Archive for July, 2014

The best way to completely wipe your Android device

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Sarah Tew/CNET

A study from security software vendor Avast has suggested that the factory reset option built into the Android operating system isn’t effective in eradicating your personal data from old devices. The firm purchased 20 used Android smartphones on eBay and was able to recover more than 40,000 photos, 750 emails and text messages, and 250 contacts, along with the identities of four of the previous device owners, and even a completed loan application. To make matters worse, Avast employees were using readily available data recovery software to get the job done.

While Avast and other companies like it offer data deletion tools, there are other steps you can take to securing your personal data when performing a factory reset.

Step one: Encrypting

I recommend encrypting your device before you are getting ready to wipe it. The encryption process will scramble the data on your device and, even if the wipe doesn’t fully delete the data, a special key will be required to unscramble it.

To encrypt your device, enter settings, click on Security, and select Encrypt phone.

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Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

Step two: Perform a factory reset

The next thing you will want to do is perform a factory reset. This can be done by selecting Factory data reset in the Backup & reset option in the settings menu. You should be aware that this will erase all of the data on your phone and that you should backup anything you don’t want to lose.

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Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

Step three: Load dummy data

Following step one and two should be enough for most people, but there’s an extra step you can take to add another layer of protection when erasing your personal data. Try loading fake photos and contacts on your device. Why you ask? We will address that in the next step.

Step four: Perform another factory reset

You should now perform another factory reset, thus erasing the dummy content you loaded onto the device. This will make it even harder for someone to locate your data because it will be buried below the dummy content.

Still feeling a little paranoid? Repeat steps three and four as many times as you like. As I mentioned above, however, for most people simply following steps one and two should be enough. Without the encryption pin, which is overwritten in the initial factory reset, it will be almost impossible to unscramble your data.

Then again, you could always take a hammer to your phone or toss it in the toilet. You know, if you aren’t interested in selling it.

Week in Tech: Week in Tech: Facebook’s feed-fiddling and Microsoft’s plan to get you fit

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If this week had a sound that sound would be “wheeeeee!” or maybe “gnnnnnh!” – that’s our impression of BMW’s tech-filled and faintly frightening M3 sports car, which can put a smile on even the most sombre face.

But BMW’s not the only firm that can change people’s moods: Facebook’s been at it too, and the internet has a frowny face as a result. It’s Week in Tech!

Fury over Facebook feed-fiddling

The internet is ANGRY, and this time it might have a point: Facebook has been manipulating users’ News Feeds to try and change people’s moods. It’s probably legal, but seems rather unethical: “Nobody was asked whether they wanted to participate in what is effectively a psychological study,” we report, and it’s “arguably irresponsible too: how many of the people whose news feeds were made more negative were people with vulnerable emotional states or mental illnesses such as depression?”

Plasma panels: on borrowed time

Samsung has hammered another nail into the coffin of plasma TV: it’s going to build its last plasma set in November of this year, and then it’s going to switch focus to 4K and curved TVs instead. Panasonic’s already out of the plasma business, and reports suggest that it won’t be long before LG stops too. So what kind of TV should you buy if plasma’s on the way out? Allow us to help with our in-depth guide to the best TVs of 2014.

Good news for Nexus

Got a Nexus 4, 5, 7 or 10? We’ve got good news: you’ll be able to get Google’s super soaraway Android L operating system. The code has already been made available to developers, but we mere mortals will probably have to wait for the official release in September or October.

Microsoft wants your wrist

Does Microsoft want you to wear Windows? It certainly sounds like it: it’s working on a Samsung Gear Fit-style fitness device that’ll go on sale later this year. It’s a fitness tracker rather than a smartwatch, and because this is the New Microsoft it won’t just be for Windows Phone users: it’ll work on Android and iOS too.

Samsung has a horse

We’ve looked at two very different Galaxies this week: Samsung’s giant Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 and the teeny-tiny Galaxy S5 Mini. Thanks to a (now-removed) typo in our review we can exclusively reveal that the former is a “power horse”, but like many pretend horses it’s “let down by the rear… which feels less than premium.” Meanwhile the S5 Mini isn’t actually that mini: with a 4.5-inch display it’s bigger than previous Minis and only a little bit smaller than the full-sized S5.

“Tarmac-trampling triumphalism”

BMW’s M3 is “a game changer”, says Jeremy Laird, pulling doughnuts in the car park: it’s “stupendously, staggeringly, sickeningly quick” and packed with more tech than a terminator. It’s the most configurable M3 ever and “an exceptional achievement.”

