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Posted on Aug 14, 2013 in Newsletter | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 3 – Microsoft cuts Surface prices, Black Hat 2013 and more!

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TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 3

Welcome to the August 2013 TWT Newsletter

Most of us around the world are still enjoying a great summer, we hope you’re all using your PC’s to share those photos and videos of your holidays, family get-togethers and other special events.  

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In this months issue:-

  1. What’s new at
  2. Microsoft slashes Surface and Surface Pro prices
  3. Skydrive to be renamed in trademark dispute
  4. Mandatory internet filtering threatened in the UK
  5. Tip of the Month – Back up your memory cards!
  6. Free Utility of the Month – Bing Translator
  7. Black Hat 2013 – The cutting edge of IT security

What’s new at

We’re still busy optimising lots of our videos for mobile devices. We estimate around 80% or more of our videos will now play just fine on smartphones and tablets. We also added several new tutorials too, as you can see below:-


picture Run Windows 8 tile apps on the desktop using ModernMix

If you’re a Windows 8 user who’s still running a desktop or laptop PC, you may have completely ignored the new, touch optimised tile applications that are included with the operating system. If so, you might be interested to try ModernMix. This utility allows Windows 8 tile (Metro) apps to run in a regular desktop Window. Check out our ModenMix tutorials here.



Restore Safe Mode to Windows 8

With Windows 8, Microsoft were so desperate to cut down startup times that they took some pretty drastic steps just to shave off a couple of milliseconds from the startup time. One of these steps was the removal of the hidden boot menu that allows Windows to boot into safe mode. If you want to restore this useful troubleshooting option, check out this tutorial.


pictureMicrosoft slashes Surface and Surface Pro prices

While Windows continues to dominate on desktops and laptops, Microsoft has made less in-roads on tablet and mobile devices. The high-profile Surface and Surface pro tablets, which launched with Windows 8, have made less of an impact than Microsoft might have hoped. In the first quarter of 2013, Microsoft  shipped 900,000 Surface tablets. Compare that to sales of Apple’s iPad, which were closer to 14 million.

Now, Microsoft is reducing the price of its Surface tablets significantly. In July, Microsoft slashed the price of the Surface RT tablet to $349. Now, the Surface pro has seen its price reduced by $100 too. Even so, the Surface Pro remains an expensive option at $799. Remember that the Surface Pro is a full Windows 8 machine and will run regular desktop programs too. The less popular Surface RT tablet is considerably cheaper,  but will only run applications you can download from the Windows store tile.

Rumors are already starting to circulate regarding new Surface tablets, with improved battery life, faster processors and other enhancements. With Windows 8.1 due to release later in the year, a new range of improved Surface tablets would compliment the improved operating system nicely.

Microsoft neglected to send us a Surface tablet to review, but we can certainly see the benefit in having a tablet that can effortlessly convert into a laptop or even a desktop replacement. The biggest issue with Surface tablets is pricing. For the cost of a Surface Pro, for instance, you could buy a more powerful laptop or desktop computer and a cheap Android tablet instead, for instance. Nevertheless, Surface and the other high-end Windows 8 tablets give us a tantalizing glimpse at the future of tablet PC’s.



Skydrive to be renamed in trademark dispute

In another bizarre case of trademark law, Microsoft has agreed to rename its popular cloud storage service Skydrive, after losing a legal battle here in the UK to British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) for the term “Sky.”

While Sky Television is a well known brand here in the UK, we can’t help feeling it’s a little bizarre that companies are allowed to patent words like “Sky”. Microsoft’s decision to walk away from this case without further appeal brings back memories of the “Metro” incident. Metro was to be Microsoft’s new name for the Windows 8 tiles, but after a patent spat with German retail giant Metro AG, Microsoft backed down, bizarrely leaving the new Windows 8 interface without an official name.

Certain tech journalists have speculated that MIcrosoft may use this opportunity for a larger, corporate re-branding program to commence. Unlike Apple, with it’s distinctive i-everything branding, Microsoft products are much more confusing. Take the X-Box brand for instance, which refers not only to the popular games console, but has also been used for games titles on Windows 8 and Windows phone too. Microsoft have until the end of the year to re-brand Skydrive, but no new name has been announced yet.



