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The first real test of GDPR

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 04:00

The fine issued to Google by France’s data protection regulator, is the first significant fine to one of the large tech giants, for failing to comply with Europe’s general data protection regulation (GDPR).  

GDPR was designed to increase the protection for all EU citizens, eliminate confusion by harmonizing the many data privacy laws and change businesses approach to personal data by introducing explicit transparency. It came into effect on May 25th 2018 and is the biggest change in data protection laws for 20 years, replacing the Data Protection Directive of 1995. Importantly, its impact is not restricted to EU organisations, but it will have implications for any company in the world that holds data on the continent or on any individual living in the EU – hence the fine issued to Google. 

Considering some of the data related breach’s that individuals have experienced in the past, GDPR is welcomed as great news for individuals, however it may present some complex challenges for companies. Particularly since any organisation found in breach of the new directive could face fines up to €20,000,000 euros, or up to 4% of the company's profits from the previous year, whichever number is higher.

Enforcement of GDPR

Generally, the EU is notoriously slow at both legislating and at enforcing its rules.  However, since it took effect in May 2018 three enforcement actions were issued that same year.

  • October 2018 - a local business in Austria was fined €4,800 for a CCTV camera that captured video from a public space, more than was necessary.  
  • November 2018 - In Germany, a social media platform was fined €20,000 for data storage practices, as opposed to a full breach because they were storing user passwords in plain text without hashing.  
  • December 2018 - The most significant fine under GDPR in 2018 was a Hospital near Lisbon, Portugal.  They were fined €400,00 because Staff at the hospital used bogus accounts to access patient records.

We all know that the ICO issued fines to both Facebook and Uber in 2018 after GDPR went into effect.  However, both incidents occurred before the new ruling and thus there were only fined €500,000 and €385,000 respectively. Paltry sums considering the fact that a company like Facebook made $13.2 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2018 and the figure could have been far higher if the breaches had occurred after the GDPR came into force, as Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham explained

“We considered these contraventions to be so serious we imposed the maximum penalty under the previous legislation. The fine would inevitably have been significantly higher under the GDPR,"

So this means that Googles fine of €50,000,000 issued in January 2019 was the first issued to one of the large tech giants after GDPR went into effect.  We cannot ignore the significance of this because there is an unsaid but generally accepted view, that GDPR was prompted by concerns, that the tech giants like Google and Facebook, could abuse their power with the limitless collection of people’s personal data.  One would think therefore, that on the face of it, these tech giants would have the most work to do in order to comply. 

Image Credit: Pixabay

Effects of GDPR on SMBs

Ironically, the new regulations, seem to have ended up hurting smaller firms rather than the Googles and Facebooks of this world, contrary to EU officials’ expectations.  Evan Spiegel CEO of Snap is known to have said, “There are times in history when regulation has actually entrenched big companies because they’re the most capable of complying…”  and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebooks CEO, echoed the same sentiment to the U.S. Congress.

Complying with GDPR may be a little onerous for companies that don’t have the financial or engineering resources of Facebook or Google.  Companies can expect to pay between $1m and $10m (According to a range of online sources) in order to make the necessary changes and comply with GDPR. 

Despite this, the real test of GDPR would come when complaints are raised against the tech giants and whether or not the new rules would be enforced. The extent of this test is further amplified by the notion that some people believe that the large technology organisations may be too big to take down, an important parallel to the banks labelled too big to fail after the 2008 financial crisis and subsequently getting away with not fully complying. Chairman of NYOB, the organisation that logged the google complaint said “Following the introduction of GDPR, we have found that large corporations such as Google simply ‘interpret the law differently’ and have often only superficially adapted their products.” 

EU makes Google an example

Several complaints have been logged against Google in late 2018 and now that they have actually been issued a fine by France’s regulator due to a lack of transparency and consent in advertising personalization, as well as a pre-checked option to personalize ads. This is potentially sending a wakeup call to all of the tech giants.

I must note that it only marks the beginning, the fine is nowhere near as big as the maximum 4% of annual global turn over and true to form, despite issuing the statement that the company is “deeply committed to meeting the high standards of transparency and control that people expect of it”, they have also announced that they plan to appeal the fine appeal the fine.

It is really interesting to see what happens next. GDPR does still feel like a work in progress and its ultimate effectiveness will depend on how well it is enforced on the tech giants and on whether it will succeed in forcing them to adhere to the regulations.

Mike Bugembe, Chief Analytics Officer at Just Giving

Categories: General Technology

Some Withings Pulse HR fitness trackers are cracking, but will be replaced

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 03:43

A production fault with early units of the Withings Pulse HR has meant the case can be fragile and prone to cracking without you dropping or striking the tracker in some way.

After our review of the Withings Pulse HR, our reviewer at TechRadar continued to wear the tracker for a few weeks and found it cracked at both the top and bottom of the front of the body of the tracker without any noticeable hits or drops.

You can see the exact damage in the images above and below. We also know of at least one other case where the tracker has cracked in a similar way after a few weeks of usage.

If you've also had the same issue Withings has confirmed it will be offering replacements for all customers affected.

A spokesperson for Withings told TechRadar, "Our team has received feedback from a select number of customers concerning the fragility of their Pulse HR band case. The problem has been identified as affecting a small number of units from our first round of production. 

"Withings is offering replacements to any customers experiencing the problem and is continuing to monitor the situation to ensure our excellent standards of quality control are maintained.  We extend our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this has caused."

As Withings has confirmed, this issue is only affecting the first batch of units released by the company so it's unlikely if you buy the tracker today you'll find the same problem.

If you do - or you've found your existing Withings Pulse HR has similar damage - you can contact Withings by logging into your account on its official website and citing the problem you've had.

Basil Kronfli also contributed to this story

Categories: General Technology

The Outer Worlds: release date, news and trailers

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 03:16

Fallout: New Vegas developer Obsidian Entertainment and publisher Private Division officially announced new single-player sci-fi RPG The Outer Worlds at The Game Awards 2018

Set on the frontier of space, The Outer Worlds sees you awakening from hibernation amidst a conspiracy to destroy Halycon – a colony residing at the edge of the galaxy  driven by big-brand corporations. It's up to you how you play, with your actions influencing how the story unfolds and the fate of Haylcon itself.

Interested? So are we. Here's everything we know so far about The Outer Worlds.

[Update: We get a closer look at The Outer Worlds' combat gameplay in a video from GameInformer.]

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? Obsidian's new single-player sci-fi RPG
  • When can I play it? 2019
  • What can I play it on? PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC

Image credit: Obsidian Entertainment

The Outer Worlds release date

We know The Outer Worlds will release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC in 2019, but Obsidian hasn't given us a firm release window or date yet. However, it's likely we will see the title in mid to late 2019. 

The Outer Worlds trailers

In this Game Informer video, The Outer Worlds' co-director Tim Cain and lead designer Charles Staples show off some combat gameplay:

Obsidian announced The Outer Worlds at The Game Awards 2018 with an official announcement trailer. You can check it out below:

The Outer Worlds news

Lots of character customization, little screen time

While you'll get to customize your character's appearance, it seems you won't even have a voice. In an interview with Polygon, co-creator  Leonard Boyarsky revealed the team has taken an "old-school" approach to the game to allow resources to be focused on a complex narrative.

You can play the way you want

In the same interview, Obsidian revealed The Outer Worlds is a player-driven game, which means you essentially have the freewill to choose whether you want to be a hero, villain or anything in-between through branching dialogue options. 


Once you progress far enough in the game you will receive your own star ship and crew. These crew members can act as companions as well as offering their own opinion on current events and choices. There's no romance options, though (you can save that stuff for Dragon Age 4).

Image credit: Obsidian Entertainment

Brand awareness

As a story centred around corporations, it's no surprise The Outer Worlds will offer various weapons and items to purchase from 10 different brands. Where will your (brand) loyalties lie?

Alternative consequences

Rather than take the immediate consequence of something like a critical wound, you have the option to accept a flaw instead. This is a permanent negative debuff which will remain with you throughout the game.

The Outer Worlds: what we want to see

We're sure to get more details over the coming months in the run-up to The Outer World's release (whenever in 2019 that is). In the meantime, here's everything we're hoping Obsidian delivers with the final product.

A gripping main storyline (with some meaningful choices)

Blending real player freedom with a structured narrative is a difficult juggling act. Few games have managed this as well as the original Mass Effect trilogy, so we'll be eager to see whether Obsidian can repeat the trick for their own sci-fi RPG.

A working game engine

You'd think we wouldn't have to put this, but so many big studios are ending up shipping unfinished games because of the scale of their enterprises (Assassin's Creed Unity, Fallout 76, etc). Obsidian's track record, though, and the smaller size of its team, suggests they'll be working within their means.

Image credit: Obsidian Entertainment

Some actual space exploration

Sure, having giant planets looming in the sky is cool, but if we don't actual get to enjoy exploring the stars it's little more than wallpaper. Here's hoping Obsidian gives you an environment to explore, rather than making a game that could just have easily been set back on Earth.

