IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
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AMD "Core Is Back" Teaser Video Hints at New CPU Announcement | Computer Hardware Reviews -

AMD "Core Is Back" Teaser Video Hints at New CPU Announcement | Computer Hardware Reviews - | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

AMD has recently posted a “Core is Back” teaser video over at their Facebook page, which hints to the fact that they may have a CPU announcement coming very soon. The teaser and video come directly from AMD’s official Facebook and YouTube pages so we are very interested to see what all this is about.

The above photo was posted on AMD’s official Facebook page with the following statement, “The war continues to rage and battles may be lost but heroes will evolve. #AMDEvolved”.

Then on AMD’s official YouTube page they have posted the above CGI video. The about section of the video says, “As you browse the web, play games, watch videos, and get work done — your PC is being tested. Applications fight for resources in order to be responsive and complete tasks. Processors battle these applications to control resources and maintain balance. Re-live the epic battle within your PC and watch hardware rise to the challenge as applications become more robust.”

We can only guess that this is the start of a viral marketing campaign for a new product. At first glace I thought this could be for a new CPU, such as a new FX processor, but the logo at the very end has the AMD A-Series logo on it which is meant for AMD’s APUs. This could mean that AMD would be releasing an updated Kaveri APU to bridge the gap until Carrizo launches next year. Time will only tell.

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The Best Microsoft Word Alternatives That Are Totally Free

The Best Microsoft Word Alternatives That Are Totally Free | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft's titan of a word processor is used almost everywhere by almost everyone, but what if you don't want to spend seven bucks a month? Here are our favorite alternatives to Word. They're all free, they're all capable of working with the ubiquitous .docx format, and they all offer some very useful features on top as well.

Microsoft does offer a stripped-down online version of Word free of charge with your OneDrive account, so if you're committed to Office that should be your first stop. If you're looking outside the blue box, though, here are five alternatives worth your time:

1. LibreOffice (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

If you're looking for a solid, dependable desktop tool in the mold of Word then LibreOffice is one of your best bets. Its Writer component is a more-than-capable replacement for Microsoft's program despite a slightly old-fashioned appearance, and it comes with all of the features you're going to need such as auto-save, change tracking and a commenting. Word users will feel at home right away, particularly if they're familiar with older versions of the Microsoft product.

The look of the software is fresh and clean, and the quick access toolbars make editing and formatting straightforward. Importing and exporting Word documents works fine—though it's not perfect all of the time—and there's also the option to export your documents as PDFs. All of the usual word processor mainstays, from spelling and grammar checks to header and footer support, can be found in LibreOffice.


There are some basic wizards you can play around with to create standard letters, agendas and so on, and the autocomplete feature is something a lot of users will find helpful. More complicated document layouts are handled with aplomb, or at least as well as they're handled in Word, while the only significant feature you might miss is the format painter functionality that's built into Microsoft Office.

LibreOffice split from OpenOffice four years ago, with the latter suite of products eventually taken over by the Apache Software Foundation. OpenOffice has got plenty going for it too, and is very similar in look and feel to LibreOffice thanks to their shared history; give OpenOffice Writer a whirl if LibreOffice doesn't grab you. A lot of the differences between the two packages are minor.

2. Google Drive (Web)

Google Drive/Docs is improving all the time, and Microsoft is feeling the heat, forced into releasing its own free-to-use Web-based suite of products. But Google's effort feels more intuitive and comfortable on the Web than Microsoft's app, perhaps as it's been built from the ground up as an online tool rather than an adaptation of existing software. Now that QuickOffice has been merged with Google Docs, opening and editing Word files is more seamless than ever before, and you shouldn't run into problems working with contacts who are using Word.


There are all the usual benefits of using a cloud app as well: access to your files from anywhere, no need to save your documents, and the ability to collaborate on work with other people in real-time. It's more lightweight in terms of features than the desktop edition of Word, so don't expect to be able to pull off advanced layouts or mail merges using the online app.

That lightweight approach has its advantages though: Drive's word processor is quick and simple to use, and some of its best features—such as the option to research topics on the Web in a separate sidebar—leave Microsoft's word processor feeling a bit out of date. For those who've grown up on the Web, Google's software feels much more natural, but power Word users will bump up against limitations.

3. AbiWord (Windows, Linux)

One of the very few word processors you can get hold of without an attached office suite, AbiWord might look like it was last updated in 2004 but it's got everything you're going to need from a desktop word processor. It recently added an online component called AbiCollab to make it easier to store documents on the Web and collaborate with other users.

AbiWord's list of features reads like a checklist for the definitive word processor program: spelling and grammar checking, headers and footers, table and column support, templates, footnotes and so on. All of the standard character and paragraph formatting options are here too so you can get your documents looking the way you want them too.


The application itself is compact and lightweight—worth considering on older, slower systems—and there are a pile of plug-ins available on the Web to enhance the software even further (by adding in auto-translation capabilities, for example). The ability to add annotations is one of the newer features added to the AbiWord code.

If you're after a capable and free word processor but don't want the hassle of a bundled office suite then AbiWord is ideal. It's perhaps not as slick and modern-looking as some of the other options, but it gets the job done with the minimum of fuss.

4. Zoho Docs (Web)

Zoho Docs may not be as well known as Google's online office suite, but it's actually far more comprehensive in some areas. As well as the word processor, you get finance, HR, and customer support tools, making it an all-in-one business solution you can run through a browser. Personal users are welcome too, and get 5GB of storage space for free.

The word processor itself has a clear and friendly interface, managed via a Word-style tabbed menu along the top of the screen—it feels more like a desktop program than Drive does. Unfortunately it doesn't have the extensive pile of Google Web Fonts offered by its competitor, but there's an adequate selection that will meet most people's needs.


You can import and export documents saved in the .docx format, while collaborating on documents and reviewing changes is intuitive and painless. If mail merge is an important feature for you then Zoho Docs can handle that too. Images, tables, symbols, shapes, links, YouTube clips and document metadata can all be neatly dropped into your text as required.

The integration with other Google products and its polished mobile apps make Google Drive a convenient choice for online word processing, but Zoho Docs has plenty to offer, particularly if you're running a small business and want access to a full suite of complementary tools. There's also a desktop sync tool available to install on Mac or Windows for getting your files into the cloud more easily.

5. Scribus (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

Scribus is officially a desktop publishing package but we're including it here as a free option for those who need a Word replacement for more advanced layouts: think posters, flyers, newsletters and the like. It does a decent job of packing in a lot of features without being too overwhelming, though it might take you some time to adapt from the standard Word workflow.

Once you get into the DTP mindset—as in, you need to create a text box before you start doing any typing—the strengths of Scribus soon become apparent. The application has no problems with tables, oddly shaped selection boxes and flowing text around objects, but you won't get some of the standard word processor features like the ability to create outlines and a table of contents.


As we've said, this is a Word alternative specifically for those looking to get creative with their layouts. You can use it as a standard word processor but you'll need to launch the Story Editor module to apply most of your formatting and paragraph style effects. If you don't mind this way of working then Scribus has a lot to offer wordsmiths.

Scribus was first released more than 10 years ago, so there's a wealth of features and expertise to fall back on. It can punch above its weight in terms of a direct comparison with Adobe InDesign or QuarkXpress too. While text can be imported from Microsoft Word, you can't export it back in the other direction, so it's not suitable for situations where you're sending documents back and forth between people.

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ASUS has the world's fastest WiFi router... for now

ASUS has the world's fastest WiFi router... for now | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Hey look, a new router from ASUS and, apparently, it is super, super fast. According to the Taiwanese company, its RT-AC87 is "the world's first" with Wave 2 features, which bring better reliability, major speed boosts and overall performance improvements to the 802.11ac generation of WiFi routers -- one that, by the way, has yet to break through to the mainstream. Thanks to this novel technology, ASUS' RT-AC87 can beam out 5 GHz signals with up to 1.73 Gbps speeds, making it a great option for someone who has a lot of different 802.11ac-equipped devices under a single roof. People that, you know, love watching stuff on Netflix, like to livestream games to the internet or just have too many connected things happening all at once. The RT-AC87 will be available "shortly" for $270, though it'll be limited to North America. For the time being, ASUS can enjoy having the speediest router in town, at least until D-Link, Netgear, Belkin and the rest of them show up to the party.

