REVIEW: How to turn a Raspberry Pi in to an NSA-proof computer

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This is a guest post by Fiona O'Cleirigh

One of the Pi's key attributes is its price of around £30. It is the nearest thing we have to a disposable computer and several can be used cost-effectively in a single project. 

A recently publicised use is the creation of a string of Raspberry Pi honeypots for detecting hacker activity on a corporate network. 

Given CW's enduring preoccupation with the surveillance programs of our Establishment masters, would it be, could it be possible to create a disposable, network-invisible computer?

Computer Weekly recruited the help of a senior enterprise architect who works for a global financial services firm.  For the sake of professional anonymity, we shall call him 'Jim'.    

Everything depends on the software.  Here we face a dilemma, particularly with the browser. Most relevant program files are built for Linux running on x86 or 64 processors.  The Pi can only run programs built for Linux running on the Pi's ARM processor, a component it shares with the old Acorn Archimedes computers. 

Desirable software for the NSA-proofed Raspberry Pi:
- PGP encryption email  - Ice Dove
- Tor-type IP-shy browser - developers needed
- Encrypted chat tool - Jabber/Pidgin
- Disk encryption for USB drive - TrueCrypt
- Word processor with AES-256 encryption - LibreOffice

In principle, says Jim, this can be fixed because the source code for security packages, like the Tor browser, for instance, is available.  Building them into executables for a different processor is therefore a matter of downloading the source packages and running the 'make' program to create the program files.  

But these simple procedures often take longer than expected, and we opted to install Midori, a light-weight, open source browser. 

Email is commonly encrypted via Thunderbird.  Happily, the Linux equivalent, Ice Dove, works well.  Less happily, it works slowly and so is not easy to use.  For that all-important top secret message however, it would be fine.

The process involves creating a Jabber server and then installing a chat client, such as Pidgin, the Linux version of the Mac-specific Adium. 

Traditionalists could employ a real pigeon although it is possible that surveillance operatives prefer game pie to the raspberry version.   At this point, testers fell prey to distractions.

RasPi raspberry pie 2.jpgRaspberry Pie A++

Just because it can be done, the B+ was isolated from any intrusive surveillance with a perfect piece of kit.  A Pi-sized Faraday cage, costing only the price of a box of paper clips.  

RasPi Faraday cage.jpg
Nothing's getting in ...
Behold, one computer the NSA does not know about, unless they are reading the editorial emails. For those wanting some kind of interactivity with the rest of the digital world, compromises may have to be made.

Android One - smartphones for consumers in emerging markets

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For many, information and education are unobtainable. However, the internet has provided 'knowledge' to those who need it since its birth. It does not matter who you are - of you have an internet connection you can find out anything you want.

Android's new Android One initiative aims to help people in under-developed countries not only access the internet, but use it to its full potential.

At Mobile World Congress this year, Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg claimed most of the cost of accessing the internet is acquiring a data plan as opposed to an internet enabled device, and people are discouraged as they don't see the need for internet access.

But on the Android official blog, Android names hardware, software and connectivity are the main barriers to access. It aims to combat these by offering the Android One range - a set of smartphones with features such as expandable storage and dual SIM capabilities.

To ensure these devices suit the needs of the emerging markets, they will be made of affordable components from hardware partners Micromax, Karbonn, Spice and MediaTek, and gain regular Android updates from Google. To lower the price of data, those already using an Airtel SIM can download software updates from free in the first 6 months of phone ownership, as well as 200MB worth of Google Play apps.

Indian retailers are already selling the devices at a starting price of 6,399 rupees, and phone manufacturers such as ASUS, HTC and Lenovo have jumped on board.

Android aims to expand the programme into Indonesia, the Philippines and South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) by the end of 2014. 

iPhone 6 - features and functionality

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Consumers and businesses alike have been waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the iPhone 6 and the constantly-discussed Apple Watch. We wrote our predictions about what we thought the new devices would offer, now it's time to fill you in on what the new iPhone is really capable of.

The iPhone 6 comes in two sizes, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which could be called large and extra-large.

Thumbnail image for iPhone6iPhone6plus.jpg

Image: Apple

The smaller model comes in at 4.7 inches, a whole 0.7 inches bigger than its iPhone 5S and 5C predecessors. The Plus hits phablet size at 5.5 inches, and both have Retina HD displays for pictures so high def, they look like real life.

The handsets look to be at their most curvy, and also claim to be at their thinnest at 6.9mm thick for the iPhone 6 and 7.1mm thick for the Plus. The space grey colour that I love so much also seems to have made an appearance on the devices, so they can perfectly match your iPad Air or iPad mini.

As predicted, the handsets are NFC capable, and this can be used for contactless mobile payments.


Image: Apple

The chipsets promise high-powered performance, with 64-bit architecture propping up an A8 chip and M8 motion coprocessor driving data gathering from built-in sensors.

As well as everything else, the camera has received a makeover. The iSight is capable of faster autofocus, 240fps slow motion capture, and 1080p HD image capture at 60fps.

Finally, the Touch ID feature allows the user to access the device or purchase apps password-free using their fingerprint.

Specs at a glance:

iPhone 6

    • Capacity: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB
    • Weight: 129g
    • Size: 67mm width, 138.1 mm height, 6.9mm thick
    • Display: 4.7inch 1334x750 resolution, 326 ppi
    • Battery: Up to 10 hours with heavy use, or 10 days on standby
    • OS: IOS 8


iPhone 6 Plus

    • Weight: 172g
    • Size: 77.8mm width, 158.1 mm height, 7.1mm thick
    • Capacity: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB
    • Display: 5.5inch 1920x1080 resolution, 401 ppi
    • Battery: Up to 12 hours with heavy use or 16 days on standby
    • OS: IOS 8

Both devices are available in Silver, Gold and Space Grey. Check back to the Inspect-a-gadget soon for a full iPhone 6 review.

iPhone 6: The specs we're all hoping for

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Thumbnail image for apple logo.png

Rumour has it images of the iPhone 6 were leaked last week, with pictures alluding to a potential release date of September 9th for the much coveted next generation device.

