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Best PC You Can Build for Under $500

Best PC You Can Build for Under $500 | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

With yesterday's launch of AMD's 65W Kaveri APUs, it seemed a good time to give some recommendations for new system builds. We're starting out at the budget end of the spectrum, however, and pricing/availability on Kaveri generally rules it out. We'll keep things short and look at two builds, one AMD and one Intel. Outside of the CPU/APU and motherboard, parts are generally interchangeable.

Budget AMD SystemComponentDescriptionPriceCPUAMD A6-6400K (2x3.9GHz, 1MB, 65W, 32nm)$65MotherboardMSI A88X-G41$73RAMTeam Vulcan 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-2133 CL10$71StorageSeagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB$55SSDSanDisk Ultra Plus SDSSDHP-128G-G25 128GB $60CaseNZXT Source 210 S210-001$40Power SupplySeasonic SS-300ET 300W 80 Plus Bronze$38Total (without OS) $402

The Kaveri APUs provide a decent blend of general and gaming performance, but finding one priced reasonably for a budget system is still a bit difficult (depending on your definition of budget, of course). While the idea of an inexpensive system capable of running games is fine, the cost to go from the A6-6400K we've selected to one of the Kaveri A10 models is more than the cost of a moderate dedicated graphics card like the R7 250, and the A6-7400K and A8-7600 are hard to find – and when you can find them, they're priced $15 higher than the MSRP. If you can wait a bit, the A6-7400K and A8-7600 should become more readily available. In the meantime, the A6-6400K will provide similar performance with a slightly slower graphics configuration.

For the rest of the system, the MSI motherboard can support both existing Richland APUs like the A6-6400K we've selected as well as Kaveri APUs. Similarly, the DDR3-2133 RAM can provide better bandwidth than DDR3-1600 RAM that would only save you a buck. For storage, you've got three options: go pure SSD and have fast storage performance but without a lot of capacity, buy the 1TB HDD and sacrifice performance for capacity, or get both. Personally, I'd go with a pure SSD or the SSD+HDD configuration.

Wrapping things up, the case is a decent looking and not too expensive NZXT Source 210. Cases can be a very subjective topic, and there are plenty of reasonable options, but the NZXT is a good choice for a budget build. You could also drop down to a micro-ATX case and motherboard, and if that's what you're after the MSI A78M-E45 would be a good alternative. For the power supply, the small increase in efficiency offered by 80 Plus Gold isn't really worth the added cost at this price, and Seasonic makes a good 300W unit that will provide good efficiency for a low-power system like this while still allowing for the use of a moderate discrete GPU down the road should you choose to upgrade.

Budget Intel SystemComponentDescriptionPriceCPUCeleron G1850 (2x2.9GHz, 2MB, 53W, 22nm)$50MotherboardGigabyte GA-H97M-D3H$80RAMTeam Vulcan 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-1600 CL9$70StorageSeagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB$55SSDSanDisk Ultra Plus SDSSDHP-128G-G25 128GB $60CaseCorsair Carbide Series SPEC-01$50Power SupplySeasonic SS-300ET 300W 80 Plus Bronze$38Total (without OS) $403

The Intel budget build is going to provide a pretty similar experience to the AMD build overall; single-threaded performance will be a bit higher, but graphics performance will be lower. The price for these two builds is equivalent at around $400 – which includes both a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD, so you can shave off $50 by dropping one or the other storage option. The Celeron G1850 is Intel's least expensive Haswell option right now, and while budget CPUs aren't going to win in any performance contests, for normal tasks they're still plenty fast. Paired with a 128GB SSD they can make for a decent home/office system and the price is certainly appealing. Overclocking isn't really a goal of either of these builds, and Gigabyte's GA-H97M-D3H should do fine for stock clocks.

The one other noteworthy change is that we've included a slightly more expensive (and perhaps a bit too gaudy for some) Corsair Carbide SPEC-01 case. It has lots of angles and vents, and while Corsair has made some very good cases opinions on aesthetics are still up for debate. It ships with two 120mm fans for cooling, which is going to be overkill for a budget build like this but will give you room to grow. It also has a case window and red LED lighting for those that want to show off a bit.

Of course we're still missing the OS, keyboard, mouse, and display; these are all commodity items and most people have existing accessories they can carry over from an old PC. Unless you're running a free OS like Ubuntu or some other flavor of Linux, the cost of Windows is going to represent a significant increase in price of nearly $100, putting us at the $500 mark referenced in the title. Adding a 20" to 22" LCD will tack on another $100-$140, and a keyboard and mouse will be $25 combined for a basic set. So all told if you want a complete new PC the price will be closer to $650, but $500 for the core system and software is a good starting point. You can also find some mail-in rebates on quite a few parts that might drop the price a bit, but as those change regularly I haven't included any in the above tables.

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The Oculus Rift Made Me Believe I Could Fly | Science | WIRED

The Oculus Rift Made Me Believe I Could Fly | Science | WIRED | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Yesterday, I flew over downtown San Francisco. I swooped past the Transamerica Pyramid, taking care not to get speared, and winged it out towards the water. A heavy fog covered the bay, as usual, so I decided to head back into the city. I dove sharply, and the wind started whipping across my face. I slipped under the Bay Bridge, banked hard and promptly slammed into a warehouse. The wind died, and my screen went black.

I was strapped into Birdly, a full-body flight simulator designed to make you forget you’re not a bird. “Press the red buttons and pump your arms to start soaring again,” said Max Rheiner, the Swiss artist responsible for my in-flight experience this week at Swissnex. The reason that Rheiner could make this simulator now, and not 20 years ago when he first dreamed of helping humans feel like birds, is the arrival of the Oculus Rift. The Rift is the first virtual reality headset with two key features: It’s cheap, and it doesn’t make you want to vomit. Now that there’s a way to provide accurate head-tracking at low enough latency to prevent motion sickness, people who were raised on the promise of virtual reality are starting to experiment.

Humans dreamed of flying like a bird for centuries before hot air balloons finally took people into the skies. At first the designers of Birdly took the dream a bit too literally and used a physics engine to model airflow around virtual wings. But it turns out to be hard for humans to fly like an actual bird, learning to flap their wings at the right angle and catch thermals to spiral up. To simulate the effortlessness of dream flight, Rheiner made the interface more metaphorical and intuitive. By twisting your arm you control the pitch of the wing: Tip up to soar higher, and tip down to dive. Catch the air with one hand to bank. To climb faster, you can vigorously pump both wings. Pistons provide realistic resistance, and a fan is calibrated to make the windspeed match your virtual velocity.

Climb on! Joshua Batson/WIRED

It’s admittedly a bit awkward to climb onto Birdly. You bend over a padded frame, strap on a tight headset and headphones, then hook your hands into wooden wings. But then the screen flips on and you find yourself floating above the city, watching your bird-shadow drifting across the rooftops. If you crane your neck, you can see your brown feathers ruffling in the breeze. After a few seconds, flying feels natural.

The individual components of the system are still a bit rough, but together they provide an amazing experience. The screen on the Rift was more pixellated than my smartphone, and I had to move my head slowly to keep the landscape in sync. If this were only a visual tour of the San Francisco skyline, I might have gotten a bit nauseated. But just like the driver of a car almost never feels nauseated even when the passengers in the backseat are clutching their stomachs, I felt comfortable because of the tactile control and physical feedback. I feel like Birdly managed to just get past some threshold of pleasurability and plausibility, so that I wanted to keep flying all night. It also made me impatient to race around faster, diving and swooping and barrel rolling. I wanted to fly over the rest of California, and to see it all with perfect resolution.

Given that Birdly was made by a team of just three people working part-time since receiving a Rift development kit in November, I expect that progress will be swift. For example, the experience will soon include smells. Rheiner, working with a Norwegian fragrance designer, built a rig to emit little pumps of scented alcohol as you fly. But a realistic cityscape has to include hot asphalt and car exhaust, and it’s tricky to deliver a whiff of those that won’t knock you out of the sky.

While Rheiner was aiming for art, there might also be a future in travel and fitness. Imagine spending an afternoon flying through the Grand Canyon—a beautiful trip, and if you need to flap your wings the whole time to stay aloft, a serious work out. Before a walk to your basement can replace a helicopter ride in Hawaii, though, a compendium of detailed 3-D maps would be required. Promisingly, Google Earth sent 20 people to visit Birdly last week.