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Debunking Myths: Is Hiding Your Wireless SSID Really More Secure?

Debunking Myths: Is Hiding Your Wireless SSID Really More Secure? | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Seems like every guide to securing your wireless network tells you to keep your SSID from broadcasting to make your network more secure, but is that really worthwhile? Let’s take a look at one of the silliest myths out there.

This myth has been around for a very long time, and we aren’t expecting everybody to receive this news with happy agreement. You’re welcome to state your case in the comments for why hidden wireless networks are a great idea, but we think if you keep reading, you’ll realize that it’s just not a security feature.

If you’ve been a fan of How-To Geek for a long time, you might think you’re seeing this again. This article was originally written years ago, but we’ve updated it and are republishing for our newer readers.

Wireless SSIDs Were Never Designed to Be Hidden

Image by Chaotic Good01

It’s never a good sign when manufacturers create technologies that don’t follow the agreed-upon spec documents that ensure interoperability between vendors—it’s usually a way for them to make more money with vendor lock-in features that require you to buy their hardware.

In this particular case, the 802.11 wireless spec requires access points to broadcast their SSID, or at least it originally did according to Microsoft’s Steve Riley:

An SSID is a network name, not — I repeat, not — a password. A wireless network has an SSID to distinguish it from other wireless networks in the vicinity. The SSID was never designed to be hidden, and therefore won’t provide your network with any kind of protection if you try to hide it.

Obviously feature demand drives the specifications, so even though everybody eventually supported hidden SSIDs, the point is that there’s no extra protection from hiding your SSID. Read on.

Finding Hidden SSIDs Is a Trivial Task

It’s extremely easy to find the ID for a “hidden” network—all you have to do is use a utility like inSSIDer, NetStumbler, or Kismet to scan the network for a short while to show all of the current networks out there. It’s really that simple, and there’s plenty of other tools that do the same job — many of which are even free.

We’re not going to give you directions on how to find networks with hidden SSIDs, but it’s easy enough to find all sorts of hidden networks if you grab the right tools.

Real hackers are going to be using tools like Kismet and Aircrack to figure out the SSID before they crack your network, so whether or not a particular tool is showing the right data is beside the point.

Hidden Wireless Networks Are a Pain to Deal With

Now that you know how simple it really is for people to find your ID, wouldn’t you rather use the default networking configurations where you can easily select the network from a list? Why go through all the steps required to connect to a hidden network?

For instance, on your Windows 7 box, you’ll have to go to Network and Sharing Center –> Manage Wireless Networks –> Add –> Manually Create a network profile to get to the screen where you can start entering all the details for the hidden network. For a network that is broadcasting, all you have to do is click twice.

And that’s just Windows 7, which makes wireless networking easy—having to go through all the configuration screens on every single one of your devices is just ridiculous.

Hiding the Network Leads to Potential Connection Problems

This isn’t quite as much of a problem in modern versions of Windows, but back in the Windows XP days, there were quite a few connection problems when you were using a hidden SSID, not to mention getting disconnected and connecting to the wrong network. Basically, Windows would automatically try to connect to a less preferred network that was broadcasting instead of a preferred network with a hidden SSID—the only way around it was to disable automatic connection to the broadcasting one, which was annoying as well.

The same thing holds true with some other devices—I’ve seen problems with Android phones, and you can just do some quick Google searches to find loads of other issues that are all resolved by not using a hidden SSID.

There’s another problem with hiding your wireless network name: depending on the device, many devices won’t let you automatically connect to a hidden network, and if you have automatic connection enabled, you’re actually leaking your network name, as we’ll explore below.

Hidden Wireless SSIDs Actually Leak Your SSID Name

When you hide your wireless SSID on the router side of things, what actually happens behind the scenes is that your laptop or mobile device is going to start pinging over the air to try and find your router—no matter where you are. So you’re sitting there at the neighborhood coffee shop, and your laptop or iPhone is telling anybody with a network scanner that you’ve got a hidden network at your house or job.

Microsoft’s Technet explains exactly why hidden SSIDs are not a security feature, especially with older clients:

A non-broadcast network is not undetectable. Non-broadcast networks are advertised in the probe requests sent out by wireless clients and in the responses to the probe requests sent by wireless APs. Unlike broadcast networks, wireless clients running Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or Windows Server® 2003 with Service Pack 1 that are configured to connect to non-broadcast networks are constantly disclosing the SSID of those networks, even when those networks are not in range.

Therefore, using non-broadcast networks compromises the privacy of the wireless network configuration of a Windows XP or Windows Server 2003-based wireless client because it is periodically disclosing its set of preferred non-broadcast wireless networks.

The behavior is a little better in Windows 7 or Vista as long as you don’t have automatic connection enabled—the only way to be sure that you’re not leaking the network name is to disable automatic connection to wireless networks with a hidden SSID. Microsoft’s explanation:

The Connect even if the network is not broadcasting check box determines whether the wireless network broadcasts (cleared, the default value) or does not broadcast (selected) its SSID. When selected, Wireless Auto Configuration sends probe requests to discover if the non-broadcast network is in range.

How Should You Secure Your Network Then?

When it comes to wireless network security, there’s really only one rule that you need to follow: Use WPA2 encryption, and make sure that you are using a strong network key. If you’re on a wireless hotspot that isn’t your own, be sure to read our guide to keeping secure on a public wireless hotspot.

If you’re not using encryption, or you’re using the pathetic WEP encryption scheme, it doesn’t matter whether you hide your SSID, filter MAC addresses, or cover your head in tin foil—your network is wide open for hacking in a matter of minutes.

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Report: Apple's new iPhone 6 could have biggest initial production

Report: Apple's new iPhone 6 could have biggest initial production | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Apple is ordering a combined 70 to 80 million units of two big-screen versions of its next iPhone, its largest initial production to date, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The company is anticipating large demand for the so-called iPhone 6 as it will be available with screens measuring 4.7 and 5.5 inches diagonally, the report said, citing unnamed sources.

The 70 to 80 million units by Dec. 30 would be much more than the 50 to 60 million units last year for the iPhone 5S and 5C, which have 4-inch screens. The iPhone 4S has a 3.5-inch display.

Apple has asked component makers to get ready to turn out up to 120 million new iPhones by the end of the year to take into account a possible higher failure rate for displays, the report said.

Manufacturing the 5.5-inch screen could be tricky because of the complexity of integrating touch sensors into the LCD, it said, adding that using sapphire crystal instead of glass for the display would add to the difficulty.

The new screen size has been the subject of much speculation as displays have taken up more phone real estate in recent years.

Until 2011, 4 inches was the largest screen for most phones on the market, but it has become the minimum since 2013.

Apple rival Samsung posted an ad on YouTube on Monday that depicts an iPhone user with “screen envy” while ogling the Galaxy S5, which has a 5.1-inch screen.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

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Leaked ‘Windows 9’ screenshots offer a closer look at the new Start Menu

Leaked ‘Windows 9’ screenshots offer a closer look at the new Start Menu | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft provided an early look at its new Start Menu for a future version of Windows earlier this year, but freshly leaked screenshots are offering an even closer look at the company’s progress towards its major desktop revamp. Two screenshots have emerged on myce that show the new Start Menu in a recent build of codename "Threshold." Microsoft is currently working on a number of products as part of its Threshold efforts, including a version of Windows that will likely be named Windows 9 when it ships next year. Microsoft is currently labelling this development version of Windows as "Windows 8.1 Pro," but this is placeholder branding until the latter stages of testing and the final name is ready and confirmed.

Click for larger image

The new Start Menu hasn’t changed much since Microsoft demonstrated it at Build in April, but the screenshots show a variety of "Metro-style" apps that are pinned to the menu, alongside traditional applications. The Verge understands the screenshots are genuine, and that in some current development versions of "Windows 9" the Start Menu expands to maximize the screen and act like the Start Screen found in Windows 8. The second screenshot also shows how Microsoft is planning to make "Metro-style" apps run in the desktop as windowed or fullscreen. This is an essential part of Microsoft’s plans for the next version of Windows, to make it a lot more mouse and keyboard friendly with a significant focus on the desktop.