The beginning of great things to come

With Microsoft having recently acquired Obsidian, there's no telling what that injection of cash could do to the development team's ambitions. If The Outer Worlds proves a hit, we could be seeing a lot more of it down the line, with the resources to really make it galactic.

(Image credits: Obsidian Entertainment)

Categories: General Technology

The best WordPress hosting 2019

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 03:05

Getting started with WordPress website hosting doesn't have to be expensive, after all the 15-year old WordPress is free (and open source). Even the cheapest shared hosting plan usually comes with a one-click WordPress installer, allowing the greenest of blogging newbies to have their first post ready in less than 60 seconds (we tried it).

Managing a blog over time is much more challenging, though. You'll need to find your own themes and plugins. And also keep them, and WordPress itself, up-to-date (although you can even get that done automatically).

Blogs are often targeted by malware, so it's important you have some way to detect and remove any threats, and you'll want regular backups to help get a broken blog working again. 

There's a long list of hosting companies offering WordPress plans, but we've picked out five of the best to point you in the right direction. Whether you're a first-time user or a big business, there's something for you here, and with prices starting at around a pound per month, it's well worth taking the time to find out more.

These are the best WordPress hosting services of 2019

Budget WordPress hosting can have a lot of appeal, but it usually won't deliver the features, performance or reliability that high traffic sites need. If you're the demanding type, opting for a premium hosting plan will give you much better results.

Bluehost has created its own VPS-based architecture to deliver optimum WordPress performance via NGINX, a custom PHP-FPM setup and intelligently allocated resources through KVM hypervisor. (If you're not a hosting geek, this just means Bluehost has taken the time to optimize the low-level setup of its platform for WordPress, rather than simply making do with a standard configuration.)

The company doesn't waste time by pretending to offer ‘unlimited’ resources, and instead tells you exactly what you're going to get. For the WP Standard plan, this means 30GB storage, 1TB bandwidth, and key resources – 2GB RAM, two CPU cores – which are allocated to you, and not shared with anyone else.

Premium features include SiteLock Pro to keep your website malware-free, SiteLock CDN to optimize performance, a dedicated IP, and the ability to manage multiple sites with the excellent ManageWP. New Bluehost accounts will also get a free service called Blue Spark, which is designed to help newcomers with everything WordPress related.

This isn't cheap, with even the baseline Standard plan costing $19.99 (£15.20) a month for the initial term, rising to $39.99 (£28.60) afterwards. But you are getting a lot for your money, and if you're more interested in power than price, Bluehost has even more available.

The top-of-the-range Ultimate plan, for instance, gives you four CPU cores, 8GB RAM, 240GB storage and a monster 4TB bandwidth. SiteLock Enterprise handles all your security and CDN needs, and there's a wildcard SSL thrown in. Ultimate costs $49.99 (£35.70) a month initially, $129.99 (£93) after that, but that's a fair price for this spec, and Bluehost offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you feel the service doesn't deliver. 

There are also shared WordPress hosting plans available with fewer features and lower performance but they are cheaper, starting at $2.95 ($7.99 on renewal) per month. Furthermore, a managed hosting solution called WordPress Pro that has been optimized for WordPress websites is also available, with prices starting at $19.95 per month.

Managed WordPress packages can often feel overpriced. Many hosts charge significant premiums for impressive sounding claims – optimized servers, malware scanning – that are difficult to evaluate or confirm.

The UK-based Tsohost isn't interested in any of that, instead focusing on providing the core WordPress essentials at a very fair price.

The baseline Startup plan gives you a free domain name, will migrate your existing site, includes Let's Encrypt SSL support and has no limits on bandwidth. You get daily backups and can restore any of the last 30 days with a click. There's 24/7 support via ticket and email, and phone and live chat is available from 7am to midnight.

You get a hundred 200MB mailboxes, and the plan restricts you to 15GB storage and 100,000 page views a month. If that's enough for you, the plan costs ~$4.15(£3.16) a month paid annually, or ~$3.8(£2.92) if you pay for two years upfront.

If that's just too underpowered, opting for the Business plan gets you 50GB of storage, 100x1GB mailboxes, and up to 500,000 page views over a maximum of eight websites. That's significantly more capable, yet still very reasonably priced at ~$11.50(£8.78) a month, ~$9.62(£7.33) a month paid annually or ~$8.65(£6.59) a month paid biennially.

The  ~$31.50(£23.98) a month (~$26.20 a month paid annually or ~$23.60 a month paid biennially) eCommerce plan supports 100GB storage, 1,000,000 page views and unlimited 10GB mailboxes.

Tsohost doesn't offer all the frills and extras you'll get with some products. There's no talk of SiteLock malware protection, optimized WordPress add-ons or a custom CDN. But it's hard to complain at this price, and Tsohost is still delivering a capable service with more than enough power for smaller sites.

Most web hosts offer only a few WordPress plans, and even these might be set up to point you in a particular direction. You'll often see an underpowered plan, an overpriced one, and a special deal on the mid-range plan they really want you to buy. That makes it easy to decide, but it also limits your upgrade options if your site grows over time.

InMotion Hosting is unusual in offering six WordPress plans, covering everything from small personal blogs to resellers and big business. Figuring out which is the best product for you will take a little more thought, but at least there's room to upgrade – or downgrade – if your circumstances change.

Better still, InMotion hasn't artificially limited the low-end plans by removing key features. Even the baseline WP-1000S plan – which costs $6.99 (£5.3) a month initially (1-year plan), $9.99 (£7.70) on renewal – gives you 40GB storage, unlimited bandwidth and email addresses, preinstalled WordPress, SSL, backups, automatic updates, SiteLock security, cPanel site management, and extras like BoldGrid and WP-CLI. The only significant issue is InMotion's suggestion that the plan works best for blogs with up to 20,000 monthly visits, and even that won't be a problem for many smaller sites.

Upgrading your plan gets you some extras – premium themes and plugin subscriptions, a dedicated IP address, support for hosting more sites – but it's mostly about giving you more resources. For example, the top-of-the-range WP-6000S plan supports 1,200,000 monthly visitors across up to 20 sites for $114.99 (£87.6) a month initially (1-year plan), $142.99 (£110) on renewal.

There are cheaper deals around, but in previous reviews we've found InMotion to be reliable, professional and honest, and any price premium is likely to be worth paying. You don't have to take our word for it, though – an exceptional 90-day money-back guarantee gives you plenty of opportunity to find out for yourself.

Web giant 1&1 IONOS seems to have a hosting product for every possible need, and WordPress is no exception. Novice users can try out its service for a nominal $1(£0.75)  a month over the first six months ($9 or £6.90 afterwards), yet the plan still outperforms many competitors.

The bundled 25GB of storage means you won't be running out of space in a hurry, for example. There are no bandwidth or visitor limits, and you can set up as many email accounts as you need.

1&1 IONOS offers the core WordPress management functions that you would expect: a setup wizard, preinstalled plugins, automatic updates and 24/7 support (including by telephone). Also, you get a personal consultant free of charge. 

All this is built on a capable platform – NGINX, PHP 7.2, OPcache, up to 2GB RAM guaranteed – to enhance your blog's performance.

There's SSL included and even a free domain thrown in, which is ridiculously good value at this price.

If you're a WordPress novice, it might be worth taking out the plan for an initial year, claiming your free domain and taking the time to learn how the blog works. When you time is up, renew if you're happy, or if you're not, use your knowledge and experience to find a better plan.

1&1 IONOS isn't just about newbies, though: there's value for more demanding users, too. In particular, the Pro plan gives you 5 managed Wordpress sites, 200GB SSD storage space, 50 databases (1GB max), and 500 email accounts. Bonus features include a CDN and SiteLock malware scanning, as well as RailGun content delivery network, and the price looks good at $1(£0.75)  a month for the first six months, $15(£11.50)  on renewal.

Choosing the best WordPress hosting package can seem like a complicated business, with a stack of low-level details and issues to consider. But it doesn't have to be that way. If you don't have special requirements then opting for a reliable web hosting company will get you capable mid-range products that can handle everything most users need.

HostGator generally delivers powerful hosting plans for a fair price, and its managed WordPress range is no exception. Its Starter product may only cost $5.95 (£4.25) for three years, $9.95 (£7.10) afterwards, but you still get a free site migration, an SSL certificate, automatic malware detection and removal, unlimited email addresses and unmetered storage and bandwidth, and it can handle up to 100,000 visits a month.

Ramping up to the high-end Business plan gets you more CPU power, support for up to three sites and 500,000 visits a month, yet still costs only $9.95 (£7.10) a month initially  (first three years), $22.95 (£16.40) a month afterwards.

Smart caching and a CDN are on hand to enhance your website's performance, 24/7 support helps keep your site up and running, and surprise bonus features include free domain privacy to protect from identity theft and reduce annoying spam.

We've had good experiences with HostGator's service, but if you're not so lucky, there's a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. As with other hosting companies, this won't cover any domain registration fees, but it's still a better deal than you'll often find elsewhere.

You might also want to check out our other website hosting buying guides:

Categories: General Technology

Best Usenet providers of 2019

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 02:48

You might think, given that most ISPs no longer provide direct access to it and the majority of the free Usenet providers online have disappeared, that the venerable service has died a slow death. But that's not entirely true; there are still many, many active discussion areas in the bigger groups.