An interface like Birdly’s could some day be used to fly a real drone in realtime, says Rheiner. You could fly wherever you want and see what’s happening there right now, no mapping necessary. You could take a trip to check out the forest fires raging in Northern California, or circle a friend’s outdoor BBQ like a (creepy) vulture. Using your body to control a drone would also obviously be more fun than using a joystick, and might be safer too. The more you identify with the drone, the more you feel its body as your own, the better your reflexes could be. If a plane zooms into your peripheral vision, you’ll flap your wings instead of dropping the controller.

Today there is only one Birdly prototype. If you want to ride it, you have to catch the machine next week in San Francisco (at Swissnex or the Exploratorium) or at the SIGGRAPH conference in Vancouver from August 10-14. But don’t worry too much if you miss it. Birdly is less a definitive experience than an argument that, at last, we have all the pieces necessary to make an engaging full-body simulation. So if you would rather swim like a dolphin or squirm like a snake than fly like a bird, just wait a bit. The consumer version of the Rift should be out in about a year. Meanwhile, In companies and universities and studios around the world, designers are starting to make your dream a (virtual) reality.

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ASRock X99 Extreme4 is World's First Windows 8.1-Certified X99-Based Motherboard | Computer Hardware Reviews -

ASRock X99 Extreme4 is World's First Windows 8.1-Certified X99-Based Motherboard | Computer Hardware Reviews - | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Even though nothing much about ASRock’s next generation Intel X99 series motherboards can be revealed yet, we simply can’t restrain ourselves from spilling out the good news that ASRock’s X99 Extreme4 is the world’s first Intel X99 chipset based motherboard to pass Windows 8.1 hardware certification. So, yeah, users may be ensured that ASRock’s X99 Extreme4 will support the latest operating system from Microsoft without any problems, and bear in mind that it’s coming to you real soon! Kudos to ASRock again!

Not only focusing on developing the most advanced hardware technology, ASRock also keen on bringing the latest software applications to PC users. ASRock pioneers in Windows 8.1 logo submission, and the company’s offerings are the best in the overall market. So, why settle for second best? Be the first to lay your hands on the X99 Series computers with ASRock!

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Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken | Threat Level | WIRED

Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken | Threat Level | WIRED | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Computer users pass around USB sticks like silicon business cards. Although we know they often carry malware infections, we depend on antivirus scans and the occasional reformatting to keep our thumbdrives from becoming the carrier for the next digital epidemic. But the security problems with USB devices run deeper than you think: Their risk isn’t just in what they carry, it’s built into the core of how they work.

That’s the takeaway from findings security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan to present next week, demonstrating a collection of proof-of-concept malicious software that highlights how the security of USB devices has long been fundamentally broken. The malware they created, called BadUSB, can be installed on a USB device to completely take over a PC, invisibly alter files installed from the memory stick, or even redirect the user’s internet traffic. Because BadUSB resides not in the flash memory storage of USB devices, but in the firmware that controls their basic functions, the attack code can remain hidden long after the contents of the device’s memory would appear to the average user to be deleted. And the two researchers say there’s no easy fix: The kind of compromise they’re demonstrating is nearly impossible to counter without banning the sharing of USB devices or filling your port with superglue.

“These problems can’t be patched,” says Nohl, who will join Lell in presenting the research at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. “We’re exploiting the very way that USB is designed.”

‘In this new way of thinking, you have to consider a USB infected and throw it away as soon as it touches a non-trusted computer.’

Nohl and Lell, researchers for the security consultancy SR Labs, are hardly the first to point out that USB devices can store and spread malware. But the two hackers didn’t merely copy their own custom-coded infections into USB devices’ memory. They spent months reverse engineering the firmware that runs the basic communication functions of USB devices—the controller chips that allow the devices to communicate with a PC and let users move files on and off of them. Their central finding is that USB firmware, which exists in varying forms in all USB devices, can be reprogrammed to hide attack code. “You can give it to your IT security people, they scan it, delete some files, and give it back to you telling you it’s ‘clean,’” says Nohl. But unless the IT guy has the reverse engineering skills to find and analyze that firmware, “the cleaning process doesn’t even touch the files we’re talking about.”

The problem isn’t limited to thumb drives. All manner of USB devices from keyboards and mice to smartphones have firmware that can be reprogrammed—in addition to USB memory sticks, Nohl and Lell say they’ve also tested their attack on an Android handset plugged into a PC. And once a BadUSB-infected device is connected to a computer, Nohl and Lell describe a grab bag of evil tricks it can play. It can, for example, replace software being installed with with a corrupted or backdoored version. It can even impersonate a USB keyboard to suddenly start typing commands. “It can do whatever you can do with a keyboard, which is basically everything a computer does,” says Nohl.

The malware can silently hijack internet traffic too, changing a computer’s DNS settings to siphon traffic to any servers it pleases. Or if the code is planted on a phone or another device with an internet connection, it can act as a man-in-the-middle, secretly spying on communications as it relays them from the victim’s machine.

Most of us learned long ago not to run executable files from sketchy USB sticks. But old-fashioned USB hygiene can’t stop this newer flavor of infection: Even if users are aware of the potential for attacks, ensuring that their USB’s firmware hasn’t been tampered with is nearly impossible. The devices don’t have a restriction known as “code-signing,” a countermeasure that would make sure any new code added to the device has the unforgeable cryptographic signature of its manufacturer. There’s not even any trusted USB firmware to compare the code against.

The element of Nohl and Lell’s research that elevates it above the average theoretical threat is the notion that the infection can travel both from computer to USB and vice versa. Any time a USB stick is plugged into a computer, its firmware could be reprogrammed by malware on that PC, with no easy way for the USB device’s owner to detect it. And likewise, any USB device could silently infect a user’s computer. “It goes both ways,” Nohl says. “Nobody can trust anybody.”

But BadUSB’s ability to spread undetectably from USB to PC and back raises questions about whether it’s possible to use USB devices securely at all. “We’ve all known if that you give me access to your USB port, I can do bad things to your computer,” says University of Pennsylvania computer science professor Matt Blaze. “What this appears to demonstrate is that it’s also possible to go the other direction, which suggests the threat of compromised USB devices is a very serious practical problem.”

Blaze speculates that the USB attack may in fact already be common practice for the NSA. He points to a spying device known as Cottonmouth, revealed earlier this year in the leaks of Edward Snowden. The device, which hid in a USB peripheral plug, was advertised in a collection of NSA internal documents as surreptitiously installing malware on a target’s machine. The exact mechanism for that USB attack wasn’t described. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the things [Nohl and Lell] discovered are what we heard about in the NSA catalogue.”

The alternative is to treat USB devices like hypodermic needles.

Nohl says he and Lell reached out to a Taiwanese USB device maker, whom he declines to name, and warned the company about their BadUSB research. Over a series of emails, the company repeatedly denied that the attack was possible. When WIRED contacted the USB Implementers Forum, a nonprofit corporation that oversees the USB standard, spokeswoman Liz Nardozza responded in a statement. “Consumers should always ensure their devices are from a trusted source and that only trusted sources interact with their devices,” she wrote. “Consumers safeguard their personal belongings and the same effort should be applied to protect themselves when it comes to technology.

Nohl agrees: The short-term solution to BadUSB isn’t a technical patch so much as a fundamental change in how we use USB gadgets. To avoid the attack, all you have to do is not connect your USB device to computers you don’t own or don’t have good reason to trust—and don’t plug untrusted USB devices into your own computer. But Nohl admits that makes the convenient slices of storage we all carry in our pockets, among many other devices, significantly less useful. “In this new way of thinking, you can’t trust a USB just because its storage doesn’t contain a virus. Trust must come from the fact that no one malicious has ever touched it,” says Nohl. “You have to consider a USB infected and throw it away as soon as it touches a non-trusted computer. And that’s incompatible with how we use USB devices right now.”

The two researchers haven’t yet decided just which of their BadUSB device attacks they’ll release at Black Hat, if any. Nohl says he worries that the malicious firmware for USB sticks could quickly spread. On the other hand, he says users need to be aware of the risks. Some companies could change their USB policies, for instance, to only use a certain manufacturer’s USB devices and insist that the vendor implement code-signing protections on their gadgets.