Microsoft is expected to ship Windows "Threshold" in early 2015, alongside improvements to the Xbox One operating system and a combined version of Windows Phone and Windows RT. The combination of Windows RT and Windows Phone will finally drop the desktop mode, and focus on "Metro-style" apps over traditional x86 desktop applications

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Nvidia Launches Shield Tablet

Nvidia Launches Shield Tablet | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Today, Nvidia is announcing the Shield tablet. While normally such launch announcements don’t require much in the way of exposition, Nvidia is in an odd place. Last year, the Shield portable and Tegra Note 7 were the primary mobile devices shipping with Tegra 4.  In hindsight, the Shield portable was a bit too niche to ever reach mass adoption. It was first and foremost a gaming device, with a display attached to a controller as opposed to a controller attached to a display. The result was that while it was surprisingly good for gaming, it wasn’t the best tablet. It really only worked in landscape mode, the display size was relatively small (5 inches diagonal), and using the touchscreen was an awkward experience.

The Tegra Note 7 was Nvidia’s attempt at competing in the mainstream tablet market. While the dual front facing speakers and stylus were good advantages over the Nexus 7, it wasn’t clearly better than the Nexus 7. The display was lower resolution, lower contrast, and not as well calibrated. The WiFi module only supported 2.4 GHz, and there was only a gigabyte of RAM. While it was possible to emulate a Shield-esque experience with the Note 7, there was no game streaming from PC to tablet due to the lack of 5 GHz WiFi, and the controllers on the market simply weren’t as good as the controller in Shield. In addition, because the Tegra Note 7 wasn’t directly controlled by Nvidia the experience in software update speed could vary.

From the lens of past experience, the Shield tablet makes a lot of sense. The specs are right for a good tablet, but it’s also a proper Shield device. As a tablet, it has all the right pieces. A high resolution display, Tegra K1 (Cortex A15 variant), dual front facing speakers and bass reflex ports, a new stylus, 5 GHz WiFi, and a 5MP front facing camera. I’ve put a table of the specs below for easier reading.

 Nvidia SHIELD TabletSoCTegra K1 (2.2 GHz 4x Cortex A15s)RAM/NAND2 GB DDR3L-1866, 16/32GB NAND + microSDDisplay8” 1920x1200 IPS LCDNetwork2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Nvidia Icera i500 UE Category 3/4 LTE)Dimensions221 x 126 x 9.2mm, 390 gramsCamera5MP rear camera, 1.4 µm pixels, 1/4" CMOS size. 5MP FFCBattery5197 mAh, 3.8V chemistry (19.75 Whr)OSAndroid 4.4.2Connectivity2x2 802.11a/b/g/n + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GLONASS, mini HDMI 1.4aSIM SizeNone or MicroSIM

In the stylus side, DirectStylus 2 is said to reduce the inking latency to half that of the implementation we saw in Tegra Note 7. In practice it seemed that the stylus latency was low and lines tracked closely to the stylus, but I’ll avoid final judgment until the review. Nvidia also claims that there are more levels of pressure sensitivity, but it’s not quite clear how many levels there are. Nvidia has also added handwriting recognition software, which worked relatively well in some casual testing. The Dabbler application also seems to provide a relatively realistic simulation of various physical mediums such as oil painting and watercolor, although it’s mostly targeted towards artists.

In addition to the stylus features, Nvidia is advertising 1080p Netflix support. Normally, due to the DRM restrictions associated with high bitrate streaming, most Android devices only support low resolution streams. Nvidia has done all of the necessary work to satisfy these DRM requirements, so it supports the highest bitrate available to mobile devices. Of course, this feature will be disabled with an unlocked bootloader, but it’s a good feature to have for mobile streaming.

Outside of tablet features, the gaming features seem to be quite compelling. The controllers themselves were comfortable, and were very similar to the Shield portable’s ergonomics. Nvidia is emphasizing that these controllers connect over WiFi direct, and the frequency selected depends upon the network that is used. The result is much lower latency, and Nvidia is also able to run a headset jack and microphone through the controller due to the higher bandwidth that WiFi provides. Up to four controllers can be paired to the Shield tablet for multiplayer games.

Due to the addition of 5 GHz 2x2 WiFi, Nvidia’s GameStream and GRID, which means that it’s possible to stream games from a PC within the same LAN to Shield tablet and play games by streaming from Nvidia servers to the tablet. Nvidia did note that only 720p is supported through WiFi, and an Ethernet connection is necessary to stream at 1080p due to latency reasons.

While both GameStream and GRID are largely similar in experience compared to the Shield portable, the Kepler GPU in the Tegra K1 enables a great deal of potential for gaming. Trine 2 will ship with the tablet, and is a direct port from the console game. Nvidia also showed off the improvements in games like Half Life 2 and Portal, which run full OpenGL rather than OpenGL ES as it did on Shield portable. Outside of feature set, Nvidia is claiming that the K1's GPU is far faster than the GPU in either the Exynos 5420 or Apple's A7 SoC.

In addition, Nvidia showed off a full version of War Thunder running on Shield tablet, and claimed that it will be able to play on multiplayer with PCs. This included both the tank and aircraft combat aspects of the game. Nvidia also showed that the Unreal Engine 4 demo from Google IO runs on the Shield tablet.

Finally, the Shield tablet will be the first Android tablet to support streaming to Twitch. By leveraging the built in front facing camera, it’s possible to stream both gameplay and webcam/commentary. In practice, I didn’t see any noticeable issues with this system, and it seemed to work as promised. The 1.4 micron pixel size seemed to make the quality relatively acceptable even indoors.

That was a lot to go over, but I think the key here will be the native gaming experience on Shield tablet. While it’s fully possible for Shield tablet to serve as a dedicated console with GameStream, the real use case will be whether it can provide a solid gaming experience using the SoC for rendering rather than as a video decoder for a PC somewhere else. With games like War Thunder and Trine 2, it seems that there is immense potential for a very compelling product. While Nvidia isn’t starting from nothing this time around, this ecosystem aspect is still a bit risky.

The Shield tablet will go on sale July 29th for the US, August 14th for Europe. The 16GB/WiFi variant will cost 299 USD, the 32GB/LTE variant will be 399 USD. The controller is priced at 59 USD, and the flip cover at 39 USD.

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Google experimenting with major redesign of Chrome OS

Google experimenting with major redesign of Chrome OS | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Google has made attempts in the past to unify the design of its various properties with varying degrees of success. Material Design, which is major part of the upcoming Android L release, may be its most coherent effort to date. The new look is expected to touch every corner of Google's catalog, and Chrome OS will be part of that revamp. A screen shot posted by Chromium evangelist François Beaufort on Google+ shows the very early fruits of Athena, an effort to "bring a new kind of user experience" to Mountain View's desktop OS. The image shows windows with minimal controls and decoration in a stacked card view, similar to the app switcher revealed as part of the next Android update. There's also what appears to be a launcher bar with a search field at the bottom of the screen. While the redesign is clearly in the very early stages, you can see the important elements of Material Design at work. Everything is flat and paper like, but exists in a three-dimensional space, complete with less-than-subtle drop shadows. You can compile a copy of Chromium OS yourself to give Athena a test run, but we'd hold out for a more complete version.

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Search engine exposes hackers' passwords to solicit donations

Search engine exposes hackers' passwords to solicit donations | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Some hackers are learning what it's like when the hunters become the hunted. A new search engine called Indexeus offers an easy way for ne'er-do-wells to look up login credentials from over a hundred hacks, including recent high-profile dumps of Adobe and Yahoo credentials. But there's a catch: most of the data indexed by the service comes from hacks of forums and websites popular with the underground hacker community. In other words, the search engine is marketing itself to the same people that it is exposing.

Also known as protection money

But that's all part of the business plan, reports Krebs on Security. The men behind Indexeus planned to offer protection services — pay the site a "donation" of $1 per record, and you can have your sensitive info removed (or "blacklisted") from the search engine. As a disclaimer on the site originally explained, "The purpose of Indexeus is not to provide private informations about someone [sic], but to protect them by creating awareness. Therefore we are not responsible for any misuse or malicious use of our content and service."