A number of other speculations have also been flying around, including NFC potential, heart rate monitors and wireless charging.

But what does everyone really want from their iPhone? We've reported before on how it can be very difficult to incorporate Apple products in the enterprise due to the high cost of support. This might not be solved with a new handset, but a number of SDKs were released at the WWDC 2014 to give developers a better in to the device, and enhanced device features such as NFC could bridge this gap even further.

Here's a roundup of what could be coming up in Apple's big announcement if everything we've been hearing is true:

Touch ID

Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the previous iPhone 5S have toyed with fingerprint ID to safely unlock the phone, so it would make sense it the iPhone 6 had an improved version of this technology.


A lot of other phones already have NFC capabilities built in, and with contactless-everything on the rise this is a feature that will come in extremely handy and is widely expected.

iOS 8

With a new phone comes a new mobile operating system, and the new iOS 8 promises features such as easy-to-develop applications for developers due to the new API kits available, improved messaging and smart keyboard. As far as being included in the iPhone 6 package, this one is pretty much a given.


The wearable trend is rapidly increasing, and a number of premium vendors are now jumping on the band wagon with their own bond-style watches and wristbands. If you're like me, you're waiting to see what Apple has to offer before deciding on which wearable to invest in - and if an iWatch is on the cards as a supplementary device to the new iPhone, it looks like we'll all have a little less money by Christmas.

Check back to the Inspect-a-Gadget for further coverage on new Apple announcements. 

FIRST LOOK: Motorola's Moto 360 smartwatch

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With Apple's big announcement approaching, there has been much speculation about whether the technology giant will be releasing its own smartwatch.

In the meantime, other innovators are speeding ahead with their version of the latest wearable trend, and Motorola is no exception.

The telecoms company, which was recently bought from Google by Chinese tech firm Lenovo, announced several new products last week, including its flagship Moto G and Moto X smartphone devices and of course, the Moto 360 smartwatch.


I had a chance to try out the gadget, and apart from the fact it was a little big, I have no complaints. The watch face is touchscreen, and responds to similar swiping commands to smartphone - up for unlocking, left and right for opening and dismissing.

The watch has a choice of several available watch-faces to mirror your mood and is powered by Google. This means the device is Google Now enabled, so you can ask it anything you want, from when historical events took place, to reminding you to pick up some flowers for your parrot.  


With a built in heart-rate monitor and pedometer for step counting, it also appeals to the health-conscious among us.

Although the device is quite chunky, the large face does make it more usable and easy to read. It comes in two models, with a starting price of £199 and is usable with Android operating systems 4.3 and up.

Specs at a glance:

Moto 306

  • OS: Android Wear
  • Dimensions: 46mm diameter by 11mm high, 49g
  • Battery: Full day use
  • Processor: TI OMAP™ 3
  • Memory: 4GB, 512MB RAM


The Moto 360 will be available from October this year, from O2, Tesco, Amazon and John Lewis. Check back to the Inspect-a-gadget soon for a full review.

IFA 2014: Samsung's first business tablet

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Samsung is well known for its consumer offerings, providing everything from TVs to connected fridges. So the technology firm surprised us all today when it announced its first ever business-focussed tablet designed for use in enterprises. 

The ruggedised Galaxy Tab Active has been developed for portable use in work environments with a focus on B2B industries such as retail, logistics and transport. 

Other tablets, such as the iPad Air, have features built in to make it easier for employees to use their devices at work, but they are still clearly consumer products. The Tab Active takes that one step further and combines features such as 8-10 hour battery life, KNOX and extended support, with an anti-shock cover. 

Galaxy Tab Active_5.jpg
Photo: Samsung

To make absolutely sure the tablet appealed to business customers, Samsung ran workshops with Fortune 500 companies to find out what was needed from a tablet for professionals. This is what they came up with:

When professionals are carrying around their tablet, they want to be able to drop it. This is what I've learnt from releases of products such as the Panasonic Toughpad. Suddenly when a device is used for work as opposed to personal tasks, we need to be able to make sure it will survive a nasty fall. The Galaxy Tab is shock-resistant, waterproof and resistant to dust and other nasties that can get stuck in cracks, so should be safe to use in every environment.

Replaceable battery
When you're out and about all day, you want to make sure your device is going to last in case you can't charge it. This device has 8-10 hour battery life and an easy to change battery to ensure the devices doesn't run out on you. It also has a built-in pogo pin charger to stop connectors getting mashed.

Hardware features
The built-in camera on this devices can be used as a barcode reader for use in the retail or logistic industry. The tablet also features NFC technology, comes with an input pen for ease of use and a cover designed for people who need to wear gloves when doing their jobs. 

Support is something that a lot of firms can struggle with when implementing a BYOD solution, as it can be difficult to get ongoing support contracts for the devices that employees want most. But, like most Samsung devices, the Galaxy Tab Active will have KNOX to ensure security. The device will also have an extended 3 year warranty and Mobile Care Service, and remote Smart Tutor Service to get technical support.

