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Texting drivers are fully aware of the dangers

Texting_and_driving_contentfullwidth

A new survey suggests that the vast majority of drivers text while behind the wheel, despite being fully aware of the dangers involved.

The research indicates that 98 percent of motorists who own a mobile phone and text regularly are aware of the risks, yet 75 percent still admit to texting while driving.

Over a quarter of the drivers who sent messages while driving believed that they "can easily do several things at once, even while driving".

The survey is part of an anti-texting and driving campaign run by telecoms firm AT&T, which requested the views of 1,004 US phone owners who drive almost every day and text at least once a day. AT&T has also expanded the availability of its DriveMode app to iPhone users to help drivers act responsibly. The app silences text message alerts and is automatically activated when a person is moving 15 miles per hour or faster.

A number of other reasons for texting on the move were given, including wanting to remain connected to friends or simply using the phone out of habit.

David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, helped to design the survey and said that it showed a discrepancy between people's attitudes and behaviors.

He has referred to smartphones as "the world's smartest slot machines," because they can have a similar effect on the brain as gambling or drug use. Levels of dopamine, a chemical released by the brain associated with pleasure, can increase as a user anticipates a message, heightening the distraction.

Greenfield suggested that people should not use their phones at all whilst driving, and added that public education and stronger laws against texting and driving need to be implemented in order to change people's behavior.

Image Credit: Paul Oka

Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.

Opera Mini 9 for iPad and iPhone reveals Video Boost mode, designed to reduce stutter and bandwidth usage

opera mini

Norwegian browser developer Opera has unveiled Opera Mini 9.0, a major new version of its speed-optimized browser for iPhone and iPad.

Version 9’s headline new feature is 'Video Boost', a tool Opera says that allows users to watch videos on their mobile without eating so excessively into their data plan.

The new feature is part of the Rocket Optimizer technology that Opera acquired when it purchased video- and data-compression tech firm Skyfire. It works -- like most of Opera Mini’s data-saving features -- by recompressing the video into a more compact form to help prevent buffering, stalling and to minimize bandwidth usage.

Video Boost only works in Opera Turbo mode -- users can switch to this mode by tapping the Opera button. Tap the current mode (Opera Mini, Opera Turbo or Off), then switch compression settings to Opera Turbo if necessary and then flick the 'Video Boost' switch to On.

One major drawback with Video Boost is that the compression technology won’t work with encrypted web pages, meaning accessing key websites like YouTube won’t result in any bandwidth savings or performance improvement at all.

Other new features in Opera mini 9.0 include the ability to add and edit Speed Dials -- simply tap the + button on the main Speed Dial screen to search for a site, select a recently viewed page or enter a web address. To edit or remove a Speed Dial, tap and hold on it, then drag it over the appropriate option that pops up.

The new build also comes with a redesigned Data Savings view and is optimized for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 screens.

Opera Mini 9.0 is available now as a free download for iPads and iPhones running iOS 7 or later.

Avast Internet Security 2015 [Review]

Avast 2015

Avast is famed for its free antivirus, which the company claims "offers the most-trusted security in the world", protecting "more than 220 million people, businesses and mobile devices".

If you need more power, the commercial Avast Internet Security 2015 extends the package with a firewall, spam filter, secure browser, antiphishing tool, sandbox and a software update checker.

This new release further improves your security by blocking "potentially unwanted programs", like browser toolbars and similar adware. A new "Home Network Security" tool scans your network for security issues, while the "Smart Scan" provides a quick and easy way to check your system for vulnerabilities.

Installing the program proved simple and straightforward. There were no demands to remove "incompatible software" beforehand (even though our test PC was already equipped with Norton Internet Security), and no need to reboot afterwards: the suite just installed and displayed its main console, a helpful "tutorial" pointing out a few new features.

The Avast interface has seen some tweaks, but remains easy enough to use. An Overview tab provides one-click access to scanning and other common tasks (each of these buttons can be customized with your choice of function), while menus give more in-depth access to the suite’s features.

It’s a comfortable working environment, then, and even Avast newbies will soon be ready to explore what the package has to offer.

Antivirus

Avast Internet Security 2015 offers many scanning options. You can run a quick scan, check your full system, removable media, schedule a boot scan, or right-click anything of interest in Explorer and choose the "Avast…" option to check for threats.

There are separate scans to check for missing software patches, and (new this time) network security issues. The Overview screen now opens with a Smart Scan option, too, which runs all these checks at once.