Implementing that new security model will first require convincing device makers that the threat is real. The alternative, Nohl says, is to treat USB devices like hypodermic needles that can’t be shared among users—a model that sows suspicion and largely defeats the devices’ purpose. “Perhaps you remember once when you’ve connected some USB device to your computer from someone you don’t completely trust,” says Nohl. “That means you can’t trust your computer anymore. This is a threat on a layer that’s invisible. It’s a terrible kind of paranoia.”

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Microsoft reveals Windows Phone 8.1's first update, with welcome new features

Microsoft reveals Windows Phone 8.1's first update, with welcome new features | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Microsoft formally unveiled Windows Phone 8.1 Update early Wednesday morning, confirming features such as Start screen folders, sandboxed apps, and even a handy VPN function for surfing over public Wi-Fi connections.

Those who opted in to the Developer Preview will be able to download the update next week; otherwise, consumers with stock Windows Phone 8.1 devices will have to wait a couple of months until it can be formally tested and deployed by carriers. 

Sources had revealed previously that the update, known formerly as Windows Phone 8.1 GDR1, wouldn’t be earth-shattering. But there’s enough there that it should be a must-have for Windows Phone owners, as evidenced by a blog post authored by Joe Belfiore, the Microsoft vice president in charge of Windows Phone.


The flashiest feature, but not necessarily the most useful, is the ability to combine Live Tiles into folders on the Start screen by dragging one on top of another (above). On Android or iOS, this collects the icons into a neat pocket, preserving screen real estate. On Windows Phone, the folders—dubbed Live Folders—act more like a group, with the Live Tiles of the individual apps preserved within.

As you might expect, the update will give Microsoft’s Cortana additional functionality, including new natural language scenarios, snooze times for reminders, and fun additions to her personality, such as requests to "do an impersonation." Microsoft also added the ability to make Cortana hands-free, by adding the ability to “call Cortana” from a car’s contact list.


In China, Cortana is known as Xiao Na.

Cortana will also be launched in China (known there as “Xiao Na”) with local information on celebrities, air quality, and other Chinese specifics. The United Kingdom, where Cortana will also debut, will lend Cortana a proper English accent, plus Premier League info and other local color. Canada, India, and Australia will also be allowed to try Cortana via an “alpha” program, Belfiore said.

New features designed for productivity...

To date, Windows Phone has prioritized productivity, with nifty little features added to Windows Phone such as the ability to automatically connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots, and to share private Wi-Fi SSIDs and passwords automatically with your trusted friends.


Windows Phone 8.1 Update takes this a step further, by allowing you to set up VPNs to securely pass information through those public hotspots, without permitting them to see what you’re actually asking. At press time, it wasn’t clear whether the VPN service will be Microsoft supplied, or simply a framework to connect to a Cisco or other VPN provider. Regardless, VPN support will be certainly welcomed by consumers and businesses alike.

Some reports also say that Microsoft's new Windows Phone update will support gargantuan seven-inch displays, with screen sizes up to 960-by-540. Belfiore didn't specifically confirm this in his blog post, however, or the reports that the update would support interactive screen covers and cases.

Likewise, Microsoft highlighted one feature designed specifically for businesses: Apps Corner, a step halfway toward encrypting your entire phone at the behest of your employer’s IT department. Apps Corner provides a special sandboxed repository where you can store apps. Businesses can also use Apps Corner to boot immediately to one specific app, turning a Windows Phone into a specialized device for tasks like inventory management.


Windows Phone users may also find features like the ability to mass delete and forward SMS messages useful. (In the Windows Phone mail application, a “checkbox” icon allows you to quickly select multiple messages for forwarding and deletion.) And a Windows Store icon will cycle through the latest apps available in the Windows Store, on a six-hour rotating basis.

...And just plain fun

Finally, Microsoft added an update to the Xbox Music app, just for fun, a feature that some have hoped for over the past few months. 

“From background sync of your collection, to swipe to advance, the product has been continually adding features in every two weeks for the past few months,” Belfiore wrote. “And in the coming month, there will be a 'quickplay' of recent playback activities, and support for Kids Corner. Some of these features/improvements are already there in the latest Xbox Music app with the Windows Phone 8.1 release, but some (Live Tile in particular) are specific to the Windows Phone 8.1 Update.”


The new Xbox Music app, running under Windows Phone 8.1 Update.

Microsoft revealed the update at a developer conference in Beijing.

While Windows Phone 8.1 Update may not be an update that sends consumers rushing to the stores, it does look like it will add some useful features. Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks when we’re able to try it for ourselves.

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Square's new chip card reader will make your payments more secure

Square's new chip card reader will make your payments more secure | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

There's a good reason you don't usually see Square readers outside of the US: they're built to read payment cards with magnetic stripes, not the more secure chip-and-PIN cards that are common everywhere else. All that's set to change, however. Square has revealed plans for a reader that accepts the chip-based EMV format alongside stripes, letting shops handle credit and debit cards from around the world (and the US, once it catches up). The company will only start taking pre-orders for the payment device later this year, but it could be worthwhile for stores and customers alike. Besides the greater availability, it's much harder to clone a chip card -- you shouldn't have to worry about an unscrupulous clerk (or a clever hacker) stealing your credit card and going on a shopping spree.

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Mota $99 3D Printer: Too Good To Be True | TechCrunch

Mota $99 3D Printer: Too Good To Be True | TechCrunch | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

An affordable yet high quality consumer 3D printer has turned out too good to be true, surprising no one.

The 3D printer market is generally sitting in a quasi-limbo state that’s progressed beyond proving itself on early adopters willing to shell out serious dollar to live the dream, yet still has a very long way to go — and specifically a lot of squeezing of price-tags and smoothing of processes —  before it can arrive at the joyous nirvana of mass adoption.

Analyst Gartner would describe this moment as the descent into hell the trough of disillusionment. Indeed, its 2013 hype cycle graphic pegged 3D printers teetering at the pinnacle of inflated expectations and about to take a big old nose-dive…

It’s therefore the best of times (peak interest) and the worst of times (failure to live up to expectations) for consumer 3D printers.

It’s also a time of enforced experimentation — as 3D printer makers see if they can shortcut to the volume market (Gartner’s ‘plateau of productivity’) by forcing prices down to levels required to pull the punters in, yet inevitably then coming a cropper on expensive component costs, or because they cut too many corners and the product ends up being junk or only able to churn out junk.

Latest to feel the sting of reality on their cheek is Mota. Earlier this month the company launched a Kickstarter campaign for an ‘affordable’ 3D printer, called Mota 3D.  To drive enough interest in their box to get the economies of scale to make production cost effective they priced a few units at a giveaway $99. Presumably they were banking on pulling in a multi-million dollar raise to make the project workable. (As The Micro did — albeit, with a box that pledged far less.)

A few days after launching their Mota 3D Kickstarter campaign, the company pulled the project — with co-founder Kevin Faro writing in a note to backers that: “I wish there was a way to offer truly high quality, highly precise 3D printers at incredibly low prices. That would bring about the mass market adoption that this technology so needs. The reality is, like any technology, it is expensive to develop and manufacture.”

“We don’t want to promise something that cannot be delivered, or whose quality is anywhere below outstanding, and the fact of the matter is that delivering that high standard of quality would cost a premium,” he added. “We have learned a great deal from your comments in the last few days. And they tell me we need to go back, work harder, and find a way to reduce the price even more as well as make the technology more open. So we are canceling the project until we can deliver on that promise.”

Full credit to Mota for pulling the plug on the campaign — which had raised nearly $65,000 in a few days — rather than taking backers’ money and under-delivering. Or failing to ship at all as we’ve all too often seen with crowdfunding projects (hardware especially).

The hard realities and tough economics of building in an emerging space like 3D printing have and will continue to turn many a grand vision into so much broken plastic.

It’s also interesting to note that Mota floundered on its approach to openness. Backers had complained about a proprietary cartridge design that would have required buyers to be locked into buying expensive filament from the company — or paying an extra whack of cash to get a generic cartridge which they could have paired with filament of their choice, but which would have meant the entire printer wasn’t quite so affordable any more. Moral of this story: consumers want it all and they want it affordable. So we’re going to see a lot more Mota type failures in the coming years — before we get to that 3D printer nirvana.

