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Monday, February 1, 2016

Don’t Be a Chump: The 5 Biggest Tech Rip-Offs to Avoid by Daniel Howley Technology Reporter

The last time I bought a new smartphone, I went to the store thinking I’d spend a little more than $200. I left having spent close to $300 to get a phone with more storage and a case.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had thrown away close to $75 when I didn’t have to. And just like that I fell victim to one of the tech industry’s biggest rip-offs.

Yes, I may be a tech reporter, but I’m not immune to falling for the scams. It can happen to anyone.
Fortunately, the best way to avoid getting ripped off is to know when it will happen. So to help you avoid needlessly throwing away your cash, we’ve put together this list of the biggest tech rip-offs. 
Shop with care.

Overpriced HDMI cables

The most well-known and egregious example of tech companies trying to separate you from your money comes in the form of the humble HDMI cable.

Walk into any big box retailer to buy a new TV and chances are the sales person will try to sell you on a high-capacity, gold-plated, 4K-compatible HDMI.

Well, that’s all a bunch of crap.

The truth is, there is no difference between a $100 HDMI cable and a $10 HDMI cable. The only thing you need to know when buying an HDMI cable is that it says “high speed” on the box. That means it can output images with resolutions of 1080p and higher. Yep, that’s it.

Even if you buy a brand-new 4K TV, you can still use your old high speed HDMI cable without issue.

And don’t let anyone ever try to tell you that you need specially insulated HDMI cables to protect them from interference from other electronic devices. HDMI cables don’t suffer from quality degradation. They either send a perfect picture to your TV or don’t — there’s no in between.

Being overcharged for phone storage

We’ve previously covered this topic, but it bears repeating: The profit margin on a smartphone with 32 GB of storage versus one with 16 GB of storage is ludicrous.

The price difference between a 16 GB iPhone 6s and a 128 GB iPhone 6s to you is a whopping $200. But the difference in manufacturing costs to Apple is just $53.

How can you keep from being gouged? Well, you could opt for a 16GB iPhone 6s and rely on the cloud for all of your storage needs or go with a 64GB model and lean on the cloud a bit less.

If you’re an Android or Windows Phone fan, you can get around this entire problem by opting for a handset with a removable microSD storage card. That way you can up your storage capacity on your own terms.

Productivity tablets without keyboards

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Apple’s iPad Pro are both tablets designed with productivity in mind. So why is it that you need to pay an extra $130 for Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 Type Cover keyboard and $170 for Apple’s Smart Keyboard?

For what it’s worth, Apple doesn’t prominently feature the Smart Keyboard on the iPad Pro site. Microsoft, however, shows the Surface Pro 4 with the keyboard attached to it more often than not. That feels just a tad misleading.

Microsoft puts a small asterisk next to the $900 starting price on its website that points to a disclaimer at the bottom of the page admitting that the keyboard is sold separately.

If you want to save some cash on one of these keyboards, there are a handful of less expensive third-party keyboard covers for the Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro. If you really want to save a buck, you could always just pair a regular Bluetooth keyboard with either slate.

‘Starting’ prices

While I’ve got my old man hat on, let’s talk about starting prices. Going back to the Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro example, Microsoft and Apple say their tablets start at $900 and $800, respectively. But (as noted) those prices don’t include keyboards, and in Apple’s case it doesn’t include the company’s $100 stylus.

To get a Surface Pro 4 with the keyboard, you’ll actuall

Furthermore, the base-model $900 Surface Pro 4 also comes with a relatively low powered Intel M processor, which will have trouble doing things like running multiple programs or doing serious photo and video editing.

If you want a Surface Pro 4 with performance equal to a real laptop, you’ll have to jump up to the Core i5 model — which means you’ll have to pony up an extra $100. That brings the total up to $1,130, which is a pretty big jump from $900.

Apple, meanwhile, sells its base iPad Pro with just 32 GB of storage space — not much for a productivity tablet. That means you’ll have to either rely on iCloud for your storage needs or jump up to the 128 GB iPad Pro for $950; throw in a keyboard case and stylus, and you’re looking at a total cost of $1,220.

I don’t mean to pick on Microsoft or Apple; pretty much all tech companies play the base-price game. But that doesn’t make it feel any less like a rip-off and a disservice to consumers.

