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Friday
Mar142014

Gmail adds new Un-subscribe button

Keeping our inboxes free from spam can sometimes seem like a never ending battle as we continue to receive newsletters and marketing content that we never requested. Often these emails contain a link to unsubscribe from the service that has sent you the unsolicited mail, however this doesn't always work and isn’t an ideal solution.

Thankfully email services are getting better at weeding out the amount of spam that reaches our inboxes, but the problem is far from over. Google has been a pioneer when it comes making email better and it's latest addition to Gmail is likely to be welcomed by many, including businesses that have fallen victim to being incorrectly marked as spam. Google has added an unsubscribe button allowing Gmail users to easily unsubscribe from mailing lists when they receive a marketing email.

In the past when a user doesn't want to receive marketing material from certain companies they have marked the email as spam which can then cause issues for the company that sent it. If too many people mark something as spam incorrectly it can have a negative affect when that company try’s to email users that actually do want to receive the content.

Google’s new unsubscribe feature will make it much easier to avoid unsolicited email in the future and without having to visit the website sending the email and trying to locate their ‘hard to find’ unsubscribe link. Google said it has already started rolling out this new feature and that you should see the option in your inbox very soon.

Whilst we are never likely to be completely spam free as those determined enough to evade spam filters will continue to work to do so. However this move by Google is certainly a step in the right direction and should alleviate the confusion between what is unwanted email and what is actually spam.  

 

Thursday
Mar132014

Facebook video ads coming soon

Facebook have again been playing with the ‘News Feed’ again, no it’s not another layout or tweak to the user interface this time it’s Video advertising. Facebook first announced they were testing video advertisements late last year and rolled out a beta version of their video ad platform to advertisers in December of last year.

Before anybody gets worried about noisy adverts playing in their news feeds there is a silver lining in that video adverts will auto-play however there will not be any sound unless the user actually clicks on the advertisement.

Advertisements will be sold much in the same way that television adverts are sold and will be based on Targeted Gross Rating Points aimed to target a specific audience over a short period of time. Similarly the adverts will also be priced much like a television advert would be with prices ranging from $1 million to $2.5 million initially on launch. Judging from that we can assume that these video ads will be targeted at large corporations rather than small to medium businesses.

Facebook will be using Nielson and Ace Metrix to track and measure the video ads and work with advertisers to review the quality and proposed engagement level of each ad before it becomes available on Facebook.

So when will these adverts start to appear in your news feed? Facebook announced in a blog post that we should be seeing these video advertisements in the next few months. If you feel you really don’t want these adverts or they are too obtrusive it’s likely that popular adblockers will be updated in order to hide these from your news feed.

How do you feel about video ads in your news feed? Do you think they will be obtrusive? or will we just learn to ignore them like we have with other adverts. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

 

Wednesday
Mar122014

Flappy Bird to return?

It's now been a month since developer Dong Nguyen took the decision to remove flappy bird from both the App Store and Google Play Store. The move was met with a wave of speculation about the reasons behind the decision ranging from things such as a lawsuit threat from Nintendo and death threats from angry gamers. However the developer continued to stick to his original story about his reasons and stated that it was due to people overusing the game and the amount of criticism and attention he had received as a result of creating flappy bird. Dong was hounded by the media after creating flappy bird and was apparently overwhelmed with the amount of requests from press organizations.

Not long after flappy bird was taken down a plethora of copycat apps flooded the App Store and Google Play with developers trying to cash in on the success of flappy bird including myself, though mine was more for fun and I didn’t try to monetize it either. Apple and Google have since taken action and are removing some of these apps that are either too similar or use the word ‘flappy’ in the title, that being said there are still a large number of these available to download in each store.

