Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review

The Surface Pro 4 is iterative in the best sense of the word

TODO alt text

OUR VERDICT

Has Microsoft at last crafted a tablet that can reasonably, without considerable compromise, replace your laptop? Short of going back to the drawing board on the battery, this looks as close as it’s going to get.

FOR

  • Larger, sharper screen within same dimensions
  • Vastly improved Type Cover
  • Even better Surface Pen

AGAINST

  • Type Cover still sold separately
  • Intel Core m3 at entry level
  • Battery life hasn’t improved much

How three words could change the way we navigate the globe

Time to forget about postcodes and zip codes

Thanks to smartphones and the likes of Google Maps, the stress has largely been taken out of finding a location. In theory you need never again experience the cold sweat of trying to decipher a series of scribbled directions as you search for the street where your job interview is taking place.

However, how many times have you tapped in a postcode (or zip code), been guided to a location and had your device confidently tell you that “you have reached your destination”, only for you to look up from your phone to see no obvious entrance or signs of life?

And that’s the rub. Postcodes were never designed to offer a precise location, but rather to identify a group of properties or addresses, and a satnav will direct you to the center of that group.

In the UK alone there are 1.8 million postcodes, each covering about 15 properties – but in reality one can really be expected to identify anywhere between one and hundred. Zip codes are even worse, corresponding to address ‘groups’ or ‘delivery routes’.

That said, postcodes are still seen as the best way to navigate to a location, thanks to their unique arrangement of letters and numbers, which reduces the risk of heading to a similarly named road miles away.

But what if you could be even more precise? The obvious answer is to use GPS co-ordinates, but while they can be incredibly precise, their overly long and easily forgettable set of digits make them impractical for widespread consumer use. There is, however, an alternative.

Three-word addresses

London-based tech firm what3words has divided the entire globe up into 3 x 3 meter squares (roughly 10 x 10ft) – that’s 57 trillion squares – and used an algorithm to assign each individual square a unique three-word address from a list of 40,000 words.

So for the London office of TechRadar, where this piece is being written, the address would be ‘ideas.coach.string’, while a short wonder along the corridor to reception sees the address change to ‘breed.mason.arch’.

The system has also been designed to reduce human error, so similar word combinations aren’t nearby each other, while if you spell a word incorrectly it will suggest the most obvious place.

This is all done via the free app, which lets you not only pinpoint exactly where you are, but also share your location and enter a three-word address, which you can then navigate to using the likes of Google Maps.

We must admit we were sceptical about the whole idea of what3words until trying the app, but it really does work – and with far greater precision than we’ve experienced by simply using a postcode.

There’s a fee for businesses use, but what3words does make a good business case for itself. For instance, while the address for an office might lead you to the main reception, for many couriers, the entrance to the postroom could be on the other side of the building. Using a three-word address, then, has the potential to cut down on wasted time and speed up deliveries.

What3words has benefits beyond cities too. For example it could mean no more struggling to meet friends at festivals or sporting events with sometimes patchy mobile reception and limited landmarks. Simply use the what3word app to pinpoint where you are, and send that address to your friends – the algorithm lives on the app and uses a GPS connection to locate your position, while the built-in compass can help guide you in the direction you need to go if your mobile reception is iffy.

Not only can it help you avoid a wasted afternoon wondering around trying to locate friends, but what3words is also being used by the likes of Festival Medical Services (FMS) at the UK’s massive Glastonbury Festival to provide onsite emergency healthcare.

Until recently the festival site was manually divided up into a 10,000 meter squared grid by FMS, with various named areas to locate people, but FMS now uses the three-word address system to help first responders get to where assistance is needed quickly.

Further afield

Ireland is notorious for not having any form of postcode in its addressing system until only recently, and tourist offices such as Meath Heritage are now including what3word addresses to locate various places of interest, while humanitarian organisations like NGO Gateway Health Institute are also taking advantage of the system in South African townships.

Just outside Durban lies the township of KwaNdengezi, which has a population of some 54,000 people living in 11,000 self-built homes, making it almost impossible to find a specific location or tell someone where you live.

While descriptive directions are the norm, for emergency services it often means having to stop passers-by for directions multiple times, with the average response time being 2-3 hours.