The iPod of the 80s

Imagine a world without the WalkMan. There’d be no iPod, no Wired for Sound by Cliff Richard and no “home taping is killing music” campaign. Sony’s smash hit is a terrifying 35 years old, and while the name lives on the iconic tape-based player is long gone.

“There are lessons here for Apple,” Ian Morris writes: the WalkMan put Sony at the top of the consumer tech tree, but by the time it made its last tape-based WalkMan in 2009 it was losing money hand over fist. Making music hardware is just like making music: you’re only as good as your last hit.

Get a Google Cardboard VR kit for $26.99 shipped

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Unofficial Cardboard’s VR kits are shipping immediately.
Unofficial Cardboard

Among the more interesting “products” introduced at last month’s Google I/O conference was Google Cardboard, a do-it-yourself virtual reality kit that generated at least as much buzz as Android Auto and Android Wear.

Of course, if you wanted to see what all the fuss was about, you had two options: Purchase and assemble the various components yourself using Google’s plans (to the tune of $25 to $45), or order a kit from DODOcase and wait 4 to 6 weeks (!) to get it.

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Unofficial Cardboard

Now there’s a third option, one that lets anybody try Google Cardboard right out of the — sorry — box: Unofficial Cardboard has a fully assembled Google Cardboard laser-cut kit for $26.99 shipped (converted, that’s £15.76 or AU$28.80). That’s after applying coupon code cheapskate10%off at checkout. (That code also works with the unassembled version if you’d rather have the satisfaction of putting it together yourself.)

If you’re ordering from outside the US, shipping costs a flat $10 (converted, about £6 or AU$11). And, if you already ordered a kit from DODOcase or another supplier and don’t want to wait, cancel that order, then forward the cancellation receipt to Unofficial Cardboard — they’ll shoot you back a coupon good for 20 percent off.

Update: International shipping is $10 only if you ordered the unassembled version.

Both versions come with everything you need (except the phone) to experience Google-style VR: the cardboard housing (laser-cut to Google’s specs), two 25mm glass lenses, magnets, Velcro, a rubber band, and even an NFC tag (which Google designates as optional) you can use to launch the Cardboard app (assuming your phone supports NFC, also optional).

Just one question remains: Is your phone compatible? According to Google, Cardboard works with “most modern Android phones,” but only about half a dozen models (including the Galaxy S4/S5, Nexus 4/5, and Moto X) have been tested by Google and designated “fully compatible.”

Unofficial Cardboard also notes that the maximum screen size for this kit is 5.1 inches, though they’re designing kits for larger phones/phablets.

I haven’t tried Google Cardboard myself, but from what I understand, it’s pretty cool. And at this low price, it’s a lot cheaper than an Oculus Rift. I’m in for one. Think you’ll give it a try? Or do you think you can build your own for less? (FYI, the lenses alone are selling for about $15 on eBay. And the magnets and other items will likely run you at least $10 more. Just saying.)

Bonus deal: I’m all about simple tools that can help you save money, and I love price trackers that will notify you when something you’ve been eyeballing sees a drop. Here’s one with a unique twist: SnapUp for iOS alerts you to price drops for products based on screenshots you grab. Yep, no copying and pasting URLs, just take a screenshot of any product-detail page (in a shopping app or on a website), then fire up SnapUp for instant price-tracking. Clever!

Blip: This playable Tetris t-shirt is the ultimate wearable

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When the magnum opus of wearable tech comes along, you just know.

To celebrate Tetris’s 30th birthday, gaming fan Marc Kerger created a t-shirt on which you can actually play the game. Sure, it’s not the most ideal of angles to play from (and you can’t actually buy one yet), but at least this is a wearable we’d actually use.

Doesn’t look like Kerger will be knocking Steve Wozniak off the score tables any time soon, but he’s still playing a better game of Tetris than these people. Jeez.

Via Mashable

Doo-do-do-do-do Doo-do-do-do-do

That’s Tetris Type B. Press Start for more blips

Apps for Android Wear are available now for free

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Following a false start a couple of days ago, apps for Android Wear are now officially available from Google Play.

So far there are only around 20 (depending on the region you’re in), several of which are standard Google things like Maps and Hangouts, but there are several other big name offerings, such as Pinterest and The Guardian.

Cooking up some apps

More are sure to follow soon, but in the meantime if you’ve already got an Android Wear device you can now sync recipes to your phone with Allthecooks Recipes, get gig alerts with Bandsintown Concerts and a whole lot more.

