUT Y’KNOW? JUST PRESS ALT + 3!” but that’s no fun.

Gomori said that he was tired of people asking him where the hashtag key was on a Mac, and instead of linking someone to LetMeGoogleThatForYou, he thought he’d try and make some dollar out of it. So basically, through your USB port, you pop in the external hashtag key and hey presto!

While this may be useless to people who know how to work out a tiny problem like this, it’d make for a good present for those who are persistent in not learning how to do things.

Blinkbox not quite dead after all

November 27th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

blinkbox 300x174 Blinkbox not quite dead after allBlinkbox is still a thing. Honest.

After it looked like they were dead in the water, the UK online video service has just signed a new content deal with a US film studio and added offline viewing for tablet-havers.

Blinkbox have announced a deal with Entertainment Film Distributors, who have been behind the likes of American Hustle, The Butler, Transcendence, I, Frankenstein, The Giver, Her and August: Osage County.

Speaking about the new deal, Blinkbox’s director, content acquisition and sales, said: “The new deal with EFD means we have 100% coverage of major new release movies released in the UK, strengthening our position as the UK’s go to service for those wanting to rent, buy and enjoy the latest movies and TV on multiple devices, without being tied into a subscription or one specific brand of device.”

Also in quite good developments, those who want to rent, buy and enjoy can now download films and TV to iPads and Android tablets to watch the online video service without an Internet connection, with the Watch Offline option.

Co-founder and CEO Adrian Letts added: “The ability to watch offline on tablets is one of the most frequently requested features and will transform the way many customers use blinkbox – whether that’s by allowing more freedom to watch what they want in the home – or taking their entertainment on the move.”

Twitter Logo1 Twitter to start spying on your apps (and how to turn it off)Twitter have unveiled their plans to start collecting information on the apps that users have upon their phones and tablet devices.

They reckon it would allow them to monitor and target Twitter users with specially tailored advertising. Sounds like spying and invading people’s privacy to us, but that’s the internet for you.

According to a post on Twitter’s help page, Twitter said it would target people who use its app on all mobile devices that run Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems.

It continues: “To help build a more personal Twitter experience for you, we are collecting and occasionally updating the list of apps installed on your mobile device so we can deliver tailored content that you might be interested in.”

The social network claim that they will only collect names of applications that users, um, use, rather than the contents and data from them, so the social media behemoth can help to build graph data to personalise each tweeter’s Twitter experience.

Twitter will automatically opt its users into the new data collection service, but if you’d like to turn it off, here’s how.

How to turn this feature off and remove my data from Twitter

If you use Twitter for Android:

Tap the overflow icon (the thing in the top right that looks like three dots)
Hit ‘Settings’
Tap the account you’d like to tinker with
Under ‘Other’, you can adjust the setting to ‘Tailor Twitter’ based on your apps

If you use Twitter for iOS:

From the Me tab, press the cog button
Hit ‘Settings’
Click on the account you’d like to edit
Under ‘Privacy’, you can adjust the setting to ‘Tailor Twitter’ based on your apps.

Lenovo prank customers by breaking stuff

November 26th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Lenovo have hit upon a novel way of promoting their wares.

The company have enlisted comedy lot Upright Citizens Brigade to make a video to promote Lenovo Yoga 3 laptop where they mess with people’s heads.

It’s being termed as ‘prankvertising’ which is possibly the worst word ever and should be helicoptered out to the middle of the sea and dropped like toxic waste.

The stunt involves UCB members posing as employees of Lenovo and touting the hinged hybrid computer to shoppers passing by a laptop-test-drive kiosk at Pennsylvania’s Plymouth Meeting Mall. The stooge employee tells shoppers of the laptop that transforms into a tablet: “What makes this laptop special, among many things, is that it bends. Try and do that with a Mac.”

So obviously he picks up a Mac and snaps it. Hahaha. Before handing the broken laptop to the poor customer and runs away. Obviously the reaction shots are what makes the ‘prankvertisment’

Once the prank is revealed, everyone’s all good and smashing, though we don’t know whether they come back to buy a Lenovo Yoga.

According to Bob Cordell, digital marketing manager for Lenovo: “We definitely recognize people will [view] this in different ways, just as we recognize there are passionate supporters of other people’s products,”

“But we hope to do this in a way that we’re upfront about it. We’re not trying to pull a fast one.”

Super Wi-fi throughout the UK could be a thing

November 26th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

WIFI icon 300x300 Super Wi fi throughout the UK could be a thingThe UK looks set to be super WiFi’ed up if a plan to use old TV frequencies gets the go ahead.

The idea is to broadcast super WiFi throughout the land, which will mean you’ll be able to get an internet connection literally anywhere. The new WiFi would travel through walls far more effectively than current systems and has a range 100 times greater than current routers.