However, by helping residents discover and use their own what3word address (in some instances, even printing durable signs that can be used like house numbers), Gateway Health Institute is working with emergency services to dramatically reduce response times in the townships.

What3word isn’t restricting itself to English, adding addresses in a range of languages so that users can use the app in their own language, or the language of the country they’re visiting.

To avoid confusion, no words are shared between language versions – once users find a what3word address in one language they can switch languages and discover the address for that same 3 x 3m square in a different language.

When you live in a country that has a comprehensive and effective address system it’s easy to overlook the need for more precise navigation, but what3words has the potential to give everyone in the world an address, however remote they may be.

  • Download an iOS version of the app here, and Android version here

By  World of tech

Leaked picture shows the three sizes of this year’s new iPhones

Three in a row

By the end of September, Apple will almost certainly have unveiled its new iPhone models for this year – but until then we’re left with leaks, rumors and speculation when it comes to predicting what’s ahead. Another piece of the 2017 iPhone puzzle just showed up online, in the form of an image showing molds for three iPhone models.

Published on Weibo and reported by 9to5Mac, the picture shows chassis molds for the iPhone 8, the iPhone 7S, and the iPhone 7S Plus, the three handsets that had been widely expected to appear later this year. As previously predicted, the iPhone 8 is closer in size to the iPhone 7S than its bigger brother.

We also get a look at the camera position and sizes, and again what we see here fits in with what we’ve already heard: dual-lens cameras for the two larger iPhones, and a vertical configuration for the iPhone 8, maybe to power some kind of augmented reality feature.

Sizes do matter

Based on everything that’s been hinted at so far, it’s gradually become clear that Apple is planning a minor upgrade for the standard iPhone models – the iPhone 7S and the iPhone 7S Plus – as well as a special one-off model to celebrate the tenth year of Apple’s iconic handset in the shape of the iPhone 8.

With a lot of premium materials and upgraded tech crammed into the iPhone 8, including a front-facing display that takes up almost the entire frame, it has been rumored that this model is going to go on sale later than usual. Meanwhile the usual camera and processor bumps are being rumored for all three handsets, as well as perhaps a long-overdue upgrade in display resolution.

This new image doesn’t come from a particularly well-known source, and it’s worth bearing in mind that these molds are probably being used to make cases rather than actual iPhones; but the photo does back up other rumors that we’ve heard up to this point, as well as giving us an interesting look at the relative sizes of this year’s iPhones.

By

Intel turns up the dial to Core i9 with new processors

Rumored high-end offerings look very juicy indeed

Word from the CPU grapevine is that Intel is turning up the dial another notch on its processors, with the introduction of Core i9 models as a new high-end option.

Previously, as you’re most likely aware, Intel has offered its Core family in increasingly powerful i3, i5 or i7 flavors. Core i9 would, of course, be the logical next step.

According to the leak from an Anandtech forum member, the new offerings will comprise of four Skylake-X processors and a pair of Kaby Lake-X CPUs.

If this information is correct, the top-of-the-range model will be the Core i9-7920X which will have 12-cores (24-threads) and a TDP of 140W (the spilled details – some of which come from a marketing slide, interestingly enough labelled as ‘high-end gaming’ Core-X processors – didn’t mention the clock speed for this chip).

The next CPU down will be the i9-7900X which will sport 10-cores with a base clock speed of 3.3GHz and Turbo up to 4.3GHz (with Turbo 3.0 to 4.5GHz – meaning a single core can be boosted further to this speed, thermals willing). Some impressive clock speeds indeed for a chip with so many cores.

Then the 7820X will be an 8-core model (3.6GHz with Turbo to 4.3GHz), and the 7800X is the 6-core variant (3.5GHz/4GHz). All have a TDP of 140W and support quad-channel DDR4-2666 memory.

There will also be a pair of Kaby Lake-X models as mentioned, which will be quad-core: the i7-7740K (4.3GHz/4.5GHz) and the i7-7640K (4GHz/4.2GHz), both with a lower TDP of 112W.

Cores and effect

All these chips should be officially revealed at the end of the month at Computex, and they will be available in June – except for the top-end Core i9-7920X which reportedly won’t emerge until August.