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Use Your Smartphone To Improve Your Sleep

Use Your Smartphone To Improve Your Sleep | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Stories of how technology is bad for our health are par for the course, but smartphones—and the apps on them—can be used to make significantly positive changes as well. One of the areas where you'll find a cornucopia of brilliant apps is in the field of sleep. Here's a small selection of apps that might help you actually get some.

Dim your screen

Most studies agree that using your computer, smartphone, or tablet before bed is bad for you—your eyes and brain become more active as you squint at the screen and then take longer to drift off to rest. You can combat this problem by banning the use of electronic devices in the evening, but another option is to use an app to ease the strain on your senses.


Twilight (free, Android) filters out the narrow band of blue light that's most problematic for getting a good night's sleep. In other words, it applies a red filter to your display once the sun goes down. You can set up custom levels for screen dimming and color intensity, and there's the option to have the app kick into action based on a preset schedule or when manually activated.

Lux Auto Brightness ($3.80, Android) performs a similar role but goes even further, automatically measuring the lighting conditions of your current environment and adjusting the display accordingly. Like Twilight, the night mode gives your smart device a reddish tinge, and if you want to try before you buy then give the Lux Lite app (free, Android) a go.

Drift off slowly

Some like perfect silence when falling asleep; others prefer a low hum of music or Scandinavian detective noir as they drift off. Whatever your preference, there's an app to help out: take Sleep Sounds ($2, iOS), which offers over 100 different audio choices covering white noise, lullabies, sounds of nature and much more. There are timer and fade out features so your smartphone won't be blurting out noise all through the night.


If you're after something a little more prescriptive, consider Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson ($3, Android, iOS), a "guided meditation" that lulls you gently into the land of dreams. Andrew Johnson is a relaxation coach, clinical hypnotherapist, EFT therapist, and Reiki teacher from the UK, and if the reviews underneath his apps are anything to go by then you won't be disappointed. In our brief time with the app we found it soothing enough, but your mileage may vary depending on your fondness for a Scottish brogue.

Whatever your favorite sound for getting into a restful mindset, you're likely to find something applicable on the relevant app store for your smartphone—mountain streams, ocean waves, falling snow, it's all out there if you know how to find it. There's nothing to stop you sourcing the audio yourself either, and letting it play out as you drift off to sleep.

Wake up naturally

When you've nodded off, you want to be sure that you're sleeping smoothly and waking up at a time that fits in with your body's natural circadian rhythms. One of the best options is Sleep Cycle ($2 Android, $1 iOS), which asks that you place your handset on your mattress so it can measure how much tossing and turning you're doing. It wakes you during a period of light sleep around a specific time, and you can then look back on the quality of the sleep you've had.


Also worth a look is SleepBot (free, Android, iOS) which tackles the same kind of objectives. It's the whole package: ambient sounds as you fall asleep, sleep tracking based on your movements in the night, and then a smart alarm that gets you up at the optimum time without making you late for work. It can also track your sleep patterns over a longer period, helping you to analyze where you're having problems and where you can make improvements.

No one likes getting woken up by a jarring ringtone, which is why apps like Rise ($2, iOS) and Timely (free, Android) are so welcome. Soothing and natural sounds are available to gently ease you back into the real world, so you don't have to settle for one of the default sounds picked by your handset manufacturer or indeed an MP3 from your music library. There are plenty of alternatives available, plus of course gadgets like the Withings Aura if you're happy to invest in some extra hardware.

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Cutting Energy Costs For Businesses, Green Charge Networks Raises $56 Million | TechCrunch

Cutting Energy Costs For Businesses, Green Charge Networks Raises $56 Million | TechCrunch | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Armed with nifty energy management software, thousands of Samsung lithium-ion batteries, and $56 million in outside financing, Green Charge Networks is looking to change the way companies pay for power.

If the issue sounds a little boring (yawn, utility bills), think about this: businesses spend billions of dollars on power — in some cases many millions more than they could — because of the ways many utilities charge companies for electricity.

Many utilities in the U.S. use pricing mechanisms known as demand pricing, which charges both for the amount of electricity used during the entire billing period, and for the largest amount of power used in any one-half hour during the billing period.

“A lot of the customers we have today are paying 50% or 60% of their electricity bills not for energy, but for power,” says Vic Shao, the chief executive of Green Charge Networks.

The $56 million that Green Charge raised from the energy project development firm K Road Power and investors including former Intel Capital head George Coelho, will be used to provide financing packages for companies to roll out Green Charge Networks’ energy management storage equipment and services.

The company sells an energy storage device and an energy management software that smooths electricity usage throughout the day. Decreasing the amount of power a company draws from the electric grid reduces the overall costs they pay for power, cutting costs and also reducing strain on the grid for utilities.

In the past, this kind of energy storage system would have been too pricey for a company to buy, but with the financing packages that Green Charge Networks is rolling out, installing these power management technologies is as easy as installing residential solar under the contracting model popularized by Solar City.

Just as solar leases and PPAs were largely responsible for the tenfold growth in the solar industry over the past seven years, Green Charge Networks posits that its new financing will allow the company to do the same by enabling customers from coast to coast to install energy storage with zero money down, according to Shao.

The secret sauce for the company is its software that allows Green Charge Networks to predict where loads are going, the software then manages the charging and discharging of its battery system based on how much energy is being pulled off the grid.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company was founded in 2009 and initially backed by Richard Lowenthal, who also launched the electric vehicle charging station technology and services provider, ChargePoint.

Part of the impetus behind Green Charge Networks was finding a way to reduce the cost for ChargePoint customers who use Chargepoint’s technology and services to charge electric vehicles, according to Shao.

Since its launch, Green Charge has deployed pilot projects in New York with ConEdison and rolled out systems in grids run by Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and Silicon Valley Power.

Green Charge Networks’ systems are rated for both indoor and outdoor use. A single module stores 30 kilowatts, but the modular systems can be combined to store more energy. A typical installation is under half a megawatt, according to Shao.

“Batteries cost a lot of money, but software doesn’t,” says Shao. “We use the software to reduce the size of the batteries and have the maximum economic benefit.”

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Apple Updates MacBook Pro with Retina Display | Computer Hardware Reviews -

Apple Updates MacBook Pro with Retina Display | Computer Hardware Reviews - | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Apple today updated MacBook Pro with Retina display with faster processors, double the memory in both entry-level configurations, and a new, lower starting price for the top-of-the-line 15-inch notebook. MacBook Pro with Retina display features a stunning high-resolution display, an amazing design just 0.71-inches thin, the latest processors and powerful graphics, and up to nine hours of battery life, delivering unbelievable performance in an incredibly portable design.* Apple today also lowered the starting price of the non-Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro, a very popular system with Windows switchers, by $100 to $1,099.

“People love their MacBook Pro because of the thin and light, aluminum unibody design, beautiful Retina display, all day battery life and deep integration with OS X,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “The MacBook Pro with Retina display gets even better with faster processors, more memory, more affordable configurations and a free upgrade to OS X Yosemite this fall.”

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display features dual-core Intel Core i5 processors up to 2.8 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.3 GHz and 8GB of memory, up from 4GB in the entry-level notebook. The 13-inch model can also be configured with faster dual-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 3.0 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.5 GHz. The top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display has a new, lower starting price of $2,499. The 15-inch model features faster quad-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 2.5 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.7 GHz, 16GB of memory, up from 8GB in the entry-level notebook, and can be configured with quad-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 2.8 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.0 GHz.

iLife and iWork come free with every new Mac. iLife lets you edit your favorite videos with iMovie, create new music or learn to play piano or guitar with GarageBand, and organize, edit and share your best shots with iPhoto. iWork productivity apps, Pages, Numbers and Keynote, make it easy to create, edit and share stunning documents, spreadsheets and presentations. iWork for iCloud beta lets you create a document on iPhone or iPad, edit it on your Mac and collaborate with friends, even if they are on a PC.

OS X Mavericks, the world’s most advanced operating system, also comes free with every new Mac. With more than 200 features, OS X Mavericks is designed for ease of use while taking full advantage of the powerful technologies built into every Mac, including core technologies designed specifically for notebooks to boost performance and improve battery life. This fall, Mac users will be able to download OS X Yosemite, a redesigned and refined version of OS X, with a fresh, modern look, powerful new apps and amazing new continuity features that make working across your Mac and iOS devices more fluid than ever. OS X Yosemite will be available as a free download from the Mac App Store.

