Windows 9 - Probably Not So "Free"

Following quite a bit of speculation that the next version of Windows might be made available as a no-cost upgrade, that now may be unlikely - at least for most users, according to the latest scuttlebutt.
Microsoft will offer some Windows 8.1 users a free upgrade to the next edition, tentatively labeled as Windows 9, a notorious spiller of the company's secrets said today.

According to Wzor, Windows 9 will be a free upgrade from some but not all copies of Windows 8.1. For those currently running Windows 7, the upgrade will come with a price tag. Wzor publicized the claims in a short series of tweets today.

But the free upgrade deal has a big caveat.

"The free upgrade to Windows 9 can be done only from a full retail version of Windows 8.1 ... the OEM version will be paid, same as before," Wzor wrote in one tweet, according to a Russian-to-English translation done for Computerworld by Sveta Surgay, a technical support analyst with IDG's corporate help desk.


Yahoo! Retiring! Yahoo! Directory!

In those heady days of the fledgling World Wide Web, Yahoo! ended up being a pretty big player. The times, they are a changin', though and Yahoo! is retiring it's namesake product - a curated directory list of websites.
In January 1994, Jerry Yang and David Filo, graduate students at Stanford University, created a hierarchical directory of websites, "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web." In March of that year, they gave it the name "Yahoo!," for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle."
In the early days of the Web, these categorized, human-curated Web listings were all the rage. Search engines existed, but rapidly became notorious for their poor result quality. On a Web that was substantially smaller than the one we enjoy today, directories were a useful alternative way of finding sites of interest.
As the Web grew, directories became less useful—there was no way they could ever hope to be exhaustive—and Google, in particular, made search engines useful. The directory fell out of fashion. Yahoo kept its directory around, but while its scale is now immense, with hundreds of thousands of sites listed, it clearly no longer captures the interests or imaginations of Internet users today.

Yahoo directory in April 1997 (courtesy


Happy 40th Birthday, Teletext!

Teletext is a bit of a foreign concept here in the USA, but I well remember being intrigued by this technology back in my youth in Scotland. Teletext basically provided an information service on your TV set using similiar technology to the closed captioning features we are familiar with. It was a kind of prehistoric Internet, at least for us wide-eyed Europeans.
Ceefax, the world's first teletext service, was launched to the public in September 1974 at a time when television sets that used the service were so few and far between that the engineers - who were usually middle-aged bearded men - could send messages to their wives to tell them what time they would be home for tea, and no one would be any the wiser.
Today, it's quite easy to talk about the blocky graphics and primary colours of teletext in the past tense, as Ceefax was switched off during the switchover to digital television in 2012. However, it's still running in some European countries and its influence can still be felt throughout the internet enabled technology world.
The Inquirer

the BBC's "CEEFAX" service - live, on your TV!


How About A 3.2TB PCIe SSD?

Looks like old coot hobby computer builders like me will need to get in the fast lane, seems like the future of performance drives may line with SSDs on a PCIe card...
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., the world leader in advanced memory technology, today announced that it has started mass producing 3.2-terabyte (TB) NVMe PCIe solid state drives (SSDs) based on its 3D V-NAND (Vertical NAND) flash memory technology, for use in high-end enterprise server systems. The new NVMe PCIe SSD, SM1715, utilizes Samsung's proprietary 3D V-NAND in an HHHL (half-height, half-length) card-type form factor, to offer 3.2TB of storage capacity -- doubling Samsung’s previous highest NVMe SSD density of 1.6TB
Pretty slick!