Pricing will of course be key here, especially coming after AMD’s launch of Ryzen processors earlier this year, but you’re obviously going to pay a premium for Core i9, particularly the beefier offerings. The latter are likely to be eye-wateringly expensive, as ever with Intel’s very fastest enthusiast-targeted chips.

It’ll definitely be interesting to see how these CPUs actually perform, and whether the introduction of the Core i9 tier is truly indicative of a major performance boost. But assuming this leak is on the money with the specs, these could be very potent introductions indeed.

Image credit: Sweepr

Via: Hot Hardware

RIP MP3 – the sound file that changed the world is declared dead

Developers have killed the digital music format

The developers of the much loved music compression format MP3 have officially announced its demise.

The Fraunhofer Institute, the German company that was one of the main driving forces behind the development of the MP3, has released a statement that the licensing for patents and software relating to the MP3 have been terminated.

MP3 has been around since the 1980s and was one of the main driving forces behind a revolution in the way that people listened to music. Don’t worry –you’ll still be able to listen to music on the move, it’s just that the tired format is being put out to pasture.

The fact that the name MP3 is so well known is a testament to the effect that the format has had on the music industry. Without the MP3 there would have been no ‘1,000 songs in your pocket’, the tagline for the iPod launched back in 2001.

Farewell old friend

The iPod launched a new era of digital music, with the iPhone following on from its success, and now we live in a world where we carry thousands of songs in our pockets and almost instantly access them.

To put the enduring legacy of the MP3 into context, it was invented before broadband, and anyone old enough to remember dial-up internet will recall the struggle of waiting hours for a single MP3 to download. The fact that technology has moved on as far as it has, and that the MP3 still exists, is quite remarkable.

However, the MP3 has in recent times been solidly overtaken by another format, the Advanced Audio Codec family, commonly referred to as AAC.

In the official statement from the Fraunhofer Institute shared by NPR, and an official spokesman said: “most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as the AAC family”.

Defunct music formats are an interesting proposition; vinyl, CD and even MiniDisk still have loyal followers around the world. While MP3 is undoubtedly going to join the hall of fame in the history of music, the likelihood of music aficionados hanging on to the format is low as the quality of music is greatly affected by being converted into MP3.

So, while we won’t miss the tinny treble, we will miss the familiar friend. Farewell MP3.

Via Gizmodo

After WannaCry, here’s how businesses can fight ransomware

With the right tools and planning, you can beat the bad guys

If there’s one thing that the events which occurred at the end of last week taught us, it’s that when you have your own business, security is something you need to take very seriously. Of course, we’re not talking about burglar alarms – although the defence of your premises is an important consideration itself – rather we mean online security, and protecting yourself from incidents such as the WannaCry ransomware which has been plastered across the headlines over the weekend.

Cybercriminals are always actively looking to get into business IT systems and steal lucrative data, from company secrets to customer transactions. According to a 2016 study by ISP Beaming, cyber-attacks costs British businesses an estimated £34 billion (around $45 billion, AU$60 billion) a year.

There are a number of tactics criminals use to steal money from companies, and ransomware is one of the most common. It’s a form of malicious software that encrypts files, preventing the user accessing them until they pay a ransom to unlock the data.

Research by security firm Malwarebytes claims that ransomware attacks have affected more than 40% of businesses over the past year. In this article, we’ll explore how you can prevent such malware attacks, or deal with them if you happen to be unfortunate enough to get hit.

Back up your data and assets

If you haven’t yet been affected by a ransomware attack, then you have an opportunity to put safeguards in place to keep your precious data safe. With the right systems, you’ll be able to protect your business assets.

One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring that you regularly back up your key business files. This is, of course, something you should be doing already. Running regular backups is not only a good defence against ransomware, but also other disasters which could occur such as disk failure.

Backing up data needn’t be a complicated or lengthy process. With the right software solution, you can back up your data without any hassle, and you don’t need any IT expertise. For basic needs, Acronis Backup 12 is one of the most popular products on the market, costing £45 (around $60, AU$80) a year. The tool only takes three clicks to get up and running, and it’s currently compatible with 16 platforms. These include Office 365, VMware and Azure. You can also choose from four different encryption standards.