First-party peripherals

The keyboards for the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4 are also examples of a wider problem: If you need a replacement mouse, keyboard, or cable for a computer, television, or smartphone, you don’t need to buy them from the same company that made your laptop or tablet.

First-party peripherals are usually no better than those made by third-party companies, but are generally more expensive.

Take Apple’s $35 silicon iPhone 6s case. Go to Amazon, and you can spend $10 on an iPhone case that protects your handset just as well as Apple’s. The same can be said of your computer mouse, keyboard, or charging cables.

Curved TVs

We’re fresh off of another Consumer Electronics Show, where once again TV manufacturers were pushing the wonders of curved screen televisions. But despite claims from companies that such curved displays make for a better viewing experience, the truth is that it’s all a bunch of bunk.

The idea behind curved TVs is that they simulate the curved display you find in movie theaters. But theater screens are curved for a reason: Projectors in theaters send light out from a central location, usually lined up with the middle of the projection screen.

That means the sides of the theater’s screen are further away from the projector than the screen’s center point. That discrepancy can cause visual distortions at the edge of the image.

Home TVs don’t have the same projection problem as movie theater screens, and so curved screens serve no real purpose. In fact, the curved screen can make watching TV more difficult, as it limits the field of view for people sitting to the far left or right of the television.

Instead of wasting your money on a curved TV, just buy a regular flat-screen TV.

HTHC Comments: 
  • You can buy very cheap HDMI cables that are worthless. Very thin cables don't work or don't work well. Look for cables that have the gold part molded securely to the end of the cable. Be aware that very long cables may not work with your application. My MacBook will not display onto a TV with a cable longer than 6'.
  • Forget buying a SmartPhone with less than 64 GB's of storage. It  will not have enough storage for even basic needs regardless of how thrifty you are with your apps, pictures, and songs. SmartPhones that have the ability to access an micro SD card are becoming rare. One of the reasons I bought a Samsung Galaxy S5 was the ability to add a SD card. The new and improved S6 no longer has that feature. Storing things on a micro SD card are not as straight forward as storing things on the internal storage of your SmartPhone. Certain applications refuse to work with a micro SD card such as Amazon Prime video.

How to Block Calls on an iPhone Brandon Widder, Digital Trends

There’s no getting around it: there will always be people you just don’t want to talk to. For many of us, those unwanted calls come in the form of persistent ex-lovers trying to rekindle what has been lost or telemarketers offering an all-expenses-paid luxury cruise to a tropical island off the southern tip of Costa Rica. Thankfully, Apple’s most-recent mobile operating system and the iBlacklist app have finally supplied a workaround method for blocking pesky callers. Whether the separation is merely temporary, or more permanent, is entirely up to you.

Here’s our how-to guide about how to block calls with an Apple iPhone regardless of your OS version. You won’t be able to block unlisted numbers and those blocked using other methods, but at least you’ll be able to bar any known number from contacting you via phone calls, messages, and FaceTime.

Choose your method:
Block calls using iOS 7, 8, or 9
It’s been a long time coming, but Apple has finally built an OS with built-in blocking utilities (and we are better for it). The feature, coupled with all versions of iOS since the release of iOS 7, allows users to quickly block calls, messages, and Facetime requests sans any unnecessary external software or third-party apps. It’s a welcome and convenient inclusion — one accessible through both your iPhone’s settings menu and contact list — but one also only available on the iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad Mini, and fifth-generation iPod touch.

Once properly set up, blocked calls will automatically be routed to your voicemail. There will be no indication a call, text, or FaceTime request has been received on your end, but send receipts and other indications will still appear on the sender’s device as they would normally — meaning the sender will not be alerted of your decision to block them. Call blocking is a one way street when using iOS 7 – 9, so you can still contact blocked numbers via phone call, text, and FaceTime with no hindrance, if you should decide that you want to.

