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Today in Tech News Digest, Windows Phone 8.1 reviews, Gmail scanning practices, Android Heartbleed, American Airlines’ tweeting troubles, mini notebook chargers, overheating VAIOs, and a vending machine that tweets.
Windows Phone 8.1 Review Roundup
Windows Phone 8.1 is now available to developers, just two weeks after the update was detailed at Build 2014. This has enabled websites to review Windows Phone 8.1 before it’s released to the general public. The reaction has been generally positive, as can be seen in the reviews roundup posted below.
The Verge states Windows Phone “feels finished now, really for the first time.” However, it qualifies that statement by saying, “Microsoft hasn’t changed the game here, only proven it can play; Windows Phone 8.1 will make a lot of Windows Phone 8 users very happy but won’t make anyone at Google or Apple sweat.”
Ars Technica concludes its review by saying, “We might still wish that there were a few more apps, and that developers spoke of the platform in the same breath as iOS and Android, but even in spite of this, Windows Phone 8.1 is a polished, fun, clever, and personal smartphone platform that’s just about everyone can enjoy. It’s a magnificent smartphone platform.”
CNET states that, “Windows Phone 8.1 is the best update yet, thanks to its revamped design and modern features, but it lags behind iOS and Android.” It further explains its reasoning by concluding, “Looking at the big picture of design, features, ease of use, and app selection, Windows Phone still hasn’t reached the point where it’s going to lure away those who already own an iPhone or Android phone, but it’s getting closer.”
Engadget is keen, stating “the 8.1 update marks the first time that the platform actually feels… complete.” Unfortunately, complete doesn’t mean perfect, leading to the conclusion, “It may not be perfect yet, but it’s clear Windows Phone has finally grown up.”
Re/code sums up general feelings on the update well, stating, “Windows Phone 8.1 brings some much-needed features, and helps make the platform even better and more powerful. But with similar features already available on iOS and Android, Microsoft will have to hit hard with good hardware and competitive pricing to lure new customers.”
Any Windows Phone user can technically download Windows Phone 8.1 by signing up to be a developer. However, this is a pre-release version which could void your warranty and cannot be reversed, so caution is advised for all but expert users.
Google ToS Reveal Gmail Scanning Practices
Google has made it clearer how Gmail users should expect their emails to be scanned in order to create targeted advertising. The new Terms of Service add the provision, “Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.”
It’s been known for a long time that this happens, but a spate of lawsuits alleging that the practice represents an invasion of privacy has led to Google making its intentions clearer.
Your Android May Have Heartbleed Too
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) April 14, 2014
Android users beware, your smartphone could also be susceptible to the Heartbleed bug recently discovered in OpenSSL. Handsets running Android 4.1.1 are vulnerable to attacks, while handsets running some customized versions of Android 4.2.2 are also at risk.
US Airways’ Tweeting Troubles
So I guess that idiot who tweeted a threat at American Airlines isn’t the biggest airline-related social media screwup anymore.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) April 14, 2014
Airlines are having a rather torrid time on Twitter at the moment. What started with a Dutch teenager idiotically tweeting a terrorist threat to American Airlines developed into other teenagers and trolls following suit and ended with US Airways accidentally tweeting a NSFW photo of a toy plane entering something other than an airport.
The Dutch girl has now been arrested, but the final destination of the toy plane remains unclear.
Dart: The Miniaturized Notebook Charger
Gorgeous Dart laptop charger does away with your bulky brick. Unfortunately not compatible with 15” & 17” MBPs. https://t.co/RTFrcG3oCe
— Matt Jeppsen (@mjeppsen) April 14, 2014
If you’re an avid notebook user who regularly wishes the charger for your machine wasn’t such a brick, then the Dart from FINsix could be a Godsend. It’s much smaller and lighter than a traditional laptop charger, and is currently available as a potential reward on Kickstarter for a pledge of $89 or more.
Sony Recalls VAIO Laptops For Overheating
Sony has recalled more than 26,000 VAIO laptops over fears the Panasonic batteries inside can overheat to dangerous levels. The model affected is the VAIO Fit 11A, with owners being advised to stop using the machines until Sony decides whether to repair or replace the faulty units.
Tweet-Shaming Your Chocolate Addiction
And finally, perhaps this vending machine (via ReadWrite) that tweets about what is being purchased is the solution to the obesity crisis we’re currently facing.
Using their considerable hacking skills and an Arduino, Nottingham Hackspace turned this ordinary vending machine into a 1984-style ‘Big Brother is watching’ nightmare. Or dream, depending on whether or not you’re currently dieting.