According to researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the fast connections could be made available to the public for free.

The WiFi would use up the white space between TV channels, and offers speeds similar to 4G

It all boils down to the government allowing people to use it, rather than sell it off to telecoms companies that they may have interests in.

Arnd Weber of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology said: “Implementation of our approach would have far-reaching consequences. Individuals, institutions, and companies would be far less dependent on expensive mobile communications networks in conducting their digital communication. This would also be of great economic benefit.”

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology hope that governments can discuss the issue at next year’s World Radiocommunication Conference. Which sounds like quite the party.

Amazon and the Post Office: together at last

November 25th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

amazoninstant Amazon and the Post Office: together at lastAmazon have just partnered up with the Post Office! No really. It’s happened. Bolt the doors.

Don’t panic, it’s not forever or a bid for the Christmas No.1 or anything, the online retail giant have teamed up with the posties, to allow buyers to have their parcels delivered to the branches directly.

That’s quite good news for anyone whose postman stashes their items with the neighbour but neglects to inform the actual recipient.

10,500 Post Offices are now added to Amazon’s Pickup Location Programme – which sounds slightly unsavoury. This however brings the total of Pick Up posts to 16,000 in the UK.

It’s an odd but good move for the online shop to team up with the very thing it was trying to destroy, which is quite a nice festive message for us all to take from it.

Oh but of course, there has to be something in it for Amazon too, so the service will be yet another incentive to sign up to its Prime subscription deal; free with Prime, Post Office deliveries will otherwise cost standard First Class post rates.

Google make Christmas shopping easier

November 25th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Google have made spending your money even simpler for you this Christmas.

The search engine has been updated to include new elements on smartphones and tablets to sell you even more stuff this Black Friday.

Extra information will be yours when you tap in something like ‘kettles’, and it will tell you where the product is available and user reviews and will pop up on a regular search. You’ll also have the option to use a 3D, 360-degree rotation tool to view some products.

Google Mobile 151x300 Google make Christmas shopping easier

Oooh.

Google reckon half of all people between 25 and 34 use their phones to shop while they’re out shopping. This new app will enable them to do so with even greater ease, and you’ll be even able to track your items and stock levels. I mean, how much more help does one want here?

Vapes: the latest thing to be malwared!

November 24th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

e cigarette Vapes: the latest thing to be malwared!Electronic cigarettes have now become targets for malware transmission.

Yes, despite being a healthier alternative to the actual fags themselves, e-cigarettes that are charged over night – or plugged directly into a USB port – can be moody affairs that could gain access to your computer’s innards.

According to a report on Reddit, it suggests that at least one “vaper” had been done over by their electronic cigarette.

“One particular executive had a malware infection on his computer from which the source could not be determined,” the user writes. “After all traditional means of infection were covered, IT started looking into other possibilities.”

“The made in China e-cigarette had malware hardcoded into the charger, and when plugged into a computer’s USB port the malware phoned home and infected the system.”

It’s not completely mad. Things have been used as trojan horses to bung some infection into computers since time began, but in this case it’s the possibility of BadUSB, which can reprogram USB devices at the hardware level.

The proper brands that users should stick to are the likes of Aspire, KangerTech and Innokin, and by checking for scratch checkers on the box, which mark out authentic goods from counterfeits.

According to figures from the Press Association, e-cigarettes and related equipment, have been involved in more than 100 fires in less than two years.

The fags eh?

Cab app price war equals cheapness

November 24th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

taxi 300x200 Cab app price war equals cheapnessTaxi apps. They’re at WAR.

The price war between the apps has heated up as the festive season encroaches, and London-based app Get Taxi has just gone hardcore on their competitor’s arses with bargain pricing.

The company will charge just a fiver to travel up to six miles in London, and the app will make up the rest of the fare.

This follows Uber’s fares being reduced by almost half.

Just as an example of the dimensions of this deal, a usual fare from Get Taxi around London is £30.

UK chief executive, Remo Gerber reckons: “There’s a lot of competition over the app makers and to a certain degree you need to think of things that you can do to stand out from the crowd.”

Hailo, Kabbee, Taxibeat and Maaxi are also attempting to gain market share in the UK, which has forced some minicab firms to lower their prices to compete.

There’s an increasing amount of competition from dozens of apps, and so it’s genuinely quite cheap to cab it up in the big cities at the moment. So take advantage and get ready for a LOT of Magic FM.

android lollipop 300x300 What can Androids Lollipop do, that KitKat couldnt?Android 5.0, or Lollipop, is set to be flung out to compatible devices and there’s going to be some changes. Some changes will be irritating for everyone no doubt, but there’s others that are pretty great.

With the latter, here’s some of the cool stuff you can look out for.