Naturally, there are other basic security considerations that you should bear in mind. You should always ensure that operating systems and software alike are updated with the latest security patches. And you shouldn’t be running an outdated OS such as Windows XP, which is no longer patched – remember that the WannaCry ransomware leveraged an unpatched vulnerability in this operating system (though it’s now been patched, such is the seriousness of this incident).

Also, when downloading files from the web, always put caution first, and never download or install anything from what might seem to be a suspicious source. The same goes for iffy-looking emails and potentially malware-laden attachments.

Invest in computer security

Having antivirus software installed on your systems is also crucial in preventing ransomware attacks. You’ll find that a typical home security package won’t be powerful enough, so it’s worth looking for a business-oriented option. Luckily, there’s plenty of choice, with products available that support businesses of varying sizes.

AVG Internet Security Business Edition is an excellent example. Available to buy starting at £33 online (excluding VAT, for a year’s subscription covering 1 PC) – that’s around $43, AU$57 – it provides you with tools to protect your business computers, email accounts and network from threats such as ransomware, spam and phishing.

The software offers 24/7 protection, and you’re sent an instant email alert if a threat is identified. What’s more, it comes with a selection of remote admin tools that you can use to manage your security while away from the office.

Use free software and resources

You don’t even have to spend any money to get protection from ransomware, though. There are plenty of free tools out there that’ll identify and remove threats. Take, for example, Kaspersky’s Anti-Ransomware Tool for Business. Designed to work with most security software on the market, this free tool will identify key ransomware behaviour patterns and protect Windows-based endpoints.

As well as utilities that can identify ransomware and prevent it affecting your systems, you can also get tools to attempt to reverse the effects of ransomware. If you end up experiencing an attack and your data becomes encrypted, Avast’s free ransomware decryption tools are worth checking out. Data can be encrypted in different ways, and Avast has provided a detailed explanation of how different types of ransomware work along with appropriate solutions.

Once you’ve downloaded one of the tools, you’ll need to provide a copy of the original file, as well as the encrypted one. The software will then analyse those files and try to work out a decryption method. Trend Micro offers a similar tool, and it can identify 26 different types of ransomware.

Other potential tactics you can try include booting from your Windows disc (as opposed to the hard drive) and then attempting a ‘repair’ on your operating system. (See here for more details on this).

You should do some research as well. Organisations such as Get Safe Online provide free online resources to help you learn about the threats posed by ransomware and how to avoid them. Online security firms like Kaspersky also provide significant resources on this topic, from blog posts to YouTube videos.

As a general point, bear in mind that if you are thinking of paying the ransom, there’s no guarantee that when you hand the money over, the criminals in question will send you the key to decrypt your files. We discuss this at much greater length in our feature: Should you ever pay up to ransomware criminals?

Have a strategy in place

As with any aspect of IT and business in general, planning is key to success. Ransomware is a common threat in the business world, and so it makes sense to have some form of strategy in place to deal with this menace. For instance, you could create a set of guidelines explaining what ransomware is, and how employees can identify any threats.

If you have a significant security budget, you may also want to look into setting up an incident response team. A dedicated team of security experts will be able to counter threats and hopefully prevent them from occurring in the first place, but even if the worst still happens, they can decide which systems to take down to prevent the infection from spreading. Alternatively, you can hire a security company to defend your network in such a manner.

Ransomware is a major threat these days, as we’ve seen very recently, but with the right planning and preparation, you can stay ahead of the game.

By

NHS UK Hit as Ransomware Shows Devastating Potential With Disruptive Global Attack

WannaCry ransom message

WannaCry ransom messageA vulnerability that Microsoft silently patched in March, after it oddly skipped a whole month’s worth of updates, has been used to launch a worldwide ransomware attack against at least 99 countries, including the UK, Spain, Russia, Japan, and the United States.The vulnerability was being exploited by the NSA for potentially months or years, before the Shadow Brokers group leaked it to the public. Once it was publicly disclosed, anyone could have leveraged it against computers that haven’t been patched since before March.

WannaCry Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects your computer, encrypts your files, and then it demands a sum of money before it will decrypt them for you. In other words, it asks you for a “ransom” before it will let you access your files again.