Just as we were all beginning to move on and forget about flappy bird and the news coverage had all but died a death, Flappy Bird is again back in the limelight after the magazine Rolling Stone managed to bag an interview with the 28 year old Vietnam developer. The interview is very interesting and talks about the reasons for creating flappy bird and the inspirations behind the app as well as revealing that Dong is considering re-releasing the app again but this time it would include a warning about safety and not over playing the game and the importance of taking regular breaks (sounds more like long distance driving advice) whether or not this comes to fruition remains to be seen and we have to question whether anybody really cares whether or not the app makes a return. The world of technology and apps moves very quickly and what is hot one week may not necessarily be hot the next. Personally I think flappy bird has flown the nest and that’s where it should be left, if Dong Nguyen decided to release a new game though that would be a different matter.

 

 

Tuesday
Mar112014

iOS 7.1 update released

Apple yesterday released the much anticipated iOS 7.1 update for all devices capable of running iOS 7 so that’s iPhone 4 and later and iPad 2 and later and both iPad mini devices. iOS 7.1 contains some significant features including the addition of CarPlay, formerly known as iOS in the Car. This allows users with a ‘CarPlay’ enabled  vehicle to use features of their iPhone using the cars dashboard touchscreen for features such as sending and receiving texts answering and making calls and interacting with Siri.

The update also fixes the issue whereby the touch ID was not very responsive for the iPhone 5S and brings stability and performance improvements to the aging iPhone 4. Having tested iOS 7.1 on an iPhone 4 I can confirm that this update has significantly improved the experience of iOS 7  and the iPhone 4 runs a lot smoother than it did prior to this update. Many iPhone 4 users have complained about the poor performance of iOS 7 on their iPhone so I would encourage anyone still using an iPhone 4 to update and reap the benefits.

Other users have complained about a ‘White Screen of Death’ since the launch of iOS 7 particularly on the iPhone 5S and 5C and this has also been addressed in the latest update with Apple claiming they fixed a bug that may cause the homescreen to crash.

There were numerous other small updates and tweaks such as those listed below:

  • CarPlay: formerly known as iOS in the Car, which supports iPhone calling, music, maps, and messaging. It also allows users to control certain functions through iOS’ in-built voice-activated assistance Siri;

  • Siri improvements: Including natural-sounding voices for U.K. English, Australian English, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. You can also use it in push-to-talk mode by holding the Home button for the duration of your query;

  • Calendar changes: The list view has returned in month view, and the update has also included country-specific holidays added for many locales;

  • iTunes Radio updates: The radio feature, first introduced in iOS 7, has been updated with new features, including the ability to buy albums over-the-air from “Now Playing”;

  • Accessibility additions: The “parallax” motion feature option now includes Weather, Messages, and multi-tasking user interface animations;

  • Camera settings bolstered: Including a setting that allows users to automatically enable HDR mode for iPhone 5s users;

  • Touch ID improved: The software that controls the biometric reader has been improved to make fingerprint recognition better.

To update your device to the latest firmware simply go to the settings app, tap about and then check for updates. As always you can also update to the latest version of iOS by connecting your device to your computer and using iTunes which may be your only solution if you are currently running a Jailbreak on your device. Please be aware that as discussed last week if you update to this firmware you will lose any active jailbreak currently on your device.

Image Courtesy of KĀRLIS DAMBRĀNS (Flickr)

 

Monday
Mar102014

Learning to code online

We all use apps as part of our daily lives whether it’s an app on your smartphone to tell people what you’re doing such as Twitter or Facebook apps or it could be an app on your Windows or Mac PC that you use to edit videos. Apps are a huge part of lives and it’s true there is an app for just about everything but like me I’m sure there have been times when an app you love doesn’t do everything you want it too.

Back when I first started using mobile applications I remember being frustrated on many occasions as features I thought were essential to an app were not present and had been left out by the developer. It was as a result of many disappointments with apps not meeting my expectations that I decided to I wanted to create my own.