C'mon Apple, Just Admit When Things Go Wrong - We Will Still Like You

Having never owned any recent Apple products, I don't really have a dog in this fight, so to speak - but I do wish Apple would drop the sort of snooty, aloof attitude they seem to have cultivated over hardware or software issues. They are generally uncommunicative and seem at times to be "in denial" when legitimate issues come to light. They make attractive, desirable products, and the build quality is usually reported to be high, but no one is perfect - and I don't believe most of us expect them to be. What we should expect and demand is the courtesy of Apple acknowledging when things do go wrong and communicating how and when they might be fixed. Apple is a high profile company, so I think it behooves them to take the lead in this sort of thing. Far from diminishing their brand by admitting when problems arise, I believe this approach is just common sense for any company who wants to retain and attract customers.


(Not) An Emma Watson Nude Photo Site

A rather strange web site popped up recently, alluding to the release of embarrassing "selfie" photos of young actress Emma Watson. Ms Watson was one of the stars of the popular Harry Potter films, and has also appeared in fashion magazines and the like, as well as other movies. Perhaps not surprisingly, the web site EmmaYouAreNext [dot] com, and has had tremendous traffic in the interim. Turns out that the site is actually something of a PR piece, and vistors found this:
Spread the word
Join us as we shut down 4chan and prevent more private pictures from being leaked. None of these women deserve this and together we can make a change.
4Chan is an image site where material can be posted anonymously, and where most of the recent slew of hacked/stolen female celebrity selfies fist showed up.



How Big Is That Spaceship?

Space vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, both in real life and in the realm of Science Fiction. Wouldn't it be cool you if you had like a big chart where you can see all the craft together on the same scale? Thanks to DeviantArt member DirkLoechel, you now have just that. The artist put together a pretty astonishing project that has to be seen to be appreciated (a very small snippet is shown below). 

Here are a few notes from the FAQ:

Q: Is it okay for me to download and print the poster?
A: Of course! I may never be making money off it and sell it via DevArt's poster-print service, but that doesn't mean this may not be printed by you (and since you cut out the middle man - me - it's even cheaper for you than if I sold it to you!).

Q: Why isn't the Death Star/CSO Carrier/V'Ger/other large ship on the chart?
A: For reasons of image quality and chart organisation, only ships between a minimum of 100 meters and 24000 meters are applicable for this chart, sorry. Arbitrary? Yes! But I had to draw the line somewhere.

Q: And where's TARDIS?
A: It's both too large and too small for the chart.

The whole behemoth is here. 



Space Elevator Plans Announced

The Space Elevator is a fascinating concept; a way of moving materials (and possibly people) into Earth orbit without the use of rockets. A surprisingly old concept from the 19th century, I first became aware of such an idea in Arthur C. Clarke's novel "The Fountains of Paradise". Now, a Japanese company has announced their intention to have a space elevator up and running by 2050.
The Japanese construction giant Obayashi says they will build a space elevator that will reach 96,000 kilometres into space.
Robotic cars powered by magnetic linear motors will carry people and cargo to a newly-built space station, at a fraction of the cost of rockets. It will take seven days to get there.
The company said the fantasy can now become a reality because of the development of carbon nanotechnology.
ABC News

image from


Your Smartphone Password, Please

A new push to provide automatic mobile device encryption from both Apple and Google may force an uncomfortable scenario where a law enforcement official would need to insist you unlock your device as part of a search. Both iOS 8 and the forthcoming Android L operating systems will encrypt your data by default. Encrypting the data on a mobile phone or tablet explicitly keeps it from being accessed without the passcode - and that requires the device owners cooperation, possibly under penalty of obstructing a lawful search. But perversely, if you use the cloud storage with your device - such as iCloud or Google Drive - that may make the need to access the locally-encrypted data a moot point ('cos we all know the cloud is the wild, wild west of data security).
So now, if law enforcement wants into your phone, they’ll need to get you to enter your passcode. One Apple competitor felt the heat. Google-owned Android quickly issued an “us, too!” announcement, saying that its next operating system will also encrypt data on smartphones by default for those using a passcode. Privacy advocates are thrilled. It’s not just about making it easier to protect civil liberties in the U.S. but exporting it to countries with restrictive governments where it will now be harder to get dissidents’ iPhone chats.