The Smart Scan doesn’t take quite as long as you’d think -- under two minutes on our test PC -- but, annoyingly, by default it runs a "GrimeFighter" check for junk files. Avast’s GrimeFighter isn’t even included with the product, so this is no more than an advert, which tells you about any "problems" and then requires that you pay more cash to solve them. That’s not something we expect to see in a commercial program, but at least it can be turned off in a few seconds (Settings > General > Smart Scan).

avastMore thorough antivirus scans achieved average speeds only, and the program won’t back off if you’re doing something else. Still, it didn’t make a significant difference to our PC performance when running other tasks.

The suite had no problem locating and removing our malware samples, but the independent testing labs aren’t so encouraging, with AV-Comparatives and AV-Test typically placing Avast around the middle/ lower middle of their results tables.

There are no big, obvious problems here, and Avast Internet Security 2015 does offer some worthwhile improvements: TSL/SSL scanning worked well for us (although others have reported problems), and support for hardware-based virtualization better isolates processes in their own virtual machine. But its overall results still don’t stand out in any major way.

Internet protection

Avast’s web protection starts with your search engine results, where icons are used to warn you of some dangerous sites. You probably won’t see these too often, but it’s a simple and reasonably effective system.

If you’ve clicked on a link already -- in a web page, an email, maybe a document -- then Avast’s Web Shield checks it for you. This blocked around two thirds of our test URLs, a reasonable score, but the highlight here is probably Avast’s configurability. You can scan particular files only, ignore certain MIME types, define packers to extract, block named URLs all the time, and choose what to do if a virus is found: it’s extremely flexible.

Avast’s SafeZone offers a secure environment where you can bank online, make web payments and more, all safely isolated from the rest of your system. We had huge problems with this in the 2014 edition -- it crashed our test PC, repeatedly -- but this time there were no issues at all. Banking sites correctly opened in SafeZone; it’s available on demand for everything else, and our SafeZone activities were entirely invisible to keyloggers and other system tools.

Avast’s firewall was another major plus, intelligently blocking network attacks and correctly controlling web access, without any annoying alerts. As with most other suite components, it’s exceptionally configurable, too.

One problem remained from last year: Usenet reader Grabit was unable to run searches unless Avast’s shields were disabled. Most people won’t care about that example -- its obscurity is why we use Grabit for testing in the first place -- but it’s still a little concerning that a legitimate program can be affected in this way, with no easy fix.

Fortunately our faith was restored with the excellent spam filter. This added a neat toolbar to our Outlook 2013 ribbon, then blocked an impressive 91 percent of our test junk mails, no tweaking required. Even better, it falsely flagged just two legitimate emails, and both of those were from commercial mailing lists: not ideal, but we can see why they were flagged, and whitelisting these would mean they’d never be blocked again.

New and bonus features

One major addition to Avast 2015 (the full range, including Free) is Home Network Security (HNS), an interesting module which scans your network and reports on potential problems: unencrypted Wi-Fi, default router passwords, DNS hijacking, maybe your router being accessible from the internet.

We tried it on a test system, and after a 70 second wait, HNS wisely pointed out that Admin/ Admin really wasn’t a good user name and password choice. This was all clearly explained in a detailed Help page, complete with instructions on how to change the password in several router types (Asus, D-Link, Huawei, Linksys/ Cisco, NETGEAR, Sagem, TP-LINK, ZyXEL). It can even open a browser page at your router IP address with a click.

SecureDNS, another new addition to Avast’s commercial products, encrypts DNS traffic to and from Avast’s DNS server to avoid DNS hijacking. This seems to work as described and in principle is worth having, but we didn’t test it in any significant way.

The supposedly "improved" Browser Cleanup tool isn’t quite so sophisticated, essentially just highlighting browser addons which have a "poor reputation" and removing some of all of them with a click. While this seems a reasonable idea, the ratings don’t mean very much, with entirely safe and legitimate addons like Avira SafeSearch being flagged as problematic (its actual user rating at the Chrome store is 4.5). Still, it has some value as a central point to view your browser addons.

The improved Software Updater was more impressive, quickly highlighting missing software updates in many key applications: Flash, Java, browsers, Adobe Reader, media players and more. You can have all of these updated at once, or just choose the most important, and there’s an option to ignore particular programs if you’d rather manage them yourself.

Even better, the updates run silently where possible, and so for the most part you won’t see any installation prompts: the latest versions just appear.

Elsewhere, a capable sandbox is on hand to run suspect programs in their own isolated environment.