It can be quite daunting when you first decide that you want to learn how to code and develop your own apps but fortunately the days of reading huge 500 page books are long gone. Thankfully we now have online services that enable us to learn how to program by taking online practical and interactive courses and tutorials. Many people find it easier to learn using a hands-on approach and this is exactly what the services I’m about to share with you offer.

First up is my favorite, Codecademy which is a totally free interactive service that teaches you how to program by giving you real examples of code and allowing you to interact by way of completing courses which become more advanced as you move through them. Codecademy has courses available for Javascript, HTML/CSS, PHP, Python, Ruby and working with API’s and is definitely a great starting point for those new to programming.

Another great service is Treehouse, whilst it’s not free and is more primarily aimed at those with an existing knowledge there is still content suitable for beginners. Treehouse uses video tutorials and interactive courses that you work through in order to learn more about your chosen language. Treehouse has a plethora of content available for you to learn from and for as little as $25 a month you could be developing iPhone and Android apps within a few weeks. Treehouse also have a free trial which lasts for 14 days so you have nothing to lose if you want to try the service and see if you can benefit from the vast array of content they have.

If you're unsure which service is best for you I would recommend you start with Codecademy which as previously mentioned is a free service. However if you have a bit of experience under your belt and are looking to take your programming knowledge to the next level or a particularly looking to develop iOS and Android apps then I would recommend Treehouse.

 

Friday
Mar072014

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Leaked to public

Today has not been a great day for Microsoft after the company made Windows 8.1 update 1 available on their servers to allow employees to update to the new version it was leaked to the public too. Microsoft intended to keep the public away from this update by labelling the files with non obvious filenames. Unfortunately for them people were able to access these files with a simple software tweak that fooled Microsoft’s servers into thinking they were internal Microsoft employees.

Microsoft have since patched this vulnerability meaning you can no longer download the files directly from their servers. However the damage has already been done, those who managed to download the files have released them to various file sharing services allowing anybody to download and install the update on their systems.

Windows 8.1 update 1 is not officially supported by Microsoft yet and even though Microsoft released the RTM version on Wednesday which is a good representation of the final product it’s worth noting that some hardware specific drivers and services may not be fully compatible yet. If you do decide to search out the update online you should proceed with utmost caution as with any unsupported software there will likely be issues.

As we mentioned on Tuesday Microsoft will be officially releasing Windows 8.1 update 1 on April 8th, about a week after their Build developer conference. Our advice would be to hold off until then rather than risk installing this released build from unofficial sources. For more information about Windows 8.1 update 1 check out our post from earlier this week.


 

Friday
Mar072014

How Much is your Mobile Worth

A lot of people have begun to sell their phones on after they have finished with them. Often, this is via the use of recycling websites such as Envirophone and Mazuma Mobile (there are many more) or even a highstreet store like Albemarle Bond. Now people are also starting to sell their mobiles on to get the value of the small amount of gold that can be used in the phones. Recycling your old phones can be useful in many ways. They can be taken apart and their various bits and pieces used to make other things. It also means you come away with a little extra cash in your pocket while being a lot more economical.

Gold can be used for micro voltages as they are a highly conductive metal – hence their use in a lot of things. One of the best uses of gold is that they don't corrode very easily, meaning the demand for it is a lot higher than you would think. The very small percentage of gold put into each mobile phone seems a minuscule amount, but put all this gold together, and there is a vast amount. Around one billion mobiles are made every year, each of them containing around 50 cents in gold. A lot of these aren't recycled, so it is a waste of the gold (and money) in this respect.  

Gold is one of the most important of metals in the industrial sector, particularly when it comes to electronics. Devices such as our mobile phones use such little currents and voltages and gold is the conductor used to try and carry the currents around your mobile and stop the corrosion from happening. This also means they are a lot more reliable. Devices such as televisions and calculators also have a bit of gold in them. You can also recycle these electronics although there aren't as many services readily available to do so.