Sleepy, Excited Aussie Drops His Brand New iPhone 6 Onto Sidewalk

Stuff like this is bad enough, but this one was caught on live TV too. Ugh.

Early on Friday, Jack Cooksey was first in line at an Apple store in Perth, Western Australia. After the doors opened and he purchased an iPhone 6, he ecstatically showed it off to a local news channel. During the interview, Cooksey appeared to have some trouble opening the iPhone 6 box. As he popped off the top -- perhaps getting a little too excited to see Apple's latest iPhone -- the brand new iPhone 6 fell to the pavement below.
For a moment, there was a gasp (and laughter) in the crowd surrounding Cooksey. Quick on his feet, he bent down, picked up the handset and discovered, much to his relief, that it survived the scary fall.


"Childhood's End" Miniseries Gets The Go Ahead

Oh boy, be careful what you wish for! "Childhood's End" is a genuinely big favorite story of mine from Arthur C. Clarke, and I have been hoping someone would try to bring it to the big screen (or the small screen). Now that the Syfy has greenlit the project, I am as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. It could be sublime if done halfway right, and it could be absolute crap ("Sharknado" with aliens, anyone?). One problem is that at least a couple of movies/miniseries have already done the "giant spaceships suddenly appear all over Earth" trope, and I hope viewers don't tune out literally or figuratively when they see that again. It's a magnificent, creepy and sobering tale and it could be so flippin' good if they just stay true to the source material.
Hailed as a revolutionary work of science fiction since its publishing in 1953, Childhood’s End follows the peaceful alien invasion of Earth by the mysterious “Overlords,” whose arrival begins decades of apparent utopia under indirect alien rule, at the cost of human identity and culture.

Germany Okay With Uber Service Now

With a name like "Uber" (Über is also the German word for "over" or "above"), you would think the ride-sharing service would have been a shoe-in among Germans, but no - until now.
A nationwide injunction issued against on-demand ride-hailing service Uber in Germany has been lifted by a local court in Frankfurt during an appeal hearing.
The ban was issued by the same court late last month, after a civil action brought by the German taxi industry. The taxi industry had argued that Uber lacked a transport permit to operate its UberPop service in Germany, which uses independent drivers to run a commercial service.
According to Reuters the judge at the appeal court hearing ruled that there were no grounds for an immediate injunction against Uber’s service, although Frankfurt Regional Court Judge Frowin Kurth said there could still be grounds for an injunction — just not an immediate one.
He also apparently identified Uber as a direct competitor to the taxi industry, rejecting Uber’s own attempts to cast itself as mere marketplace connecting private drivers with passengers needing a ride.


Time For A Windows Smartphone?

My mobile phone history has been all over the place. As one who does not have a lot of disposable income - or at least none that I am willing to spend on a mobile phone - I have stayed on the cheap side of the tracks, and most recently the prepaid side of that. I have never had an iPhone but have lived with both a cheap and a middle-of-the-road Android phone. Currently, I have a simple flip phone and am using StraightTalk, which has been fine. I had been looking at as my next provider, and while their rates would definitely work for me, I would need to spend around $100 to purchase a phone - which is not much of course in the grand scheme of things, but just a bit more that I am ready to spend right now. 

Then I saw that Cricket (owned by AT&T) currently has a handful of decent/cheap Android smartphones around $50 each, and their monthly rate for the basic data plan is about what I am paying now for a talk/text plan with StraightTalk ($30-$35). I was intrigued to see they also have a pretty nice Windows phone in that current offer, the Nokia Lumia 630 - quad core processor, decent camera and upgradeable storage using a microSD card. I have actually heard pretty good things about Windows 8.1 on phones, and I think I may take the plunge. I wanted a smartphone again for a couple of reasons, but need to keep it affordable in terms of the initial cost and the ongoing monthly fees (and no contract, thank you). I typically don't use a lot of data and the 1GB on the Cricket plan would be more than enough. 