And if you still somehow get infected, Avast Internet Security 2015′s Rescue Disk tool builds a bootable Windows PE-based recovery environment on disc, USB key or as an ISO image. It’s very simple -- no other recovery software, just antivirus only -- but was easy to use and worked precisely as expected in our tests.

Verdict

From the firewall to the spam filter, the sandbox to the new network scanner, there's a lot to like about Avast Internet Security 2015. Experts will appreciate its extreme configurability, too. But Avast's distinctly average protection scores from labs including AV-Comparatives and AV-Test are a significant concern, and this core antivirus issue makes the suite hard to recommend.

We Like

Smart firewall, accurate spam filter, SafeZone protects your privacy, handy new network scanner, highly configurable, some detailed Help pages

We Don't Like

Unimpressive detection results with independent testing labs, can interfere with some legitimate applications, some tools require extra spending to be useful

Overview

Manufacturer: Avast
Price (RRP): $49.99
Best Price: $24.99
Platforms: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, all 32 and 64-bit editions
Requirements: 1GB free hard drive space

Apple releases first iOS 8.1.1 beta to developers with bug fixes

Following the release of OS X 10.10.1 Yosemite beta, Apple on Monday issued the first developer beta for iOS 8.1.1 , the upcoming point release for the company's mobile operating system.

Mobile devices make sales work more complicated

mobile phone raincloud

We're frequently being told that the use of mobile devices makes our work lives easier, but it seems that a sizable percentage of people don't share that view.

Mobile sales solution company Seismic has released the results of its Salesforce Spotlight survey showing the complex relationship between business users and mobile technology.

The survey carried out amongst Dreamforce attendees reveals that Salesforce is still the main platform for handling sales data and that 57 percent of respondents use the package for more than two hours a day. When it comes to mobile access though, 21 percent said they had no plans to implement the Salesforce1 platform.

Of those who have already implemented Salesforce1, 66 percent say they access it via both smartphone and tablet. Those that use it on just one platform favor their smartphones, but more than 60 percent of respondents using both reached for their tablet more frequently than their smartphone for CRM, content management and presentation tasks.

Perhaps most interesting though is mobile's perceived impact on working lives. Whilst the previous survey in 2013 showed that seven percent of Dreamforce users thought mobile technology would complicate their work life, this year's findings show nearly 20 percent feel that mobile technology has made their work lives more complicated in the past year.

"While our survey findings validate the growing importance of mobile devices in the enterprise, it was surprising to find that users view mobile technology as a complication to their work lives," says Seismic CEO Doug Winter. "Cutting-edge mobile technologies should be simplifying marketing and sales processes, not complicating them. Organizations need to become more strategic and agile when implementing new software if they want to gain a competitive advantage".

The full report is available to download from the Seismic website.

Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock

How to get Android 5.0 Lollipop on your mobile device

Lollipop Forest

Google has officially announced Android 5.0 Lollipop alongside a brand spanking new range of Nexus devices including a phablet, tablet and set top box geared towards gaming.

Over the coming weeks the new OS will roll out to the Nexus 6 and 9 before landing on a raft of Android devices across various manufacturers including HTC, Sony, Samsung and many more. In order to be prepared for its arrival, here is a step-by-step guide to make sure it hits your device without a hitch.

1. Check your device is compatible

Not every Android device will be able to handle the new OS version and Google has already confirmed that the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 will get it in the coming weeks, as well as the Nexus 6 and 9. Other devices that are getting the update include:

  • Various Google Play Edition devices [possibly all of them]
  • HTC One M8 and One M7
  • Motorola Moto X, Moto G, Moto G 4G, Moto E, Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx and Droid Mini
  • Sony, Samsung and LG will all confirm which devices will get the update in the coming weeks

2. Backup your stuff

Even though this is a stable release it is always wise to make sure everything on your device is backed up. This can be done by using Google Drive or any other well-known cloud storage service.

3. Plug your phone into a power supply

To make sure the smartphone or tablet doesn’t power down during the update be sure to plug it into the wall or a USB port on your computer.

4. Download the update

Navigate to Settings > About Phone or About Tablet > Software Update > Check for Updates. If Android 5.0 Lollipop is available and your smartphone or tablet has a Wi-Fi connection it will begin the download right away. It’s then just a matter of waiting for Android to do its thing.

After those easy steps you should have the newest version of Android on your phone and it’ll be time to enjoy all the new features that Google has worked hard to implement.

Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.