But let's be realistic: the real reason to lean towards Usenet in the current age is for file sharing (made popular by Bittorrent - just make sure you remain anonymous using a good torrenting VPN) – the groups below alt.binaries.* are very active, carrying many downloadable files of all kinds usually available through Usenet search.

But to gain access to the large amount of Usenet bandwidth you'll need in order to collect these files, you'll have to pay as quality bandwidth is expensive.

The key if you're looking at binary newsgroups is, due to Usenet's distributed server architecture, in finding a provider whose servers are fast, and who retains copies of binary files uploaded to Usenet for as long as possible. So with that – and many other – considerations in mind, here’s our breakdown of the best Usenet providers for 2019.

[58% Off] Newshosting (Official Promotion) - Get up to 58% Off TechRadar's #1 Rated Usenet Provider 

Newshosting is the best Usenet provider as tested and vetted by our experts. If you want a strong all-rounder of a Usenet service, then look no further than this provider. 

It sports the industry’s best retention, runs its own US and European server farms, and also offers uncensored access to 120,000 newsgroups. You can also get some high-quality newsreader software that includes search, not just for Windows and Mac, but Linux as well.  

Through an exclusive TechRadar promo, you will be able to grab a free, albeit rudimentary, zero-log VPN account for extra security and privacy in addition to 256-bit SSL connections already included with the service.

Newshosting tested the fastest as far as download speeds go. It also passed our tests in retrieving old binaries with flying colors as well. Are there any negatives at all here at all? There’s very little to complain about, save for the VPN client being a little basic and for support being only in English, but this doesn’t actually reflect on the core Usenet service you get.

Newshosting is competitively priced, which you can try for yourself with a 750 GB free trial, exclusive to TechRadar visitors, the largest Usenet free trial offered anywhere.

[22% Off] Eweka (Official Promotion) - Get up to 22% off + Free High Speed Upgrade 

Eweka is an impressive operation indeed, running its own data centre in Amsterdam with its own server farm.  The firm has its own trans-Atlantic backbone which allowed us to get the full download speed offered (although no US servers as yet).

There’s a lengthy 3,369 days of retention offered here (growing daily), which is among the strongest Usenet offerings in that respect, and while you only get up to 20 connections maximum, which is less than many rivals, we found performance to be very speedy in our tests. And really, that’s what counts.

There’s plenty more to like with Eweka besides, including the fact that the service performed well when it came to our retention testing (grabbing old files). Eweka users also get free access to the premium Newslazer newsreader, which includes a powerful search tool.

There’s also an unrestricted seven-day trial (if you do not signup through the official TechRadar promotion) to give the service a whirl, and this doesn’t require you to enter any payment details, either. Considering what you get here, the service is reasonably priced, too.

Supernews is a veteran Usenet provider having been in operation since the mid-90s, and it has servers across the US and Europe. You get 2,357 days of binary retention and 5,021 days of text retention, and access to over 110,000 newsgroups.

What’s more, Supernews keeps multiple copies of articles across its network, and the firm claims that this helps to ensure a 100% completion rate.

And on the performance front, you get unlimited speed, with the provider guaranteeing that your connection won’t be throttled in any way, shape or form.

Supernews keeps things pleasingly simple when it comes to plan choices, as well, because there’s only one: a straightforward unlimited plan with a monthly fee. It’s not the cheapest subscription around, but this is a quality service, and you get a three-day trial to test it out first. Also note that with the TechRadar Pro offer in place at the time of writing, you get your first month at half price.

Newsgroupdirect offers an impressive retention level of 3,370 days, and maintains its own network. As with the previous provider, it makes a big promise on the completion rate front, guaranteeing users 100% completion. And furthermore, 100% uptime is also promised.

You get a plentiful 50 connections even with the most basic plan, along with SSL encryption, and access to the Ghost Path VPN service for extra security and privacy on top. Again, the VPN comes bundled with all plans, which is good to see. Customer support is another strong suit here, as well.

While there is no free trial, Newsgroupdirect does offer a seven-day money-back guarantee, so if you’re not satisfied in the first week, you don’t lose anything – although note that you must not have used more than 15GB of bandwidth.

Subscription plans are competitively priced, although it’s slightly disappointing that you don’t get much better value for signing up to the annual plan compared to the six-month option.

Easynews is a slick operator that differentiates itself by offering the ability to access Usenet directly from within your web browser as well as supporting mobile access. That’s obviously a commendably hassle-free way to do things, and the web interface is well crafted, plus it also means you can access the service across all your devices (with no software installation necessary).

Retention rates vary, but with the top-end plan you get 2,950 days retention via the web interface (3,364 days retention via NNTP), although considerably less on some of the more basic plans. That Big Gig Plan also gives you a bundled Zero-log VPN service (albeit with a rather basic client).

There’s also good news when it comes to Easynews’ privacy policy, which is very concise and makes it crystal clear what data is kept by the provider. Performance is good too, although the range of plans is somewhat confusing, and the basic subscriptions are more suited to those with light downloading needs.

Also handy is a 14-day free trial which lets you experience the service before you pay for a subscription (note that there is a 10GB bandwidth limit). However, this provider isn’t cheap, particularly if you want unlimited data, and in that case things get pretty expensive.

Resellers are quite common in the Usenet world, and for good reason: by purchasing a large amount of bandwidth from a major service provider, they can negotiate better terms and sell on that access to you for a vastly discounted rate. One of the biggest providers to resellers is Omicron Media, which counts nearly 30 clients operating from its vast server backbone.

Omicron Media reseller NewsDemon is our pick of the bunch, offering 50 simultaneous connections and unlimited SSL-secured transfers from European and US servers for a more-than-reasonable £3.60 ($4.70) per month – or perhaps less, we've seen different prices listed during different visits. There are also block accounts available.

There's the bonus of a VPN connection if you're willing to spend a bit more, or transfer-capped block accounts for a little less. If you're employed in education, charitable work, or certain media outlets NewsDemon will even offer you free access – though in the interests of disclosure we should be clear that we've not taken advantage of this offer.

GigaNews is amongst the most expensive Usenet providers, but its price reflects the sum of its parts. Alongside access to newsgroups – naturally – a $24.99 (£19) per month Diamond subscription gets you the use of GigaNews' own Mimo Usenet browser and search engine, SSL access to its servers, and the pro version of Golden Frog's multi-faceted VyprVPN service.

Whatever you're using it for – and even if you're doing something else online entirely – the extra layer of privacy offered by a quality VPN has to be reassuring.

GigaNews' server availability is another plus, with multiple redundancy on US and EU servers owned and run by the company itself. The real question, however, is whether you plan to use all of the features GigaNews offers. If you're looking to Usenet access for the conversations this is absolutely overkill, and for binary downloads it's still rather expensive, but if quality is your top priority, then it’s a good choice.

Astraweb is another of Usenet's big mainstays, having run since 1998. Sign up and you're actually gaining access to two distinct services – its download servers in the US and the Netherlands are run as separate companies, and one server may contain files that the other does not. Essentially Astraweb gives you a main server and a backup server for the price of one.

Users have reported that its quality has declined over the years. Whether or not you believe this is up to you, but Astraweb's longevity in the market does earn it some brownie points, and it does not resell its services meaning you should see a consistent download rate from its servers.

Retention is one of the highest we've seen at over 3,000 days, with a claimed 99% availability. Seeing as the 1% that's missing could be the one critical part of a binary you need, Astraweb – even with its dual servers – is probably best used with a block account on hand.

This is a European Usenet provider which offers solid core features, and it’s a fairly priced service to boot. One interesting point to note is that there is a VPN bundled here, although it only comes with the most expensive plan.

We found performance to be impressive with TweakNews with fast download speeds, and it was also good to see that the included VPN (which is Omicron Media-based) managed a commendable turn of speed. In fact, it was comparable to a good specialist VPN provider.

On the downside here, retention isn’t great, and when we encountered an issue with the service, we found that tech support was on the sluggish side.

In terms of cost, there’s plenty of flexibility, and if you sign up for annual billing, there are some good value deals to be had – and you can benefit from block subscriptions, too, if that’s the route you prefer to take. There’s also a free trial which gives you 10GB of data to play with (but it has a limit of eight connections).

If you want a dependable Usenet offering with a good core service, then look no further than this affordable provider – although be warned, it isn’t for newsgroup novices.

UsenetServer gives you plenty of retention at 3,371 days, a promised 99% completion rate, and no restrictions such as data limits or throttling of your download speeds. 

A slight weak point is that you can only have a maximum of 20 connections, which is less than many services, but that said, in testing we found UsenetServer to offer 150+ Mbps download speeds performance levels anyway, so this likely won’t matter.

What may matter for beginners is that UsenetServer is rather shaky when it comes to help but offers good tech support, and while it does offer a bundled zero-log VPN for extra security, the Windows client for the latter is a poor piece of work. But if you’re an experienced user who knows what you’re doing, all this is likely moot, because you’ll find your own way around the service just fine anyway.