Pricing & Availability
MacBook Pro with Retina display and MacBook Pro are available today through the Apple Online Store (, Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is available with a 2.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1 GHz, 8GB of memory, 128GB of flash storage and Intel Iris graphics starting at $1,299 (US); with a 2.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1 GHz, 8GB of memory, 256GB of flash storage and Intel Iris graphics starting at $1,499 (US); and with a 2.8 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.3 GHz, 8GB of memory, 512GB of flash storage and Intel Iris graphics starting at $1,799 (US). Configure-to-order options include faster dual-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 3.0 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.5 GHz, up to 16GB of memory and flash storage up to 1TB.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is available with a 2.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.4 GHz, 16GB of memory, 256GB of flash storage and Intel Iris Pro graphics starting at $1,999 (US); and with a 2.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.7 GHz, 16GB of memory, 512GB of flash storage, and Intel Iris Pro and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics starting at $2,499 (US). Configure-to-order options include faster quad-core Intel Core i7 processors up to 2.8 GHz with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.0 GHz and flash storage up to 1TB.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is available with a 2.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1 GHz, 4GB of memory, Intel HD Graphics 4000 and a 500GB hard drive starting at $1,099 (US).

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LG’s Snappy G3 Phone Is Poised to Test Rivals

LG’s Snappy G3 Phone Is Poised to Test Rivals | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

LG Electronics has a strong product on its hands with its new smartphone, the LG G3. It is a powerful phone with a beautiful display, great camera and a pleasant, uncluttered Android operating system interface.

But will enough people notice? Smartphone headlines are dominated by Apple and Samsung, and few customers in the United States think of LG as a maker of high-end phones.

They should. Last year’s LG G2 was a good phone that got people’s attention, and the LG G3 could make the company a serious challenger. It features the same top-of-the-line processor found in the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8), its top Android competitors, and it does not skimp on any specifications.

The price of the LG G3 ranges from free to $200 with a new contract, depending on your carrier, or just under $600 with no contract. It is available on all four major carriers in the United States; all offer it in black or white except Sprint, which offers it in black or gold.

Its possible drawback is its size: With a 5.5-inch screen, the LG G3 may prove too bulky for some. And because of its big, power-hungry screen, battery life is not great. But in almost all other areas, the phone shines.

Like its two top Android competitors, the G3 includes camera innovations, such as using a laser for autofocus, which measures the distance between camera and subject and supposedly leads to faster focusing. Also like its rivals, the G3 includes the ability to refocus parts of an image after you have taken the photo.

The 13-megapixel camera produced impressive images. Close-up focusing seemed quicker than with the Galaxy S5, and low light performance was very good — but not if the subjects were moving. Wiggly children came out as blurry as ever.

Perception of the camera’s quality is helped by the G3’s remarkable display, which is called Quad HD and has higher resolution than the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8); it is higher even than the iPhone 5S with its Retina display. It also has more pixels per inch — a measure of visual quality — than any of its competitors.

The resolution and pixels per inch improvements can’t actually be detected by the naked eye, but the G3’s colors are realistic and vivid, and video, photos and games look excellent. And LG enhances the experience with an extremely thin bezel, so the phone appears to be almost all screen.

The screen is bright without being garish, and LG’s chosen backgrounds and minimal changes to the standard Android interface give the whole experience an elegant, subtle feel.

The elegance extends to the phone’s design. In addition to its nearly invisible bezel, the G3 has no physical buttons on the front or sides. The power and volume buttons are on the back of the phone.

That is confusing at first; more than one curious friend could not figure out how to turn it on. But the placement eventually feels natural and even preferable.

In addition, LG introduced a feature in earlier devices that lets you turn on the phone’s screen by tapping twice. It is so convenient that it makes other phones’ power buttons feel downright annoying.

You can even set up a specific knock code to unlock the phone, instead of a personal identification number or swipe pattern.

Although the back of the G3 is plastic, a brushed-aluminum effect makes it look premium, and it has an authoritative heft (some might call it heavy).

The G3 offers two welcome improvements over the G2. It has a microSD card slot, so you can add storage and hold more photos, videos and apps, and its battery is removable.

That last is important because you might find yourself needing to carry a spare. The phone’s battery barely powers a day of normal use, and you will have some anxiety by afternoon. If you are on your phone a lot, you will need an extra charger.

For calls, the G3’s quality was good but not excellent. The phone seemed to have low volume, all the way around. Part of the problem is that it’s so big, you have to move it around a bit to situate the speaker over your ear.

The G3’s large size also made it hard to operate one-handed. For quick tasks, it can be frustrating, although male users did not seem to have a problem, other than fitting it into a pants pocket.

The only other disappointment is the G3’s 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera, which produced decent but not outstanding selfies and group shots.

Over all, the LG G3 was a test phone I was loath to give up. Its design, performance and just the right amount of extras from LG make it arguably the best Android phone on the market right now. Hopefully, phone buyers will notice.

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Floating 3D video shows 'Star Wars' holograms are closer than we think

Floating 3D video shows 'Star Wars' holograms are closer than we think | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Thanks to Princess Leia's famous Star Wars plea, true holograms rank just behind flying cars as tech we want, nay deserve to have in our lifetimes -- and Tupac-style flimflam won't cut it. Now, an exhibition from artists Chris Helson and Sarah Jackets whimsically called "Help Me Obi" projects objects as large as 30cm (12-inches) in space. Visible from any angle in the room, the subjects include a newborn baby and NASA's Voyager 1 space probe. The creators are quick to point out that the machine doesn't create a true hologram, but rather a "360-degree video object." We take that to mean that it's more like a floating 3D movie that looks the same from any angle, rather than a true holographic object you can study from all sides. Since they're seeking a patent, Helson and Jackets are coy about exactly how it works, but say that there's nothing else quite like it (that they know of). If you're in the Edinburgh, Scotland area between July 31st and August 30th, you can judge for yourself at the Alt-W exhibition.

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Turning a Wall Into an Android "Touchscreen" With a Pocket Projector

Turning a Wall Into an Android "Touchscreen" With a Pocket Projector | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Touchjet first showed off a concept version of its phablet-sized Touchpico projector at CES 2014. Now, the Android-powered Wi-Fi device is nearly ready for production. We got to play with a preproduction model at Gizmodo's office, ahead of the launch of TouchPico's crowdfunding campaign.


TouchPico shown sitting on an Apple TV remote

The TouchPico is about the size of two large phablets stacked on top of each other. It's pocketable in the sense that a flask is pocket-sized; it'll fit, but you won't forget it's there. And it won't actually turn your wall into a touchscreen. That's the bad news.

What it does instead is project up to an 80-inch-diagonal screen on whatever wall you point it at. An included stylus with a clicky tip serves as your touch-device: tap it against the wall you're projecting on, and it sends an infrared signal to the projector registering your click. Try clicking with your finger, and the projector will do nothing but wait for you to quit messing around.

In a demo at Gizmodo's office in NYC, Touchjet's Slava Solonitsyn used the TouchPico with a bunch of different Android apps, showing how the mini projector can be used as a whiteboard, a slide stack presentation device, or a big screen for fruit ninja-ing. In every demo, the TouchPico responded to clicks and stylus movement without perceptible lag, though you do have to hold the stylus in such a way that the shadow from your arm won't cover the object you're trying to click.


The little gadget packs a dual-core brain running stock Android—it's basically a Wi-Fi-only tablet, with a 150-lumen projector instead of a touchscreen, which will happily run stock Android apps without fuss. The touch sensor doesn't use any CPU power; rather, it emulates the screen on the fly. That means, for now at least, it can't do multi-touch. It's got two built-in speakers and a cooling fan that makes about as much noise as the one in your laptop. Slava says it'll last 45 minutes on battery before it needs plugging in.

All the engineering and designing has been done, but Touchjet is turning to Indiegogo to raise money for the first batch of products. Backers will get the TouchPico projector for $350, with regular retail price set at $500 once the campaign is over. That's steep, but until someone comes out with an 80-inch Android device you can carry in your pocket, then hang on a wall, it's probably the best you're gonna do.

