James Gunn’s forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 features a character named Groot: a talking tree, voiced by Vin Diesel, capable only of saying his own name (albeit in a multitude of different ways).

Poor Groot appeared to have met his demise at the end of the last Guardians movie but, to the delight of fans everywhere, regenerated from a cutting as the adorable Baby Groot.

Guardians of The Galaxy's 'baby Groot'
Guardians of The Galaxy's 'baby Groot'

Ahead of the soon to be released sequel, however, new research suggests that the concept of “talking trees” isn’t just confined to the realms of fantasy and science fiction.

Previous research has suggested that woodland trees may be able communicate and exchange nutrients through underground fungal networks.

But certain rainforest species, scientists revealed this week, have developed a rudimentary “language”, allowing individual plants to exchange detailed information about soil conditions, temperature changes and possible threats.

Unlike Groot, these trees have also mastered more than one “word”.

The Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest

Hevea brasiliensis, also known as the rubber tree, was observed making minute movements in its root hairs and branches and emitting coded electrical signals, which receptors on other plants of the same kind were able to pick up on.

One combination, scientists found, indicated that a rain storm was on its way. Younger plants, still adjusting to life in the forest, were able to “hear” the message and utilise their moisture supplies accordingly.

Coded chemical signals can warn younger plants of impending weather changes
Coded chemical signals can warn younger plants of impending weather changes

The two-year-long Brazil-based study also showed that socratea exorrhiza, otherwise known as the walking palm, was able to use a combination of carefully adjusted leaf-rustling sounds and a high-pitched “scream”, inaudible to human ears, to warn that danger – from a hungry herbivore, for example – was in the area.

Most astounding of all, however, was the revelation that the trees don’t just communicate essential information. Instead, they share anecdotes, "sing", and sometimes appear to comfort each other.

Remarkably, they even have a sense of humour.

The 1995 Disney film Pocahontas featured an animated talking tree, Grandmother Willow
The 1995 Disney film Pocahontas featured an animated talking tree, Grandmother Willow

Scientists were initially puzzled when they found that some species were sharing false information – then emitting a complex series of high-frequency noises and chemical signals a few minutes later.

“We were unclear exactly what we were dealing with, until we realised that we had discovered the tree equivalent of a practical joke,” Professor Mark Sinclair, co-author of the new study, told The Telegraph.

“In one case, a socratea palm managed to convince nearby specimens that a group of hungry beetles was heading their way. Once it sensed the other palms were panicking, it emitted a signal indicating that there was nothing to worry about, followed by what we can only describe as 'a cheeky giggle'.

“The trees were deliberately exchanging false information, fooling the other trees into responding to the signals – then laughing about it."

Source : ca.style.yahoo.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

It seems that every day we see stories of companies that have been hacked and frequently millions of passwords, credit card numbers or other key pieces of information make their way out of the computers where they are stored.

It’s clear that the more information we have outside of our homes and on computers that are connected to the Internet, we run the risk of the information getting into the hands of people we don’t want to have it.

We also try to create secure connections between our applications so that prying eyes can’t see our communications.

I can’t say I believe this is working very well. Recent postings by WikiLeaks indicates tour intelligence services may have ways to read encrypted information we believed to be unreadable.

And our government isn’t the only group who has the interest and means to read things we don’t intend them to read.

For my communications, I take the perspective that everything I create digitally is probably readable by someone I don’t want to read it.

When it comes to things I may generally write, it helps me ensure I stay factual and true. This is a good thing.

When it comes to items such as passwords, account numbers and bank information, I try to use things like two-factor authentication to ensure that even if someone has my password, they can’t log in unless they enter a code sent to my mobile phone.

Luckily, the companies that are the biggest targets for these sorts of breaches have very sharp people working to secure their systems and our laws and their policies provide instant relief for things like unauthorized bank withdrawals.

Still, situations like identity theft, where someone pretends to be someone they’re not can be problematic for those affected. Even if someone who has been affected by identity theft loses no money, the time to repair the damage can be daunting and take years to correct.

So how can you protect yourself?

In most cases, try to keep your computers and mobile phones up to the most recent standards. Because this field is changing rapidly, staying current is a very good defense.

When companies offer features such as two-factor authentication, use them.

If you are concerned about communications being private, consider whether it should be sent digitally or perhaps in person. While this is not always possible, it is fair to assume that if your recipient can read something, so can someone else.

Privacy and security are legitimate concerns in today’s world. They have been for generations. We now have more and different ways to communicate and, therefore, need to be cognizant of the risks the new technologies bring.

Stay vigilant, stay honest and stay safe. A little care can go a long way to protecting you.

Mark Mathias is a 35+ year information technology executive, a resident of Westport, Connecticut. His columns can be read on the Internet at blog.mathias.org. He can be contacted at livingwith.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Author : Mark Mathias

Source : http://www.newcanaannewsonline.com/news/article/Living-With-Technology-How-good-is-online-11009880.php 

Categorized in Internet Privacy

What's the best web browser for Windows? Find out with our in-depth testing.

The web browser is one of, if not the, most-used applications on your computer. Where once Internet Explorer was synonymous with the web, now many people just fire up Chrome without a second thought.

But why should Google enjoy a monopoly on such an important program? There are plenty of alternatives, all of which bring their own innovations to help you make the most of your time online. We test the top six browsers to help you decide which is best for the way you surf the web.

We've tested them for performance using both real-world and benchmarking tests, battery consumption using Netflix. We've also evaluated their privacy features and extra goodies so you can easily choose for yourself which is the best for you. Let's get started.

Best web browser 1

6 / 6

OUR SCORE:

MICROSOFT EDGE

Key features:
  • Low power consumption
  • Cortana integration
  • Web notes
  • Good performance
  • Sync is half-baked
The days when Microsoft’s browsers ruled the roost are long gone. Despite Windows 10 now being installed on nearly a quarter of computers worldwide, only 5% of users prefer Edge – the default Windows 10 browser. 

We have to admit that, faced with a fresh Windows 10 installation, the first thing we normally do is load up Edge and use it to install Chrome. This is a little hasty, since Edge actually has plenty to offer. 

INTERFACE

Edge’s interface is clean to the point of being bland. The only hint of colour comes from the favicons on the left of each tab: everything else is just two shades of grey. The rest of the design is browser business as usual, with tabs on the top, then toolbar and optional bookmarks bar. The Home button is off by default, but can be enabled in Settings. 

One thing that may immediately annoy is the lack of a title bar for the Edge window. This means that if you want to drag an Edge window around your desktop, you need to use the blank bit on the right of the tabs bar, which isn’t always convenient. 

STARTUP PAGE

You have four options for what loads when you start the browser: your previous session, a web page you specify, the Start page, or the New Tab page. The Start page is in danger of being a huge time-sink. 

Along with a search box at the top and a weather, sports and stock market sidebar, the page contains a newsfeed of stories from various publications, from the Mirror to Cosmopolitan to Autocar. It’s definitely a cut above your usual clickbait, and it’s easy to get sucked into: we went from a story about Debra Messing to reading about Alfonso Arau to watching Three Amigos clips on YouTube. There's also some horrible sponsored content links that feel a little out of place.

By default, the search box uses Bing. It isn’t immediately obvious how to change this. First, you go into Settings and Advanced, and scroll most of the way to the bottom to find the Change Search Engine box. If you’ve only just started using Edge, you won’t see any search engines to change to, or any way to add your own. You first need to visit the homepage of the search engine you want to add, which will make it mysteriously appear in Edge’s Settings marked as “discovered”.

Adding a search engine in other web browsers can be a confusing process, so we actually welcomed how simple it was to do in Edge – once we’d worked out how. It’s a shame there’s no way to temporarily change search engine using a drop-down menu, however.

NEW TAB PAGE

The only difference between the Startup and New Tab pages is that New Tab has a Top Sites section. This has thumbnails for some sponsored content, such as the Windows Store and Amazon, but will chiefly fill up with your most-visited sites. If a website (Facebook or Netflix, for example) has its own Windows 10 app, an Install app link will appear under that site, which you may find useful.

There’s no way to change what the New Tab page does, and no extensions available to change its behaviour, either – if you like your new tabs to go straight to a homepage, you’re out of luck. You can at least customise the page, selecting from six areas of interest to customise your newsfeed, or turn off the feed and the weather, sports or stock market sidebars entirely.

TAB HANDLING

Edge’s tabs worked as we expected. They’re dead square for space efficiency, and we particularly liked the dropdown thumbnails that appear as you hover over each tab. There’s no option to bookmark all open tabs and save them to a Bookmarks folder, which is something we’re used to seeing. The New Tab page opens instantly and is ready for your searches straight away, and there’s no hesitation when flicking between open tabs. 