Step 1: Download and install iOS 7, 8, or 9 — If you haven’t already, back up your device and upgrade to iOS 7, 8, or 9 via iTunes or your Wi-Fi network. To do so using the latter option, tap the main Settings icon from your smartphone’s home screen, select the General option near the top of the resulting menu, and then tap Software Update. Ensure your device is connected to a power source and tap the Download and Install button.
Step 2: Navigate to Blocked menu — Tap the main Settings icon when viewing the home screen, select the Phone option from the resulting menu and tap the Blocked option beneath the Calls section. Alternatively, select either the Messages or FaceTime option from the main Settings menu to access the same Blocked menu offered through the Phone settings.
Step 3: Block the number — Tap the blue Add New button and select the desired number you wish to block from the resulting contact list. To unblock a user, simply tap the blue Edit option in the top-right corner of the Blocked menu, followed by the red subtraction sign directly beside the user you wish to unblock. Afterward, tap the red Unblock button to confirm the changes.
Alternative blocking method — Tap the Phone icon while viewing the home screen, select either all calls or missed calls and tap the information icon to the right of the number you wish to block. Now, scroll to the bottom of the resulting info panel, and tap the blue Block this Caller option, followed by Block Contact to confirm the request.
Next page: Block using iBlacklist (iOS 3,4, 5 and 6).

Block calls using iBlacklist (iOS 3, 4, 5 and 6)
Not everyone has the option to upgrade to iOS 7 given the hardware limitations of older devices. Luckily, the iBlacklist app does a fantastic job of blocking both calls and texts from specific people or unknown numbers if you’re willing to risk jailbreaking your iPhone and shelling out an additional $12 in the Cydia app store. It’s not a difficult or a lengthy process, but it’s one effective way to block unwanted communication. Check out the iBlacklist manual at the top the application’s website for a detailed, photo-laden rundown of the software and all of its features.

Step 1: Navigate to the iBlacklist app — To begin, tap the Cydia icon on your phone, search for “iBlacklist” in the search tab, and select the app from the search results. We’re assuming you’ve already jailbroken your iPhone and have access to the Cydia app. If not, refer to our guide for how to jailbreak your iPhone to unlock the alternate store.

Step 2: Download and install the iBlacklist app — Follow the on-screen instructions for downloading and purchasing iBlacklist. When done downloading, click “Close Window” to close Cydia and return to your homescreen. You may have to restart your phone before the changes will take effect.

Step 3: Block the number — Scroll through your apps to find the iBlacklist icon and open up the app. Tap Blacklists from the main menu to access your current blacklisted groups and numbers. To add a new number tap Add new Blacklist, and select Import from Address Book to block an entire contact list. Alternatively, select General BL, and tap the addition sign in the upper right-hand corner to add individual contacts from your address book, recent calls list, recent SMS list, or to manually enter a number and accompanying contact info.
Step 4: Toggle blocked forms of communication — After you’ve entered the contact to be blocked, look for the red call icon on the configuration role. Set the switch to On to block incoming calls from that contact. You can also block SMS, MMS, and FaceTime by toggling the switches next to the red icons for each form of communication.
Step 5: Set action for blocked calls — Now you’ll need to tap Action when viewing a contact to choose your desired action when the unwanted call comes in. You can choose to accept the call, immediately accept and hang up, send the caller straight to voicemail, issue a busy signal or block the call before your phone even rings. When finished, close the contact and the changes will be automatically saved. Continue blocking people in the same manner until you’re satisfied with your blacklist.

Next Page: Block calls using Do Not Disturb mode (iOS 6)

Block calls using your phones Do Not Disturb mode (iOS 6)
Although iBlacklist is the best option for blocking calls for those lacking iOS 7, it may not be the most enticing. Jailbreaking your iPhone voids your warranty and opens your smartphone up to a slew of stability and security issues that may leave some users skeptical about taking the plunge.
That being said, the built-in Do Not Disturb mode in iOS 6 can accomplish the blocking task to a certain degree, but it essentially works in reverse. Instead of receiving incoming calls from everyone but the contacts you block, the tool will actually block incoming calls from everyone but the contacts you allow. It’s overkill, yes, but a nice option if you want to drop off the radar for a spell and only receive calls from a select few individuals, especially given iOS 6 is available for older devices incompatible with iOS 7.

Step 1: Download and install iOS 6 — If you haven’t already, back up your device and upgrade to iOS 6 via iTunes or your Wi-Fi network. To do so using the latter option, tap the main Settings icon from your smartphone’s home screen, select the General option near the top of the resulting men, and tap Software Update on the resulting screen. Afterward, ensure your device is connected to a power source and tap the Download and Install button.