Mandatory internet filtering threatened in the UK

We know this story is only of interest to a minority of our subscribers, so we’ll keep it brief. UK prime minister David Cameron is trying to introduce a mandatory adult content filter to all broadband connections in the country, under the guise of protecting children from unsuitable material. If you want to learn why we think this is such a bad idea, head on over to the Open Rights Group webpage here.



Tip of the Month – Back up your memory cards

Backup, backup, backup! We’re always telling our readers to backup their valuable data. While you’re out shooting photos or videos this summer with your top notch digital cameras, remember that those precious memories need backing up too. If you haven’t connected your camera to your PC yet, you should do so. Not only does it make managing, editing and sharing your photos much easier, but it allows you to backup your camera’s memory card too. Like computer hard drives, memory cards will eventually fail, meaning you could lose all your images if you don’t make a backup copy.

The most common way to read memory cards on a PC is via a simple USB card reader. Most electronic and computer stores stock these. Many digital cameras come with USB connections themselves, allowing you to connect the camera directly to your PC and transfer the pictures. See your camera’s instruction manual for more details.


pictureFree utility of the Month – Bing Translator

This month marks the first time we have have featured a Windows 8 tile app in our free utility of the month section. Microsoft’s Bing Translator app turns your Windows 8 PC into a powerful translation device. Using your devices camera or simply by typing, you can quickly translate text while you are on the go. Ideally suited to smaller Windows 8 machines and busy travellers, Bing Translator could be a valuable companion on that late summer break.

You can download Bing Translator in the Windows 8 store, find out more by visiting this link.



Black Hat 2013 – The cutting edge of IT security

Mainstream media often struggles with distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ hackers. While the revelations about another big company or government institution being hacked might not paint the hacker in a very positive light, it’s important to remember there are many more ethical hackers working to find and fix security problems. Every year, the brightest and best in the computer security sector meet at the Black Hat conference and last month saw this annual gathering take place in Las Vegas.

This years event was overshadowed with the latest revelations to come from whistleblower Edward Snowden. Traditionally, the security researchers at the Black Hat conference had worked with America’s National Security Agency to help secure computer systems against cyber threats. With Snowden’s revelations about abuses of power at the NSA, it made for an awkward conference when NSA director General Kieth Alexander addressed the crowd of IT security professionals, only to be heckled and accused of being a liar.

Elsewhere in the conference, it was the usual mix of interesting and sometimes frightening revelations. Researchers from Korea demonstrated how software in Smart TV’s could be hijacked, allowing a malicious attacker to steal information or even take over the televisions web camera and covertly monitor the televisions viewers. As TV’s and electronic devices become more sophisticated, so the opportunities for exploiting them become more common, it seems.

Another conference that gained much media attention was the iPhone malicious charger exploit. Demonstrated by three skilled hackers from Georgia, the trio were able to infect any iOS device with malicious software simply by hooking it up to a charger and then waiting for the user to unlock the device. The exploit demonstration silently replaced the standard Facebook app on the phone with a malicious version which captured passwords and other confidential information silently. Think carefully before you borrow a strangers iPhone charger in future!

Android phone users can’t rest easy either, as another equally skilled team of security researchers revealed how legitimate Android applications could be hijacked covertly, silently turning them into malware.

Even more frightening was the talk on “Hacking Humans” scheduled to be given by Barnaby Jack, who sadly passed away mere days before presenting his findings. The researcher uncovered a flaw in insulin pumps that could allow an attacker to administer a fatal dose. His research has pushed medical companies to urgently review the security of these life saving devices and could well save lives in the future.

Perhaps surprisingly for a company that has been accused of bending over backwards to help the NSA’s controversial spying programs, Microsoft Windows was not the target of any of the major talks this year. Microsoft was involved with the conference however, offering a “bug bounty” for security researchers who found bugs or vulnerabilities in Windows. The company offered a cool $100,000 for “truly novel exploitation techniques” against the security improvements included in Windows 8.1, giving security researchers a great incentive to work on Microsoft products and allowing the company to find and fix security problems before the less ethical hackers get their hands on them. Clearly Microsoft understands the value of hackers and security researchers as a powerful tool against cyber crime and malware and conferences like Black Hat will continue to help us all be a little safer in the ever changing digital world we live in.

That concludes our newsletter for August. On behalf of the team here at TWT, I’d like to thank you for reading and for your continued support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th September 2013 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy. Until next month, keep checking and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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