Specs at a glance
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • Display: 8" WXGA(1280 x 800) TFT LCD
  • OS: Android Kitkat (4.4)
  • Memory: 1.5GB LPDDR3 + 16GB internal memory MicroSD up to 64GB
  • Size: 126.1 x 212.9 x 9.75mm / 388g

REVIEW: Raspberry Pi B+

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This is a guest post by Fiona O'Cleirigh

The Raspberry Pi is small - 'a credit-card sized computer' says its blurb - and flexible, good for both general desktop use and electronics projects.  And there's a new version out.

If the Raspberry Pi were a car, what would it be?  Not a Bugatti, appealing as it does to the Heath Robinson end of IT society.  It's cheap, so Bristols and Rollers are out too.  It isn't as ubiquitous as Ford nor as staid as a Volvo.   And you wont see it on Top Gear.

Computer Weekly has therefore rolled up its sleeves and taken the new Model B+ for a test drive. 

With literally no expenses spared, the squad was recruited from top experts. Running the CW driver's team was a senior enterprise architect who works for a global financial services firm.  For the sake of professional anonymity, we shall call him 'Jim'.   

Our three teenage drivers - 'James', 'Edward' and 'Nicholas' - were picked for speed and resilience. And also because they happen to live in a house where there is always at least one computer nearer than the nearest London rat, ie within twelve feet (3.66 m). 

So, what's under the bonnet?  The new Pi is really an upgrade, rather than a new model, improving the B type's performance and layout. 

The B+ has the same processor, the same RAM and can run the same software.  Although it is the same size, however, the B+ won't fit into the case designed for a B-type, due to the rearrangement of the board.

RasPi basic .jpgThe new B+ upgrade

All the ports are now neatly arranged on two sides, rather than distributed around the board, and there are now four USB ports compared to the model B's two.  A four-pole composite and audio interface - a jack of all trades, one might say - has replaced the video and audio sockets.

Pi aficionados are excited by the replacement of the old plastic SD slot - which could also handle micro SD - with a metal micro SD-only slot.  This reviewer was not so pleased, as it meant finding a new micro card.

And while the new slot is undeniably sturdier, compared to other computers the rest of the Pi is physically as delicate as a Meissen teapot. 

The Pi's fragility belies the robust new power circuitry, which has been rearranged and made more efficient with a switching regulator.  If you use batteries, they should last longer, and the Pi should be better equipped to tolerate irregular or low voltages .

Despite its exposed components, encasing the Pi in Perspex makes less sense for the B+, than its predecessor. The back of the board is almost as interesting to the adventurous as the front, with lots of test points included.  And for those looking to hook their machine up with real world objects, there are an extra 14 General Purpose Input Output pins, making a grand total of 40. 

RasPi underneath.jpg

Checking the undercarriage

A Pi shares some of the characteristics of the human baby.  Cute to behold and costing next to nothing itself, the bill for accessories can stack up.  

One bundle that CW has admired (and would very happily review if one is sent over) is the very pretty and pretty useful portable HDMIPi screen set.

Made by CynTech and designed especially for your favourite cheapo computer, the HDMIPi monitor comes in various packages, from the no-power-cord-included version (£75) to full bells and whistles (£160), with assorted cables and wireless inputting devices.

For this enterprise, however,  we fitted our fitted B+ into a more traditional rig of monitors and mice.  Wired up into a networked testbed, it faced a punishing schedule, designed to answer three key research questions. 

(1) Does the Pi meet its PR claims? (2) More importantly, can you run a high graphics game on it? (3) Is it useful for odd standalone projects?

Other than the features that can be checked off visually (yes, all pins present), the testable upgraded features are the improved power circuitry and audio.  With no particular desire to hit the Pi with transformers, testing was restricted to seeing which Pi, the B type or the B+, played a certain Rodrigo y Gabriela flamenco number more impressively. 

RasPi composite jack.jpg

It's an audio jack, Jim, but not as you know it ...

The Results were inconclusive due to a dead heat. Neither would play anything. This may have been down to tester error or, more likely, according to our technical specialist, "something up with the speakers".

For those with more time, or less need to move on to more pressing tasks such as playing Minecraft, audio configuration instructions are available online.

Cue the teenage driving team. There were two options for Minecraft, the open world game of building and territorial exploration. 

The game can be run with the RAM and processor-challenged Pi acting as server or as client, but not both.

For the first pass, we decided to set it up in server mode. Nicholas slid behind the controls with what can only be described as practised ease. The Pi was less responsive, striving gamely to deliver but running with a 9 second  lag and stalling at critical moments.

RasPi Minecraft client.jpg

"Oh look, I'm playing Minecraft on a bad server"

The Pi was much happier serving as client, although its tester clearly was not.  The game was at its most basic with, critically, no pigs, an essential ingredient in the modern version of the game. Nearly as bad, the TNT barrels did not explode in this rudimentary version.  Check out Minecraft.

All three testers piled in joyfully to play a variety of early computer games, all written in Python, including Snake, Tetris - "Ha!  It's just one block at a time!" - and the messy favourite, Ink Spill. 

RasPi Ink Spill.jpg

Ink Spill

Scoring not very highly for graphics use, the B+ was then dedicated to a nobler cause.

Our testing team finished late in the evening, after testing the Rasperry Pi's capability with encryption. More on that later.  

Our conclusion: the Pi is not an all-terrain vehicle. Something of a rugged but not so speedy army Land Rover on the encryption front, it is, quaintly, the Robin Reliant of gaming. 

In terms of neoclassical looks and general desirability, it seems more Mini Cooper than Lamborghini.  And with the exchange rate set at over five hundred Raspberry Pis to the modern Mini Cooper, we're not complaining.  Perhaps a trip to the Arduino trailer-park is in order...

REVIEW: Dux iPad Air case

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It's almost impossible to complete a daily commute in London without spotting someone using a sad looking phone with a badly bashed up screen.