The other strength here is that this is a relatively wallet-friendly provider, particularly when you consider that with the annual plan, the zero-log VPN service is bundled in. There’s also a free 14-day trial (with a 10GB data transfer limit).

Categories: General Technology

The Fitbit Charge 3 gets a $20 price cut at Walmart

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 02:47

As spring is fast approaching, now is a great time to shop for an activity tracker and lucky for you Walmart has the popular Fitbit Charge 3 currently on sale. You can get the newly released Fitbit on sale for $129.95. That's a $20 price cut and the best price we've seen right for the popular activity tracker.

The Charge 3 is the latest release from the Fitbit Charge models and is available in black and granite or a light blue color with rose gold. The swimproof activity tracker does it all; monitors your heart rate 24/7, track calories burned, active steps and even personalized guided breathing based on your heart rate. The Fitbit Charge 3 can also help keep on track with your health and fitness goals by providing a 15+ goal based exercises such as running, swimming, yoga and more. The Charge 3 will also connect to with your phone's GPS to help track your pace and distance during outdoor runs. The activity tracker also takes calls and messages, gets app alerts and offers a 7-day battery life.

The most significant differences between the Fitbit Charge 2 and Charge 3 are the design and a couple of new features with the Charge 3. The Charge 3 has a slightly smaller and lighter wristband and a larger screen than the previous generation. Unlike the Charge 2, the Charge 3 is also swimproof (up to 50M) and features a longer battery life.

See more updated deals on the best cheap Fitbit sale prices and if you aren't sure what Fitbit is right for you, make sure to read our review on the best Fitbit.

Categories: General Technology

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: 10 key differences you need to know

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 02:00

Canon's EOS R is a camera that's blessed with some highly impressive features, but at over £3,000 / $3,000 for the body alone it will only be the lucky few who get to appreciate them. However, Canon's announcement of a significantly cheaper alternative, the EOS RP, should open up its nascent R system to a much wider audience. 

The EOS RP carries over many features from its big brother, although in order to be able to launch it at such a low price point Canon has inevitably had to make some concessions. So what are those concessions, and what does the EOS RP offer by comparison with is pricier sibling? Here's what you need to know. 

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: resolution

Both models are fitted with full-frame sensors, but the one inside the EOS R has a few million more pixels. Credit: TechRadar

One of the main differences between the two models is their sensors – there's a 30.3MP (effective) sensor in the EOS R, and a 26.2MP (effective) one in the EOS RP. 

This is a much smaller difference than we're used to seeing between two models in the same lineup, so if one suits your needs then the other may well do too. Incidentally, while it appears that the EOS RP's sensor has simply been lifted from the EOS 6D Mark II DSLR, Canon has confirmed that this isn't quite the case.

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: burst shooting speed

It may not be intended for sports photography, but the EOS R can still capture a decent action shot. Credit: TechRadar 

The EOS RP's 5fps burst speed is fairly pedestrian, and when you activate Servo AF (to keep moving subjects in focus) it only manages 4fps. This is easily bettered by the 8fps burst shooting mode on the EOS R, although once you enable Servo AF on that model the rate drops more sharply, to 5fps.

It's fair to say that neither camera is the most suitable option for the sports or action photographer, but we'd be very surprised if Canon doesn't add such a camera to its range at some point. 

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: AF system

While both cameras have been equipped with a Dual Pixel CMOS AF setup to perform speedy phase-detect AF from the main imaging sensor, the working range of the EOS R is a tiny bit better by comparison.

Canon states that the EOS R can work down to -6EV, while the EOS RP is rated at -5EV. That's still very impressive, but it does mean the former model should retain a slight edge when it comes to focusing in more problematic light. 

Both systems do, however, occupy the same stretch of the frame, namely 88% vertically and 100% horizontally.

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: EVF

The EOS R's viewfinder is excellent. Image Credit: TechRadar

The EOS R's 0.5-inch, 3.69 million-dot EVF is undoubtedly one of its finest features – its big, bright and clear, and makes scrutinizing fine details a doddle. We were hoping this would make the cut on the EOS RP too, although when you consider the camera's significantly cheaper asking price it's understandable that it should pack something a little more humble. 

And that's exactly what we get: a 0.39-inch viewfinder with a 2.36 million-dot OLED panel. This is the same viewfinder that had been previously designed into the EOS M50, and one that can still very much hold its own.

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: LCD screen

The LCD screens on both models move in the same way, but the one on the EOS R (above) is both larger and higher-resolution. Credit: TechRadar

Another thing we love about the EOS R is that glorious 3.15-inch LCD screen, with its 2.1million dots. Given that other manufacturers are now pushing through screens with similar specs, we'd expect nothing less at this level.

Sadly, the newer EOS RP is not blessed with such a display, with a more standard 3-inch LCD with 1.04 million dots in its place, although like the EOS R's panel it also spins around to face the front and all sorts of positions in between, and can be controlled by touch where required.

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: maximum shutter speed

Both models have mechanical shutters, although the EOS R's is a little more sprightly. Credit: TechRadar

A further difference between the two cameras is that the EOS R's mechanical shutter allows for a top speed of 1/8000 sec, while the EOS RP is limited to 1/4000 sec.

This is a more minor difference than some of the others here, but if you use wide-aperture lenses in bright light with any regularity, it may well be significant.

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: size and weight

Spot the difference: Canon EOS R (top) and EOS RP (bottom). Image Credit: TechRadar

One of the most surprising aspects of the EOS RP is just how petite Canon has managed to make it. With dimensions of just 132.5 x 85 x 70mm, it's a whole lot smaller than the 135.8 x 98.3 x 84.4mm of the EOS R. 

Likewise, the EOS RP's body-only weight of 440g without its body or memory card is 140g lighter than the EOS R, and even once you pop those into the body it still weighs an impressive 485g, as opposed to the EOS R's 660g. 

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: battery performance

The EOS R arrived with a CIPA-rated battery life of 350 frames when using the EVF, and 370 when using the LCD screen. That's pretty standard for a mirrorless camera, although short of some of its peers. 

Sadly, the EOS RP is significantly worse here, with a battery life of just 250 frames, although Canon hasn't stated whether this is when using the LCD or the EVF.

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: video features

Both cameras can capture video footage in 4K and Full HD quality, although there are differences elsewhere. 

The Dual Pixel AF system can be used when capturing videos on either camera, but it's not available when shooting 4K footage on the EOS RP. The EOS RP is also limited to capturing 4K footage at a maximum 25p, while the EOS R can shoot at up to 30p (and beyond if you opt for Full HD recording). 

Both cameras are also subject to a crop when shooting in 4K, which has the obvious disadvantage of making wide-angle framing more difficult.

Canon EOS R vs EOS RP: external controls

The M-Fn bar, shown here just above the thumb, only appears on the EOS R body. Credit: TechRadar

Canon chose to drop the EOS R's M-Fn bar when designing the EOS RP, and also left out the multi-purpose dial from the top plate that works in conjunction with the small LCD to its right-hand side. 

Instead of these, the EOS RP has a more conventional mode dial on the top plate with exposure modes clearly marked, and no top-plate LCD screen at all.

The smaller viewfinder inside the EOS RP also means the camera has a flatter top plate than the EOS R.

Categories: General Technology

You can now get Oppo phone deals on contract thanks to iD Mobile

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 01:48

Like Huawei before it, Oppo is a Chinese phone manufacturer that's here to shake up the UK mobile phone market. Even if it's half as successful as the former, Oppo has a great chance to make a dent in a market still dominated by iPhone deals and Samsung phone deals.

Since its UK launch in late January, the three available Oppo handsets have only been available to purchase on a SIM-free handset only basis. But now Carphone Warehouse's iD Mobile network has made them available for those on a budget, not wanting to spend hundreds of pounds upfront for their new mobile phone deal.

iD is stocking all three models - the flagship Find X, mid-range Oppo RX17 Pro and budget RX17 Neo. And with prices starting from £15.99 per month, they're well worth a look if you're after an affordable alternative to those aforementioned premium brands.

We've got our pick of iD's best Oppo phone deals below, or scroll to the bottom of the page and check out our hands-on price comparison.

Read more: TechRadar's Oppo Find X review and Oppo R17 review

Categories: General Technology

HoloLens 2 could have wider field of view according to yet another patent

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 01:40

A couple of fresh patents have been unearthed which detail technology that could potentially be used in a future iteration of HoloLens – perhaps even the sequel which is due to be revealed at MWC 2019 – with the most interesting one again hinting that Microsoft intends to improve performance in terms of field of view.

That would be an obvious improvement to make, as the narrow field of view is one of the most common criticisms levelled at the current HoloLens. And indeed we heard last June that Microsoft was looking into ways to improve it using a MEMS laser scanner.

This new patent, published yesterday and spotted by Windows Latest, adds further fuel to the fire that this is an area Microsoft is seeking to better with its headset.

The patent specifically talks about revamping the waveguide display device – in other words, the holographic lenses – to widen the field of view, while avoiding the potential danger of making the hardware bulkier.

The field of view can be made wider by employing “layered switchable Bragg gratings to create spatially separated diffraction elements that have a combined field of view that is greater than a field of view of a single diffraction element”, the patent observes.