If you’re not sure if it’s worth jumping on board stay tuned, as we’ll bring you reviews of all the key Android Wear hardware as soon as physically possible, though if you believe that watches should be round you might want to wait for the Moto 360 in any case.

  • The LG G Watch is one of the first Android Wear devices you can get your hands on.

Another ‘in-the-know’ says Microsoft’s wearable will be a wristband, not a watch

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Speculation continues to mount that Microsoft will launch a fitness tracking wristband, rather than a smartwatch before the year is out.

Corroborating reports from last weekend, the well-connected Paul Thurrott of the Winsupersite has ‘confirmed’ Redmond will serve up a Samsung Gear Fit-style device, with a similar price point, in Q4.

Thurrott suggested the difference will merely be in the form factor, with notifications from smartphones and live date from the device appearing on a longer, slimmer display rather than a more traditional watch face.

The blogger goes along rumours claiming the device will include a multitude of health-oriented sensors, tracking variables like steps, heart-rate and the like.

Equal opportunities

Thurrott’s sources also back up perhaps the most significant rumour; that Microsoft’s offering will be compatible with Windows Phone, Android and iOS.

This inclusive approach would differ from Google’s Android Wear platform, which only runs on a around a quarter of Android devices – those with Android 4.3 and above.

It’s also likely to differentiate from the forthcoming Apple iWatch or iBand tracker, which is only expected to pair with iOS devices.

Would a platform agnostic Microsoft smartwatch tempt you away from your smartphone OS loyalties? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below

New Oculus Rift VR headsets will arrive starting July 14

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Oculus VR is preparing to ship the first batch of its Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 headsets.

In an update posted to the company’s forums, Oculus VR announced it expects to ship out 10,000 units from its factory in July. Half of these headsets will first pass through distribution centers and make their way to those who preordered before the end of the month.

Developers expecting units, meanwhile, should have them by the week of July 14th.

Plans to set new records

These are the first new set of VR headsets to be shipped out since March, when the Facebook-owned company cutoff outgoing orders on its first edition Oculus Rifts.

With a total of 45,000 preorders of the Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2, the virtual reality company has almost matched the 60,000 original run of Oculus VR headsets the company had sold since December 2012.

What’s in the box

Like the Crystal Cove headset Oculus VR prototype shown at CES 2014, the DK2 edition Rift headset features the same motion blur fixes and added motion-tracking functionality.

The display itself utilizes a “low persistence OLED” display that refreshes at 1000Hz. Each eye looking through the headset will see a 960 x 1080 resolution picture and together the two screens produce a 100-degree field-of-view.

Although it will be a while before the VR company ships out the first 45,000 preorders already made, users interested in picking up a headset of their own can do so on Oculus VR’s website for $350 (about £210, AU$383).

  • It’s not virtual reality but Google Glass is like wearing a head-mounted computer

In depth: Sony Walkman at 35: looking back at the most iconic music player of all time

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Today, the Sony Walkman turns 35 years old. The Walkman is, therefore just a year younger than I am, and I certainly feel like we’ve grown up together.

Since the original Sony TPS-L2 was introduced in 1979, Sony has sold somewhere in the region of 220 million Walkmans, and it’s still selling them today.

I am not exaggerating when I say that the Walkman was the product that made Sony into a global name.

If you weren’t there, it’s hard to explain just how much those of us who were lusted after the Walkman.

From Sony’s first models, through to that yellow one you could take in the shower, the Walkman range was THE gadget of the 80s and 90s, and we all wanted one like the kids want smartphones today. More, even.

Walkman memories

We’re back in time, it’s around 1988 and I’m visiting my friend David at his home. We’re stood in the kitchen, and David has a Walkman in his hand with a cassette loaded full of Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters theme song.

He plays me a bit and my mind is completely blown. Not just because of how amazing that tune is, but also because it’s coming from a box little larger than the cassette itself. How is this possible?

This was life-changing for me, who knows, it might have been one of the things that kick-started my life-long love of gadgets. But before long, David’s mother whisks the Walkman away. “It’s EXPENSIVE! Don’t touch!”

The Walkman remained elusively expensive for quite some time, and was out of my reach as a youngster as it was for many people. It was the iPhone of its day for sure.

I don’t think I got a Walkman of my own until the mid-90s, but I do remember the machine. It had a large, lozenge-shaped play button on a the side, and took two AA batteries which it smashed its way through in no time at all.