Smashed iPads are spotted less frequently, but it has been done, and there's nothing sadder than squinting through a myriad of cracks as you try but fail to make out the latest episode of 'Game of Thrones' on the tube.

The Dux iPad Air case by STM bags promises military grade protection for your device to help you to avoid this very situation. This means drops from over 6 feet with no damage, and water resistance for clumsy days. It has been tested to 'meet or exceed' US Department of Defense Standard 810F/G durability tests, and hopefully that means it keeps your device totally safe.


The case is quite heavy, and combined with the iPad feels weighty, but is still portable. It's very sturdy, and once you've put your iPad in it, there is no danger of it slipping out what-so-ever. The case adds a few millimetres to the outside of the device, but has very clear recesses exposing ports, speakers and microphones, and does not hinder their use. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the volume and power buttons, which are enclosed in the case and can be quite difficult to press at times.

This isn't too much of a problem in terms of the power button, as the felt lined protective screen flap switches the iPad on when opened and off when closed to preserve battery. This magnetic flap also wraps around the side of the case, making it less likely to pop open if dropped. Sometimes the flap doesn't lay snug against the case, but this is easily solved by positioning it properly. You can see the back of your iPad through the clear rear panel, and STM suggests using this as an opportunity for customisation by inserting pictures.


I tested the case with my iPad Air, and was told by STM that they weren't able to reimburse me if I dropped my device and broke it whilst using the case - although they assured me that a breakage was very unlikely. I dropped it a couple of times, and was brave enough to drop it on its corner from desk height and everything was fine. The sturdy corners prevented any damage and the screen didn't crack. I didn't want to tempt fate any further, so that's as far as my testing went. There are videos of more rigorous tests on their website, and I've included one below to show how durable the case really is:

Video: STM on YouTube

One criticism of the case is that the folding flap isn't very sturdy when folding it back to stand the case up. The case is meant to fold back and clip magnetically to allow you to stand the case for watching videos or typing. This didn't really work for me, and the case fell over a few times. 

All in all if it's durability you're looking for this case lives up to its promise of protection, and would better suit an environment where users are out and about or in danger of dropping the device during use. 

Cognitive enhancement devices - can accessories really make you smarter?

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We're being launched into the days of smart technology, where our phones are better than computers, we're wearing devices that can monitor our every move and even our fridges are connected to the internet. 

It isn't surprising that manufacturers have been toying with devices designed to make you smarter, and we managed to get hold of a gaming headset. This uses an electrical current to stimulate particular parts of your brain to 'improve' your thinking power. 

However, a recent policy paper by researchers at Oxford University's Oxford  Martin School has urged for greater regulation for devices such as this.

In this video, Computer Weekly interviews Adrian David Cheok, professor of pervasive computing at City University. Cheok tries out a cognitive enhancement device (CED) to see how it makes him feel, and whether it does indeed make him 'smarter'.

During the testing process, Cheok stated that the device made him feel as though his brain was more stimulated, and he did perform better with the headset on. But he also said that it left him with a strange sensation in the area the headset was touching, as well as sensitive skin.

These devices are currently used by consumers in gaming and education in order to enhance their performance.

But according to Hannah Maslen, lead author of the Oxford Martin paper entitled "Mind Machines: The Regulation of Cognitive Enhancement Devices", this device by is the first commercially branded cognitive enhancement device, and people have previously attempted to make these devices themselves. 

Maslen emphasised that consumers should be provided with "evidence based information so that users will be able to decide for themselves if the risks are worth taking."

Currently though, there is a distinct lack of regulation around devices such as this, which according to Maslen and other authors of the report could be dangerous, as these devices change the electrical activity of the brain. 

In Europe, these devices are only required to pass product safety requirements, even though the electrical signals used by these devices have the potential to alter the brain's electrical activity. 

Similar devices are under trial in the medical industry to attempt to treat illnesses such as depression and Parkinson's.

But because CEDs do not provide any kind of medical diagnosis or therapy, they do not come under the Medical Devices Directive, and can therefore not be governed by the same rules.

In the paper, Maslen and fellow authors Thomas Douglas, Roi Cohen Kadosh, Neil Levy and Julian Savulescu, outline a pathway to designing a regulatory model for the use of CEDs.

They recommend that devices such as this should come under the EU Medical Devices Directive as they provide some of the same medical risks as similar devices used for medicine. 

When it comes down to it, it's all about consumer safety. Maslen says: "It's about making sure that devices that we're sold are as safe as they can be."

Lenovo's answer to Google Glass - function over fashion?

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I wrote a story a little while ago about Beecham Research's survey on wearable tech. The study found consumers will not partake in wearable technology if it does not match their fashion needs as well as their functional requirements.

So when I saw these pictures of the Lenovo smartglasses prototype, my eye went straight to the necklace battery.


Photo: Lenovo

I couldn't help but wonder whether this addition would end up hindering the sales of the product in the future. This is a classic case of function - increased battery life - over fashion. And besides, wouldn't it get hot during use? If the PC maker is hoping to compete with Google Glass, it might have to try a little harder aesthetically.

Although Lenovo has been doing well in the PC market, it has recently been looking into ways to collaborate with other organisations to extend its market reach.

The glasses have been developed as part of Lenovo's New Business Development (NBD) initiative aiming to accelerate internet of things based Chinese startups. The smartglasses are one of three smart devices developed, including a router and an air purifier.

These products are aimed at the Chinese market, and run Chinese operating systems optimised for use with the internet in that particular region. 

A non-reviewer's review of the HTC One M8 smartphone

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I find it's becoming increasingly difficult to review mobile devices unless your audience really is interested in the detailed minutiae of the technology.