That certainly sounds like extortion. Nevertheless, the site's founder, identified by reporter Brian Krebs as 23-year-old Jason Relinquo of Portugal, has been compelled to change the site's policies to offer a free blacklisting option in order to comply with the EU's "Right to be Forgotten" ruling. It all seems a bit odd considering the data peddled by Indexeus is illegal in the first place, but it sure is an entertaining story. If you're looking to check out Indexeus, it appears high traffic loads have temporarily taken the search engine offline.

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Microsoft password research has fatal flaw

Microsoft password research has fatal flaw | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

I wrote yesterday about a report from Microsoft researchers, which goes against established password security best practices. The new guidance from the Microsoft researchers makes sense to me, because it fits how I handle password management already. However, at least one security expert feels that there is a fatal flaw that makes the new password advice impractical: You.

Almost every aspect of computer security and privacy seems to come back to that one fundamental issue. You—the user—are the weakest link in the security chain. No matter how effective a security process or tool has the potential to be, user error can undermine the whole thing and render the security useless.

In a nutshell, the Microsoft researchers assert that the default advice to use unique, complex passwords for every site and service you use doesn’t work. Users can’t remember that many complex passwords, so instead they opt to ignore the advice entirely and use the same often ridiculously simple password everywhere, increasing their exposure to risk and compromise. What the Microsoft researchers propose is that people group credentials based on their importance or access to sensitive data and feel free to re-use simple passwords for accounts that don’t really matter.

In this case, it’s not necessarily that the research is wrong. It’s just that the research is sadly too complex for the vast majority of users to implement effectively.

“The problem remains that many non-tech savvy people don't know [on] which sites to use their 'standard' password, and which sites to use their super-secure password,” commented one person on my Google+ page.

Tim Erlin, Tripwire’s director of IT security and risk strategy, agrees. “The conclusions and analysis of this research is fundamentally flawed because it relies on an assumption that users are capable of determining which accounts are ‘of value.’ This is clearly demonstrated by the tendency of many users sharing sensitive data on Facebook.”

Erlin explained that a user might reasonably conclude that an email account doesn’t contain “sensitive data,” and therefore doesn’t warrant a more secure password under the password management system proposed by the Microsoft researchers. However, an attacker with access to an email account can execute a password reset for other accounts like banks or financial institutions. Failing to use a strong password for a seemingly innocuous email account leaves you open to severe compromise—just ask Mat Honan.

As I stated at the top, the advice from the Microsoft researchers makes sense to me because it’s how I manage passwords already. It seems like every website requires me to register, and most of them I couldn’t care less about so I use the same, simple password for all of those. For my financial accounts, email, and social networks, though, I use much stronger, unique passwords—thereby limiting the volume of complex passwords I have to keep track of.

Put another way, the same naiveté and cavalier attitude that leads so many users to reject the established password security best practices will result in this new approach failing for them as well. Any solution that expects users to fully understand the risks, assign value to different accounts, and then follow through with thorough execution of the solution is set-up for failure.

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Recon's 'Google Glass' for sports gets a finalized design ahead of September launch

Recon's 'Google Glass' for sports gets a finalized design ahead of September launch | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

No, the Recon Jet still isn't out yet, but its manufacturer has a few bits of news to share. For starters, the sports-minded heads up display's brain box is now angled slightly upward, which supposedly improves the display's viewing angle and camera orientation. This tweak apparently boosts the HUD's ergonomics and makes it fit a bit better, too. The Jet is also now rated to IP65 standard, which means it'll be able to withstand dust and torrential rainstorms. Don't think that it'll work on your next swim, though, because submerging the unit is apparently out of the question. The outfit (thankfully) doesn't mention any changes to its September 25th release date, either, but it is spending the next month working on testing the Jet. Oh, and there's a protective case in the works too -- all the better to keep your $700 investment safe and sound. How protected to the Jet remains while it's on your face, however, well, that's up to you.

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In 20 Years, Most New Cars Won’t Have Steering Wheels or Pedals | Autopia | WIRED

In 20 Years, Most New Cars Won’t Have Steering Wheels or Pedals | Autopia | WIRED | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

By 2030, most new cars will be made without rearview mirrors, horns, or emergency brakes. By 2035, they won’t have steering wheels or acceleration and brake pedals. They won’t need any of these things because they will be driving themselves.

That’s the takeaway from a new study by the Institute of Electronics and Engineers (IEEE). It’s based on a survey of more than 200 experts who work in the various industries that are slowly pushing us toward a future where humans are so much worse than robots are at driving, it’s not worth letting us even touch a steering wheel.

Automakers have made huge strides toward producing conventional cars that can drive themselves in select situations. A few of those will likely be on the market by the end of the decade or soon after. It’s not actually a big jump from what we have today to that point. Combine current features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, pedestrian recognition, and parking assist, and you’ve got a car that controls itself.

We’re not quite there yet. Legislation needs to be passed to govern these cars. Insurance companies must to figure out how their policies will work when you can’t assign the blame for a crash to a human driver. The hardware—the radars, sensors, and cameras that connect the car and the outside world—still needs improvement. In the interim stage, when cars control themselves but humans can still tag in, the stakes won’t be so high.

Shedding the Steering Wheel

The shift to cars without steering wheels and pedals will be revolutionary. It’s one thing to get a driver to let go of the wheel on long highway drives or a boring commute. It’s quite another to put him in a car that he can never drive, even if he wants to.

The change is inevitable, says Alberto Broggi, a professor of computing engineering at the University of Parma and an IEEE fellow. Cars that don’t need human drivers anymore will shed parts made for human control. “There’s nothing you can do about that.” The change will free auto design from the rules that have constrained it for a century. (Only Google has publicly addressed the idea, with a prototype it plans to start testing on public roads this fall.)


Broggi says the 2035 date predictions are realistic, but “you need to be very sure that the car is able to handle any scenario” before you give it full control. That will require a whole lot of testing and validation.

One question the IEEE survey raises but doesn’t answer: What happens to automakers when people don’t drive their cars anymore? Broggi says they can move away from working on the most powerful or best handling cars, and instead strive to deliver the most capable autonomous vehicle. Instead of advertising horsepower, they’ll yammer on about how many crazy situations their four-wheeled robot can handle safely. Marketing departments will trade in gimmicks like hauling around a space shuttle for ways of showing what a driverless car get itself through. We’ve got a few ideas for challenges: Viking attack. Airplane landing on the highway. Sinkhole in your lane. Show us a Ford or Hyundai that can handle those, and we’re in.

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China's Internet adoption sags to levels not seen since in 8 years

China's Internet adoption sags to levels not seen since in 8 years | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

China’s rush to the Internet is slowing, with the country adding only 14.4 million new Internet users in the first half of 2014, the lowest half-year growth in eight years.

There were 632 million Internet users in China in June, according to the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

Although China has long reigned as the country with the world’s largest Internet population, the services are still struggling to take off in the rural areas, where about 450 million people never go online, said the CNNIC in its bi-annual report.

Total Internet penetration in China is at 46.9 percent. This is far lower than the U.S, which has a penetration rate of 87 percent, according to Internet World Stats.

Many of these non-Internet users in China have low education levels, and have little need to surf the Web, the research group added. To increase adoption, the CNNIC recommended that the country focus on teaching rural elementary students Internet skills.

The slowing growth in Internet usage in China follows a rapid rise in the Internet population there, from just 94 million over a decade ago. Most of the growth has taken place in the country’s urban areas, where the Internet market has begun to mature.

In June, China had 527 million users who went online with mobile phones, which have now overtaken PCs, including both notebooks and desktops, as the most popular way to reach the Internet, the CNNIC said.

Online messaging, search engines, and news are the country’s top Internet services. But social networking sites are facing a decline in popularity, with their user numbers falling by 7.4 percent to 257 million in the last six months. The sites are struggling to innovate, and meet the demands of users, CNNIC said in its report.

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Apple reportedly releasing OS X Yosemite in October alongside 4K desktop and 12-inch Retina MacBook

Apple reportedly releasing OS X Yosemite in October alongside 4K desktop and 12-inch Retina MacBook | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Well, this is a timely rumor: Today is the day Apple opens up OS X Yosemite for public beta-testing, and now we're hearing the final version of the OS will come out in late October. The report comes from Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac, who has a strong track record when it comes to Apple rumors, and he claims that in addition to OS X, Apple will release a 12-inch Retina display MacBook, and either an iMac or a standalone monitor with a 4K screen. Obviously, Apple could do a 180 and release the same old computers with minor spec bumps, but if you ask us, everything Gurman is reporting seems plausible. First of all, Apple already promised it would release a final version of OS X sometime in the fall, and surely it plans to do that before the holiday shopping season starts up in November.

