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Showing posts from August 2, 2015

Windows Tablets Reach New Pricing Milestone

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Want a Windows tablet at a price that usually gets you something pretty ropey running an outdated version of Android? For Kiwis that became a reality this weekend, when Harvey Norman began offering the very serviceable Konka KW9012 tablet for NZ$97. At today's exchange rate that's around £40. It's a  real lowering of the bar for Windows. The Konka comes with a year's worth of Office 365 Personal and is upgradable to Windows 10. Its 9" screen, 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM aren't specs that are going to set the world on fire, but all are sufficient to give a pretty good Windows experience. You have expandable memory - although beware that if you upgrade to Windows 10 you can't currently install apps to cards, which may be a problem for the 16GB storage. You also get USB OTG, for plugging in devices like keyboards, mice and USB flash drives. For the price its a perfect entry level device.

Green New Zealand Reaches A New Landmark

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New Zealand is already a world leader in the use of renewable energy, with around 75% of the country's electricity coming from renewables. That number is about to get a whole lot bigger. Genesis Energy has announced that it will be closing its last coal fired generators once its contractual commitments have lapsed in mid-2017. The two generators will be replaced by a gas-fired unit which will be used in the event of a spike in demand. The net result will be that by 2018 New Zealand will be generating 90% of its power via renewables - and without a significant difference in power costs when compared with similar-sized countries. Whilst New Zealand does have access to abundant renewable energy sources the way in which these have been leveraged should be an example to other countries who have failed to keep pace in the drive to address climate change.

How Much Phone Do You Use On Your Smartphone?

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The new iPod Touch asks some interesting questions about the concept of a smartphone. At its heart it is an iPhone 6 squeezed into a 4" screen and body. To buy it outright costs an eye-watering $350 less than the equivalent iPhone 5S. That's an awful lot to pay for a GSM/LTE radio and associated antennae. Many years ago, when Bluetooth was in its infancy I talked about how the technology offered the opportunity to decouple the different elements of our technology, whilst keeping the experience intact. At the time I was comparing the capabilities of the Sony Ericsson P800 all-in-one (I hesitate to call it a smartphone) and the Palm Tungsten T/Sony Ericsson T39 combo. The iPod Touch looks like it could form the basis of a modern day equivalent. Add in a small, light and cheap LTE phone and you have all the functionality of an iPhone at less than half the price. Except you'll be missing one critical piece of the puzzle: voice. You'll still be able to make and receive vo…

Does Mozilla Have A Case In Windows 10 Browser Complaint?

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Users upgrading to Windows 10 are finding that post upgrade their default applications for certain processes have been changed to Windows built-in apps. Notably the Edge web browser. Now there is a case to answer that Edge isn't quite mature enough to force upon the whole Windows 10 world - there are some missing bits of functionality that require using the supplied version of Internet Explorer. Mozilla, through its CEO Chris Beard, has been vociferous about the decision to set Edge as the default browser in Windows because it ignores a user's expressed choice. The move is being compared to the previous anticompetitive behaviour that earned Microsoft serious sanction, back in the day. Well, yes, no and maybe. The world is a different place right now. Microsoft isn't battling Mozilla for the best browser, it's battling Apple and Google for a the overall desktop user experience. In terms of sales iOS is neck and neck with the PC. Yet Apple allows no discussion about cha…

Android OEMs Get Stagefright

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In terms of security holes Android's Stagefright hack looks to be about as bad as they get. A malformed text message that can deliver its payload without even needing to be opened. It mirrors a previous issue of similar seriousness, which affected the iPhone recently. The difference is in the way Google and Apple responded to the incident. Apple were able to deliver a fix and make it available to all of its users in no time at all. Google was able to deliver a fix and then OEMs were responsible for delivering it to handsets. Nearly six months on from Google being notified of the risk there are still handsets which remain unpatched. The severity of the incident and the weakness of the response has meant that some OEMs have introduced new update policies, either out of a sense of responsibility to their customers (unlikely) or a perceived opportunity to gain commercial advanatage (yes, that feels more like it). Google, Samsung and now, LG have all announced monthly patch cycles. Ni…

HTC Results Demonstrate Where The Android Market Is Headed

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More evidence that the Android market doesn't support premium handsets at volume comes in the form of HTC's latest set of results. Both its top and bottom lines are down and its bet on premium as a USP seems to have failed. HTC has recognised this in the way that it has been refining its strategy and management teams, with more of a focus on accessories and gadgets. Given that its financial report detailed failure in both the high value smartphone sector and the Chinese market, it's probably fair to say that we won't see too many more handsets bearing the HTC name. For Android in general it clearly points the way forward. High volume and low margins are the future, if you can't achieve either there's probably no future for you as a mainstream smartphone OEM. HTC, for all its past goodwill, is likely to be the first to first find that its future lies as a manufacturer of gadgets and boutique phones.

