Category Archives: Electronics

Presented by Techradar Pro: Check out our first B2B buyer’s guide

Techradar Pro’s first buyer’s guide of 2018 focuses on the red hot market of ruggedised mobile computing, covering laptops, 2-in-1 devices, smartphones as well as storage and software.

Produced in partnership with Getac, Bullitt Group and GooseVPN, the first of our “presented by” series, shed more light on the tough tech industry with a particular focus on the road ahead and how ruggedised devices will evolve.

We also explore the reasons behind why choosing ruggedised products is the often the only acceptable way forward for companies especially when TCO is taken into consideration.

Lastly we have a look at the challengers in the rugged smartphone, tablet, laptop, storage, software and accessories market.

Check our inaugural issue below

      

BT broadband launches Ultrafast Fibre with guaranteed speeds of at least 100Mb

BT has announced that it is today launching two brand new Ultrafast Fibre broadband plans, which are set to offer some of the fastest home broadband speeds of any internet provider.

Although the the service is limited to only a select number of households on launch, the connection speeds it is promising look extremely attractive in a crowded market with broadband companies looking to outgun each other when it comes to speed.

BT Ultrafast 1 boasts speeds of up to 152Mb (equivalent to 19MB per second), while Ultrafast 2 more than doubles that with up to an extraordinary 314Mb (or 39.25MB per second). That even outpaces the fastest internet from Virgin Media broadband. Crucially, both plans will guarantee a connection of at least 100Mb, with £20 compensation available if your speed ever falls below 100Mb.

See whether you can get BT Ultrafast Fibre broadband

The packages start at £54.99 per month for Ultrafast 1 or it’s a fiver more for Ultrafast 2. Both require you to sign up for an 18-month contract and pay £59.99 upfront. And BT is currently offering a pre-paid £110 Mastercard to encourage you to buy. BT Ultrafast Fibre also comes with:

  • A new Smart Hub, which BT says has “the UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal vs. other major broadband providers”
  • Free access to over 5.5 million BT wi-fi hotspots
  • Unlimited usage
  • 1,000GB of cloud storage
  • BT Virus Protect and BT Parental Controls
  • Free UK weekend calls and BT Call Protect

What if I’m not yet eligible for BT Ultrafast?

BT is limiting the amount of postcodes that can obtain Ultrafast Fibre to begin with – probably to make sure that it can confidentially deliver the 100Mb+ speeds to a controlled number – but you can click the link above and enter your postcode to see whether you’re one of the lucky ones.

Otherwise, you’ll have to settle for one of our picks of the best broadband deals on the market or see what else BT broadband is offering at the moment. And if it’s super fast internet speeds that you crave, take a look at our comparison chart below to see what packages are currently being offered with 50Mb or greater connection speeds.

      

New Mac malware hijacks DNS and compromises internet traffic

Mac users haven’t had much good news on the security front early on in 2018, and that unfortunate streak is continuing with the revelation that macOS has been hit by a new strain of DNS hijacking malware (which inflicts more nastiness on the system besides that primary payload).

Named as OSX/MaMi, the malware changes the DNS server settings on the victim’s machine, redirecting their internet traffic through malicious servers designed to steal the user’s sensitive data.

Security researcher Patrick Wardle has looked extensively into MaMi (as spotted by 9 to 5 Mac) and observes that while it isn’t particularly sophisticated, it does more than simple DNS hijacking.

It’s also capable of pulling off tricks like taking screenshots, downloading and uploading files, executing commands, and it installs a new root certificate to facilitate potential man-in-the-middle attacks. It’s pretty bad news all round, really.

Social engineering

How do you get infected? Wardle isn’t certain on this point, but observes that fake emails or social engineering attacks are likely to be involved (both are pretty prevalent vectors these days). The post on Malwarebytes’ forum which pointed out the malware to Wardle showed the infection came from installation of a dodgy program (‘mycoupon’).