One of the groups that has begun exploiting this Windows vulnerability in unpatched systems made the ransomware “WannaCry.” The malware also goes by the names Wcry, Wana Decrypt0r, or WannaCryptor.

Antivirus companies such as Avast and Kaspersky saw many more of their users being attacked by this ransomware today than they usually do. One of the countries that seems to have been attacked most by the ransomware is Russia, but the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), Spain’s Telefonica wireless operator, and even the U.S.’s FedEx service have also been hit, causing significant disruption.

The NHS released a statement saying that it believes the malware is tied to WannaCry and that at this stage, there is no evidence that patient data has been affected. The ransomware showed a message saying that the ransom will double if it’s not paid in three days. (The ransom is currently $300 worth of Bitcoin.) If seven days have passed with no ransom, the group will keep the files encrypted forever.

Ransomware Is Coming Of age

Ransomware has been on a growth path over the past few years for one simple reason: It makes money for its creators. Users who get infected aren’t supposed to pay the ransom, because that would encourage the ransomware makers to keep infecting other PCs. However, not everyone listens to this advice, because some files may be worth much more than the amount of the ransom.

Up until recently, the ransomware threat wasn’t considered that significant. The number of computers that could be affected by a particular type of ransomware was in the hundreds of thousands over a period of many months. That isn’t a lot, compared to the almost billion and a half Windows PCs out there. Eventually, the collective thought process seemed to go, enough systems would get patched, and the ransomware wouldn’t be able to spread anymore.

The previous type of ransomware also spread more randomly, depending on who would click on a malicious email link or who would see a malicious ad. With this latest attack, though, ransomware seems to have arrived a point where it doesn’t just randomly infect users through malicious ads and links anymore; it can now spread quickly to and throughout large organizations and disrupt their functioning for days at a time, if not longer.

The new version of Wana Decrypt0r has reportedly infected tens of thousands of computers within hours. The number soon could grow much higher, because the types of medical devices that use unpatched versions of Windows will likely remain vulnerable to this attack much longer.

One reason the malware was able to spread so fast is because it was designed to spread like a worm inside a network, self-replicating on all vulnerable systems. If this is the type of attacks we can expect from ransomware from now on, then everyone will have to take this type of malware much more seriously. (People also need to update their systems in a timely manner.)

How To Prevent WannaCry And Other Ransomware

if you haven’t installed the March patch bundle on your computer yet, it’s time to do so. Keeping your system up to date is one of the best ways to keep it secure. It won’t save you from malware that uses zero-day vulnerabilities, but it should keep your system safe from the vast majority of exploits that rely on publicly disclosed vulnerabilities–such as the one used by the WannaCry malware.

If for some reason you can’t patch your system, having an antivirus or similar security solution that has confirmed it can block the latest version of WannaCry and other ransomware would be a good way to stop it, too.

According to Cisco’s Talos threat intelligence team, the ransomware looks for open 139 and 445 internet ports. If your organization uses these ports, it may be time to disable them, at least until your systems are patched.

Google Responds To Mass Phishing Attack

Earlier this week, roughly 1 million people fell victim to a phishing attack that offered total access to Gmail accounts. Google initially responded to the attack with a series of tweets, and now that the dust has started to settle, it’s also published a blog post explaining how its systems protect you from phishing attempts. Yet questions still remain about how the company plans to prevent attacks similar to this one from reoccurring.

This particular attack worked by tricking people into clicking on what appeared to be a link to a Google Doc. The link opened a malicious app instead, and that app in turn requested permission to “read, send, delete, and manage your email” and “manage your contacts.” But the request came from an app called “Google Docs,” so combined with the email seeming to originate from the service, everything seemed to be above board.

That wasn’t the case. Google Docs won’t request permission to access your Gmail account–yet the sheer number of services that request access to Google, Facebook, and Twitter accounts has trained people to automatically grant those permissions without a second thought. Google said in its blog post that it stopped the phishing attack in one hour, but in that time it managed to affect 0.1 percent of its users, or roughly 1 million people.