BOOKMARKS AND HISTORY

Apart from the lack of a “bookmark all open tabs” option (see above), we like the way Edge deals with your bookmarks. Clicking the star button provides a dropdown menu with the option to add the bookmark to one of your Favourites folders or your Reading List. The Reading List is like a Bookmarks folder, but provides a thumbnail and a short description of the page, so you can see which entry is which at a glance.

You access your bookmarks using a tabbed sidebar that also contains your history and downloads. Bookmarks are arranged in collapsible trees, which is neat, but there’s no option to open an entire folder at once in separate tabs. Likewise, the History sidebar’s collapsible tree view is easy to use, but there’s no way to add a page from your history to your bookmarks directly – another missed opportunity. We do like the option to delete all pages from a particular subdomain, though.

CORTANA AND WEB NOTES

As you’d expect, Microsoft is keen to use Edge to point you towards its other services, as is Google – if you visit its web pages using Edge, they nag you to install Chrome, which doesn’t happen with Opera, Firefox or Vivaldi. If you select a word on a web page and right-click, there’s no option to search for that word with your current search engine – you can only “Ask Cortana” (or Bing if you’ve disabled Cortana). 

Cortana does come up with some interesting info, but you may prefer to use Google or DuckDuckGo for your searches – you should be given the choice. Another feature we feel is too Microsoft-orientated is Web Notes. These could be fantastic: scribble all over a web page, highlight things, make notes, then send to others to look at. However, the recipient won’t receive your annotations on a live web page. Instead, when you click the “share” button you receive only a screenshot of the annotated web page, which you can send using Windows’ official Mail or Twitter clients, or store with Cortana Reminders or OneNote. 

There’s no way to send the Web Note with a program of your choosing (such as your own email client), save it to Dropbox, or use another Notes application such as Evernote – even if you install the official Microsoft Evernote app. It’s a limited feature that you may find useful only occasionally. 

READING VIEW

Next to the Favourites button is one for Reading View. After a page has loaded, you can click this to strip out all adverts and page furniture, leaving you with an easy-to-read body of text and pictures. It’s a great way to make web news stories more pleasant to read, while still making sure the page gets some revenue from adverts. However, it only works on a limited number of pages (such as those in your newsfeed). On sites such as BBC News and The Guardian, the icon is simple greyed out and listed as “unavailable”. 

SYNC

Most major browsers have a built-in synchronisation service; you sign up for a Google/Firefox/Opera account and your history, open tabs, favourites, passwords and so on will remain synchronised between browsers on different machines. Edge has a sync service, but will only sync your Favourites and Reading List; and, crucially, only if you’re signed into Windows 10 with a Microsoft account. 

You may prefer to have a local account for Windows, so no sync for you. We’d rather you could sign into a Microsoft account just for Edge.

Best web browser 4

PERFORMANCE

Edge feels like a seriously quick browser. Although its time of 5 seconds to load www.trustedreviews.com is one of the longest we measured – and identical to Firefox – it has the smoothest scrolling of any browser we’ve used, which makes browsing around web pages a pleasure. Its MotionMark graphics and Speedometer web application benchmark scores of 193.42 and 47.99 are below average, but 225.56 in the JetStream JavaScript benchmark is a huge score. 

Edge feels fast, but its benchmark performance is a mixed bag. It’s also a memory hog, requiring nearly 1.4GB of RAM with our six test tabs open – 500MB to 900MB more than the competition. It’s easy on your laptop’s battery, though: one hour of Netflix used 23% of battery, compared to between 26% and 32% for the competition. 

EXTENSIONS

Extensions are only a recent addition to Edge, and there are very few: only 20 in the Microsoft Store at the time of writing, including several ad blockers, LastPass and the Pocket save-it-for-later tool. One extension, called Turn off the Lights (below), darkens the entire screen while you’re playing a video, with the exception of the video itself. It’s a cracking alternative to full-screen mode. 
Best web browser 3

VERDICT

There are many things to like about Edge. It feels fast, we love its super-smooth scrolling, and it’s generally easy to use. Microsoft needs to add some extra features to keep up with the competition, though, such as the ability to save all open tabs as a Bookmarks folder and then open that folder’s bookmarks all at once. The Sync function is also limited, and being restricted to Bing when right-clicking to search is annoying. If Microsoft would just loosen its grip a little, Edge could be great. For now, those after a no-nonsense browser should stick with Chrome.
Best web browser 2

5 / 6

OUR SCORE:

MOZILLA FIREFOX

Key features:
  • Detailed privacy settings
  • Customisable
  • A little slow
  • Relatively high battery usage
Ten years ago, Firefox was the browser to beat, dwarfing Google’s upstart Chrome. Now the picture is rather different: Chrome is dominant, and Firefox is slipping towards a mere 10% market share. 

Firefox is far from dead, though, and still has some tricks up its sleeve. It’s serious about privacy, with technology to stop companies tracking the pages you visit even if they ignore a “Do not track” request. It has a library of extensions to rival that of Chrome, and while it’s no Vivaldi, it’s still possible to customise the interface to a certain degree. 

INTERFACE

Nowadays, Firefox looks very much like Chrome: tabs at the top, a combined address and search bar, and an optional bookmarks bar. The interface is busier than Chrome’s, but as we discuss below, Chrome’s clean look can come at the cost of functionality. 

By default, there’s a home button and a dedicated search box – although we’re not quite sure why this separate search box is necessary. In Vivaldi, it’s a privacy feature; you can turn off search suggestions for the search box, so text you enter isn’t sent direct to the search provider’s servers before you even press enter. In Firefox, you can’t configure the address bar and search box separately – both either have search suggestions enabled or disabled. 

Fortunately, Firefox makes it easy to customise the interface and remove such clutter. By right-clicking on the toolbar and clicking Customize, you can drag and drop various interface elements around and add or remove shortcut icons to suit your way of working.  

Best web browser 5

The customisation is limited to which shortcut buttons you require, and whether you want them on the left or right of the address bar, but we still appreciate being able to add one-click buttons for History and Private Browsing, as well as the ability to remove the redundant search box mentioned above. Having History or Bookmarks on the toolbar also provides you with a much wider, easier-to-use menu than when you access them through Firefox’s main menu button. 

The customisation section is a good way to add the Firefox “Forget” button. This is another signature privacy feature: with a click Firefox will close all windows and tabs and delete your cookies and history from the past five minutes, two hours or 24 hours. Other browsers let you delete you history selectively, but not with a single click.

Best web browser 6

STARTUP AND TABS

By default Firefox opens with the Mozilla Firefox Start page, which has a Google search box and a selection of shortcut buttons to various program features. It isn’t particularly useful, but it’s easy to change. The New Tab page is simple but effective: it features a search box for whatever provider you have chosen in Settings, and thumbnails for your most-visited sites. 

We hunted high and low in Settings for a way to change what happens when you open a new tab, but to no avail. We eventually noticed the cog icon at the top-right of the New Tab page itself. This provides you with a choice of a blank page or a page with suggested sites, but an extension such as New Tab Homepage will sort that out. 

Right-clicking on a tab displays the usual close/mute/pin tab options, and you can save all open tabs to a specific Bookmarks folder. Firefox doesn’t have a menu to let you see at-a-glance which tabs you have open, but pressing Ctrl-tab flicks between the two most recently used tabs, and keeping the control key held down after you press the tab key brings up an Alt-tab-style thumbnail view of all open tabs.

BOOKMARKS AND HISTORY

On the whole, we like the way Firefox’s bookmarks and history work. Clicking the History button offers a dropdown menu with recently closed tabs, your most recent history and the useful option to restore the entire previous browser session. Clicking Show All History brings up a pop-up resizable window with all your visited web pages, and you can open them in new windows or tabs, or add history entries to your Bookmarks folders. 

You can also bring up a sidebar with your history arranged in a list, and it will stay open as you click through the entries trying to find the right page. It all works fine, but we wish Firefox used a less compressed font to make things easier to read. 

The Bookmarks button provides quick access to your bookmarks toolbar, and clicking Show All Bookmarks brings up a window that’s similar in look to the All History window – it isn’t pretty, but it works. There’s also a Bookmarks sidebar, with all your saved pages arranged in a tree format. 

PERFORMANCE

Unlike Chrome, Opera and Vivaldi, Firefox doesn’t use the Chromium project’s Blink engine. Instead, it uses Mozilla’s Gecko engine, and it just doesn’t feel quite as fast. It takes the browser 5 seconds to render www.trustedreviews.com, compared to 2.8 for Chrome and Opera, and Firefox lags behind Chrome, Edge, Opera and Vivaldi in the MotionMark graphics benchmark and JetStream JavaScript benchmark. It’s also the second-slowest browser we tested in the Speedometer web application test, behind Edge. 