Unfortunately, not all antivirus software is currently capable of detecting the malware, although some have been primed to spot it. Hopefully, it shouldn’t be long before all antivirus apps have MaMi on their radar.

To manually check if you’ve been infected, simply look in System Preferences, under the Network pane, click Advanced, and go to the DNS menu. If your DNS settings are set to 82.163.143.135 and 82.163.142.137, then the malware is at large on your system. Wardle provides further advice in this blog post.

Other Mac malware nastiness we’ve witnessed already this year include a zero-day bug in macOS, and another password login flaw which cropped up last week.

If you’re becoming concerned about the amount of viruses and exploits now targeting Apple’s computers, we’ve got a full guide on how to protect your Mac against malware.

  • A couple of Apple’s MacBooks make our list of best laptops

      

Windows on Snapdragon desktop apps won’t be as power-hungry as first thought

Qualcomm and Microsoft’s partnership to bring Windows 10 to Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered laptops has promised always-connected laptops and day-long battery lives – but the worry was that would come at a price to longevity.

However, Qualcomm has now revealed that running standard Windows 10 desktop programs shouldn’t affect that impressive battery life too much.

We were previously led to believe that to benefit from the 20 or more hours’ battery life, owners of Windows 10 on Snapdragon (also known as Windows on ARM) devices would need to stick to UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps.

These are apps downloaded from the Microsoft Store, and Windows 10 S, which Windows on Snapdragon devices run by default, is a locked-down version of Windows 10 that can only run those apps.

While some standard Windows 10 programs have UWP versions, many more do not, which meant some people worried that you would either be stuck without some of the desktop applications you rely on, or suffer from worse battery life.

Full apps, full battery

However, in a report published on Neowin, PJ Jacobowitz, a representative from Qualcomm, suggested that performance and battery life impact would be the same as if it was running on a PC with an Intel processor.

Neowin doesn’t supply the exact quote, so we’re not entirely clear what this means. However, many are interpreting it to mean that there won’t be a significant impact on battery life if you run full desktop programs – also known as Win32 applications.

Because Win32 applications require more power (and will be run with emulation in Windows 10 S) many thought they would further impact battery life with Windows on Snapdragon systems.

The report seems to dispute that, but the wording is ambiguous. It suggests Win32 applications will run as well as if they were running on a standard Intel machine, and will use the same amount of power.

So, these applications will still deplete the battery life faster than a UWP app might, but due to emulation not being an issue, the impact shouldn’t be as much as we feared.

We’ve contacted Qualcomm to get clarification and will update this story as soon as we hear back.

      

Barcelona abandons Windows and Office, goes with Linux instead

In another entire-city-abandons-Microsoft affair, Barcelona has announced that it’s dumping Windows and Office in order to migrate to Linux and other open source solutions.

The idea is, obviously enough, to save money by not paying subscription fees to Microsoft, because the beauty of open source software is that it’s free.

As to the reality of how the move pans out, we’ll just have to see, but as we mentioned at the outset, Barcelona isn’t the first European city to try this trick. Munich did so, initially instigating plans way back in 2003, and fully completing the move to open source by 2013. However, the city announced it was switching back to Microsoft software in 2016.

Nonetheless, Barcelona is treading this brave path, which involves doing away with Windows, as well as Microsoft Office and Exchange, in favor of Linux, Libre Office and Open Xchange.

Apparently some folks at the city council are already using Linux PCs with Ubuntu installed, as well as Firefox as the default browser, as part of a pilot scheme.

Fresh software

Barcelona won’t just be using existing open source software, but also plans to recruit developers to write fresh programs, which will then potentially be distributed and used in other cities across Spain, furthering cost-saving efforts.

As ever, only time will tell how successful this initiative will be, but there are plenty of doubters given the Munich episode.

Regarding the latter, as MS Power User reports, one of the main reasons for Munich reverting to Microsoft software was apparently the fact that the tailored Linux distro used (LiMux, based on Ubuntu) and Libre Office were seen to be “far behind the current technical possibilities of established standard solutions”, and were causing crashes and instability.