Sounds pretty tempting...


Star Wars Prequels: Not Quite So Much CGI

With the filming of the new Star Wars movie well underway, there is quite a bit of buzz about the fact that J.J. Abrams appears to be using quite a lot of practical sets (meaning physical props instead of relying on CGI). One of the knocks against the Star Wars prequels filmed by George Lucas - among other things - was an over-reliance on CGI for, well, almost everything. You could have knocked me down with a computer-generated feather when I saw this thread on, which shows a LOT of practical sets and effects being used in the prequels. It's a testament to a lot of effort to make the CGI and practical integration wonderfully seamless.  Personally, except for a few specific scenes, I thought the prequels looked great - my problems were in other areas, which hopefully will not be in play in Mr. Abrams movie.

J.J. Abrams with a familiar spaceship


Dropbox Received 268 User Data Request From Law Enforcement, Fewer From NSA

Between January and July of 2014 Cloud storage company Dropbox received 268 requests for user data from law enforcement agencies and a smaller, unspecified number from security agencies. The requests did not include any for business data. Dropbox plans to regularly make these sorts of transparency reports available from now on, along with other companies like Yahoo!
The 268 figure breaks down to 120 search warrants, 109 subpoenas, 37 "non-United States" requests from foreign agencies, and two court orders.
Of the 109 subpoenas, Dropbox said only one sought content information, which Dropbox asserted it declined to provide.
Dropbox also noted in the report that it is not permitted by the federal government to report the exact number of national security requests received.
Dropbox legal counsel Bart Volkmer stressed in a blog post on Thursday that "law enforcement agencies frequently ask us to keep requests secret even when they don’t have the legal right to do so."

Apple's Bono Bonehead Blunder

I don't know why Apple even thought this might be a good idea - most folk don't want something personal like music pushed onto their devices.
Apple may have succeeded at breaking two records at once with the free release of U2’s latest album via iTunes yesterday: The album, titled Songs of Innocence, instantly became “the largest album release of all time,” as Apple CEO Tim Cook announced on stage during the company’s iPhone 6 event. But now, it looks like it’s also on track to become one of the worst music publicity stunts of all time.

To turn Songs of Innocence into a record release, Apple decided to add it to every iTunes user’s music library without asking. For many iPhone users, this meant that the album also automatically downloaded onto their device — and that left many people confused, if not upset.


Apple iNames iGone?

After the Apple launch event on September 9th was over, it occurred to me that the two new products did not carry the "iName" convention. The "Apple Watch" and "Apple Pay" are still pretty minimalist as product names go, but it looks like the stream of iNames may be at an end. In the anticipated "iWatch" case, it looks like Apple may have decided to avoid confusion or possible patent issues with the existing "iSwatch" product. Maybe they just felt "Ah the heck with it, we got some mileage and brand recognition with iNames, but it's time to break free". I confess I sort of liked the iPod, iPad and iPhone labels - you immediately knew what it was and who made it.


Where Were You When The iWatch Launched?

When Apple launched the original iPhone back in 2007, it was something really new and cool; a product that is often credited with reshaping the smartphone industry ever since. I think Apple hopes that the iWatch will be a similar watershed product. We already have smartwatch devices from the likes of Sony and Samsung, but could Apple take the glory on this one? I am probably not the best person to be objective about this, as I think smartwatches in general are overpriced and unnecessary devices, but some pundits think otherwise:

Every time Apple announces a new iPhone, the device has a few features and surprises that put the company's most profitable product ahead of the competition, at least for a few months. That's probably going to happen again on Tuesday.
The iPhone 6 will probably be extremely thin, fast and light. It may have a nearly unscratchable sapphire screen. It will likely come in two sizes.

Nice. But 10 years from now, nobody will remember the announcement of the iPhone 6.