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HP's luxury smartwatch focuses on fashion, supports both iOS and Android

HP's luxury smartwatch focuses on fashion, supports both iOS and Android | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Another smartwatch entrant is coming soon and it looks like it will be one of the few watches not packing Android Wear. Hewlett-Packard is teaming up with Gilt, a designer label discount site, and U.S. fashion designer Michael Bastian to create a smartwatch slated for release this fall.

The trio are working on an unnamed luxury smartwatch that will be compatible with both Android and iOS smartphones, as first reported by Fashionista and Hypebeast. Like other smartwatches, the HP wrist wear will show email and text notifications, music player controls, weather, stocks, and news updates.

Since it works with Android and iOS handsets, however, the software onboard is unlikely to be Android Wear, which is compatible only with Android devices.

There's no word on pricing for the smartwatch, but early images suggest this watch will be far more attractive than the plain black squares we've seen recently from LG and Samsung, as is more suitable for the luxury watch crowd.


Drawings of the Michael Bastian-designed HP smartwatch.

Similar to the Moto 360, the Bastian-HP-Gilt watch will be round with an overall design meant to imitate the dashboard of a luxury vehicle. The watch will feature a 44mm stainless steel case, inlaid button controls, lighted chronograph, and interchangeable watch bands, according to Hypebeast.

The upcoming luxury smartwatch will be the first of its kind, but it's still part of a recent smartwatch explosion that includes Android Wear devices, Samsung's Gear line, and Sony's long-running smartwatches.

A smartwatch with an attractive design will be key if smartwatches are to ever gain popularity beyond the gadget lust set, however. And the new HP-Bastian watch just might be the first watch to do that.

But with HP appearing to go it alone for the device's software, it's not clear how useful or worthwhile this watch will be. Despite their ho-hum looks, the Android Wear smartwatches from LG and Samsung are very useful since they tap seamlessly into the Google ecosystem. HP's software solution will need to be both sleek and functional to justify why anyone would want to buy a luxury smartwatch—regardless of how good it looks.


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It Is Now Legal to Unlock Your Phone in the U.S.

It Is Now Legal to Unlock Your Phone in the U.S. | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

As we predicted last week, President Obama has approved and signed the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act," making it once again legal to unlock your phones to use on carriers of your choice. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the main supporter of the bill, confirmed the news via The White House Blog. Of course, you still have to completely own your phone, so month-by-month payment plans and other contract terms will keep your phone on lockdown.

Although this legislation gives us all a reprieve from carriers' stranglehold on our devices, the solution is only temporary. The Library of Congress will still review this exception every three years, but for now, we're going to check mark this in the wins column.

Go forth, unlock, and be merry. [The White House Blog]

Darren OrfProfile
Original post by Darren Orf on Gizmodo
Unlocking Your Phone Is About To Be Legal Again

Looking to overturn a longstanding Library of Congress decision to Fort Knox your gadgets to a specific carrier, the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act" (S.517) just hurdled its second major obstacle on its way to becoming a law. Now, the bill only needs the POTUS' signature and smartphones will be able travel among carriers uninterrupted. This is all pretty much a formality as the president has come out in support of the policy.

So what does all this mean for you? Most phones only work on specific networks. If you want to use your phone on another network, it needs to be unlocked. As it stands now, you need to get your carrier's permission (to do something with a device you already bought). This bill protects customers as well as third-party professionals who provide unlocking services, so you can purchase a smartphone from one carrier and be able to use it on another carrier if needed. So that you own that device you bought, and can do what you want with it. This bill also extends to not only smartphones, but tablets and other carrier-dependent devices.

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How To Protect Your Data Before Your Phone Gets Stolen

How To Protect Your Data Before Your Phone Gets Stolen | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Having your precious smartphone swiped is one thing, but giving the thief free access to your apps and data can potentially be even worse. There's a lot you can do before you lose the phone in the first place, though, that will make it much harder for thecriminals to do anything other than wipe it and sell it on.

1. Lock the screen

When Apple introduced the fingerprint scanner to the iPhone, company execs estimated that around half of us didn't bother locking our phones. Whether it's a swipe gesture or PIN code, make sure there's some kind of protection between a thief and your home screen. Workarounds do exist for lock screen security, but it buys you some valuable time.


If you don't want to have the hassle of tapping out a code every time you want to check Instagram, at least activate a lock screen method when you leave the house or are heading off on a journey. Tasker is one of the apps you can use on Android to automatically set up lock screen security based on your location.

For maximum protection, dial the lock screen delay right down. On Android, it's the Automatically lock option on the Security menu in Settings (note that this won't appear until you've activated some kind of security for the lock screen). On iOS, tap Require Passcode on the Passcode page of Settings to set the delay. On both OSes, the security lock delay is set separately to the delay that switches the screen off.

2. Activate remote features

There's no excuse for not setting up a remote tracking and wiping features on your handset, as the software makers have made the whole process very simple. Find My iPhone has been around since iOS 3.0 and can be activated from within the iCloud options page in Settings. You can then log into iCloud on the Web and see where your device is: Lost Mode lets you lock the device from afar, while the Erase iPhone option does exactly as advertised.


It's a pretty identical story on Android, where you can track all of the devices linked to your Google account from one Web interface. It's called Android Device Manager and again you have the option to either lock or erase your smartphone as well as locate it on a map. On your handset, you need to launch the Google Settings app then tap Android Device Manager to find the options.

Using a Windows Phone or BlackBerry is no excuse for not getting these precautions in place. BlackBerry handsets use a feature called BlackBerry Protect which you can find on the System Settings menu, while Windows Phone owners can use Find My Phone, which is automatically set up when you log into your handset using a Microsoft account.

3. Back up your files

Locking criminals out of your phone with one click on a website is all well and good, but what about all of that data you have stored on your handset? The risk of losing your phone or having it stolen should be all the motivation you need to ensure that everything on your handset is duplicated somewhere else, and thankfully this isn't too difficult on modern mobiles.


Google will take care of all your app data, Wi-Fi passwords, and phone settings if you activate the feature in the Backup & reset section of Settings (your contacts, emails and calendars are automatically synced with the cloud, of course). Apple provides backup options under the Storage & Backup section of the iCloud page in Settings. These seamless solutions are a far cry from the early days of smartphones, as anyone who lived through them will know.

As for media content—photos, video, music—make sure you have an automatic backup routine in place. iCloud, Google+ Photos, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, Flickr and various other apps can all be relied upon to get your files up into the cloud at the earliest opportunity. How you configure this process depends on your setup—buy a movie from iTunes and you've always got the download available, for example—but it's worth doing an audit to work out what's on your phone and where else it's stored.

4. Configure your apps

You probably don't want thieves deleting files from your Dropbox or posting on Facebook, so some preparation is worthwhile even if the steps we've described above can limit the damage. As we've said before, it's important to switch on two-step authentication for any services that support it—that includes iCloud, Google, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter and others.


Most of these apps and sites also include remote logout tools that you can utilize if your phone is lost or stolen. On Facebook, for example, open the Security page of the Settings screen and click Edit next to the Where You're Logged In heading. If uninvited guests have managed to log into your account, you'll see evidence of it here, and you can kick them out.

In Gmail, click the Details link in the bottom right corner of your inbox to see information about recent logins. Again, there's the option to remotely cancel any suspicious activity. Even if you inadvertently terminate a genuine login, all you have to do is sign in again from scratch on the relevant device. There's a similar tool available from your main Google account page on the Web that covers activity across all Google services. Other apps, such as Dropbox, let you do the same kind of investigating.

5. Encrypt your data

Encrypting your data adds an extra level of security that makes it very hard for even the most determined hackers to get personal information off your handset. It slows down some of the operations on your phone (as data needs to be decrypted before it's accessed) but you might consider the trade-off worth it. On iOS, this is done automatically as soon as you set up a passcode for your device, so it's already activated if you've followed our previous steps.


On Android, it's a separate option which you'll find in the Security section of Settings. It can take some time to completely encrypt your handset, but once the initial process is finished you should be able to use the device as normal. You'll need to choose a password of at least six characters, which then doubles as your lock screen code. Encryption can't be undone without a factory reset of your phone.