Google has since been criticized for allowing this to attack to happen in the first place, especially since it was warned of this possibility all the way back in 2011. Thus, this blog post is less about Google bragging about how well it stopped this attack and more about making sure people still trust it. The company shared the following list of protections it uses to stop phishing attacks (and spam) from affecting those who use its products:

  • Using machine learning-based detection of spam and phishing messages, which has contributed to 99.9% accuracy in spam detection
  • Providing Safe Browsing warnings about dangerous links, within Gmail and across more than 2 billion browsers
  • Preventing suspicious account sign-ins through dynamic, risk-based challenges
  • Scanning email attachments for malware and other dangerous payloads

Those protections weren’t enough in this case, though. Google still managed to halt the attack in its tracks, and the company said it’s “taken steps to re-secure affected accounts,” but the fact that a malicious app tricked people into offering access to their accounts via Google’s OAuth system using an email claiming to come from Google Docs that was sent to Gmail users still raises questions about how those services are safeguarded.

Google acknowledged those concerns and said it plans to prevent similar attacks in the future:

In addition, we’re taking multiple steps to combat this type of attack in the future, including updating our policies and enforcement on OAuth applications, updating our anti-spam systems to help prevent campaigns like this one, and augmenting monitoring of suspicious third-party apps that request information from our users.

The company also advised users to take a Security Checkup to make sure the only apps and devices allowed to access their accounts are legitimate, heed warnings and alerts shown in its products, and to report suspicious messages. Business admins were also told to turn on two-factor authentication for their employees, limit what information those employees are allowed to share, and running OAuth audit log reports.

by Nathaniel Mott  – Source: Google

Windows 10 Keyboard Shortcuts To Save You Clicks

By Henry T. Casey

 

Any time you can hit a key combination instead of rolling your mouse pointer across the screen, you save a lot of time. Windows 10 has a long list of keyboard shortcuts that help you launch new features such as Cortana, navigate around the OS or organise your desktop layout with ease. While you might know some of the traditional Windows keyboard shortcuts, you will be surprised to find some new tricks below.

Cortana Shortcuts

Windows + Q: Opens Cortana’s Home View, enables search by speech or keyboard input.

Windows + C: Opens Cortana’s speech prompt

New in Windows 10

Windows Key + A: Opens Windows 10 notifications

Windows Key + I: Opens Windows 10 settings

Windows Key + Ctrl + D: Creates new virtual desktop

Windows Key + Ctrl + F4: Closes current virtual desktop

Windows Key + Ctrl + Left or Right: Switches between virtual desktops

Windows Key + F1: Opens Edge and Searches “How do I get help in Windows 10” with Bing (formerly opens Help)

Windows Key + Print Screen Key: Creates a screenshot of the whole screen in the Photos app.

Windows Standards

Windows Key: Shows the Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows Key + L: Locks your Windows 10 device

Windows Key + Tab: Launches Windows 10 Task View

Windows Key + Enter: Opens Narrator, a program that reads text for you and shows you tips.

Desktop Commands

Windows Key + X: Opens Start button context menu

Windows Key + Left, Right, Up or Down: Moves the active window around on your screen. Left and Right snap the window to either side so it takes up half of the screen, Up and Down shrink the window to a quarter-size and move it to that corner. Once you have used Windows Key + Up to place it in the top corner, pressing that command again makes the window take up your whole screen. If you have hit Windows Key + Down to place a window in the bottom corner, hitting that command again minimizes the window.

Windows Key + D: Show Windows desktop (also available with Windows Key + M)

Windows Key + ,: Temporarily show desktop

Connecting and Sharing

Windows Key + H: Share content (if supported by current app)

Windows Key + K: Connect to wireless displays and audio devices

Windows Key + E: Open Windows Explorer

Traditional Keyboard Shortcuts

Windows Key + Space: Switch keyboard input language (if you have added at least a second one)

Windows Key + Shift + Left or Right: Move current Window from one monitor to another (when using a multiple monitor setup)

Windows Key + 1, 2, 3 and so on: Open programs that are pinned to task bar

Windows Key + R: Run a command

Windows Key + P: Project a screen

Alt + Tab: Switch to previous window

Windows Key + T = Cycle through screenshots of open apps

Alt + F4: Close current window, but if you perform this combination when viewing the desktop, you open Power dialogue to shut down or restart Windows, put your device in sleep mode, sign out or switch the current user.