Even though I'm a technology journalist, I'm not really a product reviewer. I'm not megabothered about the megahertz of my quad-core processor or the megapixels of my camera. I'm even less interested in the angle of the bezel on the screen or the difference between Gorilla and Sapphire glass. 

All I really care about is whether the device will do the job I want it to do.

So if you're anything like me and want the most straightforward of reviews, then I can tell you now with confidence that the HTC One M8 is a very good phone, you won't be disappointed with it, and if you like Android and can afford a top-of-the-range device, then you won't find anything that's much better.

If you want to find out a little more about what it's like to use the M8 based on my experiences over a couple of weeks, read on. If you want to know a bunch of detailed specifications, check the HTC website. But if you just want to know if it's worth spending your cash on one, then be reassured - it is. Thanks for reading this far.

HTC_One_M8_gold_3V.jpgSo, for the rest of you:

I've been a fan of HTC for some time, which is why I fancied a look at the M8. I used to have a Desire, then an HTC One X+, but I've since been unfaithful and currently have a Nexus 5 from Google/LG, which is a perfectly good device but a lot cheaper than its equivalently spec'd HTC or Samsung.

You see, that's the problem with being an Android phone - one similarly priced device is not that much different from another. You might like the supplier-specific add-ons of course - personally, not that bothered - but really, on a day to day basis, they are all fairly interchangeable.

It's also difficult to assess a phone specifically for how well it operates in the workplace, because most of them are equally capable in one way or another. Not that it matters, since nobody really worries about how a phone will perform for work when buying one for primarily personal use - not unless you're the bloke in the latest Windows Phone advert, at least.

So why might you choose an HTC One M8? (And I should say that I really hope M8 is not meant to be a chummy attempt to call a phone "Mate")

HTC_One_M8_11.jpgWell, its main attraction is that it's a bit of a beast - it's big and meaty, fast, powerful, with an aesthetically appealing brushed metal case that sends out the message: this is a serious phone for serious phone users. If you have small hands or small pockets (physically or financially) this is probably not the phone for you.

The big problem with HTC has always been battery life - that was another reason I switched away to try the Nexus, only to learn it's just as power hungry. But in two weeks with the M8, I found I was often getting a couple of days of average use between charges - although my past experience has been that HTC battery performance degraded quickly after about six months of regular use.

I use a reasonable amount of data - getting towards a 1MB monthly allowance - but reserve video/music streaming or downloads for Wi-Fi. For regular browsing, social media and email - the M8 is as fast a phone as I've used, making up even for some of the vagaries and unpredictability of the O2 data network.

And to be honest, that's as much as I needed to know. For the rest of it - it's Android, if you like Android (I do). It has a camera that is up to the quality you would expect of a flagship device - although I'm sure there are better cameras on other phones, but unless you're a real aficionado I expect it will do everything you want it to do at a perfectly acceptable level of quality.

HTC_One_M8_01.jpgMusic playback is perfectly good. Usability is fine, the buttons are all in sensible places. I can access all the fun personal apps and information I want, and I can download all my work email quickly and efficiently. It's as useful at home as it is in work.

It does the job I want it to do.

Niggles? Well, a few, but nothing major. I found the screen to be somewhat over-sensitive, often accidentally starting apps I didn't mean to start with a careless mis-swipe of a clumsy finger.

I'm not a great fan of the HTC software customisations on the phone, but they were easy enough to switch off - although the box suggesting I use HTC cloud storage that kept popping up at frequent and unpredictable moments despite ticking "Don't show me this box again" every time, was getting very annoying.

The review device we used had an HTC flip case - a bit like on an iPad, it automatically puts the device in and out of sleep mode when you close and open the cover. But I hated the case because it was spring-loaded and that meant you always needed to use two hands or it flipped shut when you didn't hold it open. But that's easy to remove.

Will this phone be a success? Well, that depends on other factors.

If you're like me - a keen smartphone user with a passing interest in the detailed specifications - you will be pretty happy with it.

If you're a dedicated Android fan who really likes a top-spec device - you'll be very happy with it.

If you're the 80% of smartphone users who just want something you can afford, with a reliable brand name, that does everything you need it to do - frankly, you're unlikely to buy the M8 because it's not an iPhone, nor is it Samsung, nor is it Nokia or Sony or LG. It's poor HTC, which has never quite got it right when it comes to consumer mass marketing.

So there you have it - the HTC One M8 is a very good smartphone, for people with sufficient interest to want to find out about it, and who don't automatically buy the obvious and most popular brands.

Good luck to HTC - I hope sponsoring the Champions League proves worthwhile.

Meanwhile, for those of you who like the specifications - here they are, freely cut and pasted straight from the HTC website:

  • Size: 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm
  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, quad-core CPU
  • Weight: 160g
  • Display: 5.0 inch, Full HD 1080p
  • SIM Card Type: Nano SIM
  • Total storage: 16GB, available capacity varies; RAM: 2GB
  • Expansion card slot supports microSD memory card for up to 128GB additional storage
  • Rear camera: HTC UltraPixelcamera, BSI sensor, pixel size 2.0 um, sensor size 1/3", f/2.0, 28mm lens. HTC ImageChip 2. 1080p Full HD video recording with HDR video
  • Front camera: 5MP, BSI sensor, wide angle lens. with HDR capability, 1080p Full HD video recording
  • Networks supported: 2G/2.5G - GSM/GPRS/EDGE, 850/900/1800/1900 MHz; 3G - WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100 MHz with HSPA+ up to 42 Mbps; 4G - LTE 800/900/1800/2600 MHz
  • Battery: Embedded rechargeable Li-polymer battery; Capacity:2600 mAh; Talk time: Up to 20 hours for 3G; Standby time: Up to 496 hours for 3G

REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 930 first impressions

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In this guest post David McClelland gives his impressions of the Nokia Lumia 930,
the first high-end handset to launch with Windows Phone 8.1.