These slow benchmark scores are reflected in general use. There’s a very slight delay when flicking between tabs, and things become rather jerky when you drag tabs to rearrange them. Scrolling through pages can sometimes feel like there’s something clogging up your mousewheel, too. It isn’t terrible, by any means, but if you’re used to the smoothness of Chrome and Opera then you may feel your browsing experience is compromised. 

We did notice that Firefox gradually became slower over time as we filled its history and loaded it up with bookmarks. This was fixed with the “Refresh Firefox” option in the about:support section, but we haven’t experienced such a slowdown with other browsers. 

Firefox consumed the most battery in an hour of Netflix streaming, eating up 32%. That's more than all the other browsers on test here.

EXTENSIONS

Firefox was the first browser to support extensions, and as you’d expect, there are plenty available. DownThemAll, to save multiple files from an HTTP server, is particularly useful, as is Textarea Cache, which automatically saves any text you enter in a textbox, in case your browser crashes. 

SYNC

Firefox isn’t behind with Sync, either. Once you’re signed in with a Firefox account, you can sync your tabs, bookmarks, passwords, history, extensions and settings between devices. You can also synchronise bookmarks and history with mobile devices. However, when tested this with an Android phone, we found that sync kept pausing, and we had to go into Settings | Accounts & Sync to kick-start it manually.

VERDICT

Firefox is a competent browser, with some great features such as the bookmarks and history sidebars, customisable toolbar and the Forget button. However, it’s one of the slowest browsers we’ve tested, and some aspects of the interface, while useful, could do with an overhaul to make them more attractive and easier to use. Apparently, there’s an improved rendering engine on the way, which should help matters. In the meantime, though, you should stick to Chrome for outright speed and Vivaldi for interface innovation.
Best web browser 4

4 / 6

OUR SCORE:

TOR

Key features:
  • Privacy focussed
  • Loaded with security features
  • Lots of add-ons
  • Relatively slow
  • Slows down connection speeds

When it comes to online anonymity, Tor is the real deal. The combination of a specially modified version of Firefox and a network of anonymous relays makes it extremely hard for anyone to identify you and the websites you visit. 

Instead of connecting you straight to a server on the internet, Tor wraps the data you send with multiple encryption layers, then bounces this data through a network of relays. Each relay decrypts an encryption layer to reveal the next relay in the chain, or Tor Circuit. The final relay decrypts your data and sends it to its destination – but since this relay doesn’t know where the original data came from, it's extremely hard for the destination server to learn anything about you, such as your IP address.

Tor isn’t perfect, and has been compromised in the past, but it's the best method we have to keep the websites we visit safe from prying eyes. 

INTERFACE

Tor is remarkably easy to use. It's a portable application, and the installer just unpacks the browser's files to a folder of your choosing. From there, just run the Start Tor Browser shortcut. When you first run Tor, you can choose whether you have a direct connection to the internet – such as at home – or whether you're behind some kind of firewall or proxy and will need to fiddle with some settings to connect. 
Best web browser 11

On our home broadband connection, the direct connection worked perfectly: Tor connected, and up popped the familiar shape of Firefox. The Tor Start page offers up a DuckDuckGo search box – DuckDuckGo being the search engine that prides itself on not tracking you. 

There are also some tips on staying anonymous. Using the Tor browser isn’t enough to stay safe from prying eyes; you should also avoid using applications that bypass the Tor network, such as torrent software, or plugins such as Flash that can be "manipulated into revealing your IP address". In addition, never open files downloaded through Tor – such as DOC and PDF – in external applications, since these can connect to external services outside the Tor network and reveal your IP address. 

After maximising the browser window, we were intrigued to see a warning message that this could identify us on the internet: the reason being that a maximised browser window can give away your monitor's resolution and so help build a fingerprint of your machine to help outside parties track you. Tor recommends you keep the application at its default windowed size to avoid this. Scary stuff.

Tor's Bookmarks work in the same manner as standard Firefox, but History is interesting, in that Tor doesn’t save it. As you'd expect for a privacy-focused browser, Tor is set to always be in Private Browsing mode, so it won’t save your history or accept any cookies. You can disable this in Settings easily enough, though. 

SECURITY ADD-ONS

There are a couple of Tor-specific additions to Firefox. The most obvious is the small onion icon on the left of the address bar. This gives you the relays your web connection has jumped through to reach the current site, their IP addresses and the countries in which they reside. An option to create a new Tor Circuit for your current site will connect you to a new selection of relays: we found this useful when we were being routed through Taiwan, for example, and the connection was very slow. There's also the nuclear option to choose a New Identity, which restarts the browser and provides a new Circuit at the same time. 

It's worth exploring Tor’s Security Settings option. This takes the form of a slider with Low, Medium and High security levels, with progressively more content blocked as you go up the scale. For example, Medium and High levels would even block some of the images on www.trustedreviews.com. The onion menu shows you what content has been blocked, and you can re-enable it as you wish: granting permission for a couple of video codecs let us play YouTube videos, for example. 

Aside from the Tor network itself, the Tor browser has a couple of add-ons to keep you safe. These are the NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere plugins. NoScript blocks JavaScript – and plenty of other technologies, such as Java – on any websites you don’t add to a whitelist. Many malicious websites use scripts to attack a visiting machine, so simply having scripts blocked by default is a good way to remain safe online. 

HTTPS Everywhere is an attempt to force all connections to websites to use the encrypted HTTPS protocol, to help prevent data passing between your computer and the site from being intercepted. Some sites default to unencrypted HTTP when you type their URL into your browser's address bar, or have pages full of links back to the unencrypted HTTP version of the site. HTTPS Everywhere finds those links and redirects to the secure version of the page automatically. 

Both are useful tools, but they’re also available for standard browsers: Chrome, Firefox and Opera for HTTPS Everywhere, and Firefox for NoScript. 

PERFORMANCE

As you'd expect from the way it works, Tor isn’t a fast browser. All that bouncing around the world takes its toll on download speeds. Using standard Firefox, speedtest.net reported our internet connection as 47Mbits/sec download and 7.2Mbits/sec upload, with a 9ms ping. With the Tor browser, we saw just 8.7Mbits/sec download and 1.9Mbits/sec upload speeds, with a 100ms ping. 

This would be fine for normal web surfing, but the connection speeds are erratic – some sites would just grind to a halt before loading CSS, leaving a bare skeleton of a page. In addition, some sites found the traffic profile created by Tor suspicious, asking you to fill in a CAPTCHA to check you're not a robot, or flat-out block you. For example, Google wouldn't let us search due to “unusual traffic” (although if you're using Tor for Google, you should rethink your privacy priorities). Netflix is also deeply suspicious, but this could be because it didn't know what content to offer us from one session to the next as we hopped around the globe.

This is the price you pay for unrivalled privacy, however – and you're unlikely to use Tor to do your Tesco shop. It's more likely to come into its own when you want to look up something that the authorities don’t want you to see, or if you want to visit a site that, for whatever reason may be banned in your country. Tor is invaluable in countries without the kind of internet freedoms we enjoy in the UK, where it's often the only way to get hold of news sources outside the grip of the government. 

VERDICT

In the way that it manages to do something complicated in a manner that’s both straightforward and transparent to the user, Tor is a triumph. There’s no better way to safeguard your privacy online, there are no VPNs or subscriptions to worry about, and no complicated configuration. A single 50MB download and you're safe from all but the most determined. 

Performance issues mean you'll still want to use a normal browser for most of your surfing, but keep that Tor shortcut handy; you never know who's watching.

Best web browser 3

3 / 6

OUR SCORE:

OPERA

Key features
  • Built-in free VPN
  • Modest extension library
  • Good performance
  • Sync service

Opera has always been a niche player in the browser market, but loyal users have appreciated its commitment to innovation. It was the first major web browser with tabs, for example – fancy going back to a pre-tabs browser now? Thought not. 

Its focus has changed recently, however. The latest versions no longer use Opera’s own rendering engine, instead relying on the Chromium project’s Blink engine, and it’s no longer possible to customise the browser’s interface. 

SPECIAL FEATURES

Opera may have lost some of its distinctiveness, but it’s still a modern-looking browser with an impressive interface and one killer feature: built-in VPN. This is incredibly easy to set up: just tick a box and you’ll connect to websites via a proxy server, which will help mask your location and IP address. 
Best web browser 10

You can choose whether you want to connect via a VPN in Canada, the US, Germany, Holland or Singapore, or choose an optimum server (Holland, in our case). The VPN let us look at the US versions of sites such as Netflix, as well as sites that are banned in the UK, and impressively didn’t slow down our connection speed at all. Opera doesn’t even set a bandwidth cap. It’s quite an extra. 