They will, however, remember the launch of the Apple iWatch

Kidding, just kidding


LinkedIn Tightens Things Up

eWeek - Last week, the technology world was buzzing about the celebrity picture hack that involved Apple's iCloud service. While Apple is now making attempts to improve user security, other online services have too.
LinkedIn, for one, has announced multiple steps it is taking to improve user security. For starters, LinkedIn will now provide users with full visibility into logged-in user session information to identify any potentially unauthorized access. Google has long provided a similar feature. Going a step further, LinkedIn is taking specific precautions to help users identify any anomalous password activities.
Read the rest of "LinkedIn Improves User Security" at eWeek


Ninite: A Handy Site For Hassle-Free Software Installs is one of those sites that makes me sad that more people don't know about it. Ninite provides a customized executable you can download and use to install a rather comprehensive selection of free software. A useful feature is that the Ninite installer can be used to installed multiple programs from a single file, and also installs the selected software without toolbars or other "extras" you may not want. These days, a lot of free software installs toolbars, or makes search engine changes unless you pay attention to the options. Ninite avoids this.

Additionally, you always get the current version of the software when you use the Ninite installer - and Ninite is free for personal use. Ninite is available for Windows and Ubuntu Linux users. I only recently found out about the Linux version, it currently has about a dozen apps vs over 80 apps for Windows. There is also a paid Ninite updater that monitors your Ninite-installed programs and alerts you when a new version is available for $9.99 US per year.

In a nutshell:
1. Click all the apps you want
You can learn more about a program by hovering over it.
2. Click Get Installer and run it
Ninite installs apps for you in the background. No clicking next. We say NO to toolbars or other junk.
3. Run it again later
Your installer will update apps to the latest versions. If something is up-to-date we'll skip it.
We also have a page for screenreader-friendly accessible apps at


New iPhone 6 Looks Like...An iPhone

Apple still commands a lot of interest and press when they get close to the announcement of a new product (we already have people waiting in line for the new phone). The odd thing, to me at least, is that a new iPhone is a lot like a new model Porsche automobile - they look a lot like the previous model. Don't get me wrong, the iPhone is a very sleek piece of equipment and feels great in your hand - I don't have one myself, but I do use them at work on occasion. 

The iPhone 5 had some hardware improvements in using a 64-bit processor for the first time, and the iPhone 6 is supposed to be physically larger, but it still impresses me just how much continuing interest there is in this product line; and no doubt, they will sell impressive quantities of the new devices. 

I suppose I am feeding the fire by posting this article, but people seem to be still more than just casually interested. If you can't wait to see the iPhone 6, the article here supposedly has clear images of a "real" iPhone 6 beside a version 5 phone.


Facebook Video Autoplay Slurping Up Data And $$$

CNNMoney - Want to save money on your phone bill? Make sure you turn off the "autoplay" setting on Facebook videos.

Smartphone users are at risk of maxing out their data plans if they don't change this default setting in the Facebook app, which otherwise will automatically start streaming videos in the News Feed window.

The issue was flagged by consumer finance site, which said it had "seen many complaints from people who have been stung with data bills after exceeding their monthly allowance and who believe it to be because of Facebook autoplaying videos."


Dreamy Linux Desktops

I like Linux a lot; I am writing this on my laptop running Mint 17. I also like the choices that the whole Linux world offers up. Linux on the Desktop suffers from being perceived as "weird" or "geeky" and therefore not for everyday use. It also is sometimes thought of as not being cutting edge or even modern, which is also largely untrue - plenty of newer technologies are represented in the various Linux distros. An article showing "Ten Linux Desktops Showing Just How Far Behind Mac OS X and Windows Designs Are" is a bit dubious though, in the sense that while it shows range of interesting desktop "looks", this sort of stuff can be pretty readily done in Windows too, using skinning utilities and fancy wallpaper (as the comments are quick to point out). While I'm not calling out the author on this, and many Windows or even Mac users would be favourably impressed with some of the eye candy available on Linux, I think the expectations of the article title did not really match the content this time around.