It was a very cool gadget though, and you have to remember that the combination of a ghetto blaster at home, and a Walkman for going out, meant that you could now record your favourite songs off the radio and take them with you. This was life changing for youngsters of the day.

Changing music forever

We were the first generation to be able to do this, and it’s not overstating the issue to say it changed music, and how people listened to it.

It also scared the willies out of the music industry, which for the first time was facing a threat to revenues from kids with dual-deck home systems making bootleg copies of albums while also recording the Top 40 off the radio to avoid having to buy singles.

Anyone in their 30s will remember building compilations on a Sunday night, fingers hovering over a pause button to grab every second of the best songs. And it all sparked a now-laughable “home taping is killing music” anti-copyright infringement campaign.

As the 90s went on, and the music CD became the format to own, the Walkman range transitioned to Discman, but soon reverted when Sony realised that the name Walkman had become as recognisable as its own four letter moniker.

Walkman was as synonymous with portable music as the iPod would be 15 years later.

I had a Discman too and it, along with a copy of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, changed everything. The King of Pop knew how to make a beautifully produced record and CD really was the only medium to listen to that album on.

Things started to wobble for Sony a bit in the 2000s, we saw the move to Minidisc, a great format in many ways, but not one most people showed much interest in.

The sound quality had evolved, but sadly the process for making compilations was still convoluted and we were back to hovering over the pause button to start recordings.

Later on, Minidisc would gain the ability to work directly with computers, and music could be digitally transferred, but it was too late for the format really and despite being loved by those who used it, it was killed by the MP3 player.

Sony Walkman HD5A personal favourite, the HD5 was one of the best gadgets of its time

The best Walkman?

Of all the music players I’ve ever owned, the Sony NW-HD5 MP3 player is, without doubt, my favourite. It was a touch illogical, in that it required some utterly hopeless software to work, and files would be copied in Sony’s ATRAC format. But the HD5 was perfection in audio terms, the best sound available on an MP3 player at the time – easily beating the iPod.

I still have it, it’s sitting next to me now and it has battle scars and looks well-loved. I’ll keep it as a memento forever.

After all this I even went on to own a Sony W800i Walkman phone, and until it broke, it was a brilliant pre-smartphone handset. It was a garish white and orange, but it was a really nice mobile and could store enough music for my commute to and from work.

It basically started me and many others down the road to using a phone for music instead of a Walkman, and that has never been reversed. In short, it is the phone that holds the bloodied knife that was used to stab poor old Mr Walkman while he peacefully slept.

There are still some cool products coming out with Walkman written on them, too, like Sony’ new high-quality players. But really, the stand-alone music player has had its day, and even Apple admits that its phones and tablets are eating the iPod alive.

There are lessons here for Apple. Sony went from being the global leader in electronics to making a loss of £685 million in 2008, the year before it made its last tape-based Walkman. It’s only just on the mend now, thanks to some more great products, but the product that made it great is effectively no more.

Happy birthday Walkman, and thanks for the memories.

Android L gives a glimpse of Android’s future with a new design, enhanced notifications, and Bluetooth unlocking

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Where to Buy

Google Android L

Part Number: CNETandroidL

Pricing is currently unavailable.

About The Author

Sarah Mitroff is a CNET associate editor who reviews Android and Windows Phone software and, occasionally, hardware. In the past she’s written about everything from Android apps to startups Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat. She loves pretty space photos, the San Francisco Giants, and apps that organize the recipes she compulsively hoards.

ICO reminds organisations to comply with wearable tech privacy law

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The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reminded businesses to be wary of what they do with people’s personal information collected using wearable devices.

In a company blog post, the ICO’s senior technology officer Android Paterson warned that while organisations have greater protection over individuals when handling data collected by wearables, it still has to be shared in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

He wrote: “If you are using a wearable technology for your own use then you are unlikely to be breaching the Act. This is because the Act includes an exemption for the collection of personal information for domestic purposes.

“But if you were to one day decide that you’d like to start using this information for other purposes outside of your personal use, for example to support a local campaign or to start a business, then this exemption would no longer apply.”

Best practice

Paterson noted that anybody using wearables able to capture video or pictures should abide by the CCTV Code of Practice, which is currently under review by the ICO, while taking note of guidance on the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s website.

The guidance follows the recent launch of Google Glass in the UK, which is set to raise a number of implications around the collection and processing of data by wearable devices.

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