Opera also comes with a built-in ad blocker. You may not agree with ad blockers, but some people value their ability to speed up web page loading and protect from tracking. You enable the ad blocker by ticking a box in Settings, and can add sites that the ad blocker will ignore (in case they don’t load properly, or you’d rather not deprive them of revenue). 

INTERFACE

Opera has a clean and modern interface. All is where you’d expect to find it. Tabs are at the top, with a combined search and address bar, as well as an optional bookmarks bar. The address bar will return Google’s suggestions for web addresses and search terms as you enter text, but you can also turn on a dedicated search box. The dedicated box doesn’t offer suggestions – useful if you don’t want what you’re typing to be sent straight to Google’s servers as you type it. We’d have liked to be able to select a search engine directly from this box, rather than having to go into Settings to change all our search defaults. 

A couple of interface elements stand out. The first is that there’s no Home button, and no way to enable one. Browsers are moving away from Home buttons, but as heavy users of multiple Google services, we still find it useful to have a single, immutable button for the Google homepage. 

TAB HANDLING

Opera’s almost-square tabs are space-efficient, and inactivate tabs fade to a subtle grey, so it’s easy to see which is active. You have a few standard right-click options (clone tab, close all other tabs, and so on) but there are fewer ways to manipulate your tabs than in Vivaldi. The tabs menu on the right is neat, showing you all open as well as recently closed tabs, and hovering over an entry displays a large thumbnail of the web page. We wish Opera would also display a thumbnail when you hover over a tab on the tab bar, as is the case in Edge and Vivaldi. 

Where you’d expect to find a Home button, Opera has Speed Dial. This is a selection of most-used sites, with each presented as a designed card, rather than a thumbnail. This is prettier, if less useful. The Speed Dial is initially populated by a number of commercial sites such as Facebook, Amazon and eBay, but it takes little time to remove these. There are also a selection of Speed Dial suggestions, which are mainly based on your browsing history. You can even create folders to keep your Speed Dial organised.  

As in Vivaldi, your Speed Dial pages are treated as a Bookmarks folder, which makes it easier to move pages between folders and edit and delete them. You can also right-click on a tab and save all open tabs as a Speed Dial folder. 

If you’re going to use Opera, you’ll need to learn to love Speed Dial, since it’s the only choice you get when you open a new tab – unless you install an extension such as New Tab Start Page Pro. This isn’t a problem, since the sidebar makes Speed Dial a useful one-stop shop for everything you need to do within the browser. The sidebar provides access to your bookmarks manager, history, extensions, downloads and settings, so you’ll rarely need to use the application’s main menu. 

Best web browser 9

We have few complaints about how the various sections are laid out: you can right-click and add items from your history to your bookmarks, but only one page at a time, and the Settings menu is clearer than that of Edge and Chrome, if still a little sprawling. The Bookmarks view is easy to navigate, with drag-and-drop animations helping you move bookmarks exactly where you want them. However, we’d like to see a list of all bookmarks in the tree view on the left, rather than just folders. 

One interesting aspect is the Personal news section. This aggregates stories from around the web, according to Opera’s “Top 50”, or news stories you pick from a catalogue. This is limited to a number of publications chosen by Opera, and includes many of the big names you’d expect: the Guardian, Economist and Telegraph, for example. It’s a fine way to keep tabs on what’s going on and allows you more control than the Edge browser’s newsfeed. 

EXTENSIONS

Opera has its own family of extensions, but the library is far smaller than that available for Chrome or Firefox. However, since Opera used Chromium project technology, it’s easy to add Chrome extensions, as long as you first install the handily-named 'Download Chrome Extension' extension. This even changes the install button on the official Chrome extension store from Add to Chrome to Add to Opera. Not all extensions will work, so you’ll need to deploy trial and error: animatedTabs wasn’t happy, for example, but Grammarly worked fine. 

PERFORMANCE

Opera feels quick. New tabs open instantly, and there’s no sign of the hesitation when flicking between tabs that we saw with Vivaldi. The browser acquitted itself well in our browser benchmarks, too. A score of 267.89 in the MotionMark graphics handling benchmark is second only to Chrome, and 68.65 in the Speedometer web application test is above average. 

The browser could render www.trustedreviews.com in just 2.8 seconds, making it just as fast as Chrome and far quicker than Firefox, Edge and Vivaldi. Scrolling around web pages is beautifully smooth, too. The only downside is that Opera uses a lot of RAM: 826MB with our selection of six tabs open, making this the biggest memory hog we’ve seen apart from Edge. 

Opera also has a special Battery Saver mode. With this enabled, an hour of Netflix watching used 26% of our test laptop’s battery, compared to 28% with the mode disabled – this is such a small difference that we’re tempted to put it down to statistical variation. 

SYNC

Opera has its own Sync service. You need to create an Opera account and password, and all or any of your bookmarks, settings, history, open tabs and passwords will be synced across all your devices, including smartphones. When you have multiple Opera-running devices synced, the Tabs menu gains an Other Devices sub-menu, with each device’s open tabs listed in its own section.

VERDICT

Opera may no longer be particularly customisable, and Vivaldi (founded by ex-Opera employees) has certainly stolen its crown for innovation, but it’s still a cleanly designed and fast browser. Opera does find itself caught between two stools: it has neither the outright speed of Chrome nor the power features of Vivaldi. However, if the VPN, ad blocker and newsfeed features appeal, it’s a fine alternative.
Best web browser 5

2 / 6

OUR SCORE:

VIVALDI

Key features:
  • Incredibly customisable
  • Tab stacking and tiling
  • Based on Chromium
  • Best for power users
  • A little slow

Vivaldi was created by former employees of Opera software and, similar to the Opera browser, is designed with customisation in mind. You can tweak this browser to work in a way that suits you, and it’s brimming with innovative features. 

INTERFACE

The Startup wizard rams the message home. It lets you choose your theme (Human is very Linux; Redmond very Microsoft), decide whether you want your tabs to go at the top, bottom, left or right, and choose a background picture for your Start page. It’s a useful introduction to just how many parts of Vivaldi’s interface you can tweak. You’re then pointed towards some introductory YouTube videos – the developers want to make sure you don’t miss out on unique features such as Tab Stacks. 

The Settings menu is colossal, but is logically organised with a search function. We like that the Settings window can remain open and any changes you make happen in real time to the main browser – it makes it easy to fiddle around with Vivaldi’s appearance. 

Vivaldi features are a couple of controls missing in most browsers: mouse gestures and Quick Commands. You can hold down the right mouse button and draw various patterns to perform functions such as opening and closing tabs, and going back and forth through your history. You can even draw your own patterns, although if you make one that’s already assigned to another feature, Vivaldi will tell you the pattern is in use, but not by what. 

We don't use mouse gestures, but there are doubtless many who would. We much preferred Quick Commands. You press F2 to bring up a search box that will look through your bookmarks and history, as well as program commands and settings, as you type. It’s a quick way to navigate all the information stored in your browser from a single place. 

TAB HANDLING

Vivaldi’s tab handling is one of its most impressive aspects. For a start, you don’t have to have tabs along the top. If you’d rather mimic the Windows start bar, then place it at the bottom. Want to take advantage of a widescreen monitor? Put it to the side. Having your tab bar at the left or right also gives you a useful thumbnail of each page. 

A movable tab bar is only the beginning. Move one tab onto another and Vivaldi will group them together to form a Tab Stack. Hovering the mouse over the Stack shows you thumbnails of all the pages it contains, so you can choose the one you want. You can also Ctrl-click to select multiple tabs, then right-click and add them to a Tab Stack. 

A particularly useful feature is Stack Tabs by Host, so if you have multiple pages from www.trustedreviews.com open, you can make a Tab Stack with a single click. Oddly, this wouldn’t work with Google sites, and we wish clicking on the Tab Stack would bring up the thumbnails – it would feel more natural than just hovering over the top. 

Right-clicking on a tab, multiple tabs or a Tab Stack provides brings up a number of useful options. You can move a tab or a Stack to a new window if your tab bar is getting overwhelming. You can bookmark a single tab, all open tabs or a Tab Stack, and multiple tabs will be given their own folder stamped with the time the bookmarks were created. 

Best of all, you can tile tabs within a single browser window. It’s great for multi-tasking – when you have a couple of websites open and are typing into a Google Doc, for example – and, once again, is a great way to take advantage of a widescreen or ultra-widescreen monitor. We wish there was a way to resize the tiles, however. 