The Nokia Lumia 930 is a substantial handset in more ways than one. First up, the body: Nokia has adopted a sturdy aluminium unibody for its latest flagship, but has still chosen to decorate its back with the signature polycarbonate - neon green and orange get the Lumia treatment this season, with white and black completing line-up. 


The Lumia 930's Full HD 5-inch OLED screen is striking too: blacks are black, colours pop and despite the high-gloss it repels greasy fingermarks well, remaining readable even in direct sunlight. The bezel is narrow enough, and the curved edges of the scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 screen lap onto the handset's chassis, mirroring the contours on the rear. 


The volume rocker, power and camera shutter buttons all sit along one side of the handset. This keeps the aesthetic clean but means that securing the 930 into most after-market car kits will result in one or more buttons being permanently depressed. Form 1, Function 0.

Beneath the vibrant exterior sits a quad-core 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, 2 GB RAM and 32 GB storage. While the CPU is last-year's model it's certainly no slouch. Despite the missing MicroSD card slot Microsoft now bundles 15 GB of OneDrive cloud storage for free, and 1 TB if you've an Office 365 account.

Battery and Wireless Charging

As with other unibody handsets the 930's battery isn't removable, although I found the 2420 mAh unit lasted through the day. 

Having toyed with wireless charging on the Lumia 920, Nokia once again integrates the feature and this time includes an induction charger in the retail box. 

Disappointingly, I found it a bit flaky. On more than one occasion I left the handset atop the charger to find it hadn't charged the phone. Software bugs need to be ironed out too, with the 930 insisting it was still charging hours after its removal from the charger.

Wireless charging is seen as a panacea by some but until reliability is improved many might still prefer the reassurance of a cable over the questionable convenience of a mat.  

Also worth pointing out is that the chassis can get very, very hot on charge or in use.


The Lumia 930 features a terrific 20-megapixel PureView camera which makes shallow depth of field shots look natural without any clunky software processing. Optical image stabilisation, ZEISS 6-lens optics, dual-LED flash and lossless zoom top out the specs, but again the Lumia's screen steals the show, making pictures pop like a print.


Windows Phone 8.1 is the newest version of Microsoft's mobile operating system introducing features which many hoped might bring it in line with its competitors.

Action Centre apes the notification bars seen in Android and iOS. A swipe from the top of the screen recalls missed messages, a customisable quick menu and a shortcut to the phone's main settings. A welcome addition to the operating system.

Swipe-style typing also debuts and, once you've the hang of it, is very accurate. However, Cortana, Windows Phone's answer to Siri, hasn't made it onto UK handsets yet - expect to see it (her?) on Windows Phones by the end of the year.

Email and Productivity Apps

For many email will be a main driver and Microsoft makes setting up accounts simple. I didn't get the chance to try the 930 with an Exchange mailbox, but it handled multiple, IMAP, Gmail and POP mailboxes with aplomb.

Windows Phone 8 also does some useful things around the concept of the unified inbox. Instead of a single inbox encompassing all configured accounts, individual email accounts can be grouped or 'linked' together. This makes it possible to combine work email addresses into one unified inbox and personal accounts into another, each accessible through its own live tile.

The bundled Bing News and Bing Sport apps are intuitive and well designed pulling news from a variety of credible sources. Fundamentally, for a news app to succeed it needs to leave me feeling as if I've caught up - these do exactly that, with style, and allow custom feeds too.

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Microsoft Office connects you with documents stored on your OneDrive or Office 365 cloud as well as with email attachments. Excel, Powerpoint and Word are well executed apps, although losing what feels like two-thirds of the display to the over-sized on-screen keyboard is a shame.

Windows Phone UI

Microsoft's spartan UI works hard to differentiate itself from its identikit competitors and, in general, it works well. However, for the sake of productivity I'd prefer to see more actual content on the screen. 

A case in point is the official Twitter app - even with the smallest font I can see no more than three or four tweets per screen; similarly, the email app reveals up to six messages before scrolling. At 5 inches and 1920 vertical pixels there's a lot of screen real estate on the Lumia but the important apps just don't seem to fill enough of it.


Despite the '80s-styling on the rear the Nokia Lumia 930 is Windows Phone's most mature handset to date.  

Its productivity credentials are top notch, and OS integration with Microsoft cloud apps and services mean it's a capable business workhorse as well as a fun down-time device. 

All the Windows Phone ecosystem needs now is more apps, and with high-quality handsets such as this they'll be sure to follow.


Specs at a Glance:
Nokia Lumia 930
    • Screen: 5-inch AMOLED 1920 x 1080 Full HD
    • Camera: ZEISS 20-MP PureView
    • Chipset: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 @ 2.2 GHz
    • Memory: 2 GB 
    • Storage: 32 GB (no expansion)
    • Operating System: Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1
    • Connectivity: LTE, HSPA+, GSM, WCDMA; NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 LE; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

From free with a £28.00/month contract, or £438.16 SIM-free. Details correct at time of publishing (July 2014).*

Love your smartphone? Huawei thinks you could love it more

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At Huawei's most recent innovation day in Milan, there was a lot of talk about innovation in Europe, research and development centres, and the highly anticipated 5G. 

Quite clearly very passionate about the technology, chief Huawei device designer Joonsuh Kim told me that the main aim for him was to make people fall in love with Huawei devices. Kim hopes to provide consumers with something other than just technology.