It's a feature that's also available on BlackBerry (Encryption under Security in Settings) and Windows Phone, though in the latter case it's currently only for business users and needs to be set at the Exchange server level. If you do set it up, make sure your password is easy for you to remember and impossible for anyone else to guess—without it, you'll need to do a full reset on your device.

Technical Dr. Inc.s insight:


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AHA Launches Social Platform to Connect Healthcare Professionals

AHA Launches Social Platform to Connect Healthcare Professionals | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

The American Hospital Association has launched AHA SmartMarket, a social platform designed exclusively for the healthcare field.

Designed to connect healthcare professionals with each other and the vendors who serve them, AHA SmartMarket is an interactive marketplace where medical professionals can search products and services, rate and review product performance, and collaborate with a network of trusted peers and experts.

AHA SmartMarket is a free service to all healthcare professionals working in hospitals, healthcare systems and similar care provider settings such as physician’s offices, long-term care facilities, surgical centers, outpatient clinics and ambulatory care centers.

“AHA SmartMarket is designed to help streamline decision making by putting me in contact with other CIOs and key decision makers so my staff and I can collaborate and learn the nuances of a specific product, service or issue,” Mike Smith, chief information officer for the Fort Myers, Fla.-based Lee Memorial Health System, said in a statement. “And, I can then very fluidly evaluate related products and services right on the site by reading the reviews and feedback from my peers.”

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HealthTap Prime lets you video call a Doctor whatever the hour

HealthTap Prime lets you video call a Doctor whatever the hour | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Unless you're rich, run a hospital or have medical professionals in the family, it's not likely that you have instant access to a doctor whenever you need. That's why HealthTap is joining the growing field of telemedicine apps that, for a monthly fee, will let you video chat with specialists as and when you require. HealthTap Prime will cost you $100 per month for the first person, with each additional person in the family requiring a $10 monthly surcharge. There doesn't appear to be any limits on how many times you can contact a doctor with the service, but if you didn't stop calling to ask if something looked infected, then expect to land on some sort of blacklist.

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10 reasons to try Zorin OS 9, the Linux OS that looks like Windows

10 reasons to try Zorin OS 9, the Linux OS that looks like Windows | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

The Linux world has long offered virtually innumerable alternatives to Windows and Mac OS, including several options designed specifically to ease the transition for those making the switch. Born back in 2009, Zorin OS may well be the best-known example.

Zorin OS is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution designed especially for newcomers to Linux. With a Windows-like interface and many programs similar to those found in Microsoft’s proprietary OS, it aims to make it easy for Windows users to get the most out of Linux.

Zorin OS 9 just made its debut with a familiar, Windows 7-like interface by default. In the wake of XP’s demise, there may be no better time to check it out. Zorin OS 9’s free and premium editions are now available in 32- and 64-bit versions for download from the project website.

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Microsoft and Intel's latest development board will cost you $300

Microsoft and Intel's latest development board will cost you $300 | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Intel may reign supreme in the desktop and laptop space, but ARM is eating its lunch almost everywhere else. That's not something the chipmaker can ignore, which is why it's having another crack at the hobby / developer market with Sharks Cove. The board, designed with Microsoft, has the stated aim of helping developers build apps and drivers for Windows and Android devices that use Intel chips. Since it's also available for everyone else to buy, it could also be quietly positioned as a more powerful alternative to boards like Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Unfortunately, as with the NUC, there's a catch: the board will retail for $300.

For all of that cash, however, you get the bones of a half-decent low-power PC, with a quad-core 1.33GHz Intel Atom chip, 1GB RAM and 16GB storage with a microSD slot for expansion. You can hook the board up to a display using either a MIPI connector or the full-size HDMI port, and can hook the unit up to the internet using the Ethernet port or with a WiFi dongle in the one USB 2.0 port. None of that may justify the cost compared to its low-power rivals, but the fact that the hardware comes with a full Windows 8.1 license may soften the blow a little. Still, at three benjamins, we can't imagine too many hobbyists will buy one just for noodling around -- so perhaps this will remain developer only gear.

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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Now Available - NVIDIA Releases Unboxing Video - Legit Reviews

NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet Now Available - NVIDIA Releases Unboxing Video - Legit Reviews | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet is now shipping in the United States and Canada! NVIDIA plans to have it arriving in Europe sometime in the middle of August. The NVIDIA SHIELD tablet runs $299.00 shipped and is an 8-inch Android tablet powered by the NVIDIA Tegra K1 that has 192 cores. It comes with up to 32 GB of built in storage plus microSD support, a stylus with real-time 3D painting software and a front-facing 5 megapixel camera. The Wi-Fi 16B version is available now, and the LTE/Wi-Fi 32GB version is coming soon.

NVIDIA has also released the SHIELD Wireless Controller and the SHIELD Tablet Cover as accessory devices for the SHIELD Tablet. The SHIELD wireless controller appears to be the must have accessory and it retails for $59 and the SHIELD tablet cover sells for $39. That means you are looking at around $360 for the tablet and controller. From what we have heard the NVIDIA SHIELD wireless controller is not compatible with PCs, which might be a let down to some.


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Critical Android vulnerability lets malware compromise most devices and apps

Critical Android vulnerability lets malware compromise most devices and apps | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

The majority of Android devices currently in use contain a vulnerability that allows malware to completely hijack installed apps and their data or even the entire device.

The core problem is that Android fails to validate public key infrastructure certificate chains for app digital signatures, said Jeff Forristal, chief technology officer of Bluebox Security, a San Francisco company whose researchers discovered the issue.

According to Google’s documentation, Android applications must be signed in order to be installed on the OS, but the digital certificate used to sign them does not need to be issued by a digital certificate authority. “It is perfectly allowable, and typical, for Android applications to use self-signed certificates,” the documentation says.

However, Android contains hard-coded certificates from several developers so it can give apps created by those developers special access and privileges inside the OS, Forristal said.

One such certificate belongs to Adobe and gives apps signed by it, or by certificates issued by it, the power to inject code into other installed apps. Forristal believes this behavior exists to allow other apps to use Adobe’s Flash Player plug-in.

A typical certificate chain validation process would use cryptography to check the signature relationships between all certificates in the chain. A certificate chain can contain intermediary certificates, so the system would start by validating if the certificate used to sign the app was indeed signed by the next certificate in the chain. Then it would validate whether that certificate was signed by the next one, and so on, until reaching the trusted Adobe certificate.

According to Forristal, Android does not do that, so an attacker can sign a malicious app with a certificate that appears to be signed by the hard-coded Adobe certificate, but actually isn’t. As long as the Adobe certificate is present in the app’s certificate chain, the system will take code from the app and inject it into other installed apps, Forristal said.

The injected code essentially becomes part of the other apps, inheriting their permissions. It has access to all data stored by those apps, it can see their network traffic and can perform all actions that those apps are authorized to perform on the device, he said.

The attack can only be used to hijack apps that use the WebView component on Android versions older than 4.4, known as KitKat. WebView is a feature commonly used by apps to display Web content using the browser engine built into Android.

In Android KitKat, the WebView component is based on the Chromium open-source browser and no longer supports this plug-in code injection, Forristal said.

Even so, the attack affects a large number of users. According to Google’s statistics from the beginning of July, around 88 percent of devices that use Google Play run Android versions older than 4.4.

“It is very, very easy for malware to use this attack—it is silent, transparent, with no notifications to users,” Forristal said. The malicious app doesn’t need any special permissions. It just needs to contain WebView code inside of it, which it can actually download after installation, he said.

Abusing the Adobe certificate is also not the only possible attack vector, as Android has at least two other hard-coded certificates that grant applications special access.

One is a certificate for mobile device management technology developed by a company called 3LM that was acquired in early 2011 by Motorola Mobility, before Google acquired Motorola Mobility.

The 3LM device management extensions are not part of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), but are included in various devices that were produced and shipped by Sony, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, LG and a couple of other smaller manufacturers, Forristal said.

Any application with the 3LM certificate in its certificate chain can use the device management extensions to silently install new apps, change system settings and take control of the device, he said.

Finally, a third hard-coded certificate is used by Google Wallet and provides access to the hardware-based NFC (near-field communication) secure element that’s used to store sensitive information like credit card numbers during payment processing.