References
http://geology.com/minerals/gold/uses-of-gold.shtml

Author - Chris Hutchinson

Thursday
Mar062014

Roku's Streaming Stick takes on Chromecast

The world of online streaming has really hotted up over the last year with services such as Netflix becoming more and more popular all the time. People have even started to cut their cable subscriptions in favor of online streaming services which are cheaper and offer a more on-demand service.

Roku is no stranger to the world of online streaming as they have had several variations of the ‘Roku Box’ which is now on version 3. When compared with other solutions such as the Apple TV, Roku have always been very popular due to the sheer amount of content available with over 450 channels and counting available at the time of writing. Unlike Apple TV which has a very controlled approach to the channels that are available, Roku have always tried to offer as much as possible with services such as Amazon Instant, Netflix, Now TV and more recently YouTube. Whilst some devices like the Chromecast only work with particular services Roku appears to support nearly all of them.

With the launch of the Chromecast Google changed the way we thought about streaming devices, they were no longer clunky boxes that had to be placed on top or beside the television set, you simply plugged in your Chromecast stick into a spare HDMI port and you were away. It seems that Roku also thinks that this is the ways to go as they have just announced their own Streaming Stick which will offer over 1,200 channels when it launches. What sets apart Roku’s offering from the Chromecast is the inclusion of the Roku remote which has been included with all of their previous streaming devices.

The new Roku streaming stick is due to launch in April but you can pre-order it from many retailers before to avoid disappointment if they sell-out quickly. It’s important to note that unlike previous Roku boxes the streaming stick is only compatible with HDMI so if you don’t have HDMI capabilities you may want to look at the Roku 1 or 2 which allow connectivity via RCA instead. To learn more about the new Roku Streaming stick head over to Roku’s website.

 

Wednesday
Mar052014

iOS 7.1, iTunes Festival and future of Jailbreaking

If the numerous news sources are correct then Apple will be dropping the iOS 7.1 firmware update any day now. Whilst it was originally thought that this update would be some way off it appears that an early release might be essential for Apple’s iTunes festival. This years iTunes festival which is taking place in Texas is to be live streamed to devices all around the world, and this requires the updates only found in iOS 7.1. Usually by now we have had the iTunes Festival app made available on the app store but so far there is no sign of it so that adds even more weight to the likelihood that Apple are waiting for the iOS 7.1 release.

Apple’s iTunes festival starts on Monday 11th March so an imminent release of the next update to iOS 7 is very likely to be released within the next few days. Whilst we know many of the features that are coming with the final release of iOS 7.1 thanks to developer preview beta’s there is still some features that we could find in iOS 7.1 that we didn’t see in previous beta’s such as the recently announced CarPlay which could quite possibly be included as one of Apple’s biggest features of this update.

If you’re one of the many people that have an active Jailbreak on your iOS 7 device you may be wondering what the latest update to IOS 7 means for you? With previous updates to iOS 7 Apple have been very lapse about patching the Jailbreak and Evad3rs the group behind the iOS 7 Jailbreak merely had to update the Jailbreak to make it compatible with the newly updated firmware. However this has changed with iOS 7.1 which fully patches the vulnerabilities used by the Evad3rs team that allowed them to create a public Jailbreak.

If you are currently running iOS 7.0.6 and have an active Jailbreak that you want to keep you should stay well away from iOS 7.1 as you will lose the Jailbreak. If you are not concerned about losing the Jailbreak then you may update to iOS 7.1 when it’s released. The most important thing to consider is, as soon as Apple have stopped signing iOS 7.0.6 which will not be long after the release of iOS 7.1 you will lose the ability to downgrade to the previous version of iOS whether or not you have saved SHSH blobs. There is no going back, so please think very carefully when deciding whether to upgrade or not.