Step 2: Open the Do Not Disturb settings — Click the Settings icon with the gears, tap the Notifications and select the Do Not Disturb option at the top the list.

Step 3: Set the utility specifics — Once opened, you can schedule the mode to automatically turn on during specified hours hours of the day and select the contacts you wish to receive calls from. Simply choose the Allow Calls From option and choose favorites to allow calls from contacts on your favorites list. Alternatively you can select no one and everyone (which seems counter intuitive, if you ask us). There’s also an option to toggle on Repeated Calls, an option that doesn’t silence phone calls from the same person if they call you more than once within three minutes.
Step 4: Activate the Do Not Disturb mode —Finally, toggle on the Do Not Disturb mode from your iPhone’s main settings to initiate the function. When active, a crescent moon icon will appear to the left of the clock at the top of your phone, indicating that the comprehensive blocking feature is in full effect.

Next Page: Block calls at the carrier level
If no amount of finagling gets call screening working properly on your iPhone, there’s the nuclear option: carrier-level blocking. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon offer the service, albeit not in all cases without restrictions.

If you’ve got an online account with Sprint, blocking a number is as easy as logging into, navigating to the My Preferences tab, then Limits and Permissions, and finally Block voice. From there, you can select the phone numbers you’d like to block, or block all outbound and/or inbound voice calls for however long you wish.

It’s a relatively simple process with T-Mobile, too. Sign in to your account, and then click Tools > Family Allowance > Access Family Allowances. From the Blocking Numbers menu, you can choose up to 10 contacts.

In contrast to T-Mobile and Sprint, Verizon makes blocking specific numbers a bit of a hassle. To activate call screening, log in to your account and select Manage Verizon Family Safeguards & Controls. Then, pull up Call & Message Blocking Feature and add numbers. You’re limited to five, and they’ll reset every 90 days — permanent blocking requires Verizon’s $5 a month FamilyBase plan.

Next Page: Call-blocking apps
Sometimes, built-in settings and carrier-level blocking don’t provide the level of customization you desire. That’s where third-party apps come in. Many services sport spam databases and location-based blocking fare more versatile than any of iOS’s options, and at the very least should help prevent that out-of-state political campaigner who keeps asking for your social security number from ever calling again.

Whitepages ID (free)
Whitepages ID might best be described as a crowdsourced call screening tool. While not a number blocking app per se, the service helps you avoid scammers, telemarketers, and other unwanted callers by comparing incoming calls to a directory of 500,000 rated numbers. It alerts you when there’s a match, and lets you report new spam to the Number Cop community. If you let it, the app will scan your text messages for potentially malicious links, too.
Call Bliss ($10)
The conceit of Call Bliss is simple: You can block numbers depending on scenarios like the time of day, location, or activity. If you’re at home, for instance, you can let your wife’s calls through while silencing your co-workers’ numbers. And you can create groups of numbers that you can block with a single tap, such as “friends” or “family.” There’s a master blacklist option, and a “Suppress All Callers” mode to send all calls to voicemail. The only downside? Call Bliss requires iOS 6 or later.
If you’re looking for a no-frills call blocking app, iWhitelist will more than likely satisfy. It silences calls and notifications from numbers that you’ve added to a blacklist, and gives you granular options for each entry in said blacklist. There’s a whitelist option, also, for those times you’d rather not be bothered by any but a select few calls.
TrapCall ($3.95 – $19.95 per month)
TrapCall, a paid service, takes a different approach to number filtering. Rather than block calls indiscriminately, any number the service identifies as blocked or restricted is automatically “unmasked” when you reject the call; TrapCall collects the name, address, and phone number of callers without caller ID. After doing so, it rings you back with the unblocked number and sends you an SMS with the aforementioned information.

Don't let the 'Grinches' put you off Windows 10 By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes for Hardware 2.0

I'm not the sort of person who gets worked up about operating systems. To me they're the zeros and ones that transform a pile of components into a working computer. But to some operating systems are something to get all hot and bothered over.