Best web browser 14

There’s one last feature we found particularly useful: the tab trash can. Click this icon and you’ll see all the tabs you’ve had open previously, so you can restore them with a click – and the browser will even remember your tabs after a restart.

NEW TAB PAGE

You have plenty of options when it comes to new tabs: the Start page, your homepage, a blank page or a page you specify. Most browsers only offer the option of a blank page or a special New Tab page. Since we access so many different services, from email to documents to maps, from the Google homepage, we liked having that open automatically with every new tab. 

The Start page itself stands out. It’s split into Bookmarks, History and Speed Dial – similar to Bookmarks, but with thumbnails. You can create as many Speed Dial sections as you need; you can have a section for social media, news, shopping, messaging and anything else you can think of. 

Speed Dial doesn’t automatically fill up with your most-visited sites in the way that Chrome’s New Tab page does, but it does provide suggestions for Speed Dial entries based on your browsing history. You can also turn a Bookmarks folder into a Speed Dial with a click. 

ADDRESS BAR

As with all modern browsers, you can search from the address bar, and as long as you enable the option, you will receive suggestions to complete web addresses and search strings as you type. Those concerned about privacy may wish to disable this option, as it means data is sent to a search provider such as Google before you even press return. You can get around this by enabling a dedicated search box with suggestions disabled, so you can use this box instead when you’re concerned about privacy. 

One problem we had was that Vivaldi would return search suggestions when we had Bing set as the default search engine, but not Google. This is apparently a known bug. 

BOOKMARKS AND PANELS

The browser comes with a number of shopping bookmarks, which is presumably one of the ways in which the Vivaldi developers make money. It takes little time to remove them if you’re not interested. Adding a bookmark is easy with the button next to the address bar, or a right-click on a tab. You can also drag items from your history straight to a Bookmarks folder. 

You can either manage your bookmarks with the Start page, where a tree view makes it simple to create folders and move bookmarks around, or use the tree view in the Bookmarks Panel. The Panels live on the left or right of your monitor, depending on your preference, and there are sections for Bookmarks, Downloads, Notes and Web Panels. 

Bookmarks and Downloads work as you’d expect, but Notes and Web Panels are particularly interesting. As well as adding text, Notes lets you screenshot the current page or a portion of it to attach to the Note, and will automatically add the page’s URL to the note’s metadata. It’s a powerful and well-integrated feature, and the only thing missing is any kind of sync capability – but that’s apparently coming soon. 

Web Panels are a way to keep various web pages open in your browser as sidebars. It’s particularly useful for frequently updated sites that you flick to occasionally, such as a news site or Twitter. Any site can be a web panel, but some get confused about the device you’re using and ask you to install an app.  

EXTENSIONS

Vivaldi currently doesn’t have any native extensions, but since it’s based on the Chromium browser project, most Chromium extensions should work. It’s such a feature-packed browser that you shouldn’t really need too many add-ons. One extension we did need was the User Agent Switcher for Chrome (below). Without it, Netflix refused to play anything. Once I fooled the service into thinking I was using Chrome, everything was fine. 
Best web browser 13

PERFORMANCE

This is the one area where Vivaldi falls down, If only very slightly. Despite competitive scores in the MotionMark animation benchmark, Speedometer web app test and JetStream JavaScript benchmarks, it didn’t feel quite as smooth as Chrome or Edge when scrolling through web pages. There’s also a very slight pause when opening the Start page, especially if you have a background image turned on. However, memory usage with six web pages open was the lowest of any mainstream browser here, at just 524MB, so this is no resource hog overall. 

In the Netflix test, it consumed 28% battery in an hour, putting it firmly in the mid-table.

VERDICT

There’s no doubt Vivaldi is an excellent browser. There’s no need to hunt around for extensions: if you can think of a feature you need, it’s probably already there. The only thing currently missing is sync, but that’s on the way. Those with more modest requirements should stick with the super-fast Chrome, but if you’re a power user who deals with huge bookmark libraries and likes to keep plenty of tabs open, you’ll love it.
Best web browser

1 / 6

OUR SCORE:

GOOGLE CHROME

Key features:
  • Deeply integrated with Google services
  • Decent performance
  • Easy-to-manage site privacy controls
  • Loads of add-ons
  • Excellent sync
  • Slightly confusing interface
Since its launch in 2008, Chrome has grown to the point where nearly 60% of desktop users surf using Google’s browser. 

It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. At launch Chrome was a revelation, thanks to its clean interface and incredible performance. It’s had its ups and downs since, but Google has recently stripped out some of the bloat to make Chrome quick and intuitive once again. 

INTERFACE

The reason Chrome is the go-to browser for so many people is obvious: it’s just so easy to use. It loads quickly – start typing into the address/search box and results will appear instantly from your history, alongside Google’s own suggestions, to complete your web searches. These suggestions take the form of web addresses (type in www.gu and you’ll get suggestions for The Guardian, Gumtree and Guildford Council, for example) as well as search strings. In effect, you can be on a specific web page or have a page of Google results within moments of opening the browser. 

Of course, this is advantageous to Google as well as its users, since the company relies on collecting information. And it’s this very reason that causes many folk to worry about using. What you type into the address box is sent direct to Google before you’ve even pressed return, in order for the company to provide you with search suggestions. Unlike Opera and Vivaldi, there’s no option to have a dedicated search box with suggestions disabled; you have to disable suggestions entirely in the browser’s settings. 

There isn’t much else to Chrome – just tabs, address bar, navigation and bookmark buttons and a menu. There are plenty of hidden features, which bolsters the browser’s clean look but doesn’t always aid usability, as we’ll explain later. 

Best web browser 1

The browser does an excellent job of helping you manage your interaction with websites. Click the icon on the left of your current web address, and you can view information about the current site –whether your connection is encrypted and how many cookies are in use, for example. You can also choose whether you want to allow or deny technologies such as JavaScript or Flash, or let the site access your computer’s camera or microphone. It’s the easiest site security control we’ve seen. 

NEW TAB PAGE

You don’t get a Home button by default, but it’s easy to enable in Settings. We like to have a home button set to google.co.uk due to our reliance on multiple Google web apps – it’s simple to access these from the Google homepage. 

This being a Google browser, there are other ways to access Google’s services too. The first is with the Apps bookmark, which is set up on the Bookmarks Bar by default. This sends you to chrome://apps, and has large icons for the Web Store (for more apps and browser extensions), Google Drive, Gmail and YouTube, among others. The difference between apps and extensions is that extensions change or extend the way the web browser itself works; apps, on the other hand, are services or web programs you access through that browser. 

You can also access Google’s apps/services using the New Tab page. As with Opera, there’s no way to change what appears when you open a new tab, unless you use an extension such as New tab URL. A bar at the top of the New Tab page includes a menu for Google’s services, and if you’re signed in it will let you access your profile information. 

The New Tab page also consists of a Google search box and eight thumbnails for your most-used sites. This looks a little like Opera or Vivaldi’s Speed Dial, but without either’s level of customisation. The only thing you can do is delete sites from the page, rather than organise them in any particular fashion. 

TAB HANDLING

Chrome opens tabs instantly and flicks between them without hesitation. Everything about the browser performs with great alacrity. There’s nothing fancy about Chrome’s tab handling, but it’s slick and intuitive, whether you’re rearranging tabs or pulling them out to create new windows. Right-clicking a tab brings up standard options – such as pinning a tab (so it will survive a browser restart), duplicating or closing that tab or all other tabs – as well as the option to bookmark all open tabs and save them to a folder. 

Our only real niggle with Chrome’s tab handling is that pressing Ctrl-tab clicks through the tabs in order, rather than between the last-used tabs. This can be fixed using an extension such as CLUT (Cycle Last Used Tabs), but is an example of where the competition is pulling ahead. There’s also no tabs menu, where you can see a list of open tabs at a glance, or thumbnails when you hover over a tab. There is a least a list of recently closed tabs, hidden away in the History section of the main menu. 

HISTORY AND BOOKMARKS

This brings us to another gripe with Chrome: useful features are hidden away, with no effort made to integrate them with the main interface. You access both your history and bookmarks from awkward fly-out sub-menus in the application’s main menu. We’d recommend learning the keyboard shortcuts instead (Ctrl-H and Ctrl-Shift-O). 

We did find we missed the fancy ways other browsers have of making your history and bookmarks accessible. Chrome just opens them in a new tab, which is fine, but it isn’t a patch on Firefox’s pop-up history sidebar or Vivaldi and Opera’s Speed Dial. For bookmarks, we find Chrome works best if you enable the Bookmarks Bar and are fastidious about arranging bookmarks in folders. The Bookmarks Manager does make it simple to organise your bookmarks, thanks to a folder hierarchy view and drag-and-drop. Unfortunately, you can’t create a bookmark direct from your history. 