Microsoft Drops First Windows 10 Update

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Today Microsoft pushed out a cumulative update to Windows 10, without saying what has been changed. Given that it's a 30 second download and two-minute install there probably isn't much in it at all. What there is, however, is a demonstration of Microsoft's intention to keep rolling out updates on a timely basis. That represents a good start to Windows as a Service. Leaving just two things for Microsoft to sort out. The first being a change list, to confirm what has been fixed. And the second is to make sure the updates get folded back Me to the main Window back into the main Windows install, 50 that users getting their updates aren't being asked to install updates immediately they complete their upgrade.

Windows 10's Task Switcher Makes No Sense On A Tablet

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Windows 10 is great for desktops, fixing many of the perceived issues that Windows 8 had for keyboard and mouse users. For tablet users the fluid interface that the older OS offered has been mostly lost and replaced with desktop metaphors which make no sense. For instance the task switcher. On Windows 8 it was brilliant for touch, swipe in from the left edge with your thumb to swap apps, swipe in and out for the app list. Simple and brilliant, no need to even adjust your hands when holding the tablet. In Windows 10 Microsoft has implemented a new task switcher to better suit desktop users and it's very good. Click an icon on the task bar and a overview of your apps is shown. In tablet mode if you swipe in from the left edge you get... the desktop task switcher. Completely inappropriate for the touch interface. Why not present the old touch interface for touch users, and the new interface when the taskbar link is clicked? The right tool at the right time. For touchscreen users W…

Windows Phone Now Holds 10% Market Share In Europe

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Latest figures from Kantar WorldPanel show that Microsoft is starting to see some market share growth in key markets across the world, none more so than Europe. Strong growth in the EU5 - the five largest markets in the EU - has pushed Windows Phone's market share to 10% a significant achievement, especially if Microsoft can consolidate its gains in the run up to the launch of Windows 10 Mobile. Of course this has been market share bought at the expense of profit and in the entry level market too. What Microsoft needs to do is now provide those customers it has won a reason to stay with the platform when the time comes to upgrade. That means better flagship phones and mid-range handsets and a focus on making the customer experience as slick as possible on their existing phones to prevent churn to other platforms. Headline figure from Kantar's growth was in Italy where Windows Phone took a solid second place in marketshare. Whilst share in Germany improved by a notable 66%.

Someone Hit The 'Get Stupid' Button And The Nico Gerard Pinnacle Is What It Delivered

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Yes, that's a watch wearing... a watch. In this case a Nico Gerard Pinnacle watch with an Apple Watch attached to its clasp. No idea who Nico Gerard are (is?) but they've certainly succeeded in drumming up some notoriety for themselves with the announcement of this abomination. I think the only thing more ridiculous would be the notion of someone thinking of buying one.

The Ad-blocking Revolution May Be Mere Months Away, But That's Not A Good Thing

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Charles Arthur is far from my favourite journalist, I dislike his all too apparent bias and inability to take a balanced view. Sometimes though he's right on the money. Here's a good example, on his latest post around ad-blocking, which becomes an OS level feature with the launch of iOS 9. Let's all agree on something here. There are terribly intrusive, bandwidth heavy ads on the internet. They make pages load slower and delay you in getting to the content that you're after. Against that you have to weigh the desire of the content publisher to be paid for the time, effort and costs of making that content available to you. My view has always been if you don't want the pain of the ads go to another site and there are sites I no longer visit specifically for this reason. The view of others is that by blocking bad adverts we encourage advertisers to use less intrusive ones. That seems na├»ve to me. In any technology 'war' like this all that actually happens is …

Hipsters And California Get Punctured

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Apparently inspired by the challenging blog post by Rob Rhinehart which I linked to yesterday, Mic Wright, at The Next Web writes this cutting response to hipster culture and the California-centric view of the world that pervades much of the web.

Another very good read, albeit for very different reasons.

Galaxy Note 5 Reinforces Samsung's Wrong Direction

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Leaks are now pointing to the new Galaxy Note 5 mimicking its smaller siblings and dropping both the removable battery and memory expansion slot in favour of a 'premium' build. If further evidence were needed of Samsung's problems this is it. After more than a year of falling sales and profits Samsung's answer was the Galaxy S6, a premium phone answering the criticisms that had been waged against the GS5. Of course the people who were complaining weren't generally GS5 buyers and the only real issue with the GS5 was that Samsung grossly over-estimated demand for a device facing wider and stronger competition in its market segment. I've said before (and I'll probably say it again) the premium Android market is tiny. If you take a subset of smartphone customers who are prepared to pay a premium perhaps as many as 80% of them will only consider an Apple product. Extrapolating from iPhone sales, that leaves the remainder of the premium market up for grabs at a…

Apple Needs To Change Its Message On Security

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One of the fallacies that seems to persist in the modern world is that Apple's machines are impervious to security breaches. Its repeated by Apple fans and fan sites; and has been a traditional part of  Apple's own marketing materials. The last forty-eight hours has seen the publication of two severe vulnerabilities that are just an unsuspecting click away. The first (two actually) use a simple web link to take over the device's firmware, potentially allowing an attacker to damage the device beyond the ability of a normal (or even semi-technical) user to restore. The second was introduced with OS X Yosemite's error logging tool and allows an attacker to install software to the machine without the user's knowledge. That payload could be anything from key loggers to adware and unlike the first exploit this one is in the wild today. OS X has never been more or less secure than any other OS. The one advantage of having a smaller market share has been that Macs have b…