Regular readers will know that a few years ago I made the transition from Windows to OS X for my workhorse systems, a move that to this day I don't regret, but that doesn't mean that I don't regularly make use of Windows. Why wouldn't I? I have over two decades of experience with the platform. And when it comes to Windows 10, I think that after four months of maturation following general availability, this is Microsoft's best operating system release to date.

But Windows 10 is also facing a level of challenge unlike any before. While some of it is down to genuine concerns, most stem from media hype, lies, rampant fanboyism, or a gross misunderstanding of how tech works. While I don't care about your beliefs either way, I do care about misinformation. And the amount of Windows 10 misinformation being spread is staggering, and almost daily I find myself being exposed to, or dragged into, conversations about Windows 10 that have little or no basis in reality.

What I'm going to do here is try to address some of the misinformation that I've come across voiced by the Windows 10 critics - which, because of the time of year I'm going to refer to as "Grinches" - which, for whatever reason, seem determined to fabricate and spread nonsense.

If you're fervently anti-Windows 10 then I don't expect to or want to change your mind (I honestly don't care what OS you choose to use), but if you're sitting on the upgrade fence because you've heard bad things about Windows 10 and are not sure what to believe, my hope is to inject some clarity (and sanity) into the debate.

I'm going to address four of the most commonly voiced concerns, and I'm going to start with what seems to be the hottest topic - privacy.


The Grinches say: "Microsoft is spying on Windows 10 users!"
I'm going to say this in the clearest and most concise way I can - Microsoft is NOT spying on Windows 10 users. Period.

I've come to this conclusion independently by examining the sort of data Microsoft is collecting, reading through the extensive privacy documentation that Microsoft has produced, and even doing some "digging for dirt." Despite all that, I could not find a single shred of evidence to suggest that there's any spying going on. And as far as I'm aware of, no one else has any evidence either.

And those who accuse Microsoft of spying have also not been able to produce any evidence. Their "evidence" consists of misunderstandings, half-truths, and outright fabrications. It's the sort of "proof" that would feel perfectly at home in a late night documentary about UFOs or Bigfoot.

Yes, it's true that Windows 10 collects and sends a lot of data to Microsoft, ranging from recordings of your voice when you talk to Cortana, to crash data when the wheels fall off your PC, but this data collection happens in order to make things work or to help things work better in the future, not because you're being spied on.

And you can turn off most of this off if you feel so inclined.

While it's true that the collection of telemetry data that's collected cannot be turned off (at least not by the average user, enterprise users do have that option), there's nothing underhanded going on. In fact, Microsoft's been doing this since the days of Windows XP.

The data transmission and collection that's happening in Windows 10 is not unique to the platform, and is, in fact, normal and is something that's built into most modern operating systems.

If you really don't like it, then I'm sure there's a Linux distro for you somewhere.

While I can say without a doubt that Microsoft is NOT spying on Windows 10 users, I will admit that it has handed ammunition to its critics. Scattering privacy settings all over the operating system, and not giving users a way to opt-out of data collection are decisions that, in my opinion, haven't helped facilitate transparency and build trust. It's the tiny bit of fact that the Grinches use to say that "there must be something going on."

There isn't.


The Grinches say "Windows 10 is unstable!"

Now four months ago I would have agreed with anyone who voiced concerns about stability. In my experience - and judging by what users were telling me, and horror stories I was coming across on the forums - things were rocky despite a long public beta phase. But these days betas seem to be more about marketing and building up hype than bug fixing, and products have to be released according to a schedule (something that's equally true of Apple's iOS and OS X), so there's always going to be teething troubles.

But four months on and Windows 10 feels like completely different. Not only has the operating system improved thanks to updates (the November update in particular made a huge difference), but so have drivers and third-party software (which make a huge difference to stability).
Some of these fixes and improvements will be down to the telemetry that Microsoft collects from crashing Windows 10 machines.
In my experience most of the problems that people have with Windows 10 come down to upgrading systems that were already suffering from complications.

Forced updates

The Grinches say: "Windows 10's forced update policy is dangerous!"

While it is possible that a misconfigured update can bring a system to its knees, I've seen far more systems trashed by users who didn't update their operating system and then got hit by malware.