He said: "Literally we are touching the consumer's heart. That means you can feel that you are emotionally engaged with a Huawei device."

To Kim, the device is all about user preference, and he believes that once consumers start adapting to their devices, they will want to use them for everything. 

He states that even though the Huawei brand may not be big yet, it's starting to get through to consumers. Its aim it to deliver users with a "pleasant surprise" through usability, comfort, and a perfect combination of hardware and software.

When building the concept for a phone, Kim considers several user scenarios to make sure there is always a device that caters to what consumers want - including the ability to have multiple SIMs, a more professional device which is lighter for increased portability, low-cost devices, or a personal-only device.  

The design team make sure that the hardware appeals to the user they are targeting, providing particular features to appeal to different types of audience such as business professionals, young users and entry-level users. 

Kim also believes that using Huawei's knowledge and connectivity in networking, it can be a leader in 5G when the time comes. 

During a presentation on device innovation, Kim used Angelina Jolie as an example of a perfect human being (following up by commenting that although she might have been considered the most attractive woman in the world, that was several years ago... ouch) and that aesthetics are very important when targeting the appropriate market. 

It just goes to show that even the smallest tweaks in design can make the biggest difference to consumer behaviour.

Amazon Fire smartphone - do we really need 3D?

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This week the first smartphone designed by online retail giant Amazon was revealed, and its Dynamic Perspective feature allows the screen to present images in 3D to the user based upon the position of their heads. The question is whether or not this is what people actually want or need. 

The Dynamic Perspective feature, which uses four front-facing cameras and infra-red LEDs all built into the screen of the phone, allows the device to perform functions such as automatic scrolling to prevent users from having to touch the screen, and screen tilt depending on the user's head position. 



Although these things may improve user experience, my main concern would be the feeling that you're being watched, as the phone monitors you to ensure that you are fully immersed in any activities you are taking part in, such as watching videos or playing games. 

Perhaps more worrying, then,  is the never-before-seen Firefly feature, which uses data that Amazon has collected on physical items, text, audio and text and audio recognition in order to allow users to scan products barcodes or QR codes in order to search on Amazon to allow purchases from its online store. 

This also works for TV programs or songs; Firefly will recognise things in the environment around you and allow you to buy it right then and there through the Amazon store. All through the touch of the built in Firefly button. 

Specs at a glance:

Amazon Fire

Processor: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2 GHz 

Memory: 2GB RAM 

Display: 4.7-inch HD 

Camera: 13MP rear-facing camera, 2.1MP front-facing camera.

Whether consumers will see this as a genius invention or a ploy to make them spend more hard earned cash where it counts has yet to be seen, but its other feature - the Mayday button - is similar to that on the Kindle Fire and allows the user to video chat with a helpline whenever they need assistance with the device, which contributes to a good consumer experience. 

The device will be available in the US by the end of July, exclusively on AT&T, at a starting price of $199.

INFOGRAPHIC: The real cost of business downtime

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Many a business has suffered the wrath of IT downtime, and in 2013, networking firm Enterasys claimed that businesses grew when investment had been made in important business backbones, as sufficient preparations are in place should things start to go downhill.

This infographic from TSG shows the effect downtime can have on small to medium sized enterprises, including what can cause outages, the knock-on effect that outages can have, and a formula that can be used to calculate how much a downtime can cost an organisation. 

The Real Cost of Business Downtime Infographic.jpg

Apple announces iOS 8 at WWDC 2014

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At this week's WWDC 2014 - the conference that tells developers everything they need to know about what Apple has planned for the future - Apple introduced its next mobile operating system iOS 8.

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The new OS brings with it over 4000 new APIs in order to allow developers more opportunity to make applications for Apple's flagship iPad and iPhone devices.

There was a focus on the new HealthKit API, which will allow developers to build apps directed towards fitness and health services. With speculation of an Apple wearable on the horizon, enabling applications such as this could be a step in the smartwatch direction.

Apple also took a leap towards the internet-of-things trend with its new HomeKit API, designed to allow developers to make apps that will allow communication with other devices around the home.

Finally, Apple lightened the restrictions on its touch ID technology, meaning that users will now not only be allowed to access their iPhone lockscreens with the touchpad, but also log into apps. This is of course only on the 5S at the moment, but may also be used with future iPhones.

Although this announcement isn't quite as exciting as the eagerly speculated iWatch, it still encourages the use of smartbands/watches with Apple devices in the future, and brings us one step closer to using our phones to control all things household.

Developers have access to iOS 8 now, but the rest of us will just have to wait.

Samsung Simband - The future of health technology?

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All this week we've been hearing reports on how the health crisis in the UK is growing ever more serious and although there have been positive initiatives launched to help the sector, such as the health tech competition, progress in the industry still seems slow. 

Not to worry, because Samsung has come to the rescue with its "Digital Health Initiative", a project that uses open hardware and software platforms that will increase innovation and speed up development of technology in the personal healthcare technology industry.


The initiative will look into developing advanced sensors, algorithms and data analysis in order to allow consumers to better keep track of and understand their own health.

The firm has developed an open hardware design called Samsung Simband - the Samsung concept of how a smartband should be. The suggestion is that smartbands such as this could be used with the Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions (SAMI) concept, which will be a cloud-based open software platform capable of collecting data from various sources for analysis which can then be delivered to any other device.


Earlier this week Samsung's team from its Strategy and Innovation Centre demonstrated that the Samsung open platform can be used with wearable wristband hardware in order to track heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate. Data collected from these various sources can then be displayed in a format that will help users to better understand their health and how these measurements are affecting them.