The Bluebox security researchers didn’t have time to analyze the impact of this attack vector in detail, but its mere existence likely violates the Android security model for the NFC secure element, Forristal said.

The certificate chain validation vulnerability, which Bluebox has dubbed Fake ID, was reported to Google in April and a patch was made available to device manufacturers, according to Forristal.

“After receiving word of this vulnerability, we quickly issued a patch that was distributed to Android partners, as well as to AOSP,” a Google representative said Tuesday via email. “Google Play and Verify Apps have also been enhanced to protect users from this issue. At this time, we have scanned all applications submitted to Google Play as well as those Google has reviewed from outside of Google Play and we have seen no evidence of attempted exploitation of this vulnerability.”

Motorola has released updates with the patch for some devices and more vendors will probably do the same over the coming weeks, Forristal said.

However, due to the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, update availability and delivery vary widely between different manufacturers and carriers. Some affected devices are most likely not even supported anymore and will never receive a patch for this issue.

Bluebox has released a free application that can check whether a device is vulnerable to the fake ID attacks.

Forristal plans to discuss the vulnerability in more detail during a presentation at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas next week.

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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M Maxwell Launching in October | Computer Hardware Reviews -

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M Maxwell Launching in October | Computer Hardware Reviews - | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

According to multiple reports, NVIDIA is looking to unveil its GM204 graphics processor in the next two months. Cloudfire a user on the NotebookReview forums has gathered some information from notebook manufacturers regarding their future products. He has confirmed that NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 980M Maxwell flagship will launch in October.

So you may be asking, “wait a second, GTX 980M?”. I said the same thing when I first read this story. NVIDIA has yet to release the desktop 800 series, so why would they release mobile 900M and 800 desktop series around the same time? This has never happened before, normally the same series desktop and mobile products would launch around the same time. NVIDIA has only released a single 800 series Maxwell mobile card, the GTX 860M. So would NVIDIA completely skip the rest of the 800M series and launch new revised 900M products? The GTX 860M actually had two variants (Kepler and Maxwell) so it was a little confusing. Launching an new series (900M) based entirely on Maxwell does make sense.

It is speculated that the 900M series will be based on a mobile variant on the GM204 die. The GM204 is not exactly an enthusiast-grade GPU, but it will do just fine as a mobile processor. If NVIDIA is indeed launching an entirely new mobile series based entirely on Maxwell, it would look something like this:

- Geforce GT 940M
- Geforce GTX 950M
- Geforce GTX 960M
- Geforce GTX 970M
- Geforce GTX 975M
- Geforce GTX 980M

Some of these models could simply be rebrands or based on the first generation Maxwell dies. In any case according to the report we will see the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M in October, so only time will tell.

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Next-generation lithium cells will double your phone's battery life

Next-generation lithium cells will double your phone's battery life | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

The lithium ion batteries in your mobile devices are inherently limited by the "ion" part of their name; they can safely use lithium only in the part of the cell that supplies ions, wasting a lot of potential energy. It's good news, then, that researchers at Stanford have developed a new lithium battery that could last for much, much longer. The technique allows for denser, more efficient lithium in the battery's anode (which discharges electrons) by using a nanoscopic carbon shield that keeps the unstable chemical in check -- uncontrolled, it can quickly shorten the device's lifespan.

The result is a power pack that lasts considerably longer on charge, won't decay quickly and remains relatively safe. Stanford's Steven Chu (the former US Secretary of Energy) reckons that a cellphone equipped with these advanced lithium cells could have two to three times the battery life, and automakers could build cheap electric cars that still offer a healthy driving range. There's more engineering work required before you see any shipping products, but it's entirely possible that future portable gadgets will run for more than a day on a charge without resorting to giant battery packs.

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Acer Aspire AU5-620-U12 All-in-One PC review: Pretty, but ultimately underwhelming

Acer Aspire AU5-620-U12 All-in-One PC review: Pretty, but ultimately underwhelming | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Acer seems to be putting a lot of resources into its industrial design team lately, perhaps at the expense of the folks who work on what's inside the box. Case in point: the Aspire AU5-620-U12, a sleek $1020 all-in-one that's better suited for a receptionist's desk than the workspace of someone who needs to crunch numbers or perform any other type of heavy-duty computing.

Image: Michael Homnick

The Aspire AU5-620-U12 may have a clunky name, but it's otherwise a slender, beautiful PC.

This latest Aspire AU5 certainly makes a good first impression. It's packed into a slim chassis attached to (and concealed by) a 23-inch, 1920-by-1080 widescreen touchscreen display covered by edge-to-edge glass. The whole shebang is less than an inch-and-a-half thick.

Edge-to-edge glass isn't unusual in an all-in-ones these days; what's less common is the absence of a base to distract from its clean lines. What Acer provides instead is a sturdy, spring-loaded, kickstand-like hinge that lets you easily adjust the screen anywhere between standing nearly perpendicular to lying nearly flat against your desktop. The way the hinge holds whichever angle you choose is particularly impressive: I detected no give as I used the touchscreen.

A robust hinge on the back of the Aspire AU5 allows it to stay at almost any angle. 

Acer ships the AU5-620-U12 with a wireless keyboard and mouse, so there are no unsightly desktop cables, either. But its design leaves no way to stash the mouse and keyboard underneath the display, which will annoy some users (it bugged me).

I also didn't care for Acer's decision to go with a keyboard that's smaller in both width and height than the ones you'd find on notebooks that are much more petite than this desktop. Keyboard action was also disappointingly mushy; touch typists will hate it. Acer might be imitating Apple here—iMacs come with small keyboards, too—but Acer’s lacks quality.

Image: Michael Homnick

The keyboard is as small as a laptop's—why?

A bright display

The AU5’s AV components are more satisfactory. The display was bright, with brilliant colors, and the speakers embedded at the bottom emitted reasonably robust audio. The 2.0-megapixel integrated webcam captured decent images; Acer designed it with small conference rooms in mind, and the microphones performed well for video calls.

A slow hard drive contributed to the Aspire's disappointing WorldBench 9 score. 

Expansion and connectivity options are more or less in line with what you'd expect at this price point: The AU5-620-U12 has five USB ports (although only two are USB 3.0), gigabit ethernet, HDMI-in and -out, a media card reader, a headset jack, and audio line out. These are all located along the left side or the bottom edge of the slim chassis, where they’re concealed by the display. The Acer also supports the latest and fastest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac (which is backward-compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n).

The optical drive is accessible from the right edge of the chassis, but it can't play Blu-ray discs—it's a simple DVD player/burner. Acer does allow for expansion, however; you can take apart the chassis to access a couple of mini PCIe slots. That’s unusual for an all-in-one.

The Toshiba PX35t-A2210 delivered a higher PCMark 8: Office score despite having only an Intel Core i3 processor and 6GB of memory. The Acer has an Intel Core i5 and 8GB of RAM. 

Performance is lacking

But the real downside of this model is its performance. Acer’s component choices aren’t all bad. There’s an Intel Core i5-4200M (a Haswell-class mobile processor) and 8GB of DDR3/1600 memory, but the system relies on an integrated Intel HD 4600 graphics processor and a 1TB mechanical hard drive that spins its platters at just 5400rpm. A hybrid drive or—better yet—a true SSD would open up the Aspire AU5-620-U12’s potential. As it stands, this all-in-one eked out a meager Desktop WorldBench 9 score of 51. That’s one of the lowest scores we've seen lately; in fact, it’s just two points ahead of Toshiba’s PX35t-A2210, which is powered by a lesser Intel Core i3 processor (the Toshiba’S 7200rpm hard drive is the key difference here).

The Acer was slow at almost every task we tested, but its performance was particularly poor with PCMark 8: Office, which evaluates performance with Microsoft Office applications. And while Intel has made great strides with its integrated video architecture, it still can’t deliver a satisfying experience with a game like BioShock Infinite—even with resolution dialed down to 1024x768.

Intel's integrated graphics are indeed getting better, but they remain no match for a discrete graphics processor. 

Should you buy one?

The Acer Aspire AU5-620-U12 shapes up as a tool for light use—Skype calls, YouTube videos, and routine business tasks—in an environment where looks matter and money isn't terribly tight. You can pay less for superior desktop performance these days, and even a starving student might want to sacrifice a bit of PC chic for at least minimal gaming chops.

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