So what does this mean for the future of Jailbreaking? Upon the release of iOS 7.1 more and more users will update and lose their current jailbreak and even users who may not want to lose the Jailbreak will begin to do so if they ever need to restore their devices as they will have no choice but to upgrade to the latest version of iOS 7 when performing a full restore. It has become increasingly more difficult to obtain a Jailbreak with each new release of iOS firmware and long gone are the days when the Jailbreak team could issue a Jailbreak just hours after a new firmware was released. It’s likely that we will not see another Jailbreak begin to be worked on until the release of iOS 8 and iPhone 6 as it’s just not worth the Evad3rs time to try and fix the patch in 7.1. Only once the new iOS 8 firmware is publically available alongside new hardware such as iPhone 6 and even possibly new iPads will the Evad3rs begin to work on a Jailbreak with any left over exploits that they might have previously held onto or begin to look for new exploits and start poking away at the kernel.

Personally I will be updating to iOS 7.1 and losing my current Jailbreak as I think it’s better to bite the bullet and accept the inevitable. It was nice to have a Jailbreak and have more functionality from my iPhone but I would rather lose my jailbreak now and become accustomed to it rather than wait until I have to restore my device next and are forced to lose it.

 

Tuesday
Mar042014

Windows 8.1 Update 1 coming soon

Yesterday we brought you news about Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release including the new digital assistant called Cortana. Today we have just heard news that Microsoft is finalizing Windows 8.1 (update 1) desktop operating system and a release is expected as early as next month. It has been revealed by Russian leaker WZor that Microsoft has recently signed off on a final version of the ‘8.1 update 1 for Windows 8, known internally as RTM (Release to Manufacturing).

The update was originally announced at MWC (Mobile World Congress) whereby Microsoft referred to it as a ‘Spring update’ for Windows 8.1. It’s not yet known how Microsoft intends to brand the latest update but Windows 8.1 update 1 does sound like a bit of a mouthful so maybe we will see something like WIndows 8.1.1 or 8.2?

The majority of the features for this release are aimed at keyboard and mouse users and will bring with it features such as:

  • Windows 8 Apps will show on desktop Taskbar
  • New Title bar on top of Windows 8 Apps (minimize, close and snap)
  • Adding Shut down button to Start Adding Shutdown button to Start Screen (non touch-screen devices only)
  • Automatically boot to desktop (non touch-screen devices only)

Microsoft have also lowered the specifications required for running Windows 8.1 Update 1 which will allow manufacturers to build 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage which should help in bringing lower price points to Windows 8.1 devices. Microsoft will be releasing Windows 8.1 update 1 on April 8th not long after the companies Build developer conference which is taking place April 2 - 4.

Monday
Mar032014

Windows Phone 8.1 to introduce Cortana digital assistant

Microsoft's next version of it’s Windows Phone Operating system (Windows Phone 8.1) will come with an assistant much like what has been available on iPhone in the form of Siri or on Google Android handsets as Google Now. Microsoft have been working on Cortana the name for the new digital assistant for over a year now and are planning to reveal the feature at the company's upcoming ‘Build’ conference along with a developer preview of Windows 8.1.

Cortana will replace the current built-in Bing search functionality currently found on Windows Phone Operating systems. Whilst the name Cortana comes from a female fictional artificial intelligence character from Halo, it is thought that Cortana will be represented by a circle rather than adopting a female like appearance. Upon interacting with Cortana the circle icon will animate based on whether it’s thinking or speaking.

Although Microsoft have been using the name Cortana internally during the development it is unclear whether it plans to keep the name Cortana or use some other moniker upon launch. Much in the same way that Siri allows you to customize how you want to be addressed you will be able to set how you wish to be addressed by Cortana, and whether by name or a nickname. Cortana will use a notebook feature that allows it to save and store data and access such things as location, personal information, reminders and much more. It has also been announced that Cortana will have some Google Now like features including the ability to track flights.

The Cortana service will be backed by services such as Bing and Foursquare which will enable it to have some of the contextual power similar to that found in Google Now. How it performs in relation to Siri and Google Now remains to be seen but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for the struggling Windows Phone OS.

Sunday
Mar022014

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