EXTENSIONS

Chrome has a huge library of extensions, so if there’s something about the browser’s behaviour you want to tweak, there’s probably an extension out there to make it happen. Again, there’s no easy way to access installed extensions; you need to go Menu|More tools|Extensions, then click the Get More Extensions link at the bottom. It makes them feel like a bit of an afterthought. 

SYNC

Chrome’s Sync uses your Google account, and is as comprehensive as you want it to be. You can choose to sync your installed apps, extensions, settings, themes, history, bookmarks and open tabs across devices, and even your passwords and autofill information (for web page address fields and so on). It’s useful to have this data synced, but think carefully about the possible consequences of having so much information shared between all your PCs and mobile devices – even if you do trust Google itself. 

PERFORMANCE

Chrome feels fast, and is fast. It came top of the MotionMark graphics benchmark with a huge 380.84, and was comfortably the fastest browser we tested in the Speedometer web application benchmark with 117.3. Its score of 184.36 in the JetStream JavaScript benchmark was beaten only by Microsoft Edge. It could render TrustedReviews.com in 2.8 seconds, so shares top honours with Opera. Its memory usage is average, at 704.5MB with our six test pages open.  

It consumed 26% of our test machine's battery in an hour of Netflix streaming, which isn't the worst but comes in behind Microsoft Edge.

VERDICT

Chrome remains an excellent browser. In the past, some versions have been sluggish or buggy, but the current edition (56, as tested) is fast and stable. Once you’re used to how quickly Chrome responds, other browsers can feel slow, even if there’s very little difference in reality. 

However, what Chrome has in speed it lacks in extra features, and its interface, while clean, hides many of its useful features away. We’d happily take a little more clutter for easier access to our bookmark manager and history, for example, or to have a more customisable New Tab page. If you’ve always used Chrome, it’s worth installing an alternative such as Vivaldi, Opera or Firefox, just to see what you might be missing. 

Author : Chris Finnamore

Source : http://www.trustedreviews.com/best-web-browser_round-up

Categorized in Science & Tech

Stephen Hawking has warned that technology needs to be controlled in order to prevent it from destroying the human race.

The world-renowned physicist, who has spoken out about the dangers of artificial intelligence in the past, believes we need to establish a way of identifying threats quickly, before they have a chance to escalate.

“Since civilisation began, aggression has been useful inasmuch as it has definite survival advantages,” he told The Times.

“It is hard-wired into our genes by Darwinian evolution. Now, however, technology has advanced at such a pace that this aggression may destroy us all by nuclear or biological war. We need to control this inherited instinct by our logic and reason.”

He suggests that "some form of world government” could be ideal for the job, but would itself create more problems.

“But that might become a tyranny," he added. “All this may sound a bit doom-laden but I am an optimist. I think the human race will rise to meet these challenges.”

In a Reddit AMA back in 2015, Mr Hawking said that AI would grow so powerful it would be capable of killing us entirely unintentionally.

“The real risk with AI isn't malice but competence,” Professor Hawking said. “A super intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren't aligned with ours, we're in trouble.

“You're probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you're in charge of a hydroelectric green energy project and there's an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants. Let's not place humanity in the position of those ants.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk shares a similar viewpoint, having recently warned that humans are in danger of becoming irrelevant.

“Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence,” he said, suggesting that people could merge with machines in the future, in order to keep up.

 Author : Aatif Sulleyman

Source : http://finance.yahoo.com/news/professor-stephen-hawking-says-world-121118256.html

Categorized in Others

We've made it to the end of another week, which means it's time for And finally — your place to catch up on the best rumours from the past seven days.

This week, we've heard whispers of Alexa growing smarter, a bizarre Google broadcasting hat and an Amazon security camera.

Amazon preparing home security camera?

And finally: Amazon working on a home security camera

Amazon has already drifted into our homes through its Echo range, and now appears set to protect them with its own security system.

That's after AFTVnewsuncovered an image from Amazon's own servers which appears to show a camera featuring two microphones and multiple sensors - a bit like Nest's own indoor cam.

Of course, Amazon's smart speaker is already compatible with various security and camera systems, though this apparently won't stop the company from getting involved with its own offering.

Google sees a future with camera hats

And finally: Amazon working on a home security camera

Since Google Glass never really managed to gain liftoff, the search engine giant may look to hats in order to rebound.

That's after a patent surfaced, which details a wearable hat/broadcasting system which would, we guess, allow you to capture and share your view with the world.

The device includes a camera, microphone and Bluetooth connectivity to allow for smartphone pairing, though just how serious the company is about the idea is, of course, unknown.

Hopefully, if it does one day make it to production lines, it won't look like that giant spy camera sombrero from The Simpsons.

Alexa will soon recognise different voices

And finally: Amazon working on a home security camera

Amazon is developing a new feature for its Alexa voice assistant which would allow for individual voice recognition.

According to the folks at Time, the feature is currently known as Voice ID and would allow for certain commands to be locked to a specific voice - a feature that would be handy for avoiding any accidental voice purchases.

The company has allegedly been working on the feature for almost two years, likely ironing out issues involving the chain of command within a household.

...And is making friends with locks

And finally: Amazon working on a home security camera

Alexa isn't content to simply know who it's talking to, apparently, with Yale Locks announcing that its smart systems are now compatible with the voice assistant when used in conjunction with a Samsung SmartThings Hub or Wink Hub.

The skill allows Yale Z-Wave or ZigBee users to lock their door and check current lock status, with voice commands like, "Alexa, can you lock my front door," or "Alexa, is the back door locked?".

Don't worry about your security, though, as any potential tech-savvy burglars won't be able to unlock anything with voice commands.

Author : Conor Allison

Source : https://www.wareable.com/smart-home/amazon-home-security-camera-details

Categorized in Science & Tech

Conventional wisdom indicates that Apple will be launching the iPhone 8 later this year, which marks the 10th anniversary of the iconic smartphone, and that the new model will likely feature some form of wireless charging technology. But beyond that, opinions are divided as to what exactly users can expect from the tech giant.

Rumors are circulating about the possibility of a number of new features that could be included in the iPhone 8, including an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display, 3-D sensors as well as the elimination of the familiar home button. But analysts are saying that while Apple has likely already committed to its hardware design, the company has been experimenting with a variety of feature options.

AirFuel or Qi?

According to some reports, the company at one point had as many as 10 prototypes for the iPhone 8, representing various combinations of feature sets and designs. Apple has a reputation for working on multiple new technologies for its devices, even though not all of them ultimately come to fruition.

One particular area of speculation involves which wireless charging technology the company has chosen for the iPhone. The most likely possibility would involve the Qi charging standard. Apple already uses Qi wireless charging technology in its Apple Watch, and the company just recently joined the Wireless Power Consortium, an industry group of more than 200 companies that supports the standard.

But the company could choose to adopt the competing AirFuel specification instead. While Apple does not have the same relationship to AirFuel that it has with Qi, AirFuel does offer some advantages that could be attractive to iPhone users. Devices that use AirFuel can be charged a bit farther away from their charging bases than those that use the Qi standard, which requires physical contact between the iPhone and the charging pad.

Bye-bye Home Button, Hello Facial Recognition?

To make the situation even more confusing for Apple watchers, the company reportedly has as many as five teams developing different versions of wireless technology.

Besides wireless charging, the other feature most likely to be included in this year's iPhone is an OLED, high-definition display, possibly going from edge to edge or featuring curved edges. Analysts have been expecting Apple to make the switch to OLED displays for some time, as many of the company's competitors in the smartphone market have already done so.

The other potential change with regard to the front display is an integrated fingerprint sensor and home button. That would mean saying goodbye to the familiar iPhone home button whose functions would be incorporated into the larger display.

Apart from these changes, observers say that the company is unlikely to make any major design modifications to the iPhone 8. However, another rumor suggests that Apple will incorporate 3-D sensor technology in the phone's front facing camera, a feature that could potentially allow users to unlock their phones using facial recognition.

Author : Jef Cozza

Source : http://www.toptechnews.com/article/index.php?story_id=113006JNYZ54

Categorized in Science & Tech

What happens if a bad actor turns off your heat in the middle of winter, then demands $1,000 to turn it back on? Or even holds a small city’s power for ransom? Those kinds of attacks to personal, corporate, and infrastructure technology were among the top concerns for security experts from the SANS Institute, who spoke Wednesday during the RSA conference in San Francisco.

Some of these threats target consumers directly, but even the ones that target corporations could eventually “filter down” to consumers, though the effects might not be felt for some time.

