Recent Articles By Charlotte Henry [RSS]

How did Microsoft Become as Valuable as Apple?

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Microsoft and Apple are now worth nearly the same. A few years ago such a development would have been unthinkable. On Thursday, The New York Times had an interesting piece of analysis by Steve Lohr on how this happened. He said that Microsoft has “built on its strengths,” won its big bet on the cloud and was brave enough to walk away from bets it was losing (such as making smartphones). Mr. Lohr also notes that under CEO Satya Nadella “Microsoft has loosened up” and made its technology and culture more open.

Microsoft has become a case study of how a once-dominant company can build on its strengths and avoid being a prisoner of its past. It has fully embraced cloud computing, abandoned an errant foray into smartphones and returned to its roots as mainly a supplier of technology to business customers.

Minecraft Interactive Adventure Now on Netflix

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The first three episodes of a Minecraft interactive television series are now available on Netflix. Yes, that’s right, the game’s maker clearly decided that it is not quite addictive enough and we needed a TV version too. Telltale Games even retained a team to finish the series when many staff were laid off. The Minecraft program follows in the tradition of ‘choose your own adventure’ books. Viewers can decide whether to have a female or male star (called Jesse) and are given choices over how to develop the story. The final two episodes will be on Netflix from 5 December.

Minecraft Interactive Adventure Now on Netflix

The $4,400 Caviar iPhone

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If the standard iPhone 10 is just not enough for you, luxury gadgets manufacturer Caviar has released a modified version, complete with a solar panel to charge the battery. It is not so sunny on the bank balance though – the phone starts at $4,400. The solar panel on the Tesla iPhone X charges the battery in around 30 hours. And yes, it was named as a tribute to Elon Musk’s electric car company. However, the phone apparently got rather hot when it was charged the normal way. It may be out of budget for most of us, but the Tesla iPhone X certainly catches the eye. MacRumours got their hands on one.

iCloud for Windows Update Fixes Compatibility Issues

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iCloud for Windows has been updated, fixing the major compatibility issues that arose following an October 2018 Windows update. AppleInsider reported that users of the service had been stopped from updating to the latest version of Windows as many had run into problems whilst syncing or updating photos, Shared Albums and similar items. However, updated Apple documentation indicates the issue has now been fixed.

Earlier this month Microsoft took the unusual step of blocking iCloud users from upgrading to the latest version of Windows, as people were encountering problems syncing or updating items like photos and Shared Albums. Those trying to do a fresh install of iCloud after updating Windows ran into error messages. Apple doesn’t mention the fix in its release notes, but a support page now lists iCloud as compatible with “Windows 7 or later.

Ohio Firms can Pay their Taxes Using Bitcoin

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Bitcoin in the abstract

Starting this week, businesses in Ohio will be able to pay their taxes using Bitcoin. Engadget reported that the service could eventually be expanded to accept payment of personal taxes. According to the Wall Street Journal: “Ohio businesses will be able to go to the website OhioCrypto.com and register to pay everything from cigarette sales taxes to employee withholding taxes with Bitcoin.”  Ohio is the first state to allow taxes to be paid via Bitcoin. The change was pushed forward by Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel.

This doesn’t eliminate the regulatory concerns around cryptocurrency, and it’s doubtful that more than a handful of businesses will use it. It’s happening in Ohio precisely because state Treasurer Josh Mandel says he can do it without requiring help from the legislature or the governor. It could be considerably more difficult to implement this by passing a bill.

UK Parliament Seizes Internal Facebook Documents

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FTC Facebook privacy investigation

LONDON – The UK Parliament has exercised its legal powers and seized a number of internal Facebook documents. The cache of papers is alleged to contain revelations surrounding the data and privacy controls that resulted in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Furthermore, The Observer reported that, “they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with [Mark] Zuckerberg.” Damian Collins, Conservative MP and chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, sent a parliamentary official to the London hotel where Ted Kramer, the founder of Six4Three, a software company that is suing Facebook, was staying. Mr. Kramer was eventually compelled to hand over the documents. Facebook has denied all the allegations made and demanded the return of the papers. The Observer has the full details:

The documents seized were obtained during a legal discovery process by Six4Three. It took action against the social media giant after investing $250,000 in an app. Six4Three alleges the cache shows Facebook was not only aware of the implications of its privacy policy, but actively exploited them, intentionally creating and effectively flagging up the loophole that Cambridge Analytica used to collect data. That raised the interest of Collins and his committee.

Get a HomePod for £279 in the UK this Cyber Monday

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LONDON – Currys PC World is selling the white Apple HomePod for £279 ($358) for Cyber Monday. The HomePod is normally £319 ($410). It also has the HomePod available in black for £299. Furthermore, the company is offering 9 months of the Deezer Premium music streaming service for free as part of the deal. This deal is available online only, although the item can be picked up in a shop shortly after purchase. In a shop, the HomePod currently costs £299  ($384).

Get a HomePod for £279 in the UK this Cyber Monday

How Singapore Airlines uses iPads to Help Pilots

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Pilots have a lot of paperwork to do. To try and help, Singapore Airlines arm theirs with an iPad loaded with two specialized apps. These apps organize the roster, track flying hours and deliver key information such as routing, weather and fuel load. It is all secured using TouchID. Crucially, Singapore Airlines has to maintain these processes in a way that pilots, who are creatures of habit, are comfortable with. CNet went into the cockpit and found that using iPads has led to a number of improvements for Singapore Airlines’s pilots.

The airline started looking into this back in 2015, before rolling out iPads loaded with two essential custom apps, FlyNow and Roster. These iPads are secured with Apple’s TouchID, letting them ditch the previously used two-factor authentication dongles pilots had to carry around. That’s on top of the other apps that give pilots detailed weather information and flight charting information.

Watch Apple's New Short Film: Share Your Gifts This Holiday Season

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Apple has released a short film for the holiday season. Called ‘Share Your Gifts’, it depicts the frustrations of Sofia – a  creative young woman who hides her work away until…well, let’s just say her dog intervenes. The film is accompanied by the track “Come out and play” by Billie Eilish. Apple has also released a ‘Making Of’ video, detailing how Sofia came to life. It shows how ‘Share your Gifts’ was made using a combination of CG characters and real-world sets.

Twitter Launches its Own 'John Lewis' Advert

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John Lewis Twitter Advert

LONDON – Everyone in the UK knows that the holiday season officially starts when the John Lewis department store launches its Christmas advert. This year’s offering stars Sir Elton John, no less. However, for one man, the advert’s arrival is not so joyous. Meet @JohnLewis – a computer science educator from Blacksburg, Virginia. As his Twitter bio points out, Mr. Lewis is “not a retail store.” Despite this, every year Mr. Lewis is inundated with Tweets telling him how great his holiday advert is. To his credit, he gamely replies to all of them. This time around, Twitter UK gave him his own one.