Battery and Charging

Instead of charging your battery and staring at it, willing it to juice-up more quickly, Android Lollipop’s new OS will show you how long it would take to charge your phone and will also have a little graph showing off how much time is left before the battery does. The home screen will no show you the time until full charge, which is handy.

Guests

You know how, on your computer, you can set up guest accounts so other people don’t get to nosey around in your business? Well, Lollipop is offering the same thing, so you can add guest users or create a profile for other people. By going to Settings/Users/Add Guest, you’ll be able to tailor what they  can do on your phone.

Torch

Most phones have some sort of torch on them, but now, Android 5.0 has the flashlight pinned in the notifications panel. Pull down the notification thingy and there it is! Hardly earth-shattering, but it not bad at all for those looking for some nice practical improvements.

Notification panel

Speaking of the notification panel, the new one has been made much easier to use. Unlike KitKat, the most useful feature you’ll notice is that you can have the ability to view your notifications on your lock screen. If you’re worried about leaving your phone unattended, then you can disable the function in Settings.

Flappy Bird

The new Android 5.0 has an ‘easter egg’ build-in where you can get a modified version of Flappy Bird. If you want to check it out, go to Settings/About Phone and click it a few times and you’ll get the android robot in place of the bird. The game will still irritate you though.

Chromecast

If you’ve got Chromecast, you’ll now be able to access it much easier. Now, you can simply go to the notification panel and tap ‘Cast Screen’. No more waiting for the ‘Cast This?’ pop-up.

Redesigned Soft Keys

Soft key buttons have been updated and the icons are a bit tidier, a little smaller and rather nicely compact.

Prioritise apps

Your phone can get a bit clogged-up when you’ve been using loads of apps through the day. Lollipop now gives you the opportunity to prioritise which apps you receive notifications from. So, if you’re going to bed, you can switch most of them off so you’re not flooded with pointless notifications first thing in the morning, or whatever.

Firefox say cheerio Google and hello Yahoo

November 21st, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

firefox 300x288 Firefox say cheerio Google and hello YahooYahoo is to replace Google for Firefox’s web browser.

The move ends a decade long partnership with Google and the Mozilla Foundation, and will take place in the US in December.

Although Firefox users in Europe shouldn’t notice much of a change, Yahoo has said the deal “provides a framework for exploring future product integrations and distribution opportunities to other markets”.

Yahoo’s partnership is for five years, wherein they hope to introduce and enhanced search experience with an immersive design, which will go out to Yahoo users early next year.

“Mozilla is an inspirational industry leader who puts users first and focuses on building forward-leaning, compelling experiences,” said Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO.

“This partnership helps to expand our reach in search and also gives us an opportunity to work closely with Mozilla to find ways to innovate more broadly in search, communications, and digital content.”

Google had paid £300 million a year to be Firefox’s chosen one – which accounts for 90% of the browser’s annual revenue, however things have been a bit shaded since Google launched Chrome.

Driverless cars! They might get hacked!

November 21st, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

car in flood Driverless cars! They might get hacked!With all technology, at some point, writers are legally obliged to worry about hackers getting dastardly with it.

And so, to driverless cars, who are now being thought of as an army of marauding, wheeled weapons under the spell of balaclava’d ne’er-do-wells on laptops. No longer are these robot cars the thing that will remove human error and make the roads safer.

Not only do we have to shriek hysterically about hackers taking the wheel, but research conducted via simulators has shown that human drivers may be a huge problem too, if they’re going to mix with our pilotless carriages. It turns out that human beings change the way they drive when using the same roads as autonomous cars by copying the driving styles and leaving less space between themselves and the vehicle in front. Stupid, susceptible human idiots with their slower-than-a-sensor reaction times.

These warnings come as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) publishes a report on driverless vehicles and how they can be integrated onto our roads.

They think that autonomous vehicles will be commonplace on British roads, with public transport and delivery vehicles being the cheaper, safer option within 15 years. We don’t have to wait that long though, to get a look at them. The first driverless vehicles look like they’ll be on the road from January 2015 in a series of trials from the Department for Transport.

Hugh Boyes, cyber security lead at the IET, said there’s cause for panic: “If the hacker community could start to target vehicles we can imagine a fair amount of chaos. The motor industry is really strong on safety but if someone tries to interfere with the vehicle, tries to hack it and disrupt it, then these don’t fall under the typical safety issues.”

“Unfortunately living in the world today people do try to tamper with technology. The industry is only just starting to recognise this.”

“Recent reports analysing software show that 98% of applications have serious defects and in many cases there were 10-15 defects per application. If ultimately you want to use autonomous vehicles, we need to make sure they don’t have a defect.”

Just wait until we get the first fatality from someone getting run over by a driverless car. That’s when the real shrieking will begin.