The seven deadly attacks

Here are the seven most dangerous attack vectors, according to SANS, and what, if anything, you can do about them:

1. Ransomware: Ransomware surfaced more than 20 years ago, but it has since evolved into a seriously scary form of malware: crypto-ransomware, which encrypts your files and demands payment to unlock them. It’s an ideal way for bad guys to attack: Ransomware spreads like a virus, locks up your data independently, and forces you to contact the criminals for payment and recovery, according to Ed Skoudis, an instructor at the SANS Institute.

What you can do: Practice “network hygiene:” patching your system, using antimalware, and setting permissions and network-access controls to limit exposure—once a PC is infected, you don’t want the infection spreading to other PCs on the network. Remember that ransomware is being monitored by actual people, with whom you can negotiate: “Your best bet is to appear small and poor,” Skoudis said, to try to reduce the amount you’ll pay.

2. The Internet of Things. The next stage of the evolution in consumer products is connectedness: Everything from baby cameras to toothbrushes are using wireless protocols to connect to each other and the internet. That, in turn, has left them vulnerable to hacks. Worse still, IoT devices are now attack platforms, as the Mirai worm demonstrated.

What you can do: Change the default passwords. If your smart-home gadget doesn’t allow it, either return it or wait (or petition the manufacturer) for firmware that allows a custom password. You can also take further steps to insulate connected devices by disabling remote access, using a separate dedicated home LAN for IoT devices, as well as a dedicated cloud account for controlling them, Skoudis said.

3. The intersection of ransomware and IoT. Last year, an Austrian hotel was hacked, disrupting its keycard system. Such attacks could eventually migrate to your home, holding your smart thermostat hostage (and set at 40 degrees, say) until you pay up.

What you can do: Right now, this sort of attack is more theoretical than anything else. But it’s something to think about as you start building out your home: How much automation is too much? “You have to ask yourself, what is the right balance between man and machine?” said Michael Assante, director of industrials and infrastructure for SANS.

A summary of the 2015 attack on then Ukraine power stations, as provided by the SANS Institute.

4. Attacks against the industrial Internet of Things. In 2015 and again in 2016, unknown hackers took down power stations in the Ukraine, leveraging the growing trend of automated, distributed systems against the power company. Fortunately, first responders were quickly able to manually flip the breakers and restore power. But there’s no guarantee that will always be the case—and what happens if Pacific Gas & Electric or Con Edison’s infrastructure is hacked?

What you can do: As consumers, not much. Infrastructure organizations are going to have to decide whether to operate with intelligent systems, or shut them down. Scaling up with increased automation can help lower your power costs—but the penalty may be increased vulnerability to outside attacks, Assante warned.

A summary of the 2015 attack on Ukraine power stations, as provided by the SANS Institute.

5. Weak random number generators. Truly random numbers are the basis of good encryption, securing Wi-Fi and a broad range of security algorithms, according to Johannes Ulrich, the director of the SANS Internet Storm Center. But  “random” number generators aren’t truly random, which makes the encryption they’re based upon easier to crack. This gives an edge to criminals, who may exploit this and unlock “secure” encrypted connections.

What you can do: This is a problem for device manufacturers to solve. Just keep in mind that your “secure” network may in fact be weaker than you think.

6. An over-reliance on web services. More and more, apps and software are talking to and incorporating third-party services, such as Docker or Azure. But there’s no real certainty that those apps are connecting to the expected entity, or whether an attacker is stepping in, stealing data, and returning false information.

What you can do: Again, this is a problem for developers. But Ulrich warned that mobile apps are becoming increasingly vulnerable—so even if an app isn’t trying to steal your data, the “service” that it thinks it’s connecting to may be.

7. SoQL Attacks against NoSQL databases. This is another developer problem, but it could affect data collected about you. For years, SQL injections, where executable code was forced inside of a SQL database entry field, were one of the scourges of the internet. Now, as developers move away from SQL to NoSQL databases like MongoDB, they’re finding that those databases aren’t as secure as they should be. 

Author : Mark Hachman

Source : http://www.pcworld.com/article/3170201/security/what-happens-if-your-thermostat-is-hacked-researchers-name-the-top-7-security-threats.html

Categorized in Internet Privacy

You probably don’t want to admit it but you love distractions. In fact, just like monkeys, you get a shot of dopamine every time something pulls you in another direction. Why do you think you check your email so much?

Want to be more productive and get your focus back? There are no secret tricks here… do one thing at a time. Stop multitasking its just another form of distraction.

Easier said than done, I know.

Recently I sat down with Tony Wong, a project management blackbelt whose client list includes Toyota, Honda, and Disney, to name a few. He’s an expert in keeping people on task, so I thought he’d be a good person to ask.

Here are his tips for staying productive:

  • Work backwards from goals to milestones to tasks. Writing “launch company website” at the top of your to-do list is a sure way to make sure you never get it done. Break down the work into smaller and smaller chunks until you have specific tasks that can be accomplished in a few hours or less: Sketch a wireframe, outline an introduction for the homepage video, etc. That’s how you set goals and actually succeed in crossing them off your list.
  • Stop multi-tasking. No, seriously-;stop. Switching from task to task quickly does not work. In fact, changing tasks more than 10 times in a day makes you dumber than being stoned. When you’re stoned, your IQ drops by five points. When you multitask, it drops by an average of 10 points, 15 for men, five for women (yes, men are three times as bad at multitasking than women).
  • Be militant about eliminating distractions. Lock your door, put a sign up, turn off your phone, texts, email, and instant messaging. In fact, if you know you may sneak a peek at your email, set it to offline mode, or even turn off your Internet connection. Go to a quiet area and focus on completing one task.
  • Schedule your email. Pick two or three times during the day when you’re going to use your email. Checking your email constantly throughout the day creates a ton of noise and kills your productivity.
  • Use the phone. Email isn’t meant for conversations. Don’t reply more than twice to an email. Pick up the phone instead.
  • Work on your own agenda. Don’t let something else set your day. Most people go right to their emails and start freaking out. You will end up at inbox-zero, but accomplish nothing. After you wake up, drink water so you rehydrate, eat a good breakfast to replenish your glucose, then set prioritized goals for the rest of your day.
  • Work in 60 to 90 minute intervals. Your brain uses up more glucose than any other bodily activity. Typically you will have spent most of it after 60-90 minutes. (That’s why you feel so burned out after super long meetings.) So take a break: Get up, go for a walk, have a snack, do something completely different to recharge. And yes, that means you need an extra hour for breaks, not including lunch, so if you’re required to get eight hours of work done each day, plan to be there for 9.5-10 hours.

Author: Ilya Pozin
Source: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2DLdeK/www.inc.com/ilya-pozin/7-things-highly-productive-people-do.html/?_notoolbar&_nospa=true

Categorized in Science & Tech

As Google continues to invest in machine learning technology to help it better understand and parse user queries, columnist Eric Enge emphasizes the need for marketers to continuously improve content quality and user satisfaction.

Back in August, I posited the concept of a two-factor ranking model for SEO. The idea was to greatly simplify SEO for most publishers and to remind them that the finer points of SEO don’t matter if you don’t get the basics right. This concept leads to a basic ranking model that looks like this:

ranking score

To look at it a little differently, here is a way of assessing the importance of content quality:

chances of ranking

The reason that machine learning is important to this picture is that search engines are investing heavily in improving their understanding of language. Hummingbird was the first algorithm publicly announced by Google that focused largely on addressing an understanding of natural language, and RankBrain was the next such algorithm.

I believe that these investments are focused on goals such as these:

  1. Better understanding user intent
  2. Better evaluating content quality

We also know that Google (and other engines) are interested in leveraging user satisfaction/user engagement data as well. Though it’s less clear exactly what signals they will key in on, it seems likely that this is another place for machine learning to play a role.

Today, I’m going to explore the state of the state as it relates to content quality, and how I think machine learning is likely to drive the evolution of that.

Content quality improvement case studies

A large number of the sites that we see continue to under-invest in adding content to their pages. This is very common with e-commerce sites. Too many of them create their pages, add the products and product descriptions, and then think they are done. This is a mistake.

For example, adding unique user reviews specific to the products on the page is very effective. At Stone Temple, we worked on one site where adding user reviews led to a traffic increase of 45 percent on the pages included in the test.

We also did a test where we took existing text on category pages that had originally been crafted as “SEO text” and replaced it. The so-called SEO text was not written with users in mind and hence added little value to the page. We replaced the SEO text with a true mini-guide specific to the categories on which the content resided. We saw a gain of 68 percent to the traffic on those pages. We also had some control pages for which we made no changes, and traffic to those dropped 11 percent, so the net gain was just shy of 80 percent:

impact of new content

Note that our text was handcrafted and tuned with an explicit goal of adding value to the tested pages. So this wasn’t cheap or easy to implement, but it was still quite cost-effective, given that we did this on major category pages for the site.