Secondly, a Retina display MacBook Air has been rumored for ages now, and the way the laptop market is going, it seems Apple is going to have to release a Retina-grade Ultrabook sooner or later; it's already getting tough for us reviewers to make excuses for the Air's 1,440 x 900 screen when you can easily find Windows machines with 2,560 x 1,440 or 3,200 x 1,800 screens. As for the 4K all-in-one? That seems inevitable too, though we've admittedly heard less scuttlebutt about that one.

Both computers are expected to be available in late Q3 or early Q4, according to the report, but constraints having to do with Intel chipsets -- among other possible delays -- could push the on-sale date to early 2015. If Gurman is correct, we'll find out more at a fall media event -- again, very typical of Apple. The one thing we're not sure of? Whether the mythical iWatch will be there, as Gurman says. Because we've been hearing about that thing forever now. We'll believe that one when we see it.

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Facebook Is Now Worth $190 Billion | TechCrunch

Facebook Is Now Worth $190 Billion | TechCrunch | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Facebook is worth more than Amazon. Following yesterday’s earnings report, Facebook shares hit an all-time high in after-hours trading at $75. Price has been very stable this morning as well, confirming yesterday’s pop. Shares opened at $75.96 a share, then set a new record at $76.74. Now, shares are trading at $75.13.

In other words, Facebook’s market capitalization is now around $190 billion, above Amazon’s market capitalization of $165 billion.

With $2.91 billion in revenue and earnings of $0.42 per share, the company beat the analysts’ expectations. When you see Facebook’s earnings chart, it seems like there is no end in sight. Facebook is a great example of a tech company that has performed very well since going public.

It could have bigger consequences on the stock market. Investors could become bullish on other tech stocks due to Facebook’s good performance.

Facebook is a much different company than it was when it went public in May 2012. At the time, most of its users were browsing the social network on their laptops, and the company’s ad offering wasn’t as effective as it could be. Now, most users go to Facebook on their phones, and the mobile ads are performing very well.

But if you look back even further, nobody would have thought five years ago that Facebook would be worth more than Amazon, around half of Google and Microsoft. One last number, Facebook is now worth more than eight times Twitter.

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Microsoft will merge separate versions of Windows into one unified operating system

Microsoft will merge separate versions of Windows into one unified operating system | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has confirmed that his company will amalgamate all major versions of Windows into one operating system. Speaking on the company's quarterly earnings call today, Nadella told analysts Microsoft will "streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system." Describing the implications of the change, Nadella said "this means one operating system that covers all screen sizes."

Previously, under the management of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft had multiple teams producing different versions of Windows working separately from each other. "Now," Nadella said, "we have one team with a common architecture." The Microsoft boss didn't clarify exactly how Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox will be unified, but noted the benefit for users and developers — while Microsoft will still sell different editions of Windows, the new unified platform will allow the creation of universal Windows apps that work across all devices running the OS.

"Now we have one team with a common architecture."

Microsoft has been pushing toward a greater unification of its platforms in recent months: in April, the company showed off developer tools that would enable the creation of such universal apps. The company's merging of its operating systems is a step away from its main rival — Apple keeps Mac OS and iOS separate — but the ability to make apps that work on PCs, laptops, tablets, Windows Phones, and Xbox consoles right out of the gate should see the change welcomed by developers.

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Apple Opens OS X Yosemite Beta to the Public, Sign Up Now

Apple Opens OS X Yosemite Beta to the Public, Sign Up Now | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

OS X Yosemite, the upcoming version of Apple's operating system, won't launch until the fall, but if you're interested in trying out its new features now, you can sign up for Apple's public beta today. The beta was previously limited to developers and dev accounts, but now it's open to the first million users who opt in.

All the New Stuff in OS X 10.10 "Yosemite"

Apple took the wraps off of OS X at the WorldWide Developer's Conference today, dubbed…Read more

We've broken down the reasons why you might (or might not) want to install the Yosemite or iOS 8 betas on your gear right now, and our verdict on Yosemite was to wait until the public beta. Well, the public beta is here, and if you do opt in, make sure you do it the right way—as in, don't install over your primary partition and don't install on your day-to-day workhorse. Even Apple is quick to say the operating system isn't finished yet and they still have plenty of quirks to work out—but they're happy to show off what they do have to the public to get their feedback.

Should I Install the iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite Betas?

Dear Lifehacker, I'm not a developer or anything, but I'm really excited about the new…Read more

You can sign up for the public beta at the link below. It's limited to the first million people who sign up, so if you're thinking about it, hop in now. `

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The New Dragon NaturallySpeaking Can Do Almost Anything Your Mouse Can

The New Dragon NaturallySpeaking Can Do Almost Anything Your Mouse Can | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Today Nuance is releasing version 13 of its Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-dictation software. More than just an automated memo-writer, Nuance hopes to make the software into a voice-control-everything feature for PC users. And it comes damn close to pulling it off.

NaturallySpeaking 13 (naturally) adds some incremental voice recognition improvements. According to the folks at Nuance, Version 13 understands users more accurately than Version 12 with the voice training. Beyond that Version 13 expands on the reach of the voice commands. Previously you could speak some rudimentary browser controls but now, you can format text, click links, scroll through pages, select text or photos, and post to sites like Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress essentially without touching a mouse or keyboard.

Obviously the tech still has its flaws though. When Dragon's Technical Product Manager David Popovitch demoed the new software for me via webcast, I asked him to voice-dictate and send an email to me on the spot. This is a decidedly dirty trick when you've got a last name like Sorokanich, and an email address at Gizmodo. Neither of those words appear in any artificially-intelligent dictionaries I know of.

"Gizmodo" befuddled the software at first:

David's first attempt to spell it manually didn't go much better:

But it took just a few steps, all summoned by voice, to get Gizmodo added to the NaturallySpeaking dictionary. A few moments later, David sent this email to my inbox, without ever putting a finger to his keyboard or mouse:

Dragon 13 is the first to allow voice dictation through the built-in microphones on many laptops, though during our demo David used a small external desktop mic. Like previous versions, the mic is triggered with the voice commands "wake up" or "go to sleep," or by clicking or hitting a keyboard combination, so you don't end up inadvertently transcribing your phone calls.

Dragon 13 also includes a feature where, if you give it permission to do so, the software will crawl through your "sent email" folder to learn contacts' names and addresses and the specific words and phrases you use most frequently. The software can also look at files and folders stored both locally and on Google Drive for similar custom-tailoring purposes—again, only after you've given it permission to do so.

Dragon 13 seems very quick and responsive, whether it's transcribing text delivered at a normal conversational pace, clicking links on a page, composing or sending emails, or posting updates to Facebook or WordPress. Highlighting, rearranging, and formatting text all went smoothly, and navigating the web in particular impressed me: in the time it took me to register which link David was asking his computer to click on, it had already opened the next page.

English-language Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium is available starting today for $200 (with special upgrade pricing for current registered NaturallySpeaking users). The light-duty $100 Home version, as well as versions supporting other languages, will be available later this year. The software is PC-only for the time being, and while it's not 100 percent goof-proof, it could very well lead to a lot less wear and tear on your keyboard and mouse.

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How Apple and Google plan to reinvent healthcare

How Apple and Google plan to reinvent healthcare | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Mike Dittenber had always wanted to go skydiving. There was only one problem: “At my heaviest I clocked in around 330 pounds,” says Dittenber, a technical writer from Michigan. “That’s above the weight restriction for a tandem jump.” During a doctor’s visit last spring, he got some more bad news. “I had delayed getting a physical for a while, but eventually I had to. Turned out I was borderline diabetic and right on the cusp of hypertension.” His doctor warned him that if he didn’t get his weight under control quickly he would need to begin taking medication. “It was a wake-up call.”