Although pro-open source advocates will doubtless argue that on an overall level, Linux has made impressive strides in terms of becoming more stable and fully supported in recent times.

Munich isn’t the only example of a city failing in a Linux migration campaign, either – Vienna tried to make the move in 2005, returning to Windows four years later.

      

Plusnet’s £50 cashback £18.99pm broadband deal ends tonight

You have until midnight tonight to claim the best value broadband deal on the market. BT-owned Plusnet is flogging standard ADSL internet for £18.99 per month. That’s as little as you’ll be anywhere right now, and it has halved the upfront cost to a fiver, too. Pretty good in it’s own right, but fantastic when you consider that it will also give you £50 cashback when you sign up.

Cheap broadband is a competitive battlefield. With the likes of Sky, TalkTalk and even John Lewis on the scene, internet providers have to come up with some pretty special rates to lure customers their way. But Plusnet has the measure of all of them at the moment.

The internet deal – more on which below – expires today, so you’ve got until midnight to sign up. Or to see just how well Plusnet Unlimited Broadband competes against its rivals, you can head to our best cheap broadband only deals guide.

Plusnet’s cheap broadband only deal:

What about if I want fibre broadband?

If you need to crank up the speed of your home internet then you’ll be interested to know that Plusnet has also reduced the price of its entry-level super fast fibre optic broadband. Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband now costs £23.99 per month. It’s another 18 month plan and the activation costs absolutely nothing upfront, but that tidy little cashback perk isn’t available.

But unlike on ADSL, Plusnet isn’t the king when it comes to the best fibre broadband deals. At a mere £20 per month and free activation, Vodafone Unlimited Fibre 38 is unbeatable for price at the moment. And if you really have a taste for cash perks, then take a look at BT Broadband Unlimited Infinity 1 for £29.99 a month – you get a £100 pre-paid Mastercard and up to rapid 52Mb connection speeds.

How do I claim the cashback?

It all sounds pretty simple. Plusnet says that once your broadband and home phone line is activated you will receive an email. Follow the instructions therein and Plusnet will send you a cheque for £50 cashback. Don’t delay though – you have to submit your cashback claim within 2 months of receiving the email, otherwise you’ll lose out.

Existing Plusnet broadband customers

If you’re a current Plusnet customer, unfortunately this offer doesn’t apply to you. Similarly, you’re not permitted to claim this price if you’ve had Plusnet before. This sensational offer is only for customers that are new to the provider.

Best broadband deals

You can’t beat Plusnet purely on price at the moment. But if you want an all-singing, all-dancing package that features broadband and TV, Plusnet can’t help you. It’s only dealing in broadband at the moment.

With TechRadar’s price comparison tool you can compare and contrast all of the best deals available on the market right now. Head to our best broadband deals page, pop in your postcode, filter your requirements and we’ll spit out the best deals on the market specifically for you.

      

Google Maps has gingerly returned to China after an eight year absence

When asked to bow down to China’s strict censorship laws in 2010, tech giant Google made the decision to pull its most popular services entirely from the country rather than comply. The company has now returned to the Chinese market – albeit in a tentative way – by reintroducing a localized version of Google Maps.

The China-specific version of Google Maps is available via desktop browsers and as an iOS app (China doesn’t have the Google Play Store, so there’s no Android version), which both allow users to navigate within the country, although with some caveats.

For example, due to its extended absence, Google hasn’t been collecting consistent mapping information, and as such, many of the streets don’t match the satellite information, or are missing altogether. Further to this, all turn-by-turn navigational features link out to the AutoNavi app, a service owned by Chinese internet monolith Alibaba.

Google’s Chinese New Year

At this stage, some of Google’s biggest tools are still absent from China – its search engine and YouTube are both unavailable in the local market, presumably because of the impact that the country’s censorship would have on these services in particular (so don’t expect to see a Chinese Google Home any time soon).