These two examples show us that investing in improving content quality can offer significant benefits. Now let’s explore how machine learning may make this even more important.

Impact of machine learning

Let’s start by looking at our major ranking factors and see how machine learning might change them.

Content quality

Showing high-quality content in search results will remain critical to the search engines. Machine learning algorithms like RankBrain have improved their ability to understand human language. One example of this is the query that Gary Illyes shared with me: “can you get 100% score on Super Mario without walkthrough.”

Prior to RankBrain, the word “without” was ignored by the Google algorithm, causing it to return examples of walkthroughs, when what the user wanted was to be able to get a result telling them how to do it without a walkthrough. RankBrain was largely focused on long-tail search queries and represented a good step forward in understanding user intent for such queries.

But Google has a long way to go. For example, consider the following query:

why are down comforters the best

In this query, Google appears unclear on how the word “best” is being used. The query is not about the best down comforters, but instead is about why down comforters are better than other types of comforters.

Let’s take a look at another example:

coldest-day-in-us-history

See how the article identifies that the coldest day in US history occurred in Alaska, but then doesn’t actually provide the detailed answer in the Featured Snippet? The interesting thing here is that the article Google pulled the answer from actually does tell you both the date and the temperature of the coldest day in the US — Google just missed it.

These things are not that complicated, when you look at them one at a time, for Google to fix. The current limitations arise because of the complexity of language and the scale of machine learning required to fix it. The approach to fixing it requires building larger and larger sets of examples like the two I shared above, then using them to help train better machine learning-derived algorithms.

RankBrain was one major step forward for Google, but the work is ongoing. The company is making massive investments in taking their understanding of language forward in dramatic ways. The following excerpt, from USA Today, starts with a quote from Google’s senior program manager, Linne Ha, who runs the Pygmalion team of linguists at the company:

“We’re coming up with rules and exceptions to train the computer,” Ha says. “Why do we say ‘the president of the United States?’ And why do we not say ‘the president of the France?’ There are all sorts of inconsistencies within our language and within every language. For humans it seems obvious and natural, but for machines it’s actually quite difficult.”

The Pygmalion team at Google is the one that is focused on improving Google’s understanding of natural language. Some of the things that will improve at the same time are their understanding of:

  1. what pages on the web best match the user’s intent as implied by the query.
  2. how comprehensive a page is in addressing the user’s needs.

As they do that, their capabilities for measuring the quality of content and how well it addresses the user intent will grow, and this will therefore become a larger and larger ranking factor over time.

User engagement/satisfaction

As already noted, we know that search engines use various methods for measuring user engagement. They’ve already publicly revealed that they use CTR as a quality control factor, and many believe that they use it as a direct ranking factor. Regardless, it’s reasonable to expect that search engines will continue to seek out more useful ways to have user signals play a bigger role in search ranking.

There is a type of machine learning called “reinforcement learning” that may come into play here. What if you could try different sets of search results, see how they perform, and then use that as input to directly refine and improve the search results in an automated way? In other words, could you simply collect user engagement signals and use them to dynamically try different types of search results for queries, and then keep tweaking them until you find the best set of results?

But it turns out that this is a very hard problem to solve. Jeff Dean, who many consider one of the leaders of the machine learning efforts at Google, had this to say about measuring user engagement in a recent interview he did with Fortune:

An example of a messier reinforcement learning problem is perhaps trying to use it in what search results should I show. There’s a much broader set of search results I can show in response to different queries, and the reward signal is a little noisy. Like if a user looks at a search result and likes it or doesn’t like it, that’s not that obvious.

Nonetheless, I expect that this is a continuing area of investment by Google. And, if you think about it, user engagement and satisfaction has an important interaction with content quality. In fact, it helps us think about what content quality really represents: web pages that meet the needs of a significant portion of the people who land on them. This means several things:

  1. The product/service/information they are looking for is present on the page.
  2. They can find it with relative ease on the page.
  3. Supporting products/services/information they want can also be easily found on the page.
  4. The page/website gives them confidence that you’re a reputable source to interact with.
  5. The overall design offers an engaging experience.

As Google’s machine learning capabilities advance, they will get better at measuring the page quality itself, or various types of user engagement signals that show what users think about the page quality. This means that you will need to invest in creating pages that fit the criteria laid out in the five points above. If you do, it will give you an edge in your digital marketing strategies — and if you don’t, you’ll end up suffering a a result.

Summary

There are huge changes in the wind, and they’re going to dramatically impact your approach to digital marketing. Your basic priorities won’t change, as you’ll still need to:

  1. create high-quality content.
  2. measure and continuously improve user satisfaction with your site.
  3. establish authority with links.

The big question is, are you really doing enough of these things today? In my experience, most companies under-invest in the continuous improvement of content quality and improving user satisfaction. It’s time to start putting more focus on these things. As Google and other search engines get better at determining content quality, the winners and losers in the search results will begin to shift in dramatic ways.

Google’s focus is on providing better and better results, as this leads to more market share for them and thus higher levels of revenue. Best to get on board the content quality train now — before it leaves the station and leaves you behind

Author : Eric Enge

Source : http://searchengineland.com/machine-learning-impacts-need-quality-content-268059

Categorized in Science & Tech

Every start-up needs an idea. That’s a given. A few other table stakes for growing your business include drive, commitment, smarts and start-up funds.

At a minimum there are also basic technology needs such as a mobile device, a data plan, broadband Internet connectivity and an online presence of some kind. However, small business growth and success may require a few more technological upgrades.

That’s according to Trey Smith, president and CEO of OneStream Networks, a next-generation telecommunications company and consultancy that specializes in both domestic and international unified communications solutions for the enterprise using a cloud-based environment.

“It’s a great time to launch a business because of the incredible functionality and scale that Internet-based solutions and software provide to cost-conscious entrepreneurs at a fraction of the price from just a few years ago,” said Smith.

1. Laptop-based softphone software.

One option that Smith recommends for small-to-medium sized businesses that have more than one location, is software that’s loaded onto a laptop that works as a traditional phone, which is known as a softphone application.

He says this type of virtual solution replaces pricey, multi-line telephone units while providing the same functionality at low or no cost.

“This is a great way for growing organizations, which are already deploying laptops to employees, to also deploy the softphone application on those computers as well. This allows for fast scaling of the business with an elegant solution that combines both voice and data for employees.”

One popular softphone option is Zopier, which can be downloaded for free.

2. Automated call attendant.

While a mobile device or smart phone is a mandatory tool for success, Smith suggests using an automated call attendant to provide greater customer service if your start-up is growing but understaffed.

“When a mobile device is dialed it’s either answered or the call goes to voicemail. However, a busy business owner or entrepreneur may choose to answer calls with an auto attendant or interactive voice response software that automatically offers a variety of choices to the caller. This cost-effective option provides understaffed start-ups with efficient call flow handling as well as a perception of scale,” said Smith.

3. Toll-free dialing to your mobile phone.

He goes on to suggest that another relatively easy and inexpensive technology to implement is offering customers a toll-free number that connects directly to your mobile phone.

“New business owners rarely consider toll-free numbers that dial directly to their mobile device as an option. However, it’s a great way to create a positive first impression, while offering enhanced value and service to potential customers.”

4. Skype for Business.

For owners who prefer video conferencing, Smith says one of the best low-cost options is Skype for Business. It's basically the familiar Microsoft Skype app on steroids, on your desktop.

“Because Skype is a Microsoft product it's automatically integrated with the MS Office Suite as well as its Outlook email product. So when a meeting is set up via Skype for Business, recipients get a hyperlink that’s fully-enabled for voice, video and desktop sharing. It’s powerful, inexpensive and simple to use.”

Smith’s company works with organizations that range from start-ups to S&P 500 companies, and he acknowledges that while it’s good to know what tech solutions can scale a business it’s more important to know when to scale up.

“There’s no entrepreneurial handbook with a growth timetable. However, we’ve found that a reliable benchmark that suggests it’s time for a small business to think about ramping up its technology platform is if it has a minimum of five employees who have mobile devices, laptops or whom require Internet access. That’s a pretty good rule of thumb.”

Author: TOR CONSTANTINO
Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/254063

Categorized in Business Research

airs logo

Association of Internet Research Specialists is the world's leading community for the Internet Research Specialist and provide a Unified Platform that delivers, Education, Training and Certification for Online Research.

Get Exclusive Research Tips in Your Inbox

Receive Great tips via email, enter your email to Subscribe.

Follow Us on Social Media

Book Your Seat for Webinar GET FREE REGISTRATION FOR MEMBERS ONLY      Register Now