There have already been a number of advancements in the wearable technology space including smart watches and smartbands that help to measure physical activity, and the Samsung Galaxy S5 is able to measure the user's heart rate, but no one device yet measures all of these at the same time,  which is exactly what Samsung hopes the combination of SAMI and designs such as the Simband will be able to do, all so that you can know what your body is trying to tell you about your health. 

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Microsoft announces new Windows Surface 3

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Microsoft announced the new Windows Surface Pro 3 tablet at an event in New York today. 


The device, which is 12 inches, is designed to fit perfectly into user's lives, with Surface product manager Panos Panay claiming that this could be "the tablet that replaces the laptop." 


The Surface Twitter feed was inundated with updates, labelling  the tablet an "entertainment powerhouse" due to its 2160 x 1440 resolution and Dolby sound capabilities.



The new kickstand is multi-position, so you can angle the tablet any way you want to if placed on a table, although an emphasis was made about the "lapability" of the device, which apparently means it can be used to comfortably complete work from your lap.

As the tablet runs Windows 8.1 Pro OS, you can use all of the features and applications that you are used to, with the added ability to use the new stylus to generate hand-written documents in OneNote. 


Specs at a glace:

Surface Pro 3

  • Size: 12 inches
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1440
  • Weight: 800g
  • Thickness: 9.1mm
  • OS: Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Memory: Up to 8GB of RAM
  • Battery: Up to 9 hours
  • Storage: Varies from 64 GB up to 512 GB


The device includes features such as a redesigned keyboard that is larger than the previous model and includes an improved trackpad. The device also comes with an accompanying stylus dubbed the Surface Pen to make writing easier. Looks like this device might not only replace the laptop, but may also wipe out pen and paper altogether.


The new Surface is 800g, only 9.1mm thick, and is built to apply to Satya Nadella's vision of "empowering people to do more and be more."  

Could programmable robots teach kids to code?

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With the pending changes to the IT curriculum steadily approaching, teachers are learning how best to teach children how to code.

In September of this year, schools in the UK will be required to teach children from the ages of five to 16 how to 'computing' rather than ICT, making the required subject content of lessons less about business processes and more about software engineering.

However, there are a lot of misconceptions around the kind of person who codes, and what it takes to teach this complex subject.

British Entrepreneur Ben Pirt believes that the use of robots will not only aid teachers in the learning process, but also help children to better engage with and understand the process of coding.


Pirt's Kickstarter campaign for a build-it-yourself wifi robot kit, called Mirobot, was fully funded one week after launching, and with a couple of weeks still left is now 300% funded. Both the software and the hardware is opened source.

Pirt hopes that Mirobot will help and encourage children to learn about coding and engineering as it brings the on-screen and physical aspects of software and hardware engineering together in front of the child's eyes as they use code to manipulate the robot's movements

Pirt says: "My aim is to get Mirobot into the hands of as many children as possible. I want to help children understand how the technology surrounding them actually works. Kickstarter is Mirobot's first outing and has shown that there is a great deal of interest in using simple robotics kits like this to engage the next generation."

Pirt hopes that Mirobots will start shipping in September, and will include educational support material to help teacher's to fully utilise them in the classroom. 

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How virtual reality can be used to train fire service personnel

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When Facebook announced earlier this year its plans to buy Oculus VR, developers of gaming headset the Oculus Rift, many gaming companies announced that they would not develop games for use with the Oculus in the future.

However, as a virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift has shown the ability for use in other industries too, and that's where G2G3 come in.

Immersive simulation designer G2G3 has developed a 3D emergency services simulation, initially for use by the Fire Service College, which can be used with the Oculus to train fire fighters to face virtual reality emergencies before they enter the field.


Representatives from G2G3 commented that since the number of emergencies has dropped over the years there has been less opportunity to train individuals in real-life situations.

Although the lack of emergencies is a huge positive, it is important for junior fire fighters to be aware of how they would react in an emergency situation.

The Oculus allows these trainees to be immersed in several different emergency scenarios to enable them to learn how to cope during a response operation and determine whether or not they would be capable of making the correct decisions under pressure.


The system allows the trainee to watch, move around in and assess the situation through the Oculus headset and tell their instructor what they think the next action should be. The instructor can then manipulate the environment remotely and also monitor the trainee's performance.

I was able to test the environment at the recent IT Support Show in Earl's Court, and it does feel very real. The display shows smoke and the people around you, and the environment includes realistic backdrops including broken windows and damaged vehicles.

I've even been told that the simulation displays different coloured and textured smoke depending on the type of fire simulation that has been selected to display.


You can look around you with 360 degree vision in the headset, but use an external controller in order to turn and move your 'body'.

It really immerses you into the surroundings, and you sometimes forget that there are other people around you outside of the headset - exactly the reaction that is needed in order to place your mind-set in the seriousness of an emergency situation.

Unfortunately during testing I did experience slight motion sickness, which is apparently not uncommon when first using the headset as your vision does not always face the same direction as your body.

The simulation currently assesses Fire Services Incident Commanders to level 1 accreditation, and includes 14 different types of scenario representative of real-life situations that emergency personnel could find themselves in.


G2G3 has plans to develop the platform in the future in order to encompass assessment for higher levels of accreditation in order to further help to develop the education of the emergency services.

With technologies such as the Oculus steadily growing, G2G3 has even speculated that there may be the opportunity to add other features in the future to increase realism and really prepare for these life-or-death situations, including the ability to physically walk around a simulation, record heart rate and stress level or even the injection of smell into the simulation. As the technology for virtual reality continues to progress, it is becoming clear that these technologies can be used for all manner of things, from gaming to training and beyond.

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