Dittenber had previously tried Weight Watchers, which worked for a time, but didn’t last for long. This time he decided to take matters into his own hands with MyFitnessPal, a mobile app that helps users track their calorie intake and exercise. The app became a gateway to a universe of digital health products. “I ended up buying a Fitbit, because that pairs with MyFitnessPal,” he says. “Turns out I don’t hate running. I don’t love it, but I can take it.” He added the Runkeeper app to log his distance and purchased a Garmin Forerunner 220 to help him maintain the right pace. Since he began using the tracking his health data in June of 2013, Dittenber has lost 110 pounds.

Using a smartphone as the central hub for tracking, analyzing, and motivating exercise has become a phenomenon. MyFitnessPal, which now claims over 65 million registered users, is one of the most popular digital health apps. But its success is part of a much broader trend. Venture funding for startups in the sector reaching $2.3 billion in the first half of 2014, more than was invested in all of 2013. More importantly, three of the biggest players in tech — Apple, Google, and Samsung — have all throw their weight behind platform plays aiming to aggregate and simplify the universe of devices and apps available to consumers.

“We could be at a real tipping point,” says Harry Wang, an analyst who leads health and mobile research for Park Associates. “Fitness devices and apps have been a fast-growing but still relatively niche market. These new ecosystems, if they gain traction, could finally push the industry into the mainstream.” Success isn’t guaranteed, but Wang says it makes sense for the fragmented digital health industry to rally behind powerful companies. Apple's Healthkit and Google Fit can help reach a broader audience and forge partnerships with the traditional health care industry that would be hard for startups to accomplish alone. “It would be a transformation, with a lot of big winners, and losers as well.”

Mike Dittenber, before and after using MyFitnessPal.

Hardware gets the squeeze

For many years the digital health industry has been driven by wearable devices like the Fitbit, Nike’s Fuelband, and Jawbone’s Up. But if the titans of the smartphone industry succeed in creating a dominant platform for health and fitness data, this business could be in trouble. "A lot of the basic functions we have seen in fitness wearables — tracking your steps, taking your heart rate — those functions will become basic features on a smartphone or smartwatch," says Wang.

Nike has bowed out of the fitness hardware game

Nike, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, has reportedly decided to stop producing hardware and focus on the software side of its fitness ecosystem. Lark, a startup that produced a fitness bracelet, decided to kill its hardware and focus on an app that integrates directly in Samsung’s new S Health platform. "We’ve realized that, in essence, the new smartphone with low-power sensors is the ultimate wearable," said Lark CEO Julie Hu.

"If I was making a fitness device that relied on little more than an accelerometer, I would be terrified right now," says Leonard MacEachern, a professor of electronic engineering who is creating his own fitness wearable, the Leo, which uses electromyography to analyze the activity of muscle fibers. Unless you have tech that goes beyond what Apple or Google can offer in a smartphone, says MacEachern, "you’ll be eaten alive."

"The state of the industry in 2012 and 2013 was these one-off wearable devices with data in silos," says Julie Ask, an analyst with Forrester who tracks the digital health industry. "That is changing rapidly." Just like Apple and Google, fitness-gadget manufacturers are trying to create their own ecosystems: both Jawbone and Fitbit have APIs to share data with dozens of different apps. Ask sees this as smart strategy, but believes dedicated fitness wearables will remain a niche product. "Platform plays at the level of the smartphone operating system are just simpler and more seamless."

Apps like MyFitnessPal are producing huge amounts of data every day. Click through the chart below to see the top 20 items its users list for each meal.

Software’s turn to shine

While some big hardware players may get squeezed by the rise of mainstream smartphone platforms for digital health, app developers stand to make huge gains. "Devices like Fitbit and Jawbone have been essential to driving the industry forward, but they never got above 2 or 3 percent penetration with the general population," says Malay Gandhi, a managing partner at the venture capital firm Rock Health. "With smartphones as the central device powering this ecosystem, software companies will suddenly have access to tens of millions of new customers."

Gandhi believes this change will broaden the demographics in the digital health market. "Right now most of the people using this stuff are early adopter types, techies who are into the quantified lifestyle, or younger people who want to optimize their athletic performance." With just your smartphone as the baseline, he sees a chance to get older and less tech savvy people involved. "Your average consumer isn’t going to learn about pairing a wristband or managing a dozen different apps. But he or she might use the software that comes standard on their iPhone."

For fitness apps, fostering community will be key

If the default platform for your fitness and health data becomes the smartphone that most everyone carries in their pocket, which apps will emerge as the big winners? "I think by and large what we find is that the services which perform best are the ones that create an engaged community," says Forrester’s Julie Ask. On Strava, for instance, users participate in a sort of King of the Hill game, trying to achieve the best times over a certain distance or on a certain route. "People get really obsessed with the competition. People have nearly died! But it also creates a really active group of users that keep each other coming back to the app again and again," says Ask.

For the app developers, Apple and Google hold the promise of a world where dozens of fitness apps talk to one another, offering a much more complete data set on their customers. "We’re trying to help you change your lifestyle and improve your health," says Mike Lee, the founder and CEO of MyFitnessPal. "The more data there is for us, the better picture we can get of people’s health, the more we can really improve on their nutrition." As it looks to fine-tune its personalized recommendations, the biggest change for MyFitnessPal would be not just having access to consumers recents runs or sleep data, but the entirety of their medical records as well.

An Apple a day

Back in 2008, Google launched Google Health, a project to help users unify and easily access the medical data stored about them in different places by different providers. Unfortunately the project didn’t catch on and Google shut Health down in January of 2013. Its new project, Google Fit, doesn’t try to integrate with the world of physicians and hospitals. "I think Larry and Sergey are wary of trying to crack this heavily regulated industry again," says Rock Health’s Gandhi. "Google’s play this time is focused on exercise and nutrition, it’s less ambitious."

Apple, by contrast, is ready to try its hand at the notoriously difficult challenge of collaborating with doctors and health care providers, and it has enlisted a powerful ally. At WWDC Apple announced its partnership with Epic, which now manages over 51 percent of the patient records in the United States. With a single deal Apple could begin absorbing health data on more than half of US patients. Their doctors, in turn, could begin to see what’s happening with their patients in between visits. "Many physicians would welcome the ability to click on a tab in Epic and be presented with a nice graph showing a patient’s blood pressure trends since their prior visit." writes Iltifat Husain, editor of iMedicalApps. "Currently, this data is haphazardly recorded by patients, and likewise, haphazardly interpreted by physicians to make key titrations in medication dosing."

The downside for doctors would be opening themselves up to potentially enormous amounts of data they would have to sift through and access for accuracy. "Validity and volume are the big challenges for physicians," says Gandhi. "They will wonder, ‘Do I really want to have all this information in my charts? Can I trust it? Will I get sued if it’s wrong, or if I miss something?" When it comes to winning the health care industry's trust, big names like Apple, Google, and Samsung have a leg up over startups, although it’s still an uphill battle.

Despite these potential pitfalls, Gandhi says he believes most doctors and hospitals will begin to utilize the wealth of data being collected by apps and mobile devices, in large part because the recent health care reforms incentivize it. "Medical providers stand to gain, financially, if their patients get sick less and visit less often. Key to accomplishing that is understanding what is going on with the patient in between visits."

Google Fit is the search giant's attempt to create a fitness ecosystem on its Android operating system

Into thin air

Earlier this month, Mike Dittenber traveled up to Traverse City, Michigan, where he boarded a small airplane and prepared for his first skydive. As it rose up above the clouds, he could feel his heart pumping. "When we jumped, we were above the cloud cover, so we kind of fell through that, and then emerged over the bay below." His partner opened the chute and they floated down to safety. "It was awesome."

Dittenber says in the year he’s been using MyFitnessPal several friends and family members have joined, hoping to follow his lead. "We swap recipes and send each other positive messages. The social aspect of the app is really useful for keeping yourself on track." He is excited for a world in which every smartphone user is able to easily tap into data about their health and fitness and share that information with their doctor. "When you can really know what you’re putting into your body, how much you’re exercising, not just taking a rough guess, it gives you a sense of control."

For investors in digital health, like Rock Health’s Gandhi, Dittenber’s experience is a signal that massive changes, and potential fortunes, are on the horizon. "Until we had a phone in everybody’s pocket with GPS, we didn’t know we needed Uber, or how big a business that could be," he says. "Once most people are walking around with a device that tracks their heart rate and daily exercise, as we begin to ingest all that data, chances are we’re going to come up with some incredible new opportunities that nobody has even imagined yet."