Image Credit: USPTO

The drawback, however, is that (obviously enough) creating the space for this separation means a thicker waveguide, and thus a potentially bulkier headset. Luminance non-uniformity issues – distractingly varying light levels – may also be gremlins in the works when it comes to looking at approaches for increasing field of view in this manner.

At any rate, Microsoft’s patent proposes a solution to provide “a near-eye display device with a wide field of view through the use of angularly multiplexed holographic recordings to form gratings for the waveguide”.

The idea is that those angularly multiplexed holographic recordings (good job that isn’t a mouthful) can be spatially overlapped, thus minimizing any increase in size compared to using layers of gratings.

The net result should be a headset with an impressively wider field of view, that isn’t bulked-up to the extent that it detracts from the comfort of wearing a mixed reality device for longer periods of time.

The eyes have it

The second patent discovered relates to eye-tracking in head-mounted displays, and pertains to technology that facilitates a “streamlined and efficient design” for use in such hardware, avoiding common pitfalls.

Those pitfalls of conventional eye-tracking systems mentioned include adding unnecessary bulk and weight, not to mention additional cost for the end hardware. Stray light from the light source of the eye-tracking system is also cited as a problematic bugbear.

Of course, enhancements on any or all of those fronts are more than welcome, particularly when it comes to affordability – which can certainly be an issue in terms of higher-end VR or mixed reality headsets.

Just as with any big tech company, Microsoft files these sort of patents routinely and sometimes speculatively, so there’s no guarantee that any of the aforementioned technology will ever actually be used in a finished headset.

Categories: General Technology

The best email provider of 2019

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 01:35

Getting hold of an email account is easy. Sign up with an ISP and you’ve got one account for starters. Creating an account with Google and other big names will get you more. Buy a decent web hosting package and you'll probably get enough email addresses to power a large business, all for no extra charge.

Getting the right email account is more difficult, as there's a lot to consider. What are the spam filters like? How easy is it to keep your inbox organized? Can you access the account from other email clients? And what about using the service with a custom domain and address of your own (

Keep reading and we'll highlight some of the best email providers around. All have decent free services, perhaps with ads and some limits, but we'll also talk about their business-friendly commercial products which deliver the power, functionality and enterprise-level extras that demanding users need.

The best email services of 2019 are :

First released back in 2004, Google's Gmail has become the market leader in free email services with more than a billion users across the globe.

Gmail's stripped-back web interface is a highlight. Most of the screen is devoted to your inbox, with a minimum of toolbar and other clutter. Messages are neatly organized via conversations for easier viewing, and you can read and reply to emails with ease, even as a first-time user.

There's plenty of power here. Messages can be automatically filtered into tabbed categories like Primary, Social and Promotions, helping you to focus on the content you need. Leading-edge spam blocking keeps your inbox free of junk, you can manage other accounts from the same interface (Outlook, Yahoo, any other IMAP or POP email), and there's 15GB storage for your inbox, Drive and photos. You can also access Gmail offline, although you'll need Google Chrome for that to work. Furthermore, there is a neat snooze feature that allows you to, well, snooze an email for a specified amount of time (it also automatically labels that email as important).

Other features are more questionable. Instead of organizing messages into folders, for instance – a simple metaphor which just about every user understands – you must filter them using a custom labelling system. This works, and has some advantages, but isn't popular with all users. Still, Gmail is an excellent service overall, and a good first choice for your email provider.

Google makes a paid business-oriented version of Gmail available in the shape of its G Suite product.

This more professional product drops the ads and allows using a custom email address on your domain (yourname@yourcompany.tld). Business-oriented migration tools can import mail from Outlook, Exchange, Lotus and more. Storage space doubles to 30GB on the Basic plan, and you get unlimited group email addresses, 99.9% guaranteed uptime and 24/7 support.

G Suite is Google's answer to Microsoft Office, so of course you also get apps for working with documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Shared calendars keep you better organized, there's video and voice conferencing for online meetings, and again, there’s 24/7 support to keep your system running smoothly.

This more Office-like power makes for a more expensive product than the email-only competition, with prices starting at $5 (£3.60) a user for the simplest plan. You're getting a lot for your money, though, and if you'll use G Suite's features then it could be a smart choice. A 14-day free trial provides an easy way to help you find out.

Outlook's web interface follows the same familiar style as its desktop incarnation, and most other email clients: folders and organizational tools on the left, the contents of the current folder in the center, and a simple preview pane on the right (with adverts in the case of the free account).

A toolbar gives you speedy access to common features, and right-clicking folders or messages shows you just about everything else. If you've ever used another email client, you'll figure out the key details in moments.

Despite the apparent simplicity, there's a lot going on under the hood. The service automatically detects important emails and places them in a Focused Inbox, keeping any distractions out of sight. Events including flights and dinner reservations can automatically be added to your calendar. It's easy to share that calendar with other or Office 365 users, or you can save your events to a Family calendar that everyone can access.

Excellent attachment support includes the ability to directly share OneDrive files as copies or links. You can also attach files directly from your Google Drive, Dropbox and Box accounts, and a chunky 15GB mailbox allows storing plenty of files from other people.

This all worked just fine for us, but if you're unhappy with the service defaults, there's a chance they can be tweaked via's Settings dialog. This doesn't have quite as many options as Gmail, but they're well organized and give you plenty of control over layout, attachment rules, message handling and more.

If that’s still not enough, Microsoft offers a bunch of app-based integrations to take the service further. You get built-in Skype support via the beta, and apps give you easier access to Evernote, PayPal, GIPHY, Yelp, Uber and more.

Upgrading to Office 365 gets you an ad-free inbox, 50GB mail storage and a vast 1TB of OneDrive storage. Extras include offline working, professional message formatting tools, phone or chat-based support, file recovery from malicious attacks like ransomware and more. Oh, and the latest versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. All this can be yours for the equivalent of $7 (£5) a month on the single user Office 365 Personal plan or you can pay 70$ (£52) for a year.

Yahoo Mail doesn't make the headlines so much, these days, but its latest version is a polished and professional service which stands up well against the top competition.

The well-designed interface resembles Gmail, at least initially, with a large view of your inbox, one-click filters for common messages and content (Photos, Documents, Travel), and easy browsing of all the emails in a conversation. But you can also organize mails into custom folders, and the layout can be tweaked to display a message preview in a couple of clicks. Mobile users have some additional features like the option to unsubscribe to newsletters and such, without ever leaving the Yahoo Mail inbox.

A powerful underlying engine can integrate with Facebook, supports sending SMS and text messages, is accessible via web, POP and (in some situations) IMAP, and can forward email to another address. Valuable extras include disposable email addresses to protect your privacy, and a mammoth 1TB of mailbox storage means you can keep just about everything you receive, for a very long time.

Demanding users might find issues, over time. Mail organization can't quite match the flexibility of Gmail's labelling scheme, for instance, and there aren't nearly as many low-level tweaks, settings and options as you'll often see elsewhere. But overall, Yahoo Mail is an appealing service which needs to be on your email shortlist.

As with other providers, Yahoo offers a Business Mail plan with more features. The highlight is an option to use the service with a custom domain (, although there are other advantages, too. The service can import contacts from Facebook, Gmail, Outlook and more. You can view all your mailboxes on the same screen, and there are all the usual business-friendly productivity tools (multiple calendars, document handling, analytics and more).

Prices start from $3.19 (£2.30) per mailbox per month, billed annually, and they drop as you add mailboxes – $1.59 (£1.15) for 5, $1.19 (£0.85) for 10, and for 20+ you'll need to contact them.

There's even a free domain name included, and not just the initial registration: Yahoo will also renew it for as long as your subscription is active.

Signing up with an email provider will often involve some privacy compromises. Yahoo Mail asks for your name and mobile number, for instance. Gmail and other services might scan your messages to carry out useful actions (such as adding events to calendars), and just about everyone serves you with ads.

ProtonMail is a Swiss-based email service which focuses on privacy above all else. You can sign up anonymously, there's no logging of IP addresses, and all your emails are end-to-end encrypted, which means there's no way ProtonMail (or anyone else) can read their contents. Also, address verification (which allows you to be sure you are securely communicating with the right person) and full support for PGP email encryption is available.

There are some significant limits. The free product has a tiny 500MB storage space, only supports sending 150 messages a day, and is distinctly short in terms of organizational tools (no folders, labels or smart filters). As the end-to-end encryption is specific to ProtonMail, it also ensures that you can't use the service with other email clients.

Still, it seems a little unfair to complain about a service which is no-strings-attached free, and doesn't even show ads. In reality, ProtonMail is a specialist tool which is intended for use alongside services like Gmail – not to replace them – and overall it performs its core tasks very well.

If you do need more, ProtonMail's $5 (you can choose to pay in USD, Euro and CHF) a month (or 48$ yearly) Plus account gives you 5GB storage, a 1,000 message-per-day allowance, custom domains ( and support for folders, labels, filters as well as some addition features like contact groups.

A further Business plan brings more storage, email addresses and a second custom domain, as well as adding a catch-all email address and multi-user support. It's priced from $8 per month per user (75$ yearly), which is reasonable if you need ProtonMail's security, although it's also notably more expensive than the business accounts of the big-name competition.