There's always a small risk associated with any update, whether that be an operating system update, an update for a software package, or updates for antivirus or other security apps. No matter how much care the software maker takes, duff updates do occasionally slip out into the wild. Is this a valid reason to not keep Windows updated?


The bottom line is that rapid patching is the single best way to keep a system secure whether it's Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS or Android. To recommend that users indefinitely delay installing updates is irresponsible and down right dangerous.


The Grinches say: "Windows 10's is a performance pig, especially on older systems!"
On the wide variety of test systems I've installed Windows 10 onto over at the PC Doc HQ, I've not noticed anything that scared me. In fact, most systems felt snappier. The before/after benchmark tests I've done on systems suggest that upgrading a Windows 7/8.1 system to Windows 10 has a negligible effect on system speed.

On the few systems that did feel a little more sluggish, OS and driver updates seem to have brought back any previously lost performance.

The bottom line

Windows 10 is a good operating system. For the average user it brings with it improved security, and if they're already running Windows 8.1 then it doesn't offer much in the way of a learning curve. For Windows 7 users it's a nice refresh and an opportunity to blow out those cobwebs and give an old system a new lease of life.

If the Windows 10 compatibility checker gives you the all clear to upgrade a system, I don't see a valid reason to delay any more. Make a backup, pull the trigger on the installation and go see for yourself. If you like what you end up with then great, if you don't then roll back to your old installation and get on with life. Simple.

If you're a diehard Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 faithful then just stick with what you've got. Support-wise you're good until January 2020 and January 2023 respectively, which gives you plenty of time to find the perfect Linux distro to upgrade to.

HTHC Comments: I agree with the majority of this article.
  1. I have found on older computers that the performance has suffered when applying the update. Besides adding more memory, I upgraded the hard drive to a Solid State Drive to address performance issues.
  2. If you have a BluTooth mouse or keyboard, drivers for Windows 10 for older computers are non existent. 
  3. Problems with printing and working in a Home Group environment have gone away. I would agree that Windows 10 is stable.
  4. Are you being bombarded by messages from  Microsoft concerning time running out on your "free" Upgrade to Windows 10? You have until the end of July to qualify for a free upgrade.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What's the best web browser for the Mac? The benchmarks are in By Adrian Kingsley-Hughes for Hardware 2.0

Following on from the excellent work carried out by my colleague, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, where he benchmarked browsers running on Windows 7 and Windows 10, I've taken a look at how well browsers run on OS X 10.11 "El Capitan."
So, which is the best browser for your Mac?

The system

  • Mac mini (Late 2012)
  • 2.3GHz Intel Core i7 CPU
  • 16GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 1TB SATA hard drive
  • OS X 10.11.2

The browsers

  • Safari 9.0.2
  • Chrome 47
  • Firefox 43
  • Opera 34

The tests

  • JetStream 1.1: A JavaScript benchmark that includes benchmarks from the SunSpider 1.0.2 and Octane 2 JavaScript benchmark suites. Larger scores are better.
  • Kraken-1.1: An updated version of the SunSpider benchmark. Lower scores are better.
  • Octane 2.0: A JavaScript test that includes tests that focus on interactive scripting. Higher scores are better.
  • RoboHornet: This benchmark claims it "encompasses all aspects of browser performance and everything that matters to web developers, like performance of layout and localStorage." Higher scores are better.
  • HTML5 Test: A web standards compliance test. The maximum score is 550, and a higher score is better.
These tests were run multiple times to ensure consistency.

The results

I've added a checkmark next to the benchmarks won by each browser:
  • JetStream 1.1: 152.10 ✔
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,583.82
  • Octane 2.0: 22,158
  • RoboHornet: 148.22 ✔
  • HTML 5 test: 400
  • JetStream 1.1: 142.50
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,442.44 ✔
  • Octane 2.0: 23,928
  • RoboHornet: 126.12
  • HTML 5 test: 521 ✔
  • JetStream 1.1: 135.66
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,882.82
  • Octane 2.0: 23,402
  • RoboHornet: 118.23
  • HTML 5 test: 468
  • JetStream 1.1: 147,68
  • Kraken-1.1: 2,931.11
  • Octane 2.0: 24,662 ✔
  • RoboHornet: 125.75
  • HTML 5 test: 520

The bottom line

If you want the fastest browser then the browser you should be using on your Mac is Safari. It won two of the benchmark speed tests, while Chrome only won the one. Pretty clear win for Safari.