An article by Asian industry publication Nikkei cites Beijing’s interest in developing its AI capabilities as the potential reason for Google’s renewed cooperation, particularly when it comes to AI-driven self-driving technologies.

      

Samsung trademarks new material – but Galaxy S9 fans shouldn’t get excited

Samsung has trademarked a new material called ‘Metal 12′ which will make its devices lighter while still maintaining strength.

The new material – which was used on the new Notebook 9 2018 – offers strength while allowing the devices to be lighter than previously.

Samsung says this is made possible through a Micro Arc Oxidation process that gives the surface an oxide coating – a process that was used on the beautifully-designed HTC One S from years ago.

That’s something that would be a big win in both smartphones and smartwatches – and interestingly both are listed in the trademark application.

In fact, everything from ‘3D Active Glasses’ to ‘leather cases for smart phones’ are listed as possible uses for the material, suggesting Samsung has found something it believes could be used to improve the quality and feel of a number of devices.

(Non) heavy metal

The fact Metal 12 has been used on a notebook already hints that it could be used in the Samsung Galaxy S9, but in reality it’s likely to need more development to be used in something so small.

That does mean something like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or the possible Samsung Gear S4 could be prime candidates for the new material.

Then again, Apple’s been trying to use the ‘future material’ LiquidMetal for many, many years now and it’s never been used in great quantities for its smartphones, so this could be the last time we ever talk about Metal 12 too.

From TMDN via GalaxyClub

      

The best free SEO tools of 2018

Techradar, one of the largest technology websites in the world, is visited by millions of users each month, the majority of them coming through Google and other search engines.

The web is awash with SEO tools and resources, but it pays to do your homework first and pick your kit carefully. Just like the practitioners within the search marketing industry itself, there’s the good the bad and, well, the ugly. Here is our list of five of the best free tools around today.

1. Google Search Console

Even if you’re not headstrong on SEO, whatever the size of your site or blog, Google’s laudable Search Console (formerly Webmaster Central) and the myriad user-friendly tools under its bonnet should be your first port of call. The suite of tools gives you valuable information about your site at a glance: it can assess your site’s performance and observe potential problems to troubleshoot (like negative spammy links), help you ensure your site is Google-friendly and monitor Google’s indexing of your site.

You can even report spam and request reconsideration if your site has incurred a penalty. Plus, if you don’t refer to their Webmaster Guidelines now and again, well, you’ve only yourself to blame if you go wrong. A new version of Search Console is due to be rolled out imminently and will include additional functionality such as Index Coverage, Job posting, Search performance and AMP status as well as an updated user interface (finally!).

2. SEOQuake

SEMRush’s SEOQuake is one of the most popular toolbar extension adored by millions. It allows you to view multiple search engine parameters on the fly and save and compare them with the results obtained for other projects. Although the icons and numbers that SeoQuake yields might be unintelligible to the uninformed user, skilled optimisers will appreciate the wealth of detail this add-on provides.

Gauge details about number of visitors and their country, get a site’s traffic history trended on a graph, and more. The toolbar includes buttons for a site’s Google index update, backlinks, SEMRush ranking, Facebook likes, Bing index, Alexa ranks, web archive age and a link to the Whois page. There’s also a useful cheat sheet and diagnostics page to have a bird’s view of potential issues (or opportunities) affecting a particular page or site.

3. Google AdWords keyword planner

Knowing the right keywords to target is all-important when priming your web copy. Google’s free keyword tool, part of Adwords, couldn’t be easier to use. Plug your website URL into the box, start reviewing the suggested keywords and off you go. Jill Whalen, CEO of HighRankings.com is a fan and offers advice to those new to keyword optimisation: “make sure you use those keywords within the content of your website.