Zoho Workplace is a business-oriented email service which throws in an online office suite, document management, and a host of collaboration tools and other extras.

Zoho's free plan supports up to 25 users (there's an extra 25 available if you can refer others to the service. Update: they are currently remodeling the referral program so this isn't available at the moment), each with 5GB of mailbox storage, and can be used with one domain of your own. These are features you'll normally only find in commercial products, and when you factor in the spreadsheet, word processor, presentation and other tools, it looks like a real bargain.

The email service is easy-to-use, and provides a decent set of features to help organize your emails: folders, tags, filters, smart searches, and more.

The free plan is still a little basic. It gives you web access only, for instance, and there's no support for email forwarding.

Fortunately, the Zoho Standard plan fixes that. A mere $3 (£2.3) per user (paid annually) gets you IMAP and POP access, email forwarding, active sync, multiple domain hosting, domain aliases, 30GB storage, a 30MB attachment limit (up from 25MB with the free plan) and some major improvements elsewhere (the ability to send cloud files to non-Zoho users, for instance). You also have Lite plan which is a cheaper Standard plan ($1 per user) with less features, and a Professional ($6 per user) plan which adds more features.

A number of these features are available elsewhere for free, of course, but businesses or anyone who will use the custom domain support or Office tools will find a lot to like here. Well worth a closer look.

Categories: General Technology

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order toys announced for October

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 00:52

We may still be in the dark(side) about the upcoming Star Wars action-adventure game from Respawn Entertainment and EA, but that hasn't stopped Disney announcing upcoming merchandise for the title.

Disney has announced that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order merchandise will become available in October 2019 suggesting, not only that the game will release around that time, but that the company expects it to be a title (or series) with a long life-span within Star Wars fandom.

An October release date would line up with the "Fall" release window EA revealed during a quarterly earnings call last week.

Respawn Entertainment announced Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order at E3 2018, however we haven't heard many details about the title since except that it will be a single-player action adventure set after Revenge of the Sith, andpotentially focusing on the story of a young Padawan called Cal.

Hopefully this merchandise announcement means more details are on the way...

Categories: General Technology

#ScaleUp your Instagram photos to win a 17-inch LG gram

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 00:41

Most computer makers seem to think the laptop has already achieved its final form. They’ll tout the latest CPU or graphics card upgrade, but your new “cutting-edge” laptop will still have the same 12- or 13-inch frame you’ve bought over and over for the past decade. 

Up until now, if you didn’t want a cramped screen while on-the-go, you lacked very many alternatives. A few high-end laptops for gamers and designers stretch to 15 or 17 inches, but they’ll cost you an arm and a leg and weigh your bag down like a ton of bricks. 

That’s what makes LG’s 2019 gram laptop such an intriguing option: it steps beyond the industry status quo and gives us the option for a 17-inch screen and 16:10 aspect ratio, crammed inside a 15.6-inch chassis that only measures 0.7 inches thick and weighs 2.95 lb. 

For comparison, the latest 13-inch Macbook Pro weighs just over three pounds, and most 17-inch laptops weigh anywhere between five and ten pounds. Unless you’re comfortable carrying these behemoths around and risking dropping them and jarring something loose, these are basically glorified desktop PCs. 

But LG is trying to change the paradigm on large laptops. Made with nano carbon magnesium, LG gram survived the military-based MIL-STD-810 durability challenge, which tests everything from “shock” damage (dropping it from a great height) and excess vibration to both high and low temperatures. 

Light enough to make most falls and physical damage non-fatal, the LG gram will, unlike other 17-inch laptops, actually be safe on your lap, while still giving you the powerful sensation of pulling out a desktop-sized computer in public without fear.

You might assume that the gram achieves its light, skinny frame by ditching the hardware and specs necessary for hardcore computing, but you’d be mistaken. To power its 17-inch WQXGA (2560 x 1600) screen, LG inserted an 8th Gen Intel Dual Core i7-8565U processor, 16GB of memory, and 512 GB of SSD storage into the 2019 gram. 

Plus, the gram’s 72wh battery is rated to last a maximum of 19.5 hours, which would dwarf the mileage that most large laptops get out of one charge. It’s robust enough to run video and photo editing software, and the battery endurance to ensure it won’t burn out as soon as it’s unplugged.

LG hasn’t abandoned any key features to make the LG gram skinny, either. It sports a Thunderbolt 3 port, three USBs, a built-in microSD card slot, backlit keys, an HD webcam, a fingerprint reader, and an Intel® UHD Graphics 620 card. 

Regardless of whether or not you’re currently in the market for a new laptop, it’s worth checking out LG’s latest #ScaleUp events for the chance at free money, or even one of three free gram laptops. 

If you have an Instagram account and a knack for photography, we recommend that you enter LG’s #ScaleUpIdea photo contest and win a $1,699 laptop. 

The theme of the contest is forced perspective photography. This type of photo uses optical illusion to make objects in the frame look larger or smaller than they actually are. Peter Jackson most famously used this technique in Lord of the Rings to make six-foot actors look like tiny hobbits and dwarves. 

It’s a fitting theme for a contest to win an LG gram, a 17-inch laptop that, to the naked eye, looks like a 15.6-inch one.

To enter, you must post a photo on your public Instagram page; your photo must thematically fit with one of three topics: the LG gram’s big screen size (tagged with #ScaleUpScreen in the description), its lightweight frame (#ScaleUplightweight), or its long lasting battery (#ScaleUpBattery). The best photo in each category wins the grand prize, and you have from now through 3/7 to submit your entry. 

If you’re not confident in your photography, you still have a chance to win free swag through their #ScaleUpQuiz. On both YouTube and Instagram, LG has posted a video about the new gram, asking people a question about its new laptop. Leave a comment on both video platforms, and you’ll be entered to win a $30 gift card to Amazon—just be sure to give the right answer!

You have anytime between 2/14 and 2/27 to enter the contest. You’ll have to include the  #lggram and #ScaleUpQuiz hashtags in your comment on Instagram to have a chance to win, but you can simply answer the question in your YouTube comment.

Categories: General Technology

Is getting multi-gadget insurance worth the money?

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 00:30

According to predictions by eighties sci-fi movies we should all be cyborgs with bionic eyes and robo legs by now. While that might not be the case, we certainly are carrying a lot more tech with us everyday. From smartphones and laptops to cameras and headphones, lots of us are walking masses of relatively fragile glass and metal which is all worth a lot of money. So insurance cover feels like a must.

Having all those gadgets is enough hassle with just keeping it all charged up, let alone having to worry about making sure each item is insured against damage, loss and other perils. That's one reason why gadget insurance to cover multiple bits of tech might be a good idea. So is multi-gadget insurance worth it for you? Here's what you need to know.

 What is multi-gadget insurance? 

At its simplest multi-gadget insurance is, as the name suggests, a single gadget insurance policy that covers more than one item of tech. Some companies will offer an upper limit on the number of gadgets while others will offer infinite gadgets with a limit on the amount of value the policy covers.

What they all have in common is an easy way to get all your gadgets covered on one simple policy that requires just one payment. This also generally offers a saving per gadget at around 5% on the premium for every gadget added. 

What are the benefits and problems with multi-gadget policies?

The most obvious positive to this all-encompassing insurance is simplicity. You can get cover for lots of items at once and in many cases don't even have to take too much time to describe each one. Prices can be very low too, and coverage extends to accidental damage, breakdown, theft, loss and commercial use, in most cases.

The downside is that you're more likely to need to claim on this one policy since you have multiple gadgets on there. As a result you could end up seeing your premium go up in future. So if you lose or break your phone a lot, for example, it might be worth insuring that separately so the premium on the rest won't go up if you claim. 

How does multi-gadget insurance work?

Most policies will give you a limit on the number of gadgets that sit on the policy, around five on average. This will also limit the amount paid out starting at around £1,000 with an excess of £25 for a cover that costs just a few pounds per month. Some cover more gadgets, say 10, while others offer unlimited gadgets on the policy but at a higher monthly rate plus you get the same top end payout cover.

How much is multi-gadget insurance and where can I get it? 

From around £3 per month to as much as £20 per month - it all depends on the amount of gadgets you wish to cover, their value and the amount of excess you want in the case of a claim.

Check out our guide to the best gadget insurance deals out there right now to find the best option for you.

Categories: General Technology

Three 2019 cloud and IT trends every CIO should know about

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 00:00

This year, we will see technological advancements move businesses beyond standard adoption and redefine how they incorporate cloud across their business and IT infrastructure. 

As such, we will continue to see impressive growth in cloud adoption, especially across Europe, with new solutions and integrated tools, and a multitude of exciting trends predicted. 

Image Credit: Shutterstock

The combination of public and private cloud

As we journey through 2019, we can expect to see a clear turning point for organisations to migrate critical workloads to the public cloud in order to get ahead in digital transformation. Migrating to public cloud has multiple benefits, such as faster access to emerging technologies, on-demand capacity and unlimited scalability. And with the public cloud entering the data center through solutions like Amazon Relational Database Service, the rigid line between public and private cloud is slowly being diminished.  