I still really like Linux, though...


Fake Cellphone Towers Found In US

Welivesecurity - Seventeen mysterious cellphone towers have been found in America which look like ordinary towers, and can only be identified by a heavily customized handset built for Android security – but have a much more malicious purpose, according to Popular Science. 

The fake ‘towers’ – computers which wirelessly attack cellphones via the “baseband” chips built to allow them to communicate with their networks, can eavesdrop and even install spyware, ESD claims. They are a known technology - but the surprise is that they are in active use.

The towers were found by users of the CryptoPhone 500, one of several ultra-secure handsets that have come to market in the last couple of years, after an executive noticed his handset was “leaking” data regularly.

iCloud And Jennifer Lawrence Nudie Photos

The recent splurge of naked and semi-naked photos of nubile celebs apparently taken by their own smartphone cameras has raised the possibility of some kind of iCloud hack. iCloud is the cloud service provided to Apple customers for backup and storage purposes. One theory is that the recent Emmy award ceremony may have been the target of some hacking directed at those in attendance.Apple is looking into the breach from their end of things.
A hacker has leaked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence online and claims to have hacked dozens of other female celebs.

Photos of the actress topless began circulating after a hacker allegedly stole them from her iCloud account and posted them on the website 4chan.

Lawrence’s rep has confirmed the legitimacy of the photos, telling BuzzFeed in an emailed statement,“This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”

Mashable noted this isn’t anywhere close to the first celebrity hack, but what makes this one disturbing — besides the obvious reasons — is it’s rumored to have happened through iCloud’s Photo Stream feature.
A hacker has leaked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence online and claims to have hacked dozens of other female celebs.
Photos of the actress topless began circulating after a hacker allegedly stole them from her iCloud account and posted them on the website 4chan.
Lawrence’s rep has confirmed the legitimacy of the photos, telling BuzzFeed in an emailed statement,“This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”
Mashable noted this isn’t anywhere close to the first celebrity hack, but what makes this one disturbing — besides the obvious reasons — is it’s rumored to have happened through iCloud’s Photo Stream feature.
Headlines much of Monday morning questioned the security of Apple’s data storage system.
- See more at:
A hacker has leaked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence online and claims to have hacked dozens of other female celebs.
Photos of the actress topless began circulating after a hacker allegedly stole them from her iCloud account and posted them on the website 4chan.
Lawrence’s rep has confirmed the legitimacy of the photos, telling BuzzFeed in an emailed statement,“This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”
Mashable noted this isn’t anywhere close to the first celebrity hack, but what makes this one disturbing — besides the obvious reasons — is it’s rumored to have happened through iCloud’s Photo Stream feature.
Headlines much of Monday morning questioned the security of Apple’s data storage system.
- See more at:

No Further Investigation Into Dr Who Inter-Species Smooch

After receiving half a dozen complaints regarding an interspecies kiss in a recent episode of the BBC's Dr. Who (which sort of really wasn't, in the context of the story), the UK's Ofcom decided not to pursue the matter further. Ofcom (the Office of Communications) is somewhat analagous to the FCC here in the US. The couple involved was the lizard lady Madame Vastra and her human wife Jenny, who are in a lesbian marriage in 19th century London. In the show, they maintain a mistress/servant relationship to keep up appearances  - apparently the lizard part is less of a big deal than the lesbian part, even in the past. Oh, and they are also Ninjas. And Madame Vastra is a noted detective, who sometimes helps out the London Bobbies a'la Sherlock Holmes. I think that's everything....

Ofcom has declined to probe the BBC after it received complaints about the screening of a kiss between a lizard-like character and her human wife during an episode of Doctor Who.
The watchdog received half a dozen complaints after the characters, played by Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart, shared a crafty live-saving snog* as they hid from killer droids.

However, Ofcom said it was not concerned enough to look further into the incident.

Madame Vastra and Jenny (click to enlarge)