If you want the browser displaying the best standards compliance, then go with Chrome since it was the winner in the HTML5 test.

Moving from the artificial world of benchmarks into the real world, I have to be honest and say I can't feel much of a speed difference no matter which browser I use. Even running something like Internet Explorer or Edge through on a virtual machine on the Mac doesn't feel all that bad to be honest.

No matter which browser you use, they're all pretty darn fast. But if you want to be running the fastest browser on your Mac, run Safari.

Secure your mobile Wi-Fi devices By Komando Staff

I know that we've said this a lot, but it's so important I'm going to say it again: You have to secure your Wi-Fi! There's no excuse for an unsecured Internet connection.

An open Wi-Fi network is an invitation for anyone to hop on. From neighbors to hackers, you could be hosting a party that slows down your connection, puts your information at risk or even gets you in legal trouble.

But it's not just your home computer that hackers are after. They want the data on your smartphones and tablets, too, and they can easily take it with an insecure Wi-Fi connection.

How can you make sure you stay safe on any Wi-Fi connection? Try Hotspot Shield VPN.
It's one of the top security apps in the iTunes store, with more than 350 million downloads. It works relentlessly to protect your data.

It aims to let you browse any site on the Web privately and anonymously, while protecting you from phishing scams and other malware. And because Hotspot Shield is its own virtual private network, all your data is accessed through Hotspot Shield's secure servers so hackers and even advertisers will have a hard time tracking you. It encrypts all your Internet traffic, stops unwanted ad tracking and prevents your IP address from being seen.

Even better, if you're at a public place that blocks websites, you will be able to visit those sites using Hotspot Shield. It can also help you save money on your phone bill by compressing data. This can be a huge money saver for someone on the go.

Note: Hotspot Shield VPN has both a "forever free" version and an Elite version. The Elite version requires a monthly or annual paid subscription. However, the free version has many of the security features you'll need.

A simple fix for Windows 10's blurry fonts By Kevin Downey

 If you downloaded Microsoft's newest version of its Windows operating system, Windows 10, you probably like its improvements over Windows 8, which, among other things, didn't have the Start button you've been using for years. Windows 10 brought that back, and made several other improvements.

However, one tiny change you may have noticed isn't so great. If you increase the size of the fonts on Windows 10, so that it's easier to read content on your computer screen, you may notice the fonts get blurry.
In older versions of Windows, if you increased the DPI (dots per inch) scaling to 125% or more, your fonts would get larger and easier to read. Note: This is most noticeable if you have a widescreen computer screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, or higher.

Some users of Windows 10 are finding that fonts get blurry when you do that. There are a couple of easy fixes, though.
Windows 10 DPI Fix
You can change the display settings in any program where you seeing blurry fonts. Right-click on the program icon, like Word or Excel. Choose Properties >> Compatibility >> put a check mark next to "Disable display scaling on high DPI settings" >> Apply.

Microsoft may make you reset those DPI settings every few times you login, though. To avoid that, here's another simple fix. Download XPExplorer's Windows 10 DPI Fix (see download instructions below); and set your DPI Scaling to the Windows 8.1 version.

Download instructions

Click on the blue link below. Scroll down to Download, and click on the link. After it downloads, open the executable file. Follow the step-by-step installation instructions.

Put a check mark next to the box where it says, "Use Windows 8.1 DPI scaling (our fix)." To use the Windows 10 default DPI scaling, put a check mark next to that. Hit Apply, then restart your computer.

New cool Apple feature gives you a better night’s rest By Justin Ferris

It's becoming well understood that using computers, smartphones and tablets before bedtime isn't the best way to fall asleep. During normal operation, gadget screens put out blue light that fools your body into thinking its daytime. You can actually use this fact to help beat jet lag.

If you find yourself tossing and turning in bed, though, it might be because you were checking the latest Facebook posts or watching a movie just a little while earlier. Typically, you want to stop using your gadgets one to two hours before hitting the sack. However, if you just can't put your gadgets down, there's now another option.
On computers, you can find programs like F.lux (PC and Mac) that shift the tint of the screen from blue to red. Your body is used to seeing red light at night, both with the sunset and then with most indoor lighting, so staring at a reddish screen isn't going to throw your body's internal clock off quite so much.