As the cloud industry has developed, there is clear movement towards a combined or hybrid provision that blends the accessibility and cost benefits of the public cloud, with the accountability and security of the private cloud. However, this combination and balance of services will of course vary by sector, the nature of the work, the maturity of the organisation and the size of the business.  

The cloud world is categorically no longer simply black or white, and adjustments will need to be made to succeed in this new ‘grey scale’ environment. Corporations will need to understand the importance of APIs and control plans, and strategies will need to focus on when and where streams are being run and who is managing them. It will be critical for IT management to have a clear plan in determining what should be outsourced and create a contingency plan for when adjustments need to be made. Yet, for the foreseeable future, we can predict that the businesses that are able to combine both public and private clouds will be in the best position to succeed.  

The movement towards an intelligent cloud 

As we look back on the progress made in machine learning, we can see the cloud industry making slow, but steady progress towards an intelligent cloud. And in 2019, we can hope to see the use of machine learning increase in day-to-day application for IT management, and continue to evolve with further innovative projects such as AWS’s DeepRacer.  

Organisations will be able to focus on the application of machine learning in the management of business services and workloads. Here machine learning will become more meaningful in terms of impacting IT management: making big data analytics easier in finding patterns and forecasting trends more accurately, and replacing the need for human manual processes.  

The current usage of cloud involves computing, storage and networking, but once machine learning is fully integrated in the cloud, its capabilities will immensely increase. In 2019, we will benefit from a more intelligent cloud which is capable of learning from vast amounts of data, build up predictions and analyze situations - and all in all, perform tasks much more efficiently.  

Image Credit: Pixabay

Virtual machines and containers used in tandem

Containers and virtual machines are two separate ways to deploy multiple, isolated services on a single platform, but in the ultimate battle between using the two… it’s not either - it’s both. While containers are a newer technology, both virtual machines and containers are sufficient for users to get the most out of their available computer hardware and software. However, we are now entering an age of new solutions that offer the best of both worlds.  

A virtual machine (VM) is software that emulates a computer system which enables teams to run what appears to be multiple separate machines on one single computer. This means that running software on a different type of hardware or operating system doesn’t require additional hardware. Virtual machines have many benefits including established management tools, security tools and affordable efficient technology. 

On the other hand, as containers sit on top of a physical server, just the OS is virtualised - meaning that an organisation can run up to three times the amount of applications on a single server with containers. This results in a reduction of IT management resource use, simplified security updates and less code for the transferring and migration of workloads.   

This year at re:Invent, Amazon Firecracker was introduced, the company’s first ever open source project which makes use of Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM). Firecracker uses this open source virtualisation architecture to enable users to launch lightweight micro-virtual machines in a non-virtualied environments in a fraction of a second. We can expect organisations to take advantage of the security and workload isolation that comes with VMs and the resource efficiency that accompanies containers.  

And as we move through 2019, the industry will only see more microVMs entering the market, proving that when it comes to picking between the two, both really can come out on top.  

Joe Kinsella, CTO and Founder at CloudHealth 

Categories: General Technology

Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is an Android-based Surface Go killer

Sat, 16/02/2019 - 00:00

Well ahead of MWC 2019, Samsung has revealed the Galaxy Tab S5e, its next major 10.5-inch Android tablet that's squarely aimed at competing with Microsoft’s Surface Go and Apple's iPad 9.7.

With a price of $399 (about £310, AU$560) when it launches in Q2 2019, the Galaxy Tab S5e is both a visual reset for Samsung's entire future tablet lineup – the device's corners are more squared off now, namely – and a new subcategory of sorts. 

Like the Surface Go and iPad, the Tab S5e aims to bring premium tablet sensibilities to a more affordable price.

The most obvious way to do this, coming from a flagship tablet like the Galaxy Tab S4, is to pare down features and focus on ones that are essential to the experience. This is, after all, how Samsung explains the 'E' in the product’s name.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e's 'essential' features

Samsung has made some interesting choices in this regard, with much of the tablet's value proposition resting on entertainment and productivity in equal measure. 

Much of the tablet's entertainment value sits within the hardware itself, sporting a 10.5-inch, Super AMOLED display with a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution,16:10 aspect ratio and 82% screen-to-body ratio. This is in addition to four stereo, AKG and Dolby Atmos tuned speakers with audio orientation that rotates with the tablet.

As for productivity, Samsung is primarily touting the Galaxy Tab S5e as its first tablet with the Bixby digital voice assistant installed. The feature will use the tablet's far-field microphones for voice commands aimed at saving time and keeping you organized, like Google Assistant does.

However, the far more important feature as far as productivity is concerned is DeX, Samsung's work-focused Android 9 Pie overlay, which adds features like side-by-side app view. This, and a Samsung Account feature that will allow for remote access to a paired Samsung smartphone, is what will drive the majority of the tablet's appeal against the Surface Go and iPad.

All of this is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 chip paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage; and it’s secured via fingerprint reader. Samsung promises that the tablet can last for up to 14 hours and 30 minutes of local video playback.

Of course, truly being productive with this tablet will cost you extra, as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S5e keyboard cover will be sold separately for $129 (about £100, AU$180).

Samsung's new tablet from behind. Image Credit: Samsung

Samsung sticks to an angle

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e is clearly a competitor to Apple and Microsoft’s more affordable tablets that can still drive productivity. However, Samsung is simultaneously trying to present a tablet that’s just as good for entertainment, and is perhaps a bit further toward that end of the spectrum.

This is the niche Samsung is trying to carve for itself, which could explain why the tablet has no support for stylus pen input: it’s simply not essential to the design.

Similarly, this would give reason to the inordinate focus on entertainment features – such as the sharper screen than both the iPad and Surface Go, with premium audio to boot – within the device, not to mention smart device control through acting as a Samsung SmartThings hub.

Will Samsung's angle end up producing a better tablet than Apple or Microsoft's? We'll be the judge of that in a forthcoming full review. 

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S5e release date in the US and UK is set for Q2 2019, with pre-orders from March 2019  - we'll update this article with information on availability in other regions when we know - in your choice of black, gold or silver.

Categories: General Technology

Microsoft’s Lite OS could be seriously stripped-down to run on almost any device

Fri, 15/02/2019 - 23:23

More alleged details on the ‘Lite’ operating system – Microsoft’s rumored lightweight spin on Windows – have emerged, shedding further light on what kind of machines the OS will run on, and just how far it has been stripped-back and simplified.

You may, or may not, recall that journalist Brad Sams, a prolific source of info relating to Microsoft, spilled the beans on Lite at the tail-end of last year, revealing an apparently lightweight OS which can run on any processor, including low-end hardware to rival the likes of super-cheap Chromebooks.

The latest nuggets from Sams insist that Microsoft is working on Lite for two different types of devices categorized as Centaurus and Pegasus.

Now, Centaurus probably rings a bell, because it’s the dual-screen 2-in-1 device Microsoft is reportedly working on. Pegasus, on the other hand, simply refers to other different styles of laptops which will run the OS at the lower-end of the market.

We’ve heard before that the idea is for Lite hardware to have instant-on functionality – in other words, you hit the power button, and the OS is there in the blink of an eye – and these portables will be ‘always connected’, and powered by any CPU, even low-end chips. Given the mention of always connected, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon-powered laptops – the ones that currently run Windows 10 on ARM – would be obvious targets for Lite.

These new details further reveal that lengthy battery longevity will be a major focus – which again isn’t a surprise, as it’s already a strong suit of Windows 10 on ARM devices – and that Lite will be ‘significantly simplified’ when compared to full-fat Windows.

That means a simple system of updates (presumably largely self-powered), and an overhauled minimalist UI, which ties in with what we’ve previously heard about a radically redesigned Start menu that gets rid of Live Tiles.

While Lite will still have actual windows in the interface, it will, like Chrome OS, be “more of a one app at a time experience” according to Sams. In other words, multi-tasking facilities will likely be limited, and this won’t be an operating system you’ll want to run on your desktop PC. The latter will remain very much Windows 10 territory.

Lite is, therefore, theoretically shaping up to be a supremely lightweight OS which will run on almost any hardware thanks to its much-decreased demands on the processor and other key components.

Software shift

It may even go as far as to eschew support for traditional Windows apps and instead make its software lifeblood applications from the Microsoft Store and PWAs (progressive web apps).

We’ve already heard how Microsoft is pushing PWAs, and driving hard to get more of them, as part of plans to beef-up its app ecosystem ahead of the launch of rumored dual-screen devices (not just Centaurus, but a possible smaller mobile Surface device, previously referred to as a ‘pocketable’ computer).

Everything seems to be tying together, then, with Microsoft’s future seemingly built around Lite OS, PWAs, and these purported dual-screen devices and low-end laptops to rival Chromebooks.

Previous buzz from the rumor mill has pointed to a 2019 launch for both Lite and Centaurus, so fingers crossed that whatever is happening, it happens this year and we’ll know about it soon enough.

Via Windows Latest

Categories: General Technology

Metro Exodus has a rocky launch on PC - but there's a fix

Fri, 15/02/2019 - 23:07

Post-apocalyptic shooter Metro Exodus was officially released today, but the title seems to have had a rocky launch on PC.