It’s really a question of being descriptive as keyword phrases typically describe what you offer. Think about the fact that you’re trying to answer someone’s question at the other end of the search engine. They’re typically searching Google because they have a question or a problem to solve. Make your website answer those questions and solve those problems and it will be the one to show in the search results.”

4. Google Optimise

Yet another Google tool on that list (not a surprise isn’t it). Optimise is not for the faint hearted and will make even seasoned SEO experts uncomfortable. SEO isn’t all about rankings and without the right balance of content that engages with your visitors and drives conversions, you’re earnest optimisation could be wasted.

Google’s free service helps take the guesswork out of the game, allowing you to test your site’s content: from simple A/B testing of two different pages to comparing a whole combination of elements on any given page. Note that in order to run some of the more complicated multivariate testing, you will need adequate traffic and time to make the results actionable, just as you do with Analytics.

5. Live Keyword Analysis

Any seasoned search engine optimisation specialist will tell you keywords matter, and while simply clawing keywords into your text arbitrarily can do more harm than good, it’s worth ensuring you have the right balance. Live Keyword Analysis is a breeze to use: simply type in your keywords and then paste in your text and your keyword density analysis will be done on the fly. Don’t forget to proof and edit your text accordingly for optimum readability. A must for website copywriters especially as you don’t need to register or pay for anything.

      

The best mining pools of 2018

Slush Pool

If you’ve taken the plunge with cryptocurrency mining and have a shiny new ASIC miner to hand, you may be tempted to fire it up immediately and start mining Bitcoins or your chosen cryptocurrency on your own. However, for the most popular currencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin, it can take centuries to generate a valid ‘block’ on your own and make money.

Mining pools exist as a way for multiple devices to work together across the internet, pooling their resources in performing complex calculations to generate blocks of data. The mining ‘reward’ as it’s known is then split proportionally amongst each participant.

The method used to allocate rewards and the final amount you’ll receive will depend on the mining pool in question. In this guide we’ve explored five of the best known pools online today, to help you decide which is right for you.

Where possible we’ve found pools with multiple servers around the world, allowing you to connect easily. If these pique your interest and you want more information, head over to the Bitcoin Wiki to see a detailed comparison of all the top pools.

  • We also show you

    Slush Pool started out in 2010 when it was known as Bitcoin Pooled Mining Server before rebranding itself. It’s the oldest currently active mining pool and has an excellent reputation for stability and accuracy. Currently Slush Pool is the fourth largest mining pool representing around 11.4% of hash power overall.

    The sign-up process is very simple and you can create a demo miner in order to familiarize yourself with the dashboard. The website itself offers both a simple and a more advanced interface for experienced miners.

    You can also set your minimum pay-out threshold to as little as 0.001 BTC, but there are additional fees for any pay-outs under 0.01BTC.

    Slush Pool is democratic in that you can register your preferences about the kind of mining you want your devices to perform, for instance: Bitcoin Core strict rules only.

    The website also has some very useful sections for those who are new to mining. This section on mining rewards is particularly helpful as it contains a detailed explanation of how pay-outs are measured by each user’s scoring hash rate. If you switch from Slush Pool to another, then try to return, your score will drop significantly.

    Pool fees stand at 2% which is a little higher than some of the other pools out there. Slush Pool has servers in the US, Europe, Singapore and China.

    AntPool is currently the largest mining pool operating today, representing just over a quarter of hash power worldwide. It’s owned and operated by Bitmain, a China-based firm which also manufactures the Antminer series of ASIC mining devices (you can check out our guide to the best ASIC devices here).

    AntPool has servers all around the world and makes use of an innovative peer-to-peer mining protocol to link your device to the one nearest to you during setup, for a faster and more reliable connection.

    Once you’ve set up your account and entered your wallet address, payments are sent every day between 08:00-15:00 Beijing time (which is eight hours ahead of the UK), provided that the amount you’ve mined is at least 0.001 BTC.