Packing Light

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Change is a strange thing. When it creeps up on you in small amounts you don't really notice it. Like your children growing up, or the bath water getting cold. It's only when you look at old photos or realise you're frozen to the tub that you see the extent of the change.
Packing for some time away on business last week I had one of those eureka moments. My technology travel pack was unbelievably small, yet covered all of my requirements for getting the job done.
 With the Microsoft Surface 3, Lumia 930, Huawei wireless hotspot, a Samsung 2A phone charger and a micro-USB cable I had everything I needed to not only work but to keep it all juiced up too.
The size comparison to my previous travel setup (MacBook Air, iPad, iPhone, wireless hotspot, lightning cable and MBA/iPad chargers) is startling. And I was impressed with the difference between the Apple setup and my prior setups.
I think this is about as small as you'll get a fully functional mobile worker package. Y…

Rob Rhinehart Talks AC/DC

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I challenge you to read this article by Rob Rhinehart and not have your mind spinning with new ideas and possibilities.

Living off the grid (in more ways than one) doesn't have to be about strange men re-locating to the wilds in preparation for a global disaster that isn't coming. In this case it can be a considered and planned way of reducing your environmental footprint, improving your lifestyle and benefiting your health.

Here in New Zealand the volume of 'green' power available on the grid makes some of the arguments spurious. However the rest is mostly good. Well apart from the Soylent diet, that sounds a bit challenging to me. And custom-made clothing in China, surely that runs counter to everything else espoused here?

Well worth a read though.

Car Manufacturers Here Purchase Could Be A Tool Against Apple And Google

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The $3bn purchase of Here's mapping tool from Nokia by the German motor industry has some interesting implications for Apple and Google's plans to take over the car dashboard. I strongly suspect that the car manufacturers have woken up to the danger of handing over in-car functionality to phone makers. Its a short hop from there to handing over the whole industry. By purchasing the technology behind Here the car manufacturers have given themselves a solid bedrock to compete against the interlopers. Most interesting was the call for other car makers to join the consortium of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, who led the purchase. That shows an understanding that Apple and Google need only drive a small wedge into the car industry to split it wide open. Using Here to deliver a solid navigation experience, tied to good call and media handling might be all the car makers need to do to stall this assault. Because if you're a car maker the last thing you want to be doing is paying Apple

Windows 10 Mobile May Present Some Challenges

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Whilst Windows 10 has passed through the starting gate (shipping is probably the wrong term, as it would imply completeness) Windows 10 Mobile is still very much in the testing phase, with a launch planned for some time later this year.
Microsoft has some work to do before then, because based on my use of the current build on a test Lumia 735 the software is both brilliantly conceived and unusably laggy both at the same time. That is a worry because the 735 is very representative of the recent state of the Lumia nation, packing as it does pretty standard specs for the current generation of Lumias. So when the final version appears there are  going to be a lot of unhappy users shouting at their phones unless the experience has been fixed by then. So whilst the OS is lovely to look at and use, Microsoft's mobile team has some work to do in ensuring the later builds don't wreck the fluid performance that typifies a Windows Phone device.

The Psion Series 5 Remembered

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Over at The Verge you can find this review of the Psion Series 5 by Adi Robertson. Its an interesting piece which looks at the Psion's decades old hardware with a modern eye. Unsurprisingly it turns out to be pretty bad, especially when trying to connect it to anything modern. What did you expect? What the story doesn't tell you is that the Psion Series 5 was just as terrible when it was brand new, funky keyboard nothwithstanding. I can hear the sound of PDA old-timer's jaws dropping as I write this, but unfortunately it is true. My history with Psion goes back to the Organizer II which was not an organiser in any way, shape or form. It was a very good programmable computer for mobile users, with the ability to store and run programs on ludicrously expensive memory packs. Psion evolved through the 3 and 3c, before the arrival of the 5 and latterly the 5mx. I never really got on with any of them. The concept of a keyboard on a device this big was ludicrous, the clamshell d…

Windows 10 Upgrade Is Going Great Guns For Microsoft

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Given the diversity and sheer volume of hardware that Microsoft is seeking to update to Windows 10 there's a certain amount of respect due to the company. The smooth journey that users are having in the march towards Microsoft's stated goal of upgrading one billion computers is probably unprecedented.. At the end of day one Microsoft officially announced 14 million upgrades had been completed, by mid-day on day two that number was being reported (unofficially) to be 67 million. That's an impressive number of devices and a phenomenal amount of data to be transferring. My own personal experience has been very good so far. Having upgraded three laptops of varying vintage, plus one Windows 8 tablet so far, everything has gone without a hitch. I have four more machines to upgrade in my household so I'll hold off judgement just yet. Interestingly the biggest complaint I'm hearing so far is that people don't like having to wait for their upgrade to arrive - hence all…