Some PC users reported that they were unable to launch the game after download. Following further inspection, it turns out that the game was missing the execution file needed to launch - for Steam users this is"M:\Steam\steamapps\common\Metro Exodus\MetroExodus.exe".

Image credit: 4A Games

However, while it seems 4A Games has now released a small patch to fix the issue, PC users are continuing to report launch issues such as being booted out of the game shortly after passing the legal screen.

These issues appear to be present for both Steam and Epic Games Store users. While the lack of execution file issue has been resolved, at present no further patches have been rolled out.

If you would rather not wait, and have experienced issues which haven't been resolved yet, then you can file a complaint through Epic Games Store customer service or Steam Support.

[This is a developing story that we will continue to update as we know more.]

Categories: General Technology

Twitter could add a ‘clarification’ feature rather than allowing tweet edits

Fri, 15/02/2019 - 23:02

If you, like many other Twitter users, have been hoping for the social media company to allow you to edit tweets, it looks like you’re going to be waiting a while longer, but Twitter seems to at least be considering a ‘clarification’ feature to help you explain and give context to old tweets.

The news comes from Mashable, which reports that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has revealed that the company is considering adding a ‘clarification’ feature.

Dorsey was speaking at Goldman Sachs' Internet and Technology Conference in San Francisco, and explained that: “One of the concepts we're thinking about is clarifications… Kind of like retweet with comment… to add some context and some color on what they might have tweeted, or what they might have meant.”

Explaining tweets

The idea behind the feature seems to be appeasing people who are uneasy with other people trawling their old tweets and retweeting them without context. There’s been a recent spate of high profile users having old tweets unearthed and used to attack them.

By allowing people to go back and explain older tweets, rather than simply deleting them, Twitter hopes people will be more comfortable using the platform.

However, it doesn’t solve the problem for people who post a tweet with a spelling mistake, for example, and who want a quick and easy way to edit their tweet.

Hopefully the ‘clarification’ feature won’t mean that Twitter isn’t also considering a more useful edit feature. Dorsey didn’t say when the ‘clarification’ feature would arrive – or if it will ever see the light of day – just that Twitter is considering it.

Categories: General Technology

Barclaycard and SAP team up to simplify SMB payments

Fri, 15/02/2019 - 23:01

Managing payments is about to get a lot easier for small businesses across the UK thanks to a new partnership between SAP and Barclaycard.

The software giant has announced it will be building Barclaycard's PrecisionPay offering into its SAP Ariba suite, making it simpler and more straightforward to processes payments.

Claiming that it will "bring procurement and payment together", SAP says that the new partnership, collected in its Ariba Network service, will now allow buyers to pay suppliers much earlier in the procurement cycle. 

Buyers will also benefit from greater access to flexible working capital, with Barclaycard now able to fund payments to suppliers, with customers having up to 56 days to pay the balance. 

Lastly, the launch, which will begin rolling out later this year, means that prompt payments will improve cash flow on the supplier's side, making their business more resilient to the threat of late payments.

SMB payments

The launch comes alongside findings from the Federation of Small Businesses which estimates that tackling payment issues could add £2.5 billion to the UK economy and keep an extra 50,000 businesses open each year 

“Since launching the UK’s first corporate credit card over 50 years ago, Barclaycard has been pushing the boundaries to create payment solutions that help make our clients more successful," noted Marc Pettican, managing director of Barclaycard Commercial Payments.

"In global procurement, payment has always been the part of the process that has created the most friction, so we're really excited to be partnering with SAP to make B2B payments as simple and seamless as possible.”

“Barclaycard is a long-term strategic partner for SAP and we’re now taking this partnership to the next level by collectively redefining the corporate payments market with a highly innovative platform," said Jens Amail, managing director, SAP UK Limited and SAP Ireland Limited. 

"The introduction of early settlement flexibility will truly revolutionise the industry and bring so much more value to Barclaycard customers.” 

Categories: General Technology

All eyes on AI!

Fri, 15/02/2019 - 23:00

In Barcelona, we will witness how artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent technologies are becoming ingrained in peoples’ lives and jobs – and the growing interest in responsible AI.

What used to be “Mobile World Congress” is now officially rebranded as “MWC,” as the show has long been about so much more than just mobile telecommunications. A key theme this year is AI, and for very good reason.   

In 2018, organisations worldwide spent almost $24 billion on AI systems, according to IDC. Clearly, AI is no longer an amorphous, catch-all concept. Large businesses, start-ups and academic researchers alike have been busy experimenting with and pairing technologies such as machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing with advanced forms of data analytics and automation techniques. 

This has created a plethora of intelligent applications and devices, many of which companies and their leaders will showcase and debate at MWC 2019. In more and more situations, applied AI is now looking over our shoulders – figuratively and literally speaking. MWC visitors should keep an eye out for the following trends:

The societal impact: AI is helping us look after big issues

The more sophisticated AI becomes, the more we see it being applied in a manner that doesn’t just serve individual companies and people but serves the common good as well.

One example is reducing energy consumption and thus, climate-damaging emissions of CO2, at a large-scale. Take the Madrid metro for example, which moves two million commuters along 300 kilometers of track and through 300 stations every day. It uses a self-learning ventilation system that generates an 1,800-ton reduction in CO2 emissions. (Disclosure to readers: Accenture was involved in this project and will demo it at MWC.)

Some of the AI and advanced analytics use cases we will see at MWC will even shed a light on the dark web. Take the trafficking of illegal drugs, for example, which is increasingly moving online. Technologies and techniques such as image recognition, text extraction, and deep embedded clustering give law enforcement agencies the opportunity to discover where specific narcotics are being sold on the dark web and in what quantities. This allows law enforcement to detect emerging “narcotics marketing” trends, such as purity of a drug, and compare global and local drug popularity.

Image Credit: Pexels

The workplace impact: AI is providing new lines of sights

At MWC, we will see how people and intelligent technologies collaborate on complex tasks and reduce risk to employees.

We can expect examples of computer vision and video analytics being applied to keep workers out of harm’s way by monitoring dangerous work environments and alerting people in case of danger. We also anticipate seeing systems that rely on the combination of computer vision and deeplearning classification models – allowing technicians to compare printed or handwritten labels on a spare part with the actual component by taking a picture of it with their smartphones.

Use cases for smart glasses will be much more advanced at MWC 2019. Take quality-testing in pharmaceutical laboratories which is more complex. Medications are being produced in increasingly smaller batches as drugs are being tailored more and more to the individual. Smart glasses can guide lab technicians through the testing procedures, collecting data at each step, which is being analyzed to detect and avert risks and glitches in work processes and identify bottlenecks.

Image Credit: Pexels

The customer impact: AI is zooming in on the shopper experience

Computer vision and image recognition are changing the world of retail. At MWC, we will see examples of how cameras can determine what ‘fashion types’ frequent a store, based on peoples’ clothing, gender, age and haircut. The data that is being collected and analyzed helps retailers fine-tune the selection of their stores to customers.

AI isn’t just helping to guide the shopper journey, it is also providing consumers with assistance on how to use products. Imagine a vanity that recognizes what lipstick and powder you put on it. Its intelligent mirror identifies your complexion and the color of your hair and eyes and tells you how to apply them for the best effect – or maybe, recommends you pick something else.

Companies across industries are implementing more and more use cases in which AI technology monitors what users do, allowing the machine to jump right in with help if there is a problem. A large telecommunications provider, for example, uses AI to automatically detect connectivity issues in the customer’s home, contact them and provide immediate assistance.

Image Credit: Pexels

The ethical impact: We need to be on the lookout for AI’s unintended consequences

MWC is a testament to the impact AI and intelligent technologies have on our lives. These technologies are also starting to change companies from the ground up, enabling self-learning business processes that can adapt to the behaviors, preferences and needs of customers and workers at a given moment.

These developments come with an obligation to use these technologies responsibly – something which will also be recognized at MWC. This year’s AI conference track features several keynotes and panel discussions on the topic of AI and ethics. Exhibitors, including Accenture, will address it in workshops and solutions presented at their booths.

Responsible use of AI means, for example, pulling the plug immediately when we see human prejudice creeping into algorithms – like Amazon did last year with a recruiting tool that was biased against women. But how can we help discriminating AI outputs in the first place?

First, by not fooling ourselves into believing that it is the AI’s fault. Algorithms and models are developed by people; they learn and act upon the data that is generated by how we live, work, and do business. Second, by educating those who build and configure AI systems on the responsible use of AI. Third, by equipping them with tools and methods that discover blind spots and unfair results before they do harm. Not just the data scientists and developers, but also business users and leaders and all the way up to organizations’ supervisory boards.

An AI misstep can breach existing bonds and damage trust between companies and workforces, customers and societies. This means responsible AI is no longer a “nice to have.” It is imperative to build and reinforce the trust that organizations need to drive success and scale AI with confidence.

For those who look for it, there will be demos, discussions and presentations at MWC that will highlight this tension between the impact and responsibility of AI.  

Dr. Athina Kanioura, Chief Analytics Officer & Global Lead at Accenture Applied Intelligence 

Categories: General Technology