    Being the largest pool allows users some perks in that they can choose how they want to be rewarded. One method is PPS (Payment Per Share) which means you’re charged 4% on pay-outs plus 2% of any transaction fees earned. You can also choose PPLNS (Payment Per Last N Shares) which is free but AntPool will keep all transaction fees.

    You can mine solo if you wish but it’s very unlikely you’ll make a profit doing so unless you have a colossal amount of hash power. Whichever method you choose, remember that individual pay-outs are generally smaller for larger mining pools.

    BTC.com

    This outfit is one of the most well-known brands in the world of cryptocurrency, and owns the domain Bitcoin.com as well as BTC.com. Prior to starting a mining pool in 2016, BTC.com was already famous for creating a powerful Bitcoin wallet as well as its own blockchain explorer.

    BTC.com operates one of the most popular mining pools, vying with AntPool for the top spot. It currently represents over 20% of overall global hash power. Mining servers are located in both the EU (Germany) and China. BTC.com currently supports mining only Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.

    Ever innovative, BTC.com has its own method of rewarding miners known as FPPS (Full Pay Per Share). FPPS calculates a standard transaction fee within a given period,adds it to the block reward (currently 12.5 BTC) and then distributes the whole to miners as with traditional PPS (Payment Per Share). Sharing transaction fees, especially when they are high, makes mining much more lucrative which may explain BTC.com’s popularity.

    The only small criticism we can level at BTC.com is that we found the website to be rather flaky. For example, the page explaining how FPPS works failed to load, and while the help section of the website is useful, there’s no specific ‘getting started’ guide as with Slush Pool. We were nevertheless able to find all the information needed to configure a miner. Windows users can also add and configure miners easily using BTC tool and BTC Smart Agent.

    KanoPool

    KanoPool has been around since 2014. Despite being one of the smaller pools out there (currently representing only 0.3% of global hash power), it has become popular due to its low mining fees and easy setup.

    Registration with KanoPool is optional: when configuring your miner, you only need to enter your BTC wallet address as the username to begin mining right away. However, users who do choose to register can view more detailed statistics about the mining pool.

    The payment method used by KanoPool is PPLNS (Payment Per Last N Shares). ‘N’ in this case is five times the network difficulty, immediately after a block is found.

    The pool fee itself is 0.9% and transaction fees are included in the block reward, meaning pay-outs are quite generous relative to rival larger mining pools, although payment may take some time. You can find a more detailed explanation of how pay-outs are managed on KanoPool’s website.

    If you do choose to visit the KanoPool web page, you’ll see that the layout is extremely simplistic, and there are no detailed tutorials as all the information you need to get started is on the help page. Nevertheless Kano himself is an active participant in the BitcoinTalk forum and is very prompt to respond to questions about the pool.

    F2Pool

    F2Pool (also known as DiscusFish) is a Chinese-based mining pool and has been operating since 2013. It has several servers on the Chinese mainland as well as in Hong Kong and the US.

    F2Pool is relatively large, representing around 5.5% of the hash power for the most popular Bitcoin mining pools. It’s also one of the most diverse pools in that while you can mine BTC, F2Pool also supports Litecoin, Zerocoin, Ethereum, Siacoin, DASH and Monero to name just a few.

    Pay-outs are made at midnight UTC each day on a PPS (Payment Per Share) basis of negative 3%. The pool keeps all transaction fees. Right now, the threshold for Bitcoin payments is 0.005 BTC.

    The website is also currently offering a little extra incentive to miners in that once your mining totals 1 BTC exactly, you’ll automatically receive 5 NMC (Name Coin), 100 SYS and 1 EMC (Emercoin). Currently these have a market value of around $640 (around £470).

    The website itself is well laid out and contains useful information, but non-Chinese users who need support are encouraged to use the official F2Pool English language thread in the BitcoinTalk forums.

    The sign-up process for the pool can be a little tricky as you need to fill out a Captcha and also verify your identity via text message, meaning you must have access to a mobile phone to start mining.