UK phone booths become free solar-powered mobile phone chargers

UK phone boxes become free solar-powered mobile phone chargers

The red telephone booth is one of the most enduring icons of the UK; but as delightful as their housings may be, the humble payphone has had its day. Coin and card-fed phones are on the verge of being consigned to the history books, while the mobile phone goes from strength to strength. But mobile phones, for all their strength in portability, coverage, and flexibility, have their kryptonite: battery life. In keeping with the environmentally-friendly preference for recycling and reusing rather than trashing, unused phone boxes are being given a new lease on life.

Should you find yourself wandering down London's Tottenham Court Road and notice that your battery is getting a little low, there's a green solution popping up. Phone booths that would have otherwise be left to rack and ruin are being converted into solar-powered charging stations that can be used completely free of charge.

Within the newly-painted boxes -- now a lurid green -- are a series of adaptors to suit a variety of different phones. If your handset needs a boost, just wander in, plug in, and charge up. Few people would be foolish enough to walk away from their phone while they charge, so the company behind the venture, Solarbox, has something of a captive audience to whom to show adverts on a vandal-proof tablet. Advertising comes from the likes of Tinder and Uber, but nearly a third of ad space is reserved for local community projects.

For now there is a single solar-powered phonebox, but more are planned. Five more are currently due to open, with number two expected to be unveiled in January.

Photo credit: Tupungato / Shutterstock

Facebook rolls out mobile Like button to iOS and Android app developers

Facebook rolls out mobile Like button to iOS and Android app developers

As any Facebook user knows, 'liking' content online has become almost second nature. Facebook has Likes, Google+ has +1s, and various other variations exist. But it is Facebook's Like button that reigns supreme -- regardless of the privacy concerns it may raise. Today Facebook is expanding its Like feature so that mobile app developers can take advantage of it. Not just content with giving web users the chance to indicate their approval of a particular Facebook post or online article, it is now possible to 'like' any piece of content within a supported app on iOS and Android.

It's a feature that is likely to be picked up very quickly by game developers, so you can expect to see notifications in the near future letting you know that your Facebook friends like level 118 of Candy Crush Saga. The feature was previewed earlier this year, but is now being made available to any developer who wants to use it. Facebook says:

People using a mobile app can directly Like the app's Facebook Page, or any Open Graph object within the app, and share on Facebook. The mobile Like Button works seamlessly with the Facebook account the person is logged into on their device, allowing people to Like any piece of content, while in your native app.

The news comes after Facebook apologized -- sort of -- to LGBT groups for its heavy-handed enforcement of a real name policy, and this is yet another move by the social network that will be met by disdain and rejoicing in just about equal measure. If the suggestion that players may 'like' individual' levels of games seems a little far-fetched, it is precisely what Facebook suggests as a possible use. Developers may, Facebook proposes, want to display a Like button when a certain stage of a game is reached -- essentially giving gamers a means of bragging about their progress.

It's unlikely that we'll see a sudden raft of Like buttons popping up in apps overnight. Facebook points out that developers "will have to submit your implementation for review via the Status and Review tab in the Dev Tool before the Like Button is live in your mobile app".

Photo credit: Happy Art / Shutterstock

AMD cosies up with Oracle over Hadoop

AMD cosies up with Oracle over Hadoop

AMD performed the first public demonstration of Apache Hadoop running on its Opteron A1100 development platform; these are 64-bit ARM Cortex-A57 processors that are targetting the highly lucrative datacentre market.

The event took place at Oracle's JavaOne conference in San Francisco and used bog standard Linux distribution from Fedora and OpenSuse. Oddly enough shares in AMD have fallen heavily since the announcement, by nearly 4%, valuing the company at less than $3 billion.

The demo was more of a showcase for AMD than it was for Oracle; Hadoop is already a popular framework for storage and large-scale data processing and the Austin-based chip vendor is keen to find other revenue streams outside its usual desktop/mobile CPU/GPU segments.

Java for ARM is currently in beta with general availability predicted for early next year. Oracle has also been working with some of AMD's own rivals including Applied Microsystesm - which provided HP with chips for its new Moonshot servers and Cavium.

Big advantage

AMD however has two big advantage compared to the rest of the aspiring ARM server partners. Its GPU could be used as application-specific accelerators and its Opteron brand is a known quantity and a trusted brand with OEMs.

Also worth noting, AMD and Oracle - together with Qualcomm, Imagination Technologies, ARM and a few others - are members of the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) group whose aim is to facilitate the management of different compute units.

However, other than the announcement, the other question that will be on everyeones lips is "Will Oracle buy AMD?"








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