Unfortunately for iPhone and iPad users, there wasn't an app to do this. While the aforementioned F.lux does have an app, Apple wouldn't approve it for the app store because it required too much low-level hardware access.

However, in the upcoming iOS 9.3 update, Apple has gone ahead and added a feature called Night Shift that does exactly what we explained above. Using your gadget's GPS and clock, iOS figures out when it's nighttime and changes the screen tint to warmer colors.

This will be automatic so you don't have to remember to active a "night" mode. There will also likely be a setting to turn it off in case you're doing something that requires seeing accurate colors.

Night Shift could be even more interesting if Apple brings it to the Apple TV. Right now, so far as we know, no smart TV or streaming media gadget has an automatic night mode. You have to go adjust the picture settings yourself. It could turn out to be a handy addition for late night binge watchers.

Night Shift isn't the only new feature Apple is bringing with the iOS 9 updates. Learn about five great features you can use on your iOS 9 gadget right now.

Still having trouble sleeping? Learn about five ways to sleep better and relax using apps and gadgets. If you want to go even more in-depth, read our article on three ways to use tech to sleep better.

Secret to a better night's rest for all Android users By Justin Ferris

 Have you noticed that you don't go to sleep as easily as you used to? There could be any number of reasons, but a big one is likely the gadgets in your life.

Computer, smartphone and tablet screens are bright and they put out a lot of blue light. That blue light can trick your body into thinking it's daytime. If you're staring hard at a screen just before you hit the hay, your body is going to take a while to get back into nighttime mode. Fortunately, there's a solution.
That solution is not using gadgets at least an hour before bed, and two hours would be better. OK, not a fan of that one? There's another solution you can try.

If blue light is the problem, then it stands to reason that getting rid of the blue light would let you use your gadgets without confusing your body. And there are programs that do just that, such as the excellent F.lux for computers.

However, Android has similar apps, such as Lux and Twilight. These automatically shift your screen to a reddish tint, which mimics more closely the sunset and typical indoor lighting. That helps your body stay on a normal sleep cycle.

Lux is a general brightness and screen tool, while Twilight is programmed specifically for this task. Both have free options, so give them a try and see which on you like better.

Still having trouble sleeping? Learn about five ways to sleep better and relax using apps and gadgets. If you want to go even more in-depth, read our article on three ways to use tech to sleep better.

Report: Microsoft Recalling Overheating Surface Pro Chargers Lance Ulanoff, Mashable

The Microsoft Surface success story has taken a bit of a twist.

Microsoft will, according to Channelnomics Europe voluntarily recall chargers for the Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3. The power supply adapters, which connect to the tablet/laptop hybrid via magnets, can apparently get damaged if they are “sharply or repeatedly bent… [or] tightly wrapped,” according to a statement given to Channelnomics Europe by Microsoft.

 As Microsoft gets its mojo back, the Surface Pro line has been a particularly bright spot. Last year, the company reported big growth in Surface Pro sales (117%) on the strength of its Surface Pro 3 launch and last fall it rolled out both the Surface Pro 4 and innovative Surface Book. There is the potential that there are millions of Surface Pro chargers in customers’ hands right now.

The products combine the generally well-received Windows 10 with a high-resolution touch-screen and, in the case of Surface Pros, a lightweight and detachable keyboard.

There are no reported issues with the computer itself, but damaged cords have apparently cased “some issues,” according to Microsoft.

The voluntary recall, which has yet to be officially announced, is being done out of what appears to be an abundance of caution. That said, some Surface Pro owners have reported sparking issues on Microsoft’s own support forums.

The company clearly already understands the adapter vulnerability: Microsoft’s safety instructions for the Surface Pro line already recommend that customers “protect cords from being pinched or sharply bent, particularly where they connect to the power outlet, the power supply unit, and the device.”

According to the report, Microsoft will be setting up a special site where customers can request a new charger. They’ll also be instructed on how to properly dispose of their existing one.

Mashable has contacted Microsoft for comment and will update this report with their reply.