Previously, Google required everyone to make a Google+ profile in order to get a new Gmail account. This made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move. Now, that requirement is lifted. Sort of.
While it was still technically possible to create a Google account without tying into Google+, it was very difficult. Now, if you sign up for a Gmail account, you have the option of saying "No thanks" to a Google+ profile. This doesn't come without some drawbacks, of course. You won't be able to leave restaurant reviews, rate apps or content on the Play Store, or perhaps most frustratingly, comment on YouTube. However, if you'd prefer to stay out of the Google+ fray, it's now an option.
Windows 9. Threshold. Or just plain Windows. Whatever Microsoft ends up calling its next operating system, it's shaping up to be another big change from the Windows that came before it.
Only this time, Microsoft is looking to mollify its user base—especially in the enterprise—instead of scaring people away. If months of leaks and rumors are accurate, Microsoft will undo some of the most drastic changes in Windows 8, but it will also kick off a major transformation for Windows—one that's long overdue.
Microsoft is likely to reveal at least some of these changes at a September 30 event. Here's a look at all the details that have leaked out so far, and how we expect it all to come together:
MIT researchers have a great new way to protect your privacy on your smartphone: Stop giving your data away.
It doesn’t take a PhD to come up with this statement, but such a feat is clearly easier said than done. Even without NSA spying, a growing number of mobile and web-based apps collect information about us from our devices in exchange for providing a service. Want directions or an idea for lunch nearby? Allowing Yelp to know your location could help. Data collection is also useful when apps can aggregate information for many anonymous users and provide extra services. For example, Google Maps can estimate real-time road traffic conditions because it knows how quickly many people are traveling.
Microsoft continues to push back against a controversial search warrant procedure that the U.S. government, as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation, is using to demand emails stored in Ireland.
On Friday, Microsoft responded to a new court order by repeating its position that it would not comply with the data request, and insisting that the case go before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
While the details of the dispute are largely procedural, the case is significant because it comes at a time of heightened European sensitivity over how U.S. companies treat data stored on servers located in the European Union. As a result, Microsoft and others are anxious to signal to Europe that they will resist certain data demands from the U.S. government.
Dropbox Pro users gain access to a raft of new features including automatically expiring shared links, password-protected sharing, and adjustable permissions. In recent times, Dropbox has moved away from being just a simple cloud storage platform into a cloud-based collaboration tool. Password-protected files sharing is the first line of security that's now available, but it has been bolstered by the ability to have the share automatically stop after a set period. This is something that is particularly useful for sensitive data, and is a helpful addition to the manual disabling of a shared link -- a set-it-and-forget-it option.
Catching up with other file collaborative tools, Dropbox Pro now also takes into account the fact that you might want to share files with others without giving them the option to edit those files. The new ability to add view-only permissions to files and folders has this covered so it is possible to share sensitive files without worrying about them being changed. For anyone using Dropbox on mobile devices, there is always the fear of losing a handset; a new remote wipe feature takes care of this.
Rounding off the news for Dropbox Pro users is a change to the pricing of storage options. Packages have been streamlined so there is now just a single option -- a 1TB tariff for $9.99 per month. This is a huge increase in storage, or a massive price drop depending on how you look at it. Until recently, $9.99 would have gotten you 100GB of storage, while $19.99 per month bagged users 200GB, and $49.99 was the monthly cost of 500GB of storage. The new pricing structure means that twice as much storage is now available for a fifth of the price, making Dropbox Pro and increasingly competitive option.
For a while now, verified users and advertisers have been able to check statistics about their Twitter account so they can see how many times individual tweets have been viewed, check what types of tweet encourage the most engagement, and so on. Now Twitter Analytics is available to everyone -- free of charge.
It doesn’t matter if you have a blue verified tick next to your name or not, now you can use the analytics dashboard to check the performance of tweets. While this is a useful tool for businesses, for the average Twitter user it is a tool that will satisfy an idle curiosity and provide a way to while away the time obsessing over what key phrases yield the greatest return.
For those with a fascination for figures, the ability to see how many people view individual tweets is a dream come true. It might not be quite as in-depth as you might expect, or hope, but it strikes a good balance between providing useful information and remaining easy to use. Of course, additional data would be great, but it would end up complicating things. There's an eye-pleasing graph that shows at a glance how many hits your tweets have earned you.
The point of any chat system is to make it easier to communicate with others. This is something that Google Hangouts has singularly failed at, for one reason. Rather than making it obvious which of your contacts are online, it has -- up until now -- displayed a chronological list of the conversations you have held with people. This is about to change. Rolling out over the next few days, is an update which will see your online contact move to the top of your chat buddy list.
This might seem like a small change, but it's one that has been requested for some time now. Google seemingly thought that the tried and true way of ordering contacts was due for a shakeup -- now we know that the experiment didn’t really pay off. There's another new feature to play with as well. Just as Chrome -- and other browsers -- make it possible to pin frequently used tabs so they are always available, now Hangouts users will be given the opportunity to pin contacts to the top of their buddy list.
Announced late yesterday, the update has already caused quite some excitement, with the Google+ post (but of course!) used to publicize the feature already receiving hundreds of thumbs ups. If you've yet to enable Hangouts in your Gmail account, just select "Try the new Hangouts" under chat settings to get started. If you decide you don’t like it, you can use the "Revert to old chat" link to go back to your preferred style.
You all know the drill. You buy a phone from AT&T or other wireless provider and the phone is tied down to their specific. For those looking to take their smartphone elsewhere, 1998′s Digital Millennium Copyright Act actually made it illegal for anyone to unlock their own cellphone. It wasn’t until 2006 that the Library of Congress provided an exemption that allowed consumers to unlock their phones for the sole purpose of changing providers. Only problem is that exemption expired in 2013 (late 2012).
If you thought consumers were just going to be SOL from here on out, Senate has passed a new bill that will once again makes cellphone unlocking legal. Announced in a press release by Senator Patrick Leahy, The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act allows consumers to unlock their cellphone — either “professionally” or by themselves — for use on different networks once their current contract is up.