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Airbus's Electric Airplane Prototype Is Eerily Silent in Flight

Airbus's Electric Airplane Prototype Is Eerily Silent in Flight | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Airbus just showed its battery-powered E-Fan 2.0 electric airplane to the public for the first time, at England's Farnborough International Airshow. Standing still, it looks like a normal if slightly odd-shaped tiny plane. In the air, though, it seems decidedly abnormal. Where's the noise?

The E-Fan 2.0 is the second generation of Airbus's experimental electric airplanes. Like its first-gen forebear, version 2.0 only carries two passengers. The 1,100 lb lightweight has two ducted-fan motors putting out a combined 60kW of power, with 120 lithium-polymer battery cells providing an hour of fly time (and 15 minutes of reserve, just in case). During takeoff, the plane's powered landing gear wheels accelerate it to 37 MPH before the fan engines kick in, to save energy and reduce noise.

Pocket-Lint caught video of the E-Fan 2.0 flying around the airshow, and not surprisingly, it's just about as silent as you can get. It's like watching a non-powered glider—one that can take off from a standstill.

The tiny two-passenger flyer is envisioned as a pilot-training airplane, and Airbus hopes to bring it to market in 2017. The company is also exploring hybrid airplanes, where fuel-burning engines would serve to charge the batteries that would power the electric motors, as Airbus's Dr. Jean Botti explains:

Building electric planes to carry airline passengers is a tall order, but with Europe demanding a 75 percent reduction in aircraft emissions by 2050, Airbus and others have major reasons to push this tech forward. Someday, we could be flying high in the silent skies.

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Samsung employees reportedly handed back $2.9 million to apologize for poor performance

Samsung employees reportedly handed back $2.9 million to apologize for poor performance | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Samsung's profits are dipping from their exceptional heights on the back of several extremely popular smartphones, and many of the company's employees are feeling the pressure. According to Reuters, close to 200 managers from Samsung's mobile division have returned a quarter of a recent bonus that they received in an effort to show that they accept responsibility for the company's waning performance and would work harder moving forward. Gestures like returning a bonus are reportedly not uncommon for those working corporate jobs in South Korea, particularly among public companies. The value of the returned bonuses is estimated at over 3 billion won ($2.92 million).

For its first quarter of 2014, Samsung reported a profit of 8.49 trillion won ($8.23 billion). Though it's a substantial figure, it's a dip from the 8.78 trillion won that it saw a year earlier, and that dip is expected to repeat itself for Samsung's quarter two. Last year, Q2 saw Samsung take in 9.53 trillion won (around $8.5 billion), and even that fell short of Wall Street's expectations for the formidable smartphone maker; for this year's second quarter, Samsung predicts that it'll see only 8.49 trillion won. That's all to say that smartphone growth is continuing to slow, as we've been seeing, and it sounds as though Samsung's managers have taken note.

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Why governments are scrambling to pass smartphone killswitch laws

Why governments are scrambling to pass smartphone killswitch laws | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

In less than a decade, smartphones have become an incredibly important part of peoples' lives. In the US alone, 166 million people now own them, according to a recent report by ComScore. And those devices aren't just used for making calls. More often they're used for texting, web browsing, going through email, and downloading apps, with Americans spending — on average — more than an hour a day with their eyes glued to tiny glowing screens.

All those things make them an increasingly worrisome target for theft. It's not just the hardware that's being stolen, it's potentially a chunk of your digital life too. That's why lawmakers in the US are trying (and in some cases succeeding) to pass bills requiring anti-theft features that protect consumer data while leaving thieves with a considerably less valuable piece of hardware.

The goal is to make stolen phones less valuable

The latest is a California bill that would require smartphone makers to include remote-wipe and -locking features, and it's getting closer to being signed into law. After initially being rejected by the California Senate, it has since passed and moved on to a floor vote in the state Assembly. After that, it heads to the governor, where it could be signed into law.

The bill, SB 962, was created by state Senator Mark Leno along with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who's been a staunch advocate of anti-theft measures for phones. Ahead of the bill, Gascón urged cellphone makers — including Apple and Samsung — to make stolen smartphones more of a headache for thieves, going so far as to hire security experts to try and bypass the built-in security measures to illustrate that smartphone makers weren't doing enough.

The reasoning is simple: smartphones make a very attractive target for thieves. They're small, expensive, and up until manufacturers began to put anti-theft measures in place, were still very useful with a simple factory reset. Last year, 3.1 million Americans had their phones stolen, according to an often-cited study from Consumer Reports, a figure that's more troubling given a far lesser 1.6 million thefts from the year before. And while smartphone theft brings up images of thieves robbing people at gunpoint, a survey conducted by IDG on behalf of mobile security Lookout in March suggests otherwise. Only 11 percent of phones were stolen from people directly, while 44 percent of thefts were linked to people simply leaving their phone somewhere public and having it scooped up by someone else.

Many smartphones already have anti-theft features

By now, most major smartphone makers have hardened their products, and provide tools to track, wipe, and disable devices through the use of web-based tools and apps. Those services are becoming more sophisticated too. Apple initially offered its Find My iPhone service as a perk of its paid MobileMe service, but then later made it free and available to all iPads, iPods, and Macs. Apple also created a feature in last year's iOS 7 called iCloud activation lock, which will make a device completely inoperable unless you enter in the right Apple ID username and password.

Google and Microsoft have followed Apple's lead, offering free tools to help locate and disable devices remotely. And now both companies plan to add tools like Apple's that leave the hardware useless to those who don't have the master password. Those features aren't coming until the next major releases, however, the two companies said in June. In the interim, Samsung — which relies on Google's Android — has added a reactivation lock feature into its phones, though not on all its devices, and not on all the carriers.

In Apple's case, the iCloud activation lock feature has already made waves — some good and some bad. Almost immediately it managed to cause headaches for resellers and recyclers who buy, fix, resell, and dispose of used electronics. Since the feature launched to consumers last September, it's left some electronics trade-in businesses with phones and tablets that still have the lock enabled. These products are not stolen, several companies told The Verge in June. More frequently, the locked devices come from big-box retailers and carriers that outsource their trade-in services, and that aren't doing a thorough enough job screening what they get before it goes to the next party.

Early data suggests kill switches are working

On the flip side, the feature appears already to have a marked effect on what it was built for, which is reducing crime. In June, attorney generals in New York and San Francisco said that year-over-year thefts of Apple devices "plummeted" during the first five months of 2014. For San Francisco that amounted to a 38 percent decline in iPhone-related robberies, while New York tallied up a 19 and 29 percent year-over-year decline on robberies and grand larcenies that involved Apple products. During an identical time period, the same study reported an increase in robberies involving Samsung devices, which did not have the aforementioned built-in protections until April. "We can make the violent epidemic of smartphone theft a thing of the past, and these numbers prove that," Gascón said when those numbers were released.

Pickpocket warning sign in Venice, Italy. (Matt Chan / Flickr)

Even with that positive early data, critics worry that a legal mandate requiring the technology could have unintended consequences. In the California bill's case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation warns that the bill could hinder better technologies that haven't been invented yet, and could be rife for abuse from law enforcement agencies.

"There's a simple reason why we opposed this particular bill — and why we almost always oppose bills with technological mandates. Technology is fast; the law is slow," the group said in a blog post last month. "While there is an important place for policy in a world where the internet and devices are readily available to both consumers and government actors, institutionalizing specific technical solutions — such as making every cellphone manufacturer feature a ‘kill switch' program — is risky."

"Technology is fast; the law is slow."

More bluntly, a consortium of wireless companies and major hardware manufacturers are balking at the need for legal requirements in the first place, arguing that they've already added, or are in the process of adding, such features and want self-regulation instead.

"We've rolled out stolen-phones databases, consumer-education campaigns, anti-theft apps and features and most recently a ‘Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment,' which provides a uniform national technology solution at no cost to the consumer," says Jamie Hastings, the vice president of external and state affairs with the CTIA, a group made up of wireless carriers and manufacturers including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others. "State-by-state technology mandates stifle innovation to the ultimate detriment to the consumer," she added.

That "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment" Hastings is referring to is effectively the same thing you'll find in the California law. That includes remote wipe, remote lock, and a lock against reactivation. There's also a clause requiring manufacturers to provide a way for consumers to get everything on a recovered phone working again, including their data. These things are all set to be a self-regulated standard for every device manufactured by smartphone makers after July 2015, which is when the California bill would begin if signed into law.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signing the state's anti-theft bill into law. (Office of Governor Mark Dayton)

So why would state laws be useful then? One example is Minnesota, which so far is the first and only state to pass an anti-theft phone bill. Unlike California, it's not asking for a way to remotely disable or wipe a phone, just that the phone needs to come "equipped with preloaded anti-theft functionality," or at least be able to download it later — all for free. Minnesota's governor signed the bill into law this past May, and under its requirements, it's not just about anti-theft measures on the device, but also deals with devices that are resold. The law criminalizes buying and selling phones between people without documentation, so the state can track where phones are going. It also prohibits used cellphone dealers from paying in cash or selling to people under the age of 18. These are things designed to hinder potential thieves by putting more of the business of selling phones on the record when it goes into effect next July.

A federal law is in the works too

Along with those efforts, there's a separate federal bill designed to accomplish some of the same things outlined in the state laws for remote wiping and disabling phones, but at a national level. The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act, which was introduced by a group of Democratic senators in February, aims to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require any phones sold in the US to offer remote wipe, remote disable, and restrict reactivation without a proper passcode. So far it has only been introduced, and still needs to make its way through the House and Senate before ultimately making its way to the president to be signed into law.

The federal bill could ultimately spell a simpler solution than the state laws by unifying the requirements manufacturers need to comply with in order to sell there. But these bills — short of what Minnesota is doing to control how phones are sold — all aim to get companies to do something that many are already doing, or have plans to offer soon. The only difference is that there could be fines, and those phones wouldn't make it to store shelves. And if you believe the EFF, slapping a mandate on companies to go with any one particular solution is shortsighted at best, and potentially disastrous for newer, better ways to deal with the problem that could be invented in the future.

"With an eye to the current landscape of security tools, if a ‘manufacturer or operating system provider' chooses a particular solution, innovation in this space may be discouraged," EFF attorneys said in a letter opposing the California bill in June. "Mandating any technological fix could ‘lock in' a less effective solution, preventing stronger third-party anti-theft applications from competing and innovating."

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Lenovo says it's still committed to small-screen Windows tablets in the U.S.

Lenovo says it's still committed to small-screen Windows tablets in the U.S. | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Lenovo has issued a clarification on its tablet strategy: Refuting an earlier report to the contrary, the world’s largest PC maker will continue to sell Windows tablets with displays smaller than 10 inches in the U.S.

That’s good news for the greater Microsoft story line, but these devices will still face immense pressure from small-display Android-based tablets, which cost much less.

On Thursday, Lenovo said that it has halted U.S. sales for two Windows 8.1 tablets with 8-inch screens—the $400 ThinkPad 8 and the $300 Miix 2

The Lenovo ThinkPad 8.

“In North America, we’re seeing stronger interest in the larger screen sizes for Windows tablets,” Raymond Gorman, a Lenovo spokesman, said in an email. “In other markets, particularly Brazil, China, and Japan, the demand for ThinkPad 8 has been much stronger, so we are adjusting our ThinkPad 8 inventories to meet increasing demand in those markets.”

As for the 8-inch Miix 2, it went off sale without explanation. Lenovo’s U.S. strategy for the ThinkPad 10 and 10.1-inch version of Miix 2 remained unchanged.

Fast forward two days later. In a post on, the company announced it’s committed to different screen sizes and new 8-inch tablets will be available for the holidays. Said the statement: “Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media. In short, we will continue to sell both 8 and 10 inch Windows tablets in both the U.S. and non-U.S markets.”

Translation: Our 8-inch Windows tablet exit is merely temporary. This isn’t a permanent withdrawal, and we’re keeping all options on the table.

That’s certainly wise spin-control, but Lenovo—and all tablet manufacturers—will still have to solve the basic puzzle of making small-display Windows tablets attractive to consumers when cheap, serviceable, 7-inch Android tablets can be had for less than $200.

The 8-inch Lenovo Miix 2.

We gave the ThinkPad 8 a 4-star rating, and raved about its processor speed and 1900x1200 display. But it also retailed at $400. The 8-inch Miix 2 also received 4-star accolades; it’s light and fast, and boasts good battery life. But it was also expensive at $300.

That’s a scary price when the awesome second-generation Nexus 7 costs just $280.

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MIT's new robot glove can give you extra fingers

MIT's new robot glove can give you extra fingers | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Have you ever wondered if five fingers is really enough? The folks at MIT have. Researchers in the institute's department of mechanical engineering have created a robotic glove that adds two additional digits to the standard human claw, positioning two long fingers on either side of the hand. It's ridiculously easy to use, too. "You do not need to command the robot, but simply move your fingers naturally." Ford Professor of Engineering Harry Asada says. "Then the robotic fingers react and assist your fingers." The glove's movements are based on biomechanical synergy, the idea that each finger reacts to the movements of its peers - if you try to grasp a bottle, the glove's extra fingers will try to help.

The team crafted its synergy algorithm by outfitting a prototype with multiple positioning sensors and grasping assorted objects -- manually moving the glove's two extra "fingers" to help grab or support the object. This data was used to determined a set of specific movement patterns that the final product could use to identify what the user is attempting to do, allowing it to assume a position that naturally augments the wearer's normal hand movements. For now, the glove has to rely on this basic algorithm, but the team hopes to upgrade it to account for the amount of force applied. Future versions of the robotic fingers may also learn actively, adapting to a specific users' gesture style.

The prototype glove is pretty bulky, but MIT researchers are confident that it can be distilled down to a smaller, foldable size. "We could make this into a watch or a bracelet where the fingers pop up, and when he job is done, they come back into the watch," Asada explained. "Wearable robots are a way to bring the robot closer to our daily life."

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Lenovo says it's still committed to small-screen Windows tablets in the U.S.

Lenovo says it's still committed to small-screen Windows tablets in the U.S. | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Lenovo has issued a clarification on its tablet strategy: Refuting an earlier report to the contrary, the world’s largest PC maker will continue to sell Windows tablets with displays smaller than 10 inches in the U.S.

That’s good news for the greater Microsoft story line, but these devices will still face immense pressure from small-display Android-based tablets, which cost much less.

On Thursday, Lenovo said that it has halted U.S. sales for two Windows 8.1 tablets with 8-inch screens—the $400 ThinkPad 8 and the $300 Miix 2

The Lenovo ThinkPad 8.

“In North America, we’re seeing stronger interest in the larger screen sizes for Windows tablets,” Raymond Gorman, a Lenovo spokesman, said in an email. “In other markets, particularly Brazil, China, and Japan, the demand for ThinkPad 8 has been much stronger, so we are adjusting our ThinkPad 8 inventories to meet increasing demand in those markets.”

As for the 8-inch Miix 2, it went off sale without explanation. Lenovo’s U.S. strategy for the ThinkPad 10 and 10.1-inch version of Miix 2 remained unchanged.

Fast forward two days later. In a post on, the company announced it’s committed to different screen sizes and new 8-inch tablets will be available for the holidays. Said the statement: “Our model mix changes as per customer demand, and although we are no longer selling ThinkPad 8 in the U.S., and we have sold out of Miix 8-inch, we are not getting out of the small-screen Windows tablet business as was reported by the media. In short, we will continue to sell both 8 and 10 inch Windows tablets in both the U.S. and non-U.S markets.”

Translation: Our 8-inch Windows tablet exit is merely temporary. This isn’t a permanent withdrawal, and we’re keeping all options on the table.

That’s certainly wise spin-control, but Lenovo—and all tablet manufacturers—will still have to solve the basic puzzle of making small-display Windows tablets attractive to consumers when cheap, serviceable, 7-inch Android tablets can be had for less than $200.

The 8-inch Lenovo Miix 2.

We gave the ThinkPad 8 a 4-star rating, and raved about its processor speed and 1900x1200 display. But it also retailed at $400. The 8-inch Miix 2 also received 4-star accolades; it’s light and fast, and boasts good battery life. But it was also expensive at $300.

That’s a scary price when the awesome second-generation Nexus